Discover the 10 best and cheapest places in the world to live

Last Updated on May 15, 2024

In 2020, do you think about quitting your job and moving to a foreign country? International Living, which launches an Annual Global Retirement Index of the best places to ‘retire’, released the cheapest places in the world to live, listed by Forbes consultant Laura Begley Bloom.

But don’t think that this list is limited to retirees: it’s also for people who want to move to a place where the cost of living is much cheaper than in the United States, and in fact, that you may not need to work.

In the list, International Living systematically gathers and filters the wealth of opportunities that the world offers, comparing, contrasting, classifying its discoveries to help potential expatriates to identify the best value destinations in the world, comparing than each country that we have to offer offers in categories like cost of living, medical assistance, visas and residence and much more.

1. Portugal

Reasons: One of the friendliest, easiest, culturally rich and safest countries in the world, Portugal leads the Annual Global Retirement Index for 2020. “After living here for more than seven years, I am often asked ‘Why Portugal? ‘”, Says Tricia Pimental, correspondent for International Living in Portugal. “My answer is often to list factors such as an accessible lifestyle – which includes quality professional health care” Temperate climate, high safety rating and excellent food and wine. ” But Pimental says the real reason is even more ephemeral. “It is the general feeling of well-being that we experience here,” says Pimental. “The country’s natural geographical beauty combines with its architecture from several eras, which dates back to millennia, evoking a sense of permanence and timeless tradition. When you add the kindness of the Portuguese people, it’s a winning combination“.

best places to live: portugal

Portugal also has great beaches and a fantastic weather in the south. It’s not only one of the best places to live in the world, it’s also one of the best places to visit in Europe if you’re just searching ideas for your next trip.

Costs: Portugal is one of the most accessible countries in Western Europe. In the capital of Lisbon, a couple can live comfortably on about $ 2,200 a month – and it is much less for a single person. In smaller cities and inland, a couple’s budget will be about $ 1,700 a month. And there are areas where your money goes even further, such as Peniche, on the Silver Coast of Portugal, where you can live for less than $ 1,400 a month. Another example is Marvão, where you can have historic property in a national mountain park for just $ 403 a month. At about a 20-minute drive in Castelo de Vide, you can find houses in need of renovation for just € 10,000 ($ 11,068).

2. Panama

living in panama

Reasons: Panama is warm and tropical. The currency is the US dollar. The tax burden is low. There is a large English-speaking population – including excellent doctors. It lies completely outside the hurricane belt. High-speed Internet and cellular coverage is remarkable, as is the quality of power, air and water. And the country’s famous Pensionado – which offers easy residency for expatriates – is one of the best retirement programs in the world today and is open to everyone. “You will never run out of things to do here,” says Jessica Ramesch, editor of International Living in Panama. “What few people know is that this is also a cultural capital. Panama City is home to active and vibrant communities from around the world, and all forms of art are celebrated here ”.

Costs: In Panama City, a couple can live on a monthly budget of just $ 1,700. A single could save about 20 to 30% of those numbers. Leave Panama City and the costs are even more affordable. In Volcán, a couple can escape to a pleasant and peaceful life with a monthly budget of US $ 1,514. Another advantage for Panama: zero income tax, if you have income in other countries.

3. Costa Rica

Reasons: “Costa Rica remains one of the top candidates year after year on the list of countries for the International Living Retirement Index,” says Kathleen Evans, International Living correspondent in Costa Rica. “There are many reasons to love this Central American gem.” There are accessible medical care, a dozen microclimates, abundant nature, welcoming residents, a direct residency process, in addition to pioneers who have already paved the way. Costa Rica also has the enviable luxury of peace and stability – uncommon for many countries in the region. This year, the country celebrates 71 years since the abolition of the army, making it the largest democracy without military force.

Costs: In the Central Valley – home to about two-thirds of Costa Rica’s population – a single person can live between $ 1,500 and $ 1,800 a month. Many couples report living well on $ 2,000 a month – including all costs, but that can drop to $ 1,585, depending on where you live and how you spend your budget. You can eat at a local restaurant for just $ 4 or $ 5, and a visit to a doctor will cost $ 50 or less.

4. Mexico

mexico city

Reasons: Life is simple in Mexico. Health care is of the highest quality, stunning beaches, a vibrant cultural scene and a low cost of living. “My wife, Diane, and I moved to Cancún in 2014,” says Don Murray, International Maya correspondent in Riviera Maya. “The country has something for everyone: beautiful warm oceans, crystal clear tropical lakes, fertile lands, temperate but majestic mountains, incredibly beautiful deserts, small towns or sophisticated cities. And it is very easy to fit. “

Costs: “The cost of living is low,” says Murray. “In fact, there are many places in the country where a wonderful life can be achieved by the price of a monthly Social Security check and this improves even more when you calculate the normally favorable exchange rate from dollars to pesos.” A couple can live in Mexico for just $ 1,500 a month, depending on location – including rent and medical assistance. For example, in Toluca, a house with a yard and yard, costs less than $ 500 a month, a fancy restaurant costs $ 20 for two people, and Uber rides cost between $ 1 and $ 2, wherever you go.

