Spain tops list of cheapest countries to live

Thinking of moving abroad? Spain, Italy and Portugal are the cheapest countries to live according to the 2024 Cost of Living Overseas Index.

Young couple walking around Barcelona
(Image credit: Jordi Salas)

Spain has emerged as the cheapest country to live in 2024, according to an index that looks at a wide range of living costs including food, petrol and energy bills.

The Cost of Living Overseas Index, compiled by website Property Guides, looks at living costs across 13 countries, comparing UK prices with those in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Germany, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

The costs reflect what an expat, holiday home owner or retiree would encounter when settling into a new home abroad.

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The same “basket of goods” that cost £1,996 in the UK, cost just £1,295 in Spain – a huge saving of £701. 

While Spain is crowned the cheapest place to live, Italy and Portugal take second and third position. The most expensive country is New Zealand, followed by Australia and then the UK.

Christopher Nye, chief editor at Property Guides, comments: “It seems harder and harder to make ends meet in the UK, and so more and more Britons are considering moving abroad for a more affordable, warmer and more exciting lifestyle.

“But if you’re moving abroad to save money, be careful. Because not everywhere is cheaper than the UK.”

However, there are 10 popular destinations cheaper than the UK, according to the index, including a range of European countries plus the USA and Canada.

How the countries are ranked 

Last year, Italy took the crown as cheapest country to live. Greece came second, followed by Portugal, France and Spain.

This year, Spain has risen up the charts from fifth to first position to claim the honour of cheapest country to live abroad.

Overall, here are the rankings from the least expensive to the most expensive country for the 2024 index:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
13New Zealand

What costs are included in the index? 

The “basket” of goods and services comprises everyday staples like a litre of milk and a loaf of bread, but adds a few British favourites like teabags and a gin and tonic. Also included is the cost of setting up a new home, including decorating materials, a trip to IKEA and the cost of a cleaner.

The index also took other costs into consideration, looking at car rental prices, energy bills, petrol costs, Netflix subscriptions and cinema tickets. 

When it comes to energy costs, electricity remains more expensive in Cyprus, the USA and Canada compared to the UK, while it’s significantly cheaper in Spain and Italy.

For supermarket staples like bread, butter, milk, apples, dog food, chocolate and laundry detergent, shopping in Spain is cheaper than in the other countries analysed. In fact, the same basket of essentials cost 53% more in the UK than in Spain. Most notably, dog food, gin and dark chocolate are more than double the price in the UK compared to Spain. 

Interestingly, you’ll pay a pittance for a pack of paracetamol in the UK, where a 16-pack can cost just 39 pence. You could pay as much as nine times that amount in Cyprus or  Canada (£3.39 for a similar product in Cyprus, and £3.49 in Canada).

New Zealand is the most expensive in terms of travel (such as train tickets and hiring a car) closely followed by Australia and then the UK. Travel costs are the lowest in Italy and Greece.

Treating yourself to a meal out costs the most in Germany. A three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant will set you back about £38. It’s cheapest to dine out in Spain, where you can get the equivalent for about £15.

Ruth Emery
Contributing editor

Ruth is an award-winning financial journalist with more than 15 years' experience of working on national newspapers, websites and specialist magazines.

She is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. 

A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. 

Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, while also serving as a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.