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 (Cheapest, but not a good place to go now)

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.

Things are a mess in Nicaragua now though. Before the recent government protest violence, this was one of the cheapest and easiest places to live in the Americas as a retiree or digital nomad. 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.

As I update this report on where to live abroad in September of 2018, however, 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 most affordable 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, coca plant valleys, 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). If you think the best place to live in the world is Europe, this cheap country may check off a lot of your boxes.

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 best country to live in for wine and sunshine lovers, 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. It may be possible that more people have read The 4 Hour Work Week than the bible. 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. Despite its popularity, this is still one of the most affordable places to live in Asia.

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 affordable 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 though, 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. David Smith

    Hello once again to you Tim and your followers I have read a lot of you remarks and your followers. I talk to friends in Ukraine and they say life there is very difficult the economy has gone and left. My fiance refuses to move there because of Putin. My friends say she is being scared for nothing Ukranian people understand it is not the citizen that started things. Georgia has struck a nice taste for my desires woods and ocean and affordable. I had a home almost bought for to start paying and backed out from what I have read about the Gypsies and services. And their imigration policies The real estate guy says he doesn’t know anything about the garbage of Gypsies I am sure he doesn’t while he goes skiing LOL. I am going to check out Sri Lanka and a few other places your readers have offered. Love your site and love your followers and the people who put the truth in your face. Thank you Tim and Thank you followers and People who add more than thir two cents David and my united nations crew German Rottweiler Russian fiance and Daughter who loves animals like us. And me an American. Take care evryone thank you for your opinions

  2. Siphiwe

    What are the best places for an American fleeing America as a refugee seeking political asylum?

    • Tim Leffel

      Unlike the USA, most countries are happy to have you if you have the means to support yourself and no criminal record. No asylum needed.

  3. Miranda Whyte

    Thank you for your opinions on where are the cheapest place to live.
    It is very nice to live to live in a place that don’t cost too much for a living but you must first to the background of the place you want to live and also the people living in it. And if your family is far away from you, you must let them know if your okay and in case of emergency you must have a device that would be easy to operate and send directly an emergency message to your family.

  4. John Campbell

    Hi Pei,
    I just saw your post and wanted to let you know my findings. I have Georgia on my short list, and air quality is very important to me, as I have COPD. Now, the largest and capital city of Tbilisi does have a lot of pollution, and the quality of the air there is bad enough at times to make even healthy people cough and wheeze just being outside. Tbilisi has lots of traffic, older cars including diesels, and in a valley where there the air is trapped & there is no circulation. There may be other cities with a similar situation.

    However, other cities throughout the rest of Georgia are mostly fine, or in some cases very good. Batumi for example is on the coast and it’s sea breezes keep the air moving and air quality is very good. Same goes for Borjomi a resort in the mountains near ski resorts with few cars and little traffic. I’d advise to just make sure to research carefully whatever specific cities you are considering in Georgia.

  5. Brie

    Your wisdom is appreciated!

  6. Alex

    This gives me more options to consider, thanks!

  7. Mark Camilleri

    I like these lists and use them for my travels – but I found that they are VERY (overly) American oriented. Let me point out some things:

    I am from Malta – English speaking but with a different culture (mediterranean) to the US.

    1) The estimates of the amount of money needed – these estimates are always quite laughably high. For example – I lived in Thailand (Chiang Mai) with my family (wife and 1 son) – for a year and spent only around 1000-1200 USD monthly. With this I rented a villa (for 350 USD monthly) – I did not get a bike or car – I used Uber to go everywhere (No risk of accidents!), I ate in local restaurants – average prices were about 1.50 USD per meal. 2000 USD there would be way too much – of course it can be spent on girls, eating pizza or English breakfast, golf and so on…. but I spent my days swimming in the CHEAP pools, going to various clubs (tennis, table tennis, chess), hooking up with girls who did not charge me and did not tell my wife etc…

    2) the country selection is also VERY Americanized. What about Mongolia in Asia? I lived there for a year – prices are similar to Thailand overall although different in many ways…. rent more expensive, activities (such as table tennis and sports – cheaper, alchohol CHEAPER, girls free, food similar priced, clothing MUCH MORE expensive because you need WARM clothes for -40C winters

    3) what about the AMAZING towns of the world…in Hungary there is a town called EGER where I rented a wonderful appartment RIGHT in the city centre for 200 euros a month and bought clothes for 3 -5 USD , ate a 2 course meal from the daily menu for 4 USD daily….. I spent only around 800 USD monthly there because I’m European so I have free health care there….

    My point is….. these lists are nice, but they only cater for the American mind set which is a huge pity….so many people from around the world are thinking of going to live cheap and do nothing or do the digital nomad stuff….but your lists are only half helpful because they are so skewed by the culture of those who write them. I would really like to have another list which is objective and unbiased.

    • Tim Leffel

      As mentioned in my other reply, I have discussed Eger several times. Not sure where you’re from, but Asia makes up less than 10% of my visitors when all countries are added together. The USA makes up 65%. So yes, I tend to cater to the readership, not the teeny tiny number of people who may want to live in Mongolia and endure -40 winters. Those who do will gravitate there without me writing about it! And the Better Life for Half the Price book goes into more detail about prices than any round-up blog post ever could. That’s 120,000 words, this is 4,000.

