When thinking about London – the UK’s capital – one of the most immediate things that springs to mind (other than the attractions) is the cost. Living in London has never been particularly cheap, and even with a surprise housing market crash, the cost of property in the capital is still typically eye-wateringly high compared to elsewhere. That being said, rising house prices are becoming a bit endemic across the UK, with the task of finding a functional and affordable place to live becoming an increasingly difficult prospect.
With that in mind, the allure of moving overseas has never been greater, with the odds of grabbing a bargain still high in many places across the world. We’ve previously covered the cheapest European capital cities on the TorFX Blog, but this list has a broader reach, covering a number of cities that don’t hold capital status, as well as entries from further afield.
While the Spanish capital of Madrid is practically a transplanted London with its soaring costs and crowded streets, further afield are some beautiful coastal bargains.
In another step away from the ‘norm’ for Spanish properties hotspots, Valencia isn’t on the southern Spanish Costa del Sol, but is instead located on the east coast, opposite the Mediterranean island of Palma.
The third-largest of Spain’s cities, Valencia has a distinct blend of cultures present in its architecture, with Moorish influences from the city’s occupation in the Middle Ages merging harmoniously with the distinctive Spanish red-tiled rooftops.
The city has a rich history, both under the occupying Muslim forces and as part of Spain, and today hosts the ‘Las Fallas’ festival every year. A chaotic and exuberant event, Las Fallas sees Valencians take to the streets in a five-day fiesta, producing all sizes of effigies that are eventually destroyed on the fifth night in a spectacular show of fire and fireworks.
Valencia is around 3-4 hours away from Madrid when driving, but is also around 4 ½ hours from the French border, which makes it handy for trips into France.
In the wake of the late 2000’s property crash, property in Valencia has been much lower in price than might be expected, while overall living costs when compared to London (figures obtained from Numbeo) are around 76% lower for rent and 27% lower for groceries. Local purchasing power is up from London by about 4%.
Taking a swing across the map to the edge of Eastern Europe now, Riga is the only capital on our list, as well as being the largest city in Latvia.
Riga has previously been a Swedish, German and Russian city, but is now firmly a jewel in the Latvian crown, holding what is considered to be Europe’s greatest collection of Art Nouveau structures.
The ‘Old Town’ of Riga is UNESCO-listed for its historic buildings and is the picturesque heart of the city.
From the centre of Riga, it should be less than an hour to the north before you reach the beaches stretched around the Gulf of Riga on the Baltic Sea, while to the west, the Kemeri National Park can also be reached in a similar amount of time.
Latvia itself borders Russia to the east and Riga has a considerable Russian population, but relations between the two countries are generally cordial, as are Latvia’s exchanges with neighbouring Estonia, Lithuania and Belarus.
Latvia is a relatively recent joiner of the Eurozone club, having adopted the Euro as its official currency in 2014.
Rental costs in Riga are considerably lower than in London (around 82%), while the cost of going out to restaurants or getting groceries is around 40% lower or more in both fields. When comparing local purchasing power for Riga compared to London, however, it’s worth bearing in mind that can be around 36% lower.
While Riga is considerably smaller than London in its entirety, this comes at the benefit of less people in the city; in 2015, London’s population was approximated at over 8 million, while during the same year, Riga’s citizens numbered just under 700,000.
As the second largest city in Poland (or third, depending on how you measure it), Lodz was once the beating heart of the nation’s textile industry. Since then, the city has revamped itself as a hub for international businesses, multicultural displays and technological innovation. Such has been Lodz’s ascent to power that it has been named as “Poland’s Manchester”, and is still renowned as a city adept at turning the old into the new.
Lodz has a history of welcoming different nationalities and cultures and cites an industrious citizenry as one of its claims to fame.
The city has plenty of greenery to offer those pining for a nature walk, boasting over 30 parks as well as a forest just north of the city and east of the neighbouring town of Zgierz.
