Discover the Cheapest Places to Live in the World for an Affordable Retirement in 2024

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Embrace the Dream of Living Well on a Budget

In our fast-paced world, where the cost of living continues to soar, the prospect of a comfortable retirement can seem like a distant dream. However, the beauty of travel and International Living’s Retirement Index lies in the power to choose a country with a cost of living that suits your budget. Imagine waking up each day without the weight of financial stress, able to savor life’s simple pleasures without counting pennies. This is the reality that awaits you in the cheapest places to live in the world.

A Curated List of Affordability

This is not a subjective compilation; it’s a meticulously researched endeavor. Our dedicated correspondents, scattered across the globe, have diligently surveyed and verified the specific costs for essentials like groceries, rent, utilities, household assistance, dining out, gym memberships, transportation, and the unexpected expenses that come with living overseas. With this wealth of information, we bring you the most affordable expat havens where your dollars will stretch further than you ever imagined.

Peace of Mind in an Affordable Paradise

While an affordable location can mean more disposable income for leisure activities, it also ensures a sense of financial security and peace of mind. Imagine living comfortably on a modest retirement fund, free from the constant worry of stretching your resources too thin. In these cheapest places to live, your golden years can truly be golden, filled with adventure, relaxation, and the freedom to embrace life to the fullest.

Unlock the Gateway to Your Overseas Dream Life

So, let’s embark on this journey together and discover the top five cheapest places to live in the world. From vibrant cultural hubs to breathtaking coastal paradises, each destination offers a unique blend of affordability, adventure, and the opportunity to create your own overseas dream life. Get ready to be inspired, as we explore these captivating locales where your retirement dreams can become a reality.

5. Mexico: A Vibrant Tapestry of Affordability and Culture

Mexicois a true gem, offering something for everyone: funky towns, elegant resorts, hundreds of beaches, world-class diving and snorkeling. From lush jungles to high-altitude deserts, snowcapped mountains to beautiful mountain ranges surrounding lakes, this country provides a kaleidoscope of environments to suit every preference. Whether you crave a warm climate with a constant sea breeze, a hot and dry semi-arid or desert climate, or a cool, jacket-worthy atmosphere year-round, Mexico has unlimited choices, all at a fraction of the cost you’d pay in the United States or Europe.

A Retirement Oasis for Every Budget

Mexico is an excellent retirement destination for any budget. A typical monthly budget for two people living a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle will likely not exceed $2,000. More often than not, the possibility of getting by on even less is a reality. American expat M’kali-Hashiki Nln, who resides in a furnished two-bedroom apartment in the city of Oaxaca, shares, “I spend $800 to $900 per month… I could go cheaper if I lived in a different place, walked more, and took fewer taxis.”

A Culinary Delight on a Budget

Mexican food is outrageously good, and it’s one of the benefits of living here. Fortunately, you can easily find great, multi-course meals at sit-down restaurants for about $3 to $4 per person. These comida corrida (literally, “food on the run”) menus include soup or pasta, an entree with salad, rice and beans, tortillas or bread, a pitcher of the agua del diá (fruit-infused water of the day), and often a small appetizer or dessert. Delicious and cost-effective, these meals cost less than trying to cook them yourself. Some restaurants even serve comida corrida meals featuring gourmet international cuisine; a lunch with all the accompaniments, with a choice of agua del diá or a craft beer, costs around $8.

Affordable Healthcare and Real Estate

Healthcare in Mexico is excellent and affordable. Hospital-affiliated English-speaking physicians charge around $30 to $50 for consultations, with follow-up appointments often free. Specialists charge around $75. At consultorios (small clinics associated with pharmacies), physicians charge even less. X-rays cost around $25, CT scans less than $100, and an electrocardiogram a mere $3—no doctor’s appointment required.

Real estate also costs less in Mexico than in the States. Foreigners can legally purchase property, and even luxury homes in prime locations like the Riviera Maya start in the low $100,000s. For around $200,000, you’ll find an abundance of luxury homes throughout the country.

