As a digital nomad, location independence allows one to optimize their cost of living by moving to a new location. But not all cities are ideal for those who are looking to live cheaply while building a new online business. However, Eastern Europe provides many locations where one’s income can go a long way. This list is based on the places where a person can get the most for their money when it comes to affording a good quality of life. Factors taken into consideration include the cost of rent, food and a night out, as well as how comfortable a city it is to live in and its overall vibe.
1. Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade without a doubt deserves to top this list. Belgrade offers an incredible amount for an equally incredibly price. Serbians overall are very open and friendly people who are highly educated and speak great English. Belgrade has a very active nightlife, so there is always something available when you want it. This is really convenient for those among us who do not work on traditional schedules, or have to work across time zones. Belgrade is also the southern most city on this list, and thus on average has a much less harsh winter than the other destinations. However, be aware that the summers in Belgrade can also be quite warm.
Serbia is not in the Schengen zone, so spending time in Serbia does not count towards the time which you can collectively spend in the majority of European nations. When your 3 month tourist visa for Serbia expires, you can easily and cheaply then travel to either Skopje, Macedonia, Sarejavo, Bosnia or any other Balkan nation. Every Balkan nation has its own borders, thus you can stay in each individual country for three months within any six month period on a tourist visa.
2. Kiev or Lviv, Ukraine
Other than Serbia, no other country that I have visited but Ukraine offers one as much value in comparison to its low cost of living. A frugal traveler could get by on as little as $500/month. The capital Kiev will has a big city feel, while the Western city Lviv is much more quaint. One should note that the average rent and restaurant prices are about 50% higher in Kiev than Lviv, and consumer prices are also a bit higher. But regardless, the both cities overall are highly affordable compared to almost all others in Europe. However, if you cannot speak Ukrainian or Russian, then you will likely run into a language barrier.
Ukraine is not part of the Schengen area, and thus you can stay for 3 months on a tourist visa without it subtracting from the time that you can spend in central Europe.
3. Krakow, Poland
The thing that knocks Krakow down on this list is the fact that its rent costs have been taking off in recent years. Rent prices on average can be over twice those in Belgrade or Lviv. In the city center (where you would want to stay, rather than in some soviet style high rise outside of the city), the prices can be similar or greater to those of Western countries such as Germany. Since there is a year round constant tourism in Krakow, apartment owners can make much more money by renting their flats short-term periods at higher rates. When it comes to stretching your runway funds to build an online business, paying twice as much per month for rent has to be a deciding factor.
Although a bit touristy, Krakow is still an incredibly fun city to live in. The Polish people are very laid back, fun loving, and the younger generation speaks decent English.
4. Budapest, Hungary
Living in Budapest will cost you about the same as Krakow, if not a bit more. But while Krakow is walkable, Budapest is much larger and thus you will be reliant on public transportation to get around. Budapest is also a busier city where people are hustling, while Krakow has a much more relaxed feel. The level of English spoken in Budapest will be lower than in Poland but higher than in Ukraine.
5. Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg is great if you are an American citizen, since you can get a tourist visa that is valid for three years, provided one performs quick border hop every 6 months. Thus you can setup shop for longer than you would be able to in most other countries. Given the current exchange rate, the $200 you pay for a visa is a good investment if you plan to stay multiple months in Russia. Even as a European or Canadian who chooses to stay the maximum three months that their more limited tourist visa will allow, it can still be a decent investment. However, summertime rent rates and a stronger Rouble could bump the city off this list, so be advised.
The fact that almost all foreigners need to purchase a visa prior to arriving in Russia has kept Saint Petersburg less touristy than other cities on this list and has given it a more authentic feel. However, like in Ukraine, if you don’t speak Russian you will definitely hit a language barrier in certain situations.
Honerable Mention: Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is an incredibly beautiful city, very affordable, and for sure worth a visit. However, it has become extremely touristy in recent years, which has contributed to its raising of prices. For me, the constant stag parties in the city center diminishes from the city’s natural vibe and has caused locals to become wary of foreigners. Both the people and nightlife are a bit more reserved than you will find in either Belgrade, Krakow, Budapest or Saint Petersburg.by