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Moving to and living in the Philippines (More on Making the Move)


Someone asked me to elaborate on situations and problems with the relocation here to the Philippines.

I mentioned about appliances and electronics. If you’re coming from America, the electricity is 110V-120V. Here in the Philippines it is 220V. I do not know about the electrical systems in any other countries so I am no help there. Both US and Philippine power is 60 Hz.

In America the way the electric system is set up, there are 2 flat prongs and sometimes a round ground. One is 110V, the other is Neutral or 0 volts and the round ground is there in case there is a short, it will sent the electricity to the ground. In the Philippines there is no neutral. The plug looks the same, 2 flat prongs and sometimes a round ground. Both flat prongs carry 110V. You get 220V because they are opposite phase. For the round ground, hardly any house is wired for ground.

Before I moved here I bought (3) 220V to 110V converters. They were about $30.00 each. All they do is reduce each leg or the power from 110V to 60V. I destroyed an electric drill charger using it.

Many Electronics, such as computers, monitors and chargers are dual voltage. If your device is a dual voltage type yoshipping-2u will have no problem. Just look at the sticker on the device or the information on the charger. If it has something like “110V-220V” or “120V-240V” you will be safe. If it is only “110V-120V” you will need a Power Transformer or a Power Regulator.   The differences is the Transformer steps down or regulates the voltage to 110-120 and creates a neutral. The regulator has circuitry to regulate the voltage incase the voltage varies. Such as when lights dim when an Air Conditioner or Refrigerators compressor kicks in.

On American 220V devices such as ovens, clothes dryers I am not sure. If you’re going to bring such a device, consult an certified electrician or electrical engineer here once you arrive.

It was strange for me, my desktop computer did not have a switch to change the input voltage settings but my monitor was dual voltage. I also brought a few kitchen small appliances such as a rotisserie, Stand Blender, Immersion Blender. One thing I needed to make sure was the Regulators I bought had a high enough amp or wattage rating for the needs of the devices.

Regulators come in many sizes. I know someone who bought a huge one and is running a refrigerator and other appliances from it.

Another thing to keep in mind, especially when you fly here, airlines restrict the weight of each piece of luggage or box and has limits of free baggage and limits of how many pieces you can bring, even if you’re paying for the excess. There will be things you want to bring with you so you have when you arrive.  There are also things you would like to have until it is close to your departure date. Remember again, most shipments travel by sea. They also first arrive in Manila and then shipped again to your location, especially if you are on a different island and not Luzon.

Most shippers require an inventory of what you’re shipping. I listed everything as personal items. I did not have to pay and VAT (value added tax). Make sure you know what charges you might have to pay once your items arrive in the Philippines. I thought all customs and fees were covered in the shipment. I also thought my boxes were to be delivered to my local address. When the shipment arrived in Manila, I was contacted by the agent in Manila and was informed we needed to send approx. 4,000 pesos to get my boxes released and then shipped to Davao. Being on Davao, I had no choice to send the money, even though I thought all charges was covered. Once the boxes arrived in Davao we were called and told where to pick them up. Again, how do you argue that they were to be delivered? They would have delivered them but probably we would have to pay an inflated trucking charge. Our neighbor had a friend with a Jeepney offered to go with us and all we had to pay was the gas usage. When we arrived the boxes were no longer on the palate and most looked like they were dropped or sat on.  Luckily nothing was damages except the one ceramic vase.

As I mentioned in the previous article, most houses here do not have closets or storage rooms. They day the boxes arrived and we were loading the Jeepney, and then again as we were unloading at the house, I was thinking “Oh my God, where are we going to put all this stuff?” I had 17 boxes. Well to my surprise and the exceptional work of Elena, in 2 days, all boxes were opened, unloaded, items put away. I also realized, since we would probably move in the near future since the lease was up and we needed a bigger place, we flattened the boxes and stored them under the beds and behind some cabinets.

After all was done, and with the use of the regulators, I wish I would have brought some other items as my electric grill/Panini maker, my convection toaster oven and my Tivo box.

Something also to keep in mind, electronics, in most cases, are more expensive here than in America. You can find good deals on computers, external hard drives, even some TV’s in the states. If you’re going to buy new, or will need them here, check the price differences. Buying there and shipping over might work out cheaper.

Best advice is using your computer, do lots of research and then plan your move. Remember, unless you have good support from someone back home, once you’re here it is hard to get the things you left behind. It is also good to have someone you can send money and they will ship things here. Before you leave visit Asian Markets, some will have Balikbayan shipping service where you, or someone once you’re here ship things to you. Shipping this way, you are charges by size of box, not weight. This will save you a lot of money compared to using the Postal service.

