Where are the cheapest places to live abroad?

Moving abroad offers expats a chance to experience new cultures and benefit from a lower cost if living while maintaining a good quality of life. Numerous countries provide affordable living options, whether you’re seeking tropical beaches, historic cities or vibrant urban centres. Here are some of the cheapest places to live abroad, but that will still offer a high quality of life.

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Mexico

Mexico is a top choice for expats, thanks to its proximity to the US, warm climate and vibrant culture. Popular cities like Mérida, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta provide affordable housing, excellent healthcare and a low cost of living. On average, the monthly costs for a single person is around £950 to £1400 per month. Cost of living in Mexico is, on average, 37% lower than in the UK and 44% lower than in the US. 

Regarding visas, Mexico offers several options for expats. The Temporary Resident Visa allows you to stay for up to four years and is ideal for retirees and those with steady income. After four years, you can apply for a Permanent Resident Visa, which grants you indefinite stay and offers most to the rights of a Mexican citizen. With a rich cultural heritage and friendly locals, Mexico is perfect for those wanting to experience a new way of life without breaking the bank. 

Portugal

Portugal is renowned for its affordable living costs, stunning scenery and friendly atmosphere, making it a popular destination for expats. The Algarve region, as well as cities like Porto and Lisbon, offer a relaxed lifestyle with excellent healthcare, delicious cuisine, and numerous outdoor activities. On average, the monthly cost for a single person in Portugal is around £565 per month, excluding rent. Cost of living in Portugal is around 27% lower than in the UK and 35% lower than in the US. 

Regarding visas, Portugal offers several options for expats. The D7 Visa, also known as the Retirement or Passive Income Visa, is ideal for retirees and those with a steady income from abroad. This visa allows you to stay for up to one year and it can be renewed for two-year periods. After five years, you can apply for permanent residency or citizenship. Portugal’s combination of low cost of living, high quality of life, and welcoming environment makes it an attractive option for retirees and digital nomads alike.¬†

Thailand

Thailand provides expats with an exotic and affordable lifestyle, particularly in cities like Chiang Mai and Hua Hin. The country is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant markets, and welcoming expat community. Healthcare in Thailand is excellent and affordable, and the cost of renting or buying property is significantly lower than in Western countries. The cost of living in Thailand is, on average, 45% lower than in the UK and 51% lower than in the US, excluding rent.

Regarding visas, Thailand offers several options for expats. The Non-Immigrant Visa “O-A” is designed for retirees over 50 years old and allows for a stay of one year, which can be renewed annually. Applicants must meet certain financial requirements, such as having a specific amount in a Thai bank account or a monthly income. Another option is the Thailand Elite Visa, which offers long-term residency ranging from 5 to 20 years, depending on the package chosen. Thailand’s low cost of living, high-quality healthcare, and diverse culture make it an ideal destination for those seeking a blend of adventure and relaxation.

Vietnam

Vietnam is increasingly popular among expats for its low cost of living, delicious food, and rich cultural experiences. Cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi provide a bustling urban lifestyle with affordable housing and modern amenities. On average, the monthly costs for a single person in Vietnam are around £365 per month, excluding rent. The cost of living in Vietnam is, on average, 54% lower than in the UK and 59% lower than in the US, excluding rent.

Vietnam’s stunning landscapes, friendly people, and growing expat community make it a great place to live and explore. Healthcare is both excellent and affordable, with international-standard hospitals and clinics available in major cities. To reside in Vietnam, expats can apply for a business visa, tourist visa, or work permit making the transition smooth and accessible. Vietnam does not have a specific retirement visa. However, retirees often use long-term tourist or business visas and renew them periodically.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a hidden gem for expats seeking an affordable European destination with a high quality of life. Cities like Sofia and Plovdiv offer a blend of modern amenities and rich cultural history, all at a significantly lower cost of living. On average, living expenses in Bulgaria are 38% lower than in the UK and 45% lower than in the US, excluding rent.

Sofia, the capital, provides a vibrant urban experience with a mix of contemporary and historical architecture. It has a thriving cultural scene, numerous parks, and a variety of entertainment options. Plovdiv, one of the oldest cities in Europe, offers a more relaxed pace of life with its well-preserved ancient ruins, charming old town, and lively arts scene.

Bulgaria’s warm climate is another draw for expats, with hot summers and mild winters, particularly in the southern regions. The country also boasts stunning natural landscapes, from the Black Sea coastline to the scenic mountain ranges, offering plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. Overall, Bulgaria presents an excellent opportunity for expats seeking a cost-effective yet enriching place to call home.

Malaysia

Malaysia stands out as a prime destination for expats seeking a harmonious blend of modern amenities and cultural richness. Cities like Penang and Kuala Lumpur offer a low cost of living compared to Western counterparts, with expenses on average 52% lower than in the UK and 57% lower than in the US, excluding rent. Malaysia’s healthcare system is highly regarded, offering quality medical care at affordable rates. The country’s warm climate and natural beauty, including rainforests, islands, and highlands, provide ample opportunities for outdoor activities and exploration.

Malaysia’s expat-friendly policies, diverse culture, affordable living costs, and modern infrastructure make it an ideal choice for those looking to relocate abroad while enjoying a high quality of life. Malaysia offers several visa options for foreigners, including the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program for long-term stays, Employment Pass for workers, Residence Pass-Talent for skilled professionals, Student Pass for students, Long-Term Social Visit Pass for retirees, and Dependent Pass for family members of visa holders.

Colombia

Colombia is increasingly becoming a top choice for expats due to its affordable cost of living, warm climate, and improved safety. Cities such as Medellín and Bogotá boast modern amenities, excellent healthcare facilities, and a rich cultural atmosphere. Colombia has made significant strides in improving safety in recent years, with major cities experiencing a decline in crime rates. 

In terms of visa options, Colombia offers several pathways for expats to live in the country long-term. The most common visa types include the Resident Visa, which can be obtained through various means such as investment, retirement, or employment. The retirement visa, in particular, is popular among retirees looking to settle in Colombia, offering a straightforward process for those who meet the requirements.

Colombia presents a compelling package for expats seeking a blend of affordability, pleasant weather, cultural richness, and safety in Latin America. The cost of living in Colombia is, on average, 52% lower than in the UK and 57% lower than in the US, excluding rent.

Greece

Greece offers expats an affordable Mediterranean lifestyle. The country boasts a lower cost of living compared to many Western European counterparts, offering expats access to stunning beaches, rich historical sites, and delectable cuisine. Greece’s relaxed pace of life and warm hospitality create an inviting environment, ideal for retirees and digital nomads seeking a tranquil yet culturally rich destination.

The cost of living in Greece is notably more economical than in the UK by an average of 16% and 26% lower than in the US. This affordability, coupled with Greece’s favourable climate and diverse landscapes, contributes to its allure among expats looking to enjoy a great quality of life.

Visa options for expats in Greece include residence permits for retirement, employment, or investment purposes. These permits allow flexibility for foreigners looking to live in Greece long-term, enjoying its Mediterranean lifestyle, rich history, and vibrant culture without significant bureaucratic hurdles.

Final notes

Moving abroad to one of the cheapest places to live abroad can offer expats a chance to maintain a high quality of life without breaking the bank. From Thailand’s beaches to Portugal’s historic streets, these countries provide affordable living, modern amenities, and rich cultural experiences. Whether you’re retiring, working remotely, or seeking adventure, these destinations should be at the top of your list for your next move.

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*cost of living averages have been taken from Numbeo

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