The Five Best Countries to Live In on a Budget

Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia | Source
Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia | Source
Santa Marta, Colombia
Santa Marta, Colombia | Source
Popayan, Colombia
Popayan, Colombia | Source
Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park | Source
Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador | Source
Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador | Source
Panama
Panama | Source
Belize
Belize | Source
Costa Rica
Costa Rica | Source

This is a quick and dirty opinion based on personal experiences and some research based on certain criteria. I am basing the ranking and my choice of countries based on the following criteria.

1- Cost of Living
2- Health Care
3- The people
4- Public Transportation
5- Economy
6- Government
7- Safety
8- Food Supply
9- Activities
10- Weather

The results that I arrived at are, in order starting with the best:

1- Colombia
2- Ecuador
3- Panama
4- Belize
5- Costa Rica

I have chosen all countries from Central and South America. I feel more comfortable staying in the Western Hemisphere.

I will explain my first choice in more detail because I am more familiar with Colombia.

Colombia

Colombia has a cost of living that can rival any of the other countries mentioned. I believe Colombia is a less expensive to live because there are fewer expats in Colombia.

The health care system is very good and very inexpensive. The health care system is the most advanced of the other countries. Colombia is the only country of the five that does heart transplants.

The people of Colombia were declared the happiest people in the world by a study done in 2012.

The public transportation is excellent, with modern busses and inexpensive fares.

Colombia's economy is growing at over 5% a year.

The government is a very stable democracy.

Colombia is a safe place to live in spite of the rubbish people have come to believe.

Colombia has a food supply that is mostly organic and is very diversified due to the variety of growing zones. Colombia is the most bio-diverse country in Central and South America. Therefore there are a multitude of activities to do.

Colombia also has a wonderful and consistent climate. You can go from tropical to having snow depending on the altitude where you choose to live, but most of Colombia's climate is very pleasing, from tropical to eternal spring.

Ecuador

Ecuador was a very close runner up in all of the categories. Because I live in Colombia and have traveled into Ecuador I feel that I can make a fair comparison. I prefer the current government in Colombia over the government in Ecuador. Colombia has much nicer costal area on the Caribbean. I also feel safer with my money in Colombian Banks. Colombia has a much more diverse and strong economy.

But all in all Ecuador is an excellent place to live.

Panama

Panama does well in all categories, but Panama lacks in the bio-diversity, so there is less to do. The people of Panama aren't as engaging, and the food supply can't compare to Colombia and Ecuador.

Belize

Belize is a very beautiful country, but again it lacks diversity. Belize has also become more expensive to live there.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica was the first great place to move to for expats who wanted an expensive lifestyle in a beautiful country. Costa Rica has become more expensive and violence against gringos is on the rise.

In Colombia and Ecuador a couple can live on less than $1,000 a month quite comfortably. In each case this is assuming that one is using public transportation. I am doing exactly that in Colombia. I do not have a car and I have not even wanted to have a car here in Colombia. Also in my figures I am paying rent. In both Colombia and Ecuador if one purchases a house, one can save about $300 a month.

To see my figures and an explanation of my expenses for living in Colombia click on Cost of Living.

In Panama, Belize, and Costa Rica, a couple will have to spend more like $1,500 to have the same lifestyle, and their choices of places to live will be much more limited.

Over the internet one can find many different opinions of which countries are best to live in on a low budget or which country is best to retire in. Most of these opinions are not being made by people living in these areas. I have lived in different countries in Central and South America, so I feel that my opinions are valid ones. But everyone is different, and people have different desires and needs. With the exception of Belize one needs to speak Spanish or be committed to learning Spanish. Also some people don't feel as safe outside the United States. I find the safety issue to be the least understood.

Safety can differ in each country depending on where one is living or frequenting. Also everyone has a different tolerance to safety and to what one sacrifices for that safety. Safety depends on ones comfort zone.

In any event, most people will not be adventurous enough to make such a move, but for those who do, they will be highly rewarded for doing so. What is the saying? No guts, no glory. Even though I advocate a life abroad, I have been pleased that most people are afraid to come to Colombia. That has kept the culture pure and the prices reasonable.

All of the countries featured in this article have some very beautiful places to live, as witnessed by the pictures that I have provided.

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Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan

Are you still in Columbia?

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