Which European Countries Are Most Affordable For Expats?

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Moving to a new country for work brings the thrill of new cultures, experiences, and lifestyles. Yet, the practicalities of such a move — especially the cost of living — play a big role in making a decision. If you are looking for an adventure without breaking the bank, Europe offers several destinations that are affordable and are guaranteed to show you unique and exciting ways of living. 

We are about to explore some of the most wallet-friendly European destinations for expats, these include Croatia, Estonia, Spain, Hungary, and Montenegro. Let's find out what makes these countries appealing to expats and how they stack up against more expensive counterparts.


Some of the best and cheapest countries to live in Europe

We'll now guide you through some of the continent's most cost-effective destinations to help you gauge the affordability of each location. 


1. Croatia 🇭🇷

Croatia's quickly becoming a go-to spot for expats who want to live in a country with an interesting cultural heritage, beautiful beaches, and a laid-back style of living. In cities like Zagreb and Split, you won't have a problem getting by with English, which makes it easier to find a place to live, build connections, and settle in. Croatia's healthcare system is known for being both high-quality and accessible, which is great news for families thinking about moving there. Such a reliable healthcare setup is comforting for anyone relocating, and the option to choose international health insurance plans adds an extra layer of security and choice. 

Plus, being smack in the middle of Europe means weekend getaways to other countries are easy. For example, a Flight from Zagreb to Paris will only set you back around €50, and takes only 2 hours. Now, let's talk numbers, since that's where Croatia really shines:

When you stack these costs up against other European cities, Croatia's value is crystal clear. Renting a spot in Zagreb (€670) is way cheaper than shelling out €2,500 for a place in London or even €1,400 in Paris. And, with a cost of living index sitting at 31.5, Croatia is way more wallet-friendly compared to places like Switzerland at 84.0, Ireland at 57.4, or even the Netherlands at 50.2. Croatia is also a practical option for people aiming for a better lifestyle in Europe. Its high appeal is evident, with Croatia having the second-highest emigration rate in the EU.

Living in Croatia, especially for remote workers, offers a blend of economic and lifestyle benefits that are hard to ignore. With the Croatian Digital Nomad visa, remote workers who are employed by companies outside Croatia enjoy an exemption from paying income tax for a year. And, the warmer climate, proximity to beautiful beaches, and the affordability of life here add to its allure. On average, life in Zagreb is about 40% cheaper than in London, excluding rent, which means significant savings for expats. This cost advantage, combined with a median annual salary for remote software developers of around €48,000, allows for a great quality of life.


2. Estonia 🇪🇪

Estonia is on the map as a prime destination for expats craving a mix of innovation and history, without the financial pinch often felt in Western Europe. Its capital, Tallinn, meshes cobblestone charm with a digital-forward attitude, and is the centre of an emerging food scene. English is widely spoken, especially in tech circles, smoothing the transition for newcomers. Plus, Estonia's compact size means you're never too far from either a digital hub or a tranquil forest retreat.

Now, let's dive into the specifics that make Estonia so appealing:

When comparing Estonia's living conditions to other destinations, the contrast becomes clear. For example, living in Tallinn comes with significantly lower expenses than in Helsinki (€975) or Paris (€1,400), where rents are approximately 16.56% and 67.71% higher, respectively. Moreover, while the average salary for software developers in Estonia may seem modest at around €27,000 — considerably lower than Germany's €52,000 — the cost of living remains low, with estimated monthly costs for a single person at €840 without rent. This means that if you are a remote worker earning a Western European salary in Estonia, you can live comfortably due to the lower cost of living.

Moreover, due to its advanced digital infrastructure and straightforward visa processes, such as the Estonia Digital Nomad Visa and the E-Residency program, getting into the country and starting a business is pretty straightforward. And, its reputation as the birthplace of Skype highlights its status as one of Europe's most digitally forward nations. The capital, Tallinn, and Tartu, are at the heart of a growing expat community, thanks to initiatives like the Settle in Estonia programme, which offers free adaptation and language courses for newcomers and their families. 


