Thoughts about moving

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The other day, I got an e-mail from a friend.  He is thinking of making the big move to the Philippines, and he had some questions to ask me.  His questions primarily were about the age old decision of whether you should move all your stuff with you when you come, or if you should just replace it when you get here.  And, of course, how much does it cost to move the stuff!

Well, when Feyma and I moved here back in 2000, we moved almost everything we owned.  Today, after having lived here for 12 or so, I would do it a little differently if I had to do it all again.  I would move less stuff, I would sell much of it, or give it to family and friends.  One thing that I would certainly not move with me, which I did bring with me 10 years ago, is small appliances which require 110V power supply.  Let me say, there are a lot more appliances of this kind available in the States.  You can purchase transformers here to step the voltage down from 240V to the 110V that is required by US electrical items.  As long as you use that transformer, you have no problem.  However, it is inevitable that somebody is going to plug the thing directly into the wall, and the “magic smoke” will come out from the appliance.  It will either have to be fixed, or thrown away.  You can get it fixed, but after a few times of fixing it, it really doesn’t work like it used to.  For me, the solution on that is to just purchase such appliances with the correct voltage here, and be satisfied with what you can get here.  It’s not like you can’t live without that super duper electric slicer/dicer that is the rage in the States right now! ;-)

Shipping your stuff to the Philippines

Shipping your stuff to the Philippines

Anyway, here is the message that my friend sent to me a few days ago:

I have a lot of personal belongings that I would like to bring with me to the Philippines but I’m finding it incredibly expensive to send even a small package. You had mentioned in your video tour of your house that you moved your furniture from the U.S. to the Philippines and I was wondering how you did that. I live in south western Pennsylvania.

Also, will a laptop made in the U.S. work on the higher voltage electric current in the Philippines? The ac adapter says input 100-240v-1500ma 90 watt, output 20v-4500ma
I appreciate your help.

Join Expat Island

And, here is the answer that I sent to my friend:

So, you are planning to make the move?  That’s great!

First, let’s start off with your laptop (or anything else with a similar type transformer).  If it says “100-240v” then indeed it will work fine for you here in the Philippines.  That is a universal voltage item, and should work just about anywhere in the world without a hitch.

Back in 2000 when we moved here, we brought basically everything we owned.  It filled two containers – one 40 foot container and one 20 footer.  It was a lot of stuff!  In retrospect, there was some of that stuff that I would not bring with me if I were doing it all over again.  Basically, decide what you really, really need, and cannot replace when you are here in the Philippines.  Family heirlooms that you want to keep in your life.  Things that you want or need, and use regularly, and are not available here.  That kind of stuff, you should bring with you.  Other stuff that can be replaced here, or is not used anyway… well, sell it (eBay, Craigslist, Garage Sale, etc), give it away, or whatever works best for you.  Just don’t pay to move it here.

Balikbayan Boxes

Balikbayan Boxes

By the way, moving those two containers of stuff that we moved cost us $10,000 in 2000.  I can’t say what it would cost today, but it would likely cost more now than it did a decade ago.

There is, though, another solution that you might consider.  If you can narrow your items down to smaller stuff (not like furniture and such), you could ship the stuff in a bunch of Balikbayan Boxes.  A Balikbayan Box can be shipped here for $75 to $100 or so, and the weight of the box doesn’t matter.  For the price of $10,000 that it might cost to ship your stuff in a sea container, you could ship 100 Balikbayan Boxes, and I just don’t see any way that you would ship that much!  If you don’t know what a balikbayan box is, check here.

I hope this helps, my friend.  If you have other questions about making the move, please let me know, and I will gladly answer if I can.

Post Author: MindanaoBob (328 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.


  1. hudson says

    Hey Bob,
    What about music CD's or movie DVD's? I have heard that the players in Asia use a different format so American made DVD/CD may not play on a DVD, or CD player there. Is this true?

  2. says

    Hi hudson – That's not true for CD's, but it is somewhat true for DVD's. They don't use a different format, but rather a different region code. You see, DVD makers encode DVD's by what region of the world they are made for. In other words, if you buy a DVD in South America, it won't work in North America. If you buy in Europe, that won't work in Asia, etc. The reason why they do this is because they can control release dates. For example, they may want to release the move in North America a month before they release in Asia. If somebody from Asia buys the earlier release from North America, it won't work in their player anyway.

    Now… as with any kind of protection technology… there are always ways that it becomes defeated. Here in Asia, it is relatively easy to purchase a DVD player that is "regionless" or in other words, the DVD player does not check the region on the disk, it just plays it! Those kind of players are everywhere, and easy to find. Also, many DVD's sold here (hint: the pirated ones) are encoded for "Region 0" which will play on any DVD player.

  3. brian says

    Hudson,my experinceis if you own a cd player that is newer it should accomodate all the versions, most will play NTSC and PAL codes, blu-ray is still hit or miss but I bet that will become integrated in players as well very soon.
    I have yet to find anything electronic made in Japan or elsewhere in Asia that does not have a 110-220 input voltage, only problem is the plug configiration may be different and require an adaptor.
    Good advice on the Balikbayan Boxes Bob will keep that in mind, which service do u reccommend johnny air?

  4. says

    Hi brian – on the NTSC/PAL thing, I think you mean DVD players rather than CD players, right? :smile:

    On the Balikbayan Boxes, I think most of the services are quite reliable. I have always had good luck with Forex. Never tried Johnny Air, but have heard good things about them, though.

