5 Amazing, Cheap Places to Live as an Expat


After you finish college and work for a couple years but before you settle down and have kids, you might succumb to the wanderlust that makes people go expat. Maybe you have friends who have gone abroad. Maybe you were just too busy to do any traveling in college. No matter what the reason, living abroad is an amazing experience. Far more than just tourism, living abroad allows you to immerse yourself in another culture while also getting the keen view of an outsider. It can also make you highly attractive to prospective employers when you return to the states.

But where should you go? Here are five amazing places where you can live on the cheap as an American abroad. (See also: International Cities That Boost Your Standard of Living for Less)

1. Chile

Chile is quickly becoming one of the hot spots for Americans living abroad. It offers a semi-tropical climate not unlike that of Los Angeles, but at a fraction of the price. It's also one of the few countries in the world where personal liberty is on the increase, rather than the decline. The BBC called it one of Latin America's most stable and prosperous countries. What's more, there are communities and communes of expat Americans cropping up down there as we speak. Bottom line? You can live in Chile for less than $1,000 per month, a bargain compared to basically any American city. (See also: Best Travel Reward Credit Cards)

2. Thailand

Thailand might be the Chile of the east (or is Chile the Thailand of South America?). It's a reasonably stable and prosperous country with a low cost of living. Your grocery bill can come in at under $50 a month… if you're not one of those people who just ends up eating out at every single meal. What's more, medical care is modern, professional, and very inexpensive: Many expats give up their health insurance when living in Thailand, because routine medical care costs so little. It was also ranked as one of the best countries for foreign workers by expats.

3. Argentina

Before there was Chile, Argentina was the hot place for young expats to get their wanderlust out. The reason being, the American dollar goes a long way there. Thus, if you're one of the increasing numbers of Americans who work from home, and you will continue to get paid in American dollars, you can live the high life in Argentina. For people wanting to live in Europe without having to pay the high European cost of living, Argentina is also the place. It's got the feel of Spain, Portugal, France, or Italy, but with rents half those of the United States. One thing you should know before you pack up, however; if you live in Buenos Aires, your high school Spanish isn't going to help much, so study the local dialect before you take off. (See also: How to Make Money While You Travel)

4. China

China is another great place to live and work in Asia for Americans. There's plenty of work to be had teaching English, both as a tutor and as a teacher. Even in the larger cities, housing is affordable by American standards. Heading out to dinner is going to cost you about a third what it does in the United States. Get ready for a true cultural immersion, as there are very few English speakers comparatively, and Chinese is a very difficult language to acquire later in life, as it is tonal. (See also: Ways to Learn a Language)

5. Bahrain

Here's one you'd probably never think of. However, it came in second, behind Thailand, in the HSBC poll of the best place for expats to live and work abroad. Here's something you probably didn't know: Bahrain is one of the most Westernized countries in the Arab world. This makes it the ideal destination for Americans and other Westerners who want to observe an Arab country up close. There are also copious jobs in the IT and technology sector, so if that's your gig, start looking for one in Bahrain. The cost of living isn't quite as radically lower as in some of the other choices, but it is cheaper than the United States.

Are you an expat living abroad — if so, where? If you're considering living abroad, where have to considered living?

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Guest's picture

I spent a little bit of time in China (Shanghai, Shenzhen & Guangzhou) last year and I was really impressed by it. The cost of living was much lower and the cities in which I stayed were all vibrant and exciting places to be.

Guest's picture

What about Costa Rica? I read that it is the most stable. Isn't Chile experiencing riots and such things?

Guest's picture

this article is a little misleading... you can live cheap in these countries if your frugal but 50 bucks a month in Thailand to eat?

Guest's picture

It's amazing how articles like this one never go into the issue of visas and residence permits. They make it sound like moving abroad is about as simple as moving from North Dakota to South Dakota. Take it from a life-long expat: it very rarely is.

Guest's picture

Hi Nick, I accumulated massive student loans at UMass Amherst studying discredited economic theory from pseudo radical professors who preach Marx to impressionable students during the week but check their 401k statements hoping that the S&P 500 climbs a few points by the end of the quarter. I also studied merdre like semiotics, Trotsky, Lacan and Foucault and thought I was really bright because I got good grades & lots of praise from said pseudo radical professors.

A few years later I came to understand that I had made a series of horrible choices. I tried to make it as a writer, I was even writing shameful clickbait articles attacking successful rock stars and blogging for Fox News! It was barely enough to pay for my tattoos and modernist furniture.

I am thinking of moving to another nation to avoid my student loans... Any advice?

Guest's picture

why don't you go to China or S. Korea and teach English and pay your loans off!

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Guest. st. go

How come no one ever writes about the Philippines when writing these expat stories. I've read lots of these, and never once seen any that suggest The Philippines as a low cost , exciting place to retire .