Retiring in Manila is a great option if you're interested in Southeast Asia. Manila, once dubbed the Paris of the East and the Pearl of the Orient, is the largest metropolitan area and capital of the Philippines.
Consisting of 17 cities and municipalities, this metropolis has been quickly growing over the past decade. Cities like Makati, Pasig, and Muntinlupa have become mainstays for expats living in Metro Manila, making these ideal places you should look into if you're a retiree.
Once a local tribal village, the city grew to prominence as the Spanish seat of power in colonial Philippines, mostly concentrated to what is now the present-day fort of Intramuros. American occupation followed Spanish rule and brought with it modernization and urban growth.
Facing a setback during World War II, the city has been growing quickly since then. Given its history, it’s easy to find European-style churches next to old 1920s style shopping arcades and modern skyscrapers. With a vibrant and warm atmosphere and a foreigner-friendly culture, Manila is the perfect place to wind down and enjoy life. As they tend to say, it’s more fun in the Philippines!
Pros of Retiring in Manila
Cons of Retiring in Manila
What is the Local Culture Like in Manila?
If you're from a country in the western world, you may feel comfortable retiring in Manila because it features a heavily westernized culture. It is easy to find many American classics in terms of food and media. Besides this, the city is a melting pot of cultures being heavily influenced by China and Spain to name a few.
It’s common to see Chinese restaurants and Chinese food sold in every block and Chinese customs and traditions have found their way to Filipino homes. Meanwhile, the Korean wave has been taking the airwaves by storm, so expect K pop and K dramas to be all over the radio and TV.
Religion also plays a big role with a dominant majority of the country being one form of Christianity, mostly Roman Catholic. Thus, religious holidays like Holy Week and All Saints Day are widely important. One thing unique to Manila, and the rest of the Philippines, is that the Christmas season tends to start as early as September, where star-shaped lanterns called Parols are hung as decorations on the streets.
Filipino culture revolves heavily around hospitality and friendship. If you’re lucky enough to make a lasting friendship, it’s easy for you to be considered a member of your friend’s family.
Filipinos are easy to talk to so feel free to strike up a conversation with the salesperson while you’re shopping or the driver of your car as it might just make their day. If you find yourself going out at night, be sure to ready your vocal cords as much of the time, especially for the older generations, karaoke is a must, with many households having their own machines. Overall, retirees find that the Manila culture is one that’s easily adaptable and enjoyable given it’s warm and vibrant reception.
You'll rarely see stairs that end in 3 (3 steps, 6 steps, 9 steps, etc). This is because of the superstition of oro, plata, mata (gold, silver, death). By building stairs that don't end in 3 (or death) you avoid bad luck and attract wealth because the last step will be gold or silver.
Is it Safe to Live in Manila?
Just like every other city, there are some parts that are safe and some that are not. Generally, places where foreigners and retirees stay are considered safe to walk in at night, such as in gated communities or high-rise developments.
These areas also tend to be safe for women to be alone at night in, though it is usually recommended for women not to be alone unless necessary, especially after you hit retirement age. As a rule of thumb, areas most appealing to foreigners are most likely safe with a low crime rate.
Getting Around Manila - Do I Need a Car?
Metro Manila is supported by an extensive bus network that follows regular routes. This is supported by a localized transport system consisting of tricycles, which are motorcycles with attached sidecars that could fit anywhere from 1-4 people, and jeepneys.
Jeepneys trace their origins from jeeps left over by the American army after World War II. You would definitely see them all around the city sporting artful designs unique to each driver and owner.
There is also a rapid transit system which is currently undergoing expansion, but generally touches major points in the city.
Despite this, it is more advisable for retirees to either hire their own drivers, drive themselves, or use ride-hailing apps. This is due to Manila’s high density, making public transport difficult, but not impossible. It is important to note, however, that traffic can become a recurring problem so it is advisable to live in an area with most public spaces within walking distance, like business centers and developments.
What Languages are Spoken? Can I get by with English Only?
If you speak English, retiring in Manila is easy because English is spoken by a majority of the country. Most service persons and salespeople are trained to speak in English. Though local TV stations broadcast in the local language of Filipino, majority of the television channels available are in English. Signage is also definitely in English though expect Japanese, Chinese, and Korean to be used as well.
What is the Weather Like in Manila?
Due to its tropical climate, temperatures in Manila can rise to as high as 32° C (90° F) on average, peaking at about 34-36°C (93°F - 97°F) in the summer. Because of this, having an electric fan and/or AC unit is a basic necessity for any home. The hot dry summer season ranges from March to mid-May but can end as late as June.
This is immediately followed by the wet monsoon season, colloquially known as the Habagat, which peaks around August-October and ends around November. This season usually brings with it a series of typhoons. Though common in the country, it is not usual for these to pass directly over Manila, though you may experience the outer rim of these typhoons about twice or three times a year. The monsoon season also brings with it continuous rains where flooding usually occurs.
This is followed by a cool dry season from December to February, though it can last as late as mid-March. This season is perfect for morning walks as there is a slight breeze during the time around sunrise. Within recent memory, the temperature has been known to go down to as low as 19° C (66°F), but is usually at 22-26° C (72°F - 78°F). Generally, Manila’s weather is tolerable when you get used to it but can be erratic at times.
There are around 175 languages spoken in the Philippines but Filipino and English are the two official languages.
What Activities do Retirees Enjoy?
As stated, mall culture is a big part of Manila life, so expect these to be where most people go to in their free time. Manila has its fair share of parks, such as the Rizal Park and Quezon Memorial Circle, where you can join fellow retirees with morning Tai Chi.
If you have a driver, you can take short trips to local destinations, like the mountain resort city of Tagaytay and the beach resort town of Subic.
Likewise, a lot of retirees tend to enjoy gambling, especially in some of the newer Vegas-style casinos like Okada Manila and Solaire. One thing you have to do if you end up in Manila is visit the National Museum and watch the sunset from Manila Bay.
Cost of Living for Retiring in Manila
1 Bdr Apartment in City
$685 per month
1 Bdr Apartment Outside City
$330 per month
Average Utilities: 1 Bdr Apt
$118 per month
Inexpensive Meal for One
3-Course Meal for Two, Mid-Range
Dining Out: What are Some Typical Dishes that Locals Enjoy?
The Philippines is a country that relies heavily on rice and it is not uncommon to find it in every meal and every restaurant possible. Among local food, it is best to try classic dishes like Adobo, a type of braised beef, and Sinigang, a type of sour stew, both best paired with a fresh and sweet Philippine mango for dessert.
Japanese food is famous throughout the city, with katsu restaurants like Yabu and Yayoi and ramen places like Ramen Nagi and Marugame Udon being among the most visited. Korean barbecue joints and Korean soy chicken is also famous among the youth and is usually used as a hang-out spot.
American food is also common, with many fast-food chains being present in the Philippines. Some recent additions include Panda Express, Popeyes, Taco Bell, and even Denny’s. Because of its Americanized culture, a burger and Coke is a classic meal and can be found in any mall you can think of.
Fried chicken is also big in Manila, with varieties ranging from fine dining to fast food and even chicken wings being a big part of the local food culture. A must try when in Manila would be restaurants like Max’s and Manam for local food and Wildflour and Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza.
Retiring in Manila Quick Facts
Overcast, humid wet season with partly cloudy and humid dry season. Average temps are from 71°F and 96°F (21°C - 35.5°C)
Flight time to U.S.
15-20 hours by plane to New York and London
Yes - Discount Program
Yes - More Info
Rapid transit as well as a number of other vehicle options