  5. says

    Excellent article, Bob. Miat and I shipped much less than you did (1/2 a 20 foot container) (I doubt we could have filled 2 containers, but then again your family is a good deal larger). If we had it to do over again I certainly would have shipped substantially more, though.

    An example. I had a cheap, push-type Wal*Mart gas lawn mover that I think I paid something like $139 for new. I practically forced it on my son, who already had a lawn mower ;-). That exact same lawnwower is available in home improvement stores here for P50,000 …yep, well over $1,000USD. Wow.

    One point about the container versus box question. In addition to being able to sjip fractions of containers, some balikbayan box companies ship non-standard boxes … bigger than a common/standard style box … a good solution for some. Shop around.

  6. Ron LaFleur says

    I think an easy solution for the DVD player is to send the one you have in a balikbayan box. Put a transformer on it and you have that accomplished. How many times do you unplug a dvd player? Good information Bob. The only thing I will bring are as you mentioned family heirloom type items, my pots, pans, dishes,silver ware, etc.. That can all go into B-boxes and then just buy new there. I think it would be more fun to shop for new than worry about the shipment sent.

  7. John Miele says

    Bob: One other thing about electricity… the frequency in the Philippines is 60hz, just like the States. If you buy things that require clocks or timers in Hong Kong, Australia, or Europe, those regions operate on 50hz, so they will probably not function properly. Think things like the automatic timer on a coffee maker or clock radios and the like. Most laptops have internal clocks that adjust to the different frequency, but not all desktop computers do so… So with computers, they MAY function correctly, but the system clock could be out of whack. Your VCR timers and TV timers may also not function properly.

    • corjo says

      Hi John
      Its been awhile since manafacturers relied upon grid frequency to provide timing.Most computers clocks and timers have built in osilator circuits which provide timing pulses..Electricity is rarely supplied at the stated frequency.Distributers commonly vary supply frequency by +/_ 10% and in the Phils +/_ 20% is fairley common

  8. Randall Jessup says

    Hi Bob,

    I agree with you that the Balikbayan boxes are the way to go. My only additional suggestion would be leave some personal mementos or heirloom furniture in a heated rental storage locker.

    This way if things don't work out you don't have to ship it back. If later you want it then have some friends or family send it to your Philippine address.

  9. Ron says

    Timely subject Bob. I'm just getting ready to ship my DVD collection of old Hollywood classics from the 30's & 40's, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, etc. I determined that the shipping will cost less than it would to replace the DVD's if I could even find the titles in the Philippines. I was aware of the different region coding, the U.S. being region 1 and the Philippines being Region 3. I was going to play them on my laptops DVD drive. I wasn't aware that "regionless" code free DVD players were available in the Philippines. This was good news to hear.

    • Pita (Sta Lucia) Mike says

      Ever considering converting your DVD collection to .iso files? You can then play them on any computer. I hook up my laptop to my 46″ LCD TV via HDMI and watch.

    • corjo says

      Your laptop drive is also region coded.It will automaticaly change regions 3 times and on the third time it becomes locked to the last played region.
      Yes in the Philippines multiregion dvd players are common and cheap.Sony do some nice ones

  10. says

    I hear you, Dave, especially about that lawnmower! Even with as much as we brought, there is some stuff I gave away, which I wish I did not. I had a beautiful gas barbecue grill back in the States that cost me about $2,000 or more, I really should have brought it. I have seen grills that are not nearly as good for more money here.

    Another option besides a container or a box is a "van" which is basically a container smaller than an ocean container. There are plenty of options out there for somebody moving to look into.

  11. says

    Hi Ron – You can certainly send a DVD player over in a balikbayan box. Half a dozen brownouts, though, and it may be dead. Those transformers don't handle that surge of electricity when a brownout comes to an end. But, it will work for a while (longer if you remember to unplug the transformer during the brownout, and plug it back in a few minutes after the power is back). I fully agree on many of the items you are talking of shipping over, though.

  12. Ron says

    I would like to take advantage of the Balikbayan box but all their drop off centers seem to be located on the east and west coast of the United States. What do you do if you live elsewhere?

    • Scott Fortune says

      Ron, many Filipino/Asian grocery stores have drop-offs on-site. They take the package and keep it until it is picked up by the service. We use LBC and do it that way for all out BalikBayan boxes. Just check around for a “local” filipino store, and most will do Balikbayan boxes. Not as far to drive that way.

      • Dennis Glass says

        Randy, please ask your wife where I can go to send Balikbayan boxes. I live in Western Kentucky. Thank You

  13. says

    Hi John – Yes, the frequency is important when it comes to motors or clocks, no doubt on that. VCR.. what's that? It's been so long since I've seen one of those things, I've almost forgotten!!!

  14. hudson says

    Hey John, Bob,
    Clocks may be an issue with a lower frequency, motors not so much. a 60hz motor operating at 50hz will still work, just at a little bit slower speed. 5/6 to be exact. Here where I work we use Variable Frequency Drives (VFD's)on all of our pumps and fan motors as an energy saving measure. Its all tied into a main computer so as demand increases, or decreases the frequency will change.
    The 240 volts is alot more effecient than lower voltage for transfer of power…and you can use a smaller guage wire also.

