Europe, with its rich history, scenic beauty, and diverse culture, offers numerous opportunities for expats and travelers. While major cities like London, Paris, or Rome might be on the expensive side, many other places in Europe provide an affordable and high-quality lifestyle. Here, we explore 8 countries where the cost of living is so affordable that you could potentially quit your job and enjoy life at a slower pace.
Most Affordable Places In Europe
Bulgaria, located in the southeastern part of Europe, offers a pleasant climate, hospitable locals, and an affordable lifestyle.
Bulgaria is home to an array of landscapes – from sandy beaches along the Black Sea to rugged mountains in the interior. Its rich history is evident in its ancient ruins, churches, and cultural festivals.This country is not only cheap to live, but also to travel on low budget.
Sofia – A Blend of History and Modernity
According to the Numbeo, the cost of living in Sofia, the capital, is considerably lower than other European capitals. A couple can live comfortably on $1,200 to $1,500 a month. Sofia is known for its:
- Historic churches
- Thriving café culture
- Bustling nightlife
Plovdiv – European Capital of Culture
Plovdiv, one of the oldest cities in Europe, is a blend of ancient architecture and contemporary arts. It was named the European Capital of Culture in 2019. The cost of living is even lower than Sofia, with a couple able to live comfortably on $1,000 to $1,300 a month.
Nestled in Eastern Europe, Romania boasts scenic beauty, castles, and a vibrant culture.
From the Black Sea beaches to the Carpathian mountains, Romania is a land of contrast and surprises. It’s also home to the legendary region of Transylvania.
Bucharest – The Paris of the East
According to Expatistan, Bucharest has a low cost of living compared to western European cities. While it offers the vibrancy of a big city, it also provides affordable housing, food, and entertainment options.
Brasov – Gateway to Transylvania
Brasov, located in the heart of Romania, offers:
- Medieval architecture
- Proximity to Dracula’s Castle
- Lower rent and living expenses than Bucharest
This Central European nation is known for its thermal baths, historic landmarks, and affordable living.
Budapest – City of Spas
According to Numbeo, Budapest offers a lifestyle at 50% less cost than cities like London or Paris. Key attractions include:
- The Buda Castle
- Thermal baths
- Ruin pubs
Debrecen – Cultural Capital
Debrecen, the second-largest city in Hungary, has a rich history and offers lower rent and utility prices than Budapest.
This Western European country offers sun, sea, and affordability.
Portugal, with its Atlantic coastline and rich maritime history, offers a warm climate and is increasingly popular among expats and retirees.
Lisbon – Coastal Capital
According to the Global Property Guide, Lisbon’s property prices are rising but still remain lower than other Western European capitals. The city offers:
- Historic trams
- Vibrant nightlife
- Proximity to beaches
Porto – Wine and River
Porto, known for its port wine, offers cobbled streets, river views, and a lower cost of living than Lisbon.
Situated in the Baltic region, Latvia is an amalgamation of forests, lakes, and medieval towns.
With its mix of Russian and European influences, Latvia offers a diverse culture, scenic beauty, and an affordable lifestyle.
Riga – Art Nouveau Hub
According to Nomad Capitalist, Riga offers affordable real estate options. The city boasts:
- Historic centers
- Vibrant markets
- Rich architecture
Liepaja – City on the Sea
Liepaja offers sandy beaches, a lively arts scene, and a cost of living lower than Riga.
Located on the Balkan Peninsula, Albania is a hidden gem with a Mediterranean climate.
Boasting both beaches and mountains, Albania remains one of Europe’s most underrated destinations.
Tirana – Lively Capital
According to Numbeo, Tirana is extremely affordable. The city offers a mix of Ottoman, Fascist, and Soviet-era architecture.
Saranda – Riviera Lifestyle
Saranda, on the Albanian Riviera, is a perfect place for those who want a seaside lifestyle without the hefty price tag.
2. North Macedonia
This Balkan nation offers lakes, mountains, and a rich tapestry of cultures.
North Macedonia, with its blend of Greek, Roman, and Serbian, offers a unique European experience.
Skopje – City of Bridges
According to the locals, Skopje is among the most affordable capitals in Europe. Highlights include:
- The Old Bazaar
- Stone Bridge
- Ottoman mosques
Ohrid – Jewel in the Balkans
Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasts ancient churches, crystal-clear lakes, and affordable living.
Despite recent challenges, Ukraine offers beauty, culture, and low costs.
Known for its Orthodox churches, Black Sea coastline, and forested mountains, Ukraine offers a diverse cultural experience.
Kyiv – Historic Capital
According to the Kyiv Post, real estate in Kyiv is affordable compared to other European capitals. The city is renowned for:
- The Golden Gate
- Vibrant street art
- Rich history
Lviv – Western Charm
Lviv, closer to Poland, offers a blend of Central and Eastern European cultures. The city boasts historic architecture, cobbled streets, and a growing IT industry.
