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Ask HN: What's the best place in Europe to live and work cheaply?
132 points by aristidesfl on Nov 9, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 161 comments
Similar to the U.S. thread, but for people living in Europe.

I'm in Sofia, Bulgaria right now, doing contract work for international clients.

Rent is generally very cheap, 250EU/mo for a central apartment (12mo lease). I am staying here only a month however, so am paying a lot more.

Eating out, beer etc is very cheap. Numbeo gets it about right.

Amusingly, most Bulgarians I speak to ask why I would want to come to Bulgaria of all places. I guess it's like many places: great fun to visit or live for a few months but painful for long-term residents.

Upsides apart from cheap living: it's a fun, walkable city with a lot of excellent parks and very little traffic.

Downsides of living here: shockingly corrupt bureaucracy.

That said, I'll head to Romania when my month here is up. I lived in Istanbul previously, so let me know if you want to hear about that too.

What did you think of Istanbul? I just spent the last half year living and working in Europe, and I was thinking about returning next year, with Istanbul high on the list for a month or two.

Be prepared for more of the same in Romania. Just like most of Eastern Europe, lovely place to visit, horrible place to live long-term.

That being said, hit me up if you're in Bucharest :)

More of the same sounds fantastic. :)

I'll email you around the 20th, it would be great to have a beer and talk shop.

Not the original poster, but I lived in Istanbul for a month a few years ago. I found the people to be the most friendly I've ever encountered in my travels, probably against the expectations of most Americans. Try to live on the European side, north of the Golden Horn, in the Taksim area.

Seconding this. I lived on the asian side for a bit before moving to the euro side. On euro side I was about 3-400 metres from Taksim Sq for 6 months. (Near where the big recent protests - I got gassed going supermarket shopping a couple of times).

Istanbul is a massive city split by the Bosphorus straight (?) into a European and Asian side. The euro side is where most of the tourist, nightlife and business stuff is. The asian side is a bit more like suburbia.

In my experience rent was more expensive in Istanbul than Sofia. Around 400+ Euro per month on the euro side. You'd expect cheaper on asian side.

Food costs were quite low when eating out, but very low when market shopping. At best, around 1USD per kilo of the best peaches on the planet. Like drinking sweetened peach juice. Cherries and grapes the same.

I used to live on the european side and commute to asia to do my market shopping. :D (Better produce).

Sorry for rambling.

Upsides of Istanbul: farmers street-market lifestyle - get incredible produce super cheap. Very happening city full of new experiences. Crossing the bosphorus on a ferry as part of your daily commute.

Downsides: crazy traffic, quite dirty (think HCMC), byzantine bureaucracy, not much english around if you're living like a Turk.

If you go to Istanbul, use my app to navigate the public transport:


PM or email or whatever if you want a contact for a livable apartment block right near the centre in a gypsy slum.

You should have just gone to the Biologik Pazar near the old Bomonte brewery... it was pretty close to where you were and was the best I found in Istanbul. (It was a bit more expensive, of course, but still cheap by Western standards.)

And you're totally right about the peaches. And the apricots.

Now for purposes of the discussion:

Istanbul had a nasty flareup a few months back, but otherwise has been very stable. You will need to learn a little bit of Turkish, and it's not the easiest language, but two classes will make the city twice as cheap. It really is a city that gets cheaper the longer you're there, because you get to know particular grociers and as you develop a community, they will direct you toward better deals.

But even at the tourist prices, it's reasonable compared to the rest of Europe. And learning the tricks can take a significant part of your time for the first month or two, which may not be the best for a startup.

Immigration is exceedingly easy. Just have 300 bucks per month that you want in your account. You will need someone to guide you through the process and translate for you, but that's relatively cheap.

I'd say, though, it's not a beginner's city on your own. If you can give it two or three months to get settled, then it's a great option. If you need to hit the ground running, it might not be for you.

1 month is visiting, not living.

Let us know about Istambul please.

I'm not the OP but Istanbul's been my second city for over a decade.

It's a really amazing place. As the parent says, Turks are incredibly friendly. Having said that, corruption is fairly rife and people will constantly try to rip you off in business transactions. It's not unusual in some jobs to forget being paid your last month's salary (or indeed several months of salary leading up to it) and taxi drivers are mostly the scum of the earth (although it is improving).

There's been a big influx of poorer, less educated and more islamic-oriented people from the east of Turkey for several years and while they may be nice people they're culturally very different to the "white turks" of Istanbul. Taksim's fine, but Cihangir, Galata, Besiktas, Ortakoy and Etiler are (in no order) where I would look to live if I wanted to stay somewhere permanent.

Oh and it goes without saying that the Istanbul police force are not your friends.

Seconded. It seems like a fantastic city, but I'm not sure what to make of the recent troubles or whether I could swing it as an Israeli (but I guess that problem is outside the scope of this thread, still I mentioned it on the off chance somebody has some wisdom to offer besides getting a second passport).

By recent troubles if you mean the protests, rest assured that it's nothing to be worried about. At least from personal security perspective.

By swinging, do you mean the requirements like visa, work-permit, residency-permit, etc.?

While seconding on the previous friendliness of Turks one thing I would add which is also something that struck me from time to time is Turks in Istanbul sometimes in a way are more European than they are "Turkish" (I don't intend to imply that they are mutually exclusive, or anything special for that matter. Just a figurative compare/contrast. I'll err on political correctness for getting the message across.)

PS, I spent about 2 years in Istanbul and loved every bit of it.

I just meant whether or not I can make friendly arrangements to hang around for a month or two, I think I can read between the lines enough here to conclude that the answer is yes. Thanks. :)

shalom, muslim turk here.

nope, nobody will judge you or give you a hard time just because you are an israeli or jew. you can come down here, live as long as you can, make the best friends and living out of it. yes, despite those conflicts and problems between turkey and israel.

