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Which Countries in the World Have the Lowest Cost of Living?

Cities in Texas, like San Antonio, have a lower cost of living than metropolises on the East Coast.
Bolivia has one of the lowest costs of living in the Americas, however it has experienced political turmoil in recent years.
Map of the world.
The waters off the Marshall Islands are ideal for scuba diving.
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  • Written By: Erika Peterson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 March 2014
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Which countries have the lowest cost of living changes each year, as prices rise and fall and economies grow or sputter. Historically, North America generally has a high cost of living, but there are other places in the world where costs are much lower. Many of these countries, like Iraq and Afghanistan, have struggled with war and political unrest, although this is not true in all cases. For example, the Gambia, a small country in West Africa, has one of the lowest costs of living in the world, according to International Living's 2011 Quality of Life Index, and a relatively stable political structure.

The cost of living is how much money it takes to afford basic necessities, like food and shelter, and maintain a certain standard of living. It is important to remember that a low cost of living often means a relatively weak economy; the Gambia relies heavily on peanut exports and has few other natural resources. Decades of sanctions, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and continued violence and corruption have left Iraq's economy devastated, despite the nation's oil reserves.

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In South America, the country with the lowest cost of living is Bolivia. One of the region's poorest countries, Bolivia is largely divided between indigenous peoples who make up most of the population and a wealthy elite that has, until recently, controlled political life and the economy. The country has experienced several political crises, largely related to control of natural gas reserves, one of Bolivia's few natural resources.

The Marshall Islands, not far north of the Equator, also have a very low cost of living. Several of the islands were used for nuclear testing by the US in the 1940s and '50s, when the country was occupied by the United States, and some areas are still contaminated. Despite the possibilities for tourism, the country is still dependent on the US for support, and suffers high unemployment.

Having a low cost of living doesn't necessarily mean that a country would be a good place to live or visit. Even those countries that are relatively peaceful often have poor infrastructure, like a lack of paved roads or regular supplies of electricity, and limited access to services, including medical care. In many cases, the cost of living is low because of high unemployment and an uncertain economy.

There are a few countries with a low cost of living that would make for pleasant vacation destinations, however. Nicaragua, which suffered considerable political unrest in the 1980s, has enjoyed more economic growth since a 1990 peace agreement, and the tourism industry has had a rebound. The Marshall Islands offer warm temperatures, sandy beaches, and waters ideal for fishing and scuba diving.

The cost of living in the United States is lower than many people might expect, although of course it depends on where in the US a person lives. Most major cities, especially New York and Los Angeles, have a very high cost of living; cities in Texas and the center of the country tend to be less expensive. As of 2011, US cities with the lowest cost of living include Brownsville and Ft. Hood, both in Texas, and Pueblo, Colorado, according to Kiplinger.

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Discuss this Article

anon343098
Post 8

Rent in Japan is expensive, unless you're living in a cheaper "Gaijin House" which is like living in a dorm. Western food will cost more than Japanese food which, if a person eats like the Japanese, is not quite as expensive as people think.

I was able to get legal copies of major recording artists for only the equivalent of five dollars USA. Knowing where to shop is important in a place like Japan.

anon232542
Post 7

I strongly suggest you read articles about the cost of living online, from an objective source.

There are many articles you will find to be very enlightening. It's news that affects normal, everyday people's way of life and not Wall Street. Get your info from an untainted source.

anon182605
Post 6

Most places that you would normally consider cheap when on holiday are quite expensive if you are living off a lump sum and expect a lifestyle way above that of the local population.

anon122627
Post 4

These living cost tables and surveys never work, no matter what city, country your looking at. It's possible for any city, community, state, country to lower the living costs by assertive workforce placement, proper trade schemes not to mention if governments didn't hand out grants for first home buyers in some countries they could use that money and reserve prices for building supplies.

But typically, a lot of the world is trying to make something out of nothing these days, so living costs are going to rise for things that virtually should be free.

Here's some insight in Australian prices.

Food: Can of Coke - $2.30; Packet of Cigarettes - $11.00 - $19.00; Rent for a 1 - 2 Bedroom - $150 - $300 a week; Rent for a 3 - 5 Bedroom - $350 - $800 a week.

Groceries can cost anything in Australia because of barely no consumer regulations besides a few.

You can shop at a large supermarket chain, and save money, but the quality of the products you are receiving is definitely a step down.

That means you can spend $50 a week but all your food probably will be home brand.

Plus it's not usual shelf item prices that piss many Australians off, it's the fact the prices for fresh produce and quality meats can be determined by the major retailer and not the producer.

anon98003
Post 3

Yeah, Australia is one of the most expensive countries in the world outside of the Scandinavian states and Japan.

It's twice as expensive to live in Aus than America. American friends visit me all the time and comment on the cost of food. I suppose they only earn $10 an hour or some rubbish like that so it is expensive.

anon86460
Post 2

Australia cost of living is a joke. Are you saying it costs more (500 Euros a month) for food than it costs, in Australia, for food for a family (500 Euros a month)? Wow! All I can say is that they must have huge families in Australia. My family eats about $100 USA dollars a month each member and the mortgage was about $800.00 per month.

Moderator's reply: We've recently updated the information in this article with more recent figures. Part of that included removing the information on Australia, as it was no longer accurate.

anon81716
Post 1

Great map! Thanks, but cost of living comes second to income. If you are earning much it really does not matter how expensive your city is. Anybody out there willing to relocate, I advise to check the salaries first.

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