Best 10 Countries to Retire Cheap

Best Retire Cheap in Paradise Locations in the World

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

Mexico: Oaxaca
Peru: Arequipa
Ecuador: Cuenca
Thailand: Chiang Mai
Vietnam: Hanoi
Indonesia: Bali
Malaysia: Penang
Latvia: Riga
Poland: Gdansk
Portugal: Porto

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

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

If you would be so kind as to click like, comment, or subscribe, that would help us grow in the search rankings. Your kindness is greatly appreciated.


Country/City Index Safety (
Mexico: Oaxaca 75.00
Thailand: Chiang Mai 73.09
Latvia: Riga 62.22
Portugal: Porto 58.54
Vietnam: Hanoi 56.87
Indonesia: Bali 55.53
Poland: Gdansk 51.14
Ecuador: Cuenca 47.67
Malaysia: Penang 41.97
Peru: Arequipa 33.33

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

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 (
Thailand: Chiang Mai 7
Ecuador: Cuenca 20
Portugal: Porto 26
Mexico: Oaxaca 28
Malaysia: Penang 34
Poland Gdansk 50
Indonesia: Bali 51
Latvia: Riga 55
Peru: Arequipa 65
Vietnam: Hanoi 67

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.

Country/City Cultural Opportunities
Poland: Gdansk 1
Portugal: Porto 2
Latvia: Riga 3
Mexico: Oaxaca 4
Vietnam: Hanoi 5
Peru: Arequipa 6
Indonesia: Bali 7
Thailand: Chiang Mai 8
Malaysia: Penang 9
Ecuador: Cuenca 10

The concept of culture varies by culture. So these are just ordered by how much I enjoyed exploring culture in each place.

Numeric Ranking

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
Mexico: Oaxaca (4+1+4+3+4)=16
Portugal: Porto (10+4+3+6+2)=25
Indonesia: Bali (5+6+7+1+7)=26
Vietnam: Hanoi (1+5+10+7+5)=28
Poland: Gdansk (6+7+6+9+1)=29
Malaysia: Penang (3+9+5+5+8)=30
Ecuador: Cuenca (7+8+2+5+10)=32
Latvia: Riga (8+3+8+10+3)=32
Peru: Arequipa (9+10+9+4+6)=38

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
Indonesia: Bali 2
Mexico: Oaxaca 3
Portugal: Porto 4
Peru: Arequipa 5
Vietnam: Hanoi 6
Poland: Gdansk 7
Malaysia: Penang 8
Ecuador: Cuenca 9
Latvia: Riga 10

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.

We are digital nomads investigating the best retire cheap in paradise locations in the world. If you would like to how to live in a paradise location for possibly less money than you are spending at home, or the various ways people make money online, grab a free copy of my EBook:

How to Fire Your Boss and Travel The World

Please subscribe to Vagabond Buddha or our Youtube Channel to find out all the best places to live or visit around the world. I have been to 65 countries so far. I started in 2007.

Never move anywhere until you have visited first personally to verify the living costs for your lifestyle and needs. I am not guaranteeing these prices. These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post. Your costs will likely be drastically different depending on lifestyle and the time since this post.

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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?

7 thoughts on “Best 10 Countries to Retire Cheap”

  1. I have not been to either yet Karl, but neither is too far off on the horizon. Stay tuned! Dan

  2. I’m wondering if you’ve spent any time in Panama which has the Pensianado Discount Visa for retirees? Two areas I am considering are the Pacific beach area of Pedasi and the cooler, mountainous town of Boquete. Panama has been promoted as one of the best expat havens and I’m wondering why it hasn’t made your list? I look forward to reading your perspective!

  3. Hi Chris,
    I had only spent limited time in the Philippines back in 2019 when this video was made. Now the Philippines would definitely be in my top 10. Stay tuned.

  4. Hey Dan, thank you very much for your time in providing! I’ve been to the Philippines a couple of times (Mindanao), and really felt it would be an ideal retirement place especially considering there are some English speakers there? I’m surprised it didn’t make your list at all? I’m wondering why?

  5. Hi Dan,
    Hope you are well. Just started watching your Youtube videos. I plan to spend up to 6 months living in each country within 3 years so I started researching and came across your fascinating experiences.
    My intent was to spend the First experience in Lisbon. Looking for like-minded “retirees” so that I could start with a group. During winter months in Europe, I would return to Australia or take short trips to Asia. The current plan was 5 years in Europe and 3 years in the USA. I would not call it a plan at this stage as I do not have sufficient details.
    I have traveled as a tourist to parts of USA (route 66); Europe and Asia but this time I plan to stay at least 3-6 months in each location. English speaking countries would be mandatory as I cannot read Chinese.
    I shall continue to watch your program. Keep that up. regards Chuck Ow

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