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Who Said Foreign Countries Were Cheap?

Many people dream about the idea of retiring from an expensive Western country and going to live in a much cheaper one.

While it’s true that food and accommodation can be a lot cheaper abroad than they are back home, there are a whole class of items that are much more expensive in foreign countries than they might be in your own country.

A lot of these items are something you might not need to buy if you’re on vacation, but if you’re living abroad then eventually you’ll need to seek them out. And you might be shocked at their price tags.

The #1 thing that I’ve noticed as being way more expensive in Asia compared to the UK are food supplements. This bottle of Magnesium tablets cost me 250 baht. Fortunately it was on special offer and discounted from the usual price of 397 baht:

Minerals and health supplements - definitely NOT cheaper abroad...

Minerals and health supplements – definitely NOT cheaper abroad…

So that’s quite a markup on UK prices. But it’s even more expensive to buy something like Glucosamine in Thailand. I found a bottle of tablets on special offer in Boots for 1250 baht – that’s around £26 in UK money, and enough to buy around 2-3 times as many tablets back in the UK!

Cod liver oil is also something that seems very expensive in Asia – strange since it can be made from Tuna fish which are abundant in Thailand.

Talking of tuna – most cans of tuna fish in Thailand seem to be much the same price as they are in the UK. So no cheap tuna in Thailand – even though much of it is processed there.

There are plenty of other things that are much more expensive than back home. Cheese is pretty much a luxury item in Asia. Locally made cheese is generally pretty bad, and imported European cheese is very costly. New Zealand cheese is fairly good, but give the Australian stuff a miss.

In time you’ll find that you can replace your favourite foods from home with alternatives from your adopted country. But if you’re in Asia then swapping cheese for tofu is hardly worth thinking about.

Sometimes stuff abroad seems a lot more expensive than it should be. Thailand is blessed with warm sunshine and plenty of rain, yet fruit is very expensive. The only real exception is watermelon, or bananas (which seem to be the same price in most countries). Other locally grown fruit is fairly inexpensive in Asia. The downside is that you’re unlikely to want to buy them. I’ve yet to meet a Western person who likes Lychees.

Thailand is also one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations. Yet beer is pretty expensive there, with the only good thing being that it’s not as expensive as it is in Malaysia.

So if you’re crunching the numbers and seeing if you can afford to go live in or retire to that dream destination, just factor in the fact that not everything is cheap in other countries.


One Response to “Who Said Foreign Countries Were Cheap?”

  1. STOP PRESS… Just found out there’s a branch of GNC in the basement of the Robinson department store in Bangkok’s Asok/Nana district (the store is in the basement Tops Supermarket).

    GNC do more reasonably priced food supplements, especially those related to muscle repair and body building. And I saw some Glucosamine on offer for 500 baht – way cheaper than anywhere else I tried.

    Posted by Xiongmao | August 6, 2013, 3:54 pm

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