One of the biggest misconceptions about moving or retiring overseas is that you can’t do it without a big monthly budget.
In fact, in many cases, you could reduce your monthly expenses, perhaps significantly, simply by relocating to a new country.
Depending where overseas you choose, you could enjoy big savings on housing, dinners out, medical bills, household help, and more.
Here are your best options in Europe, Latin America, and Asia to live large on a little budget.
In each of these tempting locales, a couple could live on as little as US$1,255 per month.
Puerto Plata, The Dominican Republic
If your heart is set on the Caribbean but you thought you couldn’t afford it, I have good news…
The Dominican Republic has everything you want at a price you can’t say no to.
White-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, warm turquoise water, year-round sunshine—you’ll find them in abundance here.
In fact, in the Dominican Republic, you’re spoiled for choice. This small nation boasts about 800 miles of coastline, all of it sandy and inviting.
Specifically, I’d like to direct you to Puerto Plata, on this country’s northern coast. Puerto Plata is our top pick for resort beach living without typical resort beach costs. While the southeastern coast can be very touristy—making it hard to feel comfortable or at home as a resident—the north coast is less trafficked.
Plus, the northern coast—known as the Costa Dorada—could be the most naturally stunning part of this island, with forested mountains rising behind the white-sand beaches.
A couple’s basic monthly budget here works out to about US$1,100, including rent. Invest in a place of your own, and your monthly living costs could be much less. This is a realistic option, as property prices in this country are a bargain. You could buy an apartment for as little as US$100,000 or less.
Nestled among mountains and rolling hills, surrounded by bucolic fields and pine-spiked clifftops, Popoli is a corner of the Old World where you’ll feel utterly removed from the concerns of our modern age.
Its position in the valley of three Apennine mountains guarantees its residents privacy and an access to nature that few places in the world can rival. Surrounding Popoli are protected reserves home to rare indigenous creatures including the wading dotterel and the golden eagle.
At home in Popoli, you could spend your days hiking, trekking, bird-watching, canoeing, and horse riding… or perhaps simply enjoying long drives along the region’s narrow country roads that lead through vineyards, orchards, and small farms.
The village of Popoli is home to just 5,000 residents. It’s the kind of small-town place where you can count on your neighbors and never worry about your personal safety.
Popoli is also a fantastically affordable Euro-option. A couple’s basic monthly budget here should come to about US$1,200, including rent.
Again, you could reduce that figure nicely by buying a home of your own. Here in Popoli, one of the many small towns in this part of the world that have seen an exodus of residents to bigger cities, they’re practically giving away properties. You could pick up a small historic home to renovate for as little as US$5,500.
Popoli is also an option for self-sufficient living. Buy a small farm, and you could produce your own fruits and vegetables, pasta, wine, oil, and much more, as many locals do.
Da Lat, Vietnam
Da Lat began life as a resort town carved out of Vietnam’s Central Highlands by the country’s French colonizers. Like any hill station, it served as an escape for the French from the sweat, grime, and other tropical challenges of the lowlands.
The French endowed Da Lat with villas, boulevards, golf courses, parks, health complexes, and more. Architectural and cultural elements from that era remain, giving Da Lat an historic and otherworldly charm.
Something about Da Lat inspires romance. Whether it’s the well-preserved past or the cool weather, misty peaks, and pine forest, love is in the air here in Vietnam’s honeymoon capital.
The best thing about Da Lat, though, is that the lifestyle it offers can be enjoyed at an impressively low cost. Monthly expenses for a couple work out to about US$900.
Rent can be as little as US$194 a month for a studio apartment on the edge of town. For a more central apartment, expect to pay between US$345 and US$430. Air conditioning isn’t needed in Da Lat, so electricity bills are always low, and utilities are usually included in the cost of a rental.
Da Lat is the capital of the Lam Dong Province, known as the garden of Vietnam. This province produces more flowers than any other in Vietnam and is responsible for 50% of the country’s floral output. Everything from roses and marigolds to hydrangeas and golden everlastings is grown here.
So, too, is produce not available in other parts of the country, including coffee, strawberries, cabbage, and cauliflower. Da Lat, with its own wine industry, enjoys a reputation for having some of the best food in the country, and full, delicious meals can be had for as little as a dollar a plate.
