That’s How Much In Aussie Money?

On my last trip to the Philippines I basically had a day in Manila either end and the rest of the time was spent in Cebu, mostly up in the province visiting my parents in law, checking out my wife’s land and showing a good friend and business partner around. We had spent some time in Malaysia before heading for the Pinas and comparing the two ASEAN countries was a favourite topic as we drove around. The relevant costs of living were an often recurring topic.

Aussie money

In simple terms, at the time of the trip the Aussie dollar bought roughly three Malaysian Ringgit or forty Philippines Pesos. Petrol was about the same in the Philippines per litre as we were paying back in Sydney, a bit over a dollar something a litre. In Malaysia, however, it was less than half that. Food in Malaysia was much cheaper, overall, than Australia and very noticeably cheaper than the Philippines with one exception. Alcohol.

Filipino Booze And Tobacco

While cigarettes were much, much cheaper in Malaysia than Sydney, they are even cheaper in the Pinas. Alcohol can be a bit pricey in Malaysia, but still cheaper than Australia, even though it is a mostly Muslim country and out of the big cities you need to find Chinese run restaurants to enjoy a beer with your meal. In the Philippines alcohol is very cheap. I can buy Jameson’s Irish Whisky in Cebu for a fraction of what I can get it duty free at Sydney airport! If you buy local booze like San Miguel beer, it is 50-70 cents a bottle. Sure, go to a bar or restaurant and you pay more, even some places will hit you for $2 a bottle but that is still a lot less than I would pay back home.

Keep This In Mind

Buying food at the supermarket I found that western style food is expensive in the Philippines. It is often the same in dollar value as back home, yet the people earn so much less. Not that this seemed to stop people buying trolley loads of goods at Gaisano or Robinson’s. Maybe the money comes from OFWs, but I watched the check outs for a while and observed people buying hundreds of dollars worth of groceries, much like back home. I think there is a middle class in the Philippines, there is money there and that means there are opportunities, too.

Sadly, though, there are also a lot of people who can’t afford to shop in the supermarkets. They buy everything at the machado, or market. Even there the price of rice has gone up in recent years, as has the price of everything from fish to chicken to pork to vegetables and fruit. Compared to Malaysia, it is more expensive to live in the Philippines because there is higher unemployment and lower wages. For the expat, initial expenses in Malaysia are very high to qualify for their ‘Malaysia My Second Home’ retirement program, but I think it is a better deal overall.

Having said that, for those not well heeled to begin with and who like to live a little more on the edge, you can’t beat the Philippines as the best retirement destination. If you are a smoker and drinker then this is the place. You can eat cheaply enough if you eat a mostly local diet and the people are always very friendly and genuinely happy to see you.

Perry Gamsby, D.Lit, MA(Writing), Dip.Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at


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One comment on “That’s How Much In Aussie Money?
  1. YULIYANTI says:

    I basically had a day in Manila either end and the rest of the time was spent in Cebu,