The 10 Least Expensive Expat Cities: Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2015

Would you like to know in which cities around the globe expats could make it on a shoestring budget? Take a closer look at the destinations listed below.

Every year the international HR consultancy Mercer conducts its Cost of Living Survey, releasing a ranking of the most (and least) expensive cities for executive assignees.

The survey takes into account the costs of 200 goods and services, including housing, transportation, food, and entertainment. The ranking is determined by using New York as the base city and US dollars as the reference currency. Mercer Cost of Living 2015

The results are therefore closely linked to worldwide economic developments. The two main factors which determine shifts in the rankings are actual price changes and fluctuations of the local currency compared to the US dollar.

So, these are the places to go to for international employees looking to stretch their money. Unfortunately, most of them are found in countries known for income inequality, underperforming economies, or political instability.

1. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, is the cheapest city worldwide to live in as an expat. The Central Asian country is still on its way to becoming a stable democracy while the after-effects of the Soviet era remain noticeable. Central Mosque in Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan is definitely an unusual destination. There’s always a certain demand for English teachers, but expats also work in mining or international development. Bishkek has a surprisingly vibrant nightlife, and it makes a good starting point for exploring the ancient Silk Road or the Tien Shan mountains. You’d better be prepared for the occasional power outage, though.

2. Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek is the capital of, as well as the largest city in Namibia, one of southern Africa’s most scenic nations, which sadly suffers from one of the highest rates of social inequality in the world. InterNations Expat Blog_Mercer Cost of Living 2015_Pic 1 Nevertheless, Namibia benefits from political stability, a skilled workforce, and a growing economy.

Most expats work in the tourism or mining sectors: resources like diamonds and uranium contribute strongly to export revenues. Moreover, the amazing biodiversity attracts visitors keen on ecotourism – the country is famous for orange sands and safari tours.

3. Karachi, Pakistan

While Islamabad serves as the country’s political capital, Karachi is Pakistan’s unrivalled industrial, commercial, and financial center, Welcome to KARACHI as well as among the fastest-growing cities in the world. Home to two seaports and a flourishing banking sector, Karachi prides itself on its booming economy and one of the largest film industries worldwide.

However, Pakistan’s economic development is hampered by political and religious tensions, and expatriates may be understandably reluctant to relocate to a destination where assaults or terrorist attacks pose a security risk.

4. Tunis, TunisiaInterNations Expat Blog_Mercer Cost of Living 2015_Pic 2

The risky security situation is unfortunately among Tunis’s disadvantages, too, as recent tragic events have drastically shown. Thanks to its unique blend of Arab, Oriental, and French influences and its magnificent coastline, Tunisia has become a popular tourist destination. However, bloody terrorist attacks on international visitors have claimed dozens of lives, and expats should definitely consult their foreign office’s travel warnings or check back with their embassy or consulate.

The 400,000 tourism-related jobs are of major importance to a country with an unemployment quota of 15%. In addition to the service sector, the economy is mostly driven by petroleum, mining, and manufacturing; many expats are employed as management professionals in these areas.

5. Skopje, Macedonia

Most expats moving to this small, land-locked nation congregate in Skopje: They are frequently employed by international corporations or the diplomatic service, or they work for NGOs or in language teaching.

InterNations Expat Blog_Mercer Cost of Living 2015_Pic 8The Macedonian capital, home to one-fourth of the population, is becoming more and more expat-friendly, with an increasing number of restaurants and shops emerging. You can also shop in the largest bazaar in the Balkans outside Istanbul. Additionally, you’re never very far from Macedonia’s three national parks or its many mountain lakes.

6. Banjul, Gambia

Gambia waving flag against blue sky The tiny state along the Gambia River is home to fewer than two million people and has a fairly small expat community. Most expatriates work for the United Nations or other NGOs and IGOs, though some set up their own business or try their hand at farming.

Gambia is politically stable and relatively safe, but very poor – important sectors are agriculture (mostly peanuts), fishing, and tourism. The pace of life is slow, but the beaches are stunning.

7. Minsk, Belarus

The political situation in Belarus is characterized by a presidential regime often described as authoritarian in nature: InterNations Expat Blog_Mercer Cost of Living 2015_Pic 4highly dependent on neighboring Russia, the country is rather isolated from the international community. As the economy is heavily state-controlled, employment opportunities are limited.

