Browsing Posts tagged cheapest places to live

living in Bulgaria

I’ve talked before on this blog about how Bulgaria is one of the cheapest places in the world to travel. It’s also one of the cheapest places to live, a real bargain by European standards. It has a starring role in two of my books. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s the scoop from Maria Stoynova, a blogger who actually hails from there. Take it away Maria!

Bulgaria is the small Eastern European country you’ve probably never heard of. This is a country with high mountains; great sea resorts, and cute, cozy little towns you will crave to visit once you see them in pictures. This little known Balkan gem has a lot to offer its visitors. There are two main reasons to re-shuffle your travel plans for 2015 and put Bulgaria on the list. #1. It’s unbelievably beautiful and charming and #2. It’s ridiculously affordable. The first one is obvious through the pictures you may have seen. It’s the second that I want to tell you more about.

Accommodation

The minimum wage in Bulgaria is around 170 Euros but the actual average wage is around 400 Euros a month. Bearing that in mind it is obvious that the accommodation costs should not exceed that amount. For a decent one-bedroom apartment in Sofia’s city center you can pay as much as 220 Euros a month. Outside of the center the rent decreases by around 50€ and if you venture further out the accommodation is even cheaper. The average monthly utilities would not exceed 50 Euros which includes electric, heating and water.

Tryavna Bulgaria

Transportation

TetevanIn the big cities there are plenty of transportation options to choose from. One-way tickets usually cost around 1 lev which is around 0.50€. In Sofia, the capital, you can find a metro system which has 2 lines and is again 1 lev. If you’re staying for a while a monthly pass costs around 25€ and you can use it on all means of the transportation system.

Taxis in Bulgaria are also fairly affordable, for a good 15-minute drive they will charge you no more than 5-7 Euros but usually it’s around 3-4 Euros.

If you’re staying a little longer in Bulgaria and plan on buying a vehicle you can find a decent used car for as little as 1500 Euros. The cost of running a car is also fairly cheap by European standards, with one liter of gasoline coming in at around 1,20€.

Eating Out

If you‘re coming to Bulgaria make sure you pack some bigger jeans because for really reasonable prices you’ll get a lot of food. Eating out is very affordable. Bulgarians love having “banichka” and “boza” for breakfast, which costs no more than 1 euro for both. Restaurants, taverns and pubs are not only a local’s favorite place for socializing but are also very easy on the pocket. A nice three course meal in an inexpensive restaurant will cost you around 10 euros and with a large beer in Bulgaria costing only 1-2€ you can be wined and dined for very little money.

shopska salad

And let’s not forget the famous “shopska” salad, which recently topped European Parliament’s campaign “A Taste of Europe” (getting around 20,000 Facebook likes). This will cost you around 2€.

Social Life

Bulgarians love to have long coffee breaks with friends that can sometimes last more than 2 hours. It’s great to catch up and take our time indulging in doing things like going to the cinema which only costs around 3 to 5 euros. If you’re feeling like doing something a little fancier a ticket to the theater can be found for 5 to 10 euros.

Sofia theater

There are a lot of night clubs in Bulgaria simply because Bulgarians know how to party. The clubs are full every night and on Fridays and Saturdays it’s almost impossible to find a seat. If you want to experience the Bulgarian nightlife you should budget around 10-20 euros.

This is a guest post by Maria, a travel blogger from Bulgaria, who also shot the photos. She blogs at Travelling Buzz where she shares her stories, tips and tricks on budget travels and destinations such as her home country Bulgaria. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

expatriate

The word “expatriate” can mean a lot of different things depending on who it is applied to. I’ve been at the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX Europe) conference in Athens the past few days and have met loads of people who are not living in their home country. A Brazilian living in Paris, lots of Americans and Brits living in Greece, an American woman married to a Moroccan living in Marrakesh, and an Australian using Lisbon as a base. In many cases these people are digital nomads and could be living anywhere, but in others they are where they are because of someone important in their life. Here are a few categories that can have a big impact on where you end up and what your life is like.

The Family Abroad

I did an article for The Vacation Gals that came out last week on living abroad for less as a family. There are plenty of families doing this, on every continent, but it’s not always as easy as for a single person. Start first with what you’ll do about education, think about how you’ll deal with language options, and narrow the potential list down to places where you’re going to feel both safe and stimulated.

The Digital Nomad

If you’re working from a laptop and can travel light, you can live the digital nomad life and not be all that concerned about pesky visa rules and long-term housing options. One of the hosts of the Tropical MBA podcast estimated he could live anywhere in the world for $2,500 a month or less if he just took out a few outliers off the list, like Tokyo and Zurich. Just find an apartment (or long-term hotel rental) with decent internet, eat like a local would eat. and shop where they do for groceries. When you hit the tourist visa limit of two, three, or six months that’s in place locally, pack up the bag and go.

