The REAL Cost of Living in Cebu, Philippines (2024 Update)

  • Cebu’s living costs are rising, but it remains more affordable than Manila, and it’s cheap by Western standards.
  • For a simple lifestyle, living in Cebu can be done for around $750/month, if you’re sharing costs.
  • Average rental costs for apartments range from $260-$500 and houses from $450-$700, plus utilities.
  • Food prices are reasonable, especially local products, but imported items are pricier. Street food offers a cheaper alternative.

The cost of living in the Philippines is known to be very low, even though it has been affected by the inflation and rising fast in recent years.

Still, Cebu has a lower cost of living than other cities in The Philippines, especially the country’s capital city, Manila.

Based on my calculations you can read below, the monthly cost of living in Cebu is around $600 per month if you’re sharing cost with another person. If you live alone, I recommend budgeting around $1,000 per month.

beach in cebu philippines
Nearby Oslob beach, a place I recommend you to visit while in Cebu

So gone are the days where you could say that living in the Philippines on $500 equals to living like royalty. (Same as Thailand)

Yes, you can still live a great life here on a budget and The Philippines remain cheap by Western standards.

The city remains one of the best destinations for digital nomads, while the country still offers areas where you can live for $750 per month and even $500 per month.

But enough talking. Let’s get in depth and check out the REAL cost of living in Cebu, Philippines!

Cost of Living in Cebu as a foreigner

The cost of living in Cebu has increased a lot in the past couple of years, like in the entire world. This means that 2024 comes with higher prices in The Philippines overall and Cebu as well.

While the government has instituted price ceilings on basic goods prices, it cannot be avoided that the total living expenses are higher than in the past few years. They also vary depending on your buying habits and needs.

We’re talking about expenses in the main categories below, so that you can better plan or estimate your budget.

Accommodation costs in Cebu, Philippines

cebu housing costs

The cheapest option when it comes to renting in Cebu is to get an apartment. Houses are more expensive, but also the area where you rent affects prices a lot.

Let’s take a look at my estimated monthly rental costs in the city below for all options.

Note: to keep things easier to follow, I am converting all prices in US Dollars.

AreaApartment or Condominium Unit2-Bedroom House
Uptown Cebu$730$1,000

If you don’t want a place for yourself, or if you want to keep costs low, renting a room in a shared apartment would start at $100 per month.

Utilities such as electricity, water, and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) canisters for cooking are usually shared equally at month-end.

Based on rental prices, you can fork out an average of $265-500 on apartment / condominium unit rental or $435-700 for a whole house which is usually gated.

There are, of course, more expensive/luxury options available in all categories and you can sometimes find better deals too, especially if you sign long term deals (12-24 months).

Utility costs in Cebu

Utilities are relatively cheap throughout Cebu, and you should expect to spend around $150 per month to cover the costs. I’m breaking them down below, with the mention that they can go a lot higher, depending on your A/C unit usage.

I expect an average household with basic appliances to spend around $100 per month for the use of lights, one TV, one PC, two electric fans, and a refrigerator. This also includes water costs and a $20 bottle of LPG per month.

Remember that the weather can be humid most months and you might need an air conditioner which will run the bill higher, especially if you keep it running nonstop.

For maintenance such a security and garbage collecting costs, you can rack up to $50, depending on your residential location.

Condominiums have higher fees as you contribute towards building and amenities upkeep (but also have various other benefits, like a gym and pool).

IMPORTANT: You can still find very cheap studio apartments (that are more like hotel rooms) for around $150 per month, but I didn’t really consider those as an option because I don’t think they are suitable for long term living.

You basically get a single room with almost no amenities (usually just bed, small dresser, small desk or table and maybe a small fridge) in a hotel-like building. Living long term in Cebu in such a room is definitely not a good idea.

Food costs in Cebu, Philippines

delicious Filipino food
I love the food here: delicious and cheap

Food prices in Cebu have also gone up quite a bit in recent years, despite the government’s interference.

But still, compared to Western countries, Cebu is an extremely affordable place to be in right now, especially when it comes to food costs, which are sometimes more than 50% cheaper than in the US.

Therefore, I estimate the monthly food costs in Cebu to be around $200 for a single person, while a couple should expect to spend $375 per month. This includes eating out a lot, but from small, local places.

Where you do your groceries and what you buy also matter a lot. If you consume a lot of the local products, most supermarkets will have similarly priced items.

However, if you want imported foods such as cheeses and smoked meats, or other foods that you normally eat back home, those will be expensive.