  8. Mark Camilleri

    Some VERY interesting cities / countries not mentioned here (using Chiang Mai as benchmark cost comparison) – I have been to almost all places I mention:

    Ulaanbatar – Mongolia (Cheaper than Chiang Mai)
    Baku – Azerbaijan (similar to Chiang Mai)
    Lviv – Ukraine (Much CHEAPER than Chiang Mai)
    Eger – Hungary (cheaper than Chiang Mai)
    Nis – Serbia (I have not been)
    Novosibirsk – Russia (similar to Chiang Mai)
    Iasi – Romania (cheaper than Chiang Mai)
    Plovdiv – Bulgaria (cheaper than Chiang Mai)

    so………………… why are such great places overlooked? all these cities / towns are VERY livable, comfortable, pleasant…..

    • Tim Leffel

      Well, this covered countries, not cities. I do have other, more detailed posts on Bulgaria, Hungary, and other spots. Most people have no desire to live in Russia or even Azerbaijan these days though, so I mostly focus here and in the book on places with good weather and at least a few other expats who have already blazed a trail.

  9. Dean

    Well after living 6 months in a van in the USA I have had it. Stealth camping in a city works out fine, you just join a health club for showers and some exercise is good for your health. With a back up battery and solar panels you can live ok, I was paying $75 a month for unlimited data cell phone service. But when I figured in car insurence, gas, vehicle maintenance I decided it wasn’t worth it. I became bored and felt like I was living a low-class life. Now I am in Mexico City now soon moving to Oaxaca for a while. So I have decided to bounce back and forth from Mexico to Central America and since I am fairly fluent in Spanish it is a breeze, plus on $1000 a month I feel like upper middle-class!

  10. David Smith

    Hi again Tim I wrote a little while ago and no one answered my questions which I found very strange because you and your followers are really great people. I am still undecided where to move I want to take my truck a Toyota tacoma only owe 5.000 will be paod off next year. And I can not leave my dog she is so spoiled no one else would put up with her LOL Every time I think I have it figured out someone or something makes me think again. I am still wondering where I can go with my fiance and her daughter From Russia . I only get 1.300 a month from Social Security and lost my voice to cancer. I was going to move to Russia butshe said no she is scared the winter wouldkill me and the health care is very bad there unless you are rich. Tim any help you can give me I will gladly listen to and your readers advice You are great honest and your followers are fantastic. Take care Tim and God bless you all David and Savior my 110lb Rottweiler so spoiled she will want to fly first c;ass LOL

  11. Diane

    Umm… Bulgaria is 90 in 180 for US citizens. We’re here now, for our 2nd visit and loving it. We use it as part of our skipping around Europe in and out of Schengen.

  12. magda

    Tim, your info is all very interesting and your comments even more so. What a great blog. I very much enjoyed reading all of this and look forward to exploring your blog further.
    Forgive me, I am new to you… just found your blog today… so if you’ve talked about this before, please just direct me to the right place.
    Do you have any thoughts on which of these countries might be best if one is moving there with a teenager?
    And would you know if any of these countries have reasonable, English universities?
    Many thanks

    • Tim Leffel

      Magda, are you asking this after reading the book or before? If you don’t have clarity still after reading all that, get in touch. https://www.cheaplivingabroad.com

      • magda

        Hi Tim. No, as I said, I only just found your blog. Do you touch on that in the book? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in the kindle store so I’ve had to order it and am waiting for it to arrive.

        • Tim Leffel

          Ebook is on the website, paperback and audio on Amazon.

  13. Laurence Goldman

    Hi Tim:
    I’m 72 US retiree living in Asia 6-9 months a year and looking for a semi-permanent base. What surveys such as yours fail at is giving a feel for day to day vibe living somewhere. First of all, language. Everywhere in Latin America be prepared to learn Spanish. There are expat pockets where you can speak English but long term life requires Spanish. Thailand, IMHO, is un-English speaking, but tourist friendly. I found the inability to communicate simple needs and requests in English to Thais a royal PITA. Chiang Mai-the stereotypical expat Thai city, I found polluted, over busy, noisy and wore me down. It’s fun for a bit. Pai would be great, except for the tourists. So far, I’m a Malaysia fan boy. Clean, underpopulated, good transport, high English speaking, great cultural diversity, unbelievable nature. I just discovered Kuching, Borneo-quiet, walkable, great food, Chinesey. So what I’m saying is, I need anecdotals about how is local life in a place for you-how easy-peasy? What are the stressors? How is it getting around? Language? Wifi? How is fresh fruit and vegetable supply and quality? How close? Do you have an grueling, expensive Tuk-tuk ride to get to a decent market? Here’s a question: what are affordable, expat analogs to Portland, OR?

    • Tim Leffel

      Obviously I can’t supply that for every place because I haven’t lived in every place. I interviewed more than 50 people for A Better Life for Half the Price, but the only way to get a feel for general life in a place is to talk to those living there (usually they’ll have a message board or Facebook group) and travel there to do a trial run. Naturally learning the local language is part of the drill, just as you would expect someone moving to your country to learn yours. Learn Spanish and you’re set for most of Latin America. Asia is more fragmented, of course, but I always manage to shop, eat, and get around with a phrase book/app in addition to the English. Bahasa Indonesian is super easy to learn.

  14. Habeeb Hamid

    I LL LIKE TO VISIT U.S.A PLEASE SHOULD SOME1 HELP ME WHICH STATE WILL I VISIT IN AMERICA

  15. Ms. Uban

    I liked the article overall and consider it quite informative.
    I could do without the added political comments, such as implying the current U.S. administration are racists. That left me quite bewildered since the current administration has all races in it.

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