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Photo above by Jaako

Hard times at home necessitate careful planning for successful live-abroad experiences. Here are a few destinations to weather the current economic downturn.

1. Medellin

Your mother might not know that it is safe to travel in Colombia these days (here are 10 reasons why it is, if you want to show her), but everyone else seems to have gotten the message.

There are good reasons backing the hype. The weather is almost always delightful in the City of Eternal Spring. The nightlife, especially in La Zona Rosa surrounding Parque de Lleras rivals any in Latin America. The nightclubs further afield are worth the cab fare, though check with locals to find out which spot is currently in vogue. The increase in backpackers has led to many more hostels. Casa Kiwi currently claims the title for best party digs.

Closer economic ties with the United States should theoretically increase demand for English teachers, and though wages are generally low, so are the rents. Medellin is home to several major universities, and with the large student population there are always rooms for let in budget apartments. Entrepreneurs will find a can-do business climate and a people overjoyed to have the dark days of the cartels and the FARC behind them.

2. New Orleans

Photo above by dsb nola

Dirty, violent, corrupt, and sinking further beneath sea level with each passing year, New Orleans will always be on the precipice of disaster.

And that’s just how the locals like it.

Turns out it will take more than a major hurricane or catastrophic floods to wipe New Orleans off the map. The Crescent City is back to business, and there now are signs of life even in the wards most devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Tourists have returned, but much of New Orleans’ mystique is not accessible to short-term visitors. It takes time to discover the best dive bars, jazz, blues, and voodoo joints, and those unassuming corner stores that surreptitiously serve the most delicious po-boys on the planet.

It will take more time still to meet the cognoscenti who can help you penetrate the high walls that enclose lush gardens and the best parties. A European accent or Latin American chic will come in handy for the latter endeavor.

New Orleans has always been a prime vacation spot in the States, but with the loss of other industry, tourism now makes up an overwhelming percentage of the local economy. The high number of hotels and restaurants per capita makes for plenty of expat opportunities throughout the hospitality sector. Much of this work can be gotten off the books.

3. Saigon

Photo above by ibarra_svd

With pundits proclaiming the end of capitalism, perhaps it’s time to consider one of the most dynamic cities in the Communist world. The steamy bustle in Saigon might suffer with the global downturn, though it is hard to imagine a metropolis with Saigon’s vigor will languish.

Traces of the French legacy add a pleasing texture to the city experience, from colonial French architecture to those addictive baguette sandwiches smothered with delicious local fare. Adrenaline junkies will be quick to find a motorbike and navigate the chaos of city traffic.

Expats looking for a permanent address in Saigon should be elated by the Vietnamese National Assembly’s recent passage of a new citizenship law. Foreign nationals who marry a local, learn to speak Vietnamese, or reside in the country for at least five years will be eligible for dual citizenship. In these tough times, a second passport may be a wise bet.

4. Vilnius

Photo above by Swamibu

How many cities can claim a public park devoted to Frank Zappa? Vilnius’ memorial to the eccentric rock legend suggests the capital’s appreciation for the quirky and offbeat.

Vilnius has been designated the 2009 European City of Culture and will host hundreds of concerts, art installations, and cultural programs throughout the coming year.

While Gothic, Baroque, and Byzantine churches dominate the city’s skyline, the club and music scene below street level is cutting edge. The best DJs in Europe pass through local Gravity Club, and Vilnius is home to a re-emerging local rock scene.

Cost of living varies greatly in Vilnius, with prices in the old town approaching those of other European capitals. Prices in outlying neighborhoods remain affordable, provided one can tolerate the Soviet bloc digs.

5. Cape Town

Photo above by neilalderney123

Energy is sure to be building as South Africa’s big cities scramble in their preparations for the next World Cup, the first on the African continent.

The colorful city nestled under Table Mountain boasts a burgeoning green community with excellent farmers’ markets and a number of eco-friendly initiatives. The Mediterranean climate and access to mountains and oceans provide a plethora of year-round outdoor activities.

English is the language of business in South Africa, opening a wide variety of professional opportunities for expats. Savvy residents still around in 2010 might be able to get a year’s worth of rent by subletting their flats during the weeks of the big matches.


Headed to one of these five cities? Check out the Matador community blog to learn about yoga in Saigon, the Pablo Escobar era in Medellin, the Chapman’s Peak trails near Cape Town, tracking down art supplies in Vilnius, or the legendary Dr. Love in New Orleans.

