The World’s Most Beautiful—and Cheapest—Beach Towns for Expats

Wondering what the secret is to snagging a seaside villa without shelling out a fortune? We polled expats and looked at average cost-of-living estimates from sites like Numbeo and Nomad List to find affordable (and downright beautiful) beach towns—and cities on some of the most stunning coastal stretches—everywhere from Mexico to the Mediterranean.

Here are the spots where your dollar goes far, and your quality of life goes farther. Now all you need to do is make that move to paradise.

Algarve, Portugal
Monthly cost of living: $1,476
It’s hard to believe a region with a hundred miles of coastline, cobblestone streets, and more sun than pretty much anywhere else in Europe has a cost of living this low. Most of the region is English-speaking, and home to 100,000 transplants from all over the world. And the city is cheap. Dirt cheap. A three-bedroom apartment will run you about $950, but if you don’t need much space, $650 gets you a one-bedroom smack in the center of the city. Beers are two bucks, and dinner out is under $10. You get the idea. And if you get homesick, head to Lisbon and you’re about a six-hour flight from the East Coast.

Ajaccio, Corsica
Monthly cost of living: $1,375
Corsica’s capital offers the glam you’ll find in the nearby Côte d’Azur (a seven-hour ferry ride away) minus the astronomical cost of living that comes with annual events like the Monaco Grand Prix and Cannes Film Festival (plus, you know, private villas). Crayon-colored fishing boats bob in the harbor and pastel-hued homes—as well as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, now a museum—line the old town’s narrow streets. You’ve got plenty of white-sand beaches in and around Ajaccio to choose from (plage de Pero being one of the most popular), and when you’re tired of those, you can hop on a boat from the old port to the nearby Iles Sanguinaires or head to one of Corsica’s other popular seaside towns, like Bonifacio in the south, crowned by a medieval clifftop citadel. And for a mere $700 a month, you can call a studio in the center your new seaside home. —Lane Niese

Cartagena, Colombia
Monthly cost of living: $515
Living in Cartagena is sort of like going on a tropical Caribbean vacation every day. That goes for partiers, history buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The snorkeling and scuba diving here are world class (and only about $30 a trip). The city’s historic center is a museum of Spanish Colonial architecture, and a roomy walking path takes you through it all and down to the main harbor. The nightlife is as intense as you’d expect in Colombia, and an all-timer night out will run you about $100 if you do it right. Party a little TOO hard and fear not—healthcare in Cartagena is surprisingly good, with large hospitals and comprehensive health insurance for under $50 a month.

Hoi An, Vietnam
Monthly cost of living: $550 to $1,100
Bigger Vietnamese cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh get most of the expat love, but neither boasts much of a beach. Hoi An, on the other hand, is not only bordered on one side by spectacular green mountains, it’s also a skip and a jump from spectacular stretches of sand you’ll have largely to yourself. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can get a house or apartment for as little as $300 a month ($500 gets you a nice one with everything included). To fully experience the area, your best bet is to rent a motorbike (about $60 a month). In a place this beautiful, you’d be ill-advised not to.

Taghazout, Morocco
Monthly cost of living: $1,037
Thanks to its hyper-fast internet connection and proximity to Western Europe, Morocco has become a hot destination for entrepreneurs cutting personal costs to support their tech ventures. Rent plus a chic co-working space will run about $500/month combined, meaning you won’t be stuck looking for a buyout from your beachfront villa all the time. Taghazout has also become one of the great North Atlantic surf towns, where you’ll see people carrying boards through Middle Eastern bazaars like they’re baskets of fruit.

Split, Croatia
Monthly cost of living: $1,021
Though the European coastlines can be comparatively expensive, there are still bargains to be had in Split. This little town on the Adriatic Sea has beaches that people from all over the world travel days to lie on, yet beers are still under three bucks in most bars and rent in the city center can be had for less than $600. The city is also seasonal, so if you’re down to become a full-time resident, you’ll have Split to yourself from October to late April. It’s a perfect balance of roaring international resort city in the summer and sleepy beach town in the winter, with a lush Mediterranean climate, friendly folks, and great history to boot. If you get tired of one lifestyle, another is only a couple of months away.

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