Mazatlán offers the best beachfront lifestyle you’ll find in Mexico… maybe the best beachfront city living you’ll find anywhere. The coastal city boasts more than 10 miles of sandy beaches, some bustling, busy, and conveniently near to town… others more isolated. Mazatlán’s impressive shoreline is accessed from the new 5-mile-long boardwalk.
Mazatlán is at once a real Mexican city of about a half-million people, a resort town, and an expat enclave, home to a sizable American and Canadian community. You could slide easily into expat life and speak mostly English or choose to live in a Mexican setting, speaking Spanish and immersing yourself in authentic Mexican culture.
One of the biggest benefits of living in Mazatlán is the low cost of living. Basic items for a couple will cost you about US$1,070 a month if you own your own apartment and US$1,380 if you rent a house near the beach.
Dinner for two in the best of the city’s fine-dining establishments costs about US$61, including wine and tip. Dinner in a more casual restaurant on the water runs about US$31 with drinks.
Food prices vary depending on how many American and Canadian imported items you buy. Fortunately for expats, you can buy most anything in Mexico that you can in the States… if you’re able to afford it.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai receives big numbers of foreign visitors every year, luring travelers, expats, and retirees from around the world with its exceptionally low cost of living, high-quality health care, and modern infrastructure.
But Chiang Mai isn’t popular only among Western tourists and expats. It also receives more than 10 million domestic visitors each year. It’s often referred to as Thailand’s Second City but might be more accurately described as Thailand’s favorite city.
The main attraction, again, is the low cost of living.
The three biggest monthly expenditures that an expat or retiree faces anywhere are housing, food, and transportation. In Chiang Mai, you get around using tuk-tuks, baht buses, and the occasional taxi. Expect to spend just a few dollars a day.
Housing is likewise extremely affordable. For US$330 a month you could rent a two-bedroom bungalow with a garden; for US$830 monthly you could settle into a three-bedroom villa with a private swimming pool.
And rents normally include utilities and basic cable.
And food? Many expats claim it’s cheaper to eat out than to buy groceries, and, with all the food options in this city, it’s not hard to eat out every meal.
Bled is a hotbed of outdoor activity year-round thanks to its diverse natural blessings. Glittering, deep blue Lake Bled is the center of its eponymous town, flanked on all sides by the soaring Julian Alps.
The lake enjoys a stunning backdrop regardless of the season—greenery and blossoming flowers during summer and icicled, snow-covered branches in winter.
Bled is Slovenia’s top Alpine resort. Domestic tourists come in big numbers to enjoy the thermal-water pools, charming camp sites, mountain paths, and boating. Still, Bled manages to feel like a welcoming small town, like something out of a fairy tale.
Bled is refreshingly rural and largely forested, with a rich aquifer system that cuts through its mountains in subterranean rivers. Its surrounding area is impressively biodiverse (and just a 10-minute drive from Triglav National Park).
And the best part is that it’s all available at super bargain prices. Wages in Slovenia are low for the region, meaning the cost of living here is among the lowest in the EU and great value for the lifestyle you’re able to enjoy. A couple’s monthly budget comes to about US$1,255.
George Town, Malaysia
George Town, capital city of the Malaysian state of Penang, isn’t just another lost-in-time outpost of the former British Empire. Combining all that’s best about island and city living, the “Pearl of the Orient” is one of Southeast Asia’s most livable destinations.
Low living costs are a big attraction, with a couple’s basic monthly budget coming to about US$1,100.
In addition, English is widely spoken, and foreigners are welcomed in this safe, stable island nation.
The living in George Town qualifies as both First World and exotic. Like elsewhere in Malaysia, George Town’s population is a melting pot of Malay, Straits Chinese, Chinese, Burmese, Arab, Thai, Indonesian, and Indian.
This is a colonial charmer of a capital, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Beyond the high-rise apartments is one of the best-preserved old cities in Asia. Hidden along its winding streets are old shop-houses, guildhalls, and clan-houses.
Then there’s the great outdoors. Almost on the capital’s doorstep are stylish seaside settlements with palm-fringed sandy beaches and a rainforest backdrop.
You can escape for a weekend or on a whim to swim in the warm, clear sea, play a round of golf, trek the slopes of Penang Hill, or laze in a hammock amidst the lush greenery. George Town is a master at contrast.