Cheap, cosmopolitan city near Australia?
September 2, 2007 3:55 AM   Subscribe

In 6-8 weeks I will have accumulated some cash, about $5-6K. It's not much, but it is enough to survive 6 months without working while I write. 6 penniless months in Sydney, Australia. Where in the world should I go that will allow me to double that time? Triple?

I think I would prefer urban over rural. Isolation makes me a dull boy. Also on the wish list: cosmopolitan/vibrant creative community, English tolerant and perhaps with a nice expat community if I start to go crazy.

Closer to Australia the better, as I don't want to blow too much of my meager nest egg on the airfare.

Personal anecdotes with cost of living estimates are most welcome.
posted by hifimofo to Travel & Transportation around Australia (19 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bangkok, if you can stand the heat. Or a smaller city such Chiang Mai if you can deal with a non-international city. You'll have only a slight visa difficulty in staying six months, and it's very cheap, especially if you get an apartment in the suburbs and eat the wonderful, beautiful god-I'm-getting-hungry-thinking-about-it local food. Cost estimates vary so much depending on your personal habits and needs, but it's definitely doable for $500 a month.

I don't know about visa issues, but I'd also suggest either Hanoi (charming, fun, not really cosmopolitan) or Saigon (frenetic, fun, crazy). Slightly less English-only friendly. Much, much less developed (especially Hanoi) than Bangkok.

Good luck with your writing sabbatical, it's an awesome thing to do with your life. This makes me want to pack my bags, empty my bank account and head off.
posted by bluejayk at 4:25 AM on September 2, 2007


I'd say Kuala Lumpur, having been there recently, and been very impressed with the cheapness of food and rent. Much as I like BKK, KL is closer and more English-language accessible. About AU$1k return. For visa renewal, just get the train to Thailand and back.
posted by pompomtom at 4:34 AM on September 2, 2007


why not central australia or tasmania? why does it have to be outside australia?
everywhere in australia is cheaper, much much cheaper than sydney.

good luck.
posted by taff at 4:50 AM on September 2, 2007


Southeast Asia, but not Singapore or Brunei. Find local housing to rent (as opposed to hotel-ish lodgings catering to tourists, or B&B's).

Malaysia is a nice choice. The more urban areas such as Kuala Lumpur can be affordable, as long as you find cheap lodging in the city or the outskirts. East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) would probably be far, far cheaper. For maximum English-language accessibility, your only choices are Kuching (Sarawak) and Kota Kinabalu (Sabah).
posted by Xere at 5:01 AM on September 2, 2007


You could check the Lonely Planet for cost estimates and work out where you could go. Check Tiger and the other discount airlines for cheap fares.

Good luck - it sounds like a cool idea.
posted by sien at 5:06 AM on September 2, 2007


India. $100 a fortnight is the rule of thumb.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:35 AM on September 2, 2007


Thailand or Laos. For $25 a day I was getting my own hut on the beach (with private shower, my own front porch and electricity), three restaurant meals, enough beer to keep my happy and daily trips to the Buddhist herbal sauna. That includes the cost of commuting. Every time you re-enter Thailand your visa is renewed and it isn't a hassle, so a trip to KL or Laos or Cambodia (or the visa renewal boat trips) are more than enough.

You don't have to stay in BKK or even Chang Mai, you can go south and stay in Chumphon or Koh Tao or Koh Panyang or one of the two Koh Changs.

Seriously, if you have any doubt then just round up to $35 a day instead, but your biggest expense is flying there, and once there it's easy to live on $25 and manageable to live on $20.
posted by furtive at 5:39 AM on September 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh I missed the cosmopolitan portion of your request... you'll want to look at BKK, Chang Mai or KL like others mention.
posted by furtive at 5:40 AM on September 2, 2007


It's not close to Australia, but otherwhise Berlin Germany fits your description. It won't be as cheap as Southeast Asia probably, but my rent here in the middle of the city is 300/month for a two-room apt. and there is definitely a vibrant & creative expat community -- although most expatriated from Britain, America, and the rest of Europe, not Australia so much.
posted by creasy boy at 7:15 AM on September 2, 2007


A bit far from Australia, but a good friend of mine did pretty much exactly what you're proposing, and lived on 8,000 US dollars for 18 months in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2007


Why must you travel by air to your destination? You might be able to schedule a economic "cruise" via freighter or container ship to your destination (Plus think of the writing that you can do without the distractions of an exotic urban local enticing you to put your pen down.)

