The cost of living varies significantly from one country to another. While some nations are known for their high living costs, others offer a more affordable lifestyle without compromising on the quality of life. In this article, I will get into the cheapest countries to live in for 2023. Whether you’re a digital nomad, retiree, or simply someone looking for a change of scenery, these countries offer a blend of culture, adventure, and affordability.
While some nations are known for their high living costs, others, as highlighted in this list, offer a more affordable lifestyle without compromising on the quality of life. Interestingly, the economic disparity between countries often mirrors the contrast between the richest and poorest cities within them.
20 Low – Cost Countries
Vietnam, located in Southeast Asia, has long been a favorite for budget travelers and expats alike. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine, it’s no wonder that Vietnam is becoming an increasingly popular destination for those looking to live abroad on a budget.
Why Vietnam is Affordable
Vietnam’s cost of living is significantly lower than many Western countries. Here are some reasons why:
- Local Produce: The abundance of local produce means that food is both delicious and affordable. Street food, in particular, is a highlight, with meals often costing just a few dollars.
- Affordable Housing: Whether you’re in bustling Ho Chi Minh City or the quieter Da Nang, you can find apartments or houses at a fraction of the cost compared to Western cities.
While the cost of living is low, the quality of life in Vietnam is high. Here’s what you can expect:
- Cultural Experiences: From the ancient town of Hoi An to the bustling streets of Hanoi, there’s always something to see or do.
- Friendly Locals: The Vietnamese are known for their hospitality, making it easy for expats to feel at home.
Just south of the U.S. border lies Mexico, a country with a rich history, diverse landscapes, and a cost of living that’s hard to beat. From its sunny beaches to its mountainous regions, Mexico offers a variety of lifestyles for every budget.
According to the Annual Global Retirement Index by International Living, Mexico consistently ranks high for retirees. The allure lies not just in its scenic beauty but also in its affordable healthcare and the warmth of its communities, making it a top choice for many looking to spend their golden years abroad.
Why Mexico is Affordable
Mexico’s affordability can be attributed to several factors:
- Local Economy: Many goods and services are priced for the local economy, which means that expats can often live comfortably on a modest income.
- Healthcare: Medical care in Mexico is of high quality and is often much cheaper than in the U.S. or Europe, making it a popular destination for medical tourism.
Living in Mexico doesn’t mean compromising on lifestyle. Here’s a glimpse:
- Diverse Landscapes: Whether you prefer the beach life in Cancun or the colonial charm of cities like San Miguel de Allende, there’s a place for everyone.
- Rich Culture: Mexico’s festivals, traditions, and cuisine are world-renowned, ensuring that there’s always something new to experience.
Bulgaria, another jewel in the Balkans, offers a mix of picturesque landscapes, sandy beaches, and a rich cultural heritage. Its affordability, combined with its diverse offerings, makes it an attractive destination for those seeking European charm without the high costs.
Recent data from Expatistan underscores Bulgaria’s appeal as one of Europe’s most budget-friendly destinations. When comparing housing, transportation, and food costs, Bulgaria stands out with its significantly lower expenses, especially when juxtaposed with Western European counterparts.
Why Bulgaria is Affordable
Bulgaria’s cost-effective appeal stems from:
- Emerging Tourism: While Bulgaria is becoming more popular, it still offers value for money compared to other European destinations.
- Local Agriculture: The country’s varied climate allows for a wide range of crops, ensuring fresh and affordable produce year-round.
Life in Bulgaria is a blend of tradition and nature:
- Historic Towns: Places like Plovdiv and Nessebar offer insights into Bulgaria’s rich history and culture.
- Natural Retreats: From the Rila Monastery to the Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria boasts stunning natural attractions.
Egypt, the cradle of civilization, is not just known for its pyramids and ancient history but also for its affordability. The blend of ancient wonders and modern cities makes it a unique destination for expats and travelers.
Why Egypt is Affordable
Factors contributing to Egypt’s low cost of living include:
- Currency Exchange: The Egyptian pound, when compared to Western currencies, often provides favorable exchange rates for expats.