    • corjo says

      Hi Hudson;
      Yes you are right there are varable frequency drives but they are specially built and used with complex control systems .The frequency of the supply will not actually change but the control system will “chop” the supply to generate an artifical set of frequencies the upshot of which is that the motor will never operate outside its designed range of frequencies.
      During a brownout the frequency of supply is reduced by the distribution company to any level it determines in order to maintain supply.As the frequency decreases the voltage stays the same but the current drawn by the motor increases. The motor windings become hot and the motor begins to burn.The burn would normlly begin at +/_ 20% of the normal supply frequency and the motor will fail at +/_ 50% so while you are right that a motor can operate at a frequency different than it was designed for. it runs at a greatley increased risk of fire and will fail prematurley.
      Again you are right about the advantages of a 240volt system with reguards to power transmition .The increased voltage should enable the use of a smaller gague of cabeling but in fact because of the variation in supply frequency and its effect on current drawn we use a larger gague cable when working in the philippines..In the U.K. wiring system 2.5 mm cable is used for power circuits and 1mm is used for lighting but in the Philippines 3mm cabeling is used for both power and light.Hope that helps

  15. lenny2000 says

    When i moved here I brought my clothes and important papers.. I rent furnished and bought what updates I wanted for the home.. To me thats the easiest.. You can buy whatever is needed here for probably a lot less than going thru the ritual of moving a ton of stuff for $10,000 or more. Why make it hard and difficult on yourself? And remember your not living in your country anymore this is Philly and life is alot simpler here. You'll be happy I assure you. I do everything here I did in the states and eat and live well. I had a 3200 sq ft home before, do you really need all this? I think not, adjust your mentality and everything will be fine. If you have children that may be another matter, I do not know about schooling here, and Bob maybe that would make for a very good article here.

  16. says

    Hi Bob. With the terrible devastation from the storms in Manila & north. Do you see or expect any impact on other areas (cities). I am changing my plans from Luzon to Visayas or Mindanao. Thank you for any information that I may not have anticipated. Guy

  17. Bob New York says

    I believe just about any DVD player or DVD Recorder/Player can be set up for " All Region " use. When I wanted to get a DVD Recorder for a relative in the UK a few years ago, I called Sony UK to ask if their models were available in a " All Region " version. I was told by Sony UK that they can Not manufacture them for All Region use and sell them that way. However, they told me that a Dealer equipped with the All Region code, could make the unit capable of All Region playback at the point of sale.

    I bought a Sony DVD Recorder in the UK and the dealer was able to set it up for All Region and this would not void the warrantee or anything like that.

    By " All Region " this refers to the capability of the unit to be able to play DVDs that are region coded to Region 1, Region 2 or Region 3. Some DVD, especially many that are of very old material but are legitimate manufactured DVDs ( not bootleg ) may have no region codeing at all and it is usually specified on the packaging.

    DVD Region Coding and TV Standard are two entirely different things. Do not confuse DVD Region Coding with " Television Standard " of different countries such as NTSC (USA & North America ) , PAL (UK ) N-PAL ( South America in certain places ) and in some other parts of the world, SECAM and MESCAM.

    I believe The Philippines uses the NTSC " TV Standard ".

  18. says

    Hi Bob – Yes, Philippines uses NTSC for TV. I didn't realize that DVD dealers could reprogram a player to do multi-region playback, that's good to know. I wonder how many will actually do it.

    And, yes, DVD regions and PAL/NTSC are completely different things, and not related to each other in the slightest.

  19. Bob New York says

    It would depend if the dealer has the " code " for making the particular make and model of player to work as an all region player. When I had this done by a factory authorized dealer in the UK they did not charge me for doing it as I had become somewhat of a " regular " or " known " foriegn customers of theirs. There is also a well known " national " retailer in the UK that offers this on a no charge basis.

    I have as of yet no experience with any kind of audio or video equipment marketed and sold in The Philippines from a consumer point of view with the exception of the fact that many times when buying something that plugs in to an electrical outlet, a retailer can seem more than eager to un box it and plug it in for you at the store to show you that " It Works " !

  20. says

    Hi Bob – Just want to clarify something.. when you buy an electronics item in the stores in the Philippines, the reason they take it an plug it in to show that it words is so that you can't come back later and say "it doesn't work" and ask for a refund. Since they showed you that it did work, the best they will do is see if it can be fixed. Alternatively, they may well do nothing for you, since it worked when you bought it! :wink:

  21. brian says

    Never knew there was a region coding, only issue I had was trying to play one on my older DVD…the newer DVD player read it fine…just lucky or the codes were deleted.

  22. Bacolod Barry says

    Hi Bob
    Just to let your readers know, most DVD players in the UK (PAL) can output to either PAL or NTSC. You will need to change the output settings in the menu. I don't think a NTSC (only) DVD player can output in PAL though because the added circuitry needed for PAL is not there on NTSC only units.
    With a lot of DVD players, you can change the regional coding easily. Look on Google for your model. Basically you just need to push certain buttons in a certain order to unlock the 'secret code'.
    Different players will have different key combinations to press. This way manufacturers just produce one model, and just use the 'secret code' depending which country it is being sent to.
    Hope people find this information useful.

  23. Jack says

    A friend of mine took Juramie a box of stuff from the USA. I had DVD's in the box and all of them worked fine. Twilight, the movie with the mga mumu, was very popular. The kids love Narnia.

