The Cheapest Places to Live in the World – 2018

cheapest places to live Vietnam

Each year I do an updated rundown of the cheapest places to live in the world. If you move abroad from a supposed rich country to any of them on this list, you should be able to cut your expenses in half at the very least. In many cases your expenses will be a third or even a fourth of what they used to be.

For a detailed rundown on how that’s possible, pick up A Better Life for Half the Price or at least sign up for the cheap living abroad monthly e-mail update. There are millions of people who have taken this step, saying goodbye to high living expenses by moving abroad or becoming a digital nomad, flitting between the cheapest places to live.

You have to keep an urban-to-urban or rural-to-rural guideline in place to make the “half price living” comparison something close to apples to apples. If you move from New York City, London, or Singapore to any city in these countries, you’ll see a massive drop in living expenses. If you’re moving from rural Kansas or a tiny town in freezing Manitoba, maybe not so much. You may need to pick a similarly rural area in a foreign land to see a massive drop in living costs. The laws of supply and demand are not confined to our borders: popular Buenos Aires or Panama City is going to cost much more than farm country in a more isolated area. Enclaves popular with expatriates also command higher prices because you’re losing some of the local pricing arbitrage. With so many foreigners settling in a place like San Miguel de Allende, Cuenca, or the Algarve, over time all that money has an effect on real estate and labor costs.

What’s really new this year?

Well the U.S. dollar is a bit weaker, for a start, which is mostly leading to higher prices in Europe. The political climate being what it is in the USA, we could see more deterioration on that front. That would be good news for Canadians, Brits, and Australians though who have seen their own currencies’ value go down against the greenback. Fuel prices are still relatively low though, which is keeping a lid on airfares and keeping some pressure off the greenback. Some destinations I’ve included before have gotten more expensive and dropped off, the most notable one being Argentina. I’ve added a few in the Balkans where prices are low but infrastructure keeps getting better.

Expect to see moving abroad become even more popular than it has been the past. The pace will quicken even more thanks to our deteriorating health care options. As I write this, a new gift-to-the-rich tax reform package is moving toward becoming law and it is openly hostile to self-employed workers, small business owners, and freelancers.  If the homeowner deduction goes away, there’s even less of an incentive to put down roots stateside. In the UK, a separation from the EU is causing another exodus on the other side of the Atlantic. If you escape from either, you won’t be making a move alone.

In terms of visas, the trend seems to be to make things easier in countries that really want your money, harder in ones that are more worried about immigration threats. Go where they want you and it’s far easier.

These rundowns are arranged by region, always beginning with the very cheapest option if money is tight or you want to most bang for your buck.

Cheapest Places to Live in Latin America

I usually start here since the majority of my readers are from the USA and Canada. For us it’s much easier to head south. Airfare is usually reasonable, visa stays are generous, and we can run a business that’s only a few hours off at most from our home time zone. Plus you only need to learn one other language and it’s a doozie. Spanish is the most useful second language out there for travelers.

Nicaragua beach

Nicaragua (Top Choice Overall)

I’m starting with the absolute cheapest option in each region and in the Americas, Nicaragua still has the edge. This is partly because of its relative wealth—or lack of it. If you’re pulling in $2,000 a month here as a couple, you’re in the upper crust of society. So two Social Security checks alone are enough to enable you to lead a very comfortable life in Granada, San Juan del Sur, or Leon, and feel like royalty in smaller towns with fewer gringos. If pressed, a single person could easily live in Nicaragua for less than $750 a month. That’s still more than twice the average monthly salary for a local. You could do it for $500 if you shared a place to live with someone.

Before the recent government protest violence, there were very few sacrifices involved here either. Living in Nicaragua is relatively comfortable if you don’t mind the heat. The roads keep getting better, the wireless internet has wide coverage, and it’s easy to get in and out of the country. Crime was fairly low before the riots and should return to the norm eventually. The proof of income requirement to get residency is less than $1,000 a month and you can get a residency visa as “retired” at age 45 and up. So this is one of the cheapest places to retire if you’re craving warmth.

About the only thing that’s expensive here is the category of “imported goods”—or a vacation to neighboring Costa Rica.  In Nicaragua you can enjoy ridiculously cheap fruit and vegetables, dollar beers, cheap cocktails, and good local coffee. As I write this update though, in July of 2018, you may need to hold off for a while and see how the current crisis plays out.

Honduras

This was once one of the hottest expat destinations in the Americas, especially on the island of Roatan, but the interest has waned the past decade as the country’s two main cities and the Miskito Coast have all gotten more intertwined in the international drug trade. People who live here say the fears are overblown though: if you just get out of the city when you land at the airport—or fly direct to Roatan—you’ve probably got nothing much to worry about. I’ve had no issues the three times I’ve been there either.

If you do look into moving to Honduras, just do more research than you might for other places and spend some time moving around the country to get a feel for things. Know that the Bay Islands (including Roatan and Utila) are going to cost you much more than living on the mainland–though they’re still some of the cheapest islands to live on with Caribbean waters. Still, for a tropical beach lifestyle next to one of the best diving and snorkeling reefs in this hemisphere, the islands here are hard to beat.

Guatemala

The other cheap spot in Central America, Guatemala is a bit higher priced than Nicaragua and, like Honduras, has a deservedly worse crime rate reputation. Prices have also gone up quite a bit the past few years in the most popular expat spot of Antigua, partly because lots more wealthy Guatemalans from the capital are buying property there. If you’re looking for a housing bargain, Antigua is not the place to go.

Lake Atitlan, on the other hand, is still one of the least expensive places to live in the world, especially considering the stunning views. Lake Atitlan is almost 100 miles away from capital of Guatemala, for other distance calculations distances-from.com will help you. Anywhere you go in the countryside is going to be a bargain for rent, food, and services. The average salary for a local is under $600 a month, plus even that is skewed a bit by Guatemala City since a large percentage of the population lives there.

Mexico

When I first bought a little beach house in Mexico on the Gulf Coast and starting spending time there, one U.S. dollar fetched about 11 pesos. The past year the peso has fluctuated between 17 and 20 to the dollar. Sure, that has resulted in some inflation, but overall the prices in pesos for local goods haven’t inched up all that much. So if you get out of the resort areas and into the interior, Mexico is one of the best values in the world for living costs. Food is a steal, taxis and local buses are cheap, and cultural entertainment tickets will often cost you less than $10. Labor costs are still quite low, which translates to affordable rates to have a regular maid. a handyman ($5-$7 per hour), or getting construction work done. You can actually get clothing or appliances fixed here instead of having to throw them out and buy new ones.

Cheapest places to live Mexico

One big advantage to Mexico also is that flights to and from there are usually reasonable, especially from the USA and Canada. You can often get to cities in Mexico for less than what you would pay for a long domestic flight. Check flight prices from your city here.

Be advised that there are big differences according to where you are, however. Los Cabos could cost you as much as you pay in a U.S. coastal city now, plus housing prices get much higher in places where gringos make up a large percentage of the population. On the other hand, Mexico City is one of the cheapest cities to live in around the world if you like big cities. See this article for more: How Cheap is Mexico – Really? 

Ecuador

What’s the retirement capital of South America for foreigners? That would be Cuenca, in Ecuador, where thousands of people from El Norte have migrated south. They’re lured by cheap costs of living, a pleasant climate, and a straightforward residency program that comes with perks for retirees—like deep discounts on flights. Since you only have to show an income of $800 per month to get legal residency, this is a favored country for those who haven’t saved much for retirement or are living on Social Security. As long as you don’t drink too much (imported alcohol is taxed at 100%), then you can easily live on a limited amount. Meals, groceries, transportation, and services are all a bargain otherwise.

