Wednesday 17th August 2011

We regularly look at the most expensive cities and countries in the world in terms of cost of living, but where on this planet can expatriates live at a low cost? In this article we take a look at the five cheapest countries in the world in terms of consumer price, rent, groceries and restaurant prices.

In order to present our list of the ten cheapest countries in the world we have utilized data provided by Numbeo, a free Internet database that is regularly updated with worldwide cost of living and housing indicators. The factors taking into account in our rankings were the consumer price index, cost of rent, cost of groceries and cost of eating in a restaurant.

1. India

Picture of Bangalore

According to the Numbeo survey, India is the cheapest country in the world in which to live. When compared with the base cost of living that is found in New York City, the average consumer prices across Indian cities average just 30% of the consumer prices in New York. Rent is also 18% cheaper and groceries 20-30% cheaper.

Expatriates living in India who are on a foreign salary will find that they enjoy an extremely high standard of living in this country. However, it is important to bear in mind that housing costs will vary enormously from city to city and that the actual costs you will face as an expatriate living in India will very much depend upon your lifestyle. If, for example, you eat in local restaurants and adjust to using local goods, you will find that life is much cheaper than if you demand western restaurants and products.

Our expat guides to Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore contain full listings of all the prices you can expect to pay in India. From accommodation costs through to school fees, transportation and utilities, you can find everything you need to know about just how much life in India really costs.

2. Pakistan

By DFID - UK Department for International Development
By DFID - UK Department for International Development, Flickr


Pakistan is certainly an interesting country and it does attract a large amount of interest the world over. In terms of cost of living, Pakistan’s scores are only marginally higher than India’s results in Numbeo’s current list of the cheapest countries in the world in which to live. Of course, life is not all fun and games for many people who are living in Pakistani like Karachi and Islamabad and there are a large number of political and ethnic tensions that can be of real concern to the people living there. However, expatriates who are able to pay in dollars will find that they can enjoy extremely high-end living at a fraction of the cost of that they pay in many other international cities. According to Numbeo, a 3 bedroom apartment in the centre of Karachi will cost an average of $237.60 per month and a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant in the city will cost $8.89.

3. Bolivia

By edsao

Banderas bolivianas by edsao, Flickr

Bolivia is certainly far from one of the most popular expatriate destinations in the world but it is a fact that its undeveloped nature and access to significant amounts of natural resources entails that it may rise significantly in the expat stakes over the next few years. Those expatriates that do venture to this South American country will find that it is incredibly economical and that the cost of living is extremely low when compared with many western countries. According to Numbeo’s figures, a three bedroomed apartment in a city centre will cost an average of $550.89 per month and a bottle of mid-range wine will set you back $5.28. However, expatriates who seek western goods and conveniences may find that some prices are comparable, if not higher, than those at home. A pair of Levi 501’s, for example, will cost an average of $ 45.73, a summer dress from a western store like H&M will be priced at $84.21 on average and a one month high-speed Internet access will set you back $105.27.

4. Vietnam

Picture of Hanoi

Expatriates who opt to live in Vietnam will find that they can enjoy a very comfortable live at a fraction of the price of that in a western country. According to the current data on Numbeo, the average retail price index across major sites in Vietnam stands at around 39% of that in New York. Expatriates living in Vietnam will observe a significant difference in the price of local food versus western food and those willing to eat in the local bars and restaurants will find that they can get much, much more for their money. According to Numbeo, for example, a meal for two in a local restaurant will cost an average of $3.71, versus $15.11 for a meal in a western restaurant.

Our guide to living in Hanoi contains a comprehensive list of the costs of living in Vietnam’s capital city and provides full lists of the money you can expect to pay for groceries, eating and dining out, education, healthcare and local transport.

5. Philippines

Photograph of Manila
Manila City Hall by akeán2®, Flickr

The Philippines has always been well known as a country that has a very low cost of living and this has been compounded in recent years as a result of the drop in the value of the peso after the Asian Financial Crisis. For expatriates who move to The Philippines from western countries the cost of living will be extremely low and they will enjoy a very high standard of living. The Numbeo survey revealed that the consumer price index and cost of groceries were similar to other cities that featured in the top 10 cheapest places in which to live, but the cost of renting property in the Philippines and the cost of eating out in a restaurant was comparatively low. For example, a meal at a local restaurant in Vietnam will cost an average of $3.09 and a half-liter of domestic beer will cost less than one USD.


Do you live in any of these countries? What’s your experience of the cost of living in these areas of the world? Leave a comment and let us know if they really do offer a high standard of living at a low price.

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