Any comments are appreciated since I am writing from memory and things I have heard from others.

23 Responses to “Moving to and living in the Philippines (More on Making the Move)”

  1. zelot66 says:

    it’s really quite a story Bruce. I can see the hardship you’ve been through in starting a new chapter in your life. Well, this experience would be the sweetest memory in 5 or 10 years to come.

    I wish you and your family all the best.

    Take care bro.

    • Bruce says:

      I would not consider it a hardship as much as a new experience. I am writing this series more and information for people thinking about making this big move and things to think about.
      Would I do it again? Probably but differently.

  2. tokunbo says:

    this reminds me of how jaded i am.

    i say that in a lot of expat blogs i read; i grew up on 4 continents and have learned, while growing up, to sell, sell, sell electric appliances and buy new when you get there unless there is a very strong connection to something — you can usually make up the difference in price by virtue of having sold the stateside item.

    i think the only electrical appliances that have ever made a move with me have been with my most recent move — dc to south africa via senegal. i took a multi-region dvd player [okay, i had to hack it], but it only cost $40 at tarzhay and in senegal it was 4x as much — in south africa they’re the same price, and so it lives in senegal now. and i also brought one of my desktop computers. [my laptop doesn’t count.]

    it really depends on the amount of things you’ll be shipping for the price difference to work out. and also, where you’re going. in my house in senegal, we had an “american plugs” room, and everything had american plugs in it. in south africa i don’t have this because everything is cheaper — they were cheaper when the exchange rate was R6 to the dollar, and now that we’re at R10 to the dollar, it’s amazingly cheap. senegal is eurozone and has eurozone pricing to match.

    • Bruce says:

      When I was in the states and I moved coast to coast I would rent a trailer and bring my important stuff. It was cheaper to sell or dump furniture than move it. When I moved withing the state I would rent a truck. Moving half way around the world is different and most of what I had of large stuff, I did not need since Elena had furniture.

  3. jan van dam says:

    Hi Bruce,
    I’m from Holland, Europe and I brought a lot of electrical appliances. Among them my desktop and laptop computers. The power in Holland is 220/230 volts at 50 Hz. But they are working fine here so far. I only had to buy adapters because in Holland we have round prongs with a larger distance. Although it’s advised (especially for computers) to have appliances grounded, we don’t have it here. The Philippines practicaly doesn’t have it. We also brought kitchen electricals and they are doing fine too.

    I’m planning to write a blog about this subject too, because other people might find it usefull to know. I will also refer to your blog for the American viewers.

    • Bruce says:

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. As an American and not spending time in Europe, I did not want to comment on electricity and/or power requirements. Thanks for the information. I really enjoy your blog and will add you to my Favorite Sites list. Thanks for refering mine to your readers.

  4. john says:

    Bruce, information was really helpful and I felt like was the one who was making the move. I don’t like moving. Because we do not have our own house and lot in Cebu, my family always moves. Next School Year, my wife and I will move to a different house. Good thing I do not have to worry about appliances and furnitures. I don’t have one just a couple of clothes and some books. Hehehe..

    • Bruce says:

      I had a friend in California who always moved, he would just rent furniture so all he had to move was his clothes, bed linens and tv.
      Some ways, having little is easier than having alot.

  5. ExpatBrazil says:

    I agree with Tokunbo….sell, sell, sell.

    Expats try to take their old life with them when they move to the new life. All that stuff you bring (excluding photos, etc) should be left behind. If it breaks, can’t fix it, might not work, won’t fit in the house/apt….

    New country, new culture, new everything…..

    I went by the two bag rule…briefcase in one hand, suitcase in the other.

    Also, you never know when you might have to leave you new home…and then what?

    Travel lite, travel happy.


    • Bruce says:

      Everybody is different. If you can travel light as you say, great. If you have the funds to buy buy Buy. I had a lot of stuff that was useable and needed here. I found it cheaper to ship than buy. It was stuff I wanted, could be used and things I wanted. I did not ship big stuff like major appliences or furniture.

  6. ceblogger says:

    hi bruce, i recently moved to Manila from Cebu. Though the freight cost wouldn’t be problem, i find it inconvenient to bring all our things here.

    Another option is to sell all the 110v units and then buy 220v equipment in the US, and have it shipped to a US address (It could be a neighbor or a friend). Then find a reputable balikbayan box company, stuff all your things in there and ship it to the Phils ($85 to $110 per box for Mindanao). Of course you can also buy electronic appliances in the Philippines or in duty free shops.