Drinking water is also one expense you will have to add. Water from the tap is generally okay for cooking and washing but not suitable for drinking.

You can opt to buy a filtering system or have drinking water delivered regularly from the numerous shops in the city.

Here is a sample of prices of basic food and home consumables in Cebu, having in mind that they have gone up quite a bit in the past 12 months:

Food ItemPrice (USD)
Tomato$2.20 / Kilo
Potato$3.25 / Kilo
Lettuce$2.75 / Kilo
Apples (imported)$8.55 / Kilo
Oranges$4.95 / Kilo
Cheese (processed)$5.10 / Kilo
Egg$0.18 / Piece
Chicken Breasts – skinless, boneless$5.00 / Kilo
Fresh Fish Local$6.15 / Kilo
Loaf of Bread (White)$1.15 / Loaf
Loaf of Bread (Brown)$1.50 / Loaf
Milk$1.65 / Liter
Cheap Local Wine$11.95 / Liter
Better Local Wine$22 / Liter
Beer$1.15 / Can
Sparkling Water$2.5 / 750ml Bottle
Bottled Water$0.90 / 2L Bottle
Natural Juice$2.60 / liter
Bottled Water /Home Dispenser$1.15 / 5 Gallon

Now here are some generic restaurant prices for when you’re dining out:

  • Meal for 2 – generic, local restaurant: $14
  • Meal for 2 – better restaurant: $28
  • Beer: $2.50
  • Coke: $1.00
  • Glass of wine: $5-7
  • Cappuccino/Latte: $3.00
  • Lemonade: $3.00
  • Fresh Juices: $2.50

However, if you have nothing against getting some (otherwise delicious) food from one of the local kiosks, then you will be in for a treat.

You can pay as little as $0.50 for a portion of fried meat with sauce and for around $1 you can have a overall filling, delicious meal.

asian street food
Asian street food is a delight!

Street food is not for everybody, but it is generally safe and won’t cause you tummy problems. Just make sure to eat from the place where you see many people buying.

But if there is one thing that Cebu takes pride in is its luscious mangoes. In season, you can get one kilo for around $3.00. It’s the best mango I have ever eaten – and I am sure you’ll agree.

Off-season, the price may be higher but you can always opt for the dried mango slices available in supermarkets which are priced from $10 up / package depending on the weight.

Transportation costs in Cebu, Philippines

Cebu City has a different mode of public transportation than most urban enclaves.

There are no trains that run through the areas, so visitors and foreigners usually run to the obvious options – taking a taxi or a Grab can, which is the equivalent to Uber.

One trip might set you back $10-20 dollars during non-peak hours. It might seem reasonable but doing this often will end up costing a fortune..

philippines traffic

Flagging a white taxi can be reasonable but beware of operators who do not start the meter and demand a fixed rate for the ride. You can report the vehicle to any police officer for this.

Another thing to watch out for is when a taxi driver doesn’t stop the meter from a previous ride which will bloat your bill in the end.

These practices made the app-based transport Grab rake in more customers since they skip all this hassle.

You can opt to get a monthly rental if you are regularly commuting for work or if you are brave enough, you can take the local transport called “jeepneys” which is covered pick-up-type vehicle that has routes that ply all over the city. Fare is a mere $.30 per ride.

Have in mind that traffic throughout the Philippines is, just like in all countries in the region, pretty chaotic. Traffic rules are actually considered guidelines there and motorbikes are the main means of transportation.

This is why it’s important to rent a place as close as possible to the places you will spend most of your time in order to avoid having to travel too much each day.

Connectivity and Communication

Prepaid cellphone rates in Cebu vary depending on your usage. If you have a network of friends, it is best to get a sim card from the same telecoms provider as they usually give fixed rates for unlimited call minutes within the same network.

Coverage strength may vary in different areas. Surviving on mobile internet may be a challenge (very low, unreliable speed!) but you can get around 30GB of mobile data for around $10 valid for 30 days.

Internet connectivity at home is a different story.

There are areas where fiber optic cables are available but they are usually near the IT and business districts.

Otherwise, you can get connected through ADSL. Make sure your residence has a working landline!

The owner might have one pre-installed otherwise you will need to apply for a prepaid landline.

Monthly ADSL fees on average are around $25-$70 per month depending on your preferred speed, but overall internet speed is just acceptable in most areas of the city.

Other Things to Consider About the Cost of Living in Cebu, Philippines

cebu city beach life

As a foreigner, you will have other expenses that many people who share cost of living articles or videos “forget” to write about. Let’s check them out because they’re an important part of any budget!

