Share with your friends


You don’t have to spend a fortune living the high life somewhere cool. There are plenty of places where you can live large on a budget! These cities offer great food, amazing outdoor experiences and plenty of culture. While they may take you far from home, you’ll have money in your pocket to spend on the good life. Whether you’re looking for adventure in South Africa or history in Kiev, we’ve found the 10 coolest cities where you can live for dirt cheap.

RELATED: The 13 best budget destinations for 2018

Johannesburg, South Africa
Sure, Johannesburg lacks the dramatic coastline and picturesque wineries found in Cape Town, but South Africa’s largest city beams with vibrant character, hipster-driven coolness, and a new sense optimism after decades of troubled times. The city is evolving at a wildly rapid pace and some areas that were once decrepit seem to have been revitalized over night. Taste funky street food, dance to live music and sip espresso in Maboneng, a neighborhood that was once home to the shells of forgotten warehouses and a whole lot of trouble. On the cusp of hopeful change, Johannesburg still offers exceptionally affordable living. A spacious apartment in the most upscale neighborhoods will run you around $1,100/month. With a lot of expats and tech-focused youth attracted to the city, there are more and more up-and-coming areas to call home where you can find a perfectly nice apartment for $800/month.

Bucharest, Romania
There are plenty of reasons to live in Romania’s capital city, a place that has been bustling since the 15th century. For a while, the Old Town area looked—and felt—pretty run down. These days, new life pulses through the neighborhood, buildings are being revamped and businesses are coming are popping up everywhere. A $4 cab ride will drop you at Bran Castle, once home to Vlad the Impaler who later inspired the Dracula tale by Bram Stoker. Bucharest was once called the “Little Paris of the East” and French artists and architects were brought in to design the city’s structures. Art and history are easily accessible and there are miles of beautiful parks that are free to explore. Carturesti Carusel is widely considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and an apartment just down the street will run about $450/month, leaving you plenty left over to use on books!

Mumbai, India
Mumbai is a tornado of sights, sounds, smells and colors. A simple trip from point A to Point B can be an overwhelming experience with rickshaws and motorbikes zipping around cars, people walking on the side of the street rather than the sidewalk, and the occasional cow casually meandering through. While most either love it or hate it, no one can dispute that Mumbai is alive. Embrace the vibrancy and you will have no trouble falling in love with the City of Dreams. Enjoy a 1,000-square-foot apartment in a good neighborhood for around $850/month. To top it off, a personal driver and daily house cleaner will only set you back $200 monthly. Life in Mumbai is busy, beautiful and surprisingly budget-friendly!

Kansas City, MO
Closer to home, smack in the middle of the US, Kansas City is a surprising melting pot of flavors, cultures and history. The city straddles the Kansas-Missouri border and is known for its jazz music, finger lickin’ good BBQ (which you can enjoy for less than $10), and craft breweries. Outside of the downtown area, an apartment will cost about $680/month and you’ll only be minutes from all there is to do in the city center. City Market (founded in 1857) is one of the longest running farmers markets in the country and a great place to shop for produce and local goods from more than 30 local merchants year-round. There are lots of museums in Kansas City, including the Arabia Steamboat Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Meanwhile, the Boulevard Brewing Company offers free tours that includes samples of the local brews!

Quito, Ecuador
In Ecuador’s capital, you can eat lunch like a king for less than $5. Nosh on items like traditional seafood, grilled meats, empanadas and yucca fries to international fare like jambalaya, Dutch pancakes and Asian noodles. The city, located high in the Andes Mountains, has amazing weather, beautiful scenery, kind people and a low cost of living—plus a lot of chocolate! Cacao is one of its most famous and prevalent exports. Ready to up and move to Quito right now? A fully furnished apartment will only cost between $450-$600/month. Not a bad price for a thousand square feet of prime property. Find a place near Old Town and live within walking distance of the first location in the world to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old Town covers 800 acres alone, while the Parque Metropolitano spans a jaw-dropping 14,000! That’s just about the size of Manhattan, so if you’re a nature lover, you’ll be in heaven. Hiking, biking and strolling forested paths are all free options here that will leave you feeling satisfied you’ve gotten all your steps in for the day!

ALSO: Sign up for CheapCash and live even larger when traveling the world!