Affordable Luxury: Household Help and Entertainment

Labor costs are lower in Mexico, making it possible to enjoy the luxury of household assistance. IL contributor Wendy Justice shares, “I pay my housekeeper, who comes once a week, $60 per month plus a $10 tip; it takes her about four hours each time. She’s honest and dependable, does a wonderful job, and is quite happy with her salary.”

Entertainment options abound, from photography and hiking groups to pickleball, trivia nights, and card game gatherings. Throughout Mexico, you’ll find festivals, parades, nightly fireworks, craft fairs, and an array of free, budget-friendly entertainment almost every night of the week.

4. Ecuador: Where Low Cost Meets High Living

The low cost of living is the number one reason many expats move to Ecuador. It can be a tremendous advantage, particularly if you are on a fixed income. Rental prices are a fraction of the cost compared to the United States or Europe, and if you buy property, your taxes will be significantly lower than in your home country. Local markets offer fresh fruits and vegetables year-round at prices so low you won’t be able to carry what $15 will buy.

Affordable Living in a Diverse Paradise

In Ecuador, you can not only retire on a lot less money, but you can also live very well. A couple can comfortably get by on less than $25,000 per year. If you’re single, you can live on around $1,000 a month, but you may need to make some lifestyle adjustments. Living on the outskirts of larger cities or small towns can significantly cut your rental costs. Buying vegetables and meats from smaller shops or the large indigenous markets is much cheaper, and the quality is likely to be better than what you’re used to.

Aaron Williamson, who relocated to the southern colonial city of Cuenca in 2021, shares, “My move abroad was an easy decision since I live alone, have decades of travel experience, and never lived in a city in North America that felt like ‘home.’ Among the main objectives of my move overseas was living in a small city with good infrastructure and a temperate climate, reducing my expenses while continuing to live well, and saving enough money to retire before the age of 60.”

Affordable Transportation and Healthcare

In Ecuador, you can live cheaply as many towns are walkable, and public transport options are plentiful. Taxis run around $1.50 to $3 to get almost anywhere, and public buses are just 30 cents a ride. IESS, the government health program, will run around $95 per month for two people.

Entertainment and Discounts Galore

Entertainment comes cheap in Ecuador too. You can grab an almuerzo (lunch) for $3 at small restaurants catering to locals, which includes fruit juice, soup, a main course, and sometimes dessert. In larger cities, international cuisine is available, with lunches starting at around $7.

Retiree Benefits and Discounts in Ecuador

Retirees in Ecuador benefit from 50% discounts on national and international airfares (although this does not include taxes and tariffs). People in their tercera edad, which means “Third Age” in Spanish, enjoy many other special benefits such as half-price public transportation, discounted admission to sporting and cultural events, and special priority lines in banks, grocery stores, and medical facilities. Plus, you are eligible for a refund on your monthly IVA (sales tax) on all purchases up to $108 a month.

Fiona Mitchell, an IL Ecuador contributor, shares her experience: “My husband and I moved to Cuenca in 2019 after he retired from the Coast Guard. We are able to live comfortably here on his military pension, renting an attractive two-bedroom apartment, and can still put money aside every month into savings or toward travel. If we were living in the States or Europe, we would both still have to work full-time to supplement the pension and wouldn’t be able to enjoy the quality of life we have here in Ecuador.”

3. Malaysia: A Hidden Gem of Affordability

Malaysia is a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia, a magnet for adventurous souls of all ages, both retired and working, seeking a colorful and affordable life. The country’s unique blend of stunning landscapes, friendly locals, and budget-friendly living has enticed expats from around the world for over 400 years. With Thailand and Singapore on its doorstep, and countries that border Malaysia to the north and south, its affordability and 800-odd islands capture the hearts of many.

Jaw-Droppingly Low Cost of Living

For those with a fixed income, Malaysia is your place. Rental prices are practically a steal, often cutting your housing expenses by one-third to a quarter compared to the United States or Europe. For those not on a budget, you’ll find luxury beyond your imagination. 12,000-square-foot apartments with their own pool and sea views rent for just $4,500 per month.

