The Top 10 low cost expat destinations

by Jose Marc Castro on August 8, 2011

Round and round we go, where we stop nobody knows!

There are many countries in the world where the cost of living has yet to catch up with the vast majority of countries in the developed world. We have therefore put together a list of the top 10 low cost expat destinations around the world to give you an idea of relatively cheap countries to live in and exactly what you can expect. While there are some names which you may be surprised at, some names you may expect and some names you may avoid but they do give you a feeling for the cost of living in many countries around the world.

We have used the Numbeo cost of living survey which is updated on an annual basis and takes in a significant number of countries. The factors taken into account include the consumer price index, rent, consumer price index plus rent, groceries and the cost of eating at a restaurant. There is no perfect way to map the cost of living around the world although we hope this list of the top 10 cheapest countries around the world will give you an example of the opportunities out there.


The vast majority of people will be surprised to see that India is the lowest ranked cost of living country in the Numbeo survey. Compared to the cost living in New York City, which is the basis cost for the survey, the consumer price index of India is just over 30% of that in New York City. Rent is down at 9%, restaurant prices down at 18% and the consumer price index plus rent and groceries are between 20% and 30%.

The trouble with India is the fact that while the business arena has been doing very well over the last few years, with many believing India will become one of the strongest and most influential economies in the world, there is still huge poverty across the region. The massive riches of the country are spread amongst a relatively small group of people and many people have literally no income and living in shantytowns and slums. However, for those looking at a very different country to make their new home, one with potential for the future, India may well be something to consider because if you can find a suitable location which offers a relatively high standard of living and opportunities for the future, is it worth a go?

Please do get in touch with me if any of you are shifting to India’s capital New Delhi in the near future. I have a few fully furnished flats which I want to rent out to expats and also please do write to me if you need any information regarding shifting to India or any other general information.regards.


Situated in South Asia, Pakistan is a country which attracts an awful lot attention for a whole variety of reasons. Lately we have seen an increase in terrorist activity in the region and many people believe that Pakistan has played a leading role in this particular area. However, this is a very ethnically and linguistically diverse country which is often overshadowed by the ongoing friction in the region and the never-ending battle with militia and terrorist groups.

The country itself has a population of around 170 million people and when looking at the cost of living survey it scores very low on rent and restaurant prices with the overall consumer price index just slightly higher than that of India. The political situation in Pakistan has caused problems in the past, and indeed continues to cause problems today, but it is worth noting that while the economy is only semi-industrialised there are strong pockets of business along the Indus River. The country also experienced significant economic growth from 1947 onwards although since the 1990s this has slowed somewhat.

All foreign nationals who wish to enter Pakistan are required a visa for any type of purpose like leisure, business, mass media and investment.


Bolivia is one of those countries in South America which is very often overlooked despite the fact it has a population approaching 11 million people and a central location within the region. It is a democratic republic with the main economic activity centring round agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining and the manufacturing of textiles, clothing, metals and refined petroleum. The country has a very strong link to Spain, with the Spanish-language by far and away the most popular in the region, although there are also 34 other different languages commonly spoken throughout Bolivia.

The country has a history which is littered with both internal and external military activity and a political scene which has in some cases been very volatile. On the upside, despite the fact that Bolivia is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in South America it does have massive natural resources which should at some point come to the fore. Economic growth has fluctuated between 2.5% per annum and 4% per annum despite the volatile political situation and the lack of inward investment within the economy. For those looking for somewhere a little different, not without financial risks, then Bolivia is maybe one of the unknown gems to look at?

Hello everybody, I m from Bolivia. Im a Senior Developer with 6 years of experience in microsoft technologies. Im very interested to work in australia. Someone can help me… what i need to do if a want to find any company that want to sponsor me. Is there any list or webpage to see this!!! Thanks a lot!!


When you strip out India, Pakistan and Bolivia, with regards to the consumer price index and rental values in particular, Vietnam is in a different league. The retail price index is around 39% of the New York City index and interestingly there has been a significant jump in the cost of renting property compared to the likes of India, Pakistan and Bolivia. Unfortunately Vietnam is yet another country which has been ravaged by wars over the years and is still in many ways suffering from the stigma attached to these horrifying events.

Many will be surprised to learn that Vietnam has a population approaching 91 million and a history which very few countries around the world can match. While the history of Vietnam has been very mixed to say the least it is in many ways the political scenario which is causing greatest concern. It is a socialist republic with a single party government which literally controls every element of everyday life in Vietnam. The country was forced to move away from the agricultural-based economy after the Vietnam War which led to a variety of trade embargoes. However, between 1990 and 1997 we saw annual growth of around 8% with the figure dropping to around 7% between 2000 and 2005. Despite the fact that many people are forecasting significant growth in the Vietnam economy in the short to medium term, poverty is still a major problem.

Pros & cons of moving to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand


The Philippines is another country which is often misunderstood and overlooked despite the fact that it has a prime position in Southeast Asia. It is a country which has a population of over 90 million and a very diverse population and business arena. It is the 12th largest country in the world by population and has attracted more than its fair share of immigrants over the years. From a cost of living point of view, the consumer price index, consumer price index plus rent and cost of groceries are all similar but the cost of renting property in the Philippines and the cost of eating out in a restaurant is fairly low.

