5 Incredibly Cheap Countries to Live On A Budget 2021

cheapest countries to live in for digital nomads

Last Updated on January 28, 2021 by Serish | I Hated My Boss

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So here I am chillin’ poolside in the beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and it just hit me: Why not write an article about cheap countries to live on a budget in 2021?

In light of last year’s global shutdown, working from home became a new normal as we sat at home and watched the unexpected unfold.

But with hopes of travel restrictions easing up this year, many are looking for a much needed (and well-deserved!) vacation.

That said, if you’re thinking about relocating to another country, planning a vacation without spending too much, or even considering retiring abroad, this detailed guide explores the cheapest countries to visit and live on a budget in 2021.

Wanna read this later? Pin it here:

5 Cheapest Countries to Live and Work From On A Low Budget

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Why Work Abroad?

Now more than ever before, working from abroad has become much more popular than ten – or even five years ago.

This is mainly due to the increase in safety in most cities, fast internet speeds and more importantly– low cost of living.

Furthermore, there’s an abundance of jobs available for expats that pay a very decent salary and some even include housing, accommodation and transportation as part of the employment package.

Not only that, you can also work remotely and explore online work from home jobs or even start your very own money-making blog.

So you’re literally dumping most of what you’re earning into a savings account (that’s if you don’t splurge).

Key Features

I have narrowed it down to 5 of the cheapest, safest, and best countries to live and work from for less than $1,000/month.

However, since everyone’s lifestyle is unique– including their appetite, I will discuss the average cost per person for rent, food, and transportation.

Here’s what this post will focus on:

  1. Visa Requirements
  2. Average Cost of Living
    • rent: studio or one-bedroom apartment
    • food: combination of eating out and cooking
    • transportation: mix of metro and Uber/Taxi
  3. Pros/Cons

Keep in mind that your first month will likely be more expensive than the following months.

This is mainly due to airfare, move-in costs, visa application fees, and any other miscellaneous expenses to help get you get settled in.

Some of the data I’ve gathered is from Numbeo, which is a user-contributed database that gathers live info about the cost of living from cities around the world.

Another key resource I used was Nomad List. It collects data from over 2,500 cities…every second.

**Please note: Due to travel bans in certain countries, visa requirements are subject to change. Be sure to visit country-specific website, which I’ve provided for each country below.

Things to Consider

As someone who has traveled to over 25 countries, I must add that it’s important to research and respect every culture before planning a move or even a short trip.

Many countries mentioned in this guide may be affordable for citizens coming from developed countries, but the locals live on a very low income. For example, the minimum wage in Mexico is roughly $7 per day (as of January 2021).

Because of this, I feel it’s important to tip generously or volunteer and help local NGOs by taking part in food drives, visiting orphanages or making a donation to a trusted charity.

Other ways to help locals is by buying local food, asking your neighbors if they need anything, learning the local language, or volunteering to teach English at a nearby school or orphanage- to name a few.

I must also add- try your best to blend in with the locals. You can do this by not dressing too flashy or wearing excessive jewelry and name brands.

You don’t want to attract the wrong crowd. Safety should be your number one priority.

Housing Considerations

My advice would be to not rush into signing a long-term lease.

Try short-term Airbnb rentals to get a feel of the city and area first. Use this link for a discount. 

Before you sign a lease, consider the following:

  1. Location 
    • is it closer to your work or co-working spot?
  2. Convenience
    • is it near a metro station, grocery store, or gym?
  3. Security
    • does your building offer 24/7 security/cameras?
  4. Traffic 
    • to and from work

5 Incredibly Cheap Countries to Live On A Budget in 2021

Southeast Asia always makes it on top of the list of cheap countries to live on a budget for digital nomads, expats and retirees.

But…

After hours of research, I found and squeezed a couple of European cities in there as well, for my peeps who only dreamed of living in Europe on a minimal salary.

Ready? Buckle up, let the countdown begin!

5. BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

cheapest countries to live in for digital nomads Budapest Hungary

Hungary’s capital is a gem for expats wanting to live in Europe on a budget.

With its incredible scenery, rich history, and a sizzling nightlife experience, Budapest has become a popular destination for nomads and alike.

This Central European city was created in 1873 by the merging of three neighboring cities: Buda, Pest and Obuda.

The city extends on the banks of the Danube river, connecting the Buda and Pest side through the famous Chain Bridge.

The fascinating architectural landmarks are insanely picturesque and totally Insta-worthy.

Budapest Hungary cathedral I Hated My Boss
Photo by Florin Corbu on Unsplash

With over 40 attractions to visit, including castles, museums, churches, opera houses, thermal baths, and much more– your stay will be quite event-filled.

Although the inner city is best explored by foot, Budapest offers several efficient public transportation options.

Whether you take the bus, tram, trolley, or metro…getting around the city is fairly easy and cheap.

For up-to-date ticket prices, click here.

VISA

As part of the Schengen Agreement, U.S. citizens can visit Hungary for up to 90 days, within a 180-day period; visa issued upon arrival.

In other words, you can stay 90 out of any 180 days.

But here’s where it gets a bit tricky…

Once you exit, you cannot re-enter the entire Schengen region until another 90 days have passed.

The obvious downside to this is you have to leave the entire Schengen zone, which is currently comprised of 26 European countries.

On the upside, you’re just a plane hop away from many other cheap European countries, such as Croatia, Serbia, and the European side of Turkey– Istanbul.

In addition, it is recommended to have six months’ validity remaining on your passport and one blank page is required for the visa stamp.

For detailed visa application process and information, click here.

By the way, if you want to see how much time you have remaining in the Schengen zone, here’s a pretty cool calculator to help you out: Schengen Area Calculator

COST OF LIVING

AVERAGE MONTHLY COST: $850/month per person

RENT

Divided in to 23 districts and split in the middle of the Danube River, Budapest caters to all income levels.

On the Pest side of the Danube, you’ll find the city center– located in District 5.

This is the more bougie part of Budapest as many top attractions are reachable by foot, including the Chain Bridge, Parliament Building and upscale shopping on Vaci Street.

The average monthly rent for a studio or one-bedroom flat starts at around $550.

Hungarian Parliament cheap cities for nomads

For my nomadic friends on a budget, District 6 may be the better option.

Furnished studios or one-bedroom apartments go for roughly $400/month.

Located on the Pest side, the 6th is small and more densely populated.

However, it is packed with culture and includes Andrassy Avenue– dubbed the “Hungarian Broadway,” where you can find an abundance of great eateries, opera houses, theaters, bars and a wonderful nightlife.

FOOD

  • $250/month
  • meal at inexpensive restaurant: $6.60/person
  • meal at mid-range restaurant: $16.50
  • cappuccino: $1.56
  • Grocery store shopping:
    • 1L milk = $0.79
    • loaf of bread = $0.80
    • 2 lbs of white rice = $1.12
    • Eggs (12) = $1.64
    • 2 lbs boneless chicken = $4.85
    • 1.5L water bottle = $0.39

TRANSPORTATION

  • $50/month
  • local transportation = $1.16/one-way ticket
  • monthly pass = $31.37
  • Uber: available
    • use my code to save: SARAK21606UE
  • Taxi: starts at $2.31

PROS

  • affordable
  • very safe
  • spacious
  • safe roads
  • fast internet
  • many nomads
  • good air quality
  • a lot of things to do
  • very safe for women
  • people can speak basic English
  • high quality education

CONS

  • very cold in winter
  • hospitals aren’t very good
  • can be hostile towards LGBT
  • befriending locals can be hard

Checkout Offbeat Budapest for more helpful information about Budapest.

4. WARSAW, POLAND

cheapest countries to live in for digital nomads Warsaw Poland Architecture
Photo by Valik Chernetskyi on Unsplash

Coming in at #4 is the beautiful capital of Poland– Warsaw.

Although nearly 90% of its infrastructure was deliberately destroyed in WW2, Warsaw is indeed a city risen from the rubble.

The Polish capital was rebuilt in the years following the end of the Nazi invasion.

In fact, Old Town Warsaw was placed on Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites as an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction.

This triumphant city is now one of Central Europe’s most loved, boasting remarkable architecture, captivating buildings, leafy green parks, many museums and so much more.

cheapest countries to live in for digital nomads Warsaw Poland
Photo by Kamil Gliwiński on Unsplash

As a rising star in the digital nomad community, Warsaw is filled with friendly people, delicious foods and a trendy nightlife scene for the young and the restless.

In addition, getting around Warsaw is fairly easy. Public transportation is comprised of four systems: train, tram, buses and two metro zones; covering all directions.

The metro is probably your best bet for commute within the city as it’s more efficient, quick and only costs a buck and some change.

VISA

Similar to Hungary, Poland is also part of the Schengen Zone. Therefore, a tourist visa is good for 90 days, within a 180-day period.

Again, you will be required to exit the entire Schengen Area after 90 days; unless otherwise you requested an extension from the Polish Embassy.

