The complete guide to moving to the Philippines

Updated: Apr 12, 2018

Is it the low cost of living, the tropical island landscapes or the always-happy people that make the idea of moving to the Philippines so appealing? There are over 700 islands that make up the Philippines, and they are an amazing mix of palm-fringed beaches, vivid green rice terraces perfectly laid out and modern, busy cities. The capital city, Manila, might be edged with skyscrapers, but at its heart are the Colonial-Spanish influenced buildings symbolising the history of the city. If you’re the kind of person who likes living life outdoors, you’re moving to the right place. The hiking, diving and world-class kiteboarding are just some of the ways you can switch off after work. For all the essentials on how to make this tropical dream a reality, our comprehensive guide covers everything you need for an easy transition.

Getting through customs

Organise a Visa

Australia has a visa-waiver scheme with the Philippines, meaning that if you want to go and spend some time there before you commit to a move, you’ll have 59 days on entry without needing a work visa. You will need to apply for a 9(A) visa from the Philippine consulate here in Australia, so if you want to visit before you move you might prefer to go as a tourist where you won’t need a visa if your stay is under 30 days. 
Most people will apply for a 9(G) visa which are for foreigners to work in the country and are usually started before you arrive if you’ve been hired by a Philippine company before you move. It takes around 5 weeks for your visa to be processed and it will help if you’re organised with getting documents attested and certified in Australia. Your company will often assist in this by telling you what’s needed by when, but the Immigration Department website has a comprehensive checklist:

Have a ready-supply of passport photos, plus copies of documents like your CV and birth certificate, plus any specialist qualifications you may hold. Before your visa is granted you’ll also be subject to health checks from a government authorised doctor. Expect an x-ray, blood tests and a HIV test.
In addition to your work visa, you’ll need to register to an Alien Employment Permit. While this can be done via the consulate here in Australia, it would be wise to also let your employer handle this as the authorities look more favourably on applications made by a company for their employees.
One other important piece of red-tape, is the application for an ACR I-Card, which is a microchipped-based ID card that holds all your important details and will enable you to leave and re-enter the country.

TIP: Liaise regularly with the HR department of your employer to make sure you’re both aware of who needs to do what in terms of visa processing.

Have a valid passport

It goes without saying really, but make sure your passport is valid – and isn’t due to run out. Although the Philippines is closer than some parts of the world, you still don’t want to need to make an emergency 8 hour flight home.  If you’re worried your passport is due to run out, don’t leave it until the last minute, head over to the Australian Government Passport Authority for all the details you’ll need about renewing – or applying for – a passport.

TIP: Have at least six months’ validity on your passport before you travel. You don’t want to have to leave quickly – or arrange for an emergency replacement.


If your relocation is permanent – or you simply just can’t be parted from your four-legged friend, there are options to bring your kitty or canine over to the Philippines. First of all, complete an application form for a permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry. Their website is a little difficult to navigate, but the registration form you need is this one: Once you’ve done this, it opens the gateway to access the application for the actual import permit. It’s worthwhile making a couple of copies of this documentation should you need to show this to any officials during the period your pet will be making their way over to their new life with you. You’ll need to supply a health certificate, signed and stamped by your local registered Australian vet certifying your animal is vaccinated against rabies. This must be done within 30 days prior to arrival. You can travel ahead of your pet, which might be a good idea as it’ll give you some time to get settled in your new home. You’ll need to apply in advance for an import permit, providing details of the flight itinerary, carrier and addresses of where your furry friend has come from and is going to. All fees for importing your pets will be payable on arrival into the Philippines, so make sure you know how much it will cost. Currently, an import licence is P100 (AUD 2.50), together with P55 (AUD 1.50) for the online service provider, and an inspection fee of P250 (AUD 6.20). Although this is a straightforward process, it can be another thing on what’s going to be a long moving ‘To Do’ list, so thankfully here at King & Wilson, we can take care of the details for you.

TIP: The pet importation offices in Manila are not open of a weekend, so you need to schedule the arrival of your pets during the week.

