15 of the Cheapest Cities in the World to Live Your Best Life in 2024

If you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone, your life can be exciting and affordable.

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Updated May 30, 2024
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Living your best life doesn’t always require a big budget. In fact, there are plenty of amazing cities around the world where you can enjoy a high quality of life for less.

For expats with full-time jobs, people who want to work remotely and travel, or retirees looking to embrace new cultures, here are the cheapest cities to consider. We filtered for safety and other amenities to offer the best possible recommendations.

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Bari, Italy

mitzo_bs/Adobe waterfront and harbor with boats

Bari, located on the Adriatic Sea, blends historic energy with modern life. As the capital of the Puglia region, it has beautiful beaches and a healthy Mediterranean lifestyle.

Housing and living costs are affordable compared with northern Italy, delicious food and wine abound at reasonable prices, and plenty of sunshine and seaside activities are yours to enjoy.

Cape Town, South Africa

derejeb/Adobe cape town beach with mountains and greenery

Cape Town is the capital of South Africa, with beautiful natural landscapes and a diverse, dynamic urban vibe. Situated in the wine-growing region, the city boasts excellent food, a coffee culture, sandy beaches, and bustling cultural scene.

While it has a high standard of living, Cape Town remains one of the most affordable major cities in the world.

Cebu, Philippines

KAPhotography/Adobe osmeña peak cebu philippines

Cebu is an island city of millions known for its urban amenities and gorgeous surroundings. It has a low cost of living, including health care and daily expenses, making it a popular choice for retirees and digital nomads. It also has great beaches and food.

English is widely spoken, making communication easier.

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Hamilton, New Zealand

momo11353/Adobe blue spring river

Hamilton is a medium-sized city on New Zealand's North Island, famous for its impressive gardens, riverside walks, and artsy vibe. While New Zealand can be expensive, Hamilton remains relatively affordable, especially compared to cities like Auckland.

Expats can enjoy a high quality of life here with excellent health care.

Hanoi, Vietnam

martinhosmat083/Adobe pagoda of tran quoc temple

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, where ancient temples and modern skyscrapers share the skyline. This exciting city is known for its history, incredible street food — and overall culinary scene — and colorful local markets.

Living costs in Hanoi are super low, making it a favorite among budget-conscious expats.

Heraklion, Greece

neirfy/Adobe heraklion harbour crete greece

Heraklion, the capital of Crete, is blessed with a warm climate and friendly locals. This coastal city has nice beaches, ancient ruins, and a relaxed Mediterranean vibe.

Greece has had economic challenges, but the silver lining is that it has become more affordable for retirees and digital nomads. Heraklion also has a low cost of living and good health care for expats.

Istanbul, Turkey

AlexAnton/Adobe hagia sophia

Istanbul straddles Asia and Europe. Consequently it has a unique blend of cultures, cuisines, and traditions. The metropolis has a rich history, but also a seriously bustling modern side.

Despite being a major city, Istanbul remains affordable for expats, especially for housing and food. Be prepared to learn Turkish to really acclimate.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Songkhla Studio/Adobe kuala lumpur city skyline

Kuala Lumpur is a dynamic city known for its skyscrapers, shopping districts, and mix of cultures. It has a high standard of living at a fraction of the cost of other major Asian cities. Local groceries, gas, and health care are especially affordable, and public transportation is growing.

Delicious street food is abundant and the climate is warm.

Medellín, Colombia

daniel/Adobe medellin

Medellín, once notorious for its drug cartels, has transformed into a thriving city with a welcoming atmosphere. Also called the City of Flowers for its lush greenery, Medellín has low living costs, good weather, affordable health care, and a thriving food scene.

Life is lived outdoors in this city of eternal spring with many green spaces.

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Mexico City, Mexico

Martin M303/Adobe scenic view at Basilica of Guadalupe with Mexico city skyline

Mexico City is a thriving metropolis with a storied history and warm, communal culture. It’s one of the largest cities in the world but remains surprisingly affordable. It's famous for its colorful art, endless food options, and historical landmarks.

Health care is affordable and accessible, too. The more you live like the locals do, the more affordable it will be.

Mumbai, India

qojoo/Adobe mumbai

Mumbai, one of the most Westernized cities in India, is a huge metropolis with busy streets and bustling businesses. While it’s known for its fast pace, Mumbai offers affordable housing and living costs compared to other major cities.

Locals are friendly, English is spoken widely, and the food scene is dynamite.

Oaxaca City, Mexico

eskystudio/Adobe scenic old city streets

Oaxaca City is known for its colonial architecture, friendly locals, and incredible food. It has a more laid-back vibe and a lower cost of living overall compared to other big cities in Mexico. The city is also famous for its festivals and markets.

Health care is easy to access and not expensive for retirees and digital nomads.

Pro tip: Learn Spanish.

Bangkok, Thailand

Southtownboy Studio/Adobe wat phra kaew ancient temple

Bangkok is a super cosmopolitan metropolis with busy streets, exciting nightlife, and mind-blowing delicious food. Despite its popularity, Bangkok is affordable, which is why it attracts so many expats.

Health care is excellent and affordable, and most doctors speak English. Public transportation is reliable and plentiful, too, and amazing beaches aren't far away.

Split, Croatia

zicksvift/Adobe shore of the adriatic sea

Split, located on the Adriatic coast, is a midsize city with a gorgeous coastal backdrop. Retirees and digital nomads seeking a Mediterranean lifestyle with a lower cost of living than many other European coastal cities (especially Western) will find it here.

Split has a welcoming expat community and offers an excellent quality of life with accessible, affordable health care.

Valencia, Spain

twindesigner/Adobe valencia spain virgin square

Valencia, located on Spain’s southeast coast, is famed for its stunning architecture, great food, sandy beaches, and just right balance of culture and activities. It’s the birthplace of paella, too.

Valencia is more affordable than Barcelona or Madrid, making it an attractive option for expats looking for that Mediterranean vibe. It may be wise to brush up on your Spanish to truly enjoy life there.

Bottom line

M Einero/peopleimages.com/Adobe active seniors stretching at a park for training

Each of these cities provides a blend of affordability, cultural richness, and high quality of life, making them perfect choices for expats looking to live their best lives.

You may be emboldened to travel more from your new digs, because you’ve jumped out of your comfort zone and into a new culture entirely. And retirees may find ways to stretch their Social Security income by opting for a lower-cost place to live. We can’t think of anything more exciting.

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Cat Lafuente

Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.