Also, make sure your passport has at least three months’ validity remaining; otherwise you may be denied entry upon arrival.

For detailed visa application process and information click here.

COST OF LIVING

AVERAGE MONTHLY COST: $750/MONTH PER PERSON

RENT

With 18 districts to choose from in Warsaw, it can be overwhelming figuring out which one may be best for you.

However, the heart of the city and the most desirable district lies within Srodmiescie.

It presents the best living conditions full of restaurants, shops and bars.

Expect to pay rent of $550/month and upwards for a studio or one-bedroom apartment.

Warsaw Old Town
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Outside of the city center and in more quieter neighborhoods, you can easily find a studio or one-bedroom apartment for as low as $300.

For those on a tighter budget, a private room can run you around $200/month. If you put in some work, you can find a room for $150/month.

Check out this in-depth guide for a breakdown of all districts.

FOOD

  • $200/month
  • meal at inexpensive restaurant: $6/person
  • meal at mid-range restaurant: $15/person
  • cappuccino: $2.59
  • Grocery store shopping:
    • 1L milk = $0.65
    • loaf of bread = $0.77
    • 2 lbs of white rice = $0.85
    • Eggs (12) = $2.03
    • 2 lbs boneless chicken = $4.28
    • 1.5L water bottle = $0.50

TRANSPORTATION

  • $50/month
  • local transportation = $1.10/one-way ticket
  • monthly pass = $27.50
  • Uber: available
    • use my code to save: SARAK21606UE
  • Taxi: starts at $2

PROS

  • affordable
  • friendly people
  • fast internet
  • not crowded
  • top notch healthcare
  • remarkably clean city
  • many people speak English
  • many nomads all year round
  • a lot of fun things to do
  • high quality of education

CONS

  • very cold in winter
    • winter can last as long as 6 months
  • Polish is not an easy language to learn
      • in some areas, people don’t speak English
  • can be hostile towards LGBT

OTHER CITIES TO CONSIDER

  • Krakow
  • Gdansk

3. PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO

Photo by Chris McQueen on Unsplash
Photo by Chris McQueen on Unsplash

Ok, I know what you’re probably thinking: she’s biased because she’s currently living there.

Hear me out though…

If you’re a Narcos Mexico fan, like me, or obsessed with other cartel-related shows, worry not. I can tell you first hand that this city is absolutely safe to live in.

Located along Pacific Ocean’s Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta is paradise on a budget.

From artsy neighborhoods, lush palm trees, mountainous scenery, dollar margaritas and $0.75 street tacos, you can live well for less.

Along the malecon (boardwalk), is a stretch of delicious restaurants with live bands, shopping, street performers, bars and nightclubs.

This is the main attraction of PV in the downtown district know by locals as El Centro.

Puerto Vallarta Malecon

Though there is no metro or subway available in PV, buses are plenty for a mere 10 pesos (about $0.50) for a single ride.

In addition, Ubers are dirt cheap and will get you to the other side of town for as little as five bucks.

  • use my code to save $ on Uber Mexico and Uber Eats Mexico purchase: SARAK21606UE

Personally, I enjoy the bus as it offers a very inexpensive scenic ride.

VISA

Convenient and seamless, Mexico’s immigration and visa guidelines are by far the best I’ve experienced.

Mind you, I’ve been here 9 times and immigration process has been a breeze for me.

The best part…

U.S. citizens can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days consecutively, without applying for a visa beforehand or paying any fees. Visa issued upon arrival.

**Though the CDC advises against traveling to Mexico right now, it is open to U.S. and Canadian citizens at the time of writing**

If you’re planning to stay longer than 6 months, I would recommend applying in person at your nearest Mexican Embassy.

For detailed visa application process and information, click here.

COST OF LIVING

AVERAGE MONTHLY COST: $700/month per person

RENT

You can get a nice, comfortable, month-to-month studio or one-bedroom rental for $350 in downtown Puerto Vallarta. This would typically include WiFi and is fully-furnished.

However, utilities may not be included in some rentals. Nonetheless, expect to pay no more than $40/month for water and electricity, and majority of the cost will likely be the use of air condition.

By the way, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly accommodation, some apartments are available for around $250/month.

But, you may be required to pay first and last month’s rent up front, including a deposit.

For newbies visiting PV, I’d recommend renting an Airbnb for the first couple of weeks to familiarize yourself with the city.

New to Airbnb? Use my code to knock off up to $52 on your first booking.

Note: High season is from November through April and Airbnb rentals nearly double during this time.