Money, money, money


The currency in the Philippines is the Piso, which is a collection of brightly coloured notes. You may sometimes see or hear it referred to as the peso, which is how the currency was known until the 1960s when the Philippines was still a colony of the United States. Due to the favourable exchange rate, you could be forgiven for thinking yourself very rich indeed - even if you are paying over a hundred piso for a coffee.

TIP: Download an exchange rate mobile app for the early days of your arrival so you know exactly how much things really cost.


There are a number of both national and international banks in the Philippines. Local institutions include:
Bank of the Philippine Islands
Philippine National Bank

While international banks such as Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank have branches here. Check with your own bank to see if they have international branches or an agreement with a local bank in the Philippines. You may find it easier if you’re transferring money back to Australia to open an account with an international bank.

The banking system here is also modern, you’ll find internet banking with all major banks, but it’s worth noting they don’t follow usual 9-5 hours and often close mid-afternoon and don’t open of a weekend. Credit cards are commonly used in the cities, however in more remote areas you’d do well to carry cash as there may be fewer ATMs and cards may not be accepted.

Opening a bank account requires two forms of identification – one of which must be your passport. You also need to deposit funds in to the account at the time of opening. Amounts do vary depending on the bank. You will also need to provide references from your home bank account. Depending on the bank, this could be a written request to your Australian bank regarding the management of your account; or alternatively a certified letter supplied by your bank. Although you will have deposited funds to the account, it would actually be open until the reference checks are completed.
The opening of your account will be much quicker if you are ‘introduced’ to the bank by an existing customer. In this instance, the checks will still be completed, but your account will be open and active from the time you deposit the funds. Check with your new company to see if they will assist with this. 

TIP: You can only open a bank account in the Philippines by visiting a branch in person, so make sure you have enough money set aside and your Australian card providers know where you’ll be to avoid your cards being blocked in the interim.


Your taxation in the Philippines will depend on your residency status. As a resident citizen, you will be taxed on all of your income – including any from back home in Australia. However, Australia does have a tax treaty with the Philippines, so you won’t be subject to double taxation.
Tax is not deducted from your income, you must set aside money for your tax return, which is usually due around mid- April; with the tax year running January – December. You’ll need to fill in a BIR Form 1700 – which is an annual income tax return. You’ll need to fill this in triplicate and take it to your Revenue District Office, along with your tax payment.

TIP: If you are self-employed make sure you get a local accountant to help with the management of your finances and to ensure you’re paying the relevant taxes.


Contributions towards public healthcare are made by the government, employers and employees, but only Philippine nationals covered under the PhilHealth scheme. However not all procedures are covered and so most medical costs are paid by the individual.
For this reason, most expats take out private healthcare as many of the hospitals are privately run anyway. Treatment is excellent, and while it may seem expensive by local standards, compared to many countries, it is in fact quite cheap compared to back home. Due to this medical tourism has increased, along with the need to speak English. Doctors and medical staff have often spent some time abroad and have good English language skills.
Many companies will have a private heathcare scheme they will provide for their national employees, so do make sure you ask about this if it is not covered in initial discussions to see if you would be covered too. It is common for many expats to have an international health insurance plan that is arranged in their home country.

TIP: It is often commonplace for medical treatment to be paid upfront – in cash – before the treatment takes place.

Setting up home

TIP: Research the province or city you are thinking of heading for, and check it matches your personality, family needs or work industry.

To rent or buy?

Renting is by far the most popular option in the Philippines, mainly because while as an expat you can buy a property, you can’t actually buy the land it stands on and you’d need to negotiate a long-term lease with the land owner. With that being the case, perhaps the biggest choice you’ll need to make is what type of house you’re looking to make your home and where you’d like that to be. As you’d expect here in Australia, the closer to the city centre – or beach – your prospective new home is, the more you’re going to have to spend on rent. Yet like the vast majority of expenses in the Philippines, rent is still somewhat inexpensive. Most expats do live in the greater Manila area, with Makati City being an international hub for living and working. You should expect that there is a vast difference between some of the gated communities, complete with pools and tennis courts where expats often reside, compared with some of the poorer, local communities.

