Nick Wharton By
Posted 14 Mar, 2020 | 32 Comments
Posted in: Digital Nomad Lifestyle, Travel Blogs

During our 10 years on the road, we’ve found some of the cheapest places to live in the world, while enjoying an amazing lifestyle.

Sometimes we spend for a month, sometimes for 6 months, it all depends on how we’re feeling at the time.

Often we end up putting down some roots because we’ve been travelling too quickly and we need a break. Sometimes we’re housesitting /pet-sitting, or we just need to get caught up on work so we rent an apartment.

Living long-term in different countries around the world is one of the real perks of being a digital nomad, and with so many cheap places to live, there are numerous options to put down some temporary roots.

Countries Live $1000 per month or less apartment in Malta
Our Apartment in Malta

Through our own experience, we’ve found a lot of affordable places where you live on less, while experiencing more.

While our own personal budget is higher than $1,000 USD per month, we know it’s possible to live off of that, or less, in the places I’ll list in this article.

For a point of reference, I’ll also use the online cost of living tool, Numbeo, to give these prices a bit of “proof”, but I’ll also mix it in with my own personal experiences based on spending we have done in the countries.

I’m listing countries in this article because, for the most part, you can live in any part of the country for the prices I’ve expressed, but I am going to focus on the main cities that I would recommend living in each country.

These are typically cities with a decent amount of amenities, a thriving expat community and plenty of good restaurants and places for remote work.

living in grenada renting a house digital nomad cheapest places to live

We usually find our apartments on Airbnb.  

This article is for all of those digital nomads or retirees out there who are looking for the cheapest places to live, where their dollar can stretch a bit farther.

It’s also for those people who aren’t digital nomads (but maybe aspire to be one day), who just want to spend longer in the places they visit, or for those who simply are interested in learning about where they could potentially move to that would be exotic, exciting and affordable.

Note: All prices are in US dollars and in most cases, 2 people could live for $1,000/month. I’ve included the prices using Numbeo, the world’s largest online cost of living index website. I’ve also included costs in our personal experience. The Numbeo numbers are likely as low as you’ll find, while our own budget is usually more mid-range. The visa information is based on our Canadian passports. Always check the visa policy before booking a trip. If you’re heading to visa free countries, you can take that cost off of your budget.

Here we go. The top 15 cheapest places to live this year!

1. Indonesia

  • Monthly Budget (Numbeo): $500.31
  • Our Monthly Budget: $3,140
  • Rent / Month (Numbeo): $196
  • Our Rent / Month: $1,500
  • Utilities / Month (Numbeo): $50
  • Our Utilities / Month: $75
  • Visa Situation: 30 days free on arrival. If you want to stay longer than 30 days, you must opt for the $35 Tourist Visa purchased at the airport. This visa is extendable up to a maximum of 60 more days (30 days at a time). 90 days max stay in Indonesia. Then you must do a border run (flight to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore in most cases).
  • Internet Speed: Fast (100mbps+)

Indonesia is one of the most beautiful countries we have ever visited and it makes for an excellent base in Asia. We set up a base in Canggu Bali for 3 months where we enjoyed a luxury pool villa, wonderful international restaurants, a cool entrepreneurial vibe and plenty of travel to nearby islands.

indonesia is one of the cheapest places to live and travel

I started this list with Indonesia because this post is all about the most affordable places to live and, well… there’s nowhere more affordable than Indonesia.

The only places on this list than might rival Indonesia for the best value for money are Chiang Mai, (Thailand), Greece and India.

But because Indonesia has such amazing accommodation options, wonderful (and affordable) international restaurants and cheap flights in and out, I have to say that it’s the most budget-friendly option that I currently know of — Indonesia definitely offers cheap living.

