Based on my past experience living in Guatemala for three months I have long thought that living in a foreign country would be a good way to live cheaply. This would allow you to live on a small retirement income or perhaps allow you to take an extended amount of time off each year. After my recent trip through Central America I have some more thoughts on this subject.
It is true that you can live on less in Central America. My experience in Guatemala though was that you usually would also have a lower standard of living than in the U.S. While trying to find a private apartment in Guatemala the only ones that I considered acceptable cost almost as much as I would pay here in Kansas City.
Since I am able to have a comfortable lifestyle here in the U.S. for about a $1000 a month it is difficult to save much money by living elsewhere. I often see ads for books or guides on how you can live in a foreign country for as little as $1000 a month which wouldn’t be a savings for me. That would only be a good deal for me if I had a better standard of living there or at least a different but similar standard of living.
One of my problems was that the places I was looking at were targeted towards foreigners and were priced accordingly. Generally, any goods or services in a foreign country that are being marketed to gringos will come with a gringo price tag. If I would have spent some more time searching for an apartment I probably could have found a better deal on a place that wasn’t being marketed for foreigners. This just takes more time and some knowledge of the area you would be living in would be helpful.
I still think that someday I will be living in Central America at least part of the year. This won’t be because it is cheap but because I like it there. My recommendation to anyone who is thinking of living abroad is not to live somewhere just because it is cheap. If you can find a place that is cheap and it is an area you want to live in as well then you have found a good combination.