How Much Will it Cost You to Live Overseas?
The only honest answer is, we have no idea. And neither does anyone else. The only one who can answer that question is you.
Here’s the most important thing to understand about budgeting your new life overseas: You can spend as much or as little as you want to live almost anywhere. Some places are generally more affordable than others, and a handful of places are absolutely cheap. But globalization means you can enjoy more or less any standard of living more or less anywhere on earth, if you’re willing to pay for it.
The exceptions are some absolutely cheap locales such as Ecuador, India, and Thailand (outside Bangkok). In these places, your cost of living is artificially low because, frankly, there isn’t much for you to spend your money on. This is not to say that, in these places, you couldn’t enjoy a comfortable, interesting, exotic, even fun, exciting, and adventure-filled life. But you’d be living simply, because you’d have no option. The only life in these places is the simple life.
If cost of living is your primary motivation for thinking about moving to another country, we recommend you focus on these choices. If you’re not looking to move on a super-fixed income (of, say, US$1,200 a month or less), you have many good options, and here’s what we strongly suggest:
Stop obsessing over this cost-of-living question. Yes, of course, you need to know that you’ll be able to afford to live in whatever country you decide to try on for size, but here are a few other things to remember, as well.
Most important, your cost of living almost anywhere is controllable. It will not be the same as our cost of living in that same place or, necessarily, the cost of living in that place for anyone else you might speak with.
Most expense items–everything from housing to health care, from travel to entertainment, from your monthly grocery bill to your phone/cable/Internet package–are hugely variable and can be managed.
There is a gentleman, an American, living in downtown Panama City on a budget of US$800 a month. We wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t itemized his monthly costs for us. He’s renting a small furnished house (without air conditioning), in a local neighborhood, for US$400 a month and controlling his other expenses so effectively that they amount to no more than another US$400 a month.
Others are spending more than five times that amount each month to live in the same city.
Maybe you could live in Panama City on US$800 a month, or maybe that lifestyle would make you miserable. Maybe you’d spend more than others are spending to enjoy the standard of living you’re looking for. We know people who do. Panama City is a place where you can find almost any product or service you might be in the market for…and avail of it if you’re willing to ante up.
Second, cost of living is a forever-moving target, especially if you’re living in a country whose currency differs from the currency in which you derive your income.
Third, none of this is really the point.
The point is, again, that you can control your cost of living, within parameters, almost anywhere in the world.
So, one more time, we can’t tell you how much it will cost you to live in any of the places we recommend you consider launching a new life. We can, though, with the help of our far-flung network of correspondents already at home in these places, give you broad and general guidelines for reference…as a starting point.
One more thing before you get to the numbers. Just as a one-size-fits-all budget for living in any country is next-to-meaningless, so is any budget that claims to represent the cost of living in any country overall. A budget for Panama, Belize, France, Thailand, or Malaysia, is useless, because the cost of living in Panama City, for example, is nothing like the cost of living in Boquete or Las Tablas…etc.
All that said, we present general guideline budgets for key locations in the world’s top retirement havens right now. As we’ve suggested, use these as starting points…and build out from here…
Cost of Living Budgets Around the World
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta is located on a narrow coastal plain at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountains, on the Bay of Banderas, the largest bay on the Pacific Coast between San Francisco and Panama. PV is a premier destination for shopping, dining, and socializing in Mexico. Read more about Puerto Vallarta, Mexico here.
The Languedoc offers so much to do, particularly if you are active and like to get out and about. The region has a fascinating history, complete with its own ancient language. The Languedoc-Roussillon region is among the most popular tourist regions in France. Read more about Languedoc, France here.
The Abruzzo—it’s hard to think of a lovelier corner of Italy. Its beaches are golden, and the sea rolls out like a giant bolt of turquoise silk. Stitching together seascapes with lush mountain valleys, this region is one of Italy’s secret treasures—and you’ll love it. Read more about Abruzzo, Italy here.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
For a long time, the Thai city of Chiang Mai has been luring expats from the West. Some come for the weather; others are attracted to the low cost of living. High-quality health care and health-related services are important draws for retirees. Read more about Chiang Mai, Thailand here.
If you’re looking for the one of the world’s best place to retire overseas on a budget, then Cuenca, Ecuador will be almost impossible to beat. This beautiful colonial city is fascinating and as a bonus, you can enjoy its fresh, spring-like climate 12 months of the year. Read more about Cuenca, Ecuador here.
El Valle, Panama
El Valle, conveniently positioned not too far from Panama City, is a spot that should be on everyone’s radar. Apart from its natural beauty, two things are immediately striking about El Valle: its sense of community and wonderful spring-like temperatures year round. Read more about El Valle, Panama here.
Starting At Less Than US$1,000 A Month
Starting At Less Than US$1,500 A Month
Starting At Less Than US$2,000 A Month
Starting At Less Than US$3,250 A Month