The best island for quality of life in Indonesia is likely Bali. The prices here are a bit higher than many other places in the country, but there are far more amenities and plenty of expats around, which creates a market for the things that foreigners love.

co working spaces in canggu bali one of the cheapest places to live

The south of Bali is very busy and more expensive, but it’s where you’ll find the most grocery stores, accommodation options and restaurants.

If you’re looking for a more quiet, natural, Balinese experience, then you may want to choose a place in the north or east ends of the island. Ubud is central Bali, but it’s similar to the south in that it’s extremely busy.

If you’re a digital nomad, Canggu is the place to be. Here you’ll find endless cafes with blazing fast wi-fi, blogging conferences, co-working spaces, tons of beautiful villa options and lots of places to rent a motorbike ($50 / month).

One downside to Bali, particularly the coastal towns on the southwest coast (like Canggu), is that during the off-season the tides bring in a disgusting amount of garbage that piles up on the sandy beaches.

Also, runoff from the mountain villages means that raw sewage spills into the ocean and makes it unsafe and unsanitary for swimming.

renting a pool villa in canggu bali. one of the cheapest places to live in the world
The outside of our villa in Canggu Bali – we loved this place!

These are issues that the local people of Bali are working hard to remedy, but they’re still not fixed so I recommend visiting/living in Canggu only during the high season (from May – September) when the beaches and water are clean.

Interested in Living in Canggu? See Also:

2. Thailand

  • Monthly Budget (Numbeo): $650
  • Our Monthly Budget: $3,540
  • Rent / Month (Numbeo): $442
  • Our Rent / Month: $1,500
  • Utilities / Month (Numbeo): $54
  • Our Utilities / Month: $145
  • Visa Situation: 30 Days on arrival. Extend 30 days at a time up to 90 days total. Then must do border run. Some embassies abroad offer 3 month visa
  • Internet Speed: Fast (100mbps+)

Thailand is the only other place we’ve ever rented a luxury private pool villa. We have lived in Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and a short period in Bangkok (on many different occasions).

There are quite a few villa accommodation options in Koh Samui and Phuket, with fewer in Koh Phangan and very few in Koh Tao. Bangkok has plenty of beautiful apartments available as well and of course, Chiang Mai (a place we’ve only visited, but never lived in) is currently the Digital Nomad mecca.

Live in Thailand $1000 per month

We know from our friends’ experiences that it’s quite easy to find a nice 1-bedroom place in Chiang Mai for $200 / month or less including all bills.

That’s pretty amazing and is why Chiang Mai is on the list of the cheapest places to live. The internet in Chiang Mai is blazing fast and there are probably more bloggers and web entrepreneurs here than anywhere else.

Our favourite island to visit in Thailand was probably Koh Phangan. We rented a little beach bungalow here for a month and it cost us around $600. But for actually living, I think that the best options are Koh Samui (if you want island life) or Chiang Mai and Bangkok (if you want city life).

There are quite a few villas and more basic accommodations in Koh Samui.

If you choose to book through Airbnb, you’ll probably find the prices to be quite high. Try to contact the owner outside of the platform to negotiate a price, just beware of Airbnb scams before sending any money.

Live in Thailand $1000 per month one of the cheapest places to live
View From Our villa in Koh Samui.

There are quite a few digital nomads and expats living in Bangkok and it’s probably one of our favourite cities in the world.

For living, the best areas are Silom and Sukhumvit where there are great gyms, restaurants and cafes as well as plenty of parks and green space to escape the traffic. There are endless things to do in Bangkok, you’ll never be bored.

Interested in Living in Thailand? See Also:

3. India

  • Monthly Budget (Numbeo): $309
  • Our Monthly Budget: $900 (travelling)
  • Rent / Month (Numbeo): $152
  • Our Rent / Month: N/A
  • Utilities / Month (Numbeo): $16
  • Our Utilities / Month: N/A
  • Visa Situation: 60 Days e-visa. 6 month Tourist Visa. Cannot stay in India for more than 6 months in a 1 year period.
  • Internet Speed: Fast (100mbps+)

You won’t find “Our Monthly Budget” or “Our Utilities” in the above list of prices because we’ve never actually lived in India.

