Retiring on $500 a Month – Part 2



Following on from last month, Ken Bayliss provides information and insight on how you can comfortably retire on an income of just $500 a month in Cambodia and the Philippines.


Once, nearly a thousand years ago, it was the big player in South East Asia. Its empire became vast and influential but Cambodia now seems like any another Third World country.  Time has taken these glories and in the modern period, after a trying internal war, they are finally coming out of the nightmare. The 10 million Cambodians are a surprisingly happy lot, considering their recent difficult history.

As a consequence of that past, Cambodia is such a poor country that it would be difficult not to live there on $500 a month. Yet of course with poverty comes other issues. There can be problems of access to those material things that you love, the ability to buy just about anything and everything. However, in many places there are lots of similar stores and franchises as back home. So, if ever you get the urge in a big town you can indulge in pizza, burgers or even your favorite yoghurt.

Cambodian people are really nice and friendly, though there needs a certain caution regards safety which you should do in any unfamiliar place. One problem is landmines. Walking off on your own in many places outside of populated areas can be dangerous. Go where everyone goes and it should be no problem.

Cheap food can be had at stalls and small restaurants. The cheapest from a stall is about 50 cents for a small rice meal, with some chicken and veg. The price obviously goes up in tandem with the style of the surroundings.


A few hours away from the capital city, Phnom Penh is the beach life. Go past the mountains that rise out of the eternal plains and head south.  If you like a tropical beach and want a pseudo town feel to life, then Sihanoukville (called by its old name Kampong Som by the locals) could be the place for you. It is quite small and always seems in a state of perpetual rebuilding. There are a number of beaches in Sihanoukville and they have varying degrees of cleanliness. These run off a short way from the town itself which has a small central area. Most of the hotels and bars are situated near the beaches. A lot of sex and bar businesses moved from Pattaya to Sihanoukville. Yet, as in Pattaya, there are lots of places that cater to ordinary people. Shopping can be done at a few of the markets in town the Psah Leu Market – 7 Makara, the Central Night Market near Sopheakmongkol East also the Samudera Supermarket on 7 Makara. Minimarts are in such places as gas stations and corner areas. These supply most things that you would need in a hurry.

Some cheap short stay accommodation

Geckozy Guesthouse – about $7 a night WiFi and cable, fan DVD, popular so book well in advance. Long term rates available.
The Freedom Hotel – from $7 clean, above a nice bar with cheap food. Tel: 012-497-091
Down on Occheteul Beach you can stay free at a couple of shacks/guest places. All you need do is eat and pay for their not overpriced food. They have a fan and a bed but they are very, very basic. Try the Dolphin Shack or the Coco Shack, but as the name implies, don’t expect the Hilton.

Long Term

Furnished apartments in the cities like Siam Reap and Sihanoukville can be as low as $120 a month. For long term accommodation such as apartment rentals you could try Jagreal Real Estate +855(0)99677402 and, again, ask around. A possible long stay is Ankor Inn Guest House $6 a night and includes cable, shower, free laundry and a good restaurant downstairs, 016896204 just a block from the bus station.
Tourist Information can be found in the Sihanoukville Visitors Guide and maps plus a copy of The Sihanoukville Advertiser both can be found in most guesthouses and restaurants.


From the capital Phnom Penh get the GST Buses to Sihanoukville town. It takes around four hours starting at 07.15, 08.15, then 12.30 and 13.30.
Prices costs can vary; motorcycle taxi trips 25 cents to $1 per person, depending how far you go. To rent a motorcycle is $5 a day.  Bicycle rental is around $2 a day. You can even go lazy and rent an electric bicycle for $4 a day.
For buses to and from the town check here.


Magazines and newspapers are sometimes sold by wandering kids. Convenience stores and minimarts have magazines. There are a couple of bookshops on Ekareach Street, selling new and second-hand books; Mr. Heinz Books and Q&A Books and Café. Also try Casablanca Books Serendipity on Beach Rd. Guesthouses and some small eating places have second-hand books where you can often swap books.


Outdoor activities include; Fishing, at Chez Claude, Condor Dive & Survey and Naga Dive & Sailboard Rental on Ochheuteal Beach. Tennis at end the of Sokha Beach near the restaurant. Swimming, walking and biking is also popular.


Between the town and the Golden Lions is Sihanoukville Referral Hospital just at the top of the hill. It is not the best of places, but they do their best. Tel: 012-870084, 016-712646, 016-858391.
The CT Clinic located downtown on the curve of Boray-Kamakor Street is open 24/7.

Kampot and Kep

A quieter place are the small towns of Kampot and Kep.  These are located on the Bay of Thailand, within sight of Vietnam, whose border is just a few miles away. You can head up the cooler Bokor Mountain and see quite a lot of Southern Cambodia and Vietnam.
Kampot itself is a quiet little place on a river and the start-off point for day trips up to Bokor Mountain.  If you like the idea of faded grandeur and a laid back approach to life, Kampot could be an option.