- Local Markets: From spices to textiles, local bazaars offer a plethora of goods at affordable prices.
Egypt offers a mix of the ancient and the contemporary:
- World Wonders: The Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, and the temples of Luxor are just a few of the historical treasures.
- Red Sea Resorts: Places like Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada offer stunning beaches and diving opportunities.
16. Macedonia (North Macedonia)
Located in the heart of the Balkans, North Macedonia is a country rich in history, lakeside towns, and mountainous landscapes. Its affordability and warm hospitality make it an emerging favorite among travelers.
Why Macedonia is Affordable
North Macedonia’s budget-friendly nature is due to:
- Local Production: The country’s agricultural focus ensures a steady supply of fresh and affordable food.
- Emerging Tourism: As a lesser-known European destination, prices remain competitive to attract more visitors.
Living in North Macedonia offers a mix of cultural and natural experiences:
- Lakeside Beauty: Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a picturesque town by Lake Ohrid, known for its historical significance and natural beauty.
- Cultural Festivals: Events like the Skopje Jazz Festival showcase the country’s vibrant arts scene.
Located in Eastern Europe, Ukraine is often overlooked as a destination for expats. However, with its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and incredibly low cost of living, it’s a hidden gem for those looking to live abroad affordably.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has documented Ukraine’s economic reforms and its aspirations for closer integration with the European Union. Despite these ambitions, Ukraine offers a cost of living that is significantly more affordable than many of its European counterparts, making it an enticing option for those seeking European charm on a budget.
Why Ukraine is Affordable
Several factors contribute to Ukraine’s low cost of living:
- Currency Value: The Ukrainian hryvnia, when compared to Western currencies, often offers favorable exchange rates, making many goods and services cheaper for expats.
- Local Markets: Shopping at local markets can be incredibly cost-effective, with fresh produce and goods available at low prices.
Ukraine offers a unique blend of Eastern European culture and history:
- Historic Cities: Cities like Lviv and Kyiv are steeped in history, offering beautiful architecture and cultural landmarks.
- Natural Beauty: From the Carpathian Mountains to the Black Sea coast, Ukraine boasts a variety of natural landscapes for outdoor enthusiasts.
India, a vast South Asian country, is not just known for its diverse culture and rich history, but also for its affordability. From the Himalayan peaks to the Indian Ocean coastline, the cost of living across various parts of India can be incredibly low, making it a top choice for many expats and travelers.
Why India is Affordable
Several factors make India a budget-friendly destination:
- Economies of Scale: With a population of over a billion, goods and services are often priced lower due to the sheer scale of demand.
- Local Produce: India has a predominantly agrarian economy, ensuring fresh and affordable produce is available year-round.
India offers a myriad of experiences:
- Cultural Diversity: Every state in India has its own language, cuisine, and festivals, ensuring a rich tapestry of experiences.
- Spiritual Journeys: From yoga retreats in Rishikesh to temple visits in Varanasi, India offers a spiritual journey like no other.
Albania, a hidden gem in the Balkans, boasts a stunning coastline, mountainous landscapes, and ancient ruins. Its Mediterranean charm combined with its affordability makes it an emerging hotspot for expats and travelers.
A detailed report by the International Monetary Fund lauded Albania’s economic reforms and their positive impact on the standard of living. While the country has been focused on growth, it has managed to maintain a delicate balance, ensuring that the cost of living remains affordable for both locals and foreigners.
Why Albania is Affordable
Albania’s cost-effective nature is due to:
- Emerging Tourism: As a country that’s still off the beaten path, prices remain low to attract more tourists.
- Local Agriculture: A predominantly agrarian economy ensures that fresh produce is available at pocket-friendly prices.
Living in Albania offers a mix of beach and mountain life:
- Coastal Beauty: The Albanian Riviera, with places like Ksamil and Dhermi, offers pristine beaches without the crowds.
- Historical Sites: Gjirokastër and Butrint are UNESCO sites that showcase Albania’s rich history.
Indonesia, an archipelago in Southeast Asia, is famous for its beautiful islands like Bali. Beyond the tourist spots, the country offers a cost-effective lifestyle, making it a favorite among digital nomads and retirees.
