Most Affordable Islands to Live On (And One Worth the Splurge)

Best Islands to Live On

You told us you're concerned with the cost of island living, so we rounded up affordable options (plus one that's worth the splurge, just for fun.) More Best Islands to Live On

Dominican Republic Matt Bokor immediately fell in love with the Dominican Republic, the second-largest nation in the Caribbean, for its cozy corner bars, rustic inns and to-die-for cook shacks. For him, what’s even better are the outgoing locals. “Dominicans are gregarious, welcoming and friendly,” says Bokor, who moved to the island from Miami. “They’ll have you dancing the merengue in no time. Resistance is futile, so it’s best to just give in and go with the fl ow.” The affordability of the island was appealing too. “We have sticker shock every year returning to Florida for our family reunion,” he says. “A pound of green peppers at the supermarket in Miami is about $4, compared with $1.20 here. Per pound, tomatoes are about 30 cents, and carrots are 25 cents. At the fishermen’s market in Las Terrenas, we bought 7 pounds of seafood for $40.” Domestic help is also inexpensive. “It’s about $55 per week for daily service,” he says. “I was paying a housekeeper in Miami that much for one day. “We don’t have a car or especially need one,” he adds. “Taxis are cheap. We get most anywhere in town for around $5 or less.” There are a few downsides: traffic, power outages and crime. (Bokor points out that there is a heavy police presence.) In the end, though, the advantages win out. “There’s something here for everyone,” Bokor says. “We live in Santo Domingo, which, beyond its 500-plus years of history, has a lot of cultural activities. Every Sunday, there’s a free concert on the cobblestone streets of the Colonial Zone, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once a quarter, all the museums in Santo Domingo offer free admission.” Bokor’s favorite thing of all is that convenience stores deliver. “Need eggs and orange juice first thing in the morning?”he says. “Just call. Run out of beer midway through the big game? They’ll bring it right to your door.” Population: 10.4 million Language spoken: Spanish Currency: Dominican peso Average yea round temp: 80°F Average monthly cost of rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $500 Starting home price $155,000 Price of a gallon of milk: $4Shutterstock
Boracay, Philippines Boracay is tiny, but it has nine beaches, more than 30 nightlife spots and 27 dive sites. About an hour flight from Manila, it’s a place that attracts fun-loving expats like Paul Fournier, who moved there in 2012. “I pay $296 per month for a studio apartment with kitchen and cleaning service in the center of Boracay and both White Beach and Bulabog Beach are a 5-minute walk from my apartment,” he says. “I eat out daily because the food is so cheap. Beer in the beachfront bars averages out to $1.30, and the cheapest beachfront beer can be had for 84 cents.” One big drawback is medical expenses: “The healthcare quality on Boracay is horrible, so getting good medical help will mean getting off the island and taking a 1- hour flight to a major city.”Fotostock
Roatan, Honduras Off the east coast of Honduras is Roatan, a hodgepodge of small communities with a large expat population. Spanning about 34 miles long and five miles wide, it is the most developed of the Bay Islands. A major draw for water-lovers is the Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest barrier reef system in the world. Topside, there are still pristine plots of land, untouched and exactly the way nature intended them to be. In other words, finding your slice of the good life, is possible. Deb Crofutt, who moved to the island in 2013, can attest to that. “You can buy a piece of land or an already-built home for less than the prices in the U.S.,” she says. “We own a 2,100-square-foot home on 1/4 acre of land, and our property taxes are about $130 a year.” If you opt to rent, it’s possible to find a nice place for $600 a month, but keep in mind the electricity is expensive and blackouts are common. Groceries and dining out can be pricey, too. “We are able to buy Costco brand paper towels and garbage bags and dog food, but they are about double the price here,” she says. On the other hand, going to the doctor is inexpensive. “I recently saw a pulmonologist from the U.S. and got a month’s worth of inhalers for $5.” “Roatan is large enough to have most amenities, such as dentists, yoga studios and highend restaurants, but still small enough that you get to know your entire community and enjoy a slower pace of life,” says Rika Purdy, an expat from Vancouver. “Due to the low local minimum wage (about $15/day), it’s possible to have quality housekeeping, childcare, cooking or home security for an affordable price.” For Crofutt, the best part is that she feels like a different person than she was in the U.S.: “I feel like my move here was for the right reason. It didn’t take me long to figure out my purpose on this island; I have a much different, more fulfilling life now.”Shutterstock
Phuket, Thailand With jungle-topped mountains, high-end dining, championship golf courses and internationally famous beaches, Phuket is an ideal setting for many foreigners from around the globe. As the largest island in Thailand, it has just about everything you need. Top-tier medical care is easy to find and, better yet, extremely affordable. You’ll be close to an international airport, which means you won’t have to fly out of Bangkok (a major plus). There are plenty of international schools. And grocery stores are stocked with imported goods. Whether you rent a place or buy, it is still extremely affordable. Keep in mind, however, that foreign home buyers cannot own land in their name, but they may purchase condos or purchase a home and lease the land. Population: Estimated at 620,000 Languages spoken: Thai and English Currency: Baht Average year-round temp: 84°F average Cost of rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $230-$350 (inland), $560- $900 (near water) Starting home price: $168,571 Price of a gallon of milk: $6Ekapat Suwanmanee/Alamy
Worth the Splurge: Moorea, Tahiti Imagine living in Yosemite Valley, but without the crowds. That pretty much sums up Moorea, according to Michael Poole, who moved there in 1987. Add to that, he says, the fact that people generally get along very well, there’s an interesting mix of cultures, incredibly good food, plenty of holidays and reasons for a party. “Life here can be, and is, enjoyed,” he adds. “However, it is not easy to move here, it is not cheap and there is no rich expat culture. People want to live here because it reflects and fulfills many people’s vision of a tropical paradise.” “It is true that things like food and cars are very expensive,” says Laurel Samuela, an expat from California. “But we do not have properties taxes, healthcare is very inexpensive and we have a lagoon full of fish and a garden packed with mangos, avocados and passion fruit.”Shutterstock