Today, we’re going to have a look at the cheapest places to live in Europe. If you’re a digital nomad or remote worker just starting out and not making a huge income yet, you may want to consider some of these destinations which will help keep your living costs to the very minimum while you find your feet.
Which European country has the lowest cost of living?
Cheapest Non-EU Country: Ukraine
The very cheapest places to live in Europe are all non-EU nations. Right now, the cheapest place in terms of the overall cost of living (including rent) is probably Ukraine. The country is now over seven years into a protracted conflict with Russian-backed rebels in the Donbas region which has certainly taken its toll. However it would be wrong to think of Ukraine as a dangerous, war-torn country that you simply can’t visit or live in. Away from the small Donetsk and Luhansk regions where the fighting is taking place, life is going on as normal and Ukraine is no more dangerous than most other European countries.
The capital Kyiv is well clear of the fighting and is perhaps the cheapest major city in Europe. It was ranked as the most affordable of 64 cities across the continent by Expatistan with the cost of living roughly one third of the equivalent in expensive cities such as London, Dublin or Paris. However Kyiv still ranks as expensive by Ukranian standards and you can cut costs even further by heading to other places including the popular coastal city of Odessa or historic Lviv which is only around 70 km from the Polish border (EU).
Estimated Total Living Costs (including rent) in Kyiv: 550-850 Euros/Month
Other Non-EU countries with low living costs: Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova
Cheapest EU Country: Romania
While things have levelled up slightly, there are still some very significant divides between the wealthier and poorer nations in the European Union and that is very much reflected in terms of living costs. The cheapest EU country to live in 2021 is certainly either Romania or Bulgaria. The former has slightly higher rents but overall is perhaps a fraction cheaper although it will depend on your lifestyle and where you are based. Even the most expensive places in Romania are considerably cheaper than the cheapest places to live in Ireland for example.
Romania joined the EU in 2007 and has come a long way since the dark days that surrounded the fall of communism. Bucharest in particular has reinvented itself as a city with a lively cultural scene and a thriving tech sector. There are also plenty of beautiful old towns with easy access to nature and in many respects Romania is a very good option for digital nomads in Europe, particularly those on a low budget.
Estimated Total Living Costs (including rent) in Bucharest: 600-900 Euros/Month
Other EU countries with low living costs: Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania
Where can you find the cheapest rent in Europe?
Cheapest Non-EU Rents: North Macedonia
In terms of actual rental costs, which usually loosely translates to cheaper Airbnb’s if you’re only planning a shorter stay, the cheapest place in Europe is North Macedonia. However you can find really good deals on accommodation across the Balkans, particularly in the former Yugoslav states that haven’t joined the EU (Croatia & Slovenia have done).
North Macedonia’s largest city and capital Skopje has the widest range of options. According to Numbeo’s data, the average price for a one bedroom flat in the centre is around 15,500 Macedonian Denar per month (approximately 250 Euros) while you can find a three bedroom property in the suburbs for a similar amount.
Things are even cheaper in the stunningly set lakeside city of Ohrid with some apartments available for less than 150 Euros per month on an annual basis. While Macedonia may not rank as one of the best places to live in Europe for English speakers, you can avoid the hassle and longer-term commitments of sorting a regular rental contract and instead find studios or small Ohrid apartments with lakeside views on Airbnb for under 300 Euros per month.
Estimated Total Living Costs (including rent) in Skopje: 500-750 Euros/Month
Other cheap Non-EU options: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Moldova
Cheapest Place to Rent in the EU: Bulgaria
In the European Union itself, the cheapest place to rent is Bulgaria which data suggests is slightly more affordable than neighbouring Romania. Partly for this reason, Bulgaria has become a popular option with digital nomads and those looking to set up remote-based businesses.
In the capital Sofia, small apartments start at around 600 Bulgarian Lev (approximately 300 Euros) per month. Even on Airbnb, you can find small Sofia studios going at that rate for monthly stays and you can get some really high quality accommodation by upping your budget slightly from that.
The most popular locations in Bulgaria for foreigners during the summer tend to be the Black Sea beaches and cities which are also among the best bets in Europe in autumn for warm weather. In winter, the beautiful mountain town of Bansko is popular for its skiing opportunities and resort atmosphere. Similar monthly prices can be found in those locations although it does depend on when you go as there are significant seasonal variations. You can read more about remote working and travelling in the country in our Bulgaria digital nomad guide.
Estimated Total Living Costs (including rent) in Sofia: 600-900 Euros/Month
Other cheap EU rental options: Romania, Greece, Hungary, Latvia