Travelers and nomads have long sought the Philippines as a low-cost, exotic location to call home. An archipelago in the Pacific with more than 7,500 islands, indeed, the Philippines has a lot going for it: hospitable locals who speak English, ideal weather, magnificent scenery, and a reasonable cost of living to boot.
When people think of the country, they automatically think of Manila. However, the capital city is becoming increasingly congested. In comparison, several smaller towns nearby are just as picturesque, lively, and family-friendly.
Whether you’re a Filipino or an expat trying to start a new life in the country, the Philippines is teeming with an endless stream of possibilities within its cities where the cost of living is significantly lesser compared to Western countries.
Here are some of the Philippines’ most affordable cities to live in that are worth considering.
Baguio City, Benguet
Baguio, a city in the province of Benguet, is one of the region’s few major urban centers. Well-renowned as the Summer Capital of the Philippines and as the City of Pines, Baguio enjoys a milder, cooler climate than most provinces.
With over 300,000 residents, it was once a military post during the American colonialism of the Philippines. Modern infrastructures and facilities, as well as sought-after educational institutions, are present in the city. Because it is mostly an agricultural area, food and produce are inexpensive and are always fresh thanks to the temperate weather. Consequently, residents appear to be in a pleasant mood all the time. Here, you may live well on a monthly salary of about ₱21,000 to ₱24,000.
The city of Baguio boasts a laid-back vibe, filled with art galleries, and breathtaking natural attractions despite occasional traffic jams.
Iloilo City, Iloilo
Iloilo, the jewel of Western Visayas, is recognized for its Spanish cathedrals and old residences, yet it’s often overlooked as a ‘go-to’ city in the country. This economic powerhouse is a part of the Greater Iloilo area, where several businesses, offices, and business process outsourcing (BPO) firms provide numerous job opportunities.
This Bacolod City neighbor has a laid-back vibe and little traffic jams despite its urbanization. Its residents are friendly and welcoming. The city boasts an esplanade perfect for late-afternoon strolls, and there are several mouthwatering seafood restaurants along its bike-friendly lanes. Moreover, you can always take advantage of Iloilo’s proximity to Boracay and Guimaras islands, as well as the Dinagyang Festival (the city’s largest cultural event).
Locals can also get a great deal on a house for much less than you would pay elsewhere. Compared to similar properties in other cities, the average price is up to 8% cheaper, and rental rates are typically 5-10% lower in Iloilo.
Bacolod City, Negros Occidental
The City of Smiles, Bacolod City, is the provincial capital of Negros Occidental. The developing city provides all of the conveniences of a modern city, but on a far grander scale – there’s less pollution, less traffic, and a lower cost of living.
Even though the city’s IT and BPO sectors are booming, the city is more known for its agricultural roots in the region. On the outskirts, you can still see tens of thousands of acres of sugar cane being grown. This earned it the title “Sugarbowl Capital of the Philippines” and is home to some of the best eateries and pastry shops in the country, giving you a flavor of what life is like there. Moreover, Bacolod is commonly referred to as the “City of Smiles” because of its friendly and welcoming population.
Bacolod has a higher quality of life than other mid-sized cities like Baguio and Iloilo, according to the “Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking Project 2005” of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). A single person can live comfortably in the City of Smiles on a monthly salary of ₱20,000 to ₱22,000.
Davao City is the Philippines’ largest city by land area. This major city in Mindanao is one of the Philippines’ fastest-growing and safest cities (in the world) to live in due to its low crime rate and strict local government. Because of its central location in the southern Philippines and the ease with which it can be reached by land, sea, or air, Davao City has grown to be a business hotspot.
Although the city is growing at a breakneck pace, the public utilities and infrastructure are always in good shape. There are world-class health care facilities, shopping malls, and other urban conveniences nearby, all surrounded by nature. It’s located close to Mt. Apo, the Philippines’ tallest mountain, making the city ideal for nature lovers. A single person in Davao City should expect monthly expenses of between 19,000 and 22,000 pesos.
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
The city of Dumaguete is a small city located in Negros Oriental. As the city is commonly called, the City of Gentle People is known for its laid-back and calm vibe.
Dumaguete is home to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, Silliman University, and is quite popular with college students from nearby cities and provinces. Medical facilities and institutions in the city are also up-to-date and capable of performing both large and minor surgeries.
Forbes Magazine even ranked the city fifth among the world’s greatest retirement destinations in 2014. In 2019, it was recognized as the best place to retire in the Philippines by the Philippine Retirement Agency under the DOT (Department of Tourism). This granted Dumaguete its status as the first city in the Visayas to be awarded the Best Retirement Area Deemed as Retiree-Friendly (RADAR).Like any other long-term decision, the choice to relocate elsewhere must always be considered with great precaution. Hopefully, this list narrowed down your options and helped you pick a destination that best suits your needs.