This is Dan of Vagabond Buddha. In this post, I rank my best 10 countries to retire cheap in the world. I am going to show you the pictures that I took while visiting each of the best 10 countries to retire cheap.
After 12 years of almost constant travel and visiting 65 countries during my life, you may assume that it would be easy for me to pick the best 10 countries to retire cheap in the world. That assumption would not be correct.
To read full retire cheap reports for each place, visit this link on Vagabond Buddha.
The world is such an amazing place, that I would have a very hard time picking my favorite country for cheap retirement. So, the value I may be able to provide to you is not necessarily what I pick, but my thinking used to make the pick.
If for example, I like warmer weather than you, or I like a cheaper budget than you, you could use that information to move another place higher in the rankings. You could adjust and pick a place that is slightly cooler weather with a higher budget.
So I will assume that more details in my analysis are what you need.
Picking the best 10 countries in the world to retire cheap presents another problem. A single country may have a huge variance in climates, lifestyle, and things to do in various parts of the country.
To overcome that challenge, I am going to consider only my favorite city in each favorite retire cheap country. For example, Oaxaca is my favorite city in Mexico and Arequipa is my favorite city in Peru. In that sense, it will be easier for me to think about the differences between Oaxaca and Arequipa rather than the differences between Mexico and Peru.
Okay, so first I am going to think about my favorite city in each of my best 10 countries.
Here are my favorite cities in each of my best 10 countries to retire cheap. These are not yet ordered from my most to least favorites countries yet.
Favorite Countries: City
Thailand: Chiang Mai
Okay, now I will do my best to put these into order.
But first, I told you that it would not be easy to pick my best 10 countries to retire cheap. Here are the countries that I absolutely love that didn’t even make the list for one reason or the other.
Here are places I love that didn’t make the list. Philippines, Nicaragua, Colombia, Argentina, Romania, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Canada, France, Italy, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, Nepal, Ukraine, and Guatemala.
There are also other places in the countries that made the list that I absolutely adore. But they are not on the list because I set a rule to pick only my favorite city in each favorite country.
For example, I absolutely love other cities in Mexico, such as Guanajuato, Queretaro, Merida, Mexico City, and Tulum. I could move to any of them today and live happily ever after. Each of my top 10 countries has one or more other cities I absolutely love. That is what I mean when I say it is hard to pick a favorite place in the world. The world is literally a gift to humanity. The world is heaven on earth.
Okay, let’s see if I can order these with most favorite at the top.
Let’s start with my budget. I like to live on less than $2,000 per month for two people. That allows me to pay my taxes, save a little for inflation, and have money laying around for surprises.
Italy is one of my favorite countries. But it doesn’t make sense for year-round retirement on my desired budget. I could probably figure out some remote area of Italy where I could live some austere lifestyle with that budget. But that is not what I am up to. I love these retire cheap destinations because I am able to live a great life on my budget.
I am a cultural explorer. I like trying various foods, enjoying live music and theatre, exploring interesting architecture, museums, and learning about history. So a remote area of one of my favorite countries is not going to be interesting to me. I want to live a full life in retirement including travel and cultural exploration.
My home base would need to have access to cultural experiences at my desired budget. I would need to live near the action. I am not a rural guy.
Thus, it would make more sense for me to spend 10 months of the year saving money living somewhere cheaper with cultural opportunities like SE Asia, E. Europe, Mexico, Central America or South America. Then visited more expensive places for a few months of the year with the money I saved. With the savings, I could visit more expensive places in Europe like Italy, France, UK, Germany, or in Asia like Japan and South Korea for the other two months per year.
That seems to be possible from what I have learned traveling the world for the last 12 years. That is what I would like to share with you. I recommend that you consider living in a retire cheap (base) country 10 months of the year and visit the other countries the other 2 months of the year.
The world is a beautiful place. Why not enjoy it all if your resources will let you?
So ranking based only on budget, how do my best 10 countries to retire cheap rank? Here is a table considering only the base costs, rent, food, and local transportation.
|Country/City||Monthly Estimated Range ($USD)|
|*Vietnam: Hanoi||$302.00 to $876.00|
|Thailand: Chiang Mai||$459.00 to $915.00|
|Malaysia: Penang||$377.00 to $916.00|
|Mexico: Oaxaca||$569.00 to $928.40|
|*Indonesia: Bali||$297.00 to $972.00|
|*Poland: Gdansk||$635.00 to $1,079.00|
|Ecuador: Cuenca||$397.00 to $1,254.00|
|*Latvia: Riga||$574.00 to $1,374.00|
|Peru: Arequipa||$479.00 to $1,488.00|
|Portugal: Porto||$1,029.00 to $1,590.80|
*Although I have been to Lviv, Gdansk, Hanoi, Bali, and Riga in recent years, I was not collecting retire cheap data at the time of my visit to these locations. Thus, these ranges are created from data taken today on Numbeo.com.
