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The cost of living in pastures new .... - By Rebecca Wicks

Although it's definitely getting cheaper to live in Dubai as far as rent is concerned, it's nice to be reminded that there are even cheaper places out there, to live in. Places that won't soak up all your hard earned finances like a sponge. Places that allow you to live the easy life, even. Can you tell I've been suffering a spot of wanderlust lately?

I happened to find a website the other day that showed me the top places on the planet in which to live, for less than $500 a month. That might sound like a lot, but think what you're probably paying now, and that doesn't include all the trimmings (except perhaps a maid and pool, but those are hardly the bare necessities). There are some rules of course, to finding your perfect spot. Simple ones, mind you. If a place is cheap to travel in and around, chances are it will be cheap to live in. And remember, the further from civilization you lay your hat, the better value your home.

Let's take Thailand. This always comes up tops in any travel plans I make as I swivel restlessly on my desk-chair dreaming of a land far, far away. In Chang Mai, up north, you'll pay around $30 a month for a small flat. Nearer to the coast, a room in an apartment will set you back around $90. Not bad at all for stint in the land of smiles, and aaaaah, my mind starts to race with thoughts of daily cycling and sightseeing opportunities, surrounded by the lushest greenery and friendliest people on earth. Watch out for the monkeys!

I love my studio, sure, but can I leave and hop on a tuk-tuk and fetch myself some noodles, and learn to say "there's something rather freeing about spaces, and magical about a world without cranes" in Thai? In Chang Mai, a meal comes in at about $1. Say you spend roughly $200 a month on food, you've got a whole lot still left over from your $500 for other "essentials", like partying, shopping, and maybe giving something to the little local schools, like books and pens. Just imagine. Spending barely anything, but getting so much back. Makes you feel all fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

Well, things are pretty darn good over in the Philippines too. Outside of Manila, where rent starts at a not-so-shoddy $360 a month, you can soak up the sun amongst sandy beaches, awesome shopping opportunities and amazing golf courses in Cebu, one of the most developed provinces, for just $150 a month for an apartment. It's even better in the town Damaguete City, where you can rent a room for around $40 a month. Wondering how you'd eat? Food is pretty cheap. $200 a month will be enough to cover everything, including alcohol and tobacco if you want it. A beer costs roughly $0.80. Packing your bags yet?

If you're over 45 (few years to go for me) and still want a tax-free lifestyle, you might want to think about shipping off to Belize. A retiree over the age of 45 can take advantage of a might handy Retired Person's Incentive Program. Belize is considered one of the most beautiful countries in Central America too, and just like Dubai it has great beaches, a sub tropical climate, and er.. diverse wildlife. OK, maybe it beats us with that one. The official language in Belize is English, so for those lazy so-n-sos like me who never learned anything else and still have trouble with modern slang, it might just be heaven on Earth. If you choose to live in a large house in the Cayo district - one-hour west from Belize City by car - you'll pay $300 a month on rent (even less if you share!) and can spend your lazy days scuba diving and snorkelling on the gorgeous Belize Barrier Reef and exploring 127 offshore Cayes (islands). Whit-woo!

Eating's pretty cheap in Belize, too. Obviously imported stuff is double the price but if you shop locally from street vendors and markets you can save a lot and spend the rest of your $500 on running a moped, in order to see those beautiful sights.

This article ( has given me a lot to think about. With the economic climate as it is, it's a wonder more people don't pack up and ship off to pastures greener, and cheaper. Or maybe they already have. I thought it was a bit quieter round here lately.

Posted: 3 July 2009

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