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The Cheapest Places to Live in the World: The Ultimate Guide 

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Is a low cost of living the ultimate factor in choosing an overseas travel or second home destination?

Tempting as it is to immediately say ‘yes’, the truth is that the answer isn’t straightforward. It depends.

If you’re only visiting a country for a few weeks, the cost of living may not be high on your list of priorities. However, if you’re an investor, entrepreneur, digital nomad or retiree planning to move somewhere indefinitely, other considerations become paramount.

Taxes, often overlooked, play a pivotal role in deciding whether a country aligns with your financial and lifestyle goals. An affordable cost of living can quickly lost its charm under the weight of hefty tax obligations.

If you’re from the West, the good news is that many countries are far more affordable than your home, by perhaps as much as 200%.

So, the question remains – what’s best for you? 

Get to know our expert team and let us help you create an international Plan B to legally reduce your tax rate, diversify and safeguard your assets, grow your passport portfolio and maximise freedom.

If you’re looking for an affordable country to live, work and invest in, we’ll take you through the different regions and explore the best options. 

Cheapest Places to Live in the World

The locations listed below were chosen for their affordability, high quality of life and potential for financial growth and opportunities:

Cheapest Places to Live in Europe

Portugal

Portugal, the cheapest place to live

Perched on the southwest corner of Europe, Portugal is bordered on the east by Spain and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Its 10 million inhabitants enjoy balmy weather almost all year round and, while the official language is Portuguese, many people also speak English, especially in the larger cities.

Portugal’s European Union (EU) status and high headline tax rate might lead you to believe it’s expensive but you’d be in for a pleasant surprise because Portugal is actually one of Europe’s most economical countries with affordable living options for every budget. Its headline costs are outlined below:

  • Housing Costs: Real estate costs in Portugal vary depending on the property’s location, size, proximity to the coast and shops, furnished status and number of bedrooms. Most expats live comfortably there for between €2300 to €3,000 a month. The average rent is typically cheaper inland than on the coast and in city centres. A single-bedroom apartment in Lisbon city centre typically costs from around €1200 per month, while an apartment of similar size costs from approximately €600 per month outside urban areas. The cost of living is lower than the average for similar goods in France, with consumer prices being 29.7% cheaper in Portugal (excluding rent fees).  
  • Healthcare Costs: Expats living in Portugal can access both public and private healthcare, but it isn’t as simple as obtaining a (National Health Service) SNS number. According to Portugal’s government website, to qualify for Portugal’s healthcare, you must show proof of address, ID documents, valid residence permits and Portuguese tax ID numbers. The quality of healthcare is equal to, if not better than, North American standards for a fraction of the price. Most expats can utilise the private system with minimal wait times and access to English-speaking doctors. Public healthcare is free for all citizens and legal residents in Portugal. 

Portugal’s fair weather and affordable living make it a melting pot of approximately 700,000 expats, in addition to locals and tourists who choose to reside in the nation’s affordable, high-class cities or more rural landscape.

All of this charm is enhanced by the nation’s forward-thinking mentality which leads to innovations like the efficient public transportation system that’s often ranked as one of the best in Europe. 

Latvia

Latvia, the cheapest place to live

Latvia is a relatively small EU state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It borders Russia, Sweden, and Lithuania and the Black Sea shapes the nation’s western borders.  

Latvia is undoubtedly one of the cheapest places to live in Eastern Europe. The nation’s capital of Riga isn’t just a charming and fully modernised city; it’s an official UNESCO World Heritage site. A family of four can expect to live in Latvia on less than €3,000 per month, while a single person can happily get by on as little as €1200 per month.  

  • Housing Costs: Property is inexpensive to rent in Latvia, with city centre apartments starting at around €500 a month. Outside the city, a three-bedroom apartment can cost around €540.
  • Food Costs: Latvia, especially Riga, has enough bars, cafes and restaurants to satisfy you without breaking the bank. You can expect a good meal from a mid-range restaurant for under €12.

Other miscellaneous expenses like transport and utilities are also reasonably priced. For further details on how to move to Latvia, check our ultimate guides to citizenship and residency in Latvia.

