One thing I’ve enjoyed over my many years is overseas travel. I’ve been able to satisfy my attraction to very different foreign cultures.
At the same time, I’ve taken advantage of the affordability of life in multiple paradises, from Phuket to Cape Town.
When I was last in Bali, I advised the kids to wait until the last possible minute to exchange their dollars for baht, as the local currency was crashing.
When I was last in Cape Town, I was able to exchange R5.5o for a dollar. The ratio is now 14-to-one… and I thought things were affordable back then.
Get this: I once visited the house of a Bangkok-based art dealer. He had a nice, hip house, and he employed a decent-sized staff, including a driver, a cook, and a few maids. He lived like a king, likely on something around $100,000 a year.
How’s that possible?!
Well, that hundred thousand in Thailand is the equivalent of something like $400,000 in the good, old U.S. of A.
In Phuket, the cost of living for an everyday person is 33.5% of that in New York. The same measure in Chiang Mai, to the north, is 28.4%.
Friends of mine who just got back from a month in Puerto Vallarta were able to hang out there for a very low cost. You’d be amazed at how nice, beachy, and mountainous that area is.
Of course, the cost of living down there on the Bahia de Banderas is just 22.7% of the everyday New York nut.
That means a dollar goes just over five times as far.
My primary reference points for this table are indices from Numbeo that are global and look at the everyday cost of living plus rent, not the high end. This is what it costs an ordinary person to get by, not what it takes to luxuriate in the ritziest resort communities.
For a more civilized area, Spain is more affordable after its real estate bust that started in 2008 (and is still ongoing). I just had a friend come back from there, and he loved it.
There are smaller, more affordable cities on the Iberian Peninsula, including Valencia, Malaga, and Seville on the south side.
Valencia comes in at 36.2%.
I personally liked Madrid more than Barcelona, and it’s only 45.2% of the cost to live in the typical world-class city.
Cape Town is still one of my favorite cities in the world; costs there are likely overstated in U.S. currency that’s now so favorable. The city is also world class, with much less crime than Johannesburg. It’s surrounded by a great wine region and has killer beaches. The South Beach models have flocked there.
Some of the top Caribbean destinations, including my new haunt, San Juan, offer many tax advantages on top of their incredible natural, tropical beauty.
The costs here are similar to the U.S. – except housing is much cheaper. Prices there have drifted lower since 2006, while U.S. home prices have rebounded. That’s why it scores 49.8% on the cost of living index!
Sounds about right to me.
My condo is just a quarter of the price of a similar one in South Beach, where I used to live.
Costa Rica is a nice, all-around place to live and is only 40.9% the cost of New York.
And then there’s Panama City, another popular tax haven, with an index rating of 51.2%.
But with all of that said: Where would I live if I were not tethered to my business and time zone?
Now we’re starting to get more expensive, at 76.9%. But that’s still considerably less than it costs to live in New York, despite very high real estate prices. Meanwhile, the Gold Coast has better weather year-round and is very nice at a cost of only 58.0%.
Mexico is the most affordable, with many attractive cities from Cancun to the Mayan Riviera to Puerto Vallarta to Cabo St. Lucas to San Miguel. Cancun comes in at an index of a mere 23.9%.
And, finally, there are a number of extremely livable cities in South America, starting in Ecuador and Peru and ranging down to Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, where you’ll encounter more European-leaning cultures.
Uruguay is the leading-edge hide-out down there, especially its pristine beach areas such as Playa del Barco and La Pedrera.
Moving overseas is not for everyone.
But it’s sure working well for me in Puerto Rico.
I have the best of both worlds, with a condo in the hot area of Condado in San Juan and a very remote island place just a 30-minute plane ride away from a small airport that’s a mere four minutes from my door.
And that short island hop is unimpeded by crazy security requirements.
That’s all part of the lovely lower cost of living.
You should consider it.
Follow me on Twitter @harrydentjr
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