The Retiree

If you’re putting the old life in storage and moving abroad to retire, your key factors are probably going to be a bit different. You want a place where you can stretch your fixed income/savings—a place where you can easily get a better life for half the price. You also have to be more concerned about health care though, probably picking a place that’s not more than a few hours from a major hospital or medical facility. You’ll likely want warm or spring-like as opposed to a place requiring a parka and a snow shovel. You’ll find plenty of great candidates in this book.

luxury real estate Panama City

The Overseas Employee

Often a person living abroad is doing it for job reasons, either because they took an opportunity abroad or their spouse did. Often this is a beautiful thing because it means a higher standard of living from getting a good salary in a country where it goes a long way. There may even be a housing allowance built into the deal. For this situation you don’t have many decisions under your control, so you’re mainly going to go with the flow. If you have a choice in where you’ll be posted or choose to apply for jobs, however, you’ll get much more of an advantage out of it living in a place where you can easily afford a maid, gardener, driver, masseuse, and tutor than you will scraping by in London or Oslo.

The Business Builder

If you’re an entrepreneur trying to build a location independent business, cost is going to be a big factor. So it community too though, unless you’re fine having just virtual support and no physical support. If you do want a local tech labor pool and people or your kind to collaborate with, that can have a big impact on your choice of location. Great cities for this right now include Saigon, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Cebu City, Medellin, Buenos Aires, Panama City, Berlin, and (not as cheap) Santiago. There are pockets of people elsewhere too of course, and if you start looking at where those tribes hang out online, you’ll see lots of other locations popping up.

The Tagalong Spouse

Many people end up as expatriated because of love—or a least companionship. A Canadian woman with a Mexican husband, an American man with an Argentine wife, a Kiwi woman with a Czech husband, a German man with a Thai wife. Often it’s better for both parties to live in the cheaper country where one side of the family is than to try to go through years of paperwork on the more difficult and expensive side of that equation. It’s often better for the current or eventual kids as well, with a bigger local support system. I profiled a few couples and families in my book that are in this situation, from India to Portugal to Cambodia. In this case the place is usually the choice of A or B, but choose the living situation carefully if you want to retain a bit of the privacy you’re used to!

The Escapee

Many expats fit the stereotype of the escapee, someone trying to get away from a situation they found too painful or too boring to keep enduring. Divorcees and life crisis types fall into this category, as do overworked execs who barely escaped a nervous breakdown. If this is you at you’re at the end of your rope, go somewhere temporarily where you can take a deep breath. Often people in this situation aren’t thinking clearly and they stop in the first place they land and call it their new home. A year or two later, they’re disgruntled again because it wasn’t really a good match in the clear light of later.

For guidance on the best places to live for a good price and what to consider when moving, see the Cheap Living Abroad site for package options.

 

moving-500

If you’re going to move abroad by choice rather than for a job posting, it can seem overwhelming to view the sea of possibilites and narrow it down. Some people use this as an excuse to not take action, others send me e-mails or leave blog comments asking for a short cut answer to “Where should I go?”

Now I’ve got a book I can send everyone to for answers, with some consulting options for those who need it. Here’s an excerpt from there about where to start.

There are three main criteria most pros and cons about a destination fall into. There are head items, which are factual “must-have” factors you can easily substantiate from the comfort of your sofa with a laptop or tablet in hand. Then there’s the question of “What can you afford?” That one’s pretty cut and dry, once you have good information on the costs for basic living expenses and setting up residency. If you’re lucky to pull in $1,000 a month, head to Cambodia, Nepal, or Nicaragua. If money is no object, you can pretty much ignore this part and just look at the head and heart items. Most people fall somewhere in the middle though.

The heart factor is the hardest one to work out remotely. Sure, you can collect e-books, watch Travel Channel shows, check out YouTube videos, and join Facebook groups or message boards for that destination. Really though, none of those things will fully prepare you for how that place will make you feel.

Let’s look at each factor on its own.

Head

If a place doesn’t meet your main criteria for an ideal place to live, you’re probably not going to be happy living there. As a travel writer who visits ten or twelve different countries each year, I often ask myself when visiting a new place, “Could I live here?”