Besides Cuenca, people settle down in Vilcabamba (best weather), Cotacachi (small mountain town not far from Quito), the capital city, or beach cities like Manta. Despite being on the equator though, swimming temperatures are cold more than half the year due to patterns of the currents.

Colombia

For a while there, Colombia was the best cost of living bargain in South America for Americans, but we knew it couldn’t last. Their battered currency wasn’t going to stay so low forever. For the past year it hasn’t moved more than 5% up or down from the 3,000 pesos mark against the dollar, which will likely continue. That’s still a good exchange rate against the greenback in historic terms, so lock down a lease or buy now if you’re looking to move to Medellin, Santa Marta, or elsewhere.

You can actually buy a beer, a coffee, or a soda for less than a buck at many restaurants and a filling meal of the day lunch at a simple restaurant is often $5 or less. Rent prices seem like a bargain when you look at averages ($400 to $460 for three bedrooms), but there’s a weird class system in Colombia where neighborhoods are zoned—with prices to match. So what you pay in the best zone, even for electricity, is far higher than a couple notches down. The good news is, getting long-term residency here is usually not a hurdle if you have some patience and Colombia has some of the best inter-city transportation connections on the continent, overland or by air.

cheapest places to live in the world Colombia

Peru

This super-popular vacation destination gets surprisingly few long-term residents from abroad, despite a wide range of areas with pleasant climates and low living costs. This is probably partly because of the difficulty in getting long-term residency, but you get 180 days upon arrival as a tourist. That means you can stay here for close to an entire year by leaving just once for a vacation.

In Peru you can go for sweltering desert heat, cold mountain air, or something temperate in the middle. There’s a wide range of geography and conditions here, with cities like Arequipa, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley towns attracting most of the foreigners not working in cloudy Lima. If you earn four figures a month in this country you’re getting more than twice the average salary, so if you’re roaming around the world running a digital business or living off savings, this would be a nice place to stop off for six months or more.

Also Worth Considering in Latin America

Bolivia doesn’t get many expats and setting up residency can be an exercise in frustration. You’re going to pay a lot for a tourist visa here though, so you might as well make the most of it and stay a while. I would gladly spend three months with Sucre as a base, enjoying the colonial architecture, the cheap prices, and the nearby adventure activities.

Panama keeps getting wealthier and prices keep creeping up, but outside the capital city it’s still a good value retirement destination or a place to run a virtual company. Medical care here is superb and inexpensive, plus there is still a range of incentives for retirees who settle here, with a lot of options for getting permanent residency. Still a good value, just not nearly as cheap as the others mentioned here in Central America.

Cheapest Places to Live in Europe

I’m working on the 5th edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations right now and the Europe section is actually going to be bigger than ever. That’s because I spent weeks researching the Balkan countries this past summer. It was hard to recommend them before because the infrastructure wasn’t there and few people were visiting, but that’s changing fast and they’re a screaming bargain. In any of the countries below except Portugal, a single person could get by on $800 to $1,500 a month, a couple for $1,000 to $2,000 without trying very hard.

Albania (Top Choice Overall)

The cheapest places to live in the world, including Albania in EuropeI’m putting Albania at the top of this list for cheap living in Europe for two reasons: decent weather and a year-long tourist visa. That second part only applies to Americans, but it’s a major incentive for people who don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy of getting residency. You can see more on the cost of living in Albania here, but as for the weather, it’s on the Adriatic Sea above Greece and across from Italy, so it’s sunny and warm much of the year. There are beaches to explore, mountains to hike, and a capital city that’s not too choked with traffic (yet).

Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina

I’m putting these two independent countries together here because they have similar costs and are right next to each other. They’re north of Albania, so can get a bit colder in winter. (Before all hell broke loose in the Balkans, Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics, as Yugoslavia.), Both have spectacular mountains and outdoor adventures, though Bosnia and Herzegovina don’t have the pretty coastline Montenegro does. These two countries are not part of the Schengen agreement, so in theory at least you can stay 90 days, exit the country, then return again with a new visa for another 90 days if you’re from a developed country.

hotel 30 euros bosnia herzogovina

That photo above is my 30-euro hotel in Mostar, from this post on travel prices in Bosnia. I wasn’t scoping out rent prices there, but considering the average wage is less than €500 per month, you could coast pretty well on two social security checks or income from an even mildly successful online business. Numbeo.com says “Rent in Bosnia And Herzegovina is 82.43% lower than in United States (average data for all cities).” For Montenegro it’s 72% lower. Just be advised you’ll probably be in something concrete and blocky in either place. Here’s more on prices in Montenegro.

Bulgaria

Long a favorite for Europeans looking for a cheap place to retire, Bulgaria is clearly one of the cheapest places in the world to buy a house. To put the cheap property prices in perspective, a house can be less than a used Toyota Sedan if you’re willing to live in the countryside. At less than €900 per square meter, even a city apartment is going to be a fraction of what you would probably pay where you live now. You do get serious winters here (it has some of the cheapest skiing in Europe at Borovets and Bansko), but from late spring through autumn it’s glorious and there’s a surprising amount of green space throughout the country.

You can easily find a 3-bedroom apartment or house to rent for under €500 per month, especially outside of the capital of Sofia, plus food and drink prices are a bargain. You can get around cheaply by bus or train. Bulgaria is not part of the Schengen zone, so you can stay longer than three months if you exit and return.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia

These two countries were once one and they share a similar culture and language. Prices are also similar, though you have to remove Prague and Bratislava from the cheap living equation unless you get out of the center. Both are inundated with tourists, the latter because it’s a major river cruise stop. Secondary cities like Bruno and Kosice are going to provide a much better value.

cheapest places to live in Europe Czech

Both countries have good wine, even better beer, and plenty of attractive countrysides to explore. The Czech Republic is one of the best countries in the world for cyclists, with a lot of designated greenways away from traffic. Both have real winters, but good places to ski for cheap as a consolation. Be advised both of these are in the Schengen zone though, so only three months are allowed if you’re not a resident.

Hungary

If you’re looking at moving abroad to get away from a racist, autocratic government, this is probably not the best country to move to right now. Apart from the politics, Hungary has a lot going for it. It’s warmer and sunnier than much of Europe, with a red wine district that’s similar to southern France. Budapest enchants most who visit, but the smaller towns and cities here are quite attractive as well. You can eat and drink for reasonable prices. Rents keep creeping up—especially in Budapest—but in a country where the average salary is still around 600 euros, they can’t go but so high.

Be advised that this is a better stopover country for digital nomads than a permanent one, however. It’s notoriously tough to get residency here if you’re not on a work or study visa. The political leaders here are inherently suspicious of foreigners and openly anti-immigration. Hungary is part of the Schengen zone, so after three months this and 25 other countries are off limits for the next three months.

Romania

With some of the fastest internet speeds on the planet and a welcoming atmosphere for start-ups, it’s surprising that Romania is not a more popular destination for those with a business they can run from the laptop. It’s also one of the prettiest countries in Europe. Yes, it’s cold in the winter and English is not widely spoken outside the tourist areas, but prices for nearly everything are a bargain in Romania. Beer is roughly the same price of a soda when you go out—a shade more than a euro—and you can find a good bottle of wine for a three or four euros in the supermarket. A taxi across town will only be a few dollars and inter-city transportation is also a bargain when you want to explore. Romania is not part of the Schengen zone in Europe.

