Best Places to Live Abroad In Europe vs South America vs Central America ... and 4 more
Edited by Kathy McGraw, Alma, Inukshuk
As the cost of living keeps getting higher and higher in the United States, and as wages and real buying power continue to decline, more Americans are leaving their home country for greener pastures elsewhere. While there are no statistics that tell us how many Americans are emigrating, there are some sources that say that over 9 million Americans are now living somewhere abroad. If you are considering a move, either because you want to retire somewhere where your pension will go farther, or you want a better life for yourself and your children we've come up with a list of the top countries around the globe for you to consider.
Method 1: In Europe
From the peaks of the Alps to the coasts of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, the lands of the Old World beckon many Americans back to its shores with affordable living, historical sites for exploration, and free medical care. The following countries have been rated the best to live in according to such factors as cost of living, disposable income, and purchasing power.
- 1Switzerland. This beautiful country has consistently come out on top in almost every measure of human thriving. Wages earned go a lot farther in terms of what you can afford to buy in Switzerland: about twice as much as you could afford to buy in New York on the same salary. Its healthcare system has been consistently top-rated, as well as its schools, and life expectancy exceeds that of the U.S. at 82.5 years. Its government is one of the most transparent in the world, and it has a generous immigration policy, too. Have we mentioned that it's beautiful? The Swiss Alps are breathtaking and, if you enjoy skiing, there's probably no place else that you'd rather be.Advertisement
- 2Denmark. If you want to live somewhere that's environmentally friendly, Denmark is a good choice because it's a very environmentally-conscious country. Half of the people who commute to work do so on a bicycle, partly because Denmark's topography is mostly flat and that its cities and roads are very bicycle-friendly. While wages aren't the highest, they don't need to be because the cost of living is low and money stretches far longer in Denmark than in the United States. Jobs are plentiful, too, with the employment rate being 75 percent; that means that three-quarters of the working population have jobs. Oh, and there are plenty of beaches. In fact, there's no spot in Denmark that's more than 30 miles to the ocean.Advertisement
- 3Germany. With a sterling healthcare system under which almost everything is covered and free university for students, Germany receives high marks for being a comfortable place to live. People can afford to live quite well given that they have a good amount of disposable income, which can buy more than in other places around the world, including the United States. Other positives include the fact that Germany is in the center of Europe, so travel in and around the continent is quite easy from there, and the amazing number of outdoor celebrations held there every year. And let's not forget to mention the cars and beer. Known for making exquisitely engineered cars, such the Mercedes-Benz and BMW, you can put these cars to the test on the Autobahn. Home of the Oktoberfest, beer is plentiful every day and all times, so if you love beer, Germany is the place for you.
Method 2: In South America
South America is a land of stunning beauty, amazing ecology, and ancient ruins. While there is still a lot of poverty among its nations, some of them actually offer a comfortable living much cheaper and better than what you can find in the United States. Here are the top three countries in South America that are awesome to live in.
- 1Chile. You may not realize it, but Chile is considered a first world nation, the only one in South America. It is also stunningly beautiful with the Chilean Andes towering above peaceful valleys and a gorgeous coastline. If the urban action is what you want, cities such its capital, Santiago have it going on, and while it has everything, you would expect a first world nation to have, its cost of living remains low. For example, you could get a three bedroom condo in a prime location for just $800 a month. Try doing that in just about any city in the United States. Other things Chile has going for it are a stable and growing economy, friendly locals, and a welcoming immigration policy.Advertisement
- 2Brazil. Brazil is a large, varied, and beautiful nation with just about every type of geography you could want, from the mountains to beaches, to lakeside retreats. There has been an influx of investment in recent years which has raised the cost of living somewhat, but it's still quite affordable. Of course, there are the meccas of Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paolo for city-lovers to live, and it's safer than you might think, with the government working to reduce crime and boost security in recent times.
- 3Colombia. While Columbia may have its place in history as the home of the "Colombian Drug Lords," it has cleaned up its act in recent years, and its government has been working on growing its economy. Among the highlights of this South American nation include the beautiful "City of Eternal Spring," Medellin. Its sparkling clean streets and welcoming atmosphere draw people to it, and the low cost of living makes it more attractive still. For a more cosmopolitan flair, try the larger city of Bogota, the capital of Colombia.
Method 3: In Central America
With coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Central America is beautiful and accessible. Gone are the years of strife, war, and corrupt governments; while not everything is rosy, it's much better than it was in the past and improving quickly. The up-and-coming nations of Central America have plenty of jobs, stable economies, and low living costs, all of which are drawing expats from the United States to their shores. Here are the top three Central American nations in which to live:
- 1Costa Rica. With its thriving economy, advanced infrastructure, top-rated healthcare and educational systems, and low cost of living, it is easy to see why Costa Rica is thought of as one of the best places to live in the world. By making a concentrated effort to invest in them, the Costa Rican government has created a progressive society where the roads are in good repair, kids and university students can get a solid education, and all the people get access to quality and affordable healthcare. It shows in its high literacy rate, among the top in the world, and rising life expectancy. Another positive is that by law, workers with full-time jobs get an extra month's salary every year at Christmas time. That's pretty handy for buying Christmas presents for family and friends or putting away in the bank.
Method 4: In the South Pacific
The South Pacific is a vast stretch of water covering a portion of the Earth's Southern Hemisphere. Tiny islands dot its blue surface as well as the smallest continent, Australia, which features some of the strangest wildlife and plants that are known to man. While it can be difficult to live on an island because of limited resources and real estate, it can nonetheless be a rewarding experience for many. Here are three countries in the South Pacific that make lovely places to live.