Usually the answer is no for some very specific factual reasons — my head reasons. It’s too cold, too hot, too cloudy/rainy, too isolated, too overrun with gringos, too ugly, too unfriendly to pedestrians, and so on. For others, there may be no such thing as “too hot” or “too overrun with gringos,” They may think a steamy hot place where they can speak English every day with their fellow countrymen and women is perfecto.

Puebla at night

If you have health issues though, this may be the first place to start in narrowing down your choices. If you are allergic to mold, you may want to seek out a dry climate. If you have limited mobility, you don’t want to live in a city built on the side of a mountain. If you’re someone who just doesn’t want to die young, you’re probably not going to want to live in Beijing, where pollution levels are frequently 20 times the levels considered healthy and you can’t see more than two blocks away because of the smog. If you’re a retiree, you probably also don’t want to be in some remote location that’s a day’s drive from the nearest decent hospital. In almost any area where you find lots of people in your age bracket, there will be at least one good medical facility in town and many other larger ones you can get to in a couple hours or less.

What’s on your checklist? Think about climate, culture, food, air connectivity, land connectivity, and apartment/house options. What’s a deal breaker?

Lisa Niver Rajna of We Said Go Travel has lived in multiple countries for three months or more at a time and says it’s important to listen to the signs, to be willing to scratch your plans if something better arises. “We never would have gone to Ko Samui in Thailand if a friend of a friend hadn’t invited me on Twitter. Once we got there, it just felt right. Look for something that fits with you and matches your passion.”

“If it doesn’t feel right, move on. We had planned to live in Panama for six months, but after 13 days we left and were in Costa Rica. When we wrote about our feelings on the blog, we got a lot of negative feedback and people saying, ‘You need to give it a chance.’ But we did give it a chance. We went to five different locations and compared to Thailand where we fell in love, Panama was a big disappointment.” It wasn’t right for them, so they moved on. For someone else, it may be just right.

Wallet

While you may be dreaming of retiring on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, on the beach in the Virgin Islands, or in a nice slopeside chalet in Switzerland, your bank account might not agree with those plans. You need to find a way to combine your checklist of ideal factors with places you can actually afford.

If you picture yourself in a lakeside cottage looking up at jagged snow-capped mountains, you don’t have to spend $100,000 a year in Switzerland. You can move south of Bariloche in Argentina and live for one-fifth that amount instead. If you want to be on a warm-water beach with hot weather, there are 100 choices in Latin America and Southeast Asia that are a fraction of the cost of a Caribbean Island residence.

cheap place to liveFor most of the cheapest places to live, a pair of retirees living off two social security checks or an equivalent pension can get by just fine. In some countries, if you earn $1,500 for one person, $2.400 for two, you’ll be living on far more than the average middle-class local. That may not sound like a lot where you live now, but it will be double, triple, or quadruple what’s considered a good local salary. If you’ve got more than that coming in, you can be choosier about where to go and can upgrade your living standards.

Keep in mind though that there are major variations within a country, especially a big country like Mexico. The more expatriates there are in an area, the higher the prices will probably be: witness San Miguel de Allende. The more of a tourist destination it is, the higher prices will be: witness Los Cabos.

Also, just because you can live on $1,500 a month doesn’t mean the government thinks that’s enough wealth to grant you permanent residency. In Nicaragua a retiree only has to show monthly income of $600 a month, but in Mexico you have to show $2,000 for you and another $500 for each dependent. There are ways around this sometimes if you can show other assets or finagle a work permit, but do keep these restrictions in mind before making big plans.

Heart

The authors of Freakonomics and Think Like a Freak do a regular podcast on NPR and in one episode they answered a listener’s question about how an economist would pick the perfect place to live. Stephen Leavitt said some of his most important factors — what economists would call “amenities” — were access to golf courses, fast food drive-throughs, and houses with big yards. He didn’t care much about museums and cultural activities, but he could never live in a place without easy access to a golf course. In other words, he was meant to live in the suburbs, and specifically an American-style suburb.

Steve Dubner lives in New York City and said his most important factors were the density of ideas, people, and creativity–and the resulting spillover effect. Without being in a big city where people interact a lot, he wouldn’t get any of that. “I could never live in a place without a good diner,” he added.

In the end, they decided that choosing a place to live was only an economic decision when it came to finding a place with the right amenities: childless couples don’t care about schools, but for parents it may be #1. Otherwise, it’s a decision you make with your heart.

beach living

Most “heart” factors can vary a lot even between couples who are on the same page in most other attitudes and ideals. A place may feel “just perfect” to one of them, while feeling like “a total s#*thole” to the other. As you can imagine, this can be the beginning of the end if they ignore these differences and try to plow forward.