Some cheap short and long stay accommodation

There’s little to be had bar guest houses, but ask and search. Meanwhile deals can be made for long stays at these places.
Long Villa Guesthouse & Restaurant Located in Kampot town.  $3 to $10. e-mail:  downtown in Kampot $3 to $10.
Blissful Guesthouse $4 to $7 above a restaurant and garden.
Kampot River View fan or air-con, cable, bathroom, $4 to $20. Seafood restaurant.  e-mail:

Despite it being no more than a fishing village, Kep has more facilities than its neighbor.  It was the main seaside location before the rise of Sihanoukville, and is a small, spread-out town on the ocean.  It is very popular on the weekend with Phnom Penh residents. From its location you can see the islands of Cambodia and Vietnam.  The area is still not too touristy.  The town is notable for its seafood restaurants, though the beach is just a small crescent shaped strip, so it’s unlikely to ever get too popular with international tourists.

There are also some cheap places to stay in Kep, and it may be the better option than renting an apartment.

Some cheap short and long stay accommodation

Similar to Kampot regarding long term stays.
Botanica $9-$10 – 2k north from the Crab Market. Restaurant, great bungalows        E-mail:    Website:
Lida Khmer Guesthouse  $6 – $10 – clean, basic fan rooms at the Lida Khmer House Massage. 1 k north of Crab Market intersection, between Kep Lodge and Botanica.
N4 Guesthouse $10 – $30 – Fan and s/c rooms and bungalows with cable TV, base of the mountain opposite Crab Market intersection. e-mail:
Vanna Bungalows Range: $10 – $20 Bungalows, restaurant


Fishing, walking, swimming, boating.


Refferal Hospital of Kep Kep Village, Kep Commune, Kep City

Siem Reap

Further north and nearer the middle of the Thai borderland is Siem Reap. In this town there are the many little luxuries you may miss if you stayed in a village. It is the nearest town to the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat. That means that tens of thousands of people come here for that reason, though they never stay that long. It’s a walkable town catering to tourists, though round about it’s surrounded by some nice countryside. In the town itself it is becoming more lively at night with people who have done their Temple stint.
There are lots of cafes and bars and small restaurants, in the obviously named Bar Street. Round the old market is anything and everything you need, bakeries, guesthouses and restaurants selling meals for as low as $1.50. Eat well and enjoy the passing crowd that never seems to dwindle in this town that thrives on the Angkor Wat experience.

Some cheap short stay accommodation

Freedom Hotel  from $15 Hwy 6 just west of Phsar Leu.  Golden Apsara  from $15 Old Market Area on Sivatha Road. Home Sweet Home from $15 Wat Bo Area.  Earthwalkers  from $7 Just off Hwy 6  towards the airport.  European Guesthouse  from $7 Wat Bo Area.  Funan Angkor Palace from $7 at 3560 Sivatha Road. Golden Banana  from $7 Wat Damnak Area. Green House II Guest House  Sivatha from $7 at junction of Pokambor Road.


You can get a Tuk Tuk for around $12 a day if you want to check things out around the town. Also a motorbike taxi for about $8 a day. Below is a site for buses, planes and an overview of the city, plus where to go and what to do.


Siem Reap Book Center, Blue Apsara, Monument Books and Blue Apsara and D’s Books are all in the same area around the old market


There’s golf at the Phokeethra Country Club, cooking at The River Garden Guesthouse, walking, Horseback riding at the Happy Ranch, riding school Tel: +855 (0) 11 920 002, yoga and meditation at the Singing Tree Café and even volunteer teaching with information at


Siem Reap Referral Hospital Mondul 1 Village, Svay Dangkum Commune. Preah Dak Health Center O’Torteung Village, Preah Dak Commune, Banteay Srey District. Siem Reap Provincial Hospital, near the Old Market. Naga International Clinic 593 Road 6, Airport Road.U-Care, Old Market area. Pharmacy. The Angkor Hospital for Children, in an emergency they’ll fix you up – $50 donation basic treatment, $100 for more complex stuff.

Approximate expenses for apartment living on the cheap in Cambodia.

Rent: $90
Electric: $15
Water: $10
Cable: $35
Groceries: $130
Transport: $30
Miscellaneous  – Visa Insurance etc. $75
Total monthly expenses – $310

Reading in Cambodia

New and second-hand books are in many of the towns listed as well as DVDs. The Cambodia Daily is available in most newspapers outlets that cater to foreigners, it costs 30 cents.Phnom Penh Post twice monthly news and analysis.  The Bayon Pearnik, an English language publication. Cambodian Scene, published every two months. The Bangkok Post, The Nation (Bangkok), and The International Herald Tribune can be bought in some towns, rarely. They are also on-line.