Most expatriates in Minsk are language teachers or diplomats, and there’s also a few students and volunteers. While Minsk isn’t exactly a common destination, on the plus side, its foreign community tends to be close-knit.

8. Cape Town, South Africa

The second-largest city in South Africa offers View of Cape Towna multicultural environment, a Mediterranean climate, beautiful scenery, and a variety of leisure activities.However, the divide between the haves and the have-nots looms large, and precautions against crime should be taken seriously.

Cape Town’s low position in the Mercer ranking also reflects the weak rand. The US dollar has been strengthened in comparison to the South African currency, which partly explains Cape Town’s appearance on this list.

9. Managua, Nicaragua

Managua, the capital and largest city of Nicaragua, features an expat community consisting mostly of embassy workers and small business owners.

Nicaragua’s tropical climate and cheap living expenses attract retirees and globetrotters from countries like the US and Canada, as well as those hoping for entrepreneurial opportunities in property development and real estate.

10. Tbilisi, Georgia

Georgia doesn’t have much of an expat community, although the country is increasingly attracting foreign investment: in addition to corporate executives and members of the diplomatic service, Georgian flag in TbilisiTbilisi is home to volunteer workers, adventure travelers, English teachers, and students specializing in Russian or Eastern European studies.

The eclectic architecture, with Middle Eastern, European, and Soviet influences, lends the crumbling cityscape with its narrow streets and local markets a certain bohemian charm. If you want to explore the Caucasus, though, Russian language skills are an invaluable asset!

Alissa Maier is a German-American student who recently returned back to her roots to Munich, Germany. When she isn’t biking or running outside, she enjoys reading a good book and planning her next adventure abroad.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

92 Responses to “The 10 Least Expensive Expat Cities: Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2015”

  1. At the other end of the spectrum are the most expensive cities, including Geneva (where I live). Everyone is always shocked when they come here and see the prices. There are a few new startups in the sharing economy that make things more affordable, and I really hope the concept takes off. The coolest one is http://www.tryngo.com, where you can rent things you need for a good price. I think there might be some others, but I haven’t seen any that are as good.

  2. Hi Alissa,
    really enjoyed reading about these expat countries. Thanks for a great report.

    Kind regarsds
    Monique
    American living near Stuttgart

  3. @Monique:

    Thanks for your nice feedback! Alissa will be very happy to hear you liked her write-up.

  4. A couple of years ago the cheapest one used to be (at least according to Mercer) Asunción (capital of Paraguay), a bit strange to see it not making into top ten this year…. Either they changed the formula or there’s really unfavorable FX rate currently….
    Just saying…

  5. @Raul Urban:

    Asunción is now listed on #165 out of 207 cities worldwide. However, in the officially available press package, Mercer doesn’t mention the city, so there is unfortunately no indication as to why Asunción has moved upwards so drastically.

  6. Thanks a lot for the info.

  7. @Josefina:

    Thanks a lot for your positive feedback!

  8. I totally recommend Nicaragua. The country is beautiful and I think it is a hidden gem. The prices are good for travelers who have a tight budget. You should totally visit the city of Granada, which has a rich colonial architecture.

  9. @Jeniffer Lugo Estrada:

    Thanks for commenting! Are you currently living in Nicaragua, or have you recently traveled there?

  10. Which are the costliest cities?

  11. @Prashant:

    According to Mercer Consulting, the costliest cities worldwide are Luanda, Hong Kong, Zurich, Singapore, Geneva, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Bern, and N’Djamena.

  12. We never take into consideration small towns. I live in the upper-jungle, in Peru, and I don’t know how to spend 1,000 Dollars per month.
    With what you safe, you can travel each year to Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and if you save more, to Argentina, Brasil, or back to your home-land.
    As a second income (for retirees) with cocoa plantations, you can earn another 300 Dollars per hectare per MONTH. .

  13. @Erwin Anders:

    Of course you are obviously right that this list doesn’t feature any small towns, where the cost of living is often cheaper. It’s based on the annual publication by Mercer Consulting which unfortunately analyses only the living expenses in major cities and national capitals.

  14. July 23, 2105

    Great work with this publication.

    Some countries are a very high risk living. Such as Karanchi, Tunis and may be a few more. Thank yuo.