Renting via your employer is normal practice for expats in the Philippines. It is also normal for a full year of rent to be paid in advance. You will need to liaise with your employer as to how this works, some will take a monthly payment from your salary. If you’re required to make a deposit, it is usually 2 -3 months of rent. If you’re renting a home not under you company care, do take photos before you move your furniture in, or have the landlord/letting agent do a home-check with you. If there are any repair works due, check before you move that they will be completed by the landlord prior to occupation, as it’s not always standard.


You’ll usually be expected to pay all the utility bills in your new home. If you’re living in a condo, some buildings already have contracts with suppliers, and you’ll simply need to arrange a connection.

Electricity is the main source of energy for heating and cooking, but be warned the price of electricity is high. Particularly as there is not much competition with suppliers. The main electric company in the Philippines is Meralco

If you’re living in Manila, this is the company you’ll use, as they have the franchise for the city, plus another 22 cities across the country. To open an account, you’ll need a valid government ID and proof of occupancy. If you’re living in Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay and Naga then you’ll be supplied by Veco

As a new customer, don’t be surprised if you are asked to give an initial deposit, which is roughly one month’s usage – or estimated usage. On average, monthly electricity consumption is around AUD 196. This however doesn’t necessarily take in to account extensive use of aircon during the hotter months which could see your costs as high as AUD 150.  Depending on your employer, your rental agreement could be inclusive of electricity.

Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) is still a fairly popular option, with major suppliers of tanks being Solane and EC Gas

Manila has two water providers: Manila Water and Maynilad Monthly water bills are usually very low at under AUD 10.

It is not generally advised to drink tap water in Manila. You’ll find that many people have water filters at home or get filtered water for neighbourhood water stations.

TIP: If you’re not paying your bills by direct debit, it can be so easy to forget about them. Set a reminder on your phone or laptop each month before the due date to remind you to go and pay.


Internet connection speed can vary outside of the major cities, though even in larger hubs the connection is slower that what you might be used to a home.  It has the lowest average connection speeds in the Asia Pacific region, though plans have been approved to improve speed and connectivity in the next couple of years.

Currently, the three main providers are:

While the speed may not be good, you’re still going to have to pay quite a high price for internet access, particularly compared to other outgoings. On average, a good internet connection with a decent speed will cost nearly AUD100 per month.  For the best value for your needs, have a look at this article on iMoney:

Mobile phones

The Philippines is the fastest growing market for mobile use in Southeast Asia, and has been affectionately given the nickname the ‘Text Capital of the World’ due to the volume of messages sent. 4G is available, but only really in Manila, and 3G in more rural areas is not always reliable. There are two main networks to choose from:


You can buy prepay phone cards, which may work out cheaper if you’re not looking to be using your phone much – especially with things like Whatsapp and Skype to help you keep in touch with friends and family back home. They’re also very cheap – starting at around AUD1 to AUD25. Phone contracts are more expensive, but can actually work out better value – particularly if you’re going to use your phone for business and leisure.

TIP: If you’re bringing your Australian handset with you, make sure it’s unlocked and use to check it will work with your Philippine carrier.


There is a good choice of free-to-air and cable providers, and no TV licence in the Philippines. The problem with free-to-air channels is that most of the programming is based around local TV, with not many English-language offerings.

National free-to-air networks are

The 5 Network

There is a large choice of packages from cable providers which will give you the option to keep-up with your favourite international TV such as HBO offerings. What’s more, Australia Plus (operated by ABC) is also on offer if you want a taste of home. The main providers are:

Australia Plus
Destiny Cable
SKY Cable

Before signing up, check each of the providers’ websites as you might find there is good value package that also includes internet as well as TV.

Getting around

Public transport

While driving is an option in the Philippines, in big cities like Manila, you might want to think about using public transport instead. Not only is it cheap and efficient, but Manila was recently voted the worse place on earth to drive according to traffic app Waze.
Manila has three rail networks, the Light Rail Transit System, the Metro Rail Transit System and the PNR Commuter line, so you should be within easy reach of a station no matter where you are in the city.

