Why Living Abroad Isn’t Always Cheaper

Today’s post is by our regular Wednesday contributor, Catherine Alford.

Caribbean, the Caribbean Sea, more than 7,000 islands, islets, reefs, and cays - the West IndiesWhenever I say that I’ve lived in the Caribbean for the past two years, it instantly paints a picture of a life of leisure.

I always feel badly telling people that we only go to the beach every now and then, and we spend most of our time working/studying just like everyone else in other parts of the world.

Sure, we’ve had our fun, but the truth is that it’s quite expensive to live here and so I’ve really had to work hard to make sure that we stay financially on track while my husband is in school.

Tourist Prices

The U.S. dollar is very strong in Grenada. 1 USD = 2.71 XCD (Eastern Caribbean Dollars). That exchange rate works well when you’re in the market on a day where there are no cruise ships in port, but it doesn’t stop local restaurants and landlords from simply charging US prices.

So, when I go out to eat, an entrée might be 50 XCD, which is around $20 USD and so not much different than a restaurant at home. My rent is $800 or around 2,000 XCD so again, it’s about what I’d pay in the U.S.

The most expensive budget item has been groceries, most of which are imported. It’s not unusual for me to spend $500 US or around 1,200 XCD on food every month for two people.

Safety

I know that Grenada isn’t the only island where it costs a premium to live in a safe place, at least when it comes to expats living there. Grenada itself has very little crime, and I have had friends that live in very cheap areas and haven’t had any problems.

However, we’re not the type to take chances, so we’ve elected to live in a super safe location. We also avoid a lot of the places where crime happens, like local bars etc. Still, all of this costs a premium. Living in a very student-centered area that’s separate from lots of the petty-crime areas is definitely expensive.

Transportation

A gallon of gas is around $7 US here, and although we don’t go very far, it does add up. That’s on top of our car rent which is $500 a month. I know that locals do not pay that for their cars, but it’s all a part of the business that people have developed here knowing that students have quite a bit of (borrowed) money and a desire for transportation.

I don’t mean to be a downer about Grenada, since living here has been one of the most positive and life altering experiences of my entire life. I only have a few days left on the rock, and I have a ton of mixed feelings about leaving. I just wrote this to let people know that sometimes the idea of a foreign place isn’t always what it seems.

Ultimately, it’s really important to do your research and realize that although many Caribbean and South American countries are cheaper on paper, sometimes you do have to pay more if you are an ex-pat.

Have you ever lived in a foreign country or do you want to?

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About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a personal finance freelance writer who received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. She enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog, www.BudgetBlonde.com.

Comments

  1. $7 per gallon of gas is crazy! I would be very tempted to walk/wide a bike any time I could.

  2. I’ve lived in a foreign country a couple of times, and I think the more you can integrate yourself into the daily lives of locals, the cheaper your experience will be. Expat communities are great for not feeling so isolated, but it can definitely be more expensive in many of them.

  3. What costs me the more in proportion to Europe is the internet. Getting internet in the middle of the jungle is a luxury per se but over $60 for a slow, unreliable connection is pretty painful.

  4. Bryce @ Save and Conquer says:

    I have never lived abroad, but I would expect gas and food prices to be high in Grenada since most is imported. I would expect them to be much cheaper in places like El Salvador, where they can pipe oil in, and grow much of their own produce. I did meet some ex-pats living in Baja California when I was on a dirt-bike trip down there. As long as you like beans and fish tacos, life can be very inexpensive there.

  5. I have often thought about living abroad, but never will. It is too important for my wife and I to live near our children and future grandchildren.

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