The surf town of La Union is one of the most common immigrant destinations of millennials from Manila. It is not only a mere five-hour drive away, but it has pockets of commercial development that are giving rise to work opportunities for creatives and hospitality professionals. Below, the costs of living in La Union to help you plan out or assess a potential move.
Work and Transportation
The minimum wage in La Union for a medium-sized company is at P340. In Metro Manila, it’s at an average of P540. Even at this rate, the daily salary is hardly enough to cover city expenses, with labor groups lobbying for price hikes to about P750. In LU, it goes a long way to receive this amount of money for an honest day’s work.
One aspect that makes it so is the ease of daily commute, as it doesn’t involve endless lines at the train, jeep, or bus station. If you work in the surf town proper–a 1.5-kilometer stretch of resorts and hostels, F&B establishments, and retail/commercial spaces–it's easy to find nearby lodging, for which you can take a tricycle or jeepney. Some people opt to walk or take private vehicles–bicycle, motorcycle, pedicab, or car. Job options typically include becoming a receptionist, shopkeeper, or barista.
While the costs of petrol gas are somewhat the same, the distance of daily travel (and the lack of traffic) in LU make it cheaper if you have a car.
Rent and Living Expenses
In La Union, the average rent for a single bedroom is P5,000, but this price increases the closer one gets to the surf town tourist area. In surf town, a one-bedroom apartment with a small kitchen and living space can go up to P10,000 because of its proximity to everything. Just up to 2 kilometers away, the same P10,000 covers a house with 2 bedrooms, a toilet and bath, and maybe even a car port or garden space. These are all usually in old, provincial homes (if you’re lucky, the landlord will have installed a bidet in the bathroom!).
What to Expect
Unfortunately, there's currently a water crisis in the area. Both electric and water lines are on the same grid, and they haven’t been updated for the rapid development that LU is seeing today, so water shortages and power outages are still quite common during heavy weekends in town.
Many people will want to know the important cost and accessibility of Internet, especially those who work remotely. Fortunately, LU now has fiber internet, with big suppliers like PLDT and Globe in the playing field. The local supplier LUECO also has high-speed Internet, with 20mbps averaging at P1,500 per month.
Food and Leisure
As with Metro Manila, spending for food and drinks can really eat up the budget. In the tourist area, it’s easy to spend P400 on coffee and a meal. But if you live and work in LU, there are lots of low-cost alternatives that are just as good. There are sari-sari store lutong bahay at P35 and restaurant meals at P150. Of course, if you can cook, that would be even better. The San Juan public market is a clean source of fresh vegetables and fruits, and the San Fernando market (which gets supplies from around the region, including Baguio) is just a 10-minute ride away.