Cost of living in every country in the world
Let’s explore what the cheapest countries in the world are and which of them are most popular among digital nomads. We will also consider the most affordable states among the safest places in the world.
The cost of living is presented based on crowd-sourced data provided by the Livingcost.org website. It is calculated as a consumer basket for a moderate lifestyle in developed countries; it includes prices for rent, food, utilities, transportation, and other every day expenses.
10 Countries with the lowest cost of living in the world
The countries where locals spend the least on everyday living are Pakistan, Egypt, Nepal, Bhutan, and Burundi. In these states, a person needs less than $430 per month to live comfortably.
The cheapest countries, however, are rarely considered the best expat destinations for multiple reasons, like high levels of poverty, inaccessible healthcare, the state’s immigration law, and military conflicts.
For those looking to move to a more affordable destination, we recommend also taking into consideration and prioritising the quality of life and safety.
There are plenty of countries with safe and expat-friendly environments that boast low costs of living, such as Portugal or Turkey. Moreover, countries like that make it easy for foreigners to move there by offering citizenship or residency by investment.
In the Estes Weighted Index of Social Progress, all of the 10 most affordable countries are ranked low. The Index evaluates the quality of life based on a number of factors, including the state of education and healthcare, the number of violations of political and civil rights, the environment, etc.
The best quality of life among the cheapest countries is in Tunisia. The level of safety in the country is average, as is the quality of healthcare and education. However, the country is not among the top choices for expats because English is not widely spoken there. Some of the major issues in this country are increasing levels of poverty, high unemployment rates, and a short supply of natural resources.
Countries with the lowest cost of living in the world
|#||Country||Cost of living per month||Index of Social Progress (out of 162)|
Pakistan is ranked 136th out of 162 countries by quality of life. Aside from the low quality of education and inaccessible healthcare, the country is one of the least safe places in the world, according to both the Global Peace Index and the Women Peace and Security Index.
Egypt has the highest quality of life among the cheapest countries, according to the Index of Social Progress. It is ranked 99th out of 162 countries, which is still not what expats look for when choosing a new place of residence. Some of the factors that make Egypt unattractive for foreigners are economic and political instability, pollution, and high levels of corruption.
Nepal is a popular tourist destination thanks to its extraordinary natural attractions. However, not so many foreigners are willing to move here long-term due to high levels of poverty, inaccessible healthcare, and a deteriorating economic situation.
Bhutan is known as the country of Gross National Happiness, which means that the local government is committed to creating an environment that fosters wellbeing and happiness. Aside from that, according to the Global Peace Index, Bhutan is one of the safest countries in the world.
However, there are still many unsolved issues that prevent Bhutan from becoming a popular destination among expats, such as poverty and a high unemployment rate. Moreover, the laws of the country make it difficult for foreigners to move there. For example, foreign nationals are not allowed to own real estate in Bhutan.
Burundi is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Africa, with widespread poverty, corruption, instability, authoritarianism, and illiteracy. All of that makes the country very unattractive for foreigners looking for a country to move to.
Countries with high level of safety and low cost of living
Considering that the most affordable countries might not align with popular destinations for relocation, let’s look at the list of the safest places in the world
According to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, the safest countries in the world are Denmark, Norway, and Finland. These countries, however, are known not only for a high quality of life but also for being expensive: the “cheapest” one out of the three is Finland, where one needs on average $1,580 to live comfortably.
We picked the 35 safest countries in the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index and compared their cost of living. The most affordable ones turned out to be Latvia, Chile, Costa Rica, Slovakia, and Lithuania. A single person with a moderate lifestyle in these countries needs on average $1,000—1,100 per month.
35 safest countries in the world, ranked by cost of living
|#||Country||Cost of living per month||Global rank in the WJP Rule of Law Index|
|6||Republic of Korea||$1,138||19|
|35||Hong Kong SAR, China||N/D||22|
Latvia is ranked 23rd in the WJP Rule of Law. The report ranks the level of security and order in the country highly. This means that the population and properties are well-protected by the law and executive authorities.
Aside from that, Latvia boasts a high quality of life and decent education and healthcare systems. The cost of living per month in the country is $1,002 on average, which is relatively low compared to other European countries. For example, the cost of living in Italy is $1,405, and in France it’s $1,554.