Merhaba. :)

There are no real conflicts or problems, just political grandstanding. Glad to know normal people don't buy into it so easily, I'm sure I'll have a lovely time when I visit.

> shockingly corrupt bureaucracy.

Oh yeah? Since Brazilian's president's father is bulgarian, I know where did she learn now.

Being Bulgarian, I don't think this has anything to do with Bulgarians, in general, but it's rather an ex-Soviet bloc thing.

Porto, Portugal: It has a river, sea and beaches, lots of history, nice weather, great food, nice people and it's inexpensive. It also has Ryan Air, which means that you can visit other parts of Europe cheaply (<100 euros for a roundtrip in most cases). I am at least living here now and I enjoy it.

If you like a little bigger city then Lisbon, Portugal is also an option.

If you're looking to go be a bit away from the city (~1hr by metro), there's two cities called Povoa de Varzim (where I am) / Vila do Conde that have just about everything and are even cheaper.

If you don't care of pouring rain from October to May...

Another important point is that the telecom infrastructure is pretty good. These days getting a 100down/10up Mb/s fiber link will cost you 20-40€ a month, you can get a TV+Internet+Mobile bundle for ~80€ and the urban areas have good coverage of both fiber and 3G/LTE.

Is it easy to get an apartment? Also, can you get around without speaking Portuguese?

Apartments are easy to come by. You can get a nice one for ~400-600€ a month, probably even a small house with a garden in some spots.

Most of the younger generation (30 or less) will speak decent English, older people will be mixed. Porto has been getting touristic lately though so most public places should be used to it. We don't dub movies so we tend to have a bit more exposure to the language than most (plus you can go to the movies).

What's the rent for a 1BR apartment in a nice part of town?

One of my employees rents a 1BR in near the main square (Aliados) for ~360euro/month (~480USD), but you can find something much cheaper a bit more far away.

If you don't care much about a startup and tech scene (there is little) you can spend a nice time in the Canary Islands, Spain.

It's not the cheapest place in Europe, you'll find cheaper locations in Eastern Europe admittedly. Still, you can find a nice 1BR appartment for €400-500/mo in Las Palmas City near the beach or share an appartment for somewhere around €200/mo for a room.

The weather is really really nice throughout the whole year with lots of sun and there's no real winter. Temp. in the city during the winter can be approx. 18º Celsius. The summers are not extremely hot, rather nice temperatures around 25º.

There's some co-working places where you can get a desk for €100/mo (half days) or €150/mo (full days).

There's a lot of activities that you can do almost throughout the entire year: surfing, boadyboarding, scuba diving, swimming, biking, hiking, climbing and any other outdoor activity.

There's plenty of bars and clubs and the nightlife is very lively.

Please leave a comment if you want to know more.

BTW, I was born and raised here. I spent 8 years living in Germany and 1 year living in Ireland. Afterwards I decided to move back here 8 years ago and don't have regrets. ;)

Sounds great, I would certainly like to hear more about it. Could you drop me a line via the email in my profile please?

How is the internet connection there ? Reliable ?

In the city you can get fiber in some places, 100Mbit. In other places mostly 10Mbit. I live outside of town and got 3Mbit, which is on the low end. Usually very reliable.

What do you think about raising kids there?

Well, I have no kids, but some of my friends.

Child care or kindergarten is pretty affordable, around €300/mo. If you're a legal citizen (e.g. European or w/ work permit) public schools are free, you just pay for the food, which is around €50/mo, buy materials and uniform.

If you want to pay special attention to their education regarding foreign languages and having higher chances to move elsewhere after school or at some point during school age, there are British, American, German and French schools. All of them are private or semi-private and cost up to €500/mo.

If you're considering moving here in the mid/long term, the biggest issue is work. The job market here very bad at the moment, with really high rates of unemployment.

You shouldn't care about this if you're able to work/freelance remotely. In this case, working for UK/Germany/Northern Europe/USA clients will leave margins better than any job you'll find locally and you'll be able to make a good living.

I run a company employing 8 people in total (incl. founders) and we have clients from Spain, Germany, USA. We've been doing this for 8 years.

If you or your partner are looking for a job in the local market, the biggest areas are tourism (many million visitors / year) but you can also make a good living teaching English lessons if you're native and stuff like that.

I have a 5 y.o. and wouldn't move from Tenerife (South). Private college costs ~400EUR/mo, health insurance is cheap and crime is super-low.

Oh, my kid speaks Russian and Spanish natively and they teach German and English in school. Will best me by 1 language when out of high school.

Nice to see people I know in this thread, Joel. We should meet in person at some point! ;)

I'm bound to hit the Cuban consulate at some point ;).

Personal Preference: Vienna, Austria

I'm from there, but part of the reason why I keep coming back is cause its affordable to rent, even in the hip districts (600-700 EUR for 1br) + a great city to live + good bunch of startups + cheap for flying in/out. Prague is similar.

Also heard great things about Sofia, but haven't lived there (yet). And Berlin is of course a good option as well.

I would strongly recommend against Sofia right now. There is no rule of law in my country as a whole, we are busy overthrowing the government and right now there is increasing xenophobic wave (arabo/islamophobic) due to the influx of Syrian, African and Afghanistan immigrants. Our nationalists are rattling weapons and I think the government will use the foreigners as a lightning rod for the populace anger to keep itself in power.

I suppose that during the winter pogroms over them are not out of the question. Actually we had just today a national beaten almost to dead because he is of the Turkish minority and the skinheads mistook him for immigrant.

The situation is not nice.

Unfortunate to hear - although there is (less violent) xenophobic behaviour in Austria that I'm worried about as well.

But, in general, you don't live cheaply there especially compared to other cities of the area like Bratislava or Budapest. Prices in Restaurants, Coffee shops, etc are the same as in most other capitals of western Europe. Source: I grew up in Vienna and lived there until 3 month ago.