- 1Australia. Australia has been called the island continent because that's kind of what it is: an island on a huge scale lying in between the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. Started as a prison colony by the British Empire, Australia has grown into a rich and prosperous country. It has a thriving economy, low cost of living, and an excellent educational system. It has a good healthcare system, too, with life expectancy high at an average of 82 years. Another positive is that it is not an overcrowded country: its population density is low: 2.8 people per square kilometer.
- 2New Zealand. New Zealand is on this list because of its high per capital income and progressive growth over the years. It has a thriving economy that's a mix of exports, tourism, and manufacturing, which was opened up to the world after remaining within the Commonwealth prior to its independence from the United Kingdom. The government has made sound investments in education, and it shows in the high living standards and its growing economy.
- 3Fiji. Although Fiji is a popular tourist destination for its white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters, it also has a surprisingly cheap cost of living. This archipelago of 300 tiny islands is a paradise of palm trees and warm tropical waters waiting for you to make your home there. The largest and most populated islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The only downside to living on an island chain like Fiji is that anything that is not grown raised or made there must be imported, which can lead to higher prices on some items. However, with some careful economizing and replacements with local foodstuffs and resources, you can still live there quite affordably and comfortably.
Method 5: In the Caribbean
The many islands of the Caribbean Sea are a much sought-after tourist destination and considered to be a tropical paradise by many people. With beautiful palm covered beaches and crystal clear aquamarine waters, who wouldn't want to live there all year around? Here are three of the best spots in the Caribbean to settle:
- 1Ambergris Caye. Ambergris Caye (pronounced "key"), is an island in Belize. It has become a popular spot for divers in the last three decades because of the Belize Barrier Reef which is just a half-mile from shore. Americans who live on the island report that an easy living can be had on a relatively low income of between $2,000 and $3,000 a month and property can be bought for around $175,000. It is also English speaking, has all of the bells and whistles that you'd expect back home, but without the suffocating high cost of living.
- 2Roatan. Roatan is a small island in the country of Honduras and is pretty close to a tropical paradise. There are no huge hotels or resorts on the island, so you don't have to worry about crazy college kids running wild during Spring Break, and there are no high-rises, either. The lifestyle is laid back, and English is one of the main languages spoken so you can communicate with others just fine. While some things do cost a little more because they have to be imported, a common problem with living on any island, the overall cost of living remains low.
- 3Isla Mujeres. About eight miles off the coast of Mexico, near the party-city of Cancun, lies this beautiful island. Its pristine beaches and the clear aqua waters of the Caribbean Sea that surround it draw tourists from all over the world, and a community of American expatriates has discovered this paradise, as well. You can live quite well on Isla Mujeres with just $2,500 a month, including rent and food. In fact, you can live like a king in a nice place right by the sea. You're not getting close to doing that anywhere in the United States.
Method 6: In Africa
When you think of Africa, you probably think of the Plains of Serengeti, of wildebeest, cheetahs, hyenas, and lions. Or perhaps you might think of children with bloated bellies on your television screen while Sally Struthers of Pernell Roberts implores you to send money to help feed them. While it is true that there is still a lot of famine and strife in Africa, it is a huge continent, and there are many lovely places there where you can live better and on less money than you can in the United States. Here are the top three African countries to live:
- 1South Africa. Rich in precious metals, South Africa has a thriving economy where the cost of living is cheap. It is home to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town, and owing to its location on the southern tip of Africa, has a mix of beaches, mountains, and lush valleys in which to thrive. How cheap can you live in South Africa? Well, a one-bedroom apartment goes for around $280 a month, and you can expect to pay under $500 for groceries, utilities, and other expenses. That means that for under $800 a month, you could have a roof over your head, pay your bills, and buy your groceries, and that means that the rest of your monthly income is yours to spend or save as you wish. That's a pretty good deal if you ask me. Oh, and they speak English there.
- 2Zambia. Like many countries in Africa, Zambia is rich resources, namely copper. Although reduced copper prices on the worldwide market have slowed this nation's economic growth from an astounding 6.7 percent to 3 percent in 2015, it's still growing at a good rate, which is good news for finding work. Another huge benefit to Zambia is the fact that you can buy more goods with less money, which leads to a better quality of life.
- 3Algeria. Algeria is a country in North Africa on its Mediterranean coast near Morocco and Libya. Rich in natural gas and oil, it ranks as the 6th largest exporter of natural gas in the world. The cost of living is low, and because of a strong social safety net, its citizens thrive in a worldwide economy that is increasingly unstable. Money goes further in terms of what it can buy so you can live well on less.
Method 7: In Asia
Asia is a huge continent that spans a range of geographic choices from high altitude living in the mountains to tropical rainforest hills and valleys, to coastal beaches and island life. Here are the top three Asian spots to live:
- 1Thailand. If you want to find a country with pleasant weather where you can live cheaply but well, Thailand should be on your short list. For less than the price of a mid-grade computer, you could have a penthouse apartment in the city with a pool and gym on the premises. If you get out of the city, you can find digs even cheaper than that, and with prices for everything from massages to food being low, you can live quite well on a small income.
- 2Cambodia. If you have a remote job, consider moving to Cambodia, because even on a meager salary, you can live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. The cost of living there is that cheap because local wages are very low, somewhere around $100 a month. While not so good for working locally, it means that the prices of everything are really, really low. For instance, you can live in an apartment mansion and pay only $200 in rent. You could get a professional massage for an hour for just five dollars: it's that crazy.
- 3Malaysia. While not the cheapest Asian country to live in, the standard of living in Malaysia is high: comparable to first world countries, yet the cost of living remains relatively cheap. You can have the modern conveniences you expect to have, but you can live well and inexpensively with a lower income. Just $850 a month gets you a 1,600 square foot apartment with a pool, and that's with utilities included. An income of between $2,000 and $3,000 a month can buy you a lot in Malaysia.