Why Indonesia is Affordable
Indonesia’s islands offer a range of budget-friendly options:
- Local Markets: From fresh seafood to tropical fruits, local markets offer a bounty at a fraction of the cost.
- Affordable Accommodations: Whether it’s a beachfront villa or a city apartment, housing options are diverse and reasonably priced.
Living in Indonesia is synonymous with adventure:
- Natural Beauty: From the beaches of Bali to the jungles of Sumatra, there’s no end to the natural beauty.
- Cultural Experiences: Traditional dances, ceremonies, and festivals are integral to Indonesian life, offering a deep dive into the country’s rich heritage.
The Philippines, with its 7,000+ islands, offers not just stunning beaches but also a cost of living that’s attractive to many. Its friendly locals and English-speaking population make it an easy transition for many expats.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has documented the Philippines’ consistent economic growth and its various development initiatives. Despite its progress, the cost of living in many parts of the Philippines, particularly outside the bustling urban centers, remains notably affordable, making it an attractive destination for expatriates and retirees alike.
Why the Philippines is Affordable
The Philippines’ affordability stems from:
- Local Economy: While there are upscale areas, many parts of the country remain incredibly affordable due to the local pricing structure.
- Public Transport: Jeepneys, tricycles, and ferries offer cost-effective ways to travel around.
Life in the Philippines is both laid-back and vibrant:
- Beach Life: With countless islands, beach life is a significant aspect of Filipino culture.
- Community Spirit: Filipinos are known for their hospitality and community-driven lifestyle, ensuring newcomers feel welcome.
Nestled in Central America, Guatemala is a country rich in Mayan history, stunning landscapes, and colorful markets. Its affordability combined with its cultural richness makes it an attractive destination for those seeking a cost-effective yet vibrant lifestyle.
Why Guatemala is Affordable
Several factors contribute to Guatemala’s budget-friendly appeal:
- Local Agriculture: With a climate conducive to agriculture, fresh produce is readily available at low prices in local markets.
- Artisan Goods: Handmade textiles, pottery, and other crafts can be purchased directly from artisans at reasonable prices.
Living in Guatemala offers a blend of history and nature:
- Historical Sites: Ancient Mayan ruins like Tikal offer a glimpse into the country’s rich past.
- Natural Beauty: From Lake Atitlán to the volcanic landscapes, there’s plenty for nature lovers to explore.
Located in the heart of South America, Bolivia is a land of contrasts, from the high-altitude Andes to the Amazon rainforest. Its diverse landscapes are matched by its affordability, making it a hidden gem for expats and travelers.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has documented Bolivia’s agricultural practices, emphasizing its commitment to sustainable farming and ensuring food security. With its dedication to sustainable agriculture, Bolivia offers an affordable cost of living, making it an attractive choice for those who prioritize both environmental responsibility and budget-friendly living.
Why Bolivia is Affordable
Bolivia’s low cost of living can be attributed to:
- Local Economy: Bolivia’s economy is largely based on local consumption, ensuring goods and services are priced affordably.
- Public Transport: Buses and shared taxis offer cost-effective ways to navigate the country.
Bolivia offers a unique blend of indigenous and colonial cultures:
- Cultural Festivals: Events like the Oruro Carnival showcase Bolivia’s rich cultural tapestry.
- Natural Wonders: The Uyuni Salt Flats and the Amazon basin are just a couple of the breathtaking natural attractions.
Nestled between India and Tibet, Nepal is renowned for its Himalayan peaks, including Mount Everest. Beyond its mountains, Nepal offers a low cost of living, making it a favorite among trekkers, spiritual seekers, and expats.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has shed light on Nepal’s healthcare initiatives, emphasizing its endeavors to offer affordable healthcare to all its residents. Alongside these health-focused initiatives, the cost of living in Nepal remains notably low, positioning the country as an appealing destination for those seeking a holistic and budget-friendly lifestyle.
Why Nepal is Affordable
Factors contributing to Nepal’s affordability include:
- Local Produce: Due to its varied altitudes, Nepal produces a range of crops, ensuring fresh and affordable food.
