BALTIMORE (STL.News) – “Affordability is one of the most important qualities of a great retirement destination,” says Dan Prescher, a senior editor for International Living, “especially if you’re trying to stretch savings, pensions, and Social Security as far as possible. Those are exactly the places that top the Cost of Living category of the Global Retirement Index.
“In fact, cost of living can be so affordable in these places that even a modest budget of around $2,000 a month for a couple leaves room for indulgences like a housekeeper or a gardener…or both. Affordability makes for a rich quality of life in retirement, and the countries at the top of the GRI’s Cost of Living category offer some of the highest quality of life possible for the least amount of money.”
The five countries that score best in the Cost of Living category of International Living’s 2020 Annual Global Retirement Index are….
For the fifth year in a row, Cambodia takes the top prize in the Cost of Living category of the Annual Global Retirement Index, scoring full marks: 93 out of 100.
Sandwiched between Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia offers a truly fantastic retirement experience, whether you’re thirsting for adventure or just want laidback beach living. Lush rainforests teem with exotic animal life. There’s no shortage of resplendent Buddhist temples to see. And you have some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia.
“Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting destinations,” says Keith Hockton, IL Correspondent. “From unspoiled beaches and idyllic private islands on the Bay of Thailand, and scattered quaint French colonial towns where you can dine for next to nothing, to the dense forests, jungles, rivers and lakes of the highlands—Cambodia is simply breath-taking.
“The legendary temples of Angkor Wat continue to confound visitors and locals alike, while parts of Cambodia remain largely unexplored. Travel is inexpensive, and its capital Phnom Penh, is worth the visit alone.”
Once famed as the “Pearl of Asia,” Phnom Penh, has lots to offer expats—a stunningly low cost of living, bustling markets, and a thriving food scene, set to a backdrop of colonial French architecture and temples.
Attracted by its beauty, the warm and welcoming nature of its people, and its supreme affordability, retirees living in Phnom Penh can afford indulgences out of reach at home, including staff like a weekly housekeeper or gardener on $1,150 a month for a couple.
Cambodia is a place where retirees can upgrade their lifestyle to one of luxury on a modest budget.
“Five-star boutique hotels can be had here for as little as $100 a night, while dining out at a top restaurant can cost as little as $60 for two people,” says Keith. “The French-Cambodian food fusion will have your taste buds dancing with delight. It’s no wonder that Cambodia topped our 2020 cost of living index.”
Vietnam and Bolivia are tied for second place with 92 points.
Vietnam is a young and energetic country that has a lot to offer expats. It is a long country that stretches from China in the north to the Gulf of Thailand in the south. Beach lovers will enjoy exploring more than 2,000 miles of coastline.
Although France’s lengthy occupation of Vietnam is long over, their legacy has lived on. Beautiful French mansions and public buildings are located throughout the country, parks are abundant, and trees line the city streets. Sidewalk bistros sell deliciously rich coffee and French-style baguettes.
The Vietnamese people provide the most compelling reason to live in Vietnam. They are hard-working and determined, but above all, they are unfailingly polite and welcoming. Earnest and curious, they will often approach foreigners in the hopes of practicing their English skills or learning about the outside world. Here, expats enjoy a high quality of life at low prices.
“The land here is beautiful,” says Wendy Justice, IL Vietnam Correspondent. “Vietnam has some of the highest mountains, most beautiful terraced rice paddies in Southeast Asia, Son Doong—the largest known cave in the world, and hundreds of towering, jungle-draped limestone islets of Halong Bay.
“The cost of living in Vietnam is so low that even after living here for the past eight years, I am still constantly surprised at the affordability.
“It’s a rare month that our budget exceeds $1,200 and that’s living in a luxurious 3-bedroom furnished apartment in one of the best areas in Hanoi, having a cleaner come twice a week, all our utilities, and eating out at least once, and sometimes twice, every day. We thoroughly enjoy the high quality of life that is so easily affordable in Vietnam.”
Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, is known for its French colonial architecture and rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese, and French influences. A beautiful place of parks and lakes, Hanoi has maintained its traditional charm while becoming a vibrant, modern city.
This burgeoning, bustling city is the political hub of the country, as well as the cultural and historical center, and offers one of the lowest costs of living of any major city in Southeast Asia.
Bolivia is one of only two land-locked nations in South America. But despite its lack of coast, the country has a wealth of riches in terms of geography, history, culture, and natural resources.
Bolivia is attractive to newcomers on many fronts thanks to the warmth of its people, the perfectly moderate climate in the highlands, the low-cost living, modern conveniences, and the rich and vibrant indigenous culture.
“The biggest surprise when I visited Bolivia was just how affordable it is to live there,” says Jason Holland, IL Roving Latin America Editor.
“Rents are $200 to $400 for places in good neighborhoods, meals out at nice restaurants run about $5 per person, and your weekly market trip will set you back $20.
“I met two single retired women, one who owned a home in the countryside, the other whose rent was $125 per month for a two-bedroom home in the colonial center of Sucre. Both have a monthly budget of $500 to $600.”
Sucre is in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in southern Bolivia. This medium-sized city of 300,000 people founded in the 16th century offers many reasons to visit or live here full-time. For one, the surroundings are beautiful. Its UNESCO World Heritage centro is full of centuries-old architecture. It’s simply a joy to walk around.
But Sucre is by no means stuck in the past. High-speed internet is widely available and cell phone coverage is good, too. Sucre also has its share of tourists, as it’s a jumping off point for tours to the Uyuni salt flats and for trekking into the highlands, and has somewhat of an international feel.
With welcoming people and a low cost of living, more and more are calling the Andean nation home. Jason says, “As one expat I met put it: ‘You can live well on a small pension in Bolivia.’
Stretching from the high Andes to the vast Pacific Ocean, Peru is a country of extremes. With its colonial cities, ancient ruins stretching back to antiquity, and long stretches of pristine beach, Peru has a wide diversity of lifestyles to offer you.
But the one constant you can be guaranteed anywhere here is affordability—scoring 91 points in the cost of living category.
“It is certainly very inexpensive to live in most regions of Peru,” says Steve Le Poidevin, IL Peru Correspondent. “Including health insurance and rent, our basic monthly expenses are still less than $1000, but we live in the small coastal town of Huanchaco. Realistically, costs would probably be twice as much in a large urban center such as Arequipa or Lima.”
Huanchaco is a northern surfing and fishing village that has managed to maintain its small-town charm while being located just 20 minutes from the larger city of Trujillo.
Deemed the birthplace of modern ceviche—typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with ají or chili peppers—Huanchaco is still considered one of the best places to sample this Peruvian delicacy.
“A year-round temperate climate, cheap local produce and lack of need for a vehicle all contribute to our own very low cost of living,” says Steven. “Even with a larger apartment and a car, my single Canadian neighbor’s monthly expenses are about the same.”
Ecuador lies in the northwestern corner of South America, bordered by Colombia to the north, Peru to the south and east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador’s lower cost of living attracts many expats to this gem—scoring 90 in the Cost of Living category of International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2020.
Donna Stiteler, IL Cuenca Correspondent, grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, where seniors flock to retire, attracted by the warm weather and lack of state income taxes. But she embarked on a new journey in search of somewhere cheaper to live in 2014—in Ecuador.
“When I tell my friends that I live off of $2000 a month like a queen, after they have closed their dropped jaws I explain how,” says Donna. “It’s more about what you don’t have to spend.
“In Ecuador, a nice 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo will run you around $550, groceries around $400, you don’t need air conditioning or heating because in the Andes being close to the equator makes for temperate weather, and you don’t need a car because taxis run $1.50 to $3.50.
“And because I walk more, my health has returned. If you want to stop worrying about counting every penny and start living, Ecuador could be a good match.”
More details on the top five countries in the Cost of Living category of International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2020 can be found here: The Cheapest Places in the World to Live in 2020
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