Cost of living – European Cities Ranking

European Cities Ranked by Cost of Living

backpacking route France

View from Sacré-Cœur in ParisCC BY-ND 2.0

In this post we will look at the cost of living in Europe by comparing a typical monthly expenditure for one person in all 28 capital cities of the European Union. This European cities ranking was compiled with a little help from Numbeo’s cost of living section, which provides more detailed info for each city and is based on figures submitted by people actually living in them. It takes into account everything from the cost of groceries and a monthly transport pass to evening entertainment, leisure activities and of course the cost of renting a flat or room. You can find out more info below the table on how we reached the monthly amount.

As with all posts of this nature, the positions can clearly be debated but it should at least provide anyone considering moving to Europe or moving to a new part of the continent, a rough idea of how much they may expect to spend each month. The figures were calculated in January 2018 and help demonstrate how even within the European Union, there are still huge differences in costs between countries.

EU Capital Cities – Cost of Living Comparison



UK London Very Expensive 1926
Luxembourg Luxembourg Very Expensive 1811
Ireland Dublin Very Expensive 1753
Denmark Copenhagen Expensive 1719
Netherlands Amsterdam Very Expensive 1702
France Paris Expensive 1660
Sweden Stockholm Expensive 1576
Finland Helsinki Expensive 1486
Italy Rome Average 1387
Austria Vienna Average 1341
Belgium Brussels Average 1387
Germany Berlin Average 1258
Malta Valletta Average 1244
Spain Madrid Average 1168
Portugal Lisbon Cheap 1004
Slovenia Ljubljana Cheap 992
Cyprus Nicosia Cheap 974
Greece Athens Very Cheap 925
Czech Rep Prague Cheap 919
Estonia Tallinn Cheap 911
Slovakia Bratislava Cheap 888
Croatia Zagreb Very Cheap 862
Lithuania Vilnius Very Cheap 847
Poland Warsaw Cheap 829
Latvia Riga Very Cheap 821
Hungary Budapest Very Cheap 809
Romania Bucharest Very Cheap 681
Bulgaria Sofia Very Cheap 655

How were the figures calculated?

The estimates above are based on renting a small flat or sharing an apartment with others in cities where accommodation is expensive, potentially in cheaper parts of town. It’s by no means a luxury budget but should be more than sufficient for most people in their 20’s or 30’s who are budget-minded but still want to have an active social life and truly get to know their new city.

The cost of renting accommodation is a huge variable that goes a long way to determining how cheap or expensive these cities are. If we take a one bedroom apartment as a simple case study, these can be found for less than 300 Euros/month in cities marked ‘Very Cheap’ but are likely to cost in excess of 1000 Euros/month in cities marked very expensive.

European Cities Ranked by Cost of Living

Lisbon, the cheapest capital city in Western Europe.

Things to Note

  • The cost of living in capital cities is in the majority of cases higher than that in other parts of the country. The UK is a good example of this with living in costs in London around 50% higher than they would be in other big cities such as Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds. If you really want to live in a specific country but are put off by the high cost of life in the capitals, consider broadening your search to other towns and regions.
  • This table only includes European Union countries, so cities like Oslo, which topped our World Budget/Student Living Table, a few years back doesn’t feature as Norway is outside the EU. Switzerland is another Non-EU country that is notoriously expensive but most European countries that aren’t part of the Union are quite cheap to live in and their capitals would mostly fall very much towards the bottom of this list. The Albanian capital Tirana for example, is cheaper than even Sofia, the bottom entry on this EU Cost of living index.
  • Fairly obviously, average salaries tend to be higher in the more expensive countries. Therefore even though Budapest is near the bottom of the list and London at the top, working an equivalent job, you may still find living in London more affordable than the Hungarian capital. However if you’re studying or are a freelancer, planning on moving to any of the top ten cities might not be the smartest move and you could most likely afford a much higher quality of life in the cities towards the bottom of the list.
  • For all countries, but particularly those that don’t utilise the Euro, such as UK, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and Poland, it’s worth keeping an eye on the exchange rates. What may look like small shifts one way or another can lead to your life in your new home being considerably cheaper or more expensive than you’d initially planned. This is certainly true if you’re aren’t going to be working and will be reliant on your home bank account for money or for anyone working from home and earning a foreign currency.
  • Your biggest single expenditure each month will always be paying the rent of the accommodation you go for. In the more expensive cities, renting a room in a shared flat will probably be your only option on these kind of budgets but the cost of a room in Dublin for example can easily be the equivalent of the cost of a three bedroom apartment in cities marked ‘Very Cheap’.
  • Your first month anywhere new will be expensive so be prepared for this. There’s little way of avoiding it as you’ll most likely be in short-term accommodation which will be more expensive, might not have access to a kitchen which will mean lots of meals out and you’ll also be unfamiliar with your new town so could be in for a few nasty surprises as you work out what’s cheap and what’s not. In almost all these countries you will be expected to pay some form of a deposit (typically between 1-2 months rent) as well as your first month’s rent in full when you move into a room or flat so be sure to arrive with sufficient funds.
  • If you’re planning to live in Europe for a while as a base for travelling around the continent then consider going for a city with good budget air connections. Budapest and Barcelona are among the best options.