1. Health Insurance

Healthcare is one important concern in the Philippines since it can turn out to be expensive, while insurance coverage for local health care companies can be limited.

International HMOs such as Kaiser International have set up shop locally. The best advice for hospital care and medical needs is that we need to do the research locally.

If you are planning to live long term in the Philippines, come in with a health care package from your home country that has an accredited hospital in Cebu.

Most fees, however, like doctor’s consultations, inoculations for kids, and medicines are out-of-pocket expenses that are paid in cash.

It is best to have a cash bulk set aside for emergencies. Should they be covered, they are usually reimbursable, so you still have to fork out money upfront.

2. Shopping

Cebu is as tropical as the Philippines can get, so you will only be needing summer clothes and some raingear.

$100 will get you far for a full outfit if you purchase regionally produced shoes and clothing.

Brands and imported chains like H&M are available but are considerably pricier. It all depends on where you want to shop and what you buy.

3. Accessibility

One of the main reasons why so many people – both locals and expats prefer to live and work and Cebu is its location.

It has an international airport and seaports which makes getting into the Philippines less of a hassle than flying into the urban jungle in Manila.

It is also easy to visit other islands via plane, fast ferry, or you can even take your car on a roll-on roll-off ferry boat interisland.

Ticket prices vary as there are peak travel seasons. Booking early is a great way to save- to the point that rock-bottom prices for as low as $1 on airfare are even given for booking a year ahead on domestic flights!

(You need to pay for taxes and fuel surcharges only). You can get airline alerts for what is locally known as “Piso Fare.”

Can You Live in Cebu for $1,000/Month?

Reasonable living in Cebu is possible for around $1,000/month on a simple lifestyle, as long as you go towards the outskirts and live a relatively modest life.

Cebu cost of living pinterest pin

Everyone speaks English so getting around would not be a problem. Buy local and learn what is available.

There are plenty of ways to save. Team up with a friend’s family to buy in bulk and discounts will be significant.

Let’s see, for example, a monthly budget for two, which will cover all the basics and allow you to live a decent (but not luxurious) life in Cebu:

  • Rent price: $380
  • Utilities (including internet): $200
  • Transportation: $150
  • Health insurance: $150
  • Food: $375
  • Entertainment: $200
  • TOTAL: $1,455/month for 2 people

In other words, if you are not living alone, you can definitely live in Cebu with a budget well under $1,000/month.

As you can see, my basic calculations above show it’s possible on around $730/month per person.

If you are living solo, you might consider opting for smaller studio apartments or taking a room in a shared place. This will cut down a lot on rent and utilities and still let you live a nice life on less than $1,000 per month.

But even as a couple, you can still live a decent life (at least) in a studio. This is up to you to decide, as most savings (or increased expenses) will be related to the type of accommodation you choose and what food you eat.

$1000 is the average monthly income of Cebuano households and with this, locals can live, learn, and enjoy. The key is to get your boots on the ground like a local and learn the secrets to budget living in Cebu.

Because, yes, living on $1,000 in Cebu and throughout the Philippines is what I would consider a minimum. I know that there are some people who manage to do it on a shoestring budget – but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

And if you have extra – treat yourself to some Krispy Kreme and Starbucks. You will find that this tiny island surprisingly has a lot to offer.

If you are already living in Cebu, you know that the friendly and hospitable nature of the people will make it easier for you to get around and know the secrets to getting more out of your money.

As they say locally, Tara na sa Cebu, Bai! Let’s go to Cebu, my friend!

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5 thoughts on “The REAL Cost of Living in Cebu, Philippines (2024 Update)”

  1. Great synopsis of CEBU ( we are living on Mactan at the mo- thanks.
    I think a lot of your pricing is on thee mark altho you make no mention of tricycle transport which is the cheapest way to get around mostly at the same pace as a car usually as they hold up the traffic anyway lol

  2. Well, at least I have a photo of them in the article. But yes, that is correct, it’s a must try means of transportation when in Cebu (or Philippines as a country). Happy to hear that the prices haven’t changed since I wrote this article – I will always strive to keep them up to date.

  3. Thanks for the write-up! I used to live in the PI and get a little homesick for the country. This is definitely informative on what to expect if I decide to take a little trip back.

  4. one thing I noticed while being here in Cebu is that Grab prices are significantly higher compared to Manila. This is worth mentioning as many folks (both locals and expats) use Grab as a complimentary method of transportation in addition to local transportation.


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