For many, the rationale for an overseas move is clear-cut: A better life for a lower cost.
Here at International Living Australia, we get it. And we’re here to help.
Our 2019 Global Retirement Rankings examines 15 of the world’s best retirement havens in 11 key categories…including, of course, cost of living.
The country that topped the table for the lowest cost of living in the 2019 International Living Australia Global Retirement Rankings was Vietnam. It offers an amazing mix of natural beauty and cultural diversity. From mountains and steamy jungles to cosmopolitan cities and sleepy villages, there’s something to satisfy everyone here, whatever your budget.
Hanoi, Vietnam’s booming capital, is a feast for the senses. Stop at a café or a museum, browse the busy markets and enjoy cheap and delicious street food and fresh beer with the locals at night. The city is home to some 10,000 expats who make the most of the country’s great-value living.
Rentals are easy to find and offer serious bang-for-buck. For example, a spacious, 275-square-metre home can be had for $825 a month. A housekeeper will cost $12 for a full day’s work, water bills will run you about $2 and high-speed, fibre-optic internet costs just $14 per month.
On a monthly budget of $2,000, a couple would live well here and have room in their budget for travel in the region and little luxuries like fine wine or evenings out.
Head outside the larger cities and the cost of living drops further still. One under-the-radar beachside spot, Vung Tau, is a particular favourite with in-the-know expats.
“Vung Tau is still something of a secret,” says Wangaratta native Glenn Nolan, 57. “I think it’s the most underrated place on the coast.”
The low cost of living is one of the big selling points for Vung Tau’s Aussie residents. For less than $400 you can rent a modern, air-conditioned apartment, minutes from the beach, with ocean views. Hundreds of restaurants serve up delicious local specialties for less than $2 and expat hangouts dish up more familiar Western fare for just a few dollars extra. Plus, a taxi home after a night out is unlikely to cost more than a few dollars.
“Why would I pay $11 for a pint in Melbourne when I can get a beer for $1 over here?” asks Glenn. “Here you can afford to go out and eat every night of the week if you want.”
This is just a small slice of the incredible savings on offer in this overseas retirement haven, which offers the best value for money in our 2019 Retirement Rankings. (Discover more, here).
Missing out on a perfect score by just one point, the country that took second place is known not only for its affordability but also for its accessibility and adventure: Cambodia.
Dining out for breakfast, lunch and dinner is considered normal for many expats here thanks to the wide range of inexpensive yet high-quality restaurants that can be found everywhere you look. Melbourne native Michelle who lives in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, describes her adopted home as “incredibly affordable”.
“Overnight I went from being an ‘essentials only’ lady to enjoying luxuries I’ve never experienced before,” she says. “I became one of those ‘ladies who lunch’ as I joined a group of expat women who go to high-end restaurants all the time. The thing is, even when we visit somewhere posh, we pay only $10 or $20 each for fine cuisine.”
Fellow Aussie Paul Howard agrees that moving to Cambodia has been a game changer for his lifestyle as he can now enjoy pretty much whatever luxuries he desires.
“I never have to worry about what things cost,” he says. “You name it and I guarantee you can get it here for a fraction of the price in Australia. When money isn’t a concern, it is like every day is a big adventure and if I want to live large then that’s exactly what I do. I get to enjoy all of life’s luxuries without having to count my pennies. My life here isn’t good, it’s flipping great!”
Thailand claimed third place in our Retirement Rankings cost of living category.
This expat favourite is particularly renowned for its world-class, affordable healthcare. For expat Michael, access to good healthcare was one of the deciding factors in his move here. Two years on, he has no complaints.
“You’ll find state-of-the-art medical facilities staffed by English-speaking doctors and clinicians, very often trained in the West and at the top of their game,” he says. “Costs are so low that many expats simply pay out-of-pocket for treatment.”
A consultation with an English-speaking doctor, including treatment and medications (which is usually dispensed by an onsite pharmacist) typically costs no more than $20. Quality dental and optical care is also readily available and well below what you’ll pay in Australia. A trip to the dentist for a check-up, clean and X-rays will set you back just $57. And you don’t have to join any lengthy waiting lists, either.
“It’s not uncommon to walk into a local private hospital and be seen by a specialist within the hour,” says Michael. “Checking in for a first visit is simple and efficient.”