Saipan Cost of Living
Saipan Living Costs
I am asked often by expats friends in Asia, particularly in the Philippines, about Saipan. They want to know about the Saipan cost of living, mostly. They already can see from pictures on the net just how beautiful Saipan is so I don't get very many questions about that. I wrote this originally as a message to one friend, but I decided that everyone can benefit from it. Excuse me for the style of writing, it is typical email style.
Saipan Housing Costs
The Saipan cost of living is literally as cheap as you want it to be. I am serious about that. I pay $275 for a 1 bedroom. I got into it quickly since there wasn't much information and I was staying in a hotel. It was just remodeled so it's nice enough, just a tad on the small side. It's about the size of the place that we were living on AS Fortuna in Mandaue for 5000 pesos a month. But it's two blocks from the beach. It's furnished with everything and it is American standard everything, meaning full size ref, ceiling fan, window air con for the bedroom, standard toilet and shower, big kitchen sink, couch, queen size bed, you get the idea. I am just a five minute walk from the Taco Bell and a 24 hour grocery store. When we were looking for a place in Talamban last May, we looked at a new place that would compare to this place and they wanted 20k pesos a month.
I have since found cheaper. I found out that there are two and three bedrooms not far away from here from $200 and up. When I say that the cost of living is as cheap as you want it to be, I got a friend who is renting a room for $100 a month. It's not the most fancy, but it is certainly better than anything he could get in Cebu for the price. There is another place that is renting out rooms for $80 a month with cable tv.
Internet is expensive here to say the least. I am pay $50 a month for an USB cellphone modem that I wish was faster. In some places, it really does fast. My speedtest says it is between 200 and 300 kbps, but sometimes it crawls down to less than 100 and other times speeds up to 600 to 700 kbps. There is DSL for $40 a month if you have a phone line. The first 6 months are 1/2 price, but I didn’t go with it since it takes about a week and a half to install it and I didn’t know the availability of internet here at the time.
Now I know that there are many places with free wifi. McD’s has a nice wifi connection and a few plugins. There are internet cafes that have internet for $1 an hour so you don’t have to rush and get internet unless you want it. I am happy enough with the usb evdo modem since I can connect from anywhere, even on the beach, if I want to. There is cable modem access, but it’s really not worth it.
Electricity is expensive here at 25 cents a kw/hr. Cabletv runs $32 a month for basic cable which is just ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS from Guam, Fox News, CNN, ESPN, USA and a couple of other channels. Their Plus package is $13 more a month for 25 or 30 more cable channels. It’s a typical US small town cable tv system so you get the idea.
Saipan Drinking Water
Tap water is salty so you have to get bottled water. You can get it delivered to the house for 2.00 or 2.50 per 5 gallon bottle.
Saipan Food Prices
Food is cheap and expensive at the same time. First off, restaurants are expensive, period. The cheapest meal at McDonalds is the 4.75 for their McChicken Value Meal, but it comes with unlimited refills and wifi. Taco Bell tacos are 1.59 each, soft or hard shell.
Grocery stores are more expensive than the US. Here's a sampling:
Australian Milk 1.69/liter
Frozen Tyson Chicken Quarters 17.95/22lb box
US Ground Beef 1.79/lb
Us Chicken Quarters 1.22/lb
Potatoes 79 cents/lb
Washington Apples 1.10/lb
Calrose Rice 55 cents/lb
Sugar 79 cents/kilo
Totino’s Frozen Pizzas 2.49
Canned Corned Beef 1.99/340 grams
Transportation can be a bear here. This is America so as expected there is no bus service here. There are illegal taxis though that charge $3 per ride per person to all of the places around here. There is a car rental place that rents cars for $25 a day or $140 a week. I rented a car for my first week here and it came in real handy.
Asia Scooters in Garapan rents out scooters for $150 a month and they seem to be an ok way to get around the island during the day, when it's not raining.
Cars can be bought here. Some are cheap and some are more expensive than the mainland. Gas is expensive at 3.87 a gallon as of 8/15/2010.
Depending on where you live, bikes can be a good way to get around the villages. All you need is pedal power. Combined with cheap Chinese taxis, you might find a happy medium between relying on others and having your own transportation.
USPS is here. It takes about 5 to 6 days to receive Priority Mail boxes from the US. Prices are the same as you would pay on the mainland so the postal service is a cheap way to send things and that means you can sell ebay or etsy online here at the same shipping cost structure as you would in the mainland US.
One note about the postal service, there are not enough post office boxes to go around. They are free here so that is a good thing, but they just need more of them. By the sheer luck, I got one within a week after I arrived. Another option are the $6 private mail boxes. There are many of them and they offer a good alternative to the post office.