I am now living in Chania, Greece and it's quite cheap to live, has a beautiful old town, nice beaches and fantastic mountains around. The only drawbacks are that there is only a small Linux user group, but the next hacker space is about 3 hours by bus in Iraklio and that it's only cheap as long as you don't have too pay to much taxes.

Yeah, agreed. Its all relative, thats why I used "affordable" instead of "cheap".

In my head I compare Vienna with London and the US (SF/NYC/etc) which are 2-3x as expensive, plus healthcare is worse.

Chania is a great city to live.

+1 to this based on anecdotal data from friends. That's if considering former "Western Europe" block of countries and excluding Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and others.

Budapest is quite nice too, strong expat community, strong programmers and generally nice people. Bitch of a language though, very contrived.

Salaries and startup scene in Prague are not by far what you can find in Vienna though.

I would recommend my hometown for self employed, small companies and freelancers: Bremen/Germany

Bremen was a harbor and shipyard town 30 years ago. Now most shipyards are bankrupt, and the harbor seldom sees big ships.

Rentals are really cheap, e.g. I'm paying Euro208 warm (including heating, water, waste, etc - excluding electricity 64Euros and internet SDSL+Cable ~ 50Euro) for two small rooms plus a big kitchen. So I can smoke at my computer, sleep in a room where I dont smoke and host guests at the kitchen. Houses are also cheap, sometimes only Euro40k.

Bremen is a medium size (500k inhabitants) green city with parks everywhere, and gardens around the houses. You can ride bicycle everywhere. We have a good public transport. Its long and narrow. So regardless where you live, you are in walking distance to the river, and in walking distance to the rural. It basically feels like a suburb, but with good transport, and bicycle lanes.

Internet is cheap and available, e.g. 30mbit cable for Euro30/month or 100mbit cable for Euro40/month. Ryan air is at our airport, so you can fly within Europe for Euro19, if you pick the right time at night for ordering a ticket.

Bremen is a free Hanse city and friendly to foreigners. One of our mottos are "Am nettesten sind die Zugereisten" (the nicest people here are from outside). Citizen here are traditional left wing, so neo-nazi's have a very hard stand, and are seldom seen in public.

Bremen has a friendly police, and a sane drug policy. You can smoke marijuana at the dike, and the police will greet you while riding bicycle, and its usual that junkies are sitting in a small park behind the police station. Especially Bremen-Nord (north part of Bremen) has a very friendly small tax office, with great newbie support, and public servants who care for your business.

The drawbacks are high unemployment, low wages, and its nearly impossible to get a developers job outside of the military industrial complex. Also others claim that we are cold. Its hard to learn new people in a pub, but thats easier if you are from outside Germany. But we prefer to gather in clubs (e.g. we have 2 hacker spaces). We have several sport clubs, that are affordable, e.g. most working class sailing clubs costs Euro100/year for adults with own yachts. We often joke that Bremen has always good weather: In winter its warm and rainy, and in summer its raining and warm, thanks to gulf stream.

what are the VISA requirements like for someone from a western country (say, the US or Canada)? If I wanted to live in Germany for a full year, is there a way to do so working independently (i.e. without a German corporation sponsoring a work VISA)?


Germany has a freelance visa that'll allow you to stay in the country for a year or longer. It's not the easiest to obtain, but do a quick search on Google and you'll find information on the process.

Thanks - thats new to me - I'll investigate it. But I fear 1-2 years are not enough to be interesting for most people. Thats why those I know used the marriage trick.

Yes, they have the "artist/self-employment visa" More info:http://4dayvisa.tumblr.com/ I would recommend Munich nice village with a good climate in the southern part of Germany.

Munich is extremely expensive, the natives there are right wing and known to be unfriendly to foreigners, who do not speak Bavarian. Recommending Munich to foreigners is like recommending southern US states to black people.

While Munich is in fact hellishly expensive, the Bavarian version of "right wing" is VERY different from what most Americans would probably expect when reading that phrase. (My general expression of the American right wing, particularly in the southern US states, as a German, is that it tends to be partly centered around opposition to issues such as gay rights, abortion, and free healthcare, which the average person from Munich tends to have very liberal views on, in my personal experience.) And my friends from other countries have uniformly told me that they've felt very welcome in Munich - there's a very high rate of people who speak English here, for one, more so than in more rural areas or some of the eastern states.

It's not a perfect city, of course, but I'd highly recommend it to any foreigner who's willing to put up with the prices.

There are more black people in the southern US than any other region, your analogy does not match up and is woefully ignorant.

If the southern US has not historically been more hostile to blacks than other regions of the US, then why did almost every major event of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s take place in southern states?

Why were most of the jurisdictions requiring preclearance to change their voting laws under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the south? Its because those counties and states have had a documented history of limiting the voting rights of minorities, specifically blacks.

Same as in rest of Germany/Europe: Its nearly impossible for free lancers or small business if you are from outside Europe.

There is an equivalent to green card in Germany, but thats only for wage slaves.

Most Americans I know came as GI's and married a woman to become resident. oh well Its also common to Africans to buy a marriages. We have lots of unemployed people who sell this service.

In 2005 it took me just under 72 hours to get my freelance work permit (US citizen). I am now in the Czech Republic on a freelance work permit. You seem to be spreading FUD.

Budapest, Hungary:


Nice downtown apartments are $300 USD/mo.

I was just in Budapest. It was really beautiful, but I encountered some of the rudest people I have ever met. I've read on other travel sites that people in Budapest are extremely rude to tourists compared to the rest of Hungary. Maybe it's implied by the nature of this thread that you should learn the language before you move there, but you definitely should for Budapest (assuming you don't want to encounter rudeness).

As a matter of fact, I do speak the language. A lot of things feel weird to me when I come to visit the city. I have this uneasy feeling about things like the Hungarian Guard [1][2] - a paramilitary group having a rally on the most most important square in Budapest. Or having a fascist party, as the 3rd biggest, in the Parliament [3].