If you get near the end of your sabbatical and have not produced as much material as you originally planned, then I would recommend returning home via cargo ship....

Here is a good place to start once you decided upon a destination.

If you do decide to travel via freighter, make sure that there are not many pirate attacks on your planned route.
posted by cinemafiend at 9:47 AM on September 2, 2007


Bali's pretty amazing too. Not at all expensive if you're living like a local & not a rich tourist. Pretty much anywhere in SE Asia except Singapore is dirt cheap, really.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:18 PM on September 2, 2007


I've thought about this, and the only thing I can think of that comes close to meeting your criteria is Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Close to Australia? Check.

Urban? Well, it's about as urban as you can get in PNG, I guess.

Cheap? Reasonably cheap to get to compared to more distant destinations from Australia. And given the income level of the locals, I imagine you could live there fairly cheaply. Some friends of mine worked there as aid workers for a few years, and there was pretty much nothing to spend their money on except food from the market.

Vibrant? The local culture is certainly vibrant.

Australian ex-pat community? Well since PNG was part of Australia at one point, I think there is quite a strong ex-pat community, although they're probably mostly older people.

English speaking? Well, like India there are hundreds of local languages, but English, or the pidgin-dialect of it, is pretty universal as I understand it.

Be adventurous. Head to the wilds of Papua New Guinea. I promise it will be more stimulating than just another mega-city like Berlin or Bangkok.
posted by Jimbob at 3:04 PM on September 2, 2007


Thanks for all the answers so far.

India and Bali are in the lead. India for being cheap, Bali for being close. I think I will also do some research on Berlin. Does anyone else has any comments about the cost of living there?

cinemafiend: Thanks for the cargo ship link. I will check it out.
posted by hifimofo at 8:12 PM on September 2, 2007


bali is pretty cheap and easy living. Lovina up the north side is pretty tranquil too. I think you get 2 months on your visa before you have to leave briefly so closest place to leave to would be malaysia or singapore.
posted by singingfish at 9:26 PM on September 2, 2007


Pretty much anyplace in SE Asia. Thailand is cheap--seedy backpacker hotels are about 5-10 US dollars a day, and nicer ones are on par with American hotel prices. I have a friend who spends every Jan-March in Bangkok and I believe he spends about $600 or so a month on a spacious apartment.

If you're willing to rough it in the cheap hotels, it can be astoundingly cheap. In Cambodia, one hotel was $1 a night. Granted it was pretty crappy, but I still marvel at that price. They had a good restaurant, too.

Not to discourage you or anything, but I didn't enjoy myself nearly as much in India, at least compared with Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. India is probably about the same price as Thailand as far as transportation and hotels, but the people can be much more aggro. FYI.
posted by zardoz at 11:59 PM on September 2, 2007


Bodhanath area of Kathmandu?
posted by chickaboo at 10:42 AM on September 3, 2007


A few years ago I too would have suggested Kathmandu - with the ultra-rich cultural heritage, vibrant expat community, beautiful views and dirt-cheap living, I couldn't imagine anyplace better. But I hear much of the expat community has been scared off by the political turmoil, so that might put a damper on it.
posted by lunasol at 5:31 PM on September 3, 2007


Actually, picking up from what zardoz said: prices for just about everything in India have gone up significantly in the past 5-10 years, whereby the country is now about as expensive as Thailand. At the same time, the quality of infrastructure & services, availability of decent produce & products & all the things like that which might want if you are going to actually live in a place for a while, rather than scoot through as a tourist, are way way way below what you would find in most SE Asian countries.

I remember that the transition from Delhi to Bangkok last January made me feel like I was in utter paradise - I was swooning around in bliss for days. Clean air, clean streets, garbage *in* the bins (I can't stress that enough!), large serves of good fresh food, clean hotels, no/very few beggars, touts or other parasites, potted plants, gardens & greenery everywhere, coffee in which the same grounds haven't been used continuously for a week, the list goes on & on. Basically, public infrastructure, buildings, spaces etc are roughly first world, whereas India's really languishing back with Africa, I think, for that sort of thing.

India's still fascinating & colourful, but can be very irritating. People either love it or hate it, and even if you love it, you hate it in equal measure. Part of the contradictoriness that infects you with your first bout of dysentery, perhaps....?
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:29 PM on September 3, 2007


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