Georgia

Georgia, the cheapest place to live

Our love of Georgia is well known and we regard its fun and friendly capital of Tbilisi as one of Eastern Europe’s hidden gems. 

Whether you want to obtain a second residency, start an offshore company, invest in real estate, open a bank account or move to a tax-friendly jurisdiction, you’ll be able to do it all in Georgia.

  • Housing Costs: You can expect to rent a private apartment for around €650 per month, while luxury apartments can reach as €2,500. Taking an apartment outside the city can save you hundreds in rent each month, with one-bedroom apartment starting at for around €450. 
  • Food Costs: Georgia is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, and the country boasts excellent cuisine. An exceptional meal for two from a good Georgian restaurant will cost around €30.

All in all, living in Georgia won’t just save you money – it’ll open the door to future opportunities. As Nomad Capitalist founder, Andrew Henderson, explained in his recent TEDx talk, if you want to get what’s best for you and your family, you have to go where you have the most options and greatest chance for growth. And Georgia certainly fits that bill. 

Slovenia

Slovenia, the cheapest place to live

Slovenia is a Central European country known for its safety, crystal-clear lakes, stunning mountains and world-class ski resorts. It borders Croatia, Austria and Italy and is one of the wealthiest Slavic countries. Ljubljana, the capital, was named the Green Capital of Europe a few years back.

  • Housing Costs: Rents in city centres range between €680 and €1,200. Prices decrease as you move from tourist areas to city centres, with monthly costs ranging from €560 for a single-bedroom apartment to €990 for a three-bedroom apartment. 
  • Healthcare Costs: Slovenia has a high standard, universal healthcare system that won’t break the bank.
  • Food Costs: Dinner at a sit-down restaurant with wine can be as little as €20 per person, and good local markets with quality, cheap produce are plentiful.  

So, does Slovenia sound like a place you’d like to consider? Read our ultimate guide about how to get Slovenian residency and citizenship.

Montenegro

Montenegro, the cheapest place to live

Montenegro is a Balkan state in southeast Europe with a population of just under 630,000. The capital and largest city is Podgorica and many people visit the country for the charming towns of Budva and Kotor.

The country is known for its fine climate, stunning beaches and ancient fortresses. Most expats can live in Montenegro for around €1200 per month.

  • Housing Costs: Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs around €600 per month. Expect to pay twice that if you want a bigger apartment for a couple or a family. 
  • Food Costs: Street food or a simple meal costs less than €10 and you can double that if you dine at a mid-range eatery.  

Montenegro is an up-and-coming destination with sound real estate opportunities, particularly along its beautiful coastline.

Cheapest Places to Live in South America

Costa Rica

Costa Rica, the cheapest place to live

Costa Rica is a small Central American country known for its natural beauty and biodiversity. Despite being a rather small landmass, it contains nearly 6% of the world’s biodiversity, with a quarter of its land dedicated to national parks, nature reserves and protected areas.

Costa Rica’s population of over 5 million is just as diverse, with immigrants from North and South America, Europe and Asia. It has significant populations of Nicaraguan and Jamaican immigrants as well as people from indigenous tribes. 

A single person can expect to live on US$1600–2000 a month, while a couple can live comfortably on US$2000–3000 per month.

Housing Costs: Costa Rican real estate prices in tourist areas and Central Valley are often higher than in other areas. Generally, you’ll find an apartment for between US$680 and US$1500 per month.

Healthcare Costs: the Costa Rican healthcare system is one of the best in Latin America. Healthcare there is affordable by Western standards. Most Costa Rican doctors speak English and are highly qualified and trained by reputable US or European institutes.

Costa Rica is an affordable and tranquil place to put down either permanent or semi-permanent roots, especially for retirees. It’s an excellent second residence option for investors and entrepreneurs looking to cut their tax bills drastically.

Colombia

Colombia, the cheapest place to live

Colombia is the largest Spanish-speaking country in South America, with a population of just under 52 million. While most choose to set up shop in the nation’s capital of Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena are also rising stars of this diverse Latin American country. 