The Philippines economy is dominated by exports with items such as semiconductors, electric products, transport equipment, garments, coconut oil and fruits. The country trades with all of the major countries around the world including the likes of United States, Japan, China, Singapore and Germany. Like so many other countries in south-east Asia the Philippines has recently moved from an agricultural-based economy to a manufacturing and services-based economy. While the move has not always been smooth and predictable there is no doubt that progress has been made. The Philippines is an interesting consideration for those looking at a new homeland overseas.

The Philippines has a very low cost of living. The peso has significantly lost much of its value since the Asian Financial Crisis but over the past few years the country is getting back on its feet.


If there is one country in the world which is overshadowed by the dark side of society it has to be Thailand which attracts more than its fair share of unflattering and in many cases disturbing headlines. However, the problems with the sex industry in Thailand have improved somewhat over the last few years although this is an ongoing battle due to the excess poverty in many areas of Thailand. In many ways this is a shame because Thailand really does have a lot to offer and is said to be one of the more beautiful countries in the world and perhaps one of the best kept secrets.

It may surprise some people to learn that Thailand has a population approaching 64 million people and is considered by many as one of the stronger emerging economies of the world. Excessive growth in the Thailand economy between 1985 and 1996, averaging 9.4% per annum, led to a significant drop towards the end of 1997 when a whole host of financial weaknesses were exposed. However, there has been a recovery in the Thailand economy since 1997, much of this on the back of a very strong export industry, and growth has been between 4% and 5% for some time now. Again, this is an interesting if often overlooked country which may warrant consideration.


Macedonia is situated in south-east Europe and while it is a fairly small country in population, just over 2 million people, it has made considerable strides since the much publicised war in the region. The country itself is bordered by Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania and the country is also now part of the United Nations and the Council of Europe. It is this association with the European Union which has brought much-needed financial assistance to the country which has allowed the government to rebuild after the devastating war.

To say that the country has suffered over the last few years is something of an understatement but there is no doubt that the beauty of the region has been overlooked by many people. Since gaining independence the country as literally had to build an economy from scratch and while the move to a free market economy has not always been easy and predictable, great progress has been made. The country itself was noted as one of the best reformatory states in the world by the World Bank which is certainly an interesting summary of the region. The economy itself it is based upon the services sector, which accounts for 57% of GDP, although industrial sectors and agriculture also fair strongly. Interesting?


If you mention Kenya to anybody, the vast majority of people will automatically associate the country with wildlife reserves and similar activities. While there is no doubt that these very popular and very large wildlife reserves have attracted interest from tourists and expats, there is much more to Kenya than this. Many people may be surprised to learn that Kenya has one of the more ethnically diverse populations in the world taking in a vast array of different languages and different cultures. So what does Kenya have to offer?

While the country itself is bordered by the likes of Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania it is nowhere near as dangerous as some people would have you believe. The economy of Kenya is the largest in East and Central Africa and has the potential to grow even further in the short, medium and longer term. Traditional business sectors such as tea, coffee and fresh flowers are slowly but surely being replaced by the services industry which is dominated by the telecom sector. Those who follow athletics will also be well aware that the country has released more than its fair share of top quality athletes on to the international arena which has lifted the profile of the country as a whole. While Kenya may not be the first choice of expats looking to move overseas there is no doubt that progress has been made in recent times and the country has a very firm base on which to grow in the future. Is this worth a look?


China is one of those countries which are full of contradictions such as the spread of wealth across the country, which is focused upon a very small group of people. Poverty across China is still an enormous problem and despite the fact that the government has in many ways tried to “push the problem under the carpet” it is more than evident in many areas of China. This makes it all the more surprising when you consider that China is seen by many as a future economic powerhouse and indeed a number of experts believe it will overtake the USA as the leading economy in the world.

The cost of living in China, along with the spread of wealth, will vary enormously from the highly populated successful cities to the more rural areas where money is tight to say the least. This is a country which continues to attract massive overseas investment and a massive number of overseas visitors but in many ways the gap between the “haves and the have-nots” has widened if anything. There are also issues with regards to human rights which have not done China any favours on the international scene, something which you should take into consideration if looking to move to the region. China has massive potential for the future but there are still problems to overcome.


Situated in East/central Asia, Mongolia has a population of less than 3 million people and it is no surprise to see that the country itself is dominated by its larger neighbours. The country is bordered by the Republic of China, Russia and is also fairly close to Kazakhstan. There is no doubt that the neighbouring Russian and Chinese authorities have attempted to influence the Mongolian government in years gone by which has in many ways effected economic growth in the country.

However, we have seen some impressive economic growth in recent years and despite the fact that the country still relies upon agriculture and mining many believe that the vast majority of mineral resources have yet to be tapped. The country is very prominent in agricultural supplies such as wheat, barley, potato, vegetables, tomatoes, watermelon and fodder crops. Poverty is still a major problem in the region and while the country does have its own stock exchange it is by far and away the smallest by capitalisation in the world. Changes have been made with regards to Mongolia but there is no doubt that more work needs to be done.


We have attempted to give you some food for thought with regards to the cost of living in some areas around the world. Some of those which have appeared on the list may well surprise you, others may well have been expected and some may well make expats think again. One common element in all of these countries is the massive difference between those living in poverty and those living the rich lifestyle. The gap between these parties continues to grow which is a major concern and one which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Fred October 22, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Most of these are horrible choices. They may be low cost, but many are locations with poor human rights records, known for corruption, known for overt discrimination to minority groups and inconsistent legal due process.


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