Kiev, Ukraine
In a time when going to the movies in the States can cost you what feels like a week’s pay, Kiev is keeping it real! Taking your date to see the new summer blockbuster flick? In Kiev, it’ll only cost $7 for both tickets! Speaking of which, a good meal for two on the town will run you around $13. You’ll enjoy things like borshch, varenik (hand pies with various fillings), schnitzel and pampushk (soft rolls soaked in crushed garlic and oil). Straddling the Dnieper River, the city was badly damaged in World War II, but has been beautifully restored. While Kiev is full of rich heritage, it is currently experiencing a wave of a patriotic fever that’s behind a cultural boom as big as any since the country became independent in the post-Soviet era (think a hot arts scene, vibrant cafe culture and jumping nightlife). A spacious apartment in a nice part of town costs around $750/month. Looking for something a little cheaper? A similar place in a less expensive area will cost around $450/month—that price is hard to beat!

Almaty, Kazakhstan
Okay, we’re not saying pack up for a move right this instant, but Almaty has an eccentric beauty about it and an insanely low cost of living. With the Alatau Mountains in the distance, the city uniquely embodies two seemingly contradictory lifestyles: traditional nomadic juxtaposed against a new modern metropolis. Average monthly rent in Almaty for a good-sized apartment hovers around $450/month. If you want to splurge on a fancy, upscale apartment in the nicest neighborhood in town, it will run you about $850/month. Spend your weekends visiting glitzy shopping malls, skiing in the nearby mountains, or perusing food markets where horse meat can be found alongside beef!

Da Nang, Vietnam
If you’re looking to shake things up a bit, move to an exotic location and enjoy a little more leisure life, we have the perfect city for you. The vibrant coastal city of Da Nang in Vietnam is known for its postcard-perfect beaches and French colonial influences. Shack up in a simple apartment for $360/month or live in luxury in a palatial pad for $549/month, the choice is yours! Spend your days strolling the sandy shores and slurping up noodles from a savory bowl of pho at a local café. The food, the culture and palm-tree laden beaches make this affordable city one-of-a-kind.

Kuala Lampur, Malaysia
Imagine streets lined with tasty street-food stalls snaking through a maze of modern, glitzy skyscrapers. Malaysia’s largest metropolis is a melting pot of cultures, and a wonderful home base for exploring Southeast Asia. Spend less than $750/month on rent and enjoy delicious flavor-filled lunches for less than $4 a day. Live near the city’s retail center Bukit Bintang if you’re a lover of designer shopping or set your roots a little further out of town in the upscale suburb of Bangsar, where charming streets are lined with boutique shops and hip cafés. Admittedly, traffic in Kuala Lumpur can be a nightmare, but the city’s multi-cultural charm and impressive march of modernity make it a compelling place to call home.

Mexico City, Mexico
Any city where you can feast on al pastor tacos, stroll artisan street markets on the weekends, indulge in art and culture with world-class museums and embark on a 20-minute Uber ride for less than $2 is a place we want to be. Pony up for a cozy, but furnished apartment for $775/month in the posh Polanco neighborhood, where quiet tree-lined side streets branch off of buzzing, boutique-lined main arteries. You’ll be near big, brand name shopping but also just steps away from farmers markets where merchants hock local goods. Mexico City maintains surprisingly cool temps (it’s the same elevation as Denver) so it seems worlds away from the Mexican beach towns you may be familiar with. Yes, tourists visits Mexico City, too, but in a city this big, they just seem to blend in.

Tagged: International, Mexico, Tips & advice, Top 10 list, Types of Travel

2 thoughts on “The world’s 10 coolest cities where you can live for dirt cheap”

  1. Some VERY interesting cities / countries not mentioned here (using Chiang Mai as benchmark cost comparison) – I have been to almost all places I mention:

    Ulaanbatar – Mongolia (Cheaper than Chiang Mai)
    Baku – Azerbaijan (similar to Chiang Mai)
    Lviv – Ukraine (Much CHEAPER than Chiang Mai)
    Eger – Hungary (cheaper than Chiang Mai)
    Nis – Serbia (I have not been)
    Novosibirsk – Russia (similar to Chiang Mai)
    Iasi – Romania (cheaper than Chiang Mai)
    Plovdiv – Bulgaria (cheaper than Chiang Mai)

    so………………… why are such great places overlooked? all these cities / towns are VERY livable, comfortable, pleasant…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.