Europe’s Best-Value Haven

Steeped in history, culture, and year-round sunshine, one European country tops many expats’ wish lists. A big draw is the low cost of living. Markets are laden with inexpensive fresh fruits and vegetables—even vegans would be hard-pressed to get through $15 worth of produce a week. Staples like olive oil are cheap—$3 will get you a liter. And while electricity can be pricey, gas for cooking and hot water may run a couple only about $25 a month.

Private health care insurance costs are very reasonable. For a 55-year-old man in good health, a standard plan costs $87 monthly. For a woman the same age, it’s $93.

As this region enjoys mainland Europe’s best winter weather, moving here can bring health benefits. Whether it’s water sports, golf, or walking, opportunities to stay fit abound.

Public transport is excellent, and many retirees find that they don’t need a car.

The region’s property market underwent a reality check in recent years. Even along the Mediterranean, quality rentals can be had for $600 a month (sometimes less). For buyers, bargains are plentiful. Major business cities follow a different beat, but numerous attractive homes elsewhere now fetch under $150,000.

“What drew us was the climate, the culture, and the laid-back lifestyle,” says Sue Walker. Along with her husband John, Sue lives in a small town in the wine-producing hinterland. With three-bedroom apartments under $80,000, prices in this southern region are exceptionally affordable.

There’s a place and a lifestyle to fit most budgets. For some it’s the coast; for others it’s one of the multitude of small castle-topped towns. The most popular cities command a rental premium. Typical rent for a one-bedroom city apartment is $900 monthly. In other cities half slumbering in a Moorish past, it’s $500 monthly—these cities resonate with storybook romance.

Many European second-home and retiree buyers have made new lives on the most southerly Mediterranean coast. For beaches and city life, a certain location here is one of my own getaway places.

The key to affordable living in this country is to live like a local, not like a vacationer. Local salaries vary considerably, but they’re among the lowest in Western Europe: around $20,300 per year, or $1,691 monthly.

Editor’s note: If you’re curious about the country and specific location in this article, all is revealed on page 21 of the current issue of International Living magazine. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can become one here.


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