Portugal castle hotel

Estremoz in Portugal

Portugal

Not the cheapest, but in many ways the most desirable, Portugal is on the short list for a lot of people looking to move abroad. If you’re part of the EU, then moving here is easy, but the future is now murky for the Brits. Americans can get a long-term visa if applying from home and residency eventually, but be prepared for a lengthy bout of paperwork and processes in Portuguese. Most that move here think it was worth it, thanks to sunny weather, good wine for cheap, nice landscapes, and good infrastructure.

You can still find European real estate bargains here and rents are still reasonable outside of Lisbon. While the country is still recovering from financial woes and the euro is stronger than it was in 2016 and ’17, Portugal is still a terrific value. If you’re looking for “safest and cheapest” on your destination list, and don’t need rock bottom prices, start here.

Ready to cut your expenses in half? See the packages for A Better Life for Half the Price

Cheapest Places to Live in Asia

You’ll run into more Europeans, New Zealanders, and Australians in Asia than Americans and Canadians, mostly because of the distance. You’re often in a time zone that’s the complete opposite of where you live now, so it can be tough to do business if you need to actually talk to people in the Americas. The lure is strong in Southeast Asia though, with food so good and inexpensive that many expats don’t even have a kitchen in their apartment. Many of the cities have great nightlife and with so many foreigners living in places like Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Saigon, it only takes a couple weeks to have a dozen new friends. You also have great beaches, distinct cultures, and historic architecture to ogle. In most urban areas and places where tourist congregate, you can get by in English.

You can live on $500 to $1,500 a month in much of Southeast Asia, Nepal, and India, so what’s the catch? Well, there’s high heat, humidity, and mosquitoes that can give you malaria or dengue fever. The main drawback in many countries though is a visa situation that makes it difficult to stay long-term. In the first one below, however, no problem…

Cambodia (Top Choice Overall)

I raved about Cambodia in A Better Life for Half the Price because besides low prices, it is one of the easiest places in the world to stay put for a while as a foreigner. You can buy a business visa for a few hundred bucks that is good for an entire year. With that you can work, start a business, or just be left alone. As long as you stay within the law, you can keep renewing it after that, making this one of the cheapest countries to live and work legally.

This is a very poor country, so keep your expectations in check when it comes to infrastructure and healthcare. It may be the least expensive place to live in Asia for a reason. Most people budget in regular flights to Bangkok for healthcare beyond the routine things. Plus if you want a western-style apartment, you’re going to pay far more than a local living on a few hundred dollars a month. Speaking of dollars, that’s the real currency in use here. You only tend to see the local one in markets and rural areas. This is one of the cheapest places in Asia to party, eat, and get a legit massage, so you’ll be relaxed and happy if you don’t mind the heat.

Nepal trekking mountains view

Nepal

Costs here vie with parts of India as the cheapest in the world, but Nepal loses out to Cambodia because of a tough visa situation, poor infrastructure, and a lack of attractive cities where you can put down roots. The two big ones of Kathmandu and Pokhara are both choked with traffic, overbuilt, and overcrowded. Blackouts are frequent and the internet is iffy in most spots. Beer is taxed heavily and is expensive. But oh those mountains! And look at these prices in Nepal! When I visited there in May, I found prices that were almost the same as the ones in my notes from 20 years ago. There’s been some inflation, but the currency has weakened at the same time, so you can live quite well on what would be poverty level in the USA.

If you’re pulling in $2,000 a month from a remote job or a business, you’re filthy rich by Nepalese standards. That’s 10 times the average salary here and the GDP per capita is less than $800.

India

It’s hard to lump India together into one description since prices vary as widely as they do in other big countries. Living in Mumbai or Bengaluru (Bangalore) could cost you as much as living in San Francisco if you’re in the nicest area, but living in a small city like Shimla or Mysore could cost you 1/5 as much. India overall is quite inexpensive, though you do have to bargain hard for almost everything and the constant negotiation can make it seem like you’re expending a lot of energy just avoiding rip-offs. The country sucks a lot of people in though, despite the chaos and the problems, and there’s nowhere quite like it in the world. If your budget is limited, you can stretch it a long way. One former resident I interviewed for my book said it was easy to coast along on $1,000 per month and “For $1,500 you’re living an amazing life.”

One huge advantage here is the ability now to stay an entire year at a time. This recent change means you can get a 5-year or 10-year multiple entry visa (depending on your nationality) and only have to leave the country once per year. You can come back the next day if you want, instead of having to stay away for months under the old system. You can buy property in India after meeting certain requirements, or you can rent a crash pad in Goa for under $100 a month…

Thailand

Chiang Mai just might get the nod as the cheapest city in the world for ramping up or running an online business. There could be 200,000 of us foreigners in Thailand; there could be three times that many. Nobody really knows how many expatriates/immigrants are living in Thailand at any given time since most of them come in on tourist visas and then play the game to stay as long as they can. The game can get tiring and risky after a while though, so it’s far easier if you’re old enough to qualify for a retirement visa. Otherwise, apply from home to get a longer one to start with. Here’s a rundown on what it’s like living in Thailand, from three different North Americans calling it their home. Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Phuket get most of the expats—especially digital nomads—but those three I interviewed are all elsewhere.

Thai trains

If you’ve ever been there, it’s easy to see why Thailand attracts so many people from other countries. No matter what you’re looking for, you can probably find it here unless you’re looking for winter weather. The country has its problems and with the king recently departed there’s a lot of uncertainty about a political situation that was already tenuous. While they’re figuring it all out though, the party still goes on.

Laos

It’s a bit perplexing that Laos isn’t more popular as a place to live, but those who have done it say the country is kind of stuck in the middle. It’s actually more expensive to live in Laos than in its three neighbors, but with fewer advantages. The country should be really cheap since the salary average is below $250 a month and that doesn’t measure those who are in the underground economy or in a barter system. There are only two real cities though and both have the market disrupting characteristics of tourists and NGOs. Both tend to drive up prices for rentals and restaurants. You could pay as much for rent as you do at home in Vientiane, thanks to all the foreigners on U.S. or European-level salaries.

There’s no retirement visa available here and tourist visas are only good for 30 days upon arrival. You can extend that to 90 though and do a visa run every quarter. Many choose to purchase a business visa with the pretense of running a company, getting a fixer to file the paperwork.

Vietnam

Vendor in old Hanoi, Vietnam walking beside a travelerHot, chaotic, and technically communist, Vietnam attracts a lot of foreigners thanks to its long coastline, interesting food, and very low cost of living. In some ways it’s a better place to base a business than Thailand, with many well-trained tech people who speak English in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Be prepared to adjust to riding a motorbike everywhere though and arriving in a very sweaty shirt. Health care here is better than in Cambodia or Laos, but not up to Thai or Malay standards. The visa situation is easy though, as long as you’re willing to leave the country every three months to get a new one. It’s easy to get a short-term rental that includes a maid and laundry for $350 to $700 per month.

Malaysia

Malaysia is kind of a strange place: a Muslim nation that’s very conservative on the east side, more Chinese and Indian on the west side, with some mountains in the middle. It’s a great country for food, especially in the foreigners’ favorite spot of Penang. The old Portuguese port of Melaka is also popular. Prices here aren’t as cheap as the others in this section, but you get more for your money in terms of infrastructure, with drinkable tap water in many areas and good highways. The long-running My Second Home program offers easy residency to foreigners who are willing to invest in real estate here. Stock up at duty free for booze though; Malaysia has some of the most expensive alcohol prices in Asia.