    Tony Kukreti
    realtorkukreti@gmail.com
    Dallas, Texas, USA

  15. @Tony Kukreti:

    Thank you for commenting! I completely agree that there are quite a few of high-risk destinations on this list. The analysis by Mercer Consulting only looked at living expenses, not at safety or quality of life in general. If you are planning to move abroad, you should always make sure to get a good idea of the risk involved by studying your embassy or consulate’s safety information or travel warnings.

  16. Tbilisi can scarcely be No 10. You have left out quite a lot of Africa and South America, and maybe Serbia and so on. Quote some figures!

  17. @Martin Smith:

    This list is based on the annual Cost of Living Study by Mercer Consulting, and these are indeed their ten cheapest destinations worldwide, though both Belgrade and Sarajevo have barely missed the bottom ten in 2015.

  18. Excellent report, very interesting and helpful
    Thanks for the effort
    khalid

  19. @Khalid:

    Thank you for your feedback!

  20. That’s all nice, but do expats even work in those places?

  21. @Shane:

    Yes, there are expats working in these places, though the foreign community is often very small – people working in the diplomatic service, NGO employees, teachers at international schools, and so on.

  22. I like the list and i think is interesting 🙂
    I would add some cities of Mexico, Costa Rica, China.

    http://travelwithstanito.com/2013/09/22/stanito-vs-chinasigns-part-2/

  23. @Stana:

    Thanks for your input! Please be aware that the Mercer survey only takes major cities and capitals into account and looks at the expenses for international assignees in US dollars – so there might be some discrepancies compared to the experience of, say, backpacking EFL teachers paid in the local currency. That being said, Mexico City and San Jose are ranked 137th and 110th respectively, but China’s big coastal cities are now among the most expensive worldwide.

  24. We may get more for our money but only at the cost of our peace of mind. Because most of these cities and their nations are very unstable in nature. It’s chaos everywhere except one or two.

  25. @Binu:

    The Mercer study which this blog entry is based on was only looking at cost of living for expat executives – not at personal safety or peacefulness. Alissa has pointed out in her article that the destinations are often unsafe or unstable – this is just a general impression of these cities, and we wouldn’t necessarily recommend that anyone should move there. So, your comment is certainly spot-on.

  26. Some comments about weather would be beneficial as heating & cooling can make up a large part of any budget. It also affects ones enjoyment factory if you’re not frozen in winter or cooked in summer. Please pass this along to Mercer. thx

  27. @Will:

    As far as we know, housing and utility costs are among the items featured among the living expenses in the Mercer survey. However, the study is also geared towards international managers and assignees, who may often receive larger salaries, additional housing allowances, and so on.

  28. I really don’t recommend Mexico, Central America, many Caribbean Islands and punch of other South American countries, especially for women, and those who don’t speak Spanish as 1st language,…unfortunately these countries are the most violent countries on earth for travelers and tourists, lots of kidnapping, rapes, street gangs are in the thousands, corrupt police, etc. I would recommend checking the DOS website for more info before travel

  29. @Shukri Rabadi:

    Thank you for your input! The survey that this blog post is based was only looking at living expenses, not at quality of life or personal safety. We certainly agree that there are some rather unsafe places on the list and that checking travel warnings is always a good idea, no matter where you are planning to go abroad!

  30. Thanks, this is very interesting.
    I am surprised that Kuwait is not featured, as they have one of the strongest currencies worldwide. Although the cost of living is high, it is definitely possible to live very cheaply.
    Also, I am surprised that Cape Town made the top 10! I spend a lot of time there and find accommodation and cost of living (one of the world’s highest inflation rates) very expensive, with below standard salaries. However, it is a stunning place with so much to offer and a culture of its own: a must-see.

  31. @Sandra:

    According to Mercer, Kuwait City is currently ranked 117th out of 207 destinations – so still pretty cheap as compared to the most expensive ones, but not among the low-cost destinations. But the Mercer survey is also aimed at foreign managers or assignees, who often have higher expenses, since they are looking for a higher standard of living as well.

    As for Cape Town, maybe the currency development of the rand versus the US dollar might partly explain it. Mercer assumes that international employees may not receive their salaries in the local currency, so if they are paid in US dollars, they might be safe from some of the impact of inflation, I suppose.

  32. Thanks for the info, just wondering why egypt is not on the list …

  33. @Christian:

    Cairo is currently ranked 120th out of 207 cities worldwide by Mercer, so they classify it as below average but not really cheap. However, their publicly available analysis of the recent rankings doesn’t refer to all cities on the list, and unfortunately, they don’t single out the reasons for Cairo’s placement at all.

