What It’s Really Like to Be Part-Time Expat in Europe

By on July 22, 2019

Not all retirees thinking of moving abroad as a retired expat are ready to go full time. Exploratory trips are a great way to check out a likely final destination for your retirement. Carol Barron outlines how she did an extended European check-out trip and saved money at the same time.

Carol Barron isn’t quite ready to live full-time overseas, but she’s been scouting fabulous locations for when she will be. In the last few years, she’s enjoyed three-month trial stays in top cities—as she puts it: enjoying her retirement now, not waiting for tomorrow. Europe is at the top of Carol’s list, and at first, blush, staying in places like Nice or Florence or Barcelona for three months at a stretch might seem prohibitively expensive. But, as Carol discovered, it needn’t be.

Carol lives in Florida and wondered whether she could match her Florida budget visiting Europe’s Mediterranean Riviera. She worried that high-end destination costs could threaten her dream of living wherever she wanted, but with careful planning, she realized that it’s perfectly possible to live affordably in world-class European cities.

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“For my time abroad,” says Carol, “I aimed at staying within the following monthly $2,700 budget: rent, $1,700 (including all utilities); groceries, $600; restaurants, $400. “To help pick my live-abroad destination, I used a self-profiling checklist of ‘must haves’ to narrow options.”

• Live city-center near the ocean or a river, with easy access to pedestrian areas.

• Have fresh, healthy food readily available.

• Belong to an expat social community in the city (such as Internations.org).

• Stay near bus and train transportation.

• Make sure interesting day-trip destinations were within a couple of hours on local transportation.

Carol found that, after some strategizing, an affordable Europe started to emerge. Traveling in low season for three months at a time; renting an apartment rather than booking a hotel; shopping like a local, not a tourist; and using city discounts made her live-abroad pocketbook happy.

“Every time I went overseas,” Carol says, “I rented a furnished, one-bedroom apartment in the city center, WiFi and utilities included, for three months in low season. It cost about the same as a one-month hotel stay in high season.

“I used small, local online services to find rentals: Nice Pebbles in Nice, Friendly Rentals in Barcelona, and Poggio Imperiale in Florence. Renting a smaller unit, staying longer, or going a little outside the city center could lower rental costs even further. For example, Carol’s one-bedroom in central Florence cost $1,060 a month, whereas a studio just outside the city wall costs only $750.

Once in the country, Carol adopted a live-like-a-local lifestyle. It lowered expenses for fresh produce, quality cheap wine, household items, eateries, happy hour deals, and more. “I also tried out some local vocabulary, which invited easy conversation with neighbors and vendors, who proudly advised on the “best” and “cheapest” of everything. In Nice, that local knowledge steered me toward places where I could get a glass of good wine for $3 to $4, a small bag of potatoes for just $1.50, with a dozen oranges for $1. If I didn’t want to cook, the local supermarket could provide a rotisserie chicken for $5 or a simple but satisfying quiche slice for $1. All the places I stayed had their own version of ‘dollar stores’ for simple household items at low prices.”

Barcelona, Florence, and Nice exceeded expectations, leaving Carol with indelible memories, stunning moments, fun stories, and new friends.

Carol’s thoughtful and detailed list of requirements and her advanced strategizing made all the difference. She discovered what most expats eventually discover…that staying longer, living like a local, and focusing on non-tourist, ‘off-the-beaten-path’ locations to rent yields an affordable lifestyle practically anywhere.

More information on Carol’s European exploratory trip and the ways expats can live affordably part-time around the world can be found here: Nice, Florence, and Barcelona on Less Than $2,700 a Month


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What It’s Really Like to Be Part-Time Expat in Europe