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July 27, 2010 2:24 PM   Subscribe

If I had say, three months salary ($6500), and time on my side what are some countries I (an American, 30) could go live inexpensively for six months or longer and go native?
posted by parmanparman to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hmm, I'm not sure you should 'go native.'

But, this recent article from the NY Times about living on the cheap overseas might be of interest.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:31 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's your living standard? Do you need electricity? All day? Internet access at home? What kind of food can you deal with eating? Do there need to be other Americans around? Other Westerners? Do you speak any languages? Will you learn any languages? Do you want to live in a city?
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:37 PM on July 27, 2010


Sorry, posted too soon. I am partial towards certain areas myself, but don't want to give misguided advice, hence the barrage of questions.
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:38 PM on July 27, 2010


I'd think about Mexico. It is still very, very inexpensive.
posted by bearwife at 2:50 PM on July 27, 2010


Do you see yourself just relaxing and taking in the culture for 6 months or do you think you might fancy working, would some form of volunteering be fulfilling?
posted by biffa at 2:52 PM on July 27, 2010


Necessities: shower/bath twice a week; learning opportunities that don't require American-level spending!; not incredibly humid all year round; chance to live in a metro area inexpensively is possible - though this is not a requirement. Internet is not a requirement for daily existence.
posted by parmanparman at 2:56 PM on July 27, 2010


I'd think about Mexico. It is still very, very inexpensive.

Compared to some US states, sure. Now let's go cheaper. Moldova is a country where parmaparman's money would easily support a family.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 3:19 PM on July 27, 2010


Also, Try Ukraine.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 3:27 PM on July 27, 2010


There is no such thing as "going native".

When you get to whatever country you decide to travel to, you will still be the same All-American dude. And, if you want to go to a cheap country, chances are you will probably be the wrong race (or religion, or ethnicity at least) as well. Or if it just so happens that you choose a place to travel to where you fit in regarding all that stuff, you will probably still face a disconnect at the prospect of feeling like you belong but not being seen that way by others.

That said, there's no reason you shouldn't travel if that's what you want to do.

Pick a place you've always wanted to go, and go there. For that kind of money you could spend 5-6 months (depending on airfare) in most of Latin America, the cheaper parts of Asia, or maybe Africa if you are a very savvy traveler who can find a middle path between "Are You Nuts?!" and "Lap Of Luxury". You could also probably go somewhere in Europe if you were very careful and willing to live a little bit rough (WWOOFing, hitching, eating ramen noodles, only doing the free tourist stuff, etc). Depending on your age you might be able to do a work exchange in Australia.

The best way to stretch your money - pick a region where airfares are more reasonable from your current city. Latin America is a good bet if you're in the continental US. I flew to Peru from New York at the beginning of their tourist season for about $400. And that is by far NOT the cheapest airfare to Latin America.

But, again: don't go somewhere just because it's cheap. Go because it fascinates you and you really WANT to go there.
posted by Sara C. at 3:33 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


List of visa requirements for US passport holders. You get an easily-extendable 180 days in Mexico, but Georgia gives you 360 days just for showing up at the airport! Georgia is also gorgeous, cheap, and in a fascinating corner of the world.
posted by mdonley at 3:43 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Pacific coast of Costa Rica is extremely nice -- beaches with clear blue water, and you can rent a room for under USD$10/day if you don't mind taking cold baths in a communal bathroom. A lot of US expats beach bum there. CR also has some nice parks and towns worth seeing and staying at. I flew into Liberia and drove the area; there are also buses.

At the other end of the scale Panama City, Panama is a pretty amazing urban space; not sure what the low end room rate is but it's probably pretty low, and it's a very cosmopolitan city with a rainforest central park, plenty of sightseeing opportunities nearby, and many restaurants, nightclubs, and other entertainment venues in a very small space. You can get anywhere by taxi just by standing on a corner and waiting for one; even in the deepest residential areas you won't wait long, and it's actually a nuisance if you're trying to walk somewhere fending off the taxis. Being an international banking center it also has some very high-end resorts, restaurants, etc. by first-world standards. (It has a truly impressive number of fine Italian restaurants; a lot of wealthy Italian gentlemen apparently prefer to do their banking there :-) I find most third world urban spaces off-putting but PC is fascinating. Bonus points for not needing to convert your currency.
posted by localroger at 3:48 PM on July 27, 2010


Armenia. Georgia is super expensive.
posted by k8t at 3:53 PM on July 27, 2010


If you want to meaningfully "go native" in a short amount of time then the only meaningful way to do so is to go somewhere that is cosmopolitan enough that you wouldn't stand out from the crowd just because of nationality/ethnicity. Most such places are, of course, expensive, but somewhere like Kuala Lumpur might just about work.
posted by Jabberwocky at 4:09 PM on July 27, 2010