  34. Hello, I am quite surprised, most of the mentioned cities the places where you do not want to end up your life at all (if you meet some certain standard of life) (of cause different choises and demands) . Places like Cape Town, I like a lot:))) but common if you do not have 2M + there its will be difficult, its really expensive place to be !!!

  35. @Ilia:

    The Mercer study that inspired this blog post only looked at expenses for international executives and assignees, not at the cost of living for the average local resident, and they don’t take living standards into consideration at all. In their seperate Quality of Life survey, they look at this aspect of life abroad, and many places on this list (including Cape Town) indeed don’t that well with regard to quality of living.

  36. I would like to add another country India is also very budget friendly country. Not expensive , very spiritual, most places india have free ashrams with food and yoga.
    Food is so delicious and so cheap.

  37. @Reema:

    Thanks for your input! The Mercer survey regarding living expenses is aimed at international managers, who probably won’t be living in an ashram. 😉 This might explain why India is ranked as more expensive – but for self-made expats and individual travellers that’s really great advice.

  38. As a gay man, most of these countries (not all) are so backward and anti-gay, I would never even visit them…much less live there. My husband and I are retiring in Spain shortly. i would never spend my money in most of these countries. Nicaragua me interesa….y Asuncion. Gracias. (Two Americans, who love, love, love Spain).

  39. @Jon:

    Thank you for commenting! The list was just based on low living expenses for international managers, and therefore the ranking doesn’t take safety considerations or political aspects such as LGBT rights into account. Of course, for most people personal safety and feeling welcome abroad are paramount considerations for moving. We just thought it would be interesting to have a look at some low-cost destinations, not necessarily recommend that everyone should pack their bags and move there!

  40. Brunei is another cheap country to live. For a single person, the total expenses per month including rental for a room will cost about US$500. However, you may need to ensure the company provide a company car to use. Petrol is cheap, about US$0.41 a liter for unleaded. Food is cheap. You can get a packet of rice with anchovies, egg and a piece of chicken or some beef for US$0.80.

  41. @Valerie:

    Thank you for your feedback! This list is based on a study by Mercer Consulting, which also ranks Brunei on #79 out of 207 cities worldwide, so they feature it among the more expensive half. However, unfortunately, they don’t necessarily explain the ranking of every single city they list, so their website doesn’t mention the reasons for this year’s ranking of Bandar Seri Begawan.

  42. Hi
    I lived in Namibia for 29 years, (now in Perth Australia) Namibia really is a beautiful country,
    landscapes and sunsets in winter when the east wind blows towards the coast are amazing. Wild life seems to be thriving. life style is casual and relaxed, Crime is high
    so be wary in the city, towns further out are relatively safe.
    Cheers
    Andy

  43. @Andy:

    Thanks for sharing your experience of expat life in Namibia! It sounds like a fascinating place.

  44. Cheaper than Thailand???? Thailand may be more expensive on big and tourist cities…but…hard to believe that may be places in the world cheaper that Thailand’s countryside towns.

  45. @Hector & Erwin: True, living in countryside towns is bound to be cheaper, but Mercer’s study only takes cities into account…

  46. I will return to Tbilisi , Georgia for my fourth stint of volunteering. I live in the heart of the city. I LOVE TBILISI !!! Fabulous city to walk around in…. Extremely safe all hours of the day.Endlessly fascinating : Music ,Art drama, dance…..wonderful museums , beautiful parks, Scores of funky Cafes , delicious food, and….ALL AFFORDABLE …. did I mention on time, reliable , cheap public transportation 🙂 …and many.many people speak English….a highly educated population…. oh yes, the weather……as the North East was buried in snow ….Tbilisi got ZERO INCH. of snow…… I am from Maine the only place to be in the summer….July+Aug, are unbearably hot in Tbilisi ( high 90’s )….. If you visit once you will want to come back…..maybe even live there. See you all soon ! 🙂 Happy traveling.

  47. @Deborah:

    Thank you for sharing your impressions of Tbilisi! Sounds like you’re leading quite the interesting life abroad.

  48. Useful info.Please remember if the cost of living is low expats at UN and NGO receive less allowances including post differential rental subsidies quarters allowances etc…

  49. @dr.ayaba:

    Thanks for your comment! That’s a good point you make about living allowances.