Indonesia

This country would be high on many peoples’ list if it weren’t for two major downsides: short visa stays and an inability to buy property. You only get 30 days on a tourist visa, which is not even enough time to be a tourist in this nation of spread-out islands. You can stay long-term by employing a host of tricks via a “social visa” that can set you up for six months, but most end up having to fly out of the country every two months to Singapore or Australia in order to renew an already extended visa. No overland option here. If you’re 55 or older it’s a different story though: if you meet the income requirements, spend enough on housing, and hire at least one domestic worker, you can get a retirement visa.

Why go through all this? You could ask the 10,000 or so expatriates in Bali at any given time, but there are hundreds of other lovely places you could settle down in that offer beaches, snorkeling, mountains, or adventure. Once you get out of Bali, this is a country of $2 meals, $2 taxis, and $200 apartments. As with Malaysia though, remember it’s a Muslim country. It’s a relaxed one overall, so you can drink here, but it’s going to cost you what seems like an exorbitant amount by local standards.

Philippines cheapest places to live

A $6 hotel breakfast buffet in Manila.

Philippines

As with Nepal, I found prices here to be about the same as the last time I visited two decades ago when I returned in 2016. The beers were even cheaper–often $1 in a bar. Manila was a little less nasty and the famous Filipino smiles were even wider. This nation of islands is bilingual, with English used in government and many businesses, so you’ll almost never have a problem communicating. If you’re looking for a perfect island shack in the sun (and maybe a new wife to replace the lost one), you’ll find it easy to pull off here. Local salaries are on par with those in many other parts of Southeast Asia, which is partly why you find so many Filipinos working abroad. That keeps a lid on housing prices and food prices though, so you won’t have to spend a lot to live here.

The visa situation here used to be a big hurdle, but now you can pay $320 or so and get a long-term visa good for six months at a time to 16 months total. At that point you need to leave the country and start over, but that gives you a long stretch between without having to fly out. There’s also a retirement visa you can get by putting $10k to $20K in a Philippines bank, depending on your verifiable income level.

Kyrgyzstan

Yeah I know, this is a real wild card, but as I outlined in this post on prices in Kyrgyzstan, this Central Asian country is a real bargain. You’ll have to live through a serious winter here, but there’s a giant lake to swim in during the summer and some of the most spectacular hiking in the world. You’ll probably have to learn some Russian to get by, but Bishkek has to be one of the most chilled-out capital cities in the world. Unlike in most of Central Asia, here you can get a visa on arrival from many countries.

Cheapest Places to Live in the Rest of the World

There are places to move to beyond the Americas, Europe, and Asia, but not so many. Fiji is the cheapest in the region of Australia and New Zealand, and you do get four months on a tourist visa, but it won’t easily give you a half-price life.

The best choices in Africa are Morocco and Egypt, or South Africa when the currency exchange is favorable. In most of the other parts of Africa you’d have to “go native” in order to live for cheap: there’s not much middle ground between basic locals’ digs and the fancy houses occupied by aid workers pocketing a hefty salary. Most expats end up working out a long-term rental in a hotel in places like Togo, Mozambique, Madagascar, or Malawi. There aren’t many of them though. Take out NGO workers and missionaries and there are probably more foreigners settled in Thailand than the entire huge continent of Africa.

Since somebody is inevitably going to fire off a comment that they are already living on $1,500 a month in Newfoundland or Oklahoma, good for you. Yes, you can live for cheaper just by moving to a very rural area in the USA or Canada. You still have to deal with higher prices for healthcare, internet, mobile phone plans, and other services than you would elsewhere, even if you are only paying $200 a month for your trailer park spot. The places here offer a way to cut loose, not cut back. With a healthier, less stressful life.

For more information, get on the monthly cheap living abroad insiders list or pick up a copy of the book A Better Life for Half the Price. There are packages in there with some extra hand holding if you need it. You can also see some of the stories from expats I profiled here

Comments
  1. John Campbell

    Hi Tim,
    Currently living in the U.S., I have been planning & researching for my retirement abroad for almost two years now. I purchased your book about that time as well. I’ve had delays for personal reasons but expect to depart for somewhere by late spring of 2018. By the way, it’s my understanding that Schengen countries like Hungary and Czech Republic only allow 90 day stays within a 180 day period, and that you actually have to leave the Schengen area after 90 days. EU countries that are not part of Schengen, like Romania & Bulgaria also only allow 90 days within any 180 day period, but you don’t have to leave the area. Therefore, for example, you could travel between those two every 90 days, or maybe over to Lviv Ukraine for a little change.

    Now, there are several countries that have been trending high on my short list, like Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Georgia that didn’t make your list, but I believe should be worthy of consideration. All are about as cheap, or in some cases cheaper than many of the others discussed here. Lviv & Chernivtsi in Ukraine, Almaty & Shymkent in Kazakhstan, Batumi & Borjomi in Georgia, all have certain charms and qualities that many potential expats would value. Ukraine is cheap, friendly, with lots of cultural activities in these cities, and 90 day stays. Kazakhstan is cheap, beautiful county side with 30 day stays, but simple border runs can suffice indefinitely. Georgia is a cheap, beautiful country with mountains (and Black sea beaches in Batumi) friendly, safe, and offer one year hassle free stays without a visa. From what I’ve seen and read from bloggers, FB groups, articles, expat sites, and comments from those staying in these places, they all certainly tick a lot of boxes for many folks.

    Also, interestingly enough, a friend of mine that I met while researching and who is also moving abroad, has recently made the decision to stay in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan for a month this January, and then will be moving onto his new place in Almaty Kazakhstan when it’s ready in February. As for myself, at this moment, I’m actually leaning toward Borjomi Georgia, possibly sometime in late May, but I still have time for further research. Btw, I also considered Albania, for their one year stay policy, cheap cost of living, etc, but outside the two or three larger cities, it’s a little too rustic, and the climate is just too hot for me, as I’m one of those folks that especially appreciates cooler weather.

    Finally, I did very much appreciate your book, and it definitely gave me a lot of good info to begin my search way back when I had no idea where to even get started for what would be a very big decision. I also tend to agree about Portugal. For anyone that cost is not a top priority, most of the would-be expats could save themselves a lot of time and research by just go to amazing Portugal. It’s first world living in every way, including health care, and you won’t have to make any sacrifices to retire there!

    • Lucy

      I’ve lived in 3 other countries besides the US in my life and can tell you that even with similar language and roots, the culture shock can be significant. If you’re heading towards Eastern Europe, you have to navigate in countries where you don’t speak the language and probably can’t fake it like you can with Spanish. I once took the Orient Express and once I got to the Baltic nations, I had to turn around. People stared at me everywhere I went and none of the signs were in English anymore. I was lucky to find someone in a ticket booth who understood enough English to sell me a ticket back where I came from. They do business differently too. Be very wary of signing any kind of contract in a language you don’t understand as you have no idea what you’re agreeing to. If you unwittingly break their laws, the consequences can be severe. Be very careful where you relocate to.

    • Mark

      Ukraine cheaper than every country on this list, and higher quality food

      • Tim Leffel

        For some things yes, some things no. Readers haven’t expressed much interest in that country (for travel or living) and I haven’t been there yet. Hoping to get there in the future and report back.

  2. Wade K.

    I second everything John wrote. He’s spot on. Probably the best value destination anywhere is Ukraine, but you have to figure out how to stay there long term. And love winter. The overall lifestyle winner would definitely be Portugal. And I’d consider the highlands of Colombia if I could see proof that their security situation is much better, and that their internet is fast and stable. Right now the best compromise of very low costs, ease of staying, excellent food, safety, beautiful scenery, hospitable people would be Georgia. Fiber optic internet there too.

    • Pølle

      Correct. Non English speaking countries do not make signs in English, they write them in the local language. Oh my god what a horror. Everybody lucked out that you turned around. And never sign anything you dont understand. Language or not,. Duh. Dont travel its dangerous.