On-Line Reading

Blog: F.E.A.R Life in Kampot
Blog/News: KI Media Cambodian info
Cambodia Visitors Guides
Cambodia Daily
The Cambodia News


Banks and money transfers in Cambodia


Upon entry to Cambodia get a business visa $35 and you can say that the reason for coming to Cambodia is business. This lasts for one month. You then pay just under $300 to various visa services that you can get locally and after that you get a one year multiple business visa. This is renewable indefinitely, meaning you never have to leave the country again.  Visa Overstay is $5/day.  Extending your tourist visa for one month is $50.  So it’s best just to get a business visa and save the hassle.  This is one of the best visa deals of any country.



The Philippines

Living in Asia is like living in a permanent summer, so some people say. In truth the Philippines is on the back end of the typhoon belt and can get a bit of rain at times. It seems a very small price to pay for living a pretty good life. Most people speak English and they are friendly and easy going. There are more beaches than you shake a stick at and tropical islands aplenty. Within those islands are even more potential accommodation bargains. Out of the three countries here, if you really want to live cheaply by a beach this is the place to be. It could take you years of pleasurable hunting to find the perfect place in such a country of retirement opportunities.

Many Many Islands

The country is made up of two large islands, six or more smaller ones and seven thousand tiny ones. It is situated south of China and north of Malaysia and has the mix of those places, plus heavy Spanish and American influences. Someone phrased it as 400 years in the convent (Spanish rule) and 100 years in Hollywood (American rule).

Luzon, the largest island to the north is where the capital, Manila is. Each island sometimes appears like a separate place, now of course with communications, they are connected to each other and the world. The Philippines has 30 volcanoes, and 10 are regarded as active. They do on times blow up, but check you proximity to one if it concerns you. People here tend to live away from them leaving the poor landless to get nearer the sleeping giants.

A lively city situated half way down the Philippines and on the coast of 140 miles long island. Cebu is considered the second city of the country; some would say the best. Others hate it because it’s a city with city problems. As a redeeming factor it has lots of nearby beaches small mountains and everything a city offers; nightlife, good cheap transport, shipping to other islands and an international airport. A very busy but friendly the place it has a different style to the capital.

Get a taxi with a meter at the airport, crossing the road in front of the arrivals terminal. They charge about P150 (about $3) for the trip into town.

Some cheap short stay accommodation

In the Cebu Doctors Hospital area are the lowest class boarding house rooms which start at about P1,000 per month (about $20). A slightly better boarding house room can be had for about P3,500 per month (about $70). A Pension House is similarly on the low end of the scale as a boarding house and is basically a hotel without the frills. One of the cheapest pension houses is McSherry on Pelaez Street. It is very basic. It does have rooms with a bathroom, cable TV but just a fan for roughly P7,000 per month. There are other places in the same area.

If you don’t imagine yourself staying in a pension or boarding house, try the Century Hotel. It’s just under $10 with cable, without it is $8.50. There are weekly and monthly rates available. It’s located in the Colon district of the city and pretty central.


Since 90% of the Philippine population speaks English and literacy rates are high, bookstores are plentiful. Magazines and local and national newspapers are abundant.


Cebu offers, swimming, fishing, sailing, trekking in the nearby hills. They also love baseball, volleyball and basketball here.


All over the Philippines food from vendors is cheap. You can get a meal and drink for about P50 ($1) from a carenderia, a Philippine fast food stall. Even in a food court in a shopping mall, you can get a small meal and a drink for as little as P60 or if it’s not enough get a larger one for P120 per meal. A Big Mac is just about P100. But this is regarded as expensive. Try the local fruit stalls selling great fresh produce that anyone can afford.


There are ATM’s everywhere in Cebu City but what ATM’s you can use will depend on what system your ATM card uses. Be careful they can charge you for transactions so go into a bank and get things sorted there.


Chong Hua Hospital Fuente Osmeña
Perpetual Succour Hospital Gorordo Ave.
Cebu (Velez) General Hospital F. Ramos St.
South Western Hospital (Aznar) Villa Aznar, Urgello St.
Cebu City Medical Center 5th Floor Annex Building, M.C. Briones Street,


There are any number of cheap places to live in the Philippines. Some, though, may not be as cheap as you need and also not so clean, or have crime, of they are noisy; the list goes on and on. One of the recently surveyed best cities was Tagbilaran City on the island of Bohol. This beautiful island is just 72 km south across the strait from Cebu. It is, by comparison, a quiet area. Many choose to come here for holidays, weekends and some to retire. With a population of just under 93,000 it is a manageable city.

It’s fairly quiet after 11 PM. There will of course be some drama going on around the central districts since it is a holiday place. In Tagbilaran you can get a small room for a while for around $9 a day, this will tide you over until you can find more suitable accommodation. Yet it is almost parochial in its quietness.

Not far away from Tagbilaran are the 1,268Chocolate Hills, strange round shaped mounds that are cooler places than the city. A popular tourist area but, like much of the Philippines, its main tourism is from locals. Foreign tourism is limited and, unlike Thailand, it has less impact on the rental properties of beach areas.