  50. Wow! I am shocked that Far East countries did not make this list. Somehow I doubt that even Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is as cheap as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos where the average salary is close to $150 per month and $1000 per month makes you a wealthy person. Is there a link to the actual report?

    Thanks!

  51. Hi Mark,
    Mercer’s list focuses on cities and an expat lifestyle, so maybe that’s why Bishkek tops Vietnam & Co?
    You can find the actual report, infographics, etc. on Mercer’s website 😉
    Best,
    Margit

  52. @Mark:

    Please take into account that the Mercer study is aimed at international managers and executives who often have higher living expenses as well, since they are not trying for a lifestyle according to local standards of living. You can find the Mercer website covering their 2015 survey here:

    https://www.imercer.com/content/cost-of-living.aspx

  53. Thank you for a very interesting list. American expats should note the warnings on this list. As U.S. relations with Russia are hitting a new low those cities in former Soviet republics could be bad places to be as shown by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. Best to visit first and get a feel for whats going on there before moving. Pakistan seems to be (to me) one of the most dangerous places in the world for U.S. citizens.

  54. @Lee Martin:

    This blog post was inspired by Mercer’s list of cheapest destinations for foreign assignees. The respective survey didn’t look at the safety situation at all. I unequivocally agree that you should always take potential risks into account before travelling or moving anywhere!

  55. I have heard from most people say that Nicaragua is a beautiful country, people are very nice and it’s quite inexpensive. It’s safe! But my question is does one need to speak spanish in order to live there? Can one one live there initially and learn spanish as you go?

    My son is living and working in Rio de Janeiro and he loves it and tells me he feels safe there. He is learning to speak Portuguese, but he is surviving very well with his english in the meantime.

    All those other countries you list, I’m not too sure about. I wouldn’t be comfortable with the idea of my son living in any of them, with the exception of Nicaragua.

  56. @Lydia MacQueen:

    Please consider that this blog entry was based on a ranking of destinations according to cost, which didn’t take safety or quality of life into account at all. So I certainly wouldn’t recommend moving anywhere without looking into these factors as well.

    As for Nicaragua, outside the larger hotels and touristy restaurants, etc. in the capital and a few other destinations, English isn’t spoken widely. I could imagine that living there without Spanish language skills would be pretty frustrating.

  57. Interesting to know that Bishkek is number one cheapest city. But you should visit countryside to see the real Kyrgyzstan and beautiful nature.

  58. @Jake:

    Any particular travel tips for Kyrgyzstan? 🙂

  59. Thanks for the helpful report!

  60. @Florentia Riga:

    Thanks for your feedback! It’s nice to hear you liked this post.

  61. Johannesburg is also a good option, for the same reason as cape town. You will find all the colours of the rainbow, together with a nice international community. And its not at all dangerous. Been living here safe and sound for 5 years now… Working for international insurance company… Servicing Africa. Contact me to get started!

  62. @Bart Verheyden:

    Thanks for sharing your impressions of life in Johannesburg! As for the cost of living, it doesn’t feature a lot higher in the Mercerranking than Cape Town and has barely missed the list of their ten cheapest destinations.

  63. How can you leave out India? English speaking, vibrant, amazing food, culture, clothes, nature etc etc.

    Delhi/Mumbai are constantly rated as cheapest cities to live in and great expat communities.

  64. @Vid:

    Please be aware that this list wasn’t based on any survey of our own, but on Mercer Consulting’s annual cost of living ranking. You can find some further comments on India and many other countries here:

    http://www.mercer.com.au/content/mercer/asia-pacific/au/en/newsroom/2015-cost-of-living-survey.html

  65. I am quite surprised that you haven’t listed at least one city of Spain! I live in Alicante, sunny, friendly, multicultural, vibrant and easy to connect with most European cities!

  66. @Christel:

    Please be aware that we didn’t select the cities on the list. The blog post is based on Mercer Consulting’s annual Cost of Living survey – you can find more information here:

    https://www.imercer.com/content/cost-of-living.aspx

  67. I am very surprised on this rating – the cities where I probably will never live in. Countries with pour medical sistem, big corruption and criminality.
    What should I do there? What are the opportunities for expats?
    A lot of South east asian countries give me more fun and are more comfortable for living (and cheaper) than Pakistan or Kyrgizstan, or Tunesia, or South Africa.

    So I dont understand how this rating was made.