Since I don’t know what you like to spend money on other than the basics … rent, food, and transportation, these cost of living ranges don’t include everything. To understand what these numbers include and don’t include, visit How the Cost of Living Multiplier Works. From this base, you can add other goodies that you like to spend money on by entering the name of the location at Numbeo.com.
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|Country/City||Index Safety (Numbeo.com)|
|Thailand: Chiang Mai||73.09|
The safest are on top. Some didn’t have a placement in the safety global index so I used the data listed as “Feeling safe walking around town.”
First, none of these places would be on my list at all if I experienced any danger there during my visit. Remember, I have spent time in all of these places and love them. And generally, the areas I stay in most cities are not going to be where most of the trouble is located.
Also, you should understand that these numbers are based on as a little as three data points per city. They are just opinions of whoever filled out the survey at Numbeo.com.
In my personal experience, safety is based as much on real-time awareness of your surroundings and street smarts as it is in the area you are visiting.
To put these numbers into perspective, here are 10 cities in the USA that are more dangerous than most of the cities on my above top 10 list:
Miami, Tuscon, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Albuquerque, Saint Luis.
The truth is, you will know when you are in a tough area and will be smart enough to move out of danger. That is also why you must do a site visit before moving somewhere to make sure that you can afford to live in the area of town where you will feel completely safe.
But I would personally feel as safe in any of these places based upon my own personal experience. I would feel just as safe, if not more safe, than any typical city in the USA.
|Country/City||Best Medical by Country (Numbeo.com)|
|Thailand: Chiang Mai||7|
The best is on top. Just to give you perspective, the United States is ranked 29th. This is striking when you realize that the cost of medical care in Thailand is as much as 80% cheaper than the USA.
A friend of mine got sick in Thailand in 2014. She was in the best hospital in the country for 4 or 5 nights with around the clock care, private room, MRIs, antibiotics drip, and a specialist MD. The bill was $3,600 USD in total.
Another friend was on vacation in Portugal a few years ago. She fell and broke her arm in 3 places. It required a short hospital stay and surgery. The care was completely free.
Another friend was just in the hospital last month for a week in the USA in California. The bill was over $400,000 and no surgery was even performed.
|Country/City||Daytime Average Highs (Seasons)|
|Indonesia: Bali||High: 82F/28C Low: 79F/26C|
|Thailand: Chiang Mai||High: 86F/30C Low: 71F/22C|
|Mexico: Oaxaca||High: 90F/32C Low: 81F/27C|
|Peru: Arequipa||High: 75F/24C Low: 73F/23C|
|Ecuador: Cuenca||High: 75F/24C Low: 68F/20C|
|Portugal: Porto||High: 77F/25C Low: 57F/14C|
|Vietnam: Hanoi||High: 92F/33C Low: 68F/20C|
|Malaysia: Penang||High: 91F/33C Low: 88F/22C|
|Poland Gdansk||High: 72F/22C Low: 36F/2C|
|Latvia: Riga||High: 75F/24C Low: 31F/0C|
Bali and Chiang Mai have perfect weather. Oaxaca may appear a bit warm based upon the numbers alone. But because of its elevation, it cools down substantially at night which means you can often sleep without the AC on even when the days are hot.
The next three Arequipa, Cuenca, and Porto may seem like perfect weather to many people. But I like it a little warmer in the hot season.
Hanoi is a bit warm for my taste, but only because it is a sea level so doesn’t cool down much at night in the hot season. Penang suffers from the same condition.
Gdansk and Riga are just too cold in the winter for my blood. Luckily, I can afford to head south for the winter so I wouldn’t be around when snow falls. Unless you like the snow and plan on staying put for the holidays, I would take these two off the list.
Here are my favorites based upon my personal experience exploring the culture of each destination. The ranking just based upon the feelings and memories each place evokes in me when I think about them. The pictures I have been showing you are just an appetizer for each place. You will need to visit your top picks before making your own final choices.
Trust me, this is really hard. I love all of these places.
|Thailand: Chiang Mai||8|
The concept of culture varies by culture. So these are just ordered by how much I enjoyed exploring culture in each place.
Here is how the best 10 countries to retire cheap rank numerically.
For example, Chiang Mai appeared in 2nd place three times in the above tables. Chaing Mai also appeared 8th in one table and 1st in another. If you sum the table appearances, 2+2+2+8+1, you get a low number, 15. The lowest sum for Chiang Mai implies a more desirable to retire cheap destination across many table factors. A high sum implies low desirability across multiple tables.
Here is the table of sums:
|Country/City||Sum of Column Level Appearances|
|Thailand: Chiang Mai||(2+2+1+2+8)=15|
My Personal Best 10 Countries to Retire Cheap
Personally, I would make a minor adjustment to the previous numeric sums table as follows. Here are my personal best 10 countries to retire cheap in my order preference:
|Country/City||My Personal Best 10 Retire Cheap|
|Thailand: Chiang Mai||1|
Of course, you may not need to pick a single place and settle down. Why not slow travel like I do and enjoy the entire world. For more on that, visit Vagabond Buddha and grab a free copy of my Ebook.
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This is Dan of Vagabond Buddha. Thank you for stopping by. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?