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Living in the Philippines – The most popular urban cities for the retirement of foreign retirees

When it comes to retirement places in the Philippines, one has many options – large urban cities, larger rural towns, beach resorts, mountain refuges. Each of them has its own unique and attractive features. The main benefits of retiring in the capital of the Philippines are (i) the availability of an international airport, (ii) excellent access to health care, (iii) all significant sporting activities, and (iv) safe, luxurious shopping, nightlife, and entertainment. In this category of major cities are the Manila metropolitan area, Cebu City in the Visayas region, and Davao City in Mindanao.


Manila is the country’s capital and the main port of entry for every foreigner flying to the Philippines. It is the gateway to the Philippines. For foreigners looking for quick access in and out, Manila is the right place. The journey to California from California is 15 hours, from Hawaii, it is 10 hours, from Tokyo, it is just over 4 hours, from Hong Kong it is less than 2 hours, from Singapore it is 3 hours. From Europe, it is 20 hours. Once you’re in Asia and you’re sitting in China, Manila is in the middle. From Manila, there are quick and easy trips to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Manila is, in fact, part of a major metropolitan area with a total population of more than 11 million people. Yes, it is generally crowded, yet, like all the capitals of the world, there are areas in the metropolitan area that are quite different from each other.

Depending on retirement income, retiring foreigners tend to prefer either upscale, highly westernized areas of Makati, Ortigas / Mandaluyong, or Alabang. These areas have all the amenities that Westerners are used to, including all the largest and most modern shopping malls in the country. Makati is the financial center of the Philippines and is full of luxurious Western-style apartments with all the latest conveniences.

For those who want luxury, metropolitan living with access to the best entertainment, sporting events, unlimited shopping, and the westernmost lifestyle, within easy reach of foreign destinations, Manila is the best choice. The downside is that it is the most expensive than Cebu City and Davao City.


The city of Cebu is located on the island of Cebu in a chain of islands known as the Visayas. It is centrally located in the country and is a domestic trade and transport hub. It is much smaller than Manila, with a population of less than 1 million, yet its inhabitants have a higher per capita income. It is a very professional business and a more dynamic city than Manila. It is very progressive and has become a large shopping center. It has aggressively expanded its airport, which accepts certain direct international flights, albeit few.

With its population, Cebu has a large population of foreign retirees. Many beaches and resorts attract foreigners. It is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. Like Manila, it has its luxurious, modern shopping malls, casinos, and great nightlife. Being a smaller city, getting around the city is much more comfortable. Now only begins to see the construction of high-rise apartments, which are abundant in Manila and popular with Western retirees.

Cebu has excellent medical facilities and has recently launched, in collaboration with the national government, efforts to further develop Cebu as a major medical tourism and retirement center for foreigners.

Overall, most of Western Western has Manila, yet the lower cost of living, combined with the presence of many, many beautiful white sand resorts. Those who love life by the sea, are interested in diving and other water sports, but still like the efficiency and equipment of a smaller modern city, then Cebu City would be your choice.


Davao City is a city in Mindanao, and a square kilometer is a second-largest city in the world. Its population is approximately 1.4 million. Located in the south of Mindanao, it is the most populous of the three major urban towns and has the lowest cost of living. So, if you enjoy the lifestyle of a big city, but you have the limitations of your living costs, Davao is the place for you.

Davao City does not attract a large number of foreign travelers, but for those looking for outdoor adventure, the options are plentiful. Living in Davao is a bit like living in an urban or rural city, because the city has modern shopping malls, luxury communities, and hotels, even though you live here, you will be deeply rooted in the country outside the city. Just outside the city is Mt Apo with wooded slopes and many hiking opportunities. Located in the bay, it is just a short boat ride to a white sandy beach. Most of the land outside the city was turned into massive plantations growing pineapples, bananas, and other citrus fruits. The town has a new great world-class golf course, and new low-rise apartments are being built. It is committed to the development of a world health center and is aggressively engaged in medical tourism.

In conclusion, my experience is that for a person who wants to retire in a large urban city in the Philippines, the choice between Manila, Cebu, and Davao usually applies to pension and other monthly retirement income. Manila is the most expensive, Cebu is next, and Davao has the lowest cost of living. Manila is the most cosmopolitan and Davao the most rural. All three are attractive places for foreigners looking to retire in the Philippines in an urban setting.

Want more detailed information on retirement life for foreigners in the Philippines? I have just completed my new book, Retirement Life in the Philippines, which provides a comprehensive study of the possibilities for fun, adventure, love, and great friendships living in the Philippines.

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