About The Author

William Moss Wilson

Born and raised in Nashville, TN, William Moss Wilson has traveled the globe working as a special education teacher, ESL instructor, economic historian, real estate analyst, and mango picker. He keeps account of his misadventures at On the Road with William Walker.

  • Tim Patterson

    Saigon. Yes. Saigon is where it's at right now. I LOVED living in Saigon. Delicious pho, great expat scene, cool yoga studio and cheap as a pair of shoelaces.

  • Audrey

    I second the vote for Saigon. There's a great energy about the place and it feels like there would be a lot of opportunities. We spent two months in Vilnius this year; although accommodation might be inexpensive outside of old town, we found the price of food and other basics to be pretty high. Maybe it's that the dollar was tanking at the time…

  • Marie

    Love Vilnius! Been there twice and can't get enough of the old town. It's so cheap to eat out at great restaurants and there are some amazing day trips – like the castle at Trakai. Nice story.

  • Gennaro

    I love Saigon too. New Orleans is an interesting pick. Though you have to be tough to go down there. It's still in need of a lot of rebuilding. I

  • CSW Ife

    New Orleans is no longer dirt due to SDT Sanitation who are doing great work in the French Quarter. There are many places for rent. Check out craigslist or I have been back a year and life and the weather is beautiful here. If you teach,or are in the medical, welding or ship building fields you can easily get a job. There are also a lot ot low paying service/hotel jobs.

  • CSW Ife

    I meant to say New Orleans is no longer dirty.

  • Indian

    well guys, clearly non of you have ever been to south africa, maybe its time you should take a trip. I can assure you, there is no lions, elephants and rhinos running arrounf in the street, they all in a zoo. CAPE TOWN realy a must see. Its the only europien city in africa and those who were there before, would agree with me.

  • Tim Patterson

    who mentioned animals? did you read the article?

  • John WOods

    Wow, that is truly amazing? Good stuff dude! RT ” target=”_blank”>

  • Robert

    Vilnius is a great place to live in. Fast growing city,it's a mixture between old and modern

  • Matt

    Well, two comments here I guess. First is that I'm amazed Bangkok doesn't make the list. A metropolitan city that gets the latest movies and shows, has ancient temples and historical sites and where the cost of living is low enough that a full meal and a drink can be had for 40 baht (the equivalent of about $1.15). The other thing is a quibble. There is no city in the world named Saigon any more. The Vietnamese city of Saigon was officially renamed as Ho Chi Minh City in 1976.

  • John

    Columbia? You've got to be kidding. I had a friend who's son went down there to teach and was abducted twice. After he escaped the second time he packed his bags and cam home.

  • ArtP

    This list should include Nashville, TN. People there get paid for writing songs on the back of napkins about their troubles. The get paid double if they start drinking, and triple if their spouse leaves them.

  • Ho Chi Minh

    In case you hadn't noticed, it's not Saigon, nor has it been for some time. It's Ho Chi Minh City. Respect for Vietnam please.

  • TalonKarrde

    And in which country is Vilnius?…

  • vic

    what about crime in S.A ? i have been in contact with many who live there and it seems to be a real issue. do not know about Cape Town, so any info on that?

  • Jeff

    Corpus Christi, Texas is on the short list. Mediocrity is nothing new here and we never "boomed" so, no real fluctuation in the economy. Cheap food, cheap labor, cheap fuel, but don't expect to get into any deep philosophical discussions with the locals.

  • acudoc

    Because of global-interconnectedness, if the economy keeps tanking, there is nowhere to go except to the heart of the dragon, the Federal Reserve System instituted in 1913 by an Act of Congress— unconstitutionally of course! Therefore, by Constitutional Amendment, forgo debt-based money entirely for money with inherently increasing purchasing power, money backed 100% by all physical assets encumbered by loans in existence as of January 1, 2009 (backdated) that have been created in fractional-reserve banking institutions of the Federal Reserve System, and U.S. federal, state, and local debt obligations. ALL such debt contracts, cash, checking account deposits are exchanged for the new American Freedom Note. Creditors forgo liens in exchange for FULL CASH OUT in American Freedom Notes of principal or nominal value of debt contracts. Debtors (individuals as well as institutions) ASSUME 100% OWNERSHIP of encumbered assets. Loans are made from that point on from a FIXED quantity of American Freedom Notes, with interest determined solely by market forces. Fractional-reserve lending is prohibited. Debt forgiveness, greed forgiveness, a clean slate with an honest system that lends capital ENTIRELY from a absolutely fixed amount of savings in new American Freedom Notes. No fractional reserve monkey business, no artificial setting of interest rates by nine white guys sitting around a table in Washington, D.C. Honest money for a change!