The Manila Light Rail Transit System
This serves the central area of Manila.  LRT1 has twenty stations, linking Quezon City, Caloocan, Manila, Pasay and Parañaque.  LRT2 serves 11 stations, linking Manila, San Juan, Quezcon City and Marikina City. Getting around is very cheap, and fares are based on the distance you travel. Single journeys range from P15-P30 (AUD 0.37 – to 0.74).

The Manila Metro Rail Transit System
Known as MRT3, this has 13 stations, linking Quezon City, Mandaluyong City, Makati City and Pasay City, also providing interchanges with LRT1 and LRT2.  Trains run from 5.30am until 10.30pm, every day unless it is a public holiday. Again, fares are based on how far you travel, with the same low cost as the LRT.

PNR Commuter Line
In addition to the two metro options, Philippine National Railways offer a commuter line, with nearly 30 stations on its lines, stretching north to south across the city, and athough these fares are a little more expensive – the maximum single trip is AUD 1.50 – it’s the best option if you’re looking to get to the office with minimal fuss.

Beep Card
Invest in a Beep Card, which is the network’s smart card. By signing up, you can make additional savings, however small. You can preload up to P10,000 (AUD 240), and can be used on all three lines, as well as on some bus routes.  You can get your card and top up at any of the LRT and MRT stations, as well as FamilyMart and Circle K convenience stores.  Cards cost P20 (AUD 0.50) in stations and are a little more expensive if you purchase them at a convenience store. They’re valid for four years, and can be used by anybody in possession of it. Have a look at:  for more information.

Arguably the most popular form of public transport, and certainly the most iconic, the Jeepney started life as left-over military Jeeps from the Second World War. Helpfully, they have fixed routes printed on the side of them, though they can stop anywhere on request.
In Manila, jeepneys currently charge a minimum fare of P8 (AUD 0.20) for the first 4km, then P1.50 for every further 1km – we told you they were cheap! They’re not the finest ride in town, as they seat up to 14 passengers, and as you’d expect from a military vehicle, comfort isn’t top on the list of priorities; but they are one of the best ways to get around the city. Jeepneys are available across the country, with varying fares.
You can flag down a jeepney yourself, or you might find that there is a ‘barker’ at the stop who will do it for you – they get a small commission from drivers for attracting customers.

There are a number of bus companies in Manila alone, and they extend to the main destinations. They are even cheaper than trains, however, they frequently don’t run on time due to the very busy roads in the Philippines. As a new citizen, it can be difficult to navigate the bus network at first as there is little information regarding timetables and routes and so you may find yourself asking a local which bus to get on – and where to get off. In addition, the newer P2P bus service is much easier to use.  They have clear routes with not too many stops. They also have a website:

Taxis are a popular and easy way of getting around. It will cost around AUD 1 to flag down a cab, with the rate being under 50 cents per kilometre. As the fares are so low, we would recommend not agreeing a flat fare with your driver as often the meter will be cheaper. Although Uber hasn’t yet reached the Philippines, GrabTaxi ( is a popular alternative where you can book a taxi on your smartphone. Just be aware there is a booking fee for doing this.

TIP: If you’re going to be using any form of public transport, especially when you first arrive, head to the journey planning site to make your journey less stressful.

Getting a driving licence

When you first arrive in the Philippines, you can continue to use your Australian driving licence for up to 90 days. After this, you need to apply for a Philippine licence. You can do this at your local Land Transportation Office (LTO). It will cost P853 (AUD 21) to convert your Australian licence. Take both originals and photocopies of your passport and visas, your Australian driving licence and finally a medical certificate issued from an LTO-approved doctor stating you’re fit to drive. You will also have to undergo a drugs test by one of the approved centres in the Philippines. Don’t forget to as you won’t be able to renew it and will have to take a whole new driving test.

TIP: Don’t forget to exchange your licence within 90 days as you won’t be able to renew it and will have to take a whole new driving test.

What will the kids do all day?