In Chile, the highest-ranked factor is the constraints of government powers. This means that those who govern are bound by the law and do not have the ability to abuse their power.
The cost of living in Chile is $1,040, which is relatively high for the region. For instance, in the neighbouring countries of Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, one needs around $600—800 monthly to have a similar lifestyle. The level of safety in these states, however, is significantly lower. According to the WJP’s rating, the safest out of them is Argentina, which is ranked 59th.
Costa Rica is the 27th safest country in the world thanks to the fact that the country values the fundamental rights of its population. This means that individuals in Costa Rica rarely face discrimination based on gender, social status, ethnicity, etc. They can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression without being suppressed.
In Costa Rica, a person needs around $1,073 monthly for food, transportation, utilities, and occasional entertainment. Aside from the relatively affordable cost of living, Costa Rica attracts foreigners with its friendly immigration laws. The country grants special visas to retirees, digital nomads, and freelancers. And it only takes three years of continuous residence in Costa Rica to obtain permanent residency.
Slovakia is ranked 35th on the list of the safest countries in the world. As per WJP, crime in the country is effectively controlled, and individuals don’t resort to violence or intimidation to solve conflicts.
The cost of living in Slovakia is $1,091, which is more affordable than in the neighbouring Czech Republic and Austria. Slovakia has a growing economy, which means that the quality of life there increases every year.
Lithuania is 18th in the WJP’s rating, thanks to a high level of order and security and constraints on government powers. The cost of living in the state reaches $1,107 per month for everyday expenses.
Expats who moved to Lithuania value their new place of residence for its good work-life balance, cleanliness, and accessible social services.
The 5 most affordable countries to live in Europe
In Eastern Europe, the cost of living is significantly lower than in the central and western parts of the region.
The most affordable countries to live in Europe are:
- Turkey, with an average cost of living of $515 per month;
- North Macedonia — $629 per month;
- Moldova — $640 per month;
- Bosnia and Herzegovina — $655 per month;
- Romania — $784 per month.
Quality of life. While all the countries on the list have experienced a consistent improvement in quality of life over the past decade, Romania and Moldova stand out with the highest standards. In the Weighted Index of Social Progress, they are 40th and 44th, respectively.
Romania is an EU country, which means that citizens of the country are protected by EU laws; they also have easy access to high-quality healthcare and education across the Union and can reside and work in other member states.
Safety. Romania is the safest country among the top-5 most affordable in Europe. It ranks 38th in the WJP Rule of Law Index. Next are North Macedonia and Moldova, with 63rd and 68th spots, respectively.
Immigration rules. Among the countries on the list, Romania is the only country that offers a digital nomad visa for foreign freelancers and remote workers. To obtain it, a candidate is required to show a monthly income of at least €3,700.
Turkey and North Macedonia both have citizenship by investment programs. The one in North Macedonia offers foreigners its citizenship in exchange for a €200,000 non-refundable donation. It is, however, important to mention that investors have been waiting for the final approval of their applications for over a year.
Turkey offers a citizenship-by-investment program to those who want to move to Turkey for a more affordable and vibrant life. Foreigners can purchase $400,000-worth real estate or choose one of the other four investment options to get a Turkish passport.
The document allows its holder to travel visa-free to over 100+ countries, get visas to the USA and Schengen countries for 5 years, and visit Turkey at any time and stay there for as long as they want. It’s possible to obtain a Turkish passport by investment in 6—8 months.
The cheapest countries to move to in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is a popular destination among expats and digital nomads, and one of the main reasons for that is the low cost of living in this region. Aside from that, foreigners are attracted by the local laid-back lifestyle, warm weather, and beautiful scenery.
The most affordable places in Southeast Asia are:
- Timor-Leste, with an average cost of living $523;
- Indonesia — $573;
- Malaysia — $598;
- the Philippines — $623;
- Vietnam — $628.
Quality of life. Among these countries, Malaysia and Vietnam offer the highest quality of life. In the Weighted Social Progress Index, they are ranked 73rd and 81st, respectively.