  3. Dana

    I am glad to find Romania on the list. It is a fascinating country, with lots to see and lots to do. This small country was called “the best kept secret in Europe”. For the Western people, prices are more than affordable, especially if you leave the big cities and travel inside the country. The traditions are very much at home and the traveler will discover hidden gems and the joy of slow living.

  4. island hopping

    I was thinking about moving to Latin America, but also Czech Republic is quite appealing to me.

  5. Annie Soul

    Hi, I think that perhaps Africa does need a little more consideration, you can live fairly cheaply in Nairobi, Zanzibar and Maputo, without having to ‘go native’, (which isn’t a term I find particularly politically correct). I hope that there would be some consideration for 2019 :) Thanks for the info!

    • Tim Leffel

      Annie, If you can do a guest post on how to live as comfortably as you would in Southeast Asia or Central America for the same price in Africa—and have good enough power/internet to run an online business—I’d be glad to run it on here! I’ve been making that offer for years with no takers.

      • Frank Carpenter

        This is sort of off the subject you are speaking on….when did the Philippines change to 16 months you must leave and come back for another 16 months? It was 36 months when Aquino was in office…what happen Duterte change it to 16 months?

    • Josie

      Costs in Africa are higher than you’d expect for a whole lot of things including good food and a clean place to live – especially outside the big polluted cities. Most renters are NGO workers with an expense account. Internet costs are some of the highest in the world: https://howmuch.net/articles/cost-of-broadband-internet

  6. Izy Berry

    Budapest sounds like a really good place to move to!

  7. ventsi

    Many thanks to Tim for the very useful and interesting articles.
    I live in Bulgaria – one of the countries mentioned above.
    When I was thinking about the situation in my country in the last months, the word “hostile” came to my mind several times (in his last newsletter Tim used the same word for his country: “If you’re not rich, the USA is becoming a hostile place”).
    Political corruption, lack of justice, unhappy (gloomy) faces everywhere …
    What is said above is true: the houses in the countryside are really cheap, even for local people (I can also afford one). This is mainly due to 3 factors: mass migration abroad in the last 28 years (more than 20 % of the population), concentration of the economy (and hence – of the population) in the big cities (mainly the capital), and natural depopulation (the death-rate is much higher than the birth-rate; mostly old people remain to live in the villages).
    However, the infrastructure in the smaller villages is sometimes terrible. Almost no transport (you MUST have a car).
    The abandoned villages (with less than 20 or 50 inhabitants) very often do not have even shops, so you must go to groceries in neighboring villages or towns.
    The electricity and water supply is unreliable. If some incidents occur, it can take a long time till the repairs are done.
    The gypsies regularly rob houses which are not inhabited for long periods of time, etc. Several cases were reported when they killed old pensioners for pennies, or raped them.
    The winters in Sofia (the capital, where I live) are nasty – cold, pollution (the concentration of fine particulate matter (PM) particles is sometimes 6-8 times above the admissible norms) , often with fog and smoke, … Only masochists can prefer to spend the winter here, if they are not forced (by job, etc.) to do so.
    You’d better choose some smaller towns, like Veliko Tarnovo, etc. Search well in advance. If you have questions, ask
    Many British were very enthusiastic to buy houses in the villages here in the last 20 years, but recently left. They saw that it is not exactly a paradise.
    I apologize for the negative and pessimistic (more than adequate) viewpoint, but this is what I see as a local resident. Judging from the comments on Internet forums, many other people think the same. Many people feel depressed and desperate.
    In general, I do not feel happy here. I am thinking about moving to South-East Asia (at least temporarily), and in this regard these articles are very helpful.

    In general, 2017 was a bad year everywhere:
    https://apnews.com/ed59d05a417a471a98f38c715dd2db0b

    • Frank Carpenter

      I will safely assume that the gloomy faces are the offspring of the US government NOT listening to the people and always lying to the people. And I did hear a moderate amount of people complaining about the Hollywood movie moguls AND the white women in a lot of cities actively engaging in “white genocide”. Not being a racist but from what I saw when I went back there are the things listed above. Sorry if you are offended. Cheers!

  8. E. Kneller

    Budapest is a gorgeous city and the people are lovely. The entire country is nice. It is only considered anti-immigration by some as they are trying to keep out the problems and issues that are plaguing many parts of europe and now coming to north america. Safety and maintaining one’s cultural norms does not equate a racist country. Highly recommend this country for food, wine, living standards, the people and the lovely culture!

  9. Wade K.

    Numbeo is an excellent resource for finding current cost of living. You may be surprised to find that once very cheap places to live are no longer the bargain they once were. Ecuador for example. They started using the U.S. Dollar as their currency and while still a reasonably priced country they’re more expensive than Eastern European countries. Seems only Mexico, Colombia and Paraguay can truly be classified as cheap in Latin America unless you choose to live in a small town with very limited infrastructure and amenities. The other consideration is the ease with which you can stay long term. This is an American centric blog so you will find that some countries make it relatively painless to get residency. Others, like Georgia, allow you to stay a year without red tape and high fees and renewing is as easy as crossing the border then returning. If being in a particular country matters to you and you don’t mind the bureaucracy then great. I want to be where they make it as easy as possible to stay and that country has qualities that make me want to stay. Scenery, food, hospitality, internet, safety, affordability and limited hassle on staying long-term is what matters to me. What matters to you?

    • Tim Leffel

      You’ve chimed in a few times about Georgia, so we get it, but that doesn’t mean Ecuador is not a bargain. I’ve got friends living very well there for less than I spend in Mexico except for booze. It’s still a great value.

      • Wade K.

        Ecuador is about 40% less expensive than the U.S., not counting rent. Rent is 70% lower. So yes it’s a good deal cost of living wise, but not the bargain it once was and there are better deals out there. There are places with better infrastructure, cheaper flights to, better food, better safety, more English usage and yet cheaper. I mentioned Georgia because it’s all the above and I’m surprised with all it has to offer and that you can stay a year with no red tape hassle that you haven’t discovered it yet. You did alert us to Albania and Kyrgyzstan(I’m heading to Kazakhstan in February). And that’s the thing, nothing stays static. There’s relentless promotion of places like Ecuador so it’s no surprise it’s gotten more expensive. So for those on a tight budget it’s worth their while to explore alternatives. Look at Batumi, Georgia and show me a comparable coastal city in Ecuador.

        • James

          I live in Ecuador and pay roughly 1/3 what I did living in a city about the same size in the USA. You can find a full 3-course meal in a restaurant for three dollars and I just paid $2.50 for a haircut. My rent is $400 a month. Don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $200 in a month on health care. I get a big discount on flights, whether in or out of the country. The only things that cost the same or more as before are electronics, gas, and–as you mentioned–imported alcohol (highly taxed.)

          • Wade K.

            But what about non-retirees who don’t get flight discounts? What about younger adults who depend on a solid internet connection to work remotely? Peruvian cuisine is well known, what about Ecuadorian? What about crime and safety? And it’s known for earthquakes. If it works for you great. But there are other places as cheap with better infrastructure.

        • rilme

          Batumi ბათუმი Georgia
          Batumi weather
          Drizzle · 11°C

          Stimmt! Difficult to match that on the coast of Ecuador.

          • Wade K.

            If it’s only about the weather and you prefer 90’s Farenheit to 50 then Ecuador is for you. If you like fast, stable internet, great infrastructure, great cuisine, much safer environment, much higher English usage, take a look at Georgia. And if you love beaches consider Albania.