This article was published in February 2018. Comments welcome!

5 Countries that are cheap to live in and offer a high quality of life!

5 Countries that are cheap to live in and offer a high quality of life!

While everyone’s definition of ‘cheap’ and ‘high quality of life’ may differ, these countries offer an affordable cost of living certainly in comparison to most developed countries whilst still having a huge amount to offer. A budget of US$1000/month (€850, £750) should suffice in all of them if you are savvy while for a little more you can live very comfortably indeed.


Countries that are cheap to live in and offer a high quality of life

image via Carlos Y, under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

While there are cheaper countries in South America, most have major drawbacks in terms of living standards. Chile gets the balance about right. It offers better value than Brazil or Uruguay and probably Argentina whilst it’s generally regarded as one of the safest countries in Latin America.

Even the capital Santiago is free from many of the hassles that other big cities in the region throw-up and it’s location on the edge of the Andes yet still only 100km from the coast is a real draw. In theory you could ski and surf on the same day! The same is true of much of the country given its ridiculously skinny shape and in terms of natural beauty, it’s pretty hard to beat.

Getting around the country can be a challenge given the size of it but transport links are improving and flights are better value than they are in much of South America. Throw into the mix fantastic wines and cultured cities such as Valparaíso and the case for living in Chile is a compelling one.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Valparaiso – $300/month

More on the cost of travel and typical expenses in Chile


cost of living in Portugal

Portugal offers Western European living at a fraction of the cost of other countries in the ‘expensive part’ of Europe. It was affected badly by the economic crisis and that has contributed to prices staying low and it’s now cheaper to live in Portugal than some of the more developed Eastern European countries.

For a capital city, Lisbon offers fantastic value, while heading South to the Algarve will allow you to take advantage of a great sunny climate that few parts of Europe can rival. The standard of English is also very high, certainly in comparison to neighbouring Spain or Italy so it’s pretty easy to adapt to life in Portugal.

Everything from eating and drinking out, to renting a flat remains remarkably good value while there are regular train and bus links that connect the whole country, which is of a similar shape to Chile but on a much smaller scale.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Lisbon – $550/month (Rooms in shared flats can easily be found for under $300)

Read more on typical prices and costs in Portugal


thailand living

In terms of countries that are cheap to live in but also offer a high quality of life, Thailand is tough to beat. It remains an immensely popular place with foreigners and while tourists and backpackers continue to arrive in their droves, it’s also increasingly becoming a popular place to live.

Almost certainly the cheapest of the five countries on this list, you’ll have more money leftover to spend on trips to other parts of Southeast Asia, whilst eating out practically every night is a realistic option, certainly if you’re a fan of the local cuisine.

There’s also a great choice of possible bases. Sun worshippers may want to head to the islands in the South, while city-lovers will struggle to beat the buzz of 24-7 Bangkok. Perhaps the most popular place to live these days with digital nomads and expats is Chiang Mai, which is ridiculously cheap even by Thai standards and offers a more tranquil pace of life than the capital which has its downsides.

Overall Thailand offers a nice blend of Asian exoticism but with all the comforts of home thrown in, and in terms of healthcare and general infrastructure it’s far superior to neighbouring countries like Laos and Cambodia.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Chiang Mai – $250/month

More info on the cost of things in Thailand here!


Living in Greece

image via Nick Fewings, under CC BY 2.0

Greece is another European country hit very hard by the economic crisis and unlike most of the others, its recovery has been a painfully slow process. If you are a freelancer or working from home though it offers an affordable and very pleasant lifestyle.

With an array of different islands and everything from quiet fishing villages to lively cities, there’s plenty of choice when deciding where to live. The Mediterranean climate and diet certainly offers the opportunity to lead a healthy, relaxed life.

Much-like Portugal, it offers life in a developed European country with a rich culture and history, on a budget much lower than you’d need in the UK, France or Germany for example while it also compares favourably to Spain and Italy with rental prices particularly good value.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Athens – $350/month

Read about the cost of travel in Greece


Best countries to live in on a budget

image via Ludovic Lubeigt, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Although Chinese-Taiwanese ties remain a constant talking point, political tensions don’t really have any impact on daily life and moving to Taiwan offers the best of both worlds for anyone looking to get a taste of Oriental culture without some of the frustrations that life in mainland China can bring.

Taiwan is a vibrant island of many different influences and is certainly the most challenging of the countries in this article to adapt to but if it’s an adventure and new experiences you’re after, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The language barrier is certainly an issue but it’s also reassuring to know there’s always teaching English if you’re looking to make a bit of cash. Other benefits, particularly for digital nomad types, is that it has extraordinarily good internet with virtually the whole country seeming to offer a wifi connection. Meanwhile it’s also a very safe place with almost no crime.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Taipei – $400/month

There are more ideas for cheap countries to move to here. Meanwhile a few years ago we made this long list of the budget living costs in 125 cities around the world, which you may also want co check out!
Which other countries do you think belong on this list? Use the comments below to let us know 🙂

This article was published in September 2017.