  24. Jacob says

    Hi Bob – What about lamps? Can a 110 lamp be converted to 220 by simply changing the plug and bulb or does the wire, socket and plug need to be replaced? We have several lamps we want to bring with us when we move.

    • corjo says

      No dont even try it. You will cause a fire..You can rewire the fittings but even then the plastics ets in the fittings will not be rated for the higher voltage.
      If you really want to use these lamps in the philippines safely you will need a seperate circuit of 110volts.In Manila or Baguio the electricity distributer will be able to supply you with 110v but in the provinces you need to have a seperate circuit breaker supplying a stepdown transformer then supplying your lights.
      Basically its not worth the trouble.

  25. Stevo says

    Hi Ron, I don't know where your location is, but Bob is correct about there being other places to ship boxes. There are lots of shipping companies in Chicago. We have shipped a LOT of boxes with little problems. You can get them insured and they will ship them in 30to 45 days.

  26. Mike in Canada says

    Hi Bob,

    When you sent your items in the container from the states did they charge duties on all the items you sent. If so how do they determine the value and whats the rate of duties?


    Mike in Canada

  27. maria says

    hi bob

    have you found a waterpik(used for gum cleaning if you have gum disease) there for sale at the department stores?


  28. Ron says

    That made me laugh Bob, I have two VCR's and over 1,500 video tapes that are destined for the dumpster before I leave.

    • donna west says

      some people still have vhs and wish to keep them. we sold our collection of them for $1.00 each. If they are originals in their sleeves in good shape you might wanna try an ad on them first. thats a lot of video tapes. I hated giving ours up cause I cant afford to replace all those good movies on dvd or blue ray.

  29. Paul Thompson says

    Hi Bob;
    I have a buddy that ship’s to the PI from Montana. If you can ship from Montana than you can ship from anywhere! (LOL) VHS tapes (Wayback Machine by Mr. Peabody) will mold faster than cheese, here in the PI.

  30. Bob New York says

    An NTSC output from a DVD Player, camcorder etc. when connected to a PAL ( only ) Television will give you the sound, and the picture but in black and white only. There may also be a slight proportional difference in the picture as well. The color Burst frequency is different on a PAL TV from that of a NTSC TV. In recent years however, many newer TV's in the UK can be used with either a PAL signal or an NTSC signal. On some UK TV's it is either automatically detected by the TV and on others it may be user selectable in the menu.

  31. says

    Hi Bob. Finally! I am leaving for the Philippines on Saturday after many long years. I will be there for only 6 monthes this time. I am a little confused however. We have a Philippine embassy here in Edmonton. The lady at the embassy told me I will get an autonatic 21 day visa. Then I will apply at immigration for a 58 day extension. She told me that I have to leave the country every 58 days. Basically a visa run. I thought I could just apply for another 58 day extension. Am I wrong? Guy

  32. says

    Hello Guy – You will get an automatic 21 days. When you are at day 19 or 20, go to the Bureau of Immigration and apply for an extension. You will get an extension of 38 additional days, which will bring your stay up to 59 days. When you are at 57 or 58 days or so, go to the Bureau of Immigration and you will be extended for another 59 days. You can keep going every 59 days for the entire time you are here, since you will be here 6 months. The maximum stay is 16 months before you must go for a Visa Run (unless you have an immigrant visa of some kind, of course).

    So, the answer is no, you will not have to leave after 59 days. The lady doesn't know the rules.

  33. Bryan G says

    I brought a Microwave oven from Scotland some years ago and it had to be modified as UK frequency is about 10hz different – voltage was fine – it just did not work.

  34. Larry Saum says

    My wife ( an Ibanag ) and I have used Orient Star
    7321 Hamlin Ave
    Skokie, IL 60076-3902 (Northeren Chicago )
    for many years with good results for shipping things in Balikbayan boxes. We have been shipping to both Manila and Gamu, Iasabela addresses.

    • Scott Fortune says

      My wife and I used Orient Star in Skokie, IL and had HORRIBLE service! They LOST our boxes and would nto return phone calls or emails. Each time I would call the lady on the phone would say that the managers were “in a meeting”. I made a complaint with the better business bureau, MANY OTHER HAD ALREADY BEEN MADE BY OTHERS, and the box did FINALLY arrive at it’s destination about 6 months or so after it was sent. These were supposed to be for Christmas. The store we sent them through stopped using them too, and switched to LBC. I would NEVER use them again.