  10. Stephen

    Great list here. We lived in Romania for a month last year and can’t really think of any negatives. Great internet, low prices, friendly people, and cool stuff to see around the country. And four seasons, too, in case you were looking for that.

    • John Campbell

      Stephen, you are 100% correct, as Romania was the first place to impress me for all of those reasons you’ve listed. But, that said, there is a problem for those expats, especially outside the EU that want to settle there. The process can be time consuming, expensive and frustrating with the red tape and bureaucracy involved. You’ll need a local accountant and attorney, as the easiest path to acquiring a residency visa is through establishing a business, at least on paper. If interested, an American named Kevin moved his family to Brasov just over a year ago, and his story including some of the difficulties and setbacks are posted in an article over on the Romaniaexperience.com site.

  11. Serge Lacroix

    I bought your book and am happy to follow you on the web.Very good work Tim. You are right about the wages in Canada.
    Still, I would like to highlight that the healthcare system is universal and quite good. I used it a few times. I have to add that education up to college level is almost free for the residents. University tution is not even close to what we see in the States.

    • Tim Leffel

      True on both counts Serge. Half of us in the USA would gladly take that system any day, but the big corporate donors to congress don’t have any intention of giving up their high margins, unfortunately.

  12. Subir Banerjee

    I know Kolkata [previous Calcutta] is the cheapest place on earth to live !!! yes you can live in your own apartment by paying monthly rent of US$ 50 onwards per month.
    Domestic helper for help you to cook, washing your clothes, cleaning your apartment. Utensil in kitchen. etc. for two times a day US$ 35 per month. Shopping for fish, meat, vegetables milk, egg, bread etc. US$ 100 per month for two persons !!! unlimited internet per year > US$200. furnished apartment will be best where you can get water purifier, and other appliances also. Car rent > for 10 hours or 100 kms @ US$30 or US$ 3 per km which ever is high.
    I can challenge > You can contact me > Subir Banerjee > email ID: milyban@ymail.com
    mobile: 00 91 9874250236

  13. Richard Hab

    Cambodia is currently the cheapest in Asia and setting up a business there is incredibly easy. Open up a snack bar, restaurant, coffee shop, English school, tourist style small hotel, import or export business, there really aren’t any limitations. The internet is fast, reliable and cheap. Housing costs are really low and its possible to rent a good secure apartment at very low costs. The people are friendly and honest. Entry visa laws are very easy and flexible.
    The country is poised to start climbing as the investment is starting to flow into Cambodia, to go in there now will be easy, in years to come it will be more pricey.

    • Kim Mason

      Hi Richard

      I would love to know more about your experience of living in Cambodia and where exactly you are living.

      We are originally from the UK and living in Florida. We have our own businesses here. I would really like to connect with you to know more.

      Thank you.
      Kim

  14. Jim

    Great article.. I was looking into Nicaragua a few years back then I switched to Ecuador but now you have me leaning to Nicaragua again. Really what I am looking for is a modest home on the beach… or my own island.. LOL

    Thanks for the great info
    Jim
    Victurus Libertas LLC

    • Simon

      I can recommend you Ukraine.If you are english speaker stay in Lviv or Western Part as they hate speak russian.I learn russian in school 20 years ago so its easierfor me to communicate in russian in Southern or Eastern part in Ukraine.Ukrainian language is very similar to polish.

      Lviv is cheap ,english speaking city.

      I traveled with a car from Manchester to Ukraine.took 4 days.Dental work crown-$150,filling$ 15-20,bridge $100 30 min massage in hospital 2$ in cash
      Bear-0.80$ in bar,i using pounds,so it was 40 grivinas for a pound so i can buy 4 bottles of lager in shop,or 2 pints in average pub.Cigaretes like West,Monte Carlo $8 for the whole carton 200,bottle of vodka $ 1.50 for 0.5 litre.Bargain.

      My friend done whole american smile all with porcelian implants,dental surgeon involved,whole job $3000.When i stay in Ivano Frankivsk paid $5 for 1 bedroom flat,normally flats costs 180-200 grivinas/night to rent per month 1 bedroom flat $90-100 + bills

      Moldova got more expensive.Ukraine is paradise.Been in Georgia this september paid 4 euros for a room in Kobuleti,3 euros for hotel in Ureki,hotel name BUBA 30 metres from the sea,was outside of the season but still +28-30 degree.

      Lithuania is not cheap anymore,prices the same as in Manchester,much cheaper than in London.If you rent a room in homestay in Ukraine you pay $ 2-3 /night

  15. Traog

    Wow, this is an amazing list of travelling in 2018. Thanks for sharing this with us.
    Best of Luck.
    Cheers
    Sunil

  16. Joe

    A note regarding Cambodia where I currently reside. As of September 2017 the visa policies have changed and you can no longer just buy a one year visa for $285 as was the case previously.

    • Tim Leffel

      Can you provide any link for us? I heard from a reader last month who just got one in December, so I’d love to see something official if it exists.

  17. Josh

    RE. Cambodia, I’ve been assured by a local handling visa applications and an expat mod on a forum that if you are 55 & over you can apply for a retirement visa with your age as the only proof required (you just can’t be working in the country obviously, even if self-employed. This can be extended year on year.

  18. Dean

    The new life now is to be a nomadic van-dweller in the USA, boon docking and stealth camping, in other words living rent-free! After more than two years of living abroad, I returned to the USA with Latin cultural fatigue and am glad to be back and living free! I have lived in or visited 11 Latin countries.
    I may start to leave just for two or three months of the year to avoid the cold. Life is cheaper in the USA!

    • Tim Leffel

      As long as you don’t need health care or a bathroom, or a regular shower, it can be cheap anywhere to live in a van.

    • Lucy

      Theft is rampant in Romania due to the Roma who have lived there for hundreds of years. They believe God gave them the earth and that everything belongs to them already.

  19. Corina

    Hi Tim,
    Turkey isn’t on your list. Just wondering what your thoughts are on living there in 2018.
    Or whether you have any insights from people living there at the moment?
    Thank you
    Corina

    • Tim Leffel

      For part of last year Americans couldn’t even travel there as tourists and the country has turned into a dictatorship with no free press and the routine rounding up and jailing of anyone who doesn’t agree with the king. So I can’t endorse even going there at this point, much less putting down roots. It’s a shame–I used to live there—but it’s a different Turkey now.

  20. Levi Halperin

    Hi Tim. I’ve been looking into traveling to Georgia. From what I’ve seen it’s a beautiful place that is very inexpensive. Looking at prices there it seems cheaper than some places you included on your list. Is there a reason you didn’t list it as one of the cheapest places or have you just never been there? Cause if there’s a good reason it didn’t make the cut it would be good to know.

    • John Campbell

      Hi Levi,
      Not to intrude here, but I saw your post and thought I’d share a few things. I have been researching a number of countries for almost two years, planning to leave this fall and become an expat somewhere.

      After much consideration, I’ve decided on Georgia for a number of reasons, including (as you may already know) very low cost of living, friendly locals, beautiful beaches (Batumi) and mountains, great food, and of course, ease of staying, with one year granted upon arrival, no visa needed, and simple border runs to extend indefinitely. Being able to avoid the red tape, bureaucracy, and expense of long term stays in many other countries, this is a huge advantage for would be expats. There are articles you can google, YT videos that show much of the country and things to do there you should check out.

