All the Things That Are Cheaper in the Philippines

But at what cost?

They say the term OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) is outdated. The new accepted terminology is “Global Filipino.”

OFW just seems so '90s and a throwback to a time when the only reason Filipinos go abroad is to work menial jobs so they can send money to their families back home. The kind of stuff that makes Vilma Santos act in films.  

While this is still completely true for a majority of Pinoy workers overseas, a new breed of Filipinos are moving to different continents simply because they want to. These are kids whose parents want them to study abroad or office rock stars who were promoted to work in their multinational’s global HQ.

It’s not unusual to meet Filipinos from different backgrounds when you’re traveling abroad. Though they have different experiences and motivations as to why they chose to relocate, one thing unites them (aside from their passport): a nostalgia for all things inexpensive offered exclusively in the motherland.  

Here are some of the expenses of our kababayans, both students and professionals, who have been living abroad.

Cost of Living 

The price of rent in the Metro Manila may be going up but it’s nothing compared to living abroad. Of course, it depends on the country where you're staying. And not all cities in a specific country would have the same cost of living too. If you're near the capital or big cities, expect rent and food expenses to be much higher. 

In Seoul, a rent for a student room as big as seven square-meters may cost around KRW 380,000 or PHP17,000/month on an average. Then if you travel around the city, minimum fare would cost around KRW 1,250.  


In Sydney, a rent for a single person ranges from AUD 150 (shared house) to AUD 500 (own space). A couple can save and pay only AUD 400 for a studio good for more people. In terms of transportation, AUD 20 weekly but of course this depends on how much you travel. 

In San Francisco, Bay Area, a two-bedroom apartment may cost USD 2,500 per month but in the main city itself it can cost you around USD 3,000. The rent would be more or less the same in New York but compare that to other US states like Ohio where a two-bedroom apartment is just USD 650, including utilities. So it really depends on where you live.

In the Bay Area, a day's travel back and forth to work may set you back USD 20, which includes the train and toll or parking. 

“I can’t imagine Filipinos spending P1,000 everyday for fare, but then again I’ve been away for the past nine years,” said Karla Petrina Martin-del Rosario, a photographer and graphics designer who lives in the area. 

In Europe, the most expensive cities are obviously the bigger and more populated ones, including London, Moscow, and Zurich where a high-end three-bedroom apartment can cost €5,000 to €6,000 per month. 

In Amsterdam, while a high-end apartment may amount to as much as €3,000, you can also easily find one that costs €1,200. In the same city, transportation also isn't a problem because people are encouraged to cycle. 

In Toronto, rent is a minimum of CAD 1,200 per month for a bachelor’s pad or studio apartment. A cellphone plan costs a minimum of CAD 50 and public transportation, usable for two hours, is CAD 3.20.

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For Angelo Supe, a project manager who has been living in Canada since 2015, the cost of living may be high, but the quality of life is also better.

“Cities in Canada consistently rank in the World’s Best Places to Live,” he said. 

In Dublin, monthly rent may range from €1,000 to €3,000 and it is rising every year. Since a lot of the tech HQs are located in the Emerald Isle’s capital, people from all over Europe are moving to a city where local ordinance forbids skyscrapers. This means the demand is greater than the supply and landlords can impose a hefty rent on their tenants. 

Aside from rent, food and groceries also take a big chunk of everyday expenses.

In Sydney, groceries may cost around AUD 2,000 per month on an average for two people. In San Francisco, about USD 150 to 200. 

Don't feel too sorry for our kababayans who live in these cities. The high cost of living is usually matched by the high pay of both white- and blue-collar jobs. Since the figures above are just estimates or averages, the final figures of cost of living still depends on how thrifty or lavish one lives his or her lifestyle.

And knowing Pinoys, tenacity and being maparaan has saved a kababayan on a particularly dry month.

Entertainment and Service 

Going to the movies in Sydney will cost you around AUD 8 to 18, the cheaper end of the spectrum applies for student discounts. Massage costs AUD 60 to 80 for an hour and salon is AUD45 for a mani pedi sesh. For a haircut, AUD 100 for girls and AUD30 for men. Restaurant meal is AUD 15 to 20.  


In Seoul, a cinema ticket is around KRW 9,000. Eating at a fast food may cost KRW 4,500 and a full-body massage starts at KRW 30,000/hour. 

“Everything is so expensive! On top of the list are food and transportation but it’s very convenient here,” said Angela Gregorio, a postgrad student whose love of Korean dramas brought her to Seoul. 

In San Francisco, dining out in fancy restaurant is USD120 for two people. Going to the movies will set you back USD 11 per person and if you add popcorn and drinks, that's another USD 25. In the same city, where whole food and all things healthy is the rage, lunch may cost around USD 17.

In Amsterdam, known for legal recreational medicine, weed per gram costs E10to 15. Dining out may cost two people around 30 to 40. Ube pandesal, which is available in the city, can cost up to €1.25 and plain pandesal, €.60.  

In Toronto, a cheap haircut costs CAD 10 for boys and pedicure a minimum of CAD 25. Chickenjoy is also available for CAD 8!  

In Dublin, where drinking is part of the culture, a pint of beer may cost from 5 to 7. Sadly, many establishments close early and only the pubs remain open as an after-office destination. 

Anna Florence S. Doherty, a mother of one and account manager who lives in Dublin, also said that for a price of a sandwich in Ireland, in the Philippines, you can get to sit down in a Michelin-starred restaurant. 

“The beauty services are also something to be missedfrom mani pedi foot spa packages to the massagesI can get all those services for the price of just a manicure in Ireland!” she said. 


“Oh, and I also miss 13th-month pay!” Anna added. 

Given the high price of entertainment and services in other countries, it’s not unusual for balikbayans to buy everything and get everything done in the Philippines: massages, haircut, mani-pedi complete with foot spa, and more. 

However, if you look closer at the situation, you would soon realize that what is actually cheaper in the Philippines is the cost of human labor. This, unfortunately, is reflective of how the country values its workers. 

Workersthe wait staff, bartender, et ceteraare paid highly compared to their counterparts in the Philippines. They also have strict working hours. It’s not unusual for establishments in European countries to be closed at 6 p.m. because workers have to go home and rest too. 

The only downside to this is that for many Filipinos, who are so used to 24/7 shops and malls that close at midnight, options for entertainment are scarce come sundown. It’s no wonder that many Filipinos journey back home to the motherland during the happiest time of the year.  

Some of them may come from neighboring countries like Singapore or Hong Kong, and even those who come from as far as the UK or Australia, save up for the rest of the year just so they can go back home, go to the salon, spend until midnight at the mall, and most importantly, be with their loved ones. 

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Nicai de Guzman
Nicai de Guzman is the Head of Marketing of Rising Tide, one of the fastest-growing mobile and digital advertising technology companies in the Philippines. She also writes for and
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