Yet, there is an incredible amount of gifted people, who are the exact opposite of these jerks. I guess a lot of people here admire undertakings like Prezi, LogMeIn, ArchiCAD/Graphisoft, or Ustream, all coming from Budapest.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungarian_Guard [2] http://www.maszol.ro/uploads/files/userfiles/images/kulfold/... [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jobbik

I moved to budapest years ago, rudeness has been getting worse super-linearly with the increase in tourism.

I understand and speak a bit of hungarian now and I keep getting worse service in bars/clubs/shops/restaurants than I got years ago as a broke exchange student speaking broken english.


mind you, I still think the city has a lot of pros, and could be a great place to live in cheaply while working on your project.

Try Lithuania.

Rent is about 180-400 EU/mo. Weather is good, not too hot, not too cold. Sun/rain ratio is nice. Cities is not too big, so during season bicycling is preferable. Also public transport is ok. Food for 2 person family is about 150 EU/mo. Streets is safe for foreigners.

And Internet is super fast and super cheap here.

And there is nice and informative video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPO4tbV4UHk

Quite cold + dead nature from September to April, especially cold and white from January to March

Perfect environment for distraction free work in the office.

If you don't slide or freeze on your way.

I would go for Lisbon. It has very good and cheap flight connections to the rest of Europe (not good to the West Coast of America). Easyjet, and RyanAir fly out of Lisbon, and the national airline TAP is very good and only slightly more expensive. Very nice weather. We still have not turned on the heating yet.

You can live cheaply and well. It may not be the cheapest cheapest in Europe, but is good value for money. For example at a restaurant opposite our office for only 5€ you can have a freshly grilled Sea Bass or a steak. Office rents are cheap as well. Expect to pay from 6€ to 10€ per m3. So you can out source the cooking and even the driving cheaply. A taxi to the airport will set you back just 8€.

Somebody I know just rented a two bed apartment in the centre of town for 440€ per month.

There is a vibrant Start Up Community. Some really good people.

For us the decision was more than just cost, but also standard of living.

You can find more details here in why we decided to open an office here: http://blog.webnographer.com/2010/10/an-rd-office-in-lisbon/

Gotta love the story:

A story, that had been told to my brothers, and me since we where small, also helps explains my strong connections to Portugal: In the 1960′s my father, a journalist, was in the Congo covering the war after it’s independence from Belgium. The car he was driving had skidded off the road, and turned over. United Nation’s troops passed him by without stopping, but suddenly out of nowhere a bunch of Portuguese cigarette smugglers appeared. They dragged him out of the car into their car, then sped him across the border, and dropped him of at a hotel…

My rescuers bought me a large South African brandy at the bar, gave 500 Rothmans [cigarettes], checked my wallet to see I had enough cash, then left me, delivered back to my native culture, never to see them again. It was the first time I had met Portuguese knowingly – and my first encounter, not only with their extraordinary reaching-out to a stranger in need, but with their blend of bravado, honour, ingenuity and poise.

Extract from The First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World, by Martin Page


- Zero taxes. You nearly double your income!

- Low cost of living for a city of its caliber. Rent: <$1k/mo. Food: if you cook, less than $0.5k/mo. Cheap gas/petrol. Lots of fun stuff (indoor ski, etc.) You can live comfortably on <$2k/month.

- Easy to get a freelancer visa. You get freelancer visa by setting up a company in a free zone, and issuing a work visa to yourself. This can cost about $5-$7k yearly. Unlike most countries, there are no nonsensical visa rules, or caps (ahem, H1-Bs) -- you're pretty much guaranteed to get one if you apply, no questions asked.

[The classic straw man argument against Dubai is that it's in a restrictive non-free country with ultra-orthodox Islamic and what not. This is not really true. It's one of the nicest places in the Middle East, and has a very diverse populace with the vast majority being foreign-born.]

Yeah but then you have to live in a totally artificial environment that is a living monument to consumerism.

What are you implying here anyways? That the buildings, malls, water theme parks, etc. are artificial? Well then, I'd say most cities are artificial. Unless you want to move into a jungle. Does that count as natural?

I'm implying that the city seems to mostly cater to people whose primary leisure activity is spending money. There's no natural environment to explore there, and it's mostly culturally bereft.

a totally awesome environment that is a living monument to modern architecture

FTFY. Also, infinity pools.

For a lot of us outside USA, that sentence would describe several cities in America.

As an American living abroad, I've discovered that many American cities are actually quite nice to the synthetic alternatives. Ya, consumerism is worshiped, but as long as you are in a real city core (not the suburbs), its actually mostly quite nice compared to Dubai.

> but as long as you are in a real city core (not the suburbs), its actually mostly quite nice compared to Dubai.

In what way? (just want to know your perspective) I do prefer US cities myself (esp. NYC) way more than Dubai - mostly for the culture, people and the opportunities there. But the awesome H-1B cap and lottery doesn't help. After all, what other country conducts a freaking lottery for high-skilled worker visas?

What does $1k/mo actually get you and in what part of town?

I've visited Dubai before, and actually really really liked it. The fact that there was so much diversity was interesting. Seems to be a lot of cool things happening as well - Startup Weekends, Make hub, etc. Food was great as well.

I also looked into getting a visa. The $5-7k for the freelance visa - is that with the Dubai Internet City free zone? Technically you can't work from home with those, or do business with non free zone companies right?

One of my relatives stays in Dubai with his family (wife and child), at a really nice 2-bedroom apartment in a high-rise, that's got parking within the building (the first 4 floors have been converted into parking spaces). He pays AED 38,000 a year for it. Air conditioning is included in the rent, so his electric bill is significantly lower than that of most UAE residents.

AED 38k translates to $10,345/year, or $862/month. He had to hunt a lot for this apartment though. It's not easy to find, and if you're unfamiliar with Dubai it's especially easy to end up paying Manhattan-esque rents.