Some cheap short stay accommodation

Gie Gardens Hotel 18 M.H. del Pilar Street, Single Room P490.00
Chriscent Ville Pension House Gallares Street, Standard Single P550.00
Coralandia Resort and Restaurant 45 Graham Avenue, Single aircon P525 single non aircon P375

East Coast Tourist Inn Miguel Parras Street, Single Standard P650
Taver’s Pension House Remolador Street, Cogon, Standard Single P600
Brenda’s Biergarten and Delicatessen Miguel Parras St. in Downtown Tagbilaran and has a small notice board worth checking out. It is also a popular ex-pat hangout.

Getting There

From Manila at Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Tagbilaran City the capital Province of Bohol there 2 airlines PAL(Phillipine Airlines) and Cebu Pacific


There’s horse riding, fishing, walking sailing and local sports activities such as volleyball, basketball and baseball There’s whale and dolphin watching on nearby Balicasag Island.


Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital
L.Z. Ramiro Medical Center – Tagbilaran City
Ramiro Community Hospital
Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital (GCGMH) – Regional Hospital
Borja Community Hospital
Medical Mission Group – Coop. Hospital
Tagbilaran Community Hospital
Saint Jude General Hospital
There are lots of clinics in and around the island, plus an equal amount of pharmacies. Always ask at a pharmacy for the best place for your particular ailment.


If you think you’d like a more artsy place try Loboc, 24 km from the city of Tagbilaran. The famous Loboc Children’s Choir is here, winners of many competitions, both locally and overseas. You can find music bands, adult choirs, and a brass symphonic ensemble here too. Not bad for a town of 16,000 people.  Scenically there is the Loboc river, on which there are floating restaurants as well as cruises and a waterfall. It is along the river that you may see the smallest primate in the world, the Tarsier.  They are frail, tiny little creature with big eyes that attracts everyone who sees one.

The town of Loboc is inland a bit but within striking distance from the sea if you want trips there.  Basically it’s a quiet town but has great potential if you are in any way artistic or musical.  You can get there from Tagbilaran by jeepney every 10 minutes, or bus from the Integrated Bus Terminal, Dao. Also by van from Tagbilaran Pier, the Airport and the Integrated Bus Terminal.


Horse riding, fishing, caving, walking boating and local sports activities such as volleyball, basketball and baseball and of course all the musical activities.

Some cheap short stay accommodation
Not much accommodation but try cheaply priced Hill Top Cottage, Gotozon, Loboc. The budget room is $9, though there is a pool on the premises.
Nearby at Nuts Huts RIVER RESORT Gotozon, Loboc  It is a very rustic resort that begins at $4 a night. Not for those with mobility problems it is set in a wonderful semi-jungle setting near the Loboc river.


More a clinic than a hospital. Municipal Health Office, Municipal Hall, Loboc


One of the cheapest and, it must be said, one of the most remote places to live in the Philippines must be Batanes. It is a very small island in a group of ten islands just north of Luzon and is nearer Taiwan than Manila. The 230 square km island does get hit by typhoons, no more than anywhere in the north of the Philippines. Its temperatures vary between 14 C, 60 Fahrenheit in the winter to 37 C, 95 Fahrenheit in the height of summer. It is cooler and gets more rain than elsewhere. Its downside is that the cable has only 5 channels and the electricity and the Internet sometimes go down. Cell phones sometimes get poor reception.
Yet it is very beautiful, and rugged. Some compare it to New Zealand or Scotland. With a population that is just over 16,000 you are bound to know everyone. If isolation is what you seek then this must be the place of your dreams. There are few places to live as cheap as this. Getting round the island is easy with Jeepnies and tricycles at very cheap rates. Around the town by tricycle for instance, costs around 5 cents.

Some cheap short and long stay accommodation

Long Term Accommodation is not easy to get so stay in the local guest houses until you can locate somewhere.

The Ivatan Lodge is between $2 – $9 a night. Even for a month you’re looking at a bargain. No Meals though. Then there’s Shanadels Inn and Café which is a bit more expensive at $8.75 a day including meals, plus great views. That is just about $280 a month, less if you get a discount for a long stay.  The Batanes Resort Hotel is in between the cheap and expensive. It runs to around $12 a night.  If you eat out there are a number of places. Edats Canteen have meals from $2 – $3 and a snack is a half that. Similar prices are in Ric’s Canteen, though some are actually lower.


There’s not much to do here so bringing a supply of books would be sensible.  There is sea fishing, swimming and walking to occupy you. If you are an artist of any description this island, along with a couple of its accessible neighbors, would be a wonderful retreat. On the whole it’s a quiet, relaxing place. Like everywhere in the Philippines it has a year round program of events and fiestas that keeps everyone happy. The Internet place is at the Batanes Connect internet cafe in Basco (the capital) on Abad Street and costs about P50 ($1) an hour. Two banks PNB and Landbank will vie for your remittances and you can call overseas easily.

