The Cheapest Countries in the World

It’s official…the cheapest countries in the world are The Gambia and Iraq.

But the tiny African country of The Gambia is best known for malaria and banditry, and however far your dollar may stretch in Iraq it’s not likely you’ll want to spend time there.

Top honors in the Cost of Living category of our Quality of Life Index don’t always go to the most idyllic places. And the search for the ideal retirement haven is about finding that perfect balance of cost of living and quality of life.

The good news is that there are places of extraordinary beauty that are safe and friendly, and where you can live like royalty for $1,200 a month…

You just have to skip down the list of “cheapest countries 2011” to find them.

Expats Darrell and Amy Bushnell wanted a rich culture, a perfect climate, an active retirement and a much less expensive lifestyle. They found it in the 10th cheapest country in the world, Nicaragua.

Here you can live on the ocean and watch the sunsets from your balcony. You can buy a farm and live close to the earth and off the grid. Or, like Darrell and Amy, you can enjoy the urban life in the colonial splendor of Granada.

“You can get a fantastic steak dinner in the finest restaurant here for around $13. Regular fare at typical restaurants runs about half that and a ‘local’ meal is $2 to $3. The local beers, which are good, run from $0.75 to $1.50,” says Darrell.

“We live in a large colonial home of around 3,500 square feet with three bedrooms and four bathrooms, a large garage and a swimming pool. We have a maid that works three hours a day, six days a week for $80 a month. For three years I maintained the pool myself but now I have a young man who, for $35 a month, does it three days a week. Water costs around $10 a month and yes, we drink the tap water. We had it tested and it’s as safe as water in the States.

“We have an SUV and a motorcycle. The total annual insurance costs for both vehicles is less than $100 per year.

“Medical care is very reasonable and Granada is within 40 minutes of one of the finest hospitals in Central America. A visit to a doctor is $15. Our doctor speaks English and we have his personal cell number for emergencies. Hard to imagine that happening in the U.S.”

But Amy and Darrell didn’t just move to Nicaragua because it’s cheap.

“Before the sun rises, I’m making fresh Nicaraguan coffee. Our two parrots begin chattering, which brings other parrots to our rooftop. Our dog, Kenya, starts looking for her morning walk. Vendors come door-to-door every day selling fruits, vegetables, milk, bread and seafood. It’s cheaper in the market, but this is so convenient. And for $3 or $4 you can buy a lot of fruit,” says Darrell.

“We didn’t experience any culture shock here and the locals are gracious and gentle. Small things go a long way. For example, every few weeks I take the local boys fishing. And every Friday night we show a movie outdoors. Over 80 of our neighbors turned up to watch Titanic at our ‘sidewalk cinema’ recently—our biggest hit so far.”

Editor’s note: Eoin Bassett is the managing editor of International Living magazine, and wishes people would stop coming up to him in the street to give him a pop quiz on what country has the most favorable income tax…who charges the least for a basket of expat essentials…where to find the most museums…and thousands of other statistics, surveys, facts, and stories absorbed in the interest of compiling IL’s annual Quality of Life Index. Instead, subscribe to IL magazine and read the Index, out now, for yourself.

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