With regard to the freelance visa -- I haven't gotten myself one (yet), so I'm no expert. But I don't think working from home will be a problem. You're right that you can't do business with non-free zone companies. But if you're a freelance programmer or web designer, you can basically work out of your home, and bill your client for you work as you normally would anywhere else. And you'd get the full amount, since the UAE has no income taxes.

As far as I know, you do approach a free zone company like DMTFZA. I've actually spoken to a rep at another free zone (RAKFTZ). The reason it costs $5k is because you can't just register a company with a free zone -- you also have to pay at least some office rent. With RAKFTZ, I basically explained my situation -- that I'd be freelancing, and that I was looking for the cheapest option (in terms of visas), to stay in the country. They said the cheapest options was a "Flex" plan, where I am allowed to use one of the meeting rooms in the RAK Free Zone building for up to X hours a week (X < 20). This plan (which includes company registration and what not), would set me back ~$5000/year (converting from AED here). A visa, valid for 3 years, would cost another $2k.

So you're looking at $7k the first year, $5k the next two years, $7k again, and so on -- which is not bad, considering you're not paying taxes (assuming you're making at least $5k/mo). The Dubai free zone authority probably charges, but I most likely not too much more (in order to stay competitive). As a side note; Gulf News, a local English daily in the UAE, had a piece where they described how freelancer visas costs around AED 25,000/year (~$6.8k/yr), and how this was exorbitant and what not. Note: most foreigners in the UAE earn a lot less than first-world country wages. I would wager a guess that the median income of a resident of the UAE was between USD 15k to 20k (i.e. quite close to the US poverty line). The wealth distribution in the UAE is sadly, quite uneven.

> Low cost of living for a city of its caliber. Rent: <$1k/mo. Food: if you cook, less than $0.5k/mo.

Eh, I suppose you can call that cheap if you compare it with NYC and San Francisco...

Even in Tokyo you can get a 1BR for <$1k/month, and you can spend <$300 on food if you cook (some people claim they spend half of that).

Straw man argument unless you're a woman.

Parts of the UK outside London are actually pretty cheap to live in. I live in Edinburgh, slap in the middle of the city, which is also a World Heritage Site. I have a 5 minute walk to work and flat (apartments...) go for £500/800 for a 1/2 bed. Other parts of the UK are much cheaper again.

Seconded. It's also a great city, nice and green, busy and supportive tech scene (monthly meetups and conferences) and thanks to the festivals in August the best shows and artists from around the world will be on your doorstep for a great night out. Add in what Glasgow has to offer (eg great live music gigs) a mere 50mins by train away for even more plus points.

£800 for a two bed on the Royal Mile?

New Town :) Living on the Royal Mile is a mad idea, just today someone who used to do it was telling me about the constant bagpipes!

Half a bed? Isn't that more like a chair?

Depends on what you are looking for really. Are you a freelancer? Do you want to join a startup? Want to create one? Do you have clients already or are you on the hunt for some? Do you like big cities or prefer the countryside? Do you want a warm climate or want to stay in during cold nights?

When I go into a store and ask the salesman for help, his first question is invariably, What price range are you looking for?

Yes, I could answer his question (and the OP could answer your questions), but I prefer not to. I want to hear about all the options.

The OP might prefer a warm climate, but he might be willing to tolerate colder weather if he's told it's super cheap or has city-wide free wifi. He might be a freelancer but might change his objective if he heard that a particular country was granting easy visas for startup founders.

I know you're trying to be helpful by asking the OP to give a precise spec on what he wants, but this entire discussion would have been far less interesting if he had done so!

Well, since this answer in this thread might interest people other than OP, feel free to make a suggestion where you explain the pros and the cons!

Riga, Latvia. Cheap. Very good internet connectivity. Our simple 25m² office: 80€ including heating, electricity and high speed internet. Little bureaucracy. Safe. Contrary to what people seem to think, low corruption. Low taxes, especially for startups. Euro starting from 2014.

Plus I like the funny language and (some of) the people. Do take a trip to some sunny destination in the middle of the winter though, because it can get really dark during winter...

Ljubljana, Slovenia is really nice. It's a mix of east & west, uses Euros/EU, and rent is fairly inexpensive. I met a few ex-pat Americans that were working in tech / IT.

No one will ever expect you to learn Slovenian too, it's such a complicated language that unless you were a native speaker, it's next to impossible to speak correctly.

Question for the people answering: how do you handle revenu/salary taxes ? I see no mention of it in any post, do you keep paying in your home country, or do you pay in each countries ?

For the case of normal income, usually income tax is paid to the country where you are working. The U.S. also claims the ability to tax the income of U.S. citizens working in other countries, but for incomes below $97k/year the Foreign Income Exclusion prevents double taxation.


In the EU you pay income tax in the member state where you have earned your income.

Some countries of the world (notably the United States of America) require its citizens and permanent residents to pay income tax on foreign earned income as well (in some cases). No EU member states have such requirement.

This is not entirely true. There are laws in many EU countries to prevent tax evasion which make you pay tax income on the country you have citizenship in, specially if you claim to be working from a known tax haven. Yes there is a list for that.

You can live in Spain for example and work and generate revenue and pay taxes within you country of origin. I think the criteria is you're officially living and working where you spend more than 50% of the year.

So I know people that spend less than 50% in a different country, and making revenue and paying taxes within their country, legally.