We’ve travelled the country for nearly 6 months in total, but we never had the urge to settle any temporary roots in this beautiful, chaotic and spiritual place. But, it has to be the cheapest place to live in the world.

India has always been one of our favourite travel destinations as it epitomizes everything we love about travel.

The country puts together an addicting blend of culture, chaos, religion, history, architecture and cuisine and mixes it into a formula that’s as intoxicating as the sandalwood incense that always brings me right back to India whenever I smell it.

budget backpacking guide to india

If we were to live in India for an extended period of time, without a doubt it would be in Goa. Here, everything is a bit more liberal, there’s less harassment and there’s a slower beach vibe.

We have friends who have lived in Goa for years and they love it.

There is plenty of nightlife, lots of restaurants (Indian food is a reason to move to India in itself) and the wi-fi is decent. There are also quite a few accommodation options and India is definitely one of the cheapest places to live that’s included in this list.

Even if you’re booking on Airbnb (typically more expensive), there are still dozens of nice apartments available for under $400 USD per month.

By searching in Facebook groups and online communities, you could easily find a nice one-bedroom here for under $200 / month. There are also some gorgeous luxury pool villas available for around $1500 / month.

Want to read more about India Travel? See Also:

And, check out this post from our friend Rachel who shares what a day in the life of an expat in Goa looks like.

4. China

  • Monthly Budget (Numbeo): $679
  • Our Monthly Budget: $900
  • Rent / Month (Numbeo): $620
  • Our Rent / Month: $400
  • Utilities / Month (Numbeo): $60
  • Our Utilities / Month: $75
  • Visa Situation: 90 – 180 days visa apply beforehand with LOI & Proof of travel. Non-extendable
  • Internet Speed: Decent (20mbps+) *Many blocked websites. Get a VPN.

China is probably one of the most underrated backpacking destinations on Earth, but what about the fact that it’s also one of the cheapest places to live? We spent over a year living and teaching English in the city of Yangzhou in eastern China.

We also had friends who lived on the outskirts of Shanghai and loved it.

There are some obvious downsides to living in China. The pollution comes to mind first. There were some days, even in Yangzhou, that we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us because the smog was so bad. This problem is even worse in Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu.

Cheap Countries To Live
Moving into our Apartment in Yangzhou China

Most of the time though, the skies where we were living were clear and there are parts of China that are farther away from industry and suffer from little or no air pollution.

For the most part though, travellers, teachers and expats focus their time on the east coast of China. This is where there are the largest cities and the most amenities.

China is an incredible destination. There’s a lot of history here, a great vibe, friendly people and some of the best cuisine on the planet. We absolutely loved our time living in Yangzhou and we were able to live on far less than $1,000 per month (even as a couple).

Dining out in China is really cheap. You can usually have a filling meal for under $5 in a restaurant, while some delicious street food meals (like dumplings, cold noodles and stir fry) can sometimes be found for $2 or less.

For teachers looking to live abroad and earn money, China is probably the best destination in the world for availability of work and quality of life.

There are plenty of teaching jobs in China paying between $1,500 – $5,000 per month and most contracts include accommodation, flights, insurance and bonuses. Not interested in actually moving to China to teach? You can teach English online!

Interested in Living in China? See Also:

Also, have a look at these two posts from our friends Drew and Julie over at Drive On The Left who are living in Shenzhen:

5. Malaysia

  • Monthly Budget (Numbeo): $522
  • Our Monthly Budget: N/A
  • Rent / Month (Numbeo): $553
  • Our Rent / Month: N/A
  • Utilities / Month (Numbeo): $52
  • Our Utilities / Month: N/A
  • Visa Situation: 90 days on arrival. Extendable once or border run / return flight
  • Internet Speed: Fast (500mbps+)

There are plenty of great places to choose to live in Malaysia, with the most popular ones for digital nomads being Kuala Lumpur and Penang. You can find decent prices on apartments on Airbnb and in local Facebook groups, but they’re definitely a bit pricier in the capital.

