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The Cheapest Places to Live in the World – 2014

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Would you like to feel wealthier?

You could work more hours. Or get a higher-paying job. Or become a hermit and never go out or buy anything.

Or you could just move.

cheap living Mexico

At an exchange rate of 12.5 to the dollar…

Each year I do a rundown of the cheapest places to live in the world, giving readers examples of real “normal person” costs in places where you can live well for less. By nature it can’t be complete—it’s an idea generator. Invariably it also generates lots of questions in the comments and by e-mail, so next year I’m going to answer all those questions in a book. The final title will be determined later, but let’s call itCheap Living Abroad right now. If you want to keep up with the progress, help shape the content, or be a reviewer when it hits, go sign up on this page.

When you do, you’ll get a free report on “12 Places You Can Stay for Four Months or More on a Tourist Visa.”

For now though, let’s look at where you will be able to get by on far less money than you can in your own country by living somewhere else. Here are some of the cheapest places to live in the near future based on actual prices, economic conditions, exchange rates, and ease of staying for a while.

It’s not hard finding a cheaper place to live than where you probably live right now. That list would probably be 100 countries long. You could just pull up Gross Domestic Product breakdowns and compare it to your country’s. A list like that will only take you so far, however. Just because Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, or Haiti is cheap doesn’t mean you’re going to want to live there. Other places are a bargain and very desirable—like Indonesia or the Philippines—but the visa situation makes it very tough to buy or even set up residency unless you’re going to marry a local, get a job with a multi-national, or start your own corporation.

Also, keep in mind that tourism deals do not always translate to cheaper residency. Just because you always see ads for beautiful Croatia holidays at bargain prices, don’t split for the city of Split thinking that rents and restaurant meals are going to be cheap. Tourist towns are priced for tourists.

The cheapest places to live in the world don’t change drastically from year to year, solast year’s report is still full of great ideas. Economic conditions change though, as do visa requirements, so here’s an update for the coming year, arranged by continent.

Cheapest Place to Live in Europe

In terms of economic growth, Europe is the sickest region in the world right now. So while it’s not cheap, in the real estate world you can find lots of value. Even if you’re not buying, there’s big supply and low demand in countries where people are trying to get an income from second homes, where relatives have moved in together to save money, and where overbuilding has created a glut of empty apartments. If you’re already a European Union passport holder, moving to another country here is a no-brainer. You’re mobile, you’ve got budget flights home to see the relatives, and you’ve got very few visa hurdles.

Budapest

Hungary

Prices for rent or purchase are great in Hungary. Even in Budapest you can find a furnished apartment in a convenient area for 300 euros or less. Prices for eating out, drinking wine, and entertainment are half what you’re probably paying in your home city. Head to a smaller city and prices drop more.

If you have ancestral roots in the country, you can get a fast-track citizenship, with a dual passport. You have to speak Hungarian, but this is a back door into the EU and Hungary would be a great place to live in Central Europe. This is one of The World’s Cheapest Destinations for travel and you can hop on a train here to visit neighbors Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania. For more details, see my post on traveler prices in Budapest (and assume as a resident, you’ll find lower ones…)

Romania, Slovakia, and BulgariaRomania living

I’m lumping these three together because they all have a glut of housing for the same reason: a lot of their citizens are living abroad in order to make more money than they can at home. In the cities this means anyone who comes in with cash can find a nice apartment for 250 euros relatively easily. If you head into the countryside, there are entire blocks of empty homes that are either temporarily or permanently empty. If you’re a buyer, you can pick up a house or new condo for less than US$50,000. If you’re a renter, “How much have you got?”

Slovakia isn’t as well set-up for inter-city transportation as the other two, but you can get between the main population centers on a train or bus. In Bulgaria and Romania, you will eat and drink very well for cheap and you can move between cities for a few dollars. See past posts on prices in SlovakiaBulgaria, and Romania.

Portugal

I visited Lisbon and then did a week-long bike trip through the rural Alentejo region of Portugal earlier this year and found the prices on some things comparable to what you would find in Eastern Europe. But you get those cheap prices in a warmer climate that borders the ocean. And if you learn the language here, you can use it in huge Brazil.

With the economic crisis in Europe hitting Portugal hard, it’s a buyer’s market for real estate. With unemployment high, there’s little opportunity for living expenses to rise for those renting and buying groceries either. The great wine here is a terrific bargain and there’s a tremendous amount of inherent beauty. The big drawback for Americans is this is a full member of the EU, with the same residency hurdles you will face anywhere else in Western Europe. Prepare for a long, drawn out process with the bureaucrats.

cheaper living Portugal