Cambodia Tops Global List of Five Best Places for U.S. Expats to Retire in 2017

Cambodia Tops Global List of Five Best Places for U.S. Expats to Retire in 2017

Residential News » Phnom Penh Edition | By WPJ Staff | February 8, 2017 9:05 AM ET

According to the editors at, American retirees worried about living comfortably on a limited income should take heart, they've identified the five most affordable havens on the planet where expats can upgrade their lifestyle, but do it on a budget as low as $1,500 a month.

Some recent studies on retirement show that most Americans are not adequately prepared for it: They haven't saved enough, they'll likely outlive their nest egg, and so they are instructed to work longer, spend less, and lower their expectations for their retirement lifestyle.

International Living Executive Editor Jennifer Stevens commented, "Go to the right places overseas, and retirees can actually improve their quality of life while they spend less."

The top 5 countries that come out on top in the "Cost of Living" category in this year's Index, providing the most affordable cost of living for retirees include:

5. Vietnam

Vietnam has become a popular destination in Southeast Asia for both expats and tourists. In 1990, it was one of the poorest countries in the world; today, it is decidedly middle-class and on an upward trajectory. Upscale malls and trendy residential areas are sprouting up everywhere and there are now several internationally accredited hospitals.

"Vietnam remains an extraordinarily inexpensive place to live," says International Living's Vietnam correspondent Wendy Justice. "Modern, furnished, two-bedroom apartments can be found in lovely beach towns starting at around $350 to $400 per month, and for around $500 per month in major cities. Apartments often include cable TV, high-speed Internet, water, trash, and housekeeping in the rent. Good housekeepers are happy to earn just $2 or $3 per hour.

"Even in the most expensive cities--Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi--two people can live well for less than $1,500 per month," Justice reports, "If you're hoping to find an even lower cost of living than that, my advice is to head for the beaches. Three low-cost beach towns that won't break the bank are Nha Trang, Hoi An and Da Nang."

4. Colombia

During 2016 the Colombian peso averaged an exchange rate of 3,100 pesos to $1 USD, making it an extremely affordable place to live. The actual costs will vary depending on exact location, but a monthly budget of $1,500 to $2,000 will allow not just the necessities of life, but also some great amenities like regular maid and handyman services.

Rental prices are low, too.

"In a medium-sized city such as Pereira, unfurnished three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment rentals are in the $400 to $600 range, says International Living's Colombia correspondent, Nancy Kiernan.

"In the upscale El Poblado neighborhood in the city of Medellín, where I live, rents can be in the $800 to $1,000 per month range. Even at that, the costs are significantly lower than in most major U.S. cities."

Utilities (water, electricity, and gas) average $70 per month. High-speed, unlimited Internet, home phone and cable TV will be about $60 per month. Due to the temperate climate in much of the country, there is no need for central heating.

3. Peru

Peru has long been a destination for tourists seeking outdoor adventures, spectacular scenery, and archaeological treasures. For expats looking for an inexpensive retirement location, it offers one of the most attractive costs of living in Latin America.

From renting to eating out, Peru offers a high quality of life with a modest income. In Arequipa, hundreds of traditional picanterias offer three-course lunches for as little as $2, including a jug of purple chicha morada, the local drink of choice. A large three-bedroom apartment in the popular Yanahuara district of Arequipa can be found for $350 per month or less. For double that price, it is possible to find a totally furnished and outfitted modern condo.

"You really can live well on the cheap in Peru," says International Living editor Jason Holland. "Your cost of living will, of course, depend on your lifestyle. But many expats report spending about $1,500 a month, all in."

Utilities are affordable, too. In Arequipa and Cusco, where air conditioning isn't needed, electricity will run $50 to $60 a month. Water is $10, and high-speed internet/cable TV about $70.

2. Nicaragua

Monthly expenses in Nicaragua average $1,200 to $1,500 a month. That includes a one-bedroom furnished apartment, food, electricity, water, Internet, and going-out money. Having a vehicle will add some extra expenses, but in Nicaragua's main cities, public transportation is cheap and constantly available.

Food is inexpensive, and taxes are affordable. Examples of real estate taxes include $141 a year for a $132,000 house, on almost an acre of land with an ocean view. Unlike the U.S., Nicaragua does not tax income earned abroad

"There is no comparison in the cost of living between the U.S. and Nicaragua," reports Bonnie Hayman, who moved from San Diego to the beach town of San Juan del Sur nine years ago. "Here, you can have a higher quality of life, no financial worries, a better house, more fun, and less stress for a fraction of the cost of back home. Nicaragua literally saved my financial life," she says.

1. Cambodia

If there is one thing that expats in the Kingdom of Cambodia are most likely to agree on, it's that this country offers an affordable cost of living that is hard to compete with.

Western-style apartments are available to rent from $300 a month in the capital of Phnom Penh, and go for as little as $200 a month in the beach town of Sihanoukville. Meals at quality local and international restaurants cost as little as $10 to $20 for two people. Cambodia also offers massive savings for those who require regular medications, with cities such as Phnom Penh having several professional pharmacy chains and specialists that provide brand name medications at less than 10% of the cost it would be in the U.S.

Expats report living the high life in Cambodia on a low budget. "The cost of living here is so low that my bills total only around $1,200 a month, without having to budget," says expat Brett Dvoretz, who lives in Sihanoukville.

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