If we were to move to Malaysia, we would probably choose to base ourselves in KL. There are great accommodation options, excellent public transport and tons of bars, restaurants, cafes and nightlife.

Also, KL makes for possibly the best base in this list if you’re looking to travel to Asia and the rest of the world.

This is one of the most affordable and well-connected airports and if you keep your eye on for deals, sometimes you can fly to other countries in Southeast Asia for as little as $10. This is one of the cheapest places to live, and fly from!

cheapest places to live - Malaysia

Malaysia recently implemented the MM2H Plan (My Malaysian Second Home) to try to encourage foreign investment and expat retirement in the country.

If one were to invest $100,000, they could be fast-tracked to Malaysian residency and eventually, citizenship.

Even if you don’t want to become a resident, the visa situation here is great.

Most countries get 3 months on arrival and you can extend for 60 days more for around $23.

But, because flights are so cheap to nearby countries like Thailand and Singapore, many expats just choose to have a quick “vacation” in another Asian nation before returning to Malaysia for a new 90-day stamp.

6. Philippines

  • Monthly Budget (Numbeo): $486
  • Our Monthly Budget: N/A
  • Rent / Month (Numbeo): $346
  • Our Rent / Month: N/A
  • Utilities / Month (Numbeo): $77
  • Our Utilities / Month: N/A
  • Visa Situation: 90 days on arrival. Extendable indefinitely (easy visa situation)
  • Internet Speed: Slow (Generally 5mbps +/-)

If you’re looking for a country with plenty of options of where to live, then the 7,000+ island archipelago of the Philippines is probably right up your alley.

You could spend a few months in Palawan, then move to Cebu for a bit, Luzon and continue island hopping and living in different places for years and never return to the same place twice.

cheapest places to live in the philippines

A friend of ours currently lives in Cebu and he and his wife pay just $120 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. It’s cheap living in the Philippines and there are hundreds of places you could visit on holiday (including the best Philippines beaches!) within a 30-minute domestic flight.

One downside to the Philippines would be that the cuisine isn’t as diverse as some of its South Asian neighbours, and the internet isn’t the greatest.

But it’s one of the most affordable places to live, the people here are extremely friendly and if you’re into scuba, it boasts some of the best diving in the world.

Read More About The Philippines:

Looking for other cheap places to live in Asia? Vietnam is also incredibly affordable and Hoi-An, Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Danang are all popular spots for remote workers and those wanting to spend a longer time in Vietnam.

7. Grenada

  • Monthly Budget (Numbeo): $950
  • Our Monthly Budget: $3,500
  • Rent / Month (Numbeo): $439
  • Our Rent / Month: $1,300
  • Utilities / Month (Numbeo): $71
  • Our Utilities / Month: $160
  • Visa Situation: 90 days on arrival. Extendable 90 days at a time up to 1 year, then you must do a border run. Repeatable indefinitely
  • Internet Speed: Fast (100mbps)

Our current home (at the time of writing) and our favourite island on Earth. The lush, spicy Caribbean island of Grenada has everything one could ask for. Lovely people, breathtaking beaches, pristine nature, a decent amount of international restaurants and an intoxicating vibe.

It’s no wonder why Dariece and I have set up shop here on 4 different occasions currently spanning 2 years in total in the country.

A Luxury House Sit in Grenada

For us, the island is great, but for some, it may seem a bit too rustic and there aren’t a lot of “sights” or things to do. It’s a place to relax and enjoy the chilled-out lifestyle.

If there’s anything lacking from Grenada, I would say it would be a variety of amenities and nightlife options. If you enjoy food, there aren’t a lot of restaurant options, and for wine, well, it’s expensive and typically poor variety. Plus, depending on where you go, customer service can be grumpy and slow.