Check out Vilnius (I'm obviously biased, but bear with me), Lithuania:


* Cheap rent. 500eu should get you a decent flat in the city centre without much research

* Cheap cabs. Cabs that take you around will rarely cost more than 3-4eu

* Cheap transportation options with Ryanair and Wizzair

* Cheap internet and communications

Not many other places will offer this great quality of life for ~1500eu/month. Obviously, you can get around much much cheaper, but I'd say that 1500 - 2000 eu/month is the sweet spot


* Fastest internet in Europe. Seriously

* People speak english. Everyone under 30 will be able to speak english to you. Might be a little harder to communicate to the older folk without knowing lithuanian/russian

* Growing tech community. Regular meetups for ruby / php / js / java / .net usergroups + the biggest developer conference in the Baltics is coming very soon - http://buildstuff.lt/

* Great dinning options. Lunch in my favorite places, some of which have award-winning chef's, will start at 5eu (you can find lunch deals from 3eu). Evening dinning options are great too

* One of the largest old-town's in Northern Europe. Very cozy

* Funs bars. Can't speak about clubs too much, but there are plenty of bars with cheap beer and great crowd

* Lots of interesting stuff to explore within 100km radius - old castles, gorgeous lakes, mighty forests

Winters can get a bit cold and dark, especially if you are used to southern climates. Best weather from April to October.

Some pictures - http://curiouseggs.com/beautiful-lithuania-25-wonderful-phot...

How easy is it to get a VISA? I'm Nicaraguan.

It is the same as other parts of the EU - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_requirements_for_Nicaragua...

Montenegro is a quite nice place for a freelancer, beaches/good weather/very cheap prices and rent

That's all good and well unless you want to take a shower during the daylight in the summer. Just make sure that your apartment has water all the time, and you will enjoy Montenegro.

Yeah, weather is unusually nice right now, but not in winter: huge winds and rains. In summer it's so hot that you wouldn't want to work.

How is Internet now there? It was not good 2 years ago. Just few providers, bad speed...

I'm surprised Malta hasn't been discussed (tiny island in the mediterranean, just south of Sicily). I arrived here 5 years ago thinking it would be a paradise (its not). Below are my generalisations:

Upside = Best weather in Europe, English speaking, 100Mb/s fiber, cheap ryanair flights to most of Europe, cheap rent compared to Northern Europe - luxury 3 bed flat around 800 Euro.

Downside = Extremely conservative and religious state run by the church (abortion is illegal even if mothers life is at risk - WTF). 10 year prison sentences for possession of Marijauana. Extremely narrow minded people. Ugly, very dry, dirty polluted beaches, lots of rock and very little green. Very poor standard of food at restaurants and even supermarkets.

I'm leaving for the Netherlands, can't wait!

French guy living in the netherlands here! The country is awesome. People are really open minded, and I found a job in a matter of days with no connections at all!

Hope you like it as much as me ;)

Cardiff, Wales. Not only a great place to live but also has a vibrant and growing digital community:

http://cardiffstart.com http://cardiffdigital.com

Probably one of the crisis countries: Portugal, Greece, etc... Local salaries and prices are especially low, so if you have an external source of income you should be at least upper middle class while living by some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world.

Canary Islands, Spain, is one of them. Good weather all year round, good internet connection in many places and plenty of flight connections to most important cities in Europe. Affordable prices for housing and food.

You just need to avoid the too touristic places.

I like to plan a fun little game on AirBnB for this. Put in Europe as the destination, <$600 per month as the price, and a month as the duration. It'll show you available apartments in everywhere from Sicily to Northern Germany.


That is a most excellent game, problem is a lot of these are way out in the boonies. For instance I saw a beautiful place at a medieval Italian town for $28/day, its great! But I get the feeling there is nothing to do there after a couple of days so a month seems excessive. Could be wrong.

Airbnb monthly prices will be considerably higher than what you can find locally though. Nevertheless is useful to do a relative comparison.

Where's a good place to find rentals outside of AirBnB if you're not physically there yet and want to plan ahead?

I would vote for Barcelona, Spain.

Best spot for flying to all european cities. Best weather, beaches with nice water temperature. Organization, cleanness, respectful people and multicultural: you will hear a lot of english as well other dozens of languages.

Life in Barcelona is not so cheap, but compared to other cities it's a dream.

I'm living here since 2001 and I will never leave this place I guess.

This is an old comment I've submitted to HN telling my expenses in Barcelona https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6618033

You can live in the south of Spain for very little... assuming you don't want to live in big cities of course

+1 for that. I live in Malaga and prices are OK. You can find a 1BR apartment from 300€, maybe 250€. Not much tech/startup scene, if you want to engage in this field. There is a technology park where you can find job offers in technology (development, IT), although some of them are from IT consulting firms with low wages and long hours, so you better choose wisely.

The weather is very good, 30°-35°C in the summer, and 10°-15°C in winter. And you have a wide variety of beaches along the coast (you will be in the Costa del Sol)

There are very good connections with the rest of European cities via its airport, and you can get cheap flights with RyanAir.

Marbella, Spain is starting to get some attention from investors lately (http://marbellalabs.com). I really hope we will see more tech people here soon.

Hey Paul, I worked there a couple of years ago -- 2 mins from the Copper Tower -- but came back to UK, reluctantly. I'd come back at the drop of a hat.

I tried to get things going when I was there, particularly at the Málaga tech park.

I'd love to know what's going on.

I guess France, Belgium and the Netherlands are out of the question? Since you included "cheaply".

550 Euros a month down here in the Landes region of France, with high speed internet, 5 minute walk from the beach and world class surf (depending on the season).

Probably going to migrate south to the Algarve in Portugal for the winter -- northern european rain, wind, cold are not my cup of tea...

Belguim: receive 40 % of your wadger and the governmentis still stacking debt amd selling buildings and taking payments in advance on future income..

Socialism: spending money you don't have...