  • Mick Mankford

    "they all in a zoo." Look, Mom, I speak Ebonincs, as I'm too lazy to speak correctly!

  • Peter_D

    Here's another vote for Saigon. The place is incredibly vibrant. And crossing a street is an incredible adventure. :^)

  • Nobama

    I've been to Vilnius three times, great town, just COLD. USDA Climate zone 5… like Maine. Not for everyone. Now Saigon, that's more like it. Cheap to live, since I make my money from the Internet, I can live anywhere. They left out Italy. Also, Washington DC – Obama's throwing fistfuls of money at government is going to bloat bureaucracy and waste and most of it will land in Washington. Capetown? Too close to J-burg. No thanks. NOLA – You're joking, right? Who the hell needs to live in a ghetto? Violent rathole with 3rd world corruption. Night Live in Medellin? Maybe the author survived a week there, but my good friend is from Medellin, and it it is a horribly violent place. He has been shot and stabbed and people are kidnapped there daily.

    • Jrnbit


  • JOrge Clavijo

    Medellin is Beautiful!

  • Angela

    who is the girl in the first picture? I knew a girl in high school from Columbia – and she looks just like her! Cindy is that you?

  • The Master

    I'll take NOLA and Cape Town over anyplace you would recommend.

  • David

    Maybe his first language is not English you prick! Do you know another language? Doubt it. You're probably an "American Redneck" right? Thought so.

  • Brandon

    Why are any of these on the list? Why are these recession/depression proof? Don't get it…

  • Tim Patterson

    Because they are all vibrant, safe and inexpensive places to live.

  • Ron

    Looks like hardly any of you have been to Medellin. I live in Medellin. It is the best city in the world and I have been to over 40 cities. The most beautiful women, best climate, affordable, and spanish is easier to learn then vietmanese who wants to learn that language you can use spanish all over the world. No other city is perfect except Medellin. You can drink water out of the tap. I am 42 have a beautiful 19 year old girlfriend, my rent is 375 usa a month for a top level, view 2br 3bat apt. It is safe, much safer then most large usa cities. Most men who visit here want to move here,it is that intoxicating and the women are so beautiful.

  • Ron

    I have been to Saigon, ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh no comparison, just the beauty of the women alone, but remember how far asia is from the states, so negatives of saigon, far from states, vietmanese worthless language and hard to learn, cant drink the water, girls are much less attractive, communist country ummm culture shock bigtime, unpleasant weather very hot and muggy, list goes on and on medellin only negative is trafffic because everyone in colombia wants to live in Medellin, best public transit system in colombia with new metro and much better then anywhere in states, taxis so cheap… if you would like to know more about my favorite city in the world, oh if you dont believe me about the women check out links of photos and videos i have of them, heaven on earth!

  • Tina

    Cape Town all the way! The mountain, the beach, the people, the weather, the shopping, the cross between Europe and Africa, Cape Town has it all! Properties are very expensive though. BTW, the one who said 3rd world, obviously has never been to Cape Town! Cape Town is not crowded like other big cities, you can work and live without feeling cluster phobic. Here are pictures of Cape Town! ” target=”_blank”>…

  • Debi

    "uneducated like your dumbass!"? ,"bring that talk to america you little pussy, see what happens"?, "gonna"? I think it is you, "Jacob", that is in need of a degree. p.s. I'd rather listen to "that talk" in this country than whatever you call yours.

  • Gabo

    What was the name of your friend? Tarzan.

  • Macike

    I agree Cape Town is a very beautiful cosmopolitan city full of energy

  • Jeaux

    I'm from New Orleans and have been travelling for a year now (Asia, Australia so far, going everywhere, indefinitely) and to those who talk trash about New Orleans or any other place that you haven't been please try to stifle your stupidity and ignorance. Every city on earth can be "dangerous" and has "bad" parts of town, deal with it. Try going to the "dangerous" cities and see for yourself what they are like before you spew unfounded bullshit. You will find that 99% of the time it's all a bunch of media exaggeration and nonsense

  • Mac

    OK, So I left the U.S. and moved to Medellin last year after the economic crisis really started taking its toll… Its just as safe or safer than any decent sized city in the U.S. and they love Americans.. The climate is perfect, our dollar is worth its weight in gold and the cost of living is great… I have traveled to 19 countries and this is where I felt the most comfortable and safe…

  • robi666

    I recommend Medellin for the weather, hospitality and overall friendlyness of the locals. I have lived here 3 years+. This is a great town to live in if you don’t have alot of capital and love the night life and beautiful ladies! There is an ever strong expat community forming here and I am always available to tour newbies around the city and show you the ropes.