  68. @All: Just to clarify again, the selection of cities was taken from Mercer’s most recent Cost of Living Study, which focuses on cities around the world and the costs companies can expect when sending an employee there. You can take a closer look at what factors were looked at as well as the results of their study on their website. Not that it’s not great to hear about alternative suggestions!

  69. @Aleksey Barkanov:

    This list was based on the annual Cost of Living survey by Mercer Consulting. Their study solely looks at the living expenses for international executives and foreign assignees – they don’t consider the local job market, quality of life, etc.

    We just thought it would be interesting to have a look at some lesser-known destinations with small foreign communities. We certainly weren’t trying to imply that everyone should move to Karachi or Bishkek right away.

  70. great places to get murdered while saving money..how about listing places that are actually worth visiting? what about Tehran, or Mubai, or Ferguson, Miss.

  71. @Paul Caminiti:

    Please take into consideration that this list was based on a ranking that analyzed cost of living only. The Mercer survey this blog post is based on doesn’t take quality of life, local sights, or even safety into account. However, they also publish an annual ranking regarding the quality of life, where things look quite differently. You can find more information their website:

    https://www.imercer.com/content/cost-of-living.aspx

    https://www.imercer.com/content/quality-of-living.aspx

  72. I just returned from holiday in Georgia and Armenia. Tbilisi is very inexpensive as is Yerevan. If you visit Tbilisi, you must try Khinkali, Georgian Ravioli. I recommend the House of Khinkali. Georgia produces excellent wine that is fermented in huge clay jars. The Georgians have been making wine for at least 8000 years which is why they are so good at it. Cape Town is my favorite holiday destination full stop. The last time I was there was in 2009 and it wasn’t all that inexpensive. If Cape Town is now a bargain, I plan on spending my next holiday there.

  73. @Michael Albanese:

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed your holiday in the Caucasus that much!

    As for going to Cape Town: the cost will probably vary a lot. The Mercer ranking assumes that international employees of global corporations will often be paid in US dollars rather than in the respective local currency. The rand has weakened quite a lot in comparison to the dollar. If you are either from the US or if your own currency has developed in a similar way in comparison to the South African rand, you might benefit from a similar tendency. If this doesn’t apply to you, though, Cape Town won’t necessarily be cheaper than in 2009.

  74. We’ve been living in Guatemala for more than a year and plan to stay here for a long time. The cost of living combined with a PERFECT climate, friendly people, safe environment and ability to slowly learn Spanish and still get around has been wonderful for us. The people that have come to visit have been very surprised at the reality of Guatemala (especially Anitgua and Lake Atitlan) compared with what they’ve been led to expect. Most of the published crime stats are related to drug/gang related activity in small areas of Guatemala City. The rest of the country has been lovely.

  75. @Trinette:

    Thank you for telling us more about expat life in Guatemala. It’s nice to hear that you’ve had such a positive and welcoming experience.

  76. As a female expat in Panama, I have to disagree with the statement that Latin America is unsafe. It cannot possibly be worse than some of the Soviet countries or Africa where poverty is rampant. Here it’s quite safe, you simply need to take the same precautions you do in the States or anywhere else you may travel. I have been robbed at gunpoint in the USA and never bothered here at all- not even harassed! And no, you don’t have to know Spanish, but it’s very helpful and keeps you from being taken advantage of.

  77. @MG:

    Thanks for sharing your experience as an expat woman in Panama! It’s good to hear you’re feeling safe – and wow, that robbery in the US sounds like an extremely frightening thing to go through. I’m sorry this happened to you.

  78. What a big mistake! Minsk is the most expensive city in eastern Europe. My wife and I live in Vilnius, 2-3 hours by train from Minsk. Every weekend the border crossing for cars is packed with people from Minsk going to Vilnius to buy anything and everything since all is so much cheaper in the Baltic States. My wife has family in Minsk so we visit quite often, and everything is more expensive there. It even costs us more money to call Minsk from Vilnius than it costs us to call the US from Vilnius. We spent a month in Kiev last year, and Kiev is much cheaper than Minsk also. You really got it wrong and I feel bad for all the expats who might believe your listing.

  79. @Timoteo:

    Thank you for sharing your insights into life in Minsk and providing a different perspective.