There are not that many countries/capitals where I've not been in Europe, so I think I can compare instead of pushing my hometown: My personal top of metropolis: 1. Berlin - great startup stuff, cheap (in context of west Europe/ Germany), sexy, English, easy to adopt from e.g. US 2. Istanbul - cheap, hacker friendly, kiloton of culture, but need to manage/like a bit asian way of life. Best food. 3. London - great startup stuff (services and top people), high costs but high revenues also. So great if you want to earn a lot, not sepend a little. 4. Dublin - low taxes, good startup stuff, all US IT is there (but maybe already working for Google etc), moderate costs, no language problem

- Northern countries (Scandinavia, Baltics): good/moderate startup activities (ask me, I'm from there), high costs and also revenues (except Baltics which is vice versa), low corruption, e-services (eg. Estonia: open company in 15 min online). Can manage in English mostly (less in Baltics but still). My key problem: long winter

- East Europe: low costs and revenues, high corruption (paperwork/tax pain), problems with English except in small startup enclaves, need local friends (especially bigger countries like Poland, Czech Rep, Romania). If you can cope with this a bit Asian/Russian lifestyle, I'd skip it and go to Istanbul already, you'd have not only pain but also gain of this mess.

- South-West Europe - each country is quite different, but generally medium costs and revenues, need to know local language or friend (spanish, italian, french, greek), ton of culture which tends to bring also bureaucracy (expect months to your paper processing) , high living quality.

Im an istanbullu whos been living in vienna for almost 4 years now. First of all, i do think that vienna is a far better option than istanbul as a whole(including living costs if youre willing to live in a WG-sharedflat). In istanbul people tend to use old and outdated technologies, so talent is quite rare but if u can find some, they will cost u cheaper. Somehow i spend less money in vienna than i do in istanbul, its quite strange i know but thats a fact! Infrastructure in istanbul is quite lame too. Obtaining an austrian living permit should be pretty hard if ure not an EU citizen, i have a student visa. Berlin is probably the best bet, i agree. I just dont agree that istanbul is a hacker-friendly place.

so many things have changed in 4 years. you can check out the conferences and meetups in istanbul. the city is constantly adapting itself to new cultures since many foreigners are coming and living in the city. you can go out to any coffee / tea shop, enjoy yourself some tea and work as much as you want.

the downside of istanbul is that it's insanely huge and crowded. the traffic is a big pain in the ass but that's changing since many people are starting to use public transportation and the municipality is expanding transportation options. by 2023 things will be way more different.

I'm building an online community/wiki to try to find the answer to this question and others like it. So far I've gotten responses from more than 100 expats, long-term travelers, and nomads about different places they've lived.

You might be interested in reading some of the posts people have contributed so far.

Link: http://www.istorical.com

But to actually contribute here:

I'd recommend Prague: http://www.istorical.com/cities/prague/experiences/127

[Are you able to afford a better standard of living in Prague than in other places you've lived, or able to afford less?]

"Money certainly goes a lot farther here. For one thing, the shops are terrible, so there's nowhere to indulge yourself if you want to go crazy with your credit card. Parking in the city centre is next to impossible but the public transportation system here is safe, clean and a pleasure to use so there's no need to drive a car. The rent compared to other European cities is pretty cheap although times are changing and costs are going up in general. When I first visited Prague, a beer was less than a euro and you only needed to work three days a week to live like a king. But just like anywhere else, you can either pay through the nose for an apartment or get one really cheap by developing the right contacts.

The drugs and clothes are more expensive and much poorer quality than in the UK but everything else is generally much cheaper.

We live right in the centre of the city so I'm not sure how that compares to the outer edges of the city but we pay 18,000.00 CZK = 698.377 EUR for 90, sq meter apartment with 1 large bedroom, kitchen and living room plus a decent-sized balcony that looks out over the street. That price includes all janitor services, wi-fi and cable TV. This is way more expensive than what I was paying for a three-bedroom house on the outskirts of London but hey, it's Prague."

Berlin, definitely. It is the best mix of everything you need.

Except sun light in the winter...

And you're saying that about Berlin? Try Finland, then :)

Yes, winters are an issue for much of Europe and especially for the northern part where much of software industry resides.

If that is important for you, then try the cheaper parts near Mediterranean - say, Slovenia is quite nice.

That really depends on the winter, but most have two or three sunny days, at least…

I've been told for the past three years that this is an unusually cold winter :-/.

Ok, mountains are not a "need", but Berlin is way too flat for me.

You can move to some low-tax or no-tax country. I can recommend Andorra, 0% income tax and reasonable prices for pretty much anything , rent, food, alcohol etc :) I also heard Belarus has almost no tax and its very cheap to live there, but there will be lots of bureaucracy :)

Hey, I am from Belarus.

True about taxes. There are almost no taxes (fixed 9%) for IT companies especially comparing to western countries. But, there are:

1. No shipment from amazon, ebay.

2. Startup culture is in really early stage. People talking about startups, but there are only few of them who have really achieved something

3. Most of European citizens need to have visa (not sure about price) to get there.

4. Coworking/hacker spaces are at the same stage as startup culture.

Hope these things will get sorted out in a few years :) However, if someone decides to go work from Minsk - send me note, I will show you around.

"lots of bureaucracy" being code for authoritarian dictatorship... I suppose if you want to learn about how you don't actually live in a police state in the West you could move there.

Not always - in Bulgaria there is lot of bad bureaucracy, but the regime is mix of democracy and oligarchy. The country is almost European country.

What are the job opportunities in Andorra like? I am in Barcelona just now, but I miss the mountains.

From someone who has a strong culture & tech ecosystem balance bias:

- Berlin: It's the perfect combination of cheap living costs and OKish (growing) tech community

- As mentioned pretty much everything from Paris to Kiev gets really dark & cold in winter, and not in a NY/Chicago cool way.

- More and more people (especially British) move to Spain, mostly Barcelona. Not as good in terms of startup community as Berlin, but at least equally cheap & decent regarding arts.

Personal bottom line if you want to spend the whole year in Europe: Barcelona in Winter, Berlin in summer, and using LCC fares to get to London for interesting meetups etc.

Doesn't Barcelona get pretty chilly in the winter months? I mean, not as bad as Berlin, but still cold. I've heard even Valencia gets to around 10 degrees celcius in winter.

I live in Munich since 1 year. I am originally from Istanbul. I guess Munich has the highest salaries in Europe. But the city is a bit expensive. I pay 755 euro for a 36 square meters apartment. Berlin is another option. It's a very international city and cheap but the salaries are lower.