While many people think of Europe as a continent of riches, with countries like Switzerland, Germany, and the UK often coming to mind, there’s a vast disparity between its wealthiest and poorest nations. In fact, some of the nations on our list are also among the poorest countries in Europe, which contributes to their low cost of living
While the above-mentioned countries certainly top the list for affordability, there are a few other destinations in Europe worth considering. Here are three honorable mentions:
Georgia (Though technically in the Caucasus and at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it’s culturally aligned with Europe)
Georgia is famous for its ancient wine culture, rugged landscapes, and the warm hospitality of its people.
Tbilisi – A Fusion of Old and New
According to Travel Lemming, Tbilisi is gaining popularity among digital nomads and expats. The city is known for its:
- Sulphur baths
- Bustling night scene
- Mix of Asian and European architecture
Batumi – The Black Sea Resort
Batumi offers modern skyscrapers alongside historical edifices and has a lower living cost compared to Tbilisi, making it attractive for long-term stays.
Serbia, with its lively festivals, historical sites, and hearty cuisine, is an emerging destination in the Balkans.
Belgrade – At the Confluence of Rivers
According to locals, Belgrade offers affordable housing and entertainment. It boasts:
- Kalemegdan fortress with panoramic views
- Thriving nightlife along the Sava and Danube Rivers
- Rich history and culture
Novi Sad – European Capital of Culture
Moldova, one of the least visited countries in Europe, offers a rich wine culture and scenic landscapes.
Chișinău – The Green Capital
According to UNECE, Chișinău is among Europe’s greenest capitals and offers affordable living. It’s known for:
- Numerous parks and green spaces
- Wine festivals and cellars
- Soviet-era architecture
Orheiul Vechi – A Historical Marvel
Orheiul Vechi is a historical and archaeological complex known for its cave monasteries and scenic beauty.
More to Consider When Relocating
While cost of living is a significant factor, there are other aspects to consider when thinking of relocating to a European country:
- Digital Nomad Community: With the rise of remote work, many European cities have become hubs for digital nomads. Check out local co-working spaces or communities.
- Local Cuisine: Embrace local gastronomies. Many of these countries, like Georgia and Serbia, offer delicious local dishes at affordable prices.
- Language Barriers: While English is commonly spoken in tourist areas, learning a few basic phrases in the local language can greatly enhance your experience and connection with the community.
- Visa and Residency: Some countries, like Portugal and Georgia, offer specific visas or tax incentives for remote workers or retirees. Research the visa requirements and residency options.
- Healthcare: Before relocating, it’s essential to understand the local healthcare system, its efficiency, and costs involved. Some countries might offer affordable healthcare, while others may require private insurance.
- Public Transportation: An efficient and affordable public transportation system can significantly reduce living costs. Cities like Budapest and Belgrade are known for their reliable transit systems.
- Safety and Stability: Ensure you are up-to-date with the political and social climate of the country. Places like Ukraine, while affordable, have seen recent political tensions.
How does the education system compare in these affordable European countries?
Most European countries have a strong education system, often offering free or low-cost education to residents. However, it’s always recommended to research specific countries and cities for their education rankings and expatriate feedback.
What about job opportunities in these countries?
While some of these countries might be more affordable due to a lower GDP or economic challenges, many are home to emerging markets and sectors, especially in IT, tourism, and services. Researching local job markets or considering remote work can be beneficial.
Are these countries English-friendly?
English is widely spoken in touristy areas and major cities across Europe. However, in smaller towns or rural areas, knowing the local language can be an advantage.
How do these countries fare in terms of internet connectivity?
Major cities in these countries typically have reliable high-speed internet. Some countries, like Georgia, even promote themselves as destinations for digital nomads, ensuring top-notch connectivity.
Is the property purchase process straightforward for foreigners?
Property laws vary. While some countries might encourage foreign investment through easier property purchase processes, others might have restrictions. It’s essential to consult with local property experts or legal counsel.
How do local people perceive expatriates or foreigners?
Europe is diverse, and perceptions can vary. However, many of these countries are known for their hospitality and are welcoming to foreigners, especially if you make an effort to respect local customs and learn the language.
Are there any specific tax advantages or incentives for moving to these countries?
Some countries, like Portugal, offer tax incentives for retirees or certain professionals. Always consult with a tax advisor familiar with local and expatriate tax laws.
Exploring affordable living in Europe isn’t just about reducing costs; it’s about discovering new cultures, experiences, and opportunities in places less traveled. With the right research and an open mind, the dream of a European sojourn, long or short, can be within reach for many.