    This blog post is based on the annual Mercer Cost of Living ranking, which is aimed at international assignees and executives employed, for example, by gloval corporations and paid in US dollars. According to these criteria, Minsk might be indeed cheaper for them right now than other places, though Mercer unfortunately doesn’t reveal in their press information how much individual items, such as accommodation or groceries, cost for their target audience.

  80. Delhi and Mumbai are very interesting cities but rents in the safer areas are higher than NYC, as the Real Estate boom is in full swing..Other issues are pollution; safety for women but with solid local knowledge, car/driver etc it can be fine…for that you need some money…

  81. I’m a bit surprised. I’ve lived in Karachi, Skopje and Tblisi. I have visited Bishkek for a TDY of 2 months.

    Tblisi is not cheap, and is not considered safe by many embassies for their diplomats. After Tblisi, I’d moved to Yerevan, and my replacement hire was mugged and so seriously injured that his overseas work was ended. He needed to be in a western country for his disabilities.

    Same with Karachi. Americans are often targeted, especially American women. Harassment is widespread. Corruption is rife.

    I realize the article is about Least Expensive, but let us be with a bit of common sense. There are VERY little opportunities for work in Bishkek and Skopje, unless you want to teach English. Even then, Peace Corps Volunteers do that work for free.

    And having worked with and known people in the Former Soviet Union, and having visited and stayed in almost every country there, except Belarus, Minsk is NOT a place you want to live. Gosh, even central heating is a problem there still.

  82. @Brenda Murray:

    Thank you for your detailed feedback on life in many of these destinations.

    However, as you rightly point out, this list was solely based on a Mercer Consulting ranking for the current cost of living for international assignees. It doesn’t take living standards or safety issues into account at all. They provide this information in their annual Quality of Life survey, where quite a few destinations do indeed rather poorly, for issues like those you’ve mentioned.

  83. Very interesting!! And I inhaled all the comments. Have quite som experience as company fed expat and as enthusiastic backpacker. The Mercer index is surely made for generals and admirals but most of us are just common soldiers. That’s just another story.
    Would be interesting to have a survey on security – including reliability and availability of police. However I know it’s abig difference if you rate a city or just check the plain country. So I was hitchhiking in Venezuela, but Caracas seems to be a bit dangerous.
    Another proposal is health system- I mean not for a heart transplant, but get you broken arm treated or your baby delivered in an acceptable and hygienic way.
    Anyhow with all this good infos you have to make your own choice and cover your risk.

  84. @Karlheinz:

    Your comments on health and safety are very interesting. As far as I’m aware, there’s no study focusing on these aspects only, though they are certainly part of analyses regarding the local quality of living, as in Mercer’s Quality of Life survey or the OECD Better Life Index.

  85. Hello Alissa,

    Really enjoyed reading this about expat countries & its appreciate your thinking & writing skills too.
    Great going……..keep it up

    Cheers,
    Jitendra
    Indian living near Mumbai

  86. @Jitendra:

    Thanks for your kind feedback! We’re glad to hear you liked this post.

  87. I really have to question all of those cities and the entire report. There are cheaper places to live but with even worse conditions.

    Is it a realistic expat destination if unsafe, there is limited access to quality medical care, internet is poor, banking is questionable etc.

    There should be list of factors that they are scoring these places against and cost of renting an apartment can’t be the only one….

  88. @USExpat:

    Of course you are right that this list doesn’t take quality of life into account. It is based on the annual Mercer Cost of Living survey, which is looking at the living expenses for foreign assignees and international managers in about 200 selected destinations. You can find more information on their website:

    https://www.imercer.com/content/cost-of-living.aspx

  89. A more balanced perspective with clear pros and cons, and favoring places that have appeal and are not dangerous, is offered in Tim Leffel’s recent book, Better Life at Half the Price. He is an expert on cheap destinations.

  90. @Jean Sibley:

    Thank you for the book recommendation! It sounds like a very informative read.

  91. Very interesting report. I was happy to see that Nicaragua made the list — Managua is wonderful (great markets, structured city, but there are even more beautiful AND cheaper places to live in Nicaragua. I spent this past summer living in Laguna de Apoyo, and on weekends would take trips to neighbouring towns. I’d highly recommend Metagalpa as well (mountain town with cooler climate). Grenada is nice if you’re a tourist, but if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture and everything the country has to offer, venture off and explore

  92. @Edith:

    Thanks for your feedback! It sounds like you had a fantastic time in Nicaragua.

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