  35. Larry Saum says

    Hi Bob;
    I'm new to your website, and still have a lot to absorb. I suppose it would help if I gave you a little background on me, and my wife of 37 years. I Larry F. Saum, age 66 (soon to be 67) and my wife Pacita ( Formerly Martinez) live West of Indianapolis. I was in the Navy from 1964-68 and a Vietnam Vet. I lived in the Philippines for two years (July 1971 – April 1973) as a tech-rep for the Magnavox Government and Industrial Electronics co. at Subic. That's when I met and married my wife. We were married the day Marcos declared Marial Law, (Sept. 22, 1972). We travel to the Philippines about every two to 5 years, as she has four brothers ( and their families) living there. Two of her brothers live in Manila, and the other two live near their old home town of Gamu, Isabela. One of the Manila brothers drives back and forth between Manila and Gamu on a monthly basis. The family jointly maintains and upgrades the parents' old home site, and since my wife is now the eldest, the property is in her name. There are two large houses on the site, and lots of family there. We have recently made our trips to stay over the Christmas period.
    Obviously, I could contribute a lot of observations and experiences over the years to this group. My wife is dreaming that we could retire to Gamu in the next few years. We would probably be only shipping a few Balikbayan boxes to do so. The houses there are already basically equipped with appliances and furniture. Since we have two children and four grandchildren in the US, and do a lot of child care here in Indy, our time in the PI is limited yet. We may never actually fully move there. We usually just go there for a couple of weeks at a time. My wife is on the phone to them a lot, and even with Yestel long distance service, she runs up $200 or more phone bills regularly.
    I wonder about internet access abilities in a small rural farming community like Gamu. They do have a cable TV hookup. I've never taken a laptop overthere to test it out, partly since I don't own one.
    My wife is an Ibanag, and she speaks Ibanag, Illocano, and Tagalog, as well as fluant English. I have very limited ability with learning anything but English. I find myself left out of many family discussions when I am there, and that is one of my worst problems. Second, as a white, 6 ft, 2 inch tall American, I stand head and shoulders above the Filipinos, when I go anywhere there, and get lots of stares. When we went to the SM mall in Quezon City, during Christmas shopping a few years ago, that was sometimes an advantage in the crowds. However, sometimes it makes me feel uneasy that I could get easily targeted, for mischief.
    Anyhow that's some background on us, and I would welcome carrying out some dialog with Ex-Pats from the Isabela, Cagayan area of northern Luzon. I've read some of the postings from Mr. and Mrs. John Miele; and found them to be very informative.

    Larry F. Saum
    4095 Mossy Bank Rd.
    Indianapolis, Ind. 46234
    Ph. (317) 291-0150
    [email protected]

    • says

      Hi Larry, my wife of 36 yrs and I moved here in May, we live in Pita, Dinalupihan, Bataan. We purchased a nice house and lot outright and are doing the remodeling.

      My Tagalog is limited to “O-o, hindi, Buket, Iyoko, and Inako Michael! But I am learning a little more each day.

      Most of the Filipinos in our Barangay know me already, whenever a delivery truck stops to ask direction, they tell them the “British guy lives in the yellow house down the road”. Dammit, I ain’t British!

      He sold all or our furniture, her car, my truck and Harley also went to the highest bidder. We purchased a used 2005 Ford Everest here and it is pretty nice. Whatever we need, we can purchase here or in San Fernando or Olongapo no problem. The quality isn’t as good as the US, but whatever.

      Your laptop should be fine, as far as Internet goes, ask SmartBro if you can get “Outdoor WIMAX” in Gamu. It is smokin’ fast and cheap at 900 Php/month.

    • corjo says

      I have borrowed a system from my kids school.I have different zones in my house,We have a Tagalog zone a Waray zone a Spanish zone and an english zone.If your in that zone you speak that language.I have found its a great help to me and to everyone else in the house.I plan to introduce an Albanian zone soon where I can get peace and rest as nobody will be able to speak there ha ha.
      As to your internet yes I would try Smart and Globe broadband dongles but it depends on the location of your place and the type of landscape.Even it can come down to if the trees have leaves..If I were you I would buy a netbook rather than a laptop as you are just trying things out at first.Its less expencive and more portable as I often find I have to move around to get a good signal in Phils.
      Skype to skype calls are free so a couple of netbooks or smartphones could cut your phone bills to almost nothing. There are also Smart talk tepid and the Smart plug and talk which offer text and calls to smart mobiles in the Phils for a much reduced rate.

  36. Bob New York says

    It is situations like that, where I really have to keep my patience in check when I am there. Yes I was aware of the " returns " policy or lack of it when buying just about anything that plugs in LOL. I did go into one store and wanted to buy a Radio, at this particular store they were all kind of what I would call " Budget Imports " . The clerk behind the counter took it out of the box, plugged it in to show me that " It Worked " . I knew from previous experience that I was in an area with a lot of nearby RF signals that could easily swamp out a radio with a budget front end. The clerk let me try the radio right in front of him and I pointed out the defects that were obvious ( In the past I have worked in and became a supervisor of a Production Test and QC Dept. of an electronics manufacturer ). They let me try another radio, half of the FM band was silent. This went on with 6 more radios and each one I pointed out the defects right in front of the clerk. The 7th one seemed to be decent enough, considering it was a " budget " radio but at least all of the functions appeared to work normally. Well, getting back to a friends house with it it seemed that the plug in AC Mains cord connector on the back of the radio had an intermittent. Bad solder connection on the inside, easily remedied and I wouldn't have spent any time trying to go back to the store with it anyway.

    For me, just plugging something in and make it " Light Up " or " Make some noise " etc. isn't quite good enough when it comes to paying posted or regular price for something when it comes to a " No-Refund, No-Return policy.

    I wonder if electronic or electrical items are returned to the Philippines Importer / Distributor of name brand items such as Panasonic, Sony, etc. if they or the Manufacturers Rep will do anything about it.

    It is things like this where I have to constantly remind myself that I am not in the USA.

  37. BOB G says

    We moved here about six months ago. Sold everything and then shipped four balikbyan boxes. Made enough money on used furniture to buy new stuff here in the P.I. Most houses that we looked at do not have a clothes closet. We bought a aparador(clothes closet). These are cheap enough and nice as most of them have locks on them. Also one can find some good quality wood furniture. We only shipped in our boxes things we could not part with. Family pics and wifes expensive cookware and ect. Best to bring whatever you can't buy here or any thing that is a keepsake. The balikbyan boxes arrived in good condition.Finally found some ground coffee in the SM Mall Coffee makers are expensice too, or at least the ones I have found. Would like a good ole fashion coffee pot like you camp out with but have yet to find one. The batangas coffee is masarap.