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    Upgrade your English at Helpful site for Thais

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  • Ben

    Saigon is still Saigon, especially in Saigon, not HCMC. Matt’s right, Bangkok is cool but Saigon’s a much better place to live. I’ve lived here nearly 5 years now. Bangkok’s only an hour away for a party. Ron, you should learn to speak English properly before you knock the Vietnamese language. I have no idea what you are saying.

  • Lilly Bar


    (Yes Officially Ho Chi Minh city, but ask any Vietnamese Person from the South and they still call their city Saigon,in fact once you have lived in Saigon for a while, you’ll realise that it is preferred that you refer to the city as Saigon).
    Cheap… no .. Very cheap… food, drink, Clothing, accomodation, taxis, motos..(ie Motorbike taxi…. not the safest mode of transport but again very cheap…maybe somebody can correct me, but when I was there,(2005-2008) a moto cost maximum US$1 (16,000VND…Vietnamese Dong), from the part of the city where most expats socialised (District 1), to most areas where expats lived… maybe a 10 or 15 minute ride. Alternatively a taxi would cost less than US$1.50, in air conditioned comfort, and obviously safer than being on the back of a moto.
    People are very friendly, and welcoming…. always willing to have a conversation with you.

    you can eat almost any Western type food in the numerous cafes/restaurants. If u want to spend a little more,and want to enjoy 5 star luxury, you can eat and drink in the numerous Western hotels, for much cheaper than their prices back home. Sheraton, Sofitel, Novotel etc.
    Alternatively for a fraction of the cost, you can eat vietnamese food, and barely notice you have spent money. A safe city…

    worst thing that MAY happen you is you my get your bag snatched late at night, but if you take the necessary precautions,(keep it out of sight) u should have no problem. Unlike several cities around the world, the chance of you getting mugged and beaten up is virtually nil…….. Yes the locals will stare, especially if you start wandering off the beaten track within Saigon, but that is them being curious as opposed to any threat.
    During my three years living there, I travelled around every part of the city, and NEVER had any problems. Genuinely friendly people who will go out of their way to help you. (Although  my Western girlfriend’s handbag was grabbed from her twice whilst she was on the back of my Motorbike)….never to be seen again!
    Oppressive humidity, but again you will get used to it, and avoid being outdoors during the hottest part of the day… usually from about midday until 4pm. Having lived there for three years, I can say that you get into a routine of avoiding the worst of the heat/humidity, max temp about 34 degrees C/ 94 degrees F.

    The Older western guy, usually balding and overweight,with his Vietnamese “girlfriend”, or indeed “Boyfriend”…. where he hasn’t a word of Vietnamese, and she hasn’t a word of English…. Yes prostitution is very evident in the cities, again especially around the tourist areas.

    Having said that, I know several expats (Guys) who have being living in Saigon for several years who are dating local girls, and it’s pretty evident that they have stronger relationships than many would in “Western Countries”.
    If you are noise sensitive, save yourself the airfare!! Noise is an integral part of Vietnamese society… Motorbikes “Beeping” non stop 24 hours a day….. and when you consider the population of Saigon, that’s a LOT of Noisy motorbikes! Just look up “Saigon Traffic” etc on Youtube to get an idea.
    Finally, I would recommend Saigon far above Hanoi for the city of choice in Vietnam. I found the people of the South in Saigon, much more friendly to foreigners than up north in Hanoi. Also, whilst the weather can be Humid etc in Saigon, it’s far better, at least in my opinion, than the weather in Hanoi… Yes the same country, but very different climates. You could leave Saigon during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months, where people are riding their motorbikes wearing shorts and t shirts, and arrive in Hanoi after the 1hour 45 minute flight to people wearing Raincoats, gloves and scarves. The expat community is, I believe also much larger and better in Saigon.
    Hope this info helps. 

  • robi666

    Ben – Ron is trying to become a pimp in Medellin. He is a scumbag American who exploits poor women into prostitution.

  • pete

    Uh… my brother was just in Colombia, got mugged his first day there.
    I don’t care what the excuses are, if you’re in Colombia and you’re not packing heat you should be watching your sidelines and keep your wallet in your front pocket.

    • Hjdek


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  • Livenow

    YES Colombia, moving right now!!!………………………………NOT HAPPENING………………….EVER

    • Jc23

      Fuck you 

  • Tim Patterson

    Why not consider moving to Colombia? It’s safe, vibrant and inexpensive with everything from snow-capped mountains to Caribbean beaches.

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  • Obinnaoduduwa

    My comment is that this cite is good.but what i have to say is that Nigeria will be better and the best in the world oneday.Our problem is that our leaders are armed robbers without guns.oneday there will be up-riseing from the poor.

  • Dayna

    Ron can you say pervert? I wouldn’t be bragging about having a girlfriend young enough to be your daughter and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just because you prefer Columbian girls doesn’t mean Vietnamese woment aren’t as beautiful. I would love to visit Costa Rica but you can keep Columbia after what other people have commented. I don’t relish the idea of being mugged or kidnapped and with my fair skin, green eyes and red hair I would definitly be a target for naferious individuals. BTW I have a GEORGEOUS 19 year old daughter who I would kill if she shacked up with some old guy of 42.

    • jc23

      Colombia you pricks, learn to spell right, fucking American ignorant asses think your the top of the goddamn world.

  • Dayna

    Jeaux, You tell it straight up. New Orleans is a beautiful city and only gets a bad wrap because a bunch or TOURISTS cram in during Mardi Gras and act like a bunch of brainless jerks. The rest of the year it stands up to the best of cities it’s size and it is coming back stronger than ever after Katrina.

  • fantazamaraz

    You people have it ALL wrong…..I have travelled and lived all over the World and the safest best all round place, even though it’s outrageously expensive is definately Japan.!


  • Steve Linder

    Have you checked out the southern Pacific coastal area of Costa Rica? Not near San Jose or Guanacaste, both either crime targets or way over priced. Southern Costa Rica is finally becoming accessibe as highway work nears completion south of Quepos.

    Good places need to be accessible and Costa Rica is serviced by nearly every major airline carrier and flights are very competive as a result . Medellin is a new hot spot but the health care available is not so great. Columbia will need many more years to live down the reputation is has with most Americans, too bad since it is a very nice place. Ecuador gets some merit for a few reasons, cheap being the biggest one. Many places often cited are just too far away. I love Thialand but the flight time and expensive took it off my short list.

  • elena

    Everyone should just stay where they are at!
    Sounds like single guys looking for beautiful women, cheap food and rent.
    Obviously not in the USA. In the States women are plastic(haha in more than one sense),jaded and have equal rights (well supposedly); food is processed, and overpriced and rent is trhough the roof, designed so just to keep you working for at least 30 years of your life.
    But what does cheap have to do with safe?
    Its not “safe” in Columbia or SOuth Africa,by any means and its not “fun” living in muggy,noisy overcrowded city, whose language you cant understand.
    To live safe and have fun-number one requiremet MUST HAVE LOTS OF MONEY, and you can live safely and happily ANYWHERE.
    get it?

  • Mike

    I’m sorry, Saigon is the biggest SH{T hole I”ve ever been to, if you paid me a billion dollars I probably wouldn’t even live there…

  • Helen

    About Cape Town being the only “europien city” in Africa by Indian, what are you on about?

    Cape Town is in Africa and is therefore African. Yes some parts along the Atlantic Coast resembles some seaside towns that may be reminiscent of US, Europe, but please we are proud of our African heritage. Please come and visit!

  • francois williams

    As for crime in SA and Cape Town in particular ? My impression is that CT is a way safer place than anywhere in the UK for example, lived in London for 6 months once, and had loads of problems, late night England is full of drunk thugs armed with knives and very determinded to use them…CT is fine, I have walked around the city in the early morning hours with no problems…of there is crime in the slums, but why do you want to hang out there ?
    The city proper of CT is as safe as any city in the world…

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  • Ryan

    With respect to Saigon, I’d like to elect the rest of Southeast Asia. As for Eastern Europe, Prague is forever my choice for culture, history and thriftiness.

    I love these articles. Thanks!

  • gredrignnub

    Hi i’m new to this. I came upon this forum I find It truly accommodating & it has helped me loads. I hope to give something back and guide other people like it has helped me.

    Cheers, Catch You Later

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  • JC

    It is okay to say Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, which is a country in Europe.

    You do know that Europe is a CONTINENT (of 50 countries), and not a country, right? The way this article is written seems to indicate the former.

  • JC

    I meant to say “this article indicates the latter”, that of Europe being perceived as a country when it’s not.

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