5 Affordable Asian Cities that offer a high quality of life!

Guangzhou, China

Below, we’ll take a look at five of the best cities to live in Asia that are affordable but also offer a decent quality of life. They include a real range of different cities but hopefully at least one or two of these will appeal to you. By Western European or North American standards, these cities are all very affordable and might be worth considering for anyone looking for a new base in Asia, particularly anyone able to work remotely or not dependent on a fixed job and salary.

5 of the best cities to live in Asia that are affordable

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai Market
Chiang Mai Night Market via Christian Haugen, CC BY 2.0

Cheaper and with a much more relaxed lifestyle than hectic Bangkok, Chiang Mai is the ideal base for anyone looking for a combination of affordability and cultural intrigue whilst living in Thailand. The city is only home to around 130,000 people making it easily the smallest city on this list. However there is enough there to keep you busy and there are plenty of great destinations nearby in Northern Thailand to leave you with options for exploring during your time off.

It is cheap and not too difficult to find a flat to rent in Chiang Mai and even the most budget-minded of folks should be able to afford their own apartment. It is already a very popular hub for digital nomads and consistently ranks among the best places to live in Asia for expats.

It’s pretty easy to find English teaching work in the city too which should prove enough to maintain a reasonable standard of living although Thailand isn’t a country where you can save a huge amount teaching or in other fixed employment.

Read our top ten tips for living in Southeast Asia on a budget for a bit more inspiration ahead of moving to this part of the world.

Asia Living Cost Index – US$900/Month

Hanoi, Vietnam

Travel Regions Compared

The Vietnamese capital Hanoi is another Southeast Asian city that is growing in popularity with foreigners looking for somewhere new to live for the short to medium term. Again, English teaching roles are plentiful and accommodation comes cheap with rents starting at around $200-250 per month for a one bedroom apartment in the suburbs, making it one of the best places to live in Asia for those on a budget looking for big city living.

Although the capital, Hanoi is a bit calmer and in many ways more charming than Ho Chi Minh City (AKA Saigon) in the south and the cost of living is roughly the same. It also has a cooler climate, certainly during the winter months with highs of around 20°C and nights that can be chilly. You are well connected too with flights to all the other major Southeast Asian cities offering plenty of opportunities to travel and explore the region while it’s only a few hours by road to the coast and the magnificent Ha Long Bay, one of the most beautiful places in all of Southeast Asia.

However it is worth noting that Hanoi and indeed most cities in Vietnam are quite a contrast to the laid back lifestyle you may find in Laos, Cambodia or in some parts of Thailand. It’s a city of lots of people, motorbikes and intense traffic so don’t come expecting a peaceful life!

Asia Living Cost Index – US$900/Month

Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou, China

Easily one of the best Chinese cities to live in, certainly if you can’t afford the high costs of life in Shanghai, Guangzhou is a nice option for anyone hoping to immerse themselves in life in China whilst living in one of its most exciting and largest cities.

There are many perks to life in Guangzhou from tasty Cantonese cuisine to its lively business districts. Its expanding skyline and suburbs are indicative of a city on the move. The capital of South China is at the heart of the wider and increasingly interconnected Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area which is home to over 60 million people and according to some experts will become the world’s leading economic area in the 2030’s.

Things to bear in mind include the challenge that you may have communicating in English in a city that isn’t as international as nearby Hong Kong or Shanghai and where the local language is Cantonese not Mandarin.

Asia Living Cost Index – US$950/Month

Pune, India

If your goal is to keep living costs down to an absolute minimum, you’ll struggle to beat India, a country which is amongst the very cheapest in the whole world to live in, despite some significant economic growth over the past decade.

In truth, there are a large number of Indian cities which aren’t particularly liveable. However, Pune is something of an exception and was ranked as the second most liveable city in India last year. It benefits from being less densely populated than many of India’s other megacities with a larger area than Mumbai for example and many more green spaces, despite having only around half its population.

Other factors that make it one of the best places to live in India include the value for money you can find when it comes to accommodation with one bedroom apartments that can be rented for as little as $150 per month in the suburbs and around $250 in central districts, less than half the comparable rates in Mumbai which is only around 100 miles away and makes for a decent weekend destination for those looking for a bit more in the way of nightlife and Bollywood glitz.

Asia Living Cost Index – US$600/Month

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia Cost of Travel 2019 - Suggested Daily Budget & Sample Prices

Finally on this rundown of five Asian cities that are affordable to live in and offer a high quality of life, we head to Malaysia and the capital Kuala Lumpur.

With clean streets, an excellent transport network and widely spoken English, Kuala Lumpur is probably the easiest of the cities here to get settled in. It’s slightly more expensive than some of the others but with rental prices for small apartments or studios starting at around $300, it’s again another very affordable option and it’s largely free of the bureaucracy which can be a pain in China for example.

Kuala Lumpur is a modern city with pretty much everything you need to maintain a high quality of life with great options for shopping, dining and drinking. That said, Muslim majority Malaysia isn’t particularly seen as a party destination with alcohol prices higher than in neighbouring countries, although not as expensive as in some of the best cities to live in the Middle East.

There are plentiful budget air connections to Bali and the Thai islands though if you get the urge for something livelier or just a relaxing beach break for a few days or more.

Asia Living Cost Index – US$950/Month

Asia Living Cost Index Explained

We used data from Numbeo.com and livingcost.org to help research and calculate the figures in our articles on living abroad such as this one and our overall look at the cheapest cities to live in Asia. The index figures aim to be a useful means of comparison and cover the rent of accommodation and typical living expenses (groceries, leisure activities etc) for a single person. However, your exact spend will clearly depend hugely on your lifestyle.

The figures don’t include the cost of any travel or health insurance packages which will vary depending on your age and circumstances. Get a quote in less than a minute from SafetyWing for an idea of how much this may cost you if you require insurance.

This look at some of the best cities to live in Asia was last updated in June 2023.

5 Affordable Asian Cities that offer a high quality of life!

2 thoughts on “5 Affordable Asian Cities that offer a high quality of life!

  1. Hi
    Thanks for the info re costs of living in 5 Asian cities…….Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur interest me, and I wonder if you have any links or recommendations re rental agencies in these cities ?

    1. Hi Lesley,

      Sorry don’t have much info on specific agencies or knowledge of how it is currently in either city. In Vietnam, you can find people advertising for short to medium term rentals in the traveller districts of the major cities (in the bars, cafes or hostels) and it’s generally quite easy to find a room or small flat. For longer term rental, I’d suggest perhaps looking and posting in expat or english teacher forums for both cities. You should be able to find more info there.

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