      Also, there is a FB group you have to join to exchange info or see posts, but is invaluable for those thinking of moving to Georgia. It has many expats who are currently there or have lived there and you can learn much from them and their experiences. It’s called , “Georgian Wanderers”, so good luck and here is a link for you to find out more:
      https://m.facebook.com/groups/178816092135810

  21. imomoh gloria

    Hi Tim, thanks for the write up, i am Nigerian and i would love to know which one of the above mentioned countries is cheap for a master’s degree program as i am on a tight budget. I have been surfing the internet for days now, and i can’t seem to find a country that suits my needs. i do not mind a bit of heat and cold as some parts of Nigeria are sometimes extremely hot or cold, maybe not as much as it outside of the coutry.
    Thanks.
    Gloria.

    • Tim Leffel

      I haven’t done any research on higher education abroad, sorry. If I were in your shoes I would do it remotely. Then you could go to just about any university in the world.

  22. Mr Ed

    Just a comment about Schengen countries: a Schengen Visa only lasts 90 days, but a country that is in Schengen is allowed to offer a longer visitor visa for that country. Most don’t but some do. So for example IF Sweden gives a 180-day visa to someone from your country, you could stay 6 months in Sweden. Or 3 months elsewhere in Schengen followed by 3 months in Sweden (but not the other way round because when you land in Sweden’, the clock starts for your Schengen Visa). Research your own case if you need to.

    • Tim Leffel

      True, but you have to do some digging. Some (like Denmark) don’t offer this option at all. Others (like Spain and Portugal) are welcoming if you go through the right steps. Fortunately, most of the cheapest places to live aren’t part of the scheme.

  23. Mark G

    I’m a big fan of Spain and Portugal. There are some deals in both countries if you know where to look. And, in the case of Portugal, it’s fairly easy to move there if you have a bit of money and you don’t mind leaving a chunk in a bank account for a time. And besides this, the people are lovely and the weather is nice for most of the year.

  24. Robert Hollowayt

    Tim,
    Since we talked, things are getting easier for us in Thailand for our visas and for working in Thailand as well.

    The government is now releasing a list of several professions that cannot be easily filled here in Thailand and are now offering work visas more easily for those professions that will be listed.

    Second issue is that our retirement extensions are becoming easier to renew and our 90 days visas can now be verified online, on a government website, at our local 7-11 corner stores or at our local immigration offices. My last two visits there have taken about 10-15 minutes here in Hua Hin, and they even opened up a new office in our Blue Port Shopping Mall for even more convenience. IT seems immigration is getting more straight forward and easing the qualifications with a new 10 year “super visa” for investors and some other categories now. There should be some new regulations that are verifiable coming out soon.

    The coup government has announced the return of democratic voting will take place this year, but then came back and said it will be delayed 90 days more so probably will happen early 2019 if not sooner. Freedom folks are challenging this decision so who knows how it will settle out…

    I just rented a new 3 br 2 ba furnished house in an exclusive housing group…$825 per month…really a lavish place, with beautiful pool and well maintained 7 hours development…

    That’s all for now…

    Robert

    • Tim Leffel

      Thanks so much for all this Robert. I’m going to add it as an update to the post I interviewed you for originally on here.

      • James orrell

        I’m a 38 year old male with brain cancer I make approximately $915 a month on my disability any chance you can give me any insight to moving out of the country on what I make a month to enjoy the 5 or 10 years I got left with no doctors and no meds Etc I just want to go somewhere beautiful and cheap to live and enjoy the days I have left and I guess I’m going to need to be close to the ATM once a month if that’s possible

        • Tim Leffel

          James, if you’ve got money to fly to Asia, Cambodia would be the best bet. Otherwise Nicaragua in this part of the world you could easily get by on that and qualify for residency. Guatemala would be another option.

    • Ryan

      Hi Robert,

      Is there any way I could contact you directly with questions about your time in Thailand? I’m considering moving my family there, and would love to speak with someone who has recent/up to date experiences.

      Thanks

    • Vicky

      Hi Robert

      My husband ,myself and 2 kids (8 and 15) are looking at moving to Thailand, your accommodation is very cheap would you mind telling me a bit more about the area as well as where you stay as I have not been able to find any accommodation at that Price, also what would be your average monthly expesnsr

  25. Liam

    Thanks for compiling all this handy info. It inspired me to click on a few of the flights ads on the page!

  26. Steve H

    I’ve spent the last 10 days in Chiang Mai and Pai and have to say, the cost increases have been alarming – but with business everywhere booming it’s hard to be surprised.

    Less than 5 years ago – May 2013, I got a set breakfast at a ‘downtown’ Pai restaurant for 80 THB. Today, it is 180 THB with a worse USD exchange rate.

    A lovely resort in the mountains outside of Pai cost me almost double what it did 5 years ago, and that was forgoing daily maid service to get a good value.

    Here in Chiang Mai as I write this, we’re paying 1350 THB for a place that was roughly 800 THB 5 years ago.

    There are still values to be had at restaurants off the beaten path (found a few good ones), and low-end hostels/guesthouses (not worth the cost savings IMO) – but I can’t imagine prices won’t continue to rise in northwestern Thailand.

    I do love it here in the northwest, though. I was in Phuket 1.5 years ago and did not like it at all. I was in Krabi/Ao Nang 3 years ago and found it considerably better, more beautiful, and modestly less expensive than Phuket – but still less desirable to me than northwestern and northeastern Thailand.

    On my way to Udon Thani and Sakon Nakhon province tonight, where I hear prices for the most part have remained stable – we’ll see. Northeastern Thailand is where I tend to encounter the least amount of tourists and even though I find it largely ‘no-frills’, I love it for that.

  27. Urbano

    Anyone have any experience with living (and cost of living) in Sri Lanka?

    • Jay Smith

      I would like to know that too…..My understanding it’s very safe, but not cheap….NO??

    • Robert L

      I have visited Sri Lanka three times with an eye toward retirement there. It is one of the most welcoming countries in the world both for tourists and for expatriate residents. The locals are extremely friendly and hardworking. There is little of the hassle found in some other Asian countries; I call Sri Lanka the California of Asia for its laidback lifestyle—except there are no unfortunate, homeless people in Sri Lanka as there are in California.

      Sri Lanka’s ‘My Dream Home’ visa program is straightforward and requires little monetary investment compared to some other countries’ programs (like Malaysia My Second Home). Few Americans venture to the other side of the world, but they are just as welcome as the many Europeans who enjoy cool mountains, tropical beaches, rich cultural history, and (perhaps most of all) an extraordinarily delicious cuisine that is curiously unknown outside the country. Colombo is well connected by air to destinations throughout the region (splurge in Maldives or meditate in India) as well as multiple Asian and European capitals. Basically, Sri Lanka is a country that can please anyone and everyone. For those who want to see elephants, leopards, and other wildlife as part of their lives, areas near the national parks are also attractive.

      As in other countries, emulating an insulate, Western lifestyle can be expensive, but living locally is not at all. An ideal mix makes for a satisfying lifestyle. Real estate rentals and purchase prices vary greatly, depending on proximity to expensive areas, though the excellent highway between Colombo and Matara gives a lot of choice between these two cities with easy access to the capital and its airport. As for food, it is ridiculously cheap to buy in the market. Restaurants are the same as real estate; a chic restaurant will cost the same as in a major American/European city, but a local buffet with good food can cost one US dollar.

