The most rewarding things in my life have not only come by traveling from place to place, but also in living somewhere completely new.
Chosen specifically because of overall cost of living – like food, rent, transport and utility bills – here are some of the most affordable places to live in the world if you’re considering a longer stay – without breaking your wallet.
The list is mostly based on the reading of the bi-annual World Cost of Living Index Report of 2014 and the Livability Ranking Report of 2016 from The Economist Intelligence Unit. The unit is a leading research and analysis division for The Economist Group creating a global platform for businesses, financial firms and governments for understanding how the world is rapidly changing.
1. Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania located in the southeast part of the country, is the second largest city of the Baltic States. Less famous than many of the other European cities and despite a dynamic and fast growing economy, Vilnius is still considered one of the most affordable places to live. The city is known for its many churches and has the largest baroque old town in Europe filled with a combination of cobbled alleys, crumbling corners and hilltop-views all while keeping a village-feel to it all.
According to Forbes Magazine, the demographics are young and attractive, and ranks 40.9 on the World Cost of Living Index compared to New York and Zurich, which both score 100 on their list when it comes to living costs. Vilnius is considered politically and economically stable being compared to the Scandinavian countries.
(READ: Europe’s Best-Kept Secrets: 10 Underrated Countries To Visit This Year)
2. Kathmandu, Nepal
The capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, is the core of Nepal’s largest and densest urban area located in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley. The city is filled with ancient history and according to traditional myths and legends in the Buddhist scripture of Swayambhu Purana, Kathmandu was once a huge and deep lake full of snakes. Known for its traffic-jammed alleyways and a riot of sights, sounds and smells, Kathmandu is considered one of the most affordable cities in the world ranked number 44 on the World Cost of Living Index.
Despite being struck by the devastating earthquake in 2015, Kathmandu is an amazingly rich and spiritual city with its heritage stretching from hidden temples overflowing with marigolds, courtyards filled with an abundant of spices, chillies, fruit and rice and sites that rightfully belong to the UNESCO World Heritage list, such as the holy and sacred Swayambhunath temple.
3. Budapest, Hungary
The beautiful city of Budapest is a popular destination with its abundance of hot thermal springs, official bathhouses, sophisticated cuisine and rich and historic sites. Visit the castle district for some major architectural delights such as the Royal Palace and Parliament or stroll along the river of Danube and take in the famous Széchenyl Chain Bridge that connects the western and eastern sides of Budapest.
According to the World Cost of Living Index, Budapest ranks 38.6 on the list making it a relatively affordable place to live in Europe. Still, the city is experiencing a fast growing economy due to new political leadership that might up the costs and living expenses in the future.
photo: Karl Grenet/Flickr
Mumbai, also known as Bombay until 1995, is the capital city of Maharashtra in India and is one of the most populated cities in the country with an estimated 18.4 million people. If you plan on going, prepare to be immersed in a furiously busy city where limited public transportation and pollution makes it challenging for travelers. Known for its contrast of wealth and poverty, Mumbai is the financial centre of India, but also has some of Asia’s biggest areas of slums so be prepared to see both sides.
Despite its differences, Mumbai is ranked number 39 on the World Cost of Living Index making it an affordable place to live. Now, I might have scared you off by explaining how the city is over-stuffed and polluted, but it also has other sides such the grand and famous fairy-tale of a hotel Taj Mahal Palace, hidden temples and bazaar markets such as Chor Baaar, known as The Thieves Market, filled with antiques, street food, spices and old-fashioned belongings and trickets.
5. Riga, Latvia
Riga is the capital of Latvia and the largest city of the Baltic states. The city is situated on the Gulf of Riga and at the mouth of Daugava, making it a scenic and diverse place to stay for a longer visit. Riga was founded in 1201 and is reknown for its Art Nouveau and Jugendstil architecture, which has honored it with a UNESCO World Heritage title. Though it has a quiet and reserved feel to it, Riga is a vibrant cosmopolitan city filled with hip bars, modern and contemporary art and food fusions perfect for a longer stay.
On the World Cost of Living Index, Riga ranks a 37.1 on the list making it one of the most affordable Baltic cities on the list, and it is also one of the safest.
6. Panama City, The Republic of Panama
Though Panama City might conjure distant dreams of palm trees, tropical dreams and a balmy-wind-in-your-hair kind of feeling, it is the largest city of Panama located at the Pacific Ocean entrance of the Panama Canal. It was founded in 1519 by Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila, whom made it the starting point for expeditions to the Inca Empire in Peru. According to the World Cost of Living Index, Panama ranks at number 55 despite its strong regional hub of economy and trade.
Panama City is considered the cosmopolitan capital of Central America with its vibrant and lively culture, and its connection to various tropical escapes. It’s known to be the equivalent to Miami with its tall skyline, traffic jams, casinos and chic and trendy clubs alongside international banking sites.
7. Prague, Czech Republic
For some reason when I think of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, I think of a nostalgic and romantic city deserving of its title as one of the most ancient cities of Europe. It has been the centre for politics, culture and economics during its 1100 years of existence and flourished during the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras making it one of the most important cities in the European history.
What makes Prague even more alluring is the fact that it’s ranked 36.4 on the World Cost of Living Index. Imagine walking through the maze of cobbled lanes and small courtyards towards the famous Old Town Square where you can find numerous of ancient chapels, gardens, cute cafes and old-fashioned beer bars all within a walking distance.
8. Bucharest, Romania
According to Lonely Planet, Bucharest has gotten kind of a bad reputation, but it’s in fact a dynamic and energetic city. Though I admit I have never considered Bucharest it has opened my eyes to a longer visit due to the fact that it’s the spot to travel through if you are going to Transylvania (to Vlad Dracula’s homeland). Bucharest ranks 34.5 on the World Cost of Living Index making it the third least expensive city looked at by the bank.
Some top sights to see in Bucharest are the Palace of Parliament, the world’s second-largest building with more than 3000 room and the Cimigiu Garden where you can take a relaxing walk by the lake, have a coffee at one of the small cafees and choose between a ridiculous amount of benches for people-watching and coffee-sipping.
9. Karachi, Pakistan
Karachi is the largest and most populated city in Pakistan and a mecca for the nation’s economy making it one of THE mega-cities of the world. The city’s economic market and bustling cosmopolitan vibe attracts workers from across the country creating a diverse population of nationalities. Though Karachi has a reputation of civil unrest and communal violence, it is largely now a thing of the past, but tensions do still occur making it an unstable city.
According to the World Cost of Living Index, Karachi ranks number 40 as one of the most affordable cities in the world. Lonely Planet states that few travelers choose to visit the city because of various challenges, but that a few days in Karachi can tell you more about life in modern Pakistan than anything else can.
10. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Jeddah, the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia, is a city in the Hijaz Tihamah region on the coast of the Red Sea. It is the principal and most important gateway to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, and Medina, the second holiest place in Islam. Mixing both a commercial capital and a nostalgic testament to former days of pilgrimage and trading, Jeddah is becoming a popular destination for travelers.
Jeddah is ranked number 56 on the World Cost of Living Index making it affordable to live there. Visit Al Balad district, the old town of Jeddah with beautiful coral architecture, historic buildings or monuments, or go scuba diving in the Red Sea if you’re feeling adventurous.
Please do note that some of these places may not be the safest destination for new travelers/tourists – so make the necessary research before opting for a longer stay. Have you lived in any of these places or wish to recommend some other budget-friendly places to live? If so, please leave a comment or share below!
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