Other than that, the Isle of Spice has it all. The visa situation is easy, there are plenty of amenities, a good (but expensive) selection of groceries and nice apartments available.

If you want to live down in Grand Anse and L’Anse Aux Epines (the main beach/tourist areas), then you’ll probably pay at least $1,000 per month for an apartment. But if you rent a bit further up island (like us), you can find some decent 1 bedroom places for around $400 / month.

Currently, we’re staying in a beautiful 3 bedroom house right on the water with a private pool for just $1,300 per month. We definitely got a good deal because we know the owners, but during our research, we found many apartments under $1,000. Some right on the sea for $1,200 or less and a few smaller, more basic places for under $400.

Basically, if you wanted to stick to the $1000/month budget, you’d have to forgo dining out, eating imported goods, and owning a vehicle. Grenada may not be the cheapest country to live in, but it’s one of the more affordable Caribbean options.

living and working remotely

Thanks to the university on the island (with many American students) and a large yachting community, Grenada has just enough of the things you miss from home, while still feeling like an authentic Caribbean island.

Interested in reading more about living in Grenada? See our articles here:

8. Mexico

  • Monthly Budget (Numbeo): $385
  • Our Monthly Budget: $2,300
  • Rent / Month (Numbeo): $464
  • Our Rent / Month: $400 – $1,500
  • Utilities / Month (Numbeo): $29
  • Our Utilities / Month: $34
  • Visa Situation: 6 months on arrival. Extendable 6 months at a time indefinitely
  • Internet Speed: Fast (100 mbps)

Mexico is another place where you have so many great options for living. Many digital nomads seem to congregate around Oaxaca and Playa del Carmen in the south, but we prefer Puerto Vallarta and the nearby surf towns of San Pancho and Sayulita on the west coast.

Alternatively, we’d probably live in Guanajuato, Merida or Valladolid. There are just too many great options in Mexico!

For North Americans, the visa situation is excellent, there are plenty of apartments available for under $300 per month, the food is incredible, the people are some of the friendliest on earth and there’s an amazing culture and history here. Mexico is definitely a place of its own.

mexico is one of the cheapest places to live near the beach

We’ve lived in Manzanillo and San Pancho so far, but if we were to return we would definitely put down roots in Puerto Vallarta for a few months. We love this city. The touristy part of town is okay, but it gets a bit exhausting after a while. 

Leaving the tequila salesmen and two-for-one margaritas behind, the grid-like cobblestone streets and colorful neighbourhoods of López Mateos and Agua Azul are our favourites. We have never lived in PV, but we’ve planned to on numerous occasions.

During our apartment shopping, we found plenty of beautiful little places, right in centro for between $300 – $800 per month. We met one American expat there who had a small little studio apartment in a cool neighbourhood for just $120 / month.

Interested in living in Mexico? Read our articles here:

Also, have a look at these posts from our fellow blogging / digital nomad friends:

9. Colombia

  • Monthly Budget (Numbeo): $446
  • Our Monthly Budget: $3,240 (Travel)
  • Rent / Month (Numbeo): $320
  • Our Rent / Month: N/A
  • Utilities / Month (Numbeo): $63
  • Our Utilities / Month: N/A
  • Visa Situation: 90 Days on arrival + Extend 90 days up to 180 days max per year
  • Internet Speed: Fast (100mbps) *Can be slow outside of major cities

We visited Colombia in 2016 and we completely fell in love with it. We met some great friends there who we’re still in contact with today. We explored the rainforest, hiked to waterfalls, got lost in the streets of Medellin and found ourselves wanting to live in Cartagena.

Of course, as with living in many South and Central American cities, there is often a stigma around safety and security in this part of the world.

While we did feel safe in most of Colombia, if we were to live here we would definitely be sure to choose a good area and heed advice from the locals on where, and where not to go.