School Options

All children are offered free, state education from the ages of 4 to 18 when schooling is compulsory. State education is considered very good, with the majority of schools being multilingual as English-speaking lessons are introduced very early. Often science and maths are taught in English and humanities subjects in Filipino.

The school system runs from kindergarten at 4 to 6, then elementary (primary) school until 12. High school is also split, with junior high school from ages 12-16, and then senior high school until age18.  

Once at high school age, many students move away from the public schooling system and entering private education. Nearly half of the secondary schools in the Philippines are private schools partly sponsored by the national government to reduce the load on public secondary schools.

While you’re deciding whether to send your child to public or private school, sit down and get acquainted with the curriculum. Helpfully, there are guides for each stage on the Department of Education’s website:

That being said, the majority of expats send their children to one of the many international schools in Manila. They offer world-class education and can offer your child the opportunity to follow internationally recognised qualifications The British School Manila broadly follows the National Curriculum (; and the International School Manila from the United States (
If you want your child to continue with their Australian education, the Australian International School in Manila is the only international school in the Philippines offering an Australian High School Diploma. It is recognised as a WACE provider by the Curriculum Council of Western Australia and the Department of Education and Training of Western Australia.  It also offers a VCE to years 11 and 12. If you’d like to learn more, their website is comprehensive:

The range of options and availability will vary depending on where you’re living – there isn’t much call for international schools in very rural areas. As you can imagine, places are very competitive, and so as soon as you have a rough idea where you’ll be living, it’s worth looking at potential schools.

TIP: Start researching schools as early as possible, particularly if you want your children to continue their Australian curriculum.

Under 5s

Some of the international schools will have kindergarten facilities, and there are public playgroups for toddlers. The best course of action if you’re looking to employ a nanny, is to go through an agency. By doing this, you’ll ensure that any legal and paperwork stuff is taken care of – plus making sure any home-help receives their legal entitlements.

Work Stuff

You’re not going to be able to work at all without having your paperwork in order. Whether you’re hoping to land a job before you arrive or are wanting to scope out the market when you’re here, use this time to polish your CV.

Manila is a gateway to east and west, with a mix of European, American and Asian influences on business. Electronics is a big industry here, along with technology, hospitality and textile production. With the increasing number of international companies doing business here, in addition to an increasing travel and tourism industry, means that English-speaking employees are in demand.

If you’re recruited from Australia, you may find you’ll be offered a generous relocation package, but if you’re already in the Philippines, there’s not the same incentive from potential employers to try and lure you across the globe. However, given some of the complex visa rules, this doesn’t mean that the company won’t assist you in getting legalities in order, have a clear list of questions regarding remuneration that you can ask.  Most expats arrive with a job, if only because it’s the easiest way to get other essentials like a house, utilities, and in some cases, a bank account.

TIP: Ensure you have certified copies of your essential documents and qualifications.

Pack and close up shop

Book your flight

The earlier you can book your international flight the better price-wise. If you can travel outside the school holiday peak season, you’ll save money too. This usually means travelling around February to March, May to June, late July to mid-September, or mid-October to mid-December. The sooner that you can lock down your moving date the better so you can plan ahead and save. Check out this Australian Government education resource for school holiday dates. 
Check out Skyscanner or Webjet, a couple of the handy air travel aggregators to help get you the best ticket prices possible. Especially if you are not fussy about which airline you fly with.

Cull the clutter

Packing up your life and starting a new one is a good chance to cleanse. Don’t stick everything you own into boxes and transport the lot to your new home. Take the time to cull! There are a few good reasons for this. 

