Affordable countries don’t always mean safe countries. In fact, oftentimes the cheaper a country is, the lower life quality it offers, particularly in regards to personal safety. But that’s not always the case. I researched the cheapest and safest places to live in the world using available data online. Here are my findings. But before, a quick primer on my methodology that’s different from other, generic articles on cheap, safe places to live.
How to Identify the Cheapest Places?
I’m a fan of Numbeo, a website that collects data on life quality and cost of living directly from contributors who live in or visit given places.
To identify the cheapest places, I rely on Numbeo’s Cost of Living Plus Rent Index. I find it the most useful index to find low cost countries.
That index compares prices in a given place to prices in New York City. If a place has a Cost of Living Plus Rent Index of 120%, it means it’s 20% more expensive than NYC. If the index of a given place is 40%, it means you pay 40% of what you’d pay in NYC.
How to Identify the Safest Countries?
Numbeo is also the most useful source to find places where you can live comfortably without constantly worrying about crime. Because it aggregates data on various aspects of everyday life, it’s much more useful than relying on data from indices like Global Peace Index or looking at murder rates.
Numbeo’s Safety Index indicates how safe a given country is. The higher the index, the safer a country is. Safety Index over 80 indicates a very safe country (like Qatar) while the index of 20 or less indicates an extremely unsafe country (like Venezuela).
Putting It All Together to Find the Safest and Cheapest Places
To identify the cheapest countries that are also the safest I started with their safety ranking. After all, who cares that a place is cheap if you’re constantly on the lookout?
I decided that any country above 70 qualifies as a safe country. There were 28 countries on the list with a Safety Index above 70.
I then looked at the Cost of Living Plus Rent Index and only selected countries with an index of 40 or lower. There were 101 such countries.
After all the research, I ended up with 14 countries. These are the best options if you’re looking for the safest countries with the most affordable cost of living.
Here Are the Cheapest and Safest Places to Live in the World
Based on my research, here are the cheapest and safest places to live in the world. They’re ranked by safety, starting from the safest countries.
As you’ll see, certain regions of the world are missing from this ranking. For example, there’s no country in Central America and no country in South America. As beautiful and wallet-friendly as some destinations in these areas may be, they’re unfortunately not particularly safe.
While Europe is represented, Western Europe is also missing as it’s less safe than other European countries that are featured below (you may be surprised which countries they are).
For each of the countries, I also share its Numbeo’s Cost of Living Plus Rent Index which you can compare to the costs of living in New York City. If Taiwan’s index is 35.5%, it means your living costs will be 35.5% of what you’d pay in NYC (or almost three times lower).
With its Safety Index of 83.8, Taiwan is by far one of the safest countries in the world (the third safest after Qatar and United Arab Emirates). Its cost of living is also surprisingly low. According to Numbeo, it’s Cost of Living Plus Rent Index is just 35.5, meaning its prices are almost three times lower than in New York City.
Numbeo ranks three cities in Taiwan for a cost of living and they’re as follows:
- Taipei: 39.8
- New Taipei City: 38.4
- Kaohsiung: 31.1
As for safety for individual cities, only Taipei appears in the city rankings. It has a Safety Index of 88.8 and is the third safest city in the world according to Numbeo.
Taiwan is one of the top destinations for expats looking to start living abroad in a beautiful country with a very low crime rate. It’s not only safe and allows you to save money compared to many other countries. It also offers a consistently warm climate.
Oman’s Safety Index is 80.5, making it the fifth safest country in the world. Its Cost of Living Plus Rent Index is just 32.5, meaning it’s even cheaper than Taiwan.
Numbeo ranks only Muscat, the capital city of the country, in its city rankings. Its cost of living score is 34.7 while its safety ranking is 79.9, making it the 14th safest city in the world.
While not as well-known as its neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, Oman is a well-developed country and one of the most liberal ones in the Middle East. I’ve been to Oman and have nothing but positive memories. It has not only beautiful and safe cities but also interesting rural areas, particularly in the mountains.
According to Numbeo, Armenia is the cheapest and safest place to live in Europe. While located in the Caucasus between Asia and Europe, it’s considered as one of the European countries.
Armenia is nowhere near as developed as Taiwan or Oman. You may not get access to all the modern conveniences. But it’s still one of the cheapest and safest places to live in the world.
Armenia’s Safety Index is 78, making it the seventh safest country in the world. Its Cost of Living Plus Rent Index is 32.5, the same as in Oman.