Furnished options abound, making your move hassle-free. Landlords are often willing to remove furniture if it doesn’t suit your taste. And in true Malaysian fashion, everything is open for friendly negotiation, including apartment rentals and furnishings. One couple managed to get their landlord to pay for their internet for two years and throw in a brand new 80-inch smart TV.

Property Taxes and Foreign Exchange Risks

If you decide to buy property in Malaysia, brace yourself for property taxes that are a mere fraction of what you’d shell out elsewhere. However, keep in mind that you can’t flip properties as easily as you would at home, as you need both state and federal approval for purchases. Foreign exchange risks should also be considered, as the Malaysian ringgit rises and falls like any other currency, which could impact your investment if you plan to sell in the future.

Affordable Utilities and Transportation

Air conditioning is optional in Malaysia, saving you even more money, but rest assured, every apartment comes with AC and fitted fans. Fans suffice, cutting down on your electricity bills. Public transport options are good, with taxis whisk you around for as little as $5, and public buses with complimentary Wi-Fi costing around $5 for a journey from one end of the island to the other.

Foodie’s Paradise on a Budget

Malaysia is known internationally for its street food, and Penang is Southeast Asia’s food center of excellence. From Michelin-star restaurants to street stalls, Malaysia has it all. Social butterflies have plenty of groups to join, exploring their passions for photography, hiking, pickleball, cycling, wind or kite surfing, tennis, racquetball, trivia, or card games—all for free. Throughout Malaysia, you’ll find festivals, parades, nightly fireworks, craft fairs, and an array of free, budget-friendly entertainment almost every night of the week.

2. Thailand: Affordable Experiences in a Colorful Paradise

The popular and colorful Southeast Asian country of Thailand provides such affordable living that even upscale experiences are bargains for the taking. Thailand, nestled between Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, also shares a border with Malaysia and provides a history and culture that are as unique as they are old.

Diverse Retirement Lifestyles on a Budget

Expats are happily sprawled across many provinces in Thailand, as this diverse country offers a myriad of retirement lifestyles and affordable experiences on most budgets. The beaches and islands offer an idyllic retirement for water lovers, happy views, and water sports enthusiasts. Bangkok, known as Krung Thep by the locals, is perfect for people looking for a more cosmopolitan life filled with fashion, tech gadgets, and bustling nightlife. Northern Thailand is filled with blissful mountains, acres of rice fields, and an amalgamation of Thai, Burmese, Laos, and Cambodian cultures.

Affordable Housing and Dining

You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to housing options in Thailand. A modern one-bedroom apartment in trendy Sukhumvit, Bangkok, close to the train station and nightlife, will only set you back $829 per month. If you’re looking for sun and sand with an isolated beach, a stylish one-bedroom, resort-style villa on Koh Samui is worth the $830 monthly cost, which includes a pool boy and a maid! For absolute value, you can’t beat Chiang Mai, where a city studio with a kitchenette can be as little as $248.

Thailand is a foodie’s paradise, with restaurants ranging from revolving skyscrapers to plastic stools on the sidewalk, all promising exquisite culinary experiences. Fragrant and spicy street food can be as little as $1.65. Alternatively, you can enjoy a Michelin-star restaurant in Bangkok for under $50. If Asian food isn’t your style, no problem – a hamburger and chips cost only around $5.50, and a ten-inch pepperoni pizza will set you back under $7.

Affordable Healthcare and Transportation

Thailand is already famous for health tourism, offering first-rate hospitals and health services with English-speaking specialists, many trained in North America or the UK. An initial visit to a specialist will barely dent your wallet at around $10. Bangkok Hospital offers deals for expats for annual health checks, and even intensive care for a night is around $2,000 in northern Thailand. Dental work is also a bargain, with fillings starting at $30 and root canals under $200.

