Cebu Budget Breakdown
I usually spend a little under $1,000 a month when living in Cebu. I could probably get it a bit cheaper if I wanted to move further away from the center of the city. But since I spend the vast majority of my time when out in places like Ayala, IT Park, and SM I will pay a bit more to be close to them.
Cebu is like the rest of the Philippines in that you get bad value for your apartments. It is just something that you have to deal with there. It’s not that big of a deal because everything else is so cheap that you can live a good life for a very nice price.
If you want to live in any reasonably nice place in the city you should expect to pay at least $450 a month. You can find a decent furnished place in that price range that will also be in a good enough location.
AirBnB can be useful to test out condos and find out if it’s worth moving in longterm.
This is what makes Cebu one of my favorite places in Asia. It is a huge city with a lot of people, yet the traffic really isn’t that bad. The jeepney routes are very easy to learn and you can get from one side of the city to the other for pennies.
Find a place near a popular jeepney route and your visitors will be fine with taking jeeps to come visit you instead of taxis. This cuts down on costs a lot as well if you have frequent visitors. Even if you pay their taxi home it will likely be less than $4.
There are motodops at all major public locations so if you are in a hurry you can get a ride for $1 or $2. Also if you pay a little more like me you can put yourself in a nice central location and be a 20 minute walk away from many places that you will frequent. When in Cebu I never take a taxi if I am traveling somewhere alone and spend under $20 a month on transportation.
There are pros and cons to the food in Cebu. The main pro is that most of the restaurants top out at $5ish for their most expensive meals so you can eat very cheaply. Like most places my food budget is under $250 when living in Cebu.
There are also a lot of $3ish a meal places that can help you keep your budget down. And cooking at home is always a nice cheap option and there are very good supermarkets all over the city.
The cons are that there just aren’t that many good restaurants and my rotation of meals is quite small there. Not only that but many of the best meals in Cebu are sort of doubled up.
What I mean by that is 2 of my favorite meals in Cebu are the Malayaan Chicken Curry from Banana Leaf at Ayala and Chicken Curry and Vegetables at Persian Pallate at Ayala.
They aren’t exactly the same but very similar. I know of three white sauce pastas that I really like there, but again they’re similar. So I may have 14 meals in my rotation in Cebu but half of them are the same. For a city this big I would expect better options.
With a million Filipina women around and not very many young foreigners living here you really have no reason to be going to girly bars. Even getting semi pros from the discos at Mango Square isn’t really necessary, as online dating is so big.
This is one of the downfalls of Cebu and if you’re a digital nomad you will probably need to get your own PLDT line put in to work online.
At $30 a month it really isn’t that big of a cost to your budget, but you have to sign a 1 year contract (though not give a deposit.)
All in all I spend about $500 on my apartment + utilities + internet when living in Cebu. Another $250ish on food and $20ish on transportation. Maybe $30 on random stuff like cell phone load, health, shoes, soap or whatever. Then add another $100-$150 on ‘entertainment’ and you get the $950ish a month I usually spend when in Cebu.
If it’s your first time living in the Philippines you should budget for a bit higher living cost until you get settled in. You will be quite green and naive about things and get overcharged often. Even if you know to bargain and negotiate costs you will still end up overpaying for many things.
You will probably also feel like you are on a vacation even though it may be a full on move. This will have you splurging on things, and believe me temptations will be all around you. I have very good self discipline, it takes that to live here for $1000 a month, but in my first weeks here I spent way to much on ‘entertainment’ That said I wouldn’t take it back :).
I should also point out that I am super cheap and pinch pennies at every cost. It is hard work to spend as little as I spend. If you want to live that cheaply you will have to make some sacrifices and not splurge on things you don’t need.