FOOD

  • $200/month
  • meal at inexpensive restaurant: $4/person
  • meal at mid-range restaurant: $12.50/person
  • cappuccino: $1.95
  • Grocery store shopping:
    • 1L milk = $0.89
    • loaf of bread = $1.35
    • 2 lbs of white rice = $0.80
    • Eggs (12) = $1.31
    • 2 lbs boneless chicken = $4.85
    • 1.5L water bottle = $0.71

TRANSPORTATION

  • $50/month
  • local transportation = $0.50 one-way bus ticket
  • monthly pass = not offered
  • Uber: available & cheap
    • use my code to save: SARAK21606UE
  • Taxi: starts at $1.78
    • almost double the rate of Uber

PROS

  • safe
  • affordable to live
  • no visa for 180 days stay
  • close to U.S. & Canada
  • beautiful scenery
    • mountainous
  • not crowded
  • easy to get around
  • a lot of things to do
  • many nearby cities to visit
    • cheap domestic airfare
  • reliable, fast internet
  • easy to make friends
  • delicious and cheap food
    • many options
  • majority of people speak English

CONS

  • humid
  • hot all year round
  • hospitals aren’t the best
  • after a while, you might get bored
  • not many nomads here
    • mainly American/Canadian retirees

OTHER CITIES TO CONSIDER

  • Guadalajara
  • Mexico City (recently visited and fell in love!)

2. BANGKOK, THAILAND

Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand

If you’ve been doing some research on cheap countries to live or visit on a budget. I’m certain you’ve seen Thailand on the list almost every time.

Well, that’s because Thailand’s rich and vibrant culture draws nearly 40 million people every year; with its capital– Bangkok, being the most visited city.

With over 400 temples and its vibrant street life, Bangkok is filled with adventure and history.

Whether you’re visiting the world-renowned Grand Palace, eating delicious street food on Khao San Road, shopping at the night and floating markets, or getting a relaxing Thai massage…one thing is for sure, you won’t get bored!

Additionally, getting around the city is very easy. To avoid the morning and evening rush hour, Bangkok offers a clean, cheap and efficient transportation system with air-conditioned BTS skytrain or the MRT subway line.

Bangkok Thailand Floating Market

VISA

U.S. citizens are permitted to stay in Thailand for up to 30 days on a tourist visa; issued upon arrival.

Make sure your passport has six months’ validity remaining and you must show proof of a return or onward airline ticket.

If you wish to extend your stay for another 30 days, a fee of 1,900 baht (about $63) will apply.

I would recommend applying for an extended visa beforehand by visiting your nearest Thai Embassy.

Furthermore, for stays exceeding 30 days, immigration officers may ask you to show proof of income that you have enough money to travel around Thailand.

This amount is typically 10,000 baht, or about $330 per person.

For detailed visa application process and information click here.

COST OF LIVING

AVERAGE MONTHLY COST: $650/month per person

RENT

Bangkok is suitable for every budget type. Luxury condos and apartments with rooftop pools in Siam Square or Sukhumvit neighborhoods are available to rent starting at $450/month.

Or, you may live among Thai locals in mid-range level accommodations a bit outside the hustle and bustle for $300/month and up.

If you’re on a tight budget, a spacious room in a shared house goes for $150/month.

cheap cities for nomads Bangkok
Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

To avoid morning and evening traffic jams, On Nut and Phrakanong may be better options.

Away from the city center and just a few metro stops away, these two districts offer tranquility and rent is also a lot cheaper than in the city center.

If you are planning to call Bangkok home, Culture Trip offers great information about the different neighborhoods of Bangkok.

Also, join this Facebook group with nearly 100k members who will be glad to answer any questions.

FOOD

  • $150/month
  • meal at inexpensive restaurant: $1.95/person
  • meal at mid-range restaurant: $13/person
  • cappuccino: $2.42
  • Grocery store shopping:
    • 1L milk = $1.68
    • loaf of bread = $1.10
    • 2 lbs of white rice = $1.37
    • Eggs (12) = $1.87
    • 2 lbs boneless chicken = $2.98
    • 1.5L water bottle = $0.57

TRANSPORTATION

  • $50/month
  • local transportation = $1.14/one-way ticket
  • monthly pass = $35.58
  • Uber: available
    • use my code to save: SARAK21606UE
  • Taxi: starts at $1.14

PROS

  • affordable to live
  • very safe
    • safe for female solo travelers
  • fast, reliable internet
  • tasty street food; many options
  • friendly and happy locals
  • a lot of tourist attractions
  • cheap flights to other Thai cities
    • even neighboring countries
  • cheap Thai massages ($5+ USD for an hour)
  • many people can speak/understand English
  • 7/11’s almost everywhere
  • a lot of nomads/expats
  • excellent hospitals
  • friendly to LGBT

CONS

  • hot/humid all year round
  • some days will have bad air quality
  • roads can be dangerous
  • crowded in city center
  • heavy rain
  • traffic

OTHER CITIES TO CONSIDER

  • Chiang Mai
  • Phuket

Visiting Bangkok? Download your FREE Bangkok guide here.

1. HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM

Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

And drum roll please…

The #1 destination for digital nomads is Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

In recent years, Vietnam has established itself as an attractive destination for nomads and solo female travelers.

Known by locals as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is currently ranked as one of the cheapest cities to live in for expats.

The cafe culture in HCMC is insanely amazing. With a growing community of nomads and tourists, new co-working spaces and cool coffee shops are rapidly popping up every so often.

The shops are unique with beautiful interiors decorated with contemporary designs– perfect for in-person meetings, or even a nice background to have during video conferencing.

Beverages are inexpensive with specialty coffee drinks around a buck each. For fancier drinks, we’re talking $2 tops.

Vietnam Coffee shop

Nightlife in Saigon is also one for the books. Though spread out, District 1 boasts an interesting nightlife scene with fashionable rooftop bars, energetic cocktail clubs and even open-air beer gardens.

VISA

Vietnam offers several different visa options for U.S. citizens– from a 30 day single-entry tourist visa, to a one-year multiple-entry visa.

However, you must apply either online or by visiting your local Vietnamese Embassy, prior to entering Vietnam.

Also, your passport must have at least one blank page for the entry stamp and six months of validity remaining.

For detailed visa application process and information, click here.

COST OF LIVING

AVERAGE MONTHLY COST: $600/month per person

RENT

Saigon is divided into 24 districts and the heart of the city lies within District 1 and District 3.

In District 1, expect to pay higher rent prices of $450/month and up. This is the financial district with upscale restaurants and hotels, designer stores, and is action-packed.

Though still near the center, District 3 is less crowded and popular among expats.

Rent is slightly cheaper, but not as cheap as District 7, or outer neighborhoods of Saigon, where a one-bedroom apartment can run you as little as $250/month.

Now, you can most definitely find cheaper accommodation if you are down to live with roommates.

For a room in a shared house, rent is about $150/month.

Saigon Vietnam

Most apartments are fully furnished and serviced. Meaning that they include utilities, WiFi, cleaning and laundry.

Keep in mind, if you sign a longer term lease of over 30 days, first and last months’ rent is required, plus a deposit fee.

Join this Facebook group for more housing options. Current and former expats and real estate agents are willing to help for free.

FOOD

  • $175/month
  • meal at inexpensive restaurant: $2.15/person
  • meal at mid-range restaurant: $9.69/person
  • cappuccino: $1.91
  • Grocery store shopping:
    • 1L milk = $1.36
    • loaf of bread = $0.75
    • 2 lbs of rice = $0.78
    • Eggs (12) = $1.37
    • 2 lbs boneless chicken = $2.63
    • 1L water bottle = $0.51

TRANSPORTATION

  • $25/month
  • local transportation = $0.26/one-way ticket
  • monthly pass = $6.47
  • Uber: available’
    • use my code to save: SARAK21606UE
  • Taxi: starts at $0.52

PROS

  • cheap and affordable
  • fast internet service
  • delicious food
  • huge expat community
  • many cafes to work from
  • relatively safe
    • violent crimes against foreigners is rare
  • safe for solo female travelers
  • easy to make friends
  • fun nightlife

CONS

  • hot/humid all year round
  • bad air quality at times
  • not the best hospitals/healthcare
  • locals don’t speak English well (but you can still get by)

OTHER CITIES TO CONSIDER

  • Hanoi
  • Da Nang

Final Thoughts: 5 Cheap Countries to Live On A Budget

There ya have it! The 5 best and cheap countries to live on a budget in 2021.

Though all cities are unique, they all have something special to offer.

Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly city or just the beauty a particular city offers, I hope this article has helped you in one way or another.

Just remember, respect the locals and their culture, and tip generously.

Of the five cities mentioned above, I have visited three: Budapest, Bangkok and Puerto Vallarta (including Guadalajara and Mexico City).

Are you planning to work from abroad? Leave a comment below and let me know!

5 Cheapest Countries to Live and Work From On A Low Budget

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