In both Malaysia and Vietnam, expats enjoy a high quality of life at a low price. Luxury experiences, such as SPAs, staying in high-end hotels, and adventure tourism, are significantly cheaper in Southeast Asia than in Europe.
Other reasons foreigners choose Malaysia and Vietnam for long-term residence are beautiful beaches, warm seas, lush tropical forests, delicious food, and a laid-back lifestyle. Aside from that, the capitals of these countries are big hubs for affordable flights across Asia as well as to Australia and New Zealand.
Among the cons of living in these countries, expats often mention air pollution in the big cities, such as Ho Chi Minh City and Kuala Lumpur, and hectic traffic on the roads.
Safety. The safest countries on this list are Malaysia and Indonesia, ranked 55th and 64th in the WJP Rule of Law Index, respectively.
Unlike Europe, in most countries in Southeast Asia, both the quality of life and the cost of living in big cities differ dramatically from those in remote places. For instance, in Kuala Lumpur, one needs $749 to live comfortably — this is significantly higher than the country’s average. Same goes for Indonesia: the most popular spot for expats there is the island of Bali, where the cost of living is $792.
Immigration rules for expats. Malaysia and Indonesia offer special visa types for foreign retirees and digital nomads who want to stay in these countries long-term. The Philippines has announced that a visa for digital nomads will be soon introduced to foreigners.
Vietnam and Timor-Leste do not have similar visas yet. However, Vietnam’s immigration laws allow most foreigners to stay in the country for 15—90 days, depending on their country of origin.
Countries in the Americas with the lowest cost of living
In the Americas, the most affordable countries by cost of living are:
- Haiti, with an average cost of living of $572;
- Paraguay — $566;
- Argentina — $603;
- Nicaragua — $642;
- Colombia — $646.
Safety. Among these, the safest country is Argentina. In the WJP’s rating, it takes the 59th spot. Colombia and Paraguay are less safe: they are 91st and 96th, respectively.
Haiti and Nicaragua are among the 10 least safe countries in the world; it is not recommended to travel or move there long-term.
Quality of life. Argentina also wins the comparison in terms of quality of life among these countries. According to the Weighted Social Progress Index, it is the 37th country in the world by quality of life.
The quality of life is also decent in Colombia, which is 63rd in the rating. Paraguay, Nicaragua, and Haiti are ranked 77th, 83rd, and 126th by quality of life, respectively.
All of the listed countries have shown significant growth in quality of life over the past 10 years. The strongest improvement was noticed in Haiti; however, it is not yet enough to recommend that country to foreigners, regardless of its low cost of living.
Immigration rules for expats. The country that provides the safest conditions and the highest quality of life on the list, Argentina, is expat-friendly. It offers a special visa for foreign retirees that allows them to reside in the country for at least a year. Aside from that, the government is working to introduce a visa for digital nomads.
Expats who moved to Argentina praise it for its vibrant cultural life, slow pace of life, low cost of living, and big choice of places to go and activities to try. Among the cons, they mention unreliable internet and communications. Another significant disadvantage is that Argentina is located far away from other countries of interest: it takes at least a 10-hour flight to get to the USA or Europe from Buenos Aires.
The cheapest countries to live in Africa
Countries with the lowest cost of living in Africa are:
- Egypt, with an average cost of living of $350 per month;
- Burundi — $428 per month;
- Libya — $429 per month;
- Tunisia — $432 per month;
- Algeria — $439 per month.
On this list, Tunisia and Algeria provide the most safety and quality of life. In both countries, the population speaks French to foreigners instead of English. So the countries might be interesting for French-speaking digital nomads and retirees.
How to move to any country for a better and more affordable life
In most countries, it is possible to obtain a long-term visa or residency for work, study, or family reunification. However, these alternatives are not suitable for retirees, remote workers, or digital nomads who want to travel at their leisure.
Residency permits for work, study, or family reunification often imply staying in the country permanently. For instance, foreign employees and students in most European states have to live in that country for at least 183 days a year to be able to extend their stay.
A strong second passport will provide freedom of travel and allow its holder to avoid the visa hassle.
A person with a second passport in any EU state can freely travel to more than 170 countries around the world. Moreover, they can reside in other countries of the Union for as long as they want. A second passport in a Caribbean state will allow you to travel to 140+ countries around the world and live indefinitely in any CARICOM member state.