Getting There

Seaair flies to Batanes from Manila three times a week using a 19-seater From Manila P3,000, about $60 each way.

By Sea MV Ivatan Princess leaves Ilocos Norte for Basco at 8pm on Wednesdays and Sundays and arrives in Basco at 4pm the next day. Fare PhP1,200 and travel time is roughly 18 hours. Returning from Basco, it leaves at 3pm on Tuesdays and10 pm on Fridays.


Batanes Provincial Hospital Basco, Batanesspacer


Now foreigners to the Philippines with temporary visitor’s visas may extend their stay in the country every two months and up to 16 months without prior approval from the Bureau of Immigration. However, a foreigner may still extend his stay after 16 months and up to 24 months if his application is approved by the chief of the Bureau’s Immigration regulation division (IRD).

Approximate expenses for apartment living on the cheap in the Philippines.

Rent: P7,500
Electric: P1,300
Water: P120
Cable: P850
Groceries: P5,000
Taxis: P3,000
Miscellaneous  Visa, Insurance etc. P2,500
Total monthly expenses P20,270 – $431

Some Links
example: Mandaue city, Cebu 7,000 Pesos  $155

Ex-Pat sites

World Rankings of GDP

#84  Thailand:          $8,565 per capita
#122  Philippines:    $4,966 per capita
#153  Cambodia:      $2,422 per capita

Asian Crime

Most places in Asia are relatively free from crime. You will constantly get chiseled out of 1 cent here or 10 cents there, but nothing serious.  Crime is mainly opportunistic, including a small amount of pick pocketing and small time con artists. There are murders, but they are usually confined to the criminals themselves. You will be seen as rich so avoid bragging about money and flashing your money. Don’t get caught up with a criminal element, especially in drugs. Asian jails are not something to write home about, unless it’s to beg for money or food.


Gambling for money is illegal in some countries in Asia. Be very careful of illegal places, they are usually run by the local mafia. Being a rich foreigner you will be seen as a good mark.  If caught illegally gambling, for instance in Thailand, you may be deported and never be able to return, or became a mark for the police to harass.


If you have come to retire and find that you need some companionship it is inevitable that you will go looking for a partner. Since you’re a foreigner you will stick out like a sore thumb, a rich sore thumb. Be careful who you chose as a companion and be on the lookout for signs of fascination with money, gold, cars, houses, starting their own business. Family problems are also danger signs like a need for cash for an operation, a tragic event that can only be fixed with your money or, helping a brother set up a sure fire winner of a business. Always say, ‘I’ll think about it’. Keep saying that until they get the message that it means no.

The next thing is that you need to understand that Asia, like everywhere has its share of sexually transmittable diseases. Without wishing to stereotype, be cautious of loved ones with tattoos or overly dyed fair hair. Some things are fashion and a few tattoos on men can be religious, but others show that they are not traditional and are often not good indicators. Unless that’s what you want.

Find out as much as you can about someone: Where do they work? Where is their family? Do they have children living with their family? Do they talk a lot on the phone to a member of the opposite sex and who they say is a ‘cousin’, and so on. Make sure he/she knows you have just $500, or even less, disposable income. Many newcomers, and even old hands, have trusted in locals and become unstuck.  If the companion stays after they know you are not vastly rich it may well be ok. If not, count yourself lucky. Not all people in Asia are con artists and are very generous with what they have, just be careful.

Cost of Living

To gain a rough idea of food costs here is a Shopping Basket of various items: Milk, butter, eggs, meat, fish, veg and fruit as well as sundry items. Some, like milk, will last a few days, whilst others, such as toothpaste, a few weeks or more. These are center of capital city prices and one main problem, it must be said, is that they are mainly Western foods from top-end supermarkets.  Because of that they are all very expensive items. With some cleaver shopping, buying local produce in markets and avoiding city centers you should be able to slash the prices by at least a quarter, if not more, and still have a healthy diet. You could cut it down to around $100 – $120 a month.

It is often easier and sometimes cheaper to eat out in small restaurants or from food stalls. This is especially so in country districts and smaller towns and cities. Eating out also gets you out of the house and socializing.

Milk 2 pints
Butter 1lb.
Plain yoghurt 6oz.
Eggs 12 (large)
Bread Whole (wheat loaf) 2 lbs.
Rice (long grain) 2 lbs.
Spaghetti 2lbs.
Sugar (white) 2lbs.
Cornflakes 13oz.
Coffee (instant) 4oz.
Coca Cola 2 pints
Mineral water 2 pints
Orange juice 2 pints
Corn oil 2 pints
Potatoes 2 lbs.
Onions 2 lbs.Tomatoes 2 lbs.
Spinach 2 lbs.
Oranges 2 lbs.
Bananas 2 lbs.
Peas (can) 8 oz
Beans (can) 8 oz.
Fresh beef filet 2 lbs.
Fresh minced beef 2 lbs.
Chicken (fresh whole) 2 lbs.
Shrimps 2 lbs.
Frozen pizza 11oz.
Ice cream 2 pints
Fresh or frozen apple pie 1 lb.
Cookies (plain) 7 oz.
Soap (bar). 5 oz
Toothpaste 4 oz.

(These are central Bangkok prices)
It costs 1,200 Baht or $35

(These are central Phnom Penh prices)
It costs $57

(These are central Manila prices)
It costs P2795 or $60


The Thai Baht consists of 1, 2, 5 and 10 Baht coins.  The notes are: 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 Baht.

The Cambodian Riel (R) is technically the official tender in Cambodia but the US dollar is the one most preferred. Most business and even border crossings set their costs in the US dollar. Small transactions are often in Cambodian Riel as is the change. It’s worth keeping some for the motorcycle taxis.

There are no coins in the Cambodian currency and the notes are: 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000 Reil, the red 500 and 1000 notes the most useful.

When you get dollar bills make sure there are NO tears or rips, people will not accept them, especially the $20, $50 and $100 bills.

The currency of the Philippines is the Peso (PHP, but in this article P) = 100 centavos. The bank notes are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50,100, 200, 500 and 1,000. Coins are in denominations of 1, 2, 5, and 10 then 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos.


In Asia most banks are open Monday to Friday often from 9.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Banks in shopping malls are usually open 7 days a week and almost mirror the store times. ATM’s are everywhere, but beware of the commercial ones not outside the banks, they can charge you a small fee for a transaction.

ATM’s take a number of cards such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners Club International, JCB Cards, Visa Electron, Plus and Cirrus. Make sure the Bank or Card company you use knows about the fact that you are going to use an ATM on a regular basis, get a verified statement that they have received information to that effect from you in advance. Cambodia is not as sophisticated as its neighbors yet so go to banks to withdraw cash.

Post Box

If you are getting a pension, perhaps the institution or your government dislikes the idea that you are domicile in a foreign country.  For instance they may not pay you upgrades, or incremental benefits, or other payments.  You obviously need to draw funds from your account, so to overcome any objections you can have a dummy address.  Check out the various Post Boxes on this site. Use a discreet Post Box as your domicile address and have them forward any statements and other important mail to you anywhere in the world.  When you make an agreement with the company you can ask them to send your mail just once a month, saving you money.
Deposits checks into your account and sends on mail anywhere – $240 a year plus $10 to forward.
Similar but no check depositing – $240 a year plus forwarding
No check depositing – $240 a year plus forwarding

For the UK this costs ₤45 plus ₤15 set up fee. They only deduct from the ₤45 what it costs to send you mail each month, unless requested otherwise, such as weekly or bi-monthly.


This is a way of life, but don’t take it too seriously. There will be three prices; tourist price, local foreigner who knows some language price and, the one you’ll never get, the actual local price. If you have a local spouse, send them in. Don’t show yourself whilst they do the bargaining.
If you decide to stay at a guest house for more than a week or two strike a bargain with the owner. Something that is $200 for a month will come down a few percent if a discount for long stay is asked for.


Rarely, if ever, do Asians tip. Not for meals, or taxis, or anything. Follow suit and you’ll have extra cash in your pocket. Rounding up a few Baht/ Riel/ Pesos is OK. Just don’t go overboard.

Post Offices

These are usually in the central area of the town or city. Sometimes they have small sub post offices. All are relatively efficient in the main areas of the country of your choice. The central ones and some others can be used for poste restante. However, it is better to check after you get there.


The Internet is everywhere and costs about 60 cents an hour, outside of tourist places. Some places have cameras to talk to your friends and family back home. Faxes can be found in some hotels and cost the same as the Internet, though for each page.


You’ll need medical advice on vaccinations a month or so before your journey.  You will more than likely need: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Polio, Diptheria and Tetnus jabs – the last two being combined.
Your Hepatitis A will need a booster after 6 – 12 months.

Health Problems

If you need medication on a regular basis bring a plenty with you until you can secure a proper supply. You can get most things in Asia, often without seeing a doctor. If you bring medicines through customs ensure you have a written statement from your doctor that you are entitled to the medication. There’s no need to tell anyone about your medication unless asked.  It may also be wise to take out some sort of health insurance if you are prone to an illness.Check out BUPA in the country you have chosen for cheaper rates than in the West.

The wheelchair-bound will find it near impossible in Asia. The roads don’t surrender to pedestrians and the pavements are mostly badly maintained potholes. To cross the road in some places you have to climb a pedestrian bridge of about 30 steps up, then the same amount down. Those with debilitating conditions will also find it difficult.