  38. says

    Hello Larry – Nice to meet you and get to know you better. Don't worry too much about "sticking out like a sore thumb" – we all do! But, you'll get used to it, and you will love life here, I predict.

    Regarding those phone bills – get a Vonage phone. For $25 per month or so, you have unlimited calling to the USA and a number of other countries too!

  39. Ron says

    Would there be a problem if you applied for an extension earlier than the 19 or 20th day, say at day 14 or so. I have heard that sometimes the Bureau of Immigration is closed when you least expect it.

  40. says

    Hi Bob
    Just sent a bunch of stuff by balikbayan box to the Philippines that will be there when I arrive in January. I guarantee you at least one small appliance a year is toasted in my home so local stuff will be the best for me.

  41. anton says

    Last year i asked the price , a small container from my town Heerlen to Cagayan will cost about 2500 Euro [ 3700 $ ] because i want to take my house-hold things with me .
    Like cooking and frying panns and my knifes.
    and maybe my LCD TV ,
    But ,in 2000 i had prostate cancer , get chemo for 9 months
    and i was cured.
    and 2 years later start work again .
    But 3 months ago cancer came back.
    Now i got a new [ Brachy ] therapie , only 2 day,s in hospital .
    But i have to wait for my moving to iligan for at least 18 months ,
    what a shame .
    The only thing for the moment is that we come for our holiday,s
    [ 5 weeks ] in July/August 2010
    And further only look forward to our moving in later years .
    Gr. Anton

  42. Jeff Carlson says

    I have been to the Phils. but know very little about traveling and getting around. I have been to Subic Bay twice and am considering moving there as I retire in 2 months. Subic Seems fairly safe and I have had no problems in about 30 days there. Any thoghts on Subic for a long range vacation or living there? Thanks everone.

    • says

      Hi Jeff – I think Subic is very safe. There are many places in the Philippines to consider, but Subic is certainly one of them. I’d recommend setting up base in Subic and doing a bit of exploring if you are a bit unsure and want to see what else is available. Good luck to you.

  43. Neal in RI says

    This article came at a perfect time. Your kind of like “Carnack” as I think your reading my mind. We are culling through all our stuff and starting to pack our Balikbayan Boxes. Just today bought 30.00 worth of packaging tape at Wally World and there is a wall of Boxes sitting in our Kitchen ready to go. I will put a pic of Linda standing in front of the boxes on FBook just for a goof as the boxes are taller than her.

  44. says

    Hi Bob – We did the same as you and shipped a 20ft container with everything but the kitchen sink.We also shipped our Sony HD TV,Sony Sterio Unit, Microwave and all the other kitchen gadget and today five years later unlike what John M says they are still all working perfectly purchased originally in the UK. The only thing I have bought additionally was a DVD player from SM as my UK player would not play the local pirate stuff due to a built in code. For what you get for secondhand goods at home and the way prices are rising here if you have them ship them. One thing we brought our Chesterfield leather sittingroom suite and there was no way we were going to buy anything near that quality here and with the occassional polish with saddle soap it looks like the day we bought it.

  45. Christopher says

    Hi again Bob,
    Is it safe to send electronics in the Balikbayan Boxes as far as the bxes being handeled roughly? I’m also wondering about sending fishing poles. I have some high-ens fishing poles which would come in handy in the Philippines but they need to be packaged in boxes at least six feet long. Thanks for the info and God bless.

  46. Christopher says

    Hi again Bob,
    Is it safe to send electronics in the Balikbayan Boxes as far as the bxes being handeled roughly? Are these Balikbayan Boxes insured? I’m also wondering about sending fishing poles. I have some high-ens fishing poles which would come in handy in the Philippines but they need to be packaged in boxes at least six feet long. Thanks for the info and God bless.

  47. donna west says

    our plans are to ship what we can in B boxes via ForEx. we were told it is $100 a box. at first plans to come to Phils we thought we would sell everything but what we can take in our suitcases when we fly. but then found out about forex. the economy being so bad here in Missouri, we can see that what we own is worth almost nothing and decided it is better to ship what we can so we dont have to give it away here and then replace it when we get there. we really cant afford to do that and I like my pots and pans, silverware, and etc. and feel we will adjust better with having some of our own familiar things. I have heard glass things often dont make it in one piece. i am not planning to bring many breakables but plan to wrap them in our linens and any clothes i am shipping. maybe then they will make the trip ok. I heard the forex boxes do not go thru customs. am i ok to ship a laptop and blue ray player, maybe a small appliance or two in the boxes? I am a little afraid to send valuable stuff in the b boxes but i dont own a lot of that anyway. thanks for the informative article Bob.

    • says

      Hi Donna, some boxes are inspected by customs, and some are also inspected by US Homeland Security. It is not legal to ship electronic items in a Balikbayan Box. You may or may not get away with it, just depends on inspection.

    • Dennis Glass says

      Hi Donna,
      After reading your post I tried to find Forex on my p.c. All I came up with was a currency exchange trading co. Can you give me a link or phone number where I can reach them. I live in Western KY and we don’t have any place that does balikbayan shipping around here, that I’ve been able to find.
      Thank You,

      • says

        Hi Dennis – I did a quick Google search for “Balikbayan Box shipper Kentucky” and found this Balikbayan shippers in your state.

