Life

Nine International Cities Where You Can Live On The Cheap


How much does it really cost to live abroad? That’s a question that seems easy on its face, then starts to sound incredibly complicated. Currency conversions, travel expenses, and “westerner” tax all seem to stand in the way of just saying ‘f*ck it’ and moving to a new country or city and living a bigger life for a spell. Still, it’s not as expensive as you probably think it is — especially if you chose your new home wisely.

I’ve been living all over the world since 2003. I’ve lived in the UK, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Sometimes it’s easier than you expect. Sometimes it’s harder. It’s always rewarding.

When I was living in Jakarta with my wife, we both had full time jobs which paid fairly well. We basically lived off of my salary for our expenses and lived that baller lifestyle by taking taxis where ever we wanted to go, eating at Jakarta’s best restaurants on the weekends, and ordering whole bottles of tequila when we went out to party. At the same time, we were saving my wife’s entire salary for travel. We saved enough to spend nine straight months on the road traveling overland from Singapore to Istanbul after we quit our jobs.

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You can do this too. It is possible. So I’ve put together a very short list of places where it costs very little to live and play.

A couple of caveats: These costs are calculated for a single person, living a budget/shoestring life. This is bare minimum, not baller. The point here is that if you’re making $3000 a month working remotely anyway, then why not move to Jakarta and literally save 90 percent of your salary? You can pay off student loan debt faster AND save for an awesome round the world trip at the same time. Sure, you can spend a lot more in the top of the range, but if you’re frugal this is where you can start.

Note: all prices converted from local currency to USD and represent approximate monthly costs.

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POW by @electru

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BERLIN

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Berlin is the city where a beer at a bar can cost as little as €1.50 from the draft. That’s $1.58. At the same time, you can easily spend 15 bucks for a craft cocktail a few doors down — but that’s beside the point. Overall, Berlin is crazy inexpensive with a very high quality of life. There’s something for everyone from music to food to art to architecture.

Rent $315
Utilities $65
Phone $30
Internet $30
Transport $62
Food $210
Entertainment $210

TOTAL $922 per month.

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JAKARTA

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In Jakarta you can get a large bottle of Bintang beer for 15,000 rupiah, or about $1.12. Even if you eat out for every dinner, you’re still going to be spending in the neighborhood of $20 a week — if you eat at the local joints. And let’s say you set aside 1,000,000 rupiah for entertainment (going to a movie costs about 50,000) that’s still only $75 per month.

Overall, Jakarta is the developing world smashed right up against the first world. It’s hot. It’s diverse. The food is outstanding. And the surrounding country of 20,000+ islands offers an endless amount of exploration waiting at your doorstep.

Rent $300 outside city center/ double that in the center.
Utilities $85
Phone $30
Internet $25
Transport $15
Food $90
Entertainment $75

Total $620 per month.

PHUKET

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You can live right in Phuket City — which can offer a surprisingly good time. Or you can find a little village on the island, not far from a iddylic beach and pay about half the cost. You could even go full Robison Crusoe and get a hut for about 20 bucks a month, but let’s not go that far.

This is a country where a meal should cost you around 60baht. That’s $1.70. So if you’re eating out for breakfast and dinner every day of the week, that’s only $24 a week for (absolutely amazing) meals. Entertainment wise, you’ll be in one of the most strikingly beautiful parts of the world. You can easily spend a year exploring all the different beaches around the area and barely see them all.

Rent $270
Utilities $76
Phone $30
Internet $18
Transport $52
Food $120
Entertainment $50

Total $616 per month.

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PRAGUE

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Prague is the classic expat town of Europe. Ever since the Iron Curtain was drawn, western expats have flocked to the city. It hasn’t abated. Somehow Prague has (largely) been able to retain its quintessential and quaint charms and low prices.

Living in Prague can be like living in any city in the west. You can easily break the bank in cocktail bars and high-end restaurants. But that’s not day to day life. You can still drink amazing Czech beer for a couple dollars off a tap and eat local delicacies for under $5 a plate.

Rent $390
Utilities $116
Phone $40
Internet $16
Transport $22
Food $200
Entertainment $200

Total $984 per month.

BISHKEK

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This one is for the more adventurous. When you tell someone you’re moving to Kyrgyzstan the response is almost universally ‘where’s that???’ And that’s what makes it kinda cool.

Bishkek hasn’t really shed it’s old Soviet ways. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a different world and era living there. The prices are steady and cheap. The food is amazing. And the untouched nature surrounding you in the mountains and valleys of Kyrgyzstan are spectacular.

Rent $300
Utilities $55
Phone $30
Internet $24
Transport $5
Food $200
Entertainment $100

Total $714 per month.

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KOCHI

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You’ll be buying amazing meals for literally $1. At two bucks a day that’s only $60 a month to eat out twice daily and there’s a really good chance you’ll never have a bad plate of food.

India can cause pretty severe culture shock when you start living there. Kochi is an interesting port/crossroads city — well, it’s more of big town. Arabs, Jews, Hindus, Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese, and British have all left their mark on this magic corner of India. And it’s crazy cheap to live there…just make sure to finely hone your haggling skills.

Rent $140
Utilities $32
Phone $20
Internet $20
Transport $4
Food $100
Entertainment $50

Total $366 per month.

GUANAJUATO

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Living in Mexico as an American should almost be a prerequisite for modern American life. It’ll give you a whole new perspective on life in the US. And Guanajuato is a classically Mexican city that’s amazingly inexpensive to live in.

Food is going to be your biggest expense because the food in Guanajuato is spectacular (arguably a tie with Oaxaca for first place in pan-Mexican cuisine). The Mercado Hidalgo can be your grocery store! Otherwise, day-to-day expenses are very affordable and you’ll have one of the most beautiful cities in the Americas to explore every single day.

Rent $170
Utilities $27
Phone $40
Internet $18
Transport $7
Food $300
Entertainment $100

Total $662 per month.

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you wanna taco bout it?

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BELMOPAN

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Here you have the advantage of using a great exchange rate against USD. It’s a simple exchange of 2:1, or 1 Belize dollar costs 50 cents. See, you’re saving money already. After that, Belmopan may not be the cheapest place to live in Central America, but it’s close.

Choosing Belmopan as a base is a smart traveler’s tactic. Belize is tiny and living expenses will be cheaper the further away from tourism you get. You’ll be an hour, tops, from some of the most breathtaking beaches in the Americas and all the wonder that comes with reefs, snorkeling, and the surrounding jungle.

Rent $130
Utilities $30
Phone $30
Internet $28
Transport $60
Food $125
Entertainment $100

Total $503 per month.

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My class room🌊

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MEDELLIN

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Medellin is going through a renaissance. The city is vibrantly coming back to life and rediscovering its identity after too many years of Narco wars.

Overall, living in the city is a very inexpensive prospect. And the food scene is amazing. So expect to spend more on food than on rent. The beer is cheap. The mountains are beautiful. And the city is alive.

Rent $215
Utilities $60
Phone $20
Internet $30
Transport $20
Food $300
Entertainment $100

Total $745 per month.

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