      Here is the link to the My Dream Home program:
      http://www.immigration.gov.lk/web/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=156&Itemid=199&lang=en

  28. Jay Smith

    Thanks for the information.
    I have a couple of questions……

    I’m in my late 50″s living off a couple of rentals in the US. Went to Malta for a couple of weeks in 2016 and stayed for 9 months, never had trouble with my 3 month allowable stay because I used Malta as my home base. It’s so easy to travel in Europe once you get there….I went allover Europe so cheap unlike flying in the US.
    Anyway, now I want to go for a couple of years since I enjoyed my time in Malta so much. I’m thinking Spain or Nicaragua. Although, I’ve been to Nicaragua in 2016, most American men (mid life crisis) are there to pick up a young (I mean teens) Nicaraguan women, I found it repulsive compared to the European vibe. Do you agree?
    So for females, traveling solo, what are your top 5 destinations after telling you a little about myself?
    Looking at the current US dollar, it seems my list is narrowing down to….Croatia, Spain, Columbia, Mexico (scares me) and I understand the Euro continues to rise vs what it was when I was in Malta before/election/aftermath of Trump.(trying to stay away from the Euro as of now)
    Hope you can help and I understand lifestyle varies, I will adjust according to my income. But, safe and walkable (without car) are my best options. Not sure why I am afraid of Malaysia but always on everyone’s list….HELP!!!!
    Thanks :)

  29. Michelle

    I’m a single mother of a daughter. Curious as to the safety of some of these regions for us traveling/living alone? We have about $1500 monthly, and I’d like to offer my daughter a good education.

    • Tim Leffel

      Have you read the book yet Michelle? Lots of answers there. It’s not a simple question.

  30. Dan

    Hello, I would like to know more about living in Sri Lanka, cost of living, Visa’a etc….. anybody out there to give me an insight ? Thanks !

  31. Pei Yamda

    Hi, I am also considering Georgia…but I’ve read that the air quality in Georgia is not that good..here’s an excerpt of what I’ve read:
    ” not sure about the Abu Dhabi’s air quality, but any city in Georgia and Tbilisi in particular has pretty bad smog. The city is located in the valley and there is not much movement of the air, plus all the cars I encountered have their catalytic converters removed, oh and they use leaded gas :(“

  32. Craig

    How is the internet in Nicaragua and Ecuador? Can anyone provide any insight? Is it expensive?

    • Tim Leffel

      Best resources for these kinds of specific questions are expat message boards in the countries themselves. Like this:
      http://www.expat.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=439928

      • Craig

        Thank you, Tim!

    • Lucy

      While I’ve never lived in either country, I’ve read articles about theft and gun violence in those countries. There is a very large American expatriot group in Cuenca, Ecuador so there must be something to to the place. It is at a high altitude, so you’d have to adjust to that. I also read the cost of living is about half what it is in the states.

  33. Jason

    Hi Tim,

    I am not an experienced traveler. Something I hope to change
    one day. I will likely be traveling solo, part of the reason I’ve held
    back is finances, but also fear of traveling alone. I’m not going
    to let that hold me back anymore. I’m not big on too hot or too
    cold weather and the less complicated the better. I am also thinking
    ahead about retirement. I will prob get no more than $800-
    $1,000 from social security. I wonder if there is anyway I
    can look to get an idea? Anyway’s, I will definitely be buying
    your book sometime soon. Shame about Turkey, that was one
    of the places I was interested in. I love history, there is GREAT
    history there. Bulgaria is top of my list atm. I had considered
    the Philippines. But it might be too hot for me and I worry
    about the mosquito’s and getting malaria or dengue fever.
    Places with less of a language barrier is also a plus. I was
    wondering about Iceland, they have a good economy and
    it’s always been on my list as one of the places I would like
    to visit.

    Ty for you time! :-)

  34. David Smith

    Hi Tim and hello to your followers. have a good one for you I had cancer lost my vocal cords I make 1,280 a month from social security I was wondering the cheapest and easiest p lace to buy a house and how hard it will be to get permanent resiency for me and My Russin fiance and her 14 year old daughter and my 110 lb spoiled big baby Rottweiler Savior she is sweet even the mail man loves her and brings her trats LOL If no good options then I will have to resort to renting a house as I want to live outside the cities. Near woods or ocean Thanks for your time and help and thanks to your followers. Davi and Savior

  35. Kerrod

    Hi Time and hello to everyone. I just wanted to say thank you for the article. It was such a fantastic read and really makes me consider going somewhere and living the rest of my life out somewhere new. It would be great if you had an article about dealing with the anxiety of packing up your life and how to overcome some of those burdens.

  36. Lola

    Hi Tim,
    Just wanted to say thank you for your valuable blog. I enjoyed reading this article and also the comments from your followers. Here my contribution: we have been living in Africa for the last 3 years, and I agree that is not a cheap place to live. We were living in Ghana, West Africa, where renting a house or apartment well located costs from USD 3600 per month or more. Groceries are also expensive as most of the products are imported from Europe. The internet is never good, and electricity shortage is a constant. We are in Tanzania now, East Africa, which is cheaper and cleaner than Ghana. We are renting an apartment in front of a Bay for USD 2000, internet works well and few electricity shortage so far. Food and drink are also cheaper on this side of Africa. Now looking for a place where we can stay for at least 6 months. I’m from Argentina, where I have grown. I migrated to Australia in 2013. Both countries are expensive so might be getting some advice from your list to plan our next move. Can’t wait to read your next post! Cheers! Lola

  37. John Harding

    I will talk about Thailand sense I have lived here sense 2004.
    I started out in Chiangmai, it was very nice and inexpensive and not many foreigners.
    The dollar to the Baht exchange was 0ne for forty three very nice, it made everything cheap, and a nice life style.
    Now the exchange is one dollar for thirty one Baht, big difference, plus many, many foreigners living here driving rental prices up.
    What you could live on for one thousand five hundred US dollars in 2004-2008, now would cost you over two thousand US dollars a month to live the same life style.
    Do not move to chiangmai Thailand or any large city in Thailand with a lot of forieners with less than two thousand dollars a month or to Issan, Thailand where I live now with less than fifteen hundred US dollars a month.
    If you do, will will only be exsisting not living.
    I would look at the Pilippines where you have a 1-52 pesso exchange rate.

    • Tim Leffel

      “What you could live on for one thousand five hundred US dollars in 2004-2008, now would cost you over two thousand US dollars a month to live the same life style.” That’s called “inflation.” If prices didn’t go up that much since 2008, it would be the sign of a declining economy.

      But there are thousands of foreigners living there right now for less than $1,500 a month. Lots of detailed reports online from bloggers if you Google it.

  38. Ikrom Muminov

    Hello Everyone,

    You might want to look at Uzbekistan too. Can’t say life is very cheap but food is, and a very quality one, friendly people. Get a business visa and you are good to go. You CAN buy a property. Security is very good

  39. David Tarus

    This is an edit to the above post.
    ^The writer of this article has done a good research about all regions of the world except Africa. However backward Africa may be, the two sentence summary is an unfortunate ommision. This goes to show how shallow is knowledge of Africa is. I invite him and others like him to make a bold step of faith to visit Africa and thereafter write a more inclusive article that objectively compares all the regions of the world.^

    • Tim Leffel

      I have interviewed dozens of Africa travel experts and expats trying to find bargains there, but haven’t had any luck. If you know of a country there besides Morocco or Egypt that has budget traveler prices on par with Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central America, I’d be glad to run a detailed guest post from you.

  40. Warren

    Hi All
    Just thought I `ll share some insight of cost of living in Cape Town, South Africa as a resident. 3 bed room house in Middle Class area will cost +- 170 000 US Dollar, 2 bed Apartment in secure complex +- 120 000 US, utilities and basics needs +-2 500 US. English is widely spoken. fairly good infrastructure. SO IF HOUSE PAID UP YOU CAN LIVE A COMFORTABLE MIDDLE CLASS LIFE WITH 2500 US DOLLARS.

    • Tim Leffel

      Costs there vary drastically depending on the exchange rate. It bounces up and down wildly. Some years a great bargain, others it becomes the most expensive spot in Africa.

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