Health care is cheap and with local insurance it is possible to get by. In Thailand you can buy good cheap medicines over the counter. In the Philippines there are similar circumstances to Thailand, but slightly more expensive. In Cambodia you have to be careful of counterfeit medicine. Check the expiry date and the batch number is not faded like a cheap copy. Also some places have less than clean conditions.

Government hospitals in Thailand are cheap but slow. They fill up with people, especially at weekends, but you get the job done at a very cheap price. Treatment is often very low, under 100 Baht for a minor ailment, plus a few more Baht for the medication.

In Cambodia they can be very suspect, a bit unclean and slow. The staff are nice, but they can be inefficient. For serious ailments some go to Bangkok for treatment. If you were down the bottom end of Cambodia you could go to Rayong.
The Philippines is more like Thailand, professional and do their best at all times. Efficient and cheap you will still need some sort of insurance for major ailments.

Both Asia Insurance and Infinity represent Goodhealth The range of plans start at $477 annually with no co-payment.

Forte’s Fig Tree Blue plans start at $448 per annum with no co-payment.

Thailand provider, BUPA/Blue Cross, is about $1,300 a year for a family.

Doctors & Dentists

A doctor will charge you for time and any medicine plus medication costs. They may have medicines on the premises or will give you a prescription to take to a pharmacy. They display either a large green or red cross depicting their profession.

A dentist charges similar rates to a doctor and there are lots around. They often display a large drawing of a tooth as a visual gimmick. Most are pretty cheap by western standards, but as a foreigner you will inevitably be charged more. In some places low standards of hygiene prevail, just be aware.


Often English speakers, pharmacists are sometimes a better bet if you have a minor ailment. Ensure that it is the pharmacist you are talking to and not a friendly assistant. They can direct you to doctors and hospitals in your area.


There are good public hospitals all over Asia and some bad ones in the major cities, and private ones can be expensive. However, the cheap ones get busy on the weekend in the outpatients department. If you don’t have insurance they can be cheap enough to get by. Cambodia for instance has less social infrastructure than say Thailand, and it shows. Yet the hospitals are cheap, though not as good outside of the capital.

Home Help

If you consider the need for daily help from a care giver you would expect to pay the following:
Thai nurses $150 – $300 a month
Cambodia nurse about $50 – $60 a month
Philippine nurse $50 – $60 a month
These are the lowest salaries in their respective countries. Other non-qualified help which is easy to get, live-in or out, would be below this. The best way of finding these helpers is on the ground, local word of mouth and ex-pat residents will know where to go and who to ask.


Keep safe and well from things like mosquitoes by spraying regularly. Other things like cockroaches and ants are common features of Asian life. Generally you don’t see many snakes, though rats are common enough. Just keep your area clean and most things will avoid you.


Most urban areas over a population of 50,000 have at least one supermarket. You can buy anything that you have in your own country in these superstores. However, the prices can be much higher than just round the corner or shopping the old way, going from shop to shop. This also helps circulate money locally and gives you a chance to socialize.

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  1. Mike Jansen April 21, 2009 at 1:06 am

    As far as the philippines is concerned if you are willing to live like a local it can be much cheaper…out in the provinces if married into a local family you can live on 300 or so a month.. possibly less till you have kids.

    Mike Jansen

  2. Paula Fisher April 23, 2009 at 2:01 am

    What about buying homes in the one of these places? I’m an American, my husband is Mexican and we are thinking about the Philippines. Is there a reason not to buy versus rent? This is just something we are starting to think seriously about (we have lived and worked in Kuwait now for the last two years) as our contracts are coming to an end and we like living abroad. I know this is a good place to start…but does anyone have any suggestions on more information for some Expat Newbies to research?

    • Ed L September 21, 2009 at 11:28 am

      In reference to Paula’s questions:
      First, check the residency requirements concerning owning property in the Philippines. Unless it has recently changed, land could only be owned by a Philippine citizen or the spouse of a Philippine citizen. Check this requirement.
      If you consider provincial living, and you are legally able to purchase property, be sure to obtain competent legal advice, as much of the property that is for sale will in truth be tied to several family members, i.e., children, brothers, sisters. Believe me on this one! Once you lay your money down, it is not an easy thing to recoup it if the deal goes sour.
      Consider rental property before you even think about buying.

