For those looking to relocate abroad, Europe is a popular choice. Europe as a whole has 50 countries, 28 of which are part of the European Union. Europe is often associated with high costs of living for travelers, expats, and permanent residents alike, particularly in Western Europe, the Nordic countries, and countries which use the Euro. This is not always the case, however. While some European countries are comparatively expensive, many others are quite affordable, particularly when compared to the United States.
Several independent reference sources compile and maintain lists of the cheapest and best European countries to live in, from Forbes and the Global Retirement Index to travel sites such as PlanetWare. These lists can be a valuable resource for retirees and expats moving for work or adventure, as well as for tourists and travelers looking to maximize their budget. Most sources evaluate not only cost of living, but also additional factors including healthcare, entertainment, safety, cultural factors, and the ease of learning the local language (most are not English-speaking countries). This broad analysis pinpoints countries in which newcomers can often live less expensively without sacrificing their quality of life or standard of living. Many are also among the easiest countries to move to, as well as the
One of the Slavic countries, Bulgaria is one of Europe’s hidden gems for both travelers and expats, and appears on nearly every list of affordable countries in Europe. In addition to cities rich in history, Bulgaria has beautiful landscapes, including beaches along the Black Sea in the summer and mountains for skiing in the winter. A person’s monthly budget for living in Bulgaria starts as low as $600.
Transportation and dining are quite affordable in Bulgaria, with long-distance train tickets starting at $5 and dinner with a drink at less than $10. It is relatively easy to legally take up residence in the country even if one is not an EU citizen. Bulgaria is the poorest member of the EU and is still working to develop its infrastructure, increase its overall standard of living, and deter corruption—however, it remains one of the most highly recommended destination countries in Europe.
Like Bulgaria, Montenegro is considered to be one of the best countries in the world to which to retire, with an estimated monthly cost of living of just 700 Euros per person. This budget covers rent, healthcare, food, and entertainment. Montenegro is known for its beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and vast countryside full of affordable real estate. The cost of living can increase as you move closer to the sea, however. The cons of Montenegro are the lack of infrastructure and lack of flights.
The third near-unanimous recommendation is Romania, another country with beautiful landscapes, colorful cities, and a very affordable lifestyle. The monthly budget for a person living in Romania starts at about 600 Euros in the northern parts of the country, though the cost of living more expensive in the country’s capital, Bucharest. Dining out in Romania is very cheap, including lunch menus for $4 and hotels, hostels, and apartments starting at $7 per person for those looking to visit.
Non-Europeans can obtain a residence permit in Romania with minimal difficulty. Although it is part of the EU, Romania does not use the Euro, which is considered by some to be part of the reason the costs of living remain low in the country. However, levels of corruption at various levels of government remain high.
Another of the world's best countries to visit is Hungary, whose cost of living ranges from approximately 900 Euros per month in rural areas to 1,400 Euros per month to live in Budapest. Hungary is conveniently located in Central Europe, with access to the Adriatic Sea and other countries including Austria, Slovenia, and Slovakia. Food and travel accommodations are relatively affordable as well. However, unlike other European Union nations, Hungarians speak a non-Indo-European language, which may result in a greater language barrier than in other European countries.
While costs are higher in its capital city of Prague, the countryside of the Czech Republic boasts both beautiful scenery and ample affordable real estate. The monthly budget for a person living in the Czech Republic is roughly 950 Euros. The Czech Republic is located in Central Europe, granting easy access to other countries such as Austria and Germany. The standard of living in the Czech Republic is about the same as Germany but it costs about half. One can find meals as cheap as $3 to $5 (US$) and those looking to visit can pay as little as $15 a night at a hostel. The Czech Republic is also one of the happiest countries in the world.
While more expensive than many Eastern European countries on the list, Portugal is the cheapest country in Western Europe. At a monthly budget of about 1200 Euros, Portugal offers a warm climate, access to the ocean, and a high level of safety. Prices in Portugal are about one-half or even one-third of other Western European countries, as long as one does not plan to settle in Lisbon. Although Portugal is relatively affordable, it is gaining popularity in recent years, especially among retirees, so prices are expected to rise. Portugal is also one of the world's easiest countries to which to immigrate.
One of the less well-known, but strongly endorsed European destinations is Georgia, where the monthly budget is an affordable 600-1000 Euros. Residency permits are easy to obtain, and Georgia is also one of the easiest countries in which to become a citizen for those who wish to do so. Georgia is located in the far southeast of Europe, bordering only on Eastern European countries of Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey. However, inexpensive travel options are becoming more common, giving Georgians greater access to Europe as a whole.
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Bulgaria is the cheapest European country to visit on vacation.