        3211 Frederica Street # B,
        Owensboro, KY 42301

        For Forex shippers, here is their web address: Forex

  48. Mel says

    Hi Bob, Last year i brought over a DVD player and DVD’s,also a Electric kettle, and they worked fine, no problems, being in Australia the voltage is 220-240 and 50 – 60 hertz, so there was no need to aquire a step up transformer.
    Recently last month (july) i sent over a Balikbayan box as i had to much to bring over in my baggage,plus it would cost too much with excess baggage, i just picked up the box from a philippino food shop and when it was ready to be picked up I just rang LBC and they picked it up in 2 days,the cost was $100 AU, they said it would take about 5-7 weeks to get there by ship, as it was going to ormoc city in leyte,i am coming over to phil on the 26th august, so at least i will be there to pick it up when it arrives, i will pick it up at Gasiano in ormoc city as that being one of 3 LBC depots there, Going by LBC policy you can send any kind of electrical equipment in there Balikbayan boxes, but the good thing about those boxes, there is no weight limit on them.
    You get to learn a lot of interesting subjects on this site about the philippines,

  49. Paul Thompson says

    I had a flash of Déjà Vu, I was thinking that I’d read this before, so I checked the date. But then I found my comment and said; “Wow, how’d I do that?” I getting old Bob, But the article is still great advice to anyone thinking of shipping stuff here.
    I put bus fuses on my 110 stuff years ago, so when the kids plugged them into 220 only the fuse would blow. But here in 2012 I only use Philippine voltage items now. Lesson learned!

  50. Paul Thompson says

    I had a flash of Déjà Vu, I was thinking that I’d read this before, so I checked the date. But then I found my comment and said; “Wow, how’d I do that?” I must be getting old Bob, but the article is still great advice to anyone thinking of shipping stuff here.
    I put bus fuses on my 110 stuff years ago, so when the kids plugged them into 220 only the fuse would blow. But here in 2012 I only use Philippine voltage items now. Lesson learned!

  51. Greg K says

    Moved here over 2 years ago bringing 3 suitcases and have never looked back….I sold all my belongings before I left the states, and bought what I needed after I arrived.

    I came by myself without a family, and those with a family will probably use a different option.

    There are things I miss here, but I live a simpler life, and that was the idea of moving here.

    I think as far as tools etc….you can find just about everything you need here. If I need to have something done around the house and I don’t have the time, or energy, I just pay someone to do it. The cost of labor is inexpensive here, and I get the added satisfaction of helping someone out.

    Anyway, good luck on your move.

    • says

      Hi Greg – Thanks for sharing your experience! Nothing wrong with doing it differently from what I did, we all have our individual needs and desires, and you have to do what is right for you!

  52. don bullock says

    We moved here last July and we shipped a lot of items in boxes. We used Global Cargo Movers and paid $65 a box. We only shipped what we couldn’t do without and some hard to find items. We came back after 3 month visit to the states to take my mother in-law back and get her situated, and of course the wife found other things she couldn’t live without. But now that we are back I am in no hurt for another “visit”. Good luck to all who come to live here and travel lite.

  53. Charels Christian says


    My son is married to a girl from near Davao. They retiring there in 2015. We have been invited to buy a lot in the new beach resort south of Davao with the rest of the siblings as they had a lot given to them recently by a brother. Wife is in Matanao until 20 Aug on visit now. I was wondering about medial as wife has stent in heart and I have had diabetes for years and use insulin, syringes, and hbp pills. Are they all reasonable in cost to not have to have outside insurance which is probably not available anyway? Assume we will have to learn a local dialect and or Tagalog? I am retired from the Foreign Service of the State Dept and lived years in Europe and Middle East.
    Santa Rosa, CA.

    • says

      Hi Charles – Thanks for your comment. You did not mention if your wife is Filipino or not. That is very important, because foreigners cannot own property in the Philippines, it is not allowed. So, if your wife is not a Philippine citizen, then you cannot own that land. Just want to make sure you are aware of that.

  54. B Michels says

    Your article and all the responses have come at the right time. In Oct we are going to the Philippines Subic Bay and Cavite for our vacation and to check out what has changed. The when we return home we will be moving in Aug. So this article is helping me to decide what to take and what to leave behind. One thing I have decided to do is if I’m not sure if I will need it our not is to put it in storeage.
    Then if I do need it I’ll have my son ship it tp me.

  55. Greg says

    I am considering moving and settling down in Cebu City. I was curious about my car. Would it be wise to ship or just sell it here and buy in the Philippines?
    I currently have a 2007 STS. Your opinion is much appreciated. Thanks

    Also I have about $15,000 USD to relocate with. Do you think that would be enough to get situated in Cebu? Thanks

    • says

      Hi Greg- Generally, it is not a wise move to try to bring your car. There is a 100% import duty on cars, so be prepared to pay big time! Also, since your car is a 2007, you have to move quick if you want to bring it, because if it is over 5 years old, it cannot be legally brought in to the country. I recommend selling it and buying a new car here.