- Budget Accommodations: From guesthouses to homestays, there are plenty of budget-friendly lodging options.
Life in Nepal is a blend of adventure and spirituality:
- Trekking Opportunities: From the Annapurna Circuit to Everest Base Camp, trekkers are spoilt for choice.
- Spiritual Centers: Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, and various monasteries offer spiritual solace.
Located in the Balkans, Serbia is a country with a rich history, diverse culture, and a surprisingly affordable lifestyle. Its blend of Eastern and Western influences makes it a unique destination for those seeking a European experience without the high costs.
A study by Mediuim delved into Serbia’s emerging status as a hotspot for digital nomads and expatriates. The country’s affordable urban hubs, combined with a thriving tech ecosystem and a unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures, make Serbia an increasingly attractive destination for those seeking a European experience without the high costs.
Why Serbia is Affordable
Several factors contribute to Serbia’s cost-effective living:
- Local Economy: While Serbia is in Europe, its prices for many goods and services are significantly lower than its western neighbors.
- Agricultural Richness: Serbia’s fertile lands produce a variety of crops, ensuring that local food is both delicious and affordable.
Serbia offers a mix of urban and rural experiences:
- Cultural Heritage: From Belgrade’s bustling streets to the historic town of Novi Sad, there’s a rich tapestry of culture and history.
- Natural Beauty: National parks, rivers, and mountains offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia is a country known for its ancient wine-making tradition, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality. Its affordability is drawing an increasing number of expats and digital nomads.
Why Georgia is Affordable
Georgia’s low cost of living can be attributed to:
- Local Production: Georgia has a strong tradition of agriculture and wine-making, ensuring high-quality produce at low prices.
- Government Initiatives: With programs like “Remotely from Georgia,” the country is encouraging long-term stays, making it easier and more affordable for foreigners.
Life in Georgia is a blend of tradition and modernity:
- Culinary Delights: Georgian cuisine, with dishes like khachapuri and khinkali, is a treat for the palate.
- Historical Landmarks: From Uplistsikhe cave town to the churches of Mtskheta, Georgia is steeped in history.
Located in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is not just known for the iconic Angkor Wat but also for its affordability. Its rich history, combined with its low cost of living, makes it an attractive destination for many.
Why Cambodia is Affordable
Several factors make Cambodia a budget-friendly choice:
- Local Markets: Fresh produce, textiles, and handmade crafts can be found at local markets at very affordable prices.
- Low Overheads: Utilities, transportation, and housing are significantly cheaper than in many Western countries.
Cambodia offers a mix of historical and natural experiences:
- Ancient Temples: Beyond Angkor Wat, there are numerous temples and historical sites to explore.
- Beach Destinations: Places like Sihanoukville and Koh Rong offer beautiful beaches and a laid-back lifestyle.
Tucked away in the heart of South America, Paraguay is often overshadowed by its larger neighbors. However, its low cost of living combined with its warm culture makes it an attractive option for those looking to live affordably.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has highlighted Paraguay’s development projects, particularly its efforts to enhance infrastructure and appeal to foreign residents. With its strategic initiatives and the low cost of living, Paraguay emerges as a compelling choice for both expatriates and businesses seeking opportunities in South America.
Why Paraguay is Affordable
Factors contributing to Paraguay’s affordability include:
- Local Economy: A focus on local consumption ensures that prices remain low for residents.
- Low Taxation: Paraguay has one of the lowest tax rates in the region, making it financially attractive for expats.
Life in Paraguay is laid-back and community-oriented:
- Cultural Celebrations: Festivals like the Nanduti Festival showcase the country’s rich traditions.
- Natural Beauty: The Gran Chaco and numerous rivers offer diverse landscapes for nature lovers.
Located in Eastern Europe, Romania is a country of contrasts, from the Transylvanian Alps to the Black Sea coast. Its rich folklore, castles, and affordability make it a top choice for many looking for European charm on a budget.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has documented Romania’s economic growth and its integration efforts with the broader European market. Despite its European Union membership and economic advancements, Romania offers a cost of living that is significantly more affordable than many of its EU counterparts, making it an enticing option for those seeking European experiences without the hefty price tag.