And the best part is that you can enjoy the luxuries of this nation for a fraction of the costs of an equally high-class city in North America or Europe. 

  • Housing Costs: Colombia is an excellent country for real estate investment. Rent in Cali, Medellín and Bogota is around US$400–US$1000 for an average apartment. Contemporary, higher-quality flats can be rented for around US$1500–US$2000 monthly.
  • Food Costs: A traditional Colombian lunch usually costs under US$8. Depending on your location, dinner in a tourist spot will cost about US$10–US$20.

Colombia offers a high quality of life with amenities and infrastructure that you’d expect from a more developed country. Want to move to Colombia? Read our ultimate guide about getting a residency or citizenship in Colombia.

If you’re interested in purchasing real estate in Colombia, you can access Nomad Capitalist’s Real Estate Plan, which helps you buy foreign properties like a local.

Panama

Panama, the cheapest place to live

Panama’s low-cost medical care, modern infrastructure, low crime rate and high temperatures appeal to the estimated 30,000 Americans who call it home. Its capital and largest city is Panama City, where half the country’s 4 million population lives. 

Retirees and digital nomads love Panama for its low cost of living and tropical climate, which both feed its slower-paced lifestyle and biodiverse landscape. It also has the added bonus of a favourable tax scheme.

  • Housing Costs: Whether you want to live in a luxurious gated community, own an ocean-view apartment, chill on a beach or live in a beautiful mountainous region, Panama has the lot. Expect to spend between US$800 and US$1800 on monthly housing costs, depending on where and how you live.
  • Food Costs: Locally sourced fruits, vegetables, seafood and meat are of unparalleled quality and are as much as 50% cheaper than in the developed West. 
  • Healthcare Costs: Panama City is a well-known medical tourism destination for those seeking affordable treatments. High-quality, reasonably priced medical care provided by foreign-trained, English-speaking doctors makes Panama a compelling choice. 

Panama’s friendly tax regime, favourable business climate, and various residence programs make it one of the most attractive countries in Central America. Consider talking to our team of experts about creating a plan for you that meets your personal needs. 

Cheapest Places to Live in Asia

Thailand

Thailand, the cheapest place to live

Thailand is a diverse South Asian nation that shares borders with Vietnam, Indonesia and India. Its current population is over 71 million and up to four million expats live and work there, mainly in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket.

An important factor that sets Thailand apart from its neighbours is its status as one of the few nations in the region that avoided European colonisation. As such, it has retained an authentic culture and atmosphere. 

Expats love Thailand for its low cost of living, stunning beaches and diversity. The country has something for every budget, whether you’re a perpetual traveller or just looking to enjoy life in paradise.

  • Housing Costs: You can live in a modern one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok for under US$700 a month. Chiang Mai is another excellent location and one of the most affordable places, with rents starting at around US$400 per month.
  • Food Cost: Thailand is renowned for its food; whether you choose street food or fine dining, the country does not disappoint. Street food is available for a few dollars, while at the other end of the spectrum, dining out in a Michelin-star restaurant will cost around US$80 per person.
  • Healthcare costs: Thailand is well-known for medical tourism. The country offers high-quality and affordable healthcare services. Moreover, almost all specialists can speak English. The cost of an initial visit to a specialist is minimal and dental procedures are ridiculously cheap in Thailand.

Thailand has always made it easy for foreign investors and entrepreneurs to enter and stay in the country. The country has various residence programs for high-net-worth individuals, retirees and high-skilled professionals.

Want to know about the latest Thailand Golden Visa? Head over to our ultimate guide to the ten-year Thailand visa.

Indonesia

Indonesia, the cheapest place to live

Indonesia comprises over 17,000 islands and is the world’s largest archipelagic state, third-largest democracy and fourth-most populous nation. Currently, it’s home to some 273 million people, with over half of the country’s population living on the island of Java.

  • Housing Costs: The capital, Jakarta, is a sprawling, exciting and hectic city well worth a look. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs as little as US$450 a month. An apartment outside the city goes for US$250.
  • Food costs: Food is very cheap in Indonesia, with inexpensive meals costing less than US$2. You can splurge on a large meal or a family dinner and spend around US$15-20. 

