You’re interested in living as an expat in the Balkans, eh?
Or for all you digital nomads out there, you might be interested in being a mini retired person in the Balkans for a period of time maybe? Well whichever you are, I don’t blame you! The Balkans has the sea, the mountains, great night life, exciting cities, the best food… I completely understand why you’re searching for the cost living in the Balkans.
So just how much money do you need to survive as an expat or retired person here?
In order to help you answer that, I have focused on 7 areas where your money will consistently go each month to examine how much money you need.
These numbers reflect the costs of living alone in the capitals and more prominent cities. If you are interested in coming as a couple or a family, you can do the necessary multiplications to figure out how much money you need for your specific situation. Also, keep in mind that smaller and less touristy towns will have a lower Balkan cost of living.
Which country should you live in?
I have prepared a general cost of living averages for the Balkans. You can continue on to read that. But if you are interested in a specific country, then you can choose whichever one(s) interests you from this list.
Expat cost of living in Serbia || Expat cost of living in Croatia || Expat cost of living in Macedonia || Expat cost of living in Bulgaria || Expat cost of living in Albania || Expat cost of living in Bosnia and Herzegovina || Expat cost of living in Romania || Expat cost of living in Kosovo || Expat cost of living in Montenegro
In general… the cost of living in the Balkans is:
Macedonia and Kosovo tend to be the cheapest in the Balkans in this regard. In their most prominent cities, you can find decent studios or one bedroom apartments for 150-200 euros. Most expensive are Croatia, Serbia and Romania in terms of their capitals and prominent cities. Nice studios and one bedrooms will be at least 200 euros. And by nice, I am talking centrally located, modern furniture and amenities, and a new or refurbished apartment (and sometimes new building too). In the case of Croatia, not only does it have a thriving capital city, but it also has prominent cities along the Dalmatian coast that can be pricier because of their tourism draw. Montenegro and Albania too have tourist draw towns along the Adriatic that grow from strength-to-strength every year, but they are still generally cheaper than their capital cities of Podgorica and Tirana.
Kosovo and Macedonia are once again the cheapest for utilities if you are one person. Paying for basic utilities like water, heating and electricity in the winter could be at most 30-40 euros, whereas in the other countries, it could be 30-50 euros. If you have central heating, it could be even more than 50 euros! By the way, you have to pay for central heating all year round, even in the summer in most cases. So even with the price of utilities being 50% lower or less in the summer, if you are stuck with central heating, your summer utilities bill will be pricier than others’.
Internet, phone and TV packages are usually somewhere between 10-20 euros in all the countries. But in Croatia and Romania, they can be even pricier than that.
Pretty much all the countries are good on transportation. They all tend to be less than a euro for a bus ticket. But in this area, Romania and Croatia will be more expensive. Romania’s capital Bucharest also has a metro, as does Sofia in Bulgaria.
Social life varies from person-to-person of course. In general, if you stick to pubs or smaller bars in most major cities, you could spend 10-15 euros the whole night. But in trendier clubs in major cities and towns, you will spend 15-25 euros or more by the end of the night depending on how much you drink. Restaurants are similar. If you stick to modest restaurants in most major cities, you could spend 10-15 euros for a meal and a few drinks. But in trendier and more touristy restaurants, you will spend 15-25 euros.
In all the Balkan countries, expats can not receive the public health care that the locals get. However, compared to western countries, it is cheap to see a private doctor without health insurance. A visit to a doctor could cost 10-25 euros. General physicians are the cheapest. Specialty doctors like neurologists, therapists or psychologists can cost 20-40 euros. In the USA, these kinds of doctors would be at least $100-$200 USD! So naturally for me, I am pleased with the private care prices. As someone with epilepsy disorder, seeing doctors here is way more affordable for me. But know that sometimes you will incur added fees during your visits if you need to take a test or exam of some sort.
Also significantly cheaper are pharmacies. Antibiotics can be 5-10 euros. Allergy medications are usually 5 euros or less. Other prescription medications for disorders and diseases are often between 10-30 euros in most cases.
This is the best part about the cost of living in the Balkans! Groceries for one to two people per week/week and a half are usually 20-30 euros.
You can get by on as low as 550-650 euros a month depending on where you live in the Balkans. I actually know locals who survive on less than half of that! How they do it? I have no idea. But to live more comfortably as a solo expat, ideally you want at least 700-800 euros a month depending on where you live.
I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or have anything you want to say about your experience living in the Balkans if you have lived there, please do so below! Also feel free to message me on Facebook or Instagram if you need help with anything.
Thanks so much to all my local and expat friends in the Balkan countries for helping me with this!