Upstate New York? (It is in the country of "America"; and close to "Canada"). The Fall foliage might burn your eyes from any palates for a while. Not a lot of terrorism or crime fwiw.
Seriously, as a historical sabbatical not a lot has changed for 100+ years in that part of the world, and the opportunity to explore early colonialism and the War of 1812 era might be interesting.
posted by buzzman at 4:29 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: Malaysia, wouldn't pass your not humid all the time requirement, but you can find really cheap hotel rooms in KL ($10) which always feature a fan of some kind. Of course if you want AC you can pay more. But Upstate New York? Can one really live inexpensively there?
posted by Rash at 4:36 PM on July 27, 2010


I stayed in amazing room in a Ho Chi Minh bed and breakfast for US$10 a night - it had a fridge, aircon, private bathroom and cable tv and included breakfast. If I was in your shoes I would be back there in a flash. Yes, it's humid but how bad depends on the time of the year and really, do you get used to it.
posted by Wantok at 5:01 PM on July 27, 2010


shower/bath twice a week

What constitutes an acceptable shower/bath experience for you? Hot water? Physically being able to stand under a jet of warm water for as long as you want? Full immersion in a tub?

In a lot of the world, especially if you want to live like the locals, a bath = a bucket of cold water. And I can tell you that, unless you're a green beret or something, odds are you can't actually deal with that for months on end. I spent 2 months in India, and while I was OK with the bucket bath method, I really needed the contents of said bucket to be warm more often than cold. Other friends who did similar trips think I'm a travel rockstar for being able to deal with the bucket bath concept at all.

learning opportunities that don't require American-level spending!

Again, what does this mean to you? Formal classes (i.e. language study)? Educational or culturally edifying cultural attractions?

It is possible that you could do some of this sort of thing depending on where you go. You will probably have to do some adjusting, though, either adjusting your budget up or adjusting your expectations down.

Most major tourist sites, even in developing countries, are priced with international visitors in mind. Meaning that admission and other costs within the site are about on par with what a similar experience in the US would cost. Or worse. A bottle of water at Macchu Picchu costs $3 US. If you want to do that sort of thing, you are going to have to budget accordingly.

Classes are fairly affordable, in my experience. Definitely cheaper than taking a course at a university in the US. Though as with a lot of things you will have to set the bar relatively low as to standards and facilities and such.

not incredibly humid all year round

Keep in mind that, in the vast majority of instances, prices are higher the nicer the weather is. If you can travel in the low season, which is generally a time of year with undesirable weather, you can save a lot of money. However, for most of the developing world, the undesirable weather is hot and/or wet.

chance to live in a metro area inexpensively is possible
Probably not going to happen, unless you have either a loose idea of "metro area" or a loose idea of "inexpensive". Keep in mind that you will probably have much higher standards in terms of living conditions than the average person in your chosen country.

Internet is not a requirement for daily existence.

Is internet a requirement, ever? Every couple days? Once a week? Do you want to be staying in a part of the country where you can traipse over to the internet cafe to check email? Do you want to ever have a prayer of doing anything more complicated, like uploading a photo or connecting wirelessly with a laptop?

More questions:

Do you require meat in your diet on a daily basis to be satisfied? Do you require air conditioning, even at reasonable temperatures? What about indoor plumbing and electricity? Are you OK with doing without toilet paper? Eating with your hands? Do you plan to bring along any gadgets that might be attractive to thieves*?

Keep in mind that it is relatively easy to sit in your air conditioned bug-free house with indoor plumbing and say "oh no, really, I don't mind roughing it" to a bunch of people on the internet.

It is much harder when you arrive at your "hotel" to find that the electricity only works a few hours a day, the door doesn't lock securely, the toilet is a hole in the floor, the shower, sink, and toilet flusher are all the same piece of kit (a spigot and a bucket), you have to provide your own toilet paper (and the only kind available is sandpaper and each roll costs more than a silk scarf), breakfast is a piece of bread or maybe boiled potatoes if you're lucky, none of the computers in the local internet cafe have functioning keyboards, and you haven't taken a solid shit in a week.

*And here I'm talking about as little as an mp3 player or a basic digital point-and-shoot camera.
posted by Sara C. at 5:29 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


A nice, politically calm, diverse country that speaks English is Belize. The $1US = $2BZ currency. You can have beach, jungle or desert. Be prepared to not be in any rush, things move very slowly there. This is another resource for places around the world to use as a jumping off point. I also concur with" localroger" on Costa Rica, sweet.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 5:36 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Costa Rica is nice, and quite inexpensive. My sister and her boyfriend have been there for about a year now, living on savings and odd Intarweb jobs.
posted by wierdo at 8:05 PM on July 27, 2010


seconding Belize! Wonderful country and Bilikin Beer is the best beer in the world. They love americans too.
posted by freddymetz at 9:07 PM on July 27, 2010


Sara C. in re:

What constitutes an acceptable shower/bath experience for you? Hot water? Physically being able to stand under a jet of warm water for as long as you want? Full immersion in a tub?

I have lived in humid places with just cold water. I've lived in places where I had to bathe in lakes and streams for months at a time. I don't think it matters how I bathe. I mean to say: reasonable expectation of cleanliness.

learning opportunities that don't require American-level spending!