Find IT jobs in Estonia →


3. Spain 🇪🇸

Spain really has it all — gorgeous beaches, lively festivals, and that famous laid-back lifestyle. Here, life is about enjoying the moment, whether that's savouring a plate of paella, tapping along to flamenco music, or soaking in the mix of old and new in cities packed with history. Spain isn't just about the big cities, either. It's got tranquil villages and stunning coastlines that offer something for everyone, blending the old-world charm with a splash of modern life.

You can lead a comfortable life across Spain without facing the high costs common in other parts of Western Europe, which is why it is also a top holiday destination for Western Europeans and UK residents.

Let's break down what makes Spain so wallet-friendly:

Choosing Spain as your home means you'll be able to afford a great lifestyle. As a comparison, the combined monthly costs for a single person, including living expenses and rent, tally up to €2,300 in the Netherlands. However, Spain offers a much lighter financial load with a total of €1,630 per month for similar expenses. This means living in Spain is about 29.3% cheaper and you get the beauty, the culture, and the lifestyle for a lot less than some other Western European countries.

Spain is a top choice for expats, with its appealing lifestyle drawing about 6 million expats to cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Malaga, and Seville. The Digital Nomad Visa is perfect for remote workers, allowing them to live and work in Spain, bring family along, and travel around the Schengen Zone. There are multiple paths to EU residency, and many large international companies are hiring, making Spain an excellent spot for both lifestyle and career opportunities.


Find and IT job in Spain →


4. Hungary 🇭🇺

Hungary is Europe's underrated star, blending cool history with a fresh, lively vibe. Imagine kicking back in one of Budapest's ruin pubs, where the past and present collide in the most awesome way, or wandering through Buda Castle's ancient corridors. But Hungary's more than just a pretty place; it is famous for its culture, history, nightlife, cuisine, and much more. The thermal baths here are a great way to chill out after exploring the city or to recover from a night on the town. Plus, the countryside is packed with vineyards and festivals that showcase the local way of life.

Let's look at the numbers that make Hungary so appealing:

With a cost of living index of 28.2 on a scale that goes to 100, Hungary is the cheapest European country to live in — on our list for sure, and one of the cheapest on the whole continent. You're not going to find yourself stressing over rent like you might in Berlin, where you'd be forking out around €1,300. Based on just the cost of renting a city-center flat, living in Budapest, one would save approximately 68.2% compared to the rent in Berlin. This means you've got more cash to splash on enjoying everything Hungary has to offer, from delicious food to exploring UNESCO World Heritage sites.

With a Western EU salary, you can afford experiences like wine tasting in Eger or relaxing in the Széchenyi Baths — luxuries that might be too expensive elsewhere. Living in Hungary allows you to enjoy life to a high standard while saving money.


5. Montenegro 🇲🇪

Montenegro is a country that packs a big punch when it comes to natural beauty. Picture yourself waking up to views of the majestic Adriatic Sea or planning weekend hikes in its rugged mountains. It's not just the scenery that'll catch your heart; Montenegro's laid-back lifestyle in its historic towns and seaside villages offers a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle. Plus, who can resist the charm of the Bay of Kotor or the sandy beaches of Budva?

Living in Montenegro doesn't ask you to break the bank:

The low cost of living in Montenegro is most obvious when you compare it to pricier European destinations. For example, paying rent in a city like Montenegro's capital, Podgorica (€530), is significantly cheaper than navigating the costs of life in cities such as Paris (€1,400) or Amsterdam (€1,900). While salaries in Montenegro may not top the charts, remote developers can expect a respectable yearly income of around €45,000.

Living in Montenegro is great for remote professionals or those with EU citizenship, as local English-speaking jobs are scarce. It's a place where life's cheaper, from housing to dining, allowing you to save or spend on enjoying the outdoors. While English isn't common, you'll manage, especially in expat-friendly spots. Montenegro's perfect if you work remotely and crave adventure without the high costs of more popular expat destinations.


Make your move with Relocate.me

Are you worried about the costs but want to make the move? On Relocate.me, you can find a tech job from a company that supports international relocation, including some of the cheapest countries to live in Europe. There are new job opportunities every day in Europe, the US, and the UK, plus many of the countries mentioned above.

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