For families with inquiring children, the city’s wonderfully named Experymentarium is well worth a visit. Part-museum and part-scientific experiment, the Experymentarium is packed with interactive exhibits and educational displays that aim to boggle the mind and enlighten learning when it comes to chemistry, astronomy and more.
Lodz’s living costs stack favourably when compared to London, with rent prices coming in over 80% lower and grocery costs being over 50% cheaper when comparing the two cities. Local purchasing power isn’t quite so supportive, however, as this is around 25% lower.
The last European entry on the list is found on the edge of the continental boundaries of Europe in Romania.
Iasi is one of the largest cities in Romania, but still pales in comparison to the more costly London; recent censuses have put the city’s population under half a million people, a relative handful when compared to the sprawling UK capital.
Iasi is found in the northeast of Romania, on the border with Moldova, and was for centuries the other “Crossroads of Europe”.
The city is centred around the elaborate Palace of Culture, a building of almost 300 rooms that holds 4 separate museums for art, history, ethnographic history and science and technology.
Iasi itself is a hub for religious history in the region, being dotted with ornate churches, synagogues and monasteries.
For the more naturally inclined, the city also has a variety of parks to offer, as well as a large botanical garden.
Iasi’s lasting legacy and major draw is its sheer variety of attractions, which also cater to the contemporary resident thanks to the gargantuan shopping mall found at the heart of the city.
The city stacks up favourably as one of Europe’s hidden low-cost gems, having rent prices over 85% lower than London and an over 55% advantage when it comes to groceries as well.
On the purchasing power front, however, Iasi unfortunately falls short, with an around 41% drop against London.
Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai has surpassed Delhi as India’s largest city, both in terms of population and economic activity.
With a population over double the size of London in the twenties of millions, Mumbai isn’t the best choice for those favouring solitude and the quiet life. For all its hustle and bustle, however, the city represents the new face of India, looking outwards to a bright future.
Located on India’s west coast, the city has historically been India’s gateway to the west, as well as having a colossal monument on its southern tip known as the Gateway to India. Mumbai’s sprawling grandeur and melting pot of ideas, cultures and eateries is too vast to do justice to in a single article, but the living cost figures largely sell the city by themselves.
Rental costs are lower than London by around 70% and groceries are around 50% cheaper when compared to London’s average. Purchasing power isn’t too disparate when sizing the two cities up, coming in around 13% lower on average.
While India is currently undergoing something of a financial identity crisis, this is likely to work in the outsider’s favour in the future, with a once cash-heavy shopping system giving way to digital transactions and a wider rolling out of card technology across the country.
While historic Pound to Thai Baht exchange rates have made it possible for UK citizens to settle down in most parts of Thailand without much budgetary expenditure, the Thai capital of Bangkok is notorious for its overcrowding, in spite of the widespread Buddhist temples and vibrant options for street food.
With that in mind, the final entry on our list is another deviation from the norm, but by all accounts, a surprisingly pleasant one.
The resort town of Hua Hin, located on the Gulf of Thailand across the water from Bangkok, offers the allure of the upper crust lifestyle, as well as a more compact experience of the capital, all at affordable prices for the savvy expat.
Thailand’s kings have long favoured the town, with royal endorsements cementing the resort’s status as a luxury getaway from the troubles of the world.
The town has plenty of beachfront for residents and visitors to enjoy, along with the staple Thai street food bonanza and ready access to the wider surroundings.
Among these external points of interest include the Hua Hin Hills Vineyard, and the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation, which acts as a rescue centre and sanctuary for Thailand’s many pachyderms.
Stat-wise, Hua Hin’s prices are in the area of 75% lower than London, while grocery costs are about 26% better on average.
With an uncertain future ahead for the UK and London’s ballooning living costs showing few signs of slowing down, the wider world is looking like an increasingly attractive place to be. We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of the most affordable spots in the world and if you’re thinking of moving abroad in the near future make sure you check out your transfer options.
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