    • Bruce says:

      You never get close to the value selling, and shipping is expensive too, I just mentioned it to the people who have the money to ship a container here. I gave advise and things to consider.

  7. ceblogger says:

    a friend of mine buys things from ebay and have them shipped here in the Phils thru EMS. he says it’s cheaper, and i did some recomputations myself to confirm it.

    if you plan to ship a container, make sure you contact the right customs brokers. it would be much more convenient.

    I wonder why you were asked to disburse an additional P4,000. What you paid in the US is supposed to be all-inclusive door-to-door delivery. Also for 17 boxes, customs people might suspect that it’s indirect smuggling if these contains plenty of electrical appliances, as they do random checks on containers.

    • Bruce says:

      I do not know why I had to pay, but with my boxes in Manila, and me in Davao, I felt it was easier and cheaper to pay then fly.
      I know of people that have an e-bay business selling things from here. If I could think of a niche, I would do it too, but not that smart.
      With electronics cheaper in the US, I was going to have my brother buy me a small light weight laptop and another external drive and send, but unless he sends balikabyan (excuse spelling) the package would be opened and I would have to pay a huge VAT.

  8. John W says:

    If you plan ahead enough, you can have a whole house transformer installed on the power pole by the power company and have your whole house wired dual voltage. My transformer cost 50K pesos, installed. Also, some places in the Philippines have 110V power. Clark in Luzon has 110V power wired to most homes due to the fact that there was a large US Air Force base there for many years.

    • Bruce says:

      John W,
      Here in Davao the power company will install a 110V transformer. I do not know the cost but I have heard, after a year they refund the money. Eventually the appliances will need to be replaced and then they will be 220.

  9. Mark Smith says:

    I have a question[s]. I will be moving my beef/chicken Jerky business to the Manila area this year and will be sending over 4 of my dehydrators to get me going until I can, at my own pace have dryers constructed to my specs [lpg]. I am getting conflicting results. These dryers are each 110v 20 amp and 1200 watts. I will bring 4 and will use these in my house for the first year. I will also bring 4 voltage transformers/converts that are rated for 2000 watts each. I figure its best to make sure they can more than handle it. It seems to me that the average 2 story house might not have enough juice for my electrical needs in addition to the other normal things like TV/Aircon and so on. I have been told I might need to have more power brought into the house to be able to run 4 dryers at the same time. I have also been told that an electrician can bring in and do whatever to the panel and create 4 circuits on a sub panel that are 110v and with enough amps to run these dryers. Can I bring my dryers over and feel good that I can have enough juice in any given house or pay to have it beefed up?
    Please respond to

    • Bruce says:

      I do not know about Manila. Here you can order a 110V transformer from the power company and after a year they will pay back the deposit.
      Make sure the transformers create a neutral/ground since power here has none.
      What you need is a good Electrical Engineer to spec out your needs and make sure it is installed properly.

    • Joe Swank says:

      The 220v power is not the same as in the states, it is more like the 110v power there, you cannot convert the 220v to 110v without a transformer because the power comes in 220v on one leg with the other leg neutral, just like 110v in the states. My suggestion would be to buy your dehydrators here in the Philippines since you probably could sell your old ones and buy new ones here for dirt cheep. Just a thought..

  10. Steven says:


    I will be relocating to Bohol in 50 days. If I buy a DVD player in Cebu or Manila, can I change the regions settings for my vast collection of DVDs? Or should I just sell my DVDs, and start over? Also … Maybe I should go with a Balikbayan Box? The shipping service is located two miles down the road from my home in Phoenix, Arizona … and I know the owners. What would you suggest? I will await your reply … Thank you!



    • Bruce says:

      First, you can buy a “Multi Region” DVD player that will play all DVD’s. You can also bring your own and just use a power regulator to change the power.
      Balikbayan shipping is cheaper then US Postal Service, UPS, DHL, or Fed Ex. They charge by size, not weight. Also there is no customs fees, and it is door to door.
      Have a good trip and be safe. Looking forward to hearing about your trip and new home.
      Maybe you will want to write some guest articles for this site about your trip and new life.

  11. DINGDONG says:

    Does not anyone know of a balikbayan box courier service in the city of PRAGUE? I will go on tour 8 countries. My final destination is in Prague. I want send to the Philippines via Balikbayan box (sea cargo)all the stuff i will buy so that the airline company wont have to charge me EXTRA FOR THE ADDED BAGGAGE

    Thank you

  12. Jj says:

    I am married to a Filipina but she hasn’t been home for a long time but we are planning on moving there and we need a good shipping company. we are planning on shipping everything we own here for the exception of the cars. Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated. We are moving to Baguio because she is from there.

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