  56. Liloan Dan says

    LOL……. clocks, cars, microwaves, toasters……. I agree with Bob……. sell it all….. buy some light clothes , t-shirts , shorts, flip flops, sandals…… it just isnt worth sending over here. Really you can get just about everything here and quality if you pay a little more. Some of us need all the material things around us, but you will come to realize that most people here cherish their relationships much more than the material things of this world. A really good laptop or tablet, your passport , bank account and your smile is pretty much all you will need to start living here. Remember, this is THEIR country and you have chosen to live here!!
    Smiles – Liloan Dan

    • says

      Hi Liloan Dan – In general, I agree, but not fully. I would not agree that everything should be sold, but a lot should. A number of things are not available here, or decent quality of some things (like tools) is generally not available. So, it’s a pick and choose situation, but the most important thing is to come here with the right attitude, as you suggest.

  57. Greg Stamler says

    First off, thanks for your site.
    Some interesting and useful comments.
    Question: My girlfriend is located in GENSan and would like to pick up one of those portable gas stoves.
    Any recommendations as to what to pay and where to purchase would be appreciated.
    All the best.

  58. says

    Hi Ron – One thing to keep in mind when using a DVD player in your computer… those will end up region coded too! When you first buy them, they are not coded, but once you play more than one DVD from the same region, they are software locked to that region. You can't keep switching.

  59. Bob New York says

    Motors and Transformers may run a bit warmer or just plain Hot when used on a power line frequency other than what they were originally intended for. I have exchanged electrical and electronic items with friends in the UK and this situation works both ways. 50Hz to 60 Hz and 60Hz used on 50Hz. It seems fortunate that The Philippines uses 60Hz line frequency for someone moving from here to there.

  60. Bob New York says

    NTSC, PAL, N-PAL, M-PAL, SECAM and MESCAM are " Television Standards " used in different parts of the world and are something entirely different than DVD Region Coding.

  61. says

    Hi Lenny – It's a mixed bag. You say that you didn't move much, and are happy about it. Dave Starr said he moved quite a bit, but wish he moved more. I moved a bunch, and there is some stuff I wish I didn't move, other stuff I wish I did move. I suppose it's a personal decision.

    Regarding schooling here, I have written a ton of articled about that already, and I'm sure I will write more in the future as well.

    Thanks for commenting.

  62. says

    Hi Guy – Certainly, if you live in Luzon or the Visayas, you must expect typhoons and plan for them. In Mindanao, we don't get typhoons (except in the very northern region of Mindanao, up around Surigao, but rarely).

  63. says

    Before stumbling into LiP only recently, I had only one choice of a retirement venue in the Philippines, and that was Baguio City. But the more I read about the articles and readers' comments here, further reinforced by what is presently happening in Luzon, the more I am convinced that Davao City may be the best place to retire in the Philippines in terms of cost of living, security, climate, amenities, transportation, and medical care.

    Running a close second in my mind is Zamboanga City, as I am enamored to the strong Hispanic influence in that city. In my mind, however, Zamboanga City may be a bit too close for comfort in terms of security. What are your personal thoughts about Zamboanga City, Bob?

  64. says

    Hi John – I've been to Zamboanga City. Generally, I'd say I like it there. I like Davao a lot better, though.

    In the past year or so, some parts of the Zamboanga Peninsula have gotten a little more dangerous. Don't take me wrong, it would not worry me personally about going there, but indeed there have been some kidnappings there and such.

    I think it is important to travel around and see where you like it the best, that's really the only way to make a good decision on where you would want to live.

    Good luck to you, John!

  65. says

    Hi Bob – Ah… sorry, my friend. I am a coffee connoisseur, and that Batangas coffee isn't worth drinking! I import green coffee beans from all over the world and roast them myself! Ha ha… If I can't get the good stuff, I just go without! :wink:

    Just teasing you…

  66. says

    Hi Ron – They will not allow you to do it too early, only a few days before it is due. I don't know the exact number of days, but I think that 14 days is too early and they would not allow that.

  67. Larry Saum says

    I checked out Vonage from the US to the PI a couple of months ago. They said they didn't have connections to the phones in the PI that allowed us to get their international low rate deals. Probably this is because the people we call in the PI are not computer users, and some just have regular phone lines, or cell phones. Their quoted rates to these were actually a penny or two more than what we pay on Yestel.

  68. says

    Hi Larry – You have it backwards! The deal is to get the vonage box here in the Philippines. Once you do that, you pay $25 per month or so, and the rate to call the States is ZERO cents per minute! The key is though, not for you to get the Vonage, but rather for the person here to get the Vonage setup.

  69. Neal in RI says

    Bob, while on the coffee subject. A friend of ours here is involved in something “called coffee for peace” there in Davao, its supposed to be come kind of a coffee bean co-op to help the poor independent coffee growers??

  70. BillB says

    Bob, there is one way to bring a car with low import duty. If the car is owned by a Filipino and has owned the car for more than 1 year (it might be 6 months) and the car is less than five years old, it can be brought over with no or low import duty. The car has to be in the Filipino’s name and only there name. This was something that I read on one the the websites about shipping items here, don’t remember the site, but I think it was one of the Philippines Gov sties.

    I could be wrong about this and would need to be looked into more if you really want to do it.


  71. Jason says

    It certainly affects digital clocks – we woke up at some very strange times for the first few days when we got here until we figured out what was going on!

  72. BillB says

    I agree with you on not bringing a car! I just wanted to give the info so that people can decide if they want to or not and to know that there is a way to not have to pay the high import tax! The thing is just check to make sure that things have not changed or that I might be wrong about this.

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