  3. Richard Frank May 6, 2009 at 3:58 am

    Very good info, i live in the philippines and love it, iv’e been to bohol and cebu and found the information good. I thought i would add a comment to paula’s question, you can buy over here but not land that is reserved for locals but you can get yourself an apartment for anywhere from 25,000 to 150,000 and it involves a 99 year lease. the farther you are from the city(manila or Cebu City) the cheaper and if your a simple person there are deals to be had in the metro areas. If you decide to live in the philippines bring alot of patentice the locals do not move fast for anyone, but are far more caring than most i have met in the world. good luck to all and enjoy

  4. G August July 23, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I’m from Cebu, a local resident here. So I’m very much aware of the info being shared in this site.
    About the places to stay in Cebu, I think you should check out the component cities like Lapu-Lapu City.
    All the wonderful beaches are found in this area and this is considered a major tourist destination in Cebu.
    As a matter of fact, all the 5 star hotels are found in this place.
    A decent apartment costs around P 3,000 a month for 2 people in Lapu-Lapu City. If you cook food at home, you can live on a P3,000 a month food budget for 2 people even less. Electricity and water bills run to P500-1,000 for 2 people. Telephone line is around P 500 for residence. You spend around P 7,500 a month for basic needs to live decently in Cebu. But other factors like dining out and transportation could add up. However, those are not really fixed monthly expenses. Those are variable expenses which you can always reduce or increase, if you want.
    Hope this helps.

  5. Lyn N August 5, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I’m thinking of retiring in Davao in the Philippines. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines.

  6. Madam Bangkok Hotels October 1, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I believe that it’s great experience of traveling for whoever have traveled in Asia countries because they have learned, appreciated and touched to true cultural human. Those things have made people having opened-mind and worldwide on the point of view…. Thank you for your contribution.

  7. Eleo A. Duran January 19, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    To all the most wonderful people of the Philippines . My pride to our country are the sparkling jewels binding treasures that has been created by god. Now, Philippines has a brilliant shining all over the world, and as a center of Tourism. I had been traveling almost all part of the world, from the Philippines, Europe,and United States since 1977.beaches in Mediterranian countries, ceneries of old Julius Ceasar”s Empire remain old, aqnd nothing new. boring.The environmental beaches are mostly gravels and some few bown sand beach resorts.Philippines now ranking No. 1 on most beautiful silicon white fine sand all over our beachfront area.The jewels of 1,268 doted Chacolate hills in the island of Bohol is the most attracted treasures created by god, where most adventurous people from all over the world trying to reach the shrine place. The island of Bohol is surrounded by sevent five small islands, some will just come out in a very low tide without any vegetations ,only all white sand and covering shells. The smallest primate called Tarsiers are conserved in the island as the property of god in His creation. Now I congratulate to our Department of Tourism,and the Secretary Ace Duran of the Mano Amon Durano family in Danao city, of Cebu, Philippines for the conservation of our national wealth.I am Eleo A. Duran a British citizenship, a USA permanent residence and a Filipino Dual citizen living in California a retired pensioner. In some few years I am going to stay in Carcar city Cebu where I build my retirment home together with my relatives. On July I will have my another vacation and relax for a few months. Looking forward:

  8. Pingback

    How To Retire on $500 a Month |

  9. Edu Pedro Isles August 25, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I am a US citizen and retired with a $ 530 social security benefit and working part time in marketing. I plan to retire in a small town of the Philippines where me and my brother inherited a nice home with a big land and farm land that is already paid off. When I went home in 2003, I spend @ $ 10 a day including food for 8 person and we have 3 recipe every day. I plan to develop the farm land of coconut fruits into vinegar and wine production, plant fruits and vegetables and raise checkens. I can create jobs for my relatives and friends and at the same time, I will live comfortably with nothing to worry about high expenses for a mortgage, food, car, and utilities. The crime in this small town is less than 0.009% and the population are very hospitable. I can trade my wine and vinegar for 10 fish and fuel coal from coconuts. Most farmers drink wine so it is easy for me to trade for food. I will visit my family in the US once a year and help them pay the mortgage of what I earn in making vinegar and wine until my wife retired. I will encourage my family to go home in the Philippines once my vinegar and wine production is a success. I can also teach high school graduate who cannot go to college “How to start a small business” with no capital at front. We doctors in the city who study (advance) in the Uniited States. I am excited to go home if the economy will not improved fast enough. Americans and spanish are very welcome and well respected in the Philippines. If you know filipino americans in the United States, ask some info about small town in the Philippines.

  10. Jimmy Cicero September 17, 2010 at 7:23 am

    How can I find the article entitled:
    Retiring on $500 a Month – Part 1
    By Ken Bayliss

  11. Jimmy Cicero September 17, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Regarding the article Retiring on $500 a Month – Part 2
    By Ken Bayliss, he says this:

    “Upon entry to Cambodia get a business visa $35 and you can say that the reason for coming to Cambodia is business. This lasts for one month. You then pay just under $300 to various visa services that you can get locally and after that you get a one year multiple business visa.”

    Is this really true? Can I verify this somewhere on line?
    How can I find out about these “visa services”?

    Thank you,

  12. Jimmy Cicero September 18, 2010 at 1:25 am

    I found the article, Part 1, so please disregard my first email.
    Thank you,

  13. Keith May 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    In the Philippines, I would say the people may have had english in there schooling, but alot do not use it, and use there native language. To say you can get by with english only, outside of Manila, beware.

  14. James July 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    You may also try looking for some affordable properties in Bohol with the help of

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