Willing Workers on Organic Farms, mission-level homebuilding, something fun and worth it and not an overpriced college-student 'fellowship' magnet.

Keep in mind that, in the vast majority of instances, prices are higher the nicer the weather is. If you can travel in the low season, which is generally a time of year with undesirable weather, you can save a lot of money. However, for most of the developing world, the undesirable weather is hot and/or wet.

I would like to say I'll live anywhere. I would like a winter or something constituting seasons.

Internet is not a requirement for daily existence.

More questions:

Do you require meat in your diet on a daily basis to be satisfied? Do you require air conditioning, even at reasonable temperatures? What about indoor plumbing and electricity? Are you OK with doing without toilet paper? Eating with your hands? Do you plan to bring along any gadgets that might be attractive to thieves*?

I would prefer to cook my own meals and wash my own hands. I could reasonably live without electricity if no electricity meant intermittent outages. I don't take pictures when I travel and I tend to write for myself.
posted by parmanparman at 9:49 PM on July 27, 2010


Tanzania would be great. I was living there for a while as in intern and can give you more personal advice through MeMail.

I would live in either Moshi (Right under Kilimanjaro) or Zanzibar (Stonetown can be touristy, but it has nice infrastructure). Moshi has really nice weather and awesome coffee. It's pretty close to other sights like Serengeti national park and the ngorongoro crater. zanzibar has incredible beaches, seafood, and water activities. The government seems to give more attention to making these places nice because foreigners see them.

You have to act like a native to get awesome deals. Like.. you could spend your entire budget during one night in the Kempinski Zanzibar or you could have an apartment for $20 a month in the same city.

Crime (other than petty theft) is remarkably low in both places, and especially during the day you will probably never feel in danger. People are really helpful, hate crime with a passion (if someone were to pick your pocket a whole gang of people would chase after the thief), and swahili is fun to learn (na ni rahisi pia).

If you can speak some swahili people will treat you like one of them (rather than the M word which leonardo dicaprio was called by the mombasa man in Inception.)

If you want to go native native I can connect you with masaai or chagga tribes near kilimanjaro.

memail if you want to know more!
posted by bradly at 12:05 AM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wikitravel India.
with your budget you can afford to have a great time in most of SE Asia and the Indian sub continent.
posted by adamvasco at 12:33 AM on July 28, 2010


hey parman -

I came to say basically what bradly said, but I would also consider the south coast of Kenya (Diani area) or maybe up in Malindi / Watamu or as far as Lamu. Any of those places would be gorgeous, but along with Zanzibar, all of them have the coastal humidity you wouldn't like so much. Moshi, on the other hand, is hardly ever humid. Same goes for Nairobi.

Also, that Mombasa scene in Inception was filmed in Morocco - I knew it the second they flashed the city-scape at the start of the scene. To their credit, they did have Tuskers in the bar, and the screaming guy in the restaurant was speaking Kiswahili (sitaki! sitaki!), but that was not Mombasa.

Stop by for a visit if you come through Nairobi.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:00 AM on July 28, 2010


A kibbutz in Israel might fit the bill. Might be expensive to fly there, but living on a kibbutz is cheap. You will live with locals, a lot of them speak English, and you are a hop skip and jump from Petra (Jordan) the Sinai dessert, Turkey, Greece etc.
posted by Ezrie at 10:16 AM on July 28, 2010


Thailand is super cheap, but might be pushing it to make it 6 months unless you were willing either to stray further away from the more tourist/expat friendly cities or were willing to work while you were there (probably the easiest in a touristy location).

Thailand was full of expats living semi-long term, at least based on my limited experience. English is pretty widely spoken.

For a tourist outside of Bangkok, in one of the fairly major cities (Chiang Mai) I was paying $8 a night for a room with A.C., internet, and shower, cleaned daily. Tasty resaurant/street food could be had for $1-2 without to much searching. I imagine you could live very cheaply if you found a modest monthly apartment rental and cooked some of your own meals.

Down in the islands there seemed to be a lot of westerns working in various tourist industries as a way to live in a fun place for a year or two and cover some of your costs. Examples include rock climbing and scuba instructors/helpers, Bar tenders, tourist guides, etc.


Given the political situation I would recommend staying out of Bangkok as much as possible. You might be better off going to a different South east Asian country instead. I haven't been, but I have heard similar things about very cheap costs of living in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It may be too underdevolped for you in some parts though, depending on what you want. If you go to a place where the average person makes only $3 a day, it is obviously possible to live their very cheaply, but it might mean that there isn't a well developed rental market, that apartments won't be sealed against rain and bugs, power will be intermittent if available at all, the food you can buy will not be at all what you are familiar with.
posted by vegetableagony at 10:25 PM on August 3, 2010


in chiapas, mexico, you can rent a room in a family's/ shared house for around $50 a month. i´m sure you could find the same in many places where you were able to communicate well with locals.
posted by glassy sesames at 5:25 AM on July 18, 2011


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