The fastest way to a second passport in the Caribbean is by investment. Foreign investors can get a passport in Dominica or St Lucia in 3—4 months. The minimum required contribution for a second passport is $100,000.
Both Dominica and St Lucia passports allow their holders to travel visa-free in over 140 countries, including the Schengen states, where they can stay for up to 90 stay every half a year. Besides, St Lucia passport holders can stay in the UK for up to 180 days. Passports of both countries allow entering Argentina visa-free and staying there for up to 90 days.
Other countries in the Caribbean that allow obtaining citizenship by investment are Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada.
In EU countries, it is possible to obtain a passport in 1—10 years. None of the states, however, allows obtaining citizenship by investment. Foreigners can only invest in residency and then apply for citizenship by naturalisation.
Foreigners can obtain citizenship in Malta by naturalisation for exceptional services in 1 or 3 years. To apply for a passport, participants have to fulfil three investment conditions:
- contribute to the National Development and Social Fund;
- make a charitable donation to a non-governmental organisation;
- rent or buy real estate.
First, a participant applies for residency and invests in property. If they decide to rent a property, its price should be at least €12,000 per month. If they purchase housing, it should cost €700,000 or more.
The amount of payment to the Fund depends on the timeframe: if the investor applies for a passport in 1 year, they pay €750,000, and if they apply in 3 years, they pay €600,000. The amount of the charitable donation is €10,000 in both cases.
Investors who choose to rent housing instead of buying it have to conclude a new rental agreement for 5 years for at least €16,000 per month right before applying for citizenship. This means that, in total, they rent a place in Malta for 6 or 8 years, depending on the chosen timeframe.
Other European countries that grant residency by investment are:
- Greece with the minimal investment amount €250,000;
- Italy — €250,000+;
- Portugal — €250,000+;
- Cyprus — €300,000+.
In each of these countries, investors can obtain citizenship after living there for the required time. In Portugal and Cyprus, investors can obtain a passport in 5 years; in Greece, it will take 7 years; in Italy, it will take 10 years.
Key takeaways on the cheapest countries in the world
- The cheapest countries to live in are Pakistan, Egypt, Nepal, Bhutan, and Burundi.
- The cost of living alone should not be the decisive factor for those hoping to move to a more affordable place. Some of the most affordable countries in the world are considered to be also the most dangerous to live in. Others do not provide a decent enough quality of life.
- The most affordable countries among the safest in the world are Latvia, Chile, Costa Rica, Slovakia, and Lithuania. The cost of living in these states varies from $1,000 to $1,100 per month.
- In Europe, the countries that provide the most affordable living are Turkey, North Macedonia, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Romania. In the EU, the most affordable state is Bulgaria; to live comfortably, a person needs $786 per month there.
- The cheapest countries in Southeast Asia are Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, with a cost of living of $523—628 per month.
- In the Americas, the most affordable places are Haiti, Paraguay, Argentina, Nicaragua, and Colombia. A person with a moderate lifestyle needs around $572—646 a month to live comfortably in one of these countries.
- One of the most convenient ways to provide oneself with the opportunity to live anywhere and choose a country with a lower cost of living is by obtaining a strong passport. The fastest way to do so is to invest in second citizenship in a Caribbean country and get a passport in 6+ months. In Europe, depending on the country, it takes 1 to 10 years to obtain citizenship after investing in residency.
Frequently Asked Questions
According to the Weighted Index of Social Progress, countries with the highest quality of life are Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, and Germany. The cost of living in these countries varies from $1520 to 1922 per month.
Among the safest countries, the most affordable are Latvia, Chile, Costa Rica, Slovakia, and Lithuania. A person with a moderate lifestyle needs on average $1,000—1,100 per month to live comfortably in one of these countries.
The cheapest places to live are Pakistan, Egypt, Nepal, Bhutan, and Burundi. In these states, a person needs less than $430 per month to live comfortably.
According to crowd-sourced databases, the most expensive countries in the world are Monaco, Singapore, and Switzerland.
Among the countries where one of the official languages is English, the cheapest one is Pakistan, with a cost of living of $332 per month.