For all these factors, it’s worth taking some quiet time with no distractions to talk them through, maybe even writing down the answers mind-map style. When I’ve asked people what they love about a place, there’s often a mix of head and heart in the answers and the heart ones can end up being really esoteric. Some cite a specific yoga teacher, a local hike they love, or the kind of pottery they use in their kitchen. One left the first place she lived because “the coffee really sucks there. I was annoyed every day.”

For couples, talk out loud when you’re traveling about why a place would be a good place to live and why it wouldn’t. The time to argue about what’s important is before you move, not after.

Then go do a trial run to see if what looked good on paper really pans out in person. More on that later…

Hear how other expats are living a half price life abroad on the Cheap Living Abroad site.

I’ve been dropping hints and links for a while now about my next book, asking you to get on the Cheap Living Abroad newsletter list if you wanted to cut your expenses in half just by changing your address. But now I’m less than a month away from release date. But the book is out now! See the full story here: Cheap Living Abroad site.

Better life moving abroad

The book cover is above, voted on by the newsletter readers as the one they liked best. Here’s the full title and subtitle:

A Better Life for Half the Price: How to prosper on less money in the cheapest places to live.

This will be in e-book form now, in paperback come December 2014. This is not some wimpy short e-book that makes you go, “I paid how much for that?” When it comes out in print it will be some 260 pages long, packed with great general info on moving to another country to cut your expenses in half, as well as specific recommendations where the cost of living is low and the place is foreigner-friendly enough for you to set up residency there. You’ll hear stories and real prices from people already living the dream of a better life for far less money. Even if you skip half of it, the book should save you tens of thousands of dollars.

If you’re just curious and want the book alone, that’s fine.

If you’re beyond the dreaming stage and are starting to put the wheels in motion, the second tier package (“Committed) will includes a private Facebook group, webinar replays, a batch of extra reports, and an insiders newsletter.

The top package (“All In”) includes all that plus live webinars, tailored interviews, conference calls, and personal coaching.

You can see more details on each package on the site.

If you’re not on the notification list yet, check out the full story here.

living abroad

“I’m a ____ from _____ who makes $_____ and I want to move abroad. Where do you suggest?”

I get some variation on this question every week in e-mails and blog post comments, which is a big reason I’m putting out a book in August called A Better Life for Half the Price. It’s about drastically lowering your expenses by moving abroad. (Sign up here to get pre-release updates and post-release tips.) The book will have loads of info on the why and where, while some more comprehensive packages will include worksheets, live webinars, and some personal consulting.

I’m adding that last part to the options, as well as interviews with other expats, because telling you where you should move to is like telling you who will be your perfect mate. Getting anywhere close to the target requires learning a whole lot about you, your wants, your needs, and your ability to deal with change.

Most of all though, it’s about priorities. What’s more important to you than anything? Super-low costs? Perfect (for you) weather? The ability to get by in English? Hot women who will treat you like a stud? Great food? The ability to walk everywhere?

These are just a few things that may be at the top of someone’s list. Then there are other factors that may get pushed to the top whether you’ve thought about them or not.

If you’re gay and don’t want to hide it, Argentina, Mexico, Hungary, and Portugal are great. In Uganda or Nigeria, being gay could put you in jail for a decade or more.

If you are a stoner, there are a good number of cheap countries where the marijuana laws are lax or unenforced. In Malaysia, however, a few joints could get you executed.

If you like a regular glass of wine and to go out on the town for cocktails, Panama, Nicaragua, Hungary, and Cambodia are a dream. Morocco, Ecuador, Turkey, and Ecuador are a nightmare.

living in the tropics

How well will you deal with finding this in your shower?

Then there are the factors that will remove a place from your list. Some people can’t deal with creepy crawlies. Others will remove any place where they can’t drink the water. Some don’t want to live anywhere they have to wear a jacket. You and only you can decide what’s a deal breaker and what’s not.

As with most things in life, doing something worth doing is going to require some time and effort. Some people visit a place for a weekend, pack up and move there, and it turns out fine. In far more cases, a hasty move without any real soul-searching and a trial run turns out to be a bad idea. You can’t get to know the pros and cons of a place on paper without doing a bit of research. You can’t truly know if a place is right for you without spending some real time there being more than a tourist.

There’s lots to love about my adopted home in Mexico, but plenty that could drive someone crazy in a hurry as well. You can say that about pretty much any place in the world. One person’s perfect spot is another person’s “Get me out of here!” Spend some time and spend some money to figure out which is which for you. Unfortunately, there’s no quick answer and no button you can push that will spit out an answer.

But I’m happy to help you get there.