5. Colombia

Reasons: “Colombia is the rising star of South America,” says Nancy Kiernan, correspondent for International Living in Colombia. “In recent years, it has achieved a high ranking in the index, thanks to the lower cost of living, breathtaking scenery, world-class medical care, proximity to the United States and the warm and welcoming Colombian people.” There is a local expression: you don’t just meet a Colombian, you know the whole family.

Costs: Things are much cheaper than in the United States. You can go out and have breakfast or lunch for $ 4 or a nice dinner for $ 8. Getting a retirement visa to live in Colombia is also quite easy. William Edwards, an expat who lives in the mountain town of Medellín, says the cost of living is 60% lower than in a small town in Maine. Think of $ 1,394 to $ 1,994 a month for a couple, even less for a single person.

6. Ecuador

Reasons: “I found a safe nest in Ecuador,” says Donna Stiteler, International Living correspondent in Cuenca, Ecuador. “The weather is springtime, there is no need for a car and rents are $ 500 for a nice condo overlooking the historic center.” This year, Ecuador scores well in the benefit, discount and cost of living categories. “There is an active and united expat community and many activities to get involved – trips to nearby cities, card games, dinners, curiosities, art classes, walks in the cajas and long lunches with friends,” says Stiteler.

Costs: Ecuador is good for your pocket. For example, in Cuenca, a single person can survive on less than $ 1,000 a month. As the land produces excellent food, especially with growing seasons throughout the year, prices in local markets are low. A domestic employee is available for $ 10 to $ 20 a day, and services like pedicures and haircuts are just a few dollars. There is no need for heating and cooling bills in most parts of the country, and you can live in most places without a car, paying 30 cents or less for buses and $ 2 to $ 5 for taxi rides. Rentals are plentiful and affordable: imagine a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in downtown Cuenca for just $ 500 a month.

7. Malaysia

Reasons: Malaysia – a popular expat destination since the late 1960s – is known for its idyllic beaches, seductive islands and some of Southeast Asia’s most primitive rainforests. Expatriates can own real estate, there is no inheritance tax and Malaysia does not charge tax on income earned abroad. “Malaysian law is based on the British system and all road signs are in English and Malay, which makes it easy,” says Keith Hockton, International Living correspondent in Malaysia. He and his wife, Lisa, moved to Penang in early 2010. “The country’s first unofficial language is English, so you don’t have to learn another language here if you don’t want to. And the other thing that appeals to us is the outdoor lifestyle. “

Costs: In Penang, a couple can live comfortably at $ 1,455 a month, including rent. Eat where the locals eat and you can’t go wrong with a meal for less than $ 5. “As for health care, when you compare the prices of surgery between the U.S. and Malaysia, the benefits are obvious,” says Hockton.

8. Spain

Reasons: Spain has the highest standards of living – and for much less than in the United States. “There is no doubt about giving up living here. In fact, you earn a lot, ”says Marsha Scarbrough, correspondent for International Living in Spain. “Outside the tourist areas, you may need to learn some Spanish to have fun, but there are many beach areas with large communities of English-speaking expats. In my experience, Spaniards are friendly, helpful and curious about other cultures. “

Costs: Spain has one of the lowest living costs in Western Europe. Even in Madrid, one of the most expensive places, you can live modestly on $ 2,000 a month. Rent is cheaper than the United States and, living in a city, you don’t need a car – which is a huge savings. Because of the hot climate, many basic food items are also cheap in Spain.

9. France

Reasons: “France has all the ingredients that we are looking for in International Living: good food, good wine, haute couture, good weather, untouched landscapes, sparkling culture, brilliant culture, excellent health care, colorful traditions and history and, as a bonus, the glamor and sophistication of Paris – probably the most fascinating capital in the world, ”says Tuula Rampont, International Living correspondent in France. “And France is more accessible than you think.”

Costs: One of the best things about living in France is the excellent health care system: universal coverage is guaranteed to all residents (expatriates or not) after three months, and prices for health services are minimal. How much you spend on the cost of living in France depends on your lifestyle: opting for high life in Paris will make a bigger hole in your budget than living in a quiet corner like Charentes or Auvergne. A couple can live on a budget of $ 2,083 to $ 2,483 – it will be less if you are single.

10. Vietnam

Reasons: Modern cities, ancient historical sites, deserted beaches, some of the most welcoming people in the world and one of the strongest economies in Asia – this is Vietnam. Vietnam’s exceptionally low cost of living is a great incentive, and most items cost less than half what you would pay at home. It is also an easy place to live, with English widely spoken.

Costs: Even in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, a couple can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle for less than $ 1,100 a month, but many Westerners earn about $ 500 a month for a no-frills lifestyle. . If you live outside of the two largest cities in Vietnam, a budget of $ 800 to $ 1,000 per month will have a beautiful home or apartment, all utilities, housework, shopping and meals every day, if you choose and even an occasional massage. If you have a bigger budget, you will be living a life of luxury for a fraction of what you would pay in the West.