Numbeo ranks only the capital city of Armenia, Yerevan, in its rankings. Its cost of living score is 33.9 while its safety is 78.1. If you’re looking for a low cost, off the radar country in Europe, Armenia might be one of the best options for you.
Bahrain is another Middle Eastern country on the list. As the third smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore, it’s mostly an option for those who like urban living.
And you can definitely live comfortably in this country, with its Safety Index of 76 (tenth safest in the world) and its Cost of Living Plus Rent Index of 39.6 (right below out cutoff to ensure only countries with an affordable cost of living appear in this article).
Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, has a cost of living score of 39.5. It doesn’t appear as an individual city in the safety rankings but its safety would be equal to that of the entire country.
Bahrain is a favorite among expats who enjoy high salaries and low living expenses. With Bahrain’s universal healthcare system, there’s also no need to buy private health insurance.
Slovenia is the first “proper” European country on this list. Its Safety Index of 75.8 makes it the third safest country after Armenia and Switzerland (which doesn’t come at an affordable cost at all). Slovenia’s Cost of Living Plus Rent Index is 34.4
Two cities in Slovenia appear in Numbeo’s city rankings: the capital of Ljubljana and Maribor, its second largest city. Ljubljana is more expensive, with its cost of living score of 38.1, while Maribor is noticeably cheaper at 31.1.
Only the capital appears in the safety rankings, with a score of 78.2.
I’ve been to Slovenia. It’s a very peaceful, heavily forested country perfect for nature lovers. It’s one of the most underrated countries in Europe. Being one of the cheapest and safest places to live in the world makes it even more appealing. For the best climate, I recommend heading to the coastal town of Koper which has much warmer winters than the capital.
6. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia isn’t an easy country to move to or live in as a foreigner. It does present some challenges which may not appeal to many expats. Yet, I can’t deny that it’s one of the safest and most affordable places in the world. Saudi Arabia is the twelfth safest country in the world, with a score of 75.4. Its cost of living score is 32.1.
Four cities of Saudi Arabia appear in the city rankings for a cost of living:
- Al Khobar: 37.2
- Riyadh: 36.3
- Jeddah: 33.7
- Ad Dammam: 30.7
Two of these cities are also listed individually in safety rankings. Riyadh has a score of 73.2 and Jeddah is a little less safe at 71.9.
With its stunning beaches, historic cities, and a warm Mediterranean climate on the southern coast (check out the warmest cities in Croatia), Croatia is an excellent alternative to more expensive and less safe countries in Western Europe like France, Spain, Portugal, or Italy.
Croatia’s Safety Index is the same as that of Monaco, at 75.4. Its Cost of Living Plus Rent Index is very low at just 30.2 which makes it one of the cheapest places in Europe.
Six cities in Croatia are listed in individual city rankings as for a cost of living:
- Zadar: 34.4
- Zagreb: 34.1
- Dubrovnik: 32.9
- Rijeka: 30
- Split: 29.9
- Osijek: 25.9
As for safety, two Croatian cities appear in the ranking. Split’s safety is 67.7 while Rijeka is much safer at 74.8. Combining these two rankings, Rijeka’s appears as one of the best cheapest and safest places in Europe.
Estonia is yet another European country on the list. While data shows it’s one of the cheapest and safest places in the world, Estonia’s cold climate may pose a challenge to those unaccustomed to low winter temperatures. Still, if a warm climate isn’t important to you, Estonia may be a good choice for you.
With a Safety Index of 74.9, it’s the 16th safest country in the world. Prices in Estonia are 36.4% of those in New York City.
Two cities are listed individually in Numbeo’s rankings. The capital, Tallinn, has a cost of living score of 40.5 while Tartu has a score of 34.2. Tallinn ranks as the 36th safest city in the world, with a Safety Index of 75.3. Meanwhile, Tartu is one of the safest and cheapest places in the world, ranking 15th with a score of 79.
If you’re open to living in smaller cities, Tartu could be an interesting place to rent a cheap one bedroom apartment (or find a bigger place for your entire family).
Like Armenia, Georgia is located in the Caucasus, between Europe and Asia. Culturally and politically, it’s considered an European country, though.
Georgia is the 18th safest country in the world, with a Safety Index of 74.1. It has very low prices, with its Cost of Living Plus Rent Index of just 29.5.