The transport system in Thailand is surprisingly affordable. Trains in Bangkok are efficient and reliable, offering cheaper travel alternatives to other parts of the country. The roads are in good condition, and you can find a car rental for around $30 a day. Local taxi rides of around 40 minutes cost only $8, and brand-new Honda motor scooters are a steal at around $1,300.

Living the Good Life on a Budget

“Expats tend to live simpler lifestyles, and that impacts positively on the budget,” says IL contributor and expat Rachel Devlin. “A perfect starting point is between $2,000 and $2,500 to live comfortably, including some luxuries, like weekends away.”

“Although, you may be surprised to find that sometimes things are free in Thailand,” says Rachel Devlin. “Recently, when looking at a temple, I was offered water and snacks by a kindly monk in his saffron-colored robes. When thinking about it, beautiful Thai smiles are everywhere, and they don’t cost a cent.”

1. Colombia: Affordable Living with Latin Flair

One of the main benefits of living in Colombia is its low cost of living. The country offers many of the amenities and infrastructure you’d expect in a much more expensive country, making it an attractive option for those seeking an affordable yet comfortable lifestyle.

Affordable Rentals in Colombia’s Cities

Even with the steady increase in living costs over the past five years, along with the influx of newcomers and visitors, foreign residents can still live quite comfortably in affluent areas of Colombia. In smaller cities like Manizales and Pereira, you can get by on as little as $1,000 per month, while popular cities like Medellin may require a monthly budget of around $2,000. Bogota tends to have lower rental prices than Medellin and Cartagena, with the possibility of finding a two-bedroom home for $1,000 a month.

Erin Donaldson, an IL contributor, shares her experience: “Expect to pay at least $100 for monthly utilities in strata five or six neighborhoods. Internet and TV services will start around $20 or $30 per month and can be as much as $50 for all-inclusive packages.”

Michelle Thompson, another IL contributor who lived in Bogota from 2018 to 2022, adds, “I’ve lived in both Cartagena and Bogota, and found that in general, electricity and water costs are comparable to Canadian prices in the summer, but gas, internet, and cell service are much cheaper.”

Affordable Housing and the Tiered Estrato System

Colombia uses a tiered estrato system to determine the cost of utilities, including electricity, natural gas, water, telephone, and internet services. The system assigns an estrato number to neighborhoods based on the average income of its residents. Lower estrato neighborhoods receive subsidized rates, while higher estrato neighborhoods pay more. Despite these differences, utilities remain very affordable.

Reasonable Rental Prices in Popular Areas

Cartagena has one of the highest housing costs in the country due to the influx of tourists and foreigners in recent years who are willing to pay higher prices. Short-term rental platforms have also increased the cost of renting an apartment, especially in popular neighborhoods like Bocagrande, where the beach is only minutes away.

Thompson shares her experience in Cartagena: “I pay $650 a month for a modest one-bedroom that faces the Caribbean Ocean, much less than most foreigners pay. I had many conversations with locals and property managers to learn about the local renting market. Like it or not, foreigners often get charged a lot more, and knowing your neighbor will help you learn what’s considered ‘normal’ in terms of pricing.”

Affordable Dining and Healthcare

Dr. Eileen Sprys reads documents in her office at Medical Arts Hospital in Lamesa, Texas, U.S., December 17, 2020. Picture taken December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

Food costs in Colombia can vary depending on your dietary needs, preferences, and whether you eat out or make home-cooked meals. A person living in estrata five or six zones will spend at least $300 per month if they eat out once daily and go out on weekends. A typical lunch runs around $4 for a plate with meat, rice, salad, and a drink, while fancier restaurants will cost $15 to $20 per person for a meal.

Colombia has a national health insurance plan for permanent residents and citizens, as well as those with permission to work in the country. EPS insurance offers healthcare coverage at a minimal cost. The Foreign Medical Program Veterans Administration benefits are also available to those who qualify, with disabled veterans receiving full coverage and those who are partially disabled receiving payment for things related to their disability.