After Istanbul, Munich seems like a dead village to me. I still can't get used to that streets are totally empty after 9-10 pm.

Istanbul is an amazing city. And a lots of job opportunities there. Better climate than Germany. You can't earn as much as Germany but you can still catch the same life standards.

I think the job situation in Istanbul is more complicated if you don't speak Turkish. My Singaporean gf (native English, excellent education) had a lot of trouble finding office work in Istanbul. I believe Turkish is spoken throughout most companies.

Just as you say, after Istanbul every city feels empty and lifeless!

> I guess Munich has the highest salaries in Europe. But the city is a bit expensive. I pay 755 euro for a 36 square meters apartment.

You should try Zurich (higher for both: salaries and rent) ;)

Haven't lived in Munich yet, but I expect salaries in cities like London or Zurich to be significantly higher.

Zurich is VERY expensive.Switzerland is expensive in general.

Well as long as you are earning more than you spend, that not a problem.On the other hand if you don't then, you may as well go for one of the cheap countries.....

Anyone with input about Valencia, Spain?

define cheap, but: Warsaw (I may be obviously biased). Berlin. beautiful Praha (no idea how the tech market looks like there though).

I would warmly recommend Warsaw, Krakow or Wroclaw

I've lived in both Warsaw and Krakow. Both are quite cheap, particularly if you cook at home. I contracted for an American company for a while and put about 60% in the bank without trying.

How would you rate Krakow compared to Warsaw? Numbeo says it's a bit cheaper[1]?

[1] http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?coun...

Basically every place in Poland is cheaper than Warsaw. Comparing any Polish city to Warsaw economically will give the obvious same results on every aspect, but these cities are completely different breeds of horse. Krakow is more visually appealing and is loved for its historical and cultural value, and a kind of bohemian vibe. Business has boomed significantly during the last decade down there and it's getting more attractive. I've heard it faces serious pollution problems, and in some areas crime is more significant than in Warsaw (which in general is a pretty safe place). When it comes to 'big city life', making money and riding on the fast lane in the land of opportunities, Warsaw is considered that place (saying it's the NY of Poland would be a bit of a stretch, but you get my point). As for the general vibe, Warsaw is the kind of big city you love or hate with a passion, there is no middle ground. You need to learn it and it will be for you what you want it to be. So, whether you're more happy here or there depends on what you are really looking for.

For cheaper city alternatives, I've heard a lot of positives about Wroclaw, but I honestly don't know much about it.

Disclaimer: I'm locally patriotic, but that said I sincerely believe Warsaw is the place to be, YMMV.

If cheap is really what matters then Belarus. It's not a nice place to live though.

This was the original thread (I think my post led to this one, which split the responses):


Berlin(relatively cheap, well developed tech scene, big), Prague(amazing city, cheap, well developed tech scene, not so big and not small(1.2M population)), Bratislava(small and quiet)

I lived in the south of Spain on the very cheap for a couple of years. Highly recommended - I lived in Conil de la Frontera 200m from ocean for less than 300 euros a month.

this shit is gold, please keep anwering! Please include income, rent and possibility of dev jobs, english speaking etc etc

I live in the UK and we use Pounds Sterling. When I travel to any country using the Euro prices are always relatively higher so I would recommend against a country using the Euro. I found this list showing Euro/Non-euro countries: http://www.aph.com/news/knowbeforeyougo/euro_countries.shtml

topic: Ask HN: What's the best place in Europe to live and work cheaply?

> I would recommend against a country using the Euro.


Dude, 17 out 27 EU member states use the € with Latvia joining 1 Jan 2014 and Lithuania 1 Jan 2015. Population of Eurozone: 330 million. Good luck coming to Europe and avoiding the Eurozone: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

Some of these places are really really cheap to live in and work in, and life on the ground varies drastically _within_ countries as well, especially bigger countries like Germany - witness Munich versus Berlin. Yours is the most bizarre advice I've heard in a long long while.

For the interested check out the variation in GDP per capita by region:


Goes from ~ €80,000 to ~ €7,000

>> "Good luck coming to Europe and avoiding the Eurozone" >> "Dude, 17 out 27 EU member states use the €"

10 countries don't use it. That still leaves you with quite a lot of choice. And as I said I was just speaking from personal experience that goods Euro using countries tend to be more expensive. This probably doesn't apply to every one of those countries but it has in every one I've visited.

> 10 countries don't use it.

As of January 1st 2015 that'll be down to 8 as I said so you'd be recommending avoiding those as well.

Look. There is no sense in recommending that people avoid the _entire_ Eurozone just because the places that _you_ visited in the Eurozone tend to be more expensive than where you are from (N.I., which to be fair ain't even that inexpensive.) Makes no sense I tells ya.

Well, not always. Estonia for exemple is really cheap, at least compared to France, Germany etc

Thanks that's important to point out. My experiences were only in Ireland, France, Belgium and Austria. As someone living in the north of Ireland using Sterling I experience the price difference often every time I travel south and the jumps aren't insignificant.

I would recommend you to keep out of Eastern Europe. The people there wants to believe they have left their history behind but they haven't.

When I visited Budapest the police acted as Stasi and on the local metro they only asks foreigners for valid tickets. Very unfriendly. I would never recommend anyone going there.

Budapest ticket inspectors are not a representative of the Eastern Europe region, you know?

In the recent years Hungary seems to come up repeatedly in media with a much stronger anti-outsider sentiment than the neighboring countries.

I have no firsthand experiences like that (traveled for a few days through there 2 years ago, no such observations) - but can locals elaborate, is it really so or just media exaggeration?

You might have as well generalised that experience to the whole northern hemisphere, would be as justified.

gibraltar if you commute by foot from spain. predominantly, the tech culture is based around established gaming and finance companies. english is the lingua franca in work hours.

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