Two cities in Georgia appear in Numbeo’s city rankings: Batumi on the Black Sea and the capital city of the country, Tbilisi. Batumi’s cost of living is much lower than that of Tbilisi, at 25.4 compared to 32.5 in the capital. As for safety, only Tbilisi is ranked individually, with a score of 74.1.
If you’re interested in low cost living on the coast, Batumi could be one of your primary choices.
China is not necessarily an easy country to move to for foreigners. Yet, data suggests that it’s one of the cheapest places in the world while also offering a high level of personal safety. The country’s Safety Index is 73.7, making it the 19th safest country in the world. It also offers low living expenses, with a score of 29.4.
Nine Chinese cities appear individually in rankings for a cost of living:
- Suzhou: 43.7
- Shanghai: 42.3
- Beijing: 40.9
- Shenzhen: 33.7
- Hangzhou: 28.8
- Chengdu: 25.9
- Guangzhou: 27.9
- Nanjing: 25.5
- Qingdao: 21.3
Safety-wise, here’s how it looks in the four cities that appear in the ranking:
- Guangzhou: 67.7
- Shanghai: 69.4
- Shenzhen: 71.1
- Beijing: 71.6
Out of the cities that appear in both rankings, Shenzhen (or alternatively Guangzhou) appears to be the cheapest and safest place in China.
11. Czech Republic
Coming back to Europe, we’re now in the Czech Republic or Czechia. With a Safety Index of 73.4, the country is the 20th safest country to live in the world. The country also offers relatively low living expenses, at 34.7% of those in NYC.
Price-wise, there are five individual cities in the rankings:
- Prague: 41.4
- Brno: 34.6
- Olomouc: 32.3
- Plzen: 31.2
- Ostrava: 31.6
Two of these cities also appear for safety rankings. Prague has a score of 75.3 and Brno of 73.9. If you want to have a lower monthly budget, Brno is a better choice as it’s noticeably cheaper while still being very safe.
Czech Republic also appears in my article on the safest Eastern European countries.
Rwanda is the only African country on this list. Aiming to become the Singapore of Africa, the country has made tremendous progress to become one of the fastest-growing and safest countries in Africa. The country’s Safety Index of 72.4 makes it the 25th safest country in the world. With its Cost of Living Plus Rent Index at just 22.4, it’s the cheapest country in this ranking.
Granted, Rwanda is still not a very developed country. It comes with certain challenges that you’re unlikely to experience in North America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, or Eastern Europe. But if you want to live abroad in an exciting, very different place, Rwanda may be it.
Only the country’s capital, Kigali, appears in the city rankings. Its prices are only 23.2% of those found in NYC, meaning that life is over four times cheaper. Kigali doesn’t appear in the safety rankings but it would have a similar ranking to the country as a whole.
Located in Southeast Asia, Brunei isn’t a particularly well-known country. Its tropical climate is very hot and humid year round, potentially posing a challenge for people unaccustomed to such extreme heat.
Number-wise, Brunei is the 26th safest country in the world with a Safety Index of 71. Its living expenses score is 37.3.
Brunei’s cities don’t appear in the individual city rankings but we may assume a similar score as the country only has one city, its capital Bandar Seri Begawan.
My home country of Poland is one of the cheapest countries in Europe. Its Cost of Living Plus Rent Index is just 27.8, which is impressive considering how developed the country is. Safety-wise, Poland has a score of 70.8, ranking as the 28th safest country in the world.
Polish climate may be a little too cold for some people, so you may want to check my ranking of the warmest cities in Poland.
As for individual cities, 11 Polish cities rank for a cost of living:
- Warsaw: 34.5
- Cracow: 29.6
- Wroclaw: 29.7
- Gdynia: 28.8
- Gdansk: 28.9
- Katowice: 26.3
- Bialystok: 26.1
- Szczecin: 26.7
- Poznan: 26.4
- Lodz: 25.4
- Lublin: 24.3
As for safety, there are six cities with their own Safety Index:
- Lodz: 58.9
- Gdansk: 69.5
- Poznan: 71.8
- Wroclaw: 73.7
- Warsaw: 73.9
- Krakow: 74.2
Overall, Poznan offers the best combination as the third safest city and the third cheapest city in Poland.
From my own experience, Poland overall is a very safe country with a very low risk of violent crime. Both urban as well as rural areas are safe, though for foreigners larger, more cosmopolitan cities will be a better fit due to not standing out so much.
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