Most foreigners know Indonesia for Bali and the hype is not without reason. Famous for stunning sunsets, rice terraces and infinity pools in the middle of the jungle, Bali will take your breath away.  

It’s important to note that Indonesia lacks the residency options available in other Southeast Asian countries, however, there are options. Read our ultimate nomad guide to living in Bali if you’d like to learn more.

Vietnam

Vietnam, the cheapest place to live

While on the subject of Asian destinations with the lowest costs of living, it’s impossible to ignore Vietnam. This low-cost country is one of the safest in the region, according to the 2022 Global Peace Index.

The country is also an up-and-coming investment spot, attracting multinational companies like Nike and Samsung and those moving their capital out of China. Thanks to its favourable investment climate, the country makes our list of the five best Asian countries to invest in.

On average, a single person can live comfortably in Vietnam for around US$1000 a month. 

  • Housing Costs: A contemporary one-bedroom apartment in Vietnam costs around US$350 per month. Unfortunately, if you dream of owning land, a home or some other form of real estate, the state owns all the land in the country. Your only option is to lease the land or property you have your heart set on for up to 70 years.
  • Food Costs: Vietnam offers some of Southeast Asia’s most delicious and inexpensive food. You can get a decent meal for under US$2, about the same price as in Thailand. A nice dinner at a mid-range restaurant costs no more than US$10.

Overall, Vietnam is a high-class place to live and is well on its way to putting its tragic and violent past behind it. It’s a great country to invest and live in.

Is the Cost of Living the Ultimate Deciding Factor?

Understandably, living costs should play a significant role in deciding where to live. However, one factor people usually don’t consider while calculating the cost of living is the issue of taxes.

A comfortable life in a high-tax jurisdiction will always cost more than a luxurious life in a low-tax or tax-free country because the money you save from taxes can go towards improving your lifestyle, growing your business or expanding your investment portfolio.

European countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal may initially seem high-tax, but all these countries have special tax schemes for foreigners looking to establish tax residency. So, when looking for the cheapest place, don’t just look at the monthly rent or real estate prices; investigate whether the country has any tax programs you can benefit from.

The Cheapest Places to Live in the World: FAQs

What region of the world is the most affordable? 

Some of the cheapest areas in the world are Africa and parts of the Middle East, with some estimates putting the cost of living at around US$400. However, those baseline figures don’t take account of other factors such as quality of life or access to healthcare.

Are cheap countries safe to live in?

Yes. In fact, some of the cheapest countries in the world experience the best safety rates and quality of life. 

Do affordable countries offer high-quality food?

Absolutely. Many affordable countries are located in exotic places like South America and Southeast Asia, where you can buy prepared food for less than US$10. 

Is internet connection a problem in low-cost countries?

Not necessarily. While the countries with the lowest internet speeds have lower costs, this isn’t indicative of all nations with a cheaper living cost or low tax code. For example, places in South America and Southeast Asia are hot spots for digital nomads, attracting individuals who work virtually and rely on good internet quality. 

Do cheap countries have good transport options? 

Not always but many cheaper nations have excellent airports and their own high-quality airlines. For example, Colombia’s El Dorado airport is equally as good as almost any airport you’d encounter in the United States, and Latam Airlines has excellent service all across North and South America. 

What Are the Most Affordable Places to Live in the World?

Over the past few years, many Eastern European and Asian countries have become highly attractive investment locations that offer equally attractive living costs for foreigners.

But relocating isn’t as simple as snapping your fingers and adjusting to the local cuisine. It requires a lot of paperwork, including applying for any visas, residence cards or other documents you may need to stay in the country legally. 

It’s also important to note that not all affordable countries are the same. While yes, they may all have a lower cost of living and potentially favourable tax schemes, they differ immensely with regard to culture, climate and politics. 

So where should you plant your next flag? That depends upon your goals and what you desire out of day-to-day life – which is where our team comes in. 

Nomad Capitalist has a diverse team of globally located specialists who can help you go where you’re treated best. Let us help you like we’ve helped more than 1,5000 other high-net-worth individuals before you. Become a client today to learn how

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