Why Romania is Affordable
Romania’s budget-friendly nature can be attributed to:
- Emerging Economy: While Romania is part of the EU, its prices for many goods and services are still lower than Western European standards.
- Local Produce: Romania’s fertile lands ensure a steady supply of fresh and affordable food.
Romania offers a blend of history and modernity:
- Historical Charm: Transylvania, with its castles and legends, offers a unique historical experience.
- Urban Life: Cities like Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca are vibrant hubs of culture, art, and nightlife.
Pakistan, located in South Asia, is a country of diverse landscapes, from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the arid deserts of Sindh. Its rich history, combined with its affordability, makes it an intriguing option for those seeking a unique living experience.
Why Pakistan is Affordable
Several factors contribute to Pakistan’s cost-effective nature:
- Local Economy: Goods and services are primarily priced for the local population, ensuring overall affordability.
- Agricultural Dominance: With a significant portion of the economy based on agriculture, fresh produce is readily available at low prices.
Pakistan offers a blend of history, culture, and nature:
- Historical Sites: From the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-Daro to the Mughal architecture in Lahore, Pakistan is steeped in history.
- Natural Beauty: The Karakoram Highway, Fairy Meadows, and Hunza Valley are just a few of the breathtaking spots for nature enthusiasts.
Tucked away in Eastern Europe, Belarus is a country with pristine forests, historic towns, and a tranquil countryside. Its off-the-beaten-path status combined with its affordability makes it a hidden gem in Europe.
Why Belarus is Affordable
Belarus’s low cost of living can be attributed to:
- State-Regulated Prices: Many essential goods and services have prices regulated by the state, ensuring affordability.
- Local Production: A strong emphasis on local manufacturing and agriculture ensures quality goods at reasonable prices.
Life in Belarus is a mix of the traditional and the modern:
- Cultural Heritage: Cities like Minsk and Brest offer a blend of Soviet-era architecture and modern European influences.
- Natural Retreats: The Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is a UNESCO site and home to the European bison, showcasing Belarus’s commitment to conservation.
How reliable is the internet in Vietnam for remote work?
In major cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the internet is reliable and suitable for remote work. Many cafes and co-working spaces cater to digital nomads. However, in rural areas, connectivity might be less consistent.
I’ve heard healthcare in Mexico is good. Is it suitable for retirees?
Absolutely. Many expats and retirees in Mexico praise the healthcare system for its quality and affordability. Cities like Guadalajara and Merida have top-notch hospitals. It’s advisable to get health insurance that covers medical care in Mexico.
Is English widely spoken in Ukraine?
While Ukrainian and Russian are the primary languages, many younger Ukrainians and those in the service industry speak English, especially in larger cities like Kyiv and Lviv. However, learning basic Ukrainian or Russian phrases can be beneficial.
What’s the expat community like in Indonesia, particularly Bali?
Bali, especially areas like Ubud and Canggu, has a thriving expat community. Many digital nomads, retirees, and entrepreneurs call Bali home, drawn by its culture, beauty, and affordability.
Are there vegetarian or vegan food options readily available in India?
Yes, India is a paradise for vegetarians and vegans. A significant portion of the population is vegetarian, so there’s a plethora of vegetarian dishes. Many restaurants clearly mark vegetarian dishes on their menus.
How easy is it to travel around the Philippines given its archipelagic nature?
The Philippines has a well-connected network of ferries and domestic flights. While travel between islands requires some planning, it’s relatively straightforward and affordable.
I’ve heard about the “Remotely from Georgia” program. Can you provide more details?
“Remotely from Georgia” is an initiative by the Georgian government to attract remote workers. It offers a visa that allows digital nomads to live and work in Georgia for up to a year. Applicants need to prove their employment status and meet certain income criteria.
Living affordably doesn’t mean compromising on the richness of experience. As we’ve explored, numerous countries offer a harmonious blend of culture, adventure, and value. Whether you’re seeking a new home or a temporary retreat, the world is brimming with opportunities waiting to be discovered.