Expats advised to think about the hidden costs when they move abroad

by Ray Clancy on September 19, 2013

Future expats budgeting for their move abroad are being advised to factor in hidden costs such as little luxuries and unavoidable bills as they can add to the cost of living abroad.

The advice comes after a survey by the Overseas Guides Company revealed that the price of cigarettes, wine and beer varies significantly across countries that are popular with expats. Once any mortgage or rental payments, council tax, groceries and utilities bills are all paid for, it’s often life’s little luxuries that cut into an expat’s monthly budget.


The cost of items such as cigarettes, wine and beer varies significantly across countries that are popular with expats.

The survey revealed that France remains one of the cheapest places to enjoy a quality glass of wine. ‘One of our favourite things to do is enjoy a drink in our local bar in the evening and despite all of the years that we have called the Languedoc home, it never fails to be a pleasant surprise when we are charged just €1.20 (£1.02) for a large glass of lovely wine that you would be likely to pay £5 or more for back in the UK,’ said Alexis Goldberg, the Overseas Guides Company writer based in the Languedoc region.

Alexis also revealed that at €3 (£2.58) a glass of beer is slightly more expensive than wine in her local town. Therefore, if beer is your drink of choice, expats may be wise to look further south for the real bargains. Ben Taylor, the Overseas Guides Company writer in the Algarve region in Portugal said that it costs €1.20 for a regular sized beer, typically half a pint, compared with the UK equivalent which normally hovers around the £2.50 mark or more if you live in London. Italy follows closely behind with a glass of beer setting you back just €2 (£1.70) in a village bar.

Cinema ticket prices in the UK average out at around £6.40 but can be as much as £10 or even more in some cities. They are around €5 to €7 in France, €7 in Spain, and €8 in Cyprus. Some of the cheapest cinema tickets are in the United States at around $9 (£5.70).

Although a cinema ticket in the US will cost you less, if you wanted to precede the film with dinner, the US comes out as one of the most expensive places to eat out.

Overseas Guides Company writer Carole Wirszyla, who lives with her family in North Carolina, said that alcoholic drinks can push the restaurant bill up significantly but it is possible to get a meal for two in a nice restaurant for $50 (£33) although there is a 20% tip on top of that.

‘When it comes to grabbing a quick bite or drink, you have to tip every time, this needs to be factored into your budget if you’re planning a move to the USA,’ she explained.

When it comes to dining, things are considerably cheaper in Europe where set menus are the cheapest and best value options. Sally Veall, the Overseas Guides Company writer on the Costa Brava, said that a typical set menu, which is always fresh and delicious, should only cost around €12 (£10.27) and this includes food, water and wine.

A similar set menu, complete with food, water and wine, is the same price in neighbouring Portugal at €12, around €12 to €15 in France, €12 in Italy €12 and €10 to €15 in Cyprus, but that is excluding wine.

‘When it comes to those living costs that you wouldn’t necessarily factor into your weekly budget, it seems that Europe is still a significantly cheaper option than the UK and to some extent the US,’ said Amy Baker, assistant editor at the Overseas Guides Company.

‘Therefore, if you are someone that enjoys life’s little luxuries, we recommend setting your sights on France, Spain, Portugal and their neighbours. After all, hundreds of thousands of expats can’t be wrong,’ she added.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Susan Hall August 19, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I have to disagree with Carole Wirszyla regarding the cost of eating out in the USA. Having just returned from living in North Carolina for 5 years, I would say it’s very easy to get a 2 or even 3 course meal for a family of 3 for $30-$40 (22-30 Euros) That would be with soft drinks (which usually inlcude free refills) and good quality, hot, generous portions at a local non-chain or chain restaurant/diner/sports bar. I admit that alcohol tends to be as expensive as in the UK, however it’s not mandatory to tip anything, let alone 20%. We tipped for good service, which you do usually get as servers rely on tips as they don’t earn the minimum wage and therefore rely on tips to bump up their pay. I would say on average we would tip 10-15%, and this never seemd to create any problems with the servers and we frequented local restaurants as return customers. It was quite some time since we’d visited Europe on holiday, but this Summer we went to Almunecar in a small town in inland Malaga in Spain. The set “menu del dia”for 3 ran at about 30-45 Euros ($40-60) for 3 courses including a drink (1 glass of wine or beer or water- not both) and whilst some of the food was lovely, some was anything but fresh and delicious. There was a tendency for things to be greasy or overcooked and often not very hot. When it came to eating ” a la carte”at a very average local bar/restaurant even the raciones (slighter larger versions of tapas) were at least 8 Euros for, for example, a plate of fried calamare. A mixed salad that would do 2 people as a side item was around 8 Euros. Steaks were 15 Euros minimum for a sirloin and 2 side items cost another 6 euros-so total 21 euros. This compared to perhaps $15 (around 11 Euros) in the US which would include 2 side items. We found it cheaper to eat at Almunecar than the small inland town where there were no “menu del dia” and less competition. We weren’t convinced that we were paying the same prices as the locals as often the bars produced a menu which was only written in English. I guess it might be different if you were living there.
As the opening paragraph mentions cigarettes- “The advice comes after a survey by the Overseas Guides Company revealed that the price of cigarettes, wine and beer varies significantly across countries that are popular with expats”- then USA (NC) is the cheapest. Around $8 for 40 Marlboro gold at Walgreens, compared to 6 Euros ($8) for 20 Marlboro in Spain. And don’t let’s get started on Petrol or new car prices!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: