As I started to embrace slow travel (slow-mad), I started imagining myself as “retired digital nomad.” With this in mind my retirement location was certainly going to be an affordable beach city.
In search of cheap beach cities to live in as close to $1,000USD as possible was brought on by my exhaustion with the digital nomad lifestyle. It felt like a big cumulation of Peter Pan Syndrome of wanting to grow up, always chasing a high with the next adventure and certainly avoiding the 9-5 like the plague.I realized I had no purposeful direction. To travel to go scuba diving, or stay in this cool hotel, or surf camp was becoming underwhelming.
Was I going through a low grade depression or travel fatigue?
I chewed on this and knew that turning around to go home would end up in a hustle to get a car, a job to pay the bills and get back into the same cycle I left that wasn’t working really well either. I exploded with anger and thought, I am going to take the opportunity to be in a 3rd world country and find a cheap beach front town to stop moving around ,hunting for gigs, networking, job searching, stressing about my finances, living in survival mode when I don’t need to be. I needed to give myself space to decide what needed to go.
While, I celebrated how amazing it was that I created this lifestyle, it was now the time to rethink, rework, re tweak the dream.
I decided to switch up how to travel and discover places where I can sit still for a while that was anywhere but my hometown. As a Southern Cali girl, I am not a fan of freezing cold with my comfortable threshold being no lower than 70 F/ 21 C. So, naturally I have become a sun chaser, running away at the 1st sign of excessive rain or any situation that requires a scarf and heavy jacket. While there is a time and place for my snow bunny moments with skiing, snowboarding, hot tubs and hot chocolate lodges, those breaks are few and far between.
With nature as a must and the beach being home, my idea was to find the best beach cities I can settle in for as close to $1,000 USD as possible for at least one month or more.
After over a year of personal discoveries, research and meeting fellow travelers, here is my ultimate top 11 beach cities/towns for under $1,000 USD (or close to) a month in 2023 where you can chill, get mindful, calm down and game plan your future.
Most Affordable Beach Cities in Asia
1-Da Nang, Vietnam & Hoi An, Vietnam (Spring/Summer)
When I landed in Vietnam my immediate feeling was “oh, this place is cool.” The Vietnamese people have the understated, hipster, chic vibes with incredible cuisine and my favorite food stalls where you get to sit on plastic stools, and tables like you did as a kid!
While these two cities are different, I grouped them together because they are about 30 minutes apart so you can live in one and travel to the other. It all depends on the vibe you are looking for.
Hoi An is very small, charming but the beaches themselves are not very nice. The old town is wonderful but you will feel like it is the Disneyland of Vietnam. I prefer a more authentic experience, which you can find on the outskirts of the old town.
Da Nang, specifically the heavy expat area called An Thuong, reminded me of San Diego in Southern California. They even had their version of chipotle down the street from my hotel. I felt right at home. The Digital Nomad and Expat community in both these cities are small but mighty. You can get connected on FaceBook, MeetUps and a Discord channel for events!
This is definitely for those looking for a slow paced way of life.
You can expect to spend anywhere from $250 USD+ for accommodations, street food being about $1-$4 and Western food (like my local chipotle) being $8-$12 USD.
If you are only looking to stay stationed for one month or you are open to doing some visa runs this is a great option. A visa run mean that after 30 days, you will have to leave the country by flight or ground and re-enter. When I was there I paid $100USD for a border run from HCMC to Cambodia that took about 6 hours. There are options to do this or take it as an opportunity for some weekend travel trips around Asia!
Da Nang: Best for people who: want a kitchen to have the option to cook, like the SoCal vibe, are comfortable on a scooter or Grab scooter.
Hoi An: Best for people who: are comfortable on a scooter and want a kitchen to cook, looking for very slw paced, small town vibe.
Vietnam overall being best if you are OK with 1 month in the same or making visa runs.
2-Siargao, Philippines (Spring/Summer)
I was in Philippines as my pivotal moment and why I started to solo travel. It is a gorgeous country that is very dear to my heart. It has some of the most clear water, and coolest sea life I have seen. Whale Sharks for scuba and snorkel fans will be in heaven here.
Siargao is not an Island I have been to yet, but I have been hearing whispers about this Island being mellow, friendly and the best place for surfers. Next to Boracay which is more popular, Siargao is a good place to go if you want a more low key, local experience with not many tourists.
Best for People who: Love to surf!
3-Koh Lanta, Thailand (Nov-April)
Thailand means the land of smiles and now I know why. I felt light and happy from the minute the plane landed. Island life is always the place to be for me. The expat community here is also awesome, with Chiang Mai being the Hub, but there are so many Facebook groups that lead you to well organized categorized WhatsApp groups that will make it super easy to settle in.
I came across Koh Lanta after meeting an expat in Chiang Mai. She suggested Koh Lanta as a hotspot for digital nomads and diving (next to Koh Tao). This is not the cheapest Island, I am including it because it is where I have decided to settle for 2.5 months and will be talking about it a lot!
This Island is part of Krabi Province, about a 2 hour ferry ride from Krabi (which a quick stop in Railay beach is a must). It will cost you between 500-1600 baht ($20USDish) to get here from Krabi depending on the mode of transportation (speed boat, long tail or van/ferry). I suggest the 600 baht van/ferry ($18USD) if you are trying to save money as the van will drop you straight to your accommodations. Otherwise you will be paying the cost of a tuk tuk ( about 100-600 baht +, depending on where you are located on the Island)
Once you are on the Island keep in mind, this will be best for those who feel comfortable on a scooter or have the budget for tuk tuk taxis (60-100 baht, 1 way depending on where you go). There are areas that are completely walkable, such as Klong Nin where I am or Saladan. If you are like me, I stay in my square for most of the week and use my scooter only about 2 times a week.
Otherwise a scooter is about 250-350 baht a day (for a month that is about $200 USD) and only 40 baht to fill up ¼ of a tank of gas.
Accommodations themselves range from 250 baht + ($11 USD) for a bungalow. You can get a bungalow in the jungle for around this budget. Don’t expect to have a kitchen though, you’ll be lucky to have AC and a fridge.
If you come mid march/April you’ll hit low season and get way better deals. Also November is right before it picks up again and you can score some better prices.
Finding a kitchen to cook your own meals will be tricky with only living under $1,000 USD. You will be looking to increase your budget to $1500-$2000 if you want to settle in as a longer term home base.
I found a great Tiny House on the beach and while it was out of price range, since I am staying for 2 months, I get free use of the motorbike and the owner Paul as become a close friend. I even helped him set up his Instagram. You can find him @tinyhousekohlanta and tell him you found him through Morgan! I am able to eat on the cheap and find that I spend less money during the week, even though my accommodation cost is high. For me, it’s been worth every penny living beach front.
Best for people who: Feel comfortable on a scooter, are comfortable in a bungalow, if you want a kitchen it will be $30+ USD a night for longer term stays. You like a bigger Island for exploring, but also your own little neighborhood where they have everything they need within walking distance
Other notable mentions: Koh Chang (cheaper option), Koh Tao, Koh Kood & Koh Mak
Cheap Beach Cities Europe (Spring & Summer best overall)
4-Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Island, Spain (Best all year round)
The Canary Islands are like the Hawaii of the United States. While it is part of Spain, they have their own culture. Here you will get laughed at if you ask for some dishes you are familiar with, like Paella. However, you still will get the best fruit in the world, and local culture where you will get to brush up on your Spanish.
What I liked about Gran Canaria is that I landed there in November and was still able to have some beach days. The expat community is one of the most well organized, highly efficient communities I have come across.
I found it very easy to get around the Island with the bus or walking in my area. You can rent a car for some day trips, but I was OK navigating the bus system.
Here I stayed in an apartment I found on a FB group with a roommate for $600 USD for the month . You can find cheaper stays if you find more roommates or extend for longer.
Best for people who: Don’t want to bother with transportation, love the laid back European beach town vibes and surfing.
Other Notable mentions: Tenerife Island, lots of other spots in Spain (Sevilla, Granada & Malaga) Southern cities are great spot if you want to pop over to Morocco for the weekend 🙂
Croatia overall was an unexpected treat. I was in awe of the beauty of Dubrovnik, Lokrum my favorite day trip Island off Dubrovnik was stunning. In Split, I loved that I was close to a lot of Islands you can do overnights or day trips, like Hvar. I would consider settling in Hvar as option for a small Island feel. I ended up staying on the outside of the old town in Split and grabbed a spot in advance on airbnb. This was one of the only times I closed my eyes, and booked an entire month, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. I’m glad I did because I scored a 2 bedroom (no living room), best location and great kitchen for about $650 USD a month). I had some issues with my host, but looking back I did get lucky with a good spot for the location and rate.
Best for people who: Like public transportation or walking, want the bigger city feel but still close to beaches, are OK with renting a car.
6-Ikaria, Greece (Spring,Summer)
Fun fact. Ikaria is a blue zone city, which means it’s considered one of 5 cities in the world where the oldest people in the world live. This Island is known for where your days turn into weeks, months and you never want to leave. It is easy once you settle in to get into the chill Ikaria vibe. This place attracts some of my most favorite people I have met on my travels, which makes it one of my favorite destinations.
Best for people who: Like the snail slow lifestyle. Envision going to order a coffee and they probably went to Colombia to get the beans before making it for you. If you want to learn to surf, the waves are small, the sea is great and I know the best surf camp in town (ask me about it). You enjoy the heightened European culture of dinner at 9PM, and your night going until 4AM. It’s not a club party scene it’s more hanging with friends, some dancing, local jams, and beach hangs. If you are OK hitchhiking (mixed opinions on this), renting a car, walking to the beach and back. You can find basic accommodations for $400 USD with a small kitchenette, or even the simple burner, fridge and microwave set up. And of course, if you love local authentic greek food.
Honorable Mentions: Hydra, Crete, Paros, Zakynthos, Keep your ear on the ground as there is always a new hot island of the summer.
7-Algrave, Portugal (Summer)
The reason I am loving Portugal is the diverse mix of people it is attracting right now. Age, culturally and professionally. Everyone wants to move to Portugal. However, with Portugal being the hot spot for Digital Nomads, it might be wise to stay ahead of the curb and start sniffing around for the next one, because accommodation prices are going up. I am in Facebook groups in Lisbon with lots of 1 bedroom posts being just as much if not more than some places in LA/NYC. I was there in 2021 and found a shared apartment for under 400 euros for the month (this place no longer exists for short term rentals).
However, when peeping around, and asking about other spots, it seems like Algraves still might be affordable through 2023. Now is your chance to go as 2024 + might push cost of living higher.
Honorable Mentions: Ericera, Azores and Lisbon. Best for people who love Harry Potter as I felt like I was in the movie (especially in Porto), love pastel de natas (egg pastry), Portuguese culture and people.
Sardinia is an Island in Italy. This feels like an up and coming spot, especially for summer 2023 . It has the buzz, and I get a sense it just might be the new Portugal. While it definitely starts getting cold, I was told that it has stayed warmer well into January (climate change), and it’s still sunny compared to other neighboring countries. While this might not be your winter Island, it’s a great choice. I normally think of this side of Europe as more expensive, yet you can find co-working living spaces, modest accommodations and inexpensive food deals here.
While I have spent time in Italy eating half my weight in pizza and pasta, I did not make it over to the Island. Yet, it has made my list !
Best for People who: love Italian food, spaghetti carbonara, burrata, all day every day, the culture and sexy Mediterranean people.
Honorable Mentions: Montenegro. It is smaller, has a Medieval Times buzz, and cheap!
Cheap Beach Cities-Central America
9-Puerto Escondido, Mexico
I have not been here myself, yet I have heard from other travelers is a great affordable beach spot. It has beautiful beaches, lush greenery, and stunning sunsets. This natural beauty can inspire creativity and help you stay motivated while working remotely, which is a huge plus if you’re wanting to reevaluate your #lifegoals.
Reported by Numbeo, The average cost of living in Puerto Escondido is $740 per month in February 2023. This is in the top 31% of the least expensive cities in the world, ranked 6434th out of 9294.
Living Cost also says one-bed apartment is around 400USD per month and houses can be around 800USD per month. House prices can vary depending on the plot of land and location.
The digital nomad and expat community there is mighty and you can find just about any type of person, from yoga, surfer, beach lovers, hiking enthusiasts and more
Cheap Beach City-South America
10- Florianópolis, Brazil
Florianópolis is the Capital of Santa Catarina and the second biggest state in Brazil, next to São Paulo What makes this a great spot, is first it is way easier than many places to stay for 6 months on a visa, woo hoo! Major win!
The beaches here is what makes this place famous and while to be more on the comfortable end you might be looking at spending over $1500 USD, however staying within the $1,000USD is totally doable.
Since I have not been yet, I can not comment on the nitty gritty of the daily life. I can say being on a lot of digital nomad platforms, people are calling it the best kept secret as the place on the planet.
Affordable Beach City-Africa
11- Mauritius Island, South Africa
While Cape Town is still an admirable pick, consider this less known Island. Most digital nomads and expats find their stride in Flic Flak Beach. I have not been here myself but it is officially on the list!
As a single person, you can definitely stay here for well under $1,000 USD, it has been reported that the average is $600USD as the cost of living. Again, I have not ventured this way, but people who have loved it and ended up staying there longer than they were in Cape Town. You have 90 days in Africa giving you plenty of time to hang out on this wonderful Island.
Alright, time out, just taking a look on Skyscanner, brb as I might have found my next destination! Either way, send me a post card and invite me when you land your new digs!
Keep in mind that the cost of living in these cities may vary depending on factors such as neighborhood location, amenities, and seasonality. Make sure you check out other pieces before taking the plunge such as, cities may have unique visa requirements or cultural considerations that should be researched before making any long-term living arrangements.
Otherwise, pack your bags, book that ticket and enjoy time on the beach to unwind, center, and have slower paced life.
Hot Tip: Get an international drivers license before you leave
So, if you’re ready to re envision what it means to be a digital nomad, start dreaming of being a digital entrepreneur with a longer term base, different goals, more relaxed, slower paced, then consider the spots above. Contact me if you need mentoring or coaching for where to set roots while you are on a sabbatical, taking a career break, looking for a new career, wellness travel experiences and more purposeful and result driven travel experience. I got you!
Just Give me the Damn Information Summary:
- Da Nang/Hoi An
- Siargao, Philippines
- Koh Lanta, Thailand
- Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain,
- Split, Croatia
- Ikaria, Greece
- Algrave, Portugal
- Sardinia, Italy
- Puerto Escondido, Mexico
- Florianopolis, Brazil
- Mauritius Island, South Africa