Affordable Entertainment and Activities

Colombia offers loads of entertainment and exercise activities to suit all budgets. Joining a fitness club will cost you about $30 per month, and a movie ticket costs between $2 to $3. If you’re on a budget, regions like the Coffee Triangle, Santander, and Boyaca offer access to nature reserves, rivers, lakes, and hiking trails for free.

Thompson shares her insights on affordable entertainment: “Spanish, dance, and cooking classes are widely available in most major cities and are reasonably priced. They can vary from $10 to $20 a session with private classes, and more and more virtual classes are available. There are also many festivals and cultural events at low ticket prices or no cost at all.”

Embrace Your Overseas Dream Life

As you can see, the cheapest places to live in the world offer a remarkable blend of affordability, adventure, and the opportunity to create your own overseas dream life. Whether you’re seeking vibrant cultural hubs, breathtaking coastal paradises, or a fusion of both, these destinations provide a gateway to a comfortable and fulfilling retirement on a modest budget.

Imagine waking up each day with a sense of financial security, free to embrace life’s simple pleasures without the weight of financial stress. From the vibrant tapestry of Mexico to the hidden gem of Malaysia, the colorful paradise of Thailand to the Latin flair of Colombia, each locale offers its own unique charm and affordability.

So, why wait? Embark on this journey of discovery and let the cheapest places to live in the world unlock the door to your overseas dream life. Where will your adventure begin? For more information on the cheapest places to live in the world and how to make your overseas retirement dreams a reality, visit [International Living’s website. They offer a wealth of resources, including country guides, cost of living calculators, and expert advice from their team of correspondents living around the globe.

Tap into the Expat Community’s Wisdom

As you explore these cheapest places to live in the world, remember that you’re not alone in your journey. Each destination is home to a thriving community of expats who have already paved the way, navigating the challenges and discovering the hidden gems that make these locales so special.

Don’t hesitate to connect with these seasoned expats and tap into their wealth of knowledge. They can offer invaluable insights into the local culture, customs, and the best ways to stretch your retirement dollars even further. From tips on negotiating rental prices to uncovering the most affordable dining spots, these expat communities are a treasure trove of information that can help make your transition smoother and your retirement abroad even more enjoyable.

Embrace the Adventure with Open Arms

As you embark on this exciting chapter of your life, remember to embrace the adventure with open arms. Living in a new country, immersing yourself in a different culture, and navigating unfamiliar territory can be both exhilarating and challenging. But it’s these very experiences that will enrich your soul, broaden your horizons, and create lasting memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Approach each day with a sense of curiosity and wonder, and be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Engage with the locals, learn a few words in their language, and try new foods and experiences. It’s these little moments that will make your overseas dream life truly unforgettable.

Live Your Best Life, on a Budget

At the end of the day, the cheapest places to live in the world offer you the opportunity to live your best life, free from the financial constraints that may have held you back in the past. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first international adventure, these destinations provide the perfect blend of affordability, culture, and quality of life.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, bid farewell to the familiar, and embrace the unknown. The world is yours to explore, and the cheapest places to live are waiting to welcome you with open arms. It’s time to live your dream life, on a budget, and create memories that will last a lifetime. To get started on your journey, check out International Living’s Retirement Resources for a wealth of information, including country guides, cost of living calculators, and expert advice from their team of correspondents living around the globe. They can help you navigate the logistics of retiring abroad, from visa requirements to healthcare options, ensuring a smooth transition to your new overseas home.

The Adventure Awaits…

The world is vast, and the possibilities are endless when it comes to finding your perfect affordable retirement destination. Whether you’re drawn to the vibrant streets of Mexico, the tranquil beaches of Thailand, or the rich cultural tapestry of Colombia, the cheapest places to live offer a gateway to a life filled with adventure, fulfillment, and financial freedom.

So, take a leap of faith, embrace the unknown, and embark on the journey of a lifetime. The adventure awaits, and the cheapest places to live in the world are ready to welcome you with open arms. Live your dreams, create lasting memories, and savor every moment of your overseas dream life.

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