You may have been hanging on to old heirlooms from a previous life that don’t need to make the journey across the world. If the planned move is unlikely to be forever, then consider storing a few old boxes with a friend or relative or utilising King & Wilson’s long term storage services. You can revisit your old university text books again one day when you resettle back home. Or if the move to the Philippines might be indefinite, ask yourself whether you need eight boxes of old cassette tapes from the early 90s before you realised that CDs weren’t a passing fad… and while you’re there, how about that CD collection? 
For more on minimalist packing check out this interesting perspective from

Tip: Cull unnecessary belongings and possessions before packing boxes

10 Weeks Before Moving Day

Give yourself plenty of time to plan the logistics of packing. A good international removalist, like King & Wilson will be your best friend in this regard – they won’t want you leaving this to the last minute either. A few things to think about 2-3 months out from the big day:

•    Put together a folder or box for all documents and receipts relevant to the move.
•    Start a conversation with an international shipping company such as King & Wilson to get an estimate.
•    Create a floor plan for your new home to get a sense of how many of your large sized furniture or appliances you may need to get rid of.  
•    Your belongings will be arriving by sea; however, it only takes a couple of weeks for your boxed-up life to arrive in the Philippines. You may therefore only need to pack some additional clothing, linen, towels and key crockery and key kitchen utensils in your flight luggage. You may also consider pre-arranging excess baggage as it is much cheaper to book in advance than turning up on departure day with more than your baggage allowance. King & Wilson offers a smaller air shipment service to cover off this need as well. 
•    If you haven’t done so already, and you’re able to, get yourself a local bank account, and if possible start to pay a little in to it so you have a cushion when you arrive.

Tip: Start a conversation with international movers now rather than later 

6 Weeks Before Moving Day 

Now you are edging closer to the big move, you want to start ticking off what will and won’t make it on the journey. For example:

•    Take an inventory list of all items around your home that will need to come with you.  
•    Start selling off large or redundant items via Gumtree or ebay that you don’t want to take with you.  
•    Hold a garage sale or take advantage of any local market stalls or jumble sales 
•    If you are not wanting to ship your car across, then start the process of selling your vehicle on Carsales or a similar online classifieds service 
•    Begin getting any paperwork you need for bringing your pet, make any necessary vet appointments and have any vaccinations your animal needs. 
•    Start to compile your paperwork: things like CV copies, letters of recommendation, health certificates, medication lists. Basically, anything you might need to register for a service, or secure a house/job.

4 Weeks Before Moving Day

With less than a month to the move, you need to start getting your hands dirty and actually packing a few things away, particularly items you are not using day to day: 

•    Collect moving boxes and packing supplies. Or if you move your home with King & Wilson, simply use the international shipping cartons provided.  
•    Start by packing things you don't use much currently like extra dining or kitchen utensils and seasonal clothing. Visit this resource from Energy Australia on the right way to pack when moving house or this interesting blog post on the subject by Frugal Mama
•    Donate the things you don't need (or that you haven’t been able to sell off). 
•    Think about consuming your pantry stocks and frozen goods as well as home cleaning products, shampoos and soaps.

Tip: Start by packing the things you do not use day to day

1-2 Weeks Before Moving Day

Eek! You are merely days away from the move now and need to be thinking about leaving behind a clean, empty home for a new inhabitant. You also need to think about tying up loose ends at home, the flight and what you need for your first days in the Philippines:

•    Confirm all your travel arrangements. 
•    Finish packing your essentials. 
•    Clean and defrost your refrigerator 24 hours before you move, turn off all the pipes and make sure you didn't leave any appliances on. 
•    Cancel the newspaper subscription, contact Australia Post to redirect your mail to your new address in the Philippines, disconnect your utilities like the electricity, gas and internet.  
•    If you know your new address in the Philippines you may wish to pre-arrange your utilities connection. A specialist international moving company like King & Wilson can arrange this for you. 
•    Say your goodbyes, provide your new contact details and travel itinerary to your family and friends.

Tip: Don’t forget to redirect the mail to your new address.

On Moving Day

You’ve made it to the big day. The job now is mainly to get out of the way of the professionals and focus on your breathing:

•    Let the professionals do their thing. A good removalist will take care of packing your belongings carefully and thoroughly.  
•    A good international shipping mover will also cover off all the necessary shipping documentation to facilitate prompt customs clearance and quarantine inspection once your belongings arrive in the Philippines.

Get to the airport, put on those noise cancelling headphones and relax for 3 hours or so in anticipation of your new adventure!