Know before you go: expatriate cost living

January 22, 2019

There are approximately 50 million people living and working as expats. If working abroad is something you are planning to further your career, experience a different culture or because it is required in your current role, then there is a lot to think about before you go:

A major consideration which may influence your decision on where to live is the cost of living. For many expats, the assignment destination is decided for you by your employer but if you are lucky enough to be a digital nomad or are looking for roles with an expat element to them, it is worth knowing the most and least expensive places to live.

A digital nomad is a term for people who work remotely around the world using telecommunications, all they need is their laptop and an internet connection to work. Digital nomads are usually self-employed but can also work for a company in a role that does not require a physical presence in an office.    

Whether you are a digital nomad or a more traditional expatriate, the cost of living in your destination country is an important consideration. InterNation’s Expat Insider survey found survey found Bulgaria, Mexico and Vietnam to be the countries with the lowest cost of living for expats in 2018. To rank well, countries had to provide inexpensive accommodation, utilities, food and entertainment. In most instances expat salaries far surpassed the cost of living locally.

At the other end of the scale the most expensive countries to live in as an expat are Argentina, Italy and Greece, where weaker economies mean expats are not as happy with their finances. Although expat salaries are good in these areas, once accommodation, taxes and other costs are removed, there isn’t much left to spend and save.

Household income: most expats say their income exceeds expenses in the countries with the lowest cost of living. In many instances salaries are similar to their home country while living costs are considerably less.

Personal finance: this essentially focuses on the expats view of their financial situation after bills. Those working in the highest-ranked countries were very happy with their disposable income whereas those in the lower side of the scale were less likely to be.

If your intention while working abroad is to work as a digital nomad, the cost of living will play a significant part in your decision on where to work. There are several cities globally that strike the balance needed between cost of living and experience to make them a wonderful place to base yourself.
As the home of the Web Summit, Lisbon is competing with Dublin as the tech startup hub of Europe. When you combine that with ample communal office spaces, reasonable cost of living and a beautiful historic city, it makes it the perfect European base for a digital nomad.
If you are looking for an Asian base, Taipei is safe and has the technical infrastructure you need to work. It is also an airline hub with many airlines operating direct flights from there to the US and Europe. It is worth noting that accommodation is expensive when compared to other costs like food and entertainment. 
In South America, Playa del Carmen is becoming popular, but is not yet overrun, by digital nomads. Beautiful beaches and good wi-fi combine with a great café scene to make it an ideal working place for expats or digital nomads.
When planning your trip to work abroad as an expat or digital nomad, don’t forget your health. International health insurance will provide you with the cover you need should something go wrong while you are working abroad.