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Where to Live Well for Less

Have you ever thought about chucking it all and moving to a place where the greenback goes farther? Though many of us do, the spots we used to consider cheap—the Bahamas in the 1970s, Paris in the '60s—aren't so inexpensive now. Don't worry. There are still plenty of places where the slightly well-heeled can live comfortably without giving up an arm and a leg. International consulting firm Mercer conducts an annual global tally of which countries cost the most for expatriate workers, providing a pretty good cost yardstick. Mercer measures the prices for what an average American might require overseas to lead a relatively decent life—no gold-plated Rolls-Royces or rooftop helipads, just decent food, an apartment, a cup of coffee, and so forth.

While expatriate assignments generally cost companies a lot, living well in some places is far less expensive than in major U.S. cities. These include certain locations in Africa, South America, South Asia, and some former Soviet republics. In its 2011 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, Mercer collected price data from 214 cities on more than 200 items, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment, but not the cost of such items as health care and education. Be warned that not all winning locations are family-friendly. The Libyan capital of Tripoli is one of the least-expensive places to live, with a quality of life that entails significant risk from military rockets. Many of the cheapest cities are in developing countries, but not all of those are low-cost: The world's most-expensive city for expatriates is Luanda, Angola, followed by Tokyo and N'Djamena, Chad, according to Mercer's 2011 ranking. On the other hand, inexpensive living doesn't always require a foreign posting: North Carolina's Winston-Salem ranks No. 18 among cheap cities.

Click here to see the world's 25 cheapest cities that can meet standards for expatriate needs.
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