Most Affordable Cities for Students in 2018

Most Affordable Cities for Students in 2018

Belkis Megraoui

Updated January 16, 2020 Updated January 16

Click here to discover the 10 most affordable cities for students in 2019.

To have the luxury of being able to study in a city that boasts quality and affordability all at once, may seem implausible – but things aren’t always what they seem.

One of the six indicators used to compile the QS Best Student Cities is affordability, based on an assessment of the typical tuition fees and living costs in each city. Read on to discover the 10 (technically 11, as two are tied) highest ranked cities for this indicator.

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=10. Johannesburg

Best Student Cities 2018

Ranked joint 10th for affordability, the sunny South African city of Johannesburg is also ranked 79th overall in the best student cities index. Average international fees across both of its internationally ranked universities cost around US$4,000 for undergraduates. And according to Numbeo, a single person residing in Johannesburg can expect to pay an average of US$618.28 (excluding rent) and a minimum of about US$385.15 to US$479.10 for a one-bedroom apartment. 

=10. Taipei

Best Student Cities 2018

Sharing 10th position with Johannesburg for affordability, Taipei also ranks 20th overall on the best student cities index, making it the highest placed city overall out of the 11 featured in this article. Students pay an average of US$4,600 on tuition fees at universities here, including the city’s highest-ranked institution, National Taiwan University (NTU), which was ranked 72nd in the QS World University Rankings® 2019. The monthly cost of living (excluding rent) sits at no more than TW$226,000 (~US$7,370) per year according to NTU, and you may be able to save money by making the most of the assortment of cheap, delicious street food available.

9. Manila

Best Student Cities 2018

Next in our look at the most affordable cities for students in 2018 is Manila, capital of the Philippines, which ranks ninth for affordability (up nine places from last year) and 95th overall. Monthly costs for a single person in this metropolitan city, without rent, are expected to be around US$511.35. However, rent here isn’t particularly inexpensive, and for a one-bedroom apartment, Numbeo estimates that you would pay about US$1,530 to US$2,147 monthly, at the cheapest. Average international tuition fees at Manila’s four ranked universities are low too, at around US$4,000 per year.

8. Vilnius

Best Student Cities 2018

Lithuania’s capital city is famous for its gothic 16th century architecture and medieval cobblestone streets. Featuring 84th in the best student cities index and eighth for affordability, this year, the historic city managed to climb an impressive 12 places for best student cities overall, and an astounding 51 places for the affordability indicator.

Vilnius University, the city’s highest ranked in the QS World University Rankings® at 488th, estimates a student’s monthly budget to be €489 (~US$565), with only around €100 (~US$115) needed per month for its dormitory accommodation. And in terms of tuition fees, international undergraduates can expect to pay an average of only US$2,800 per year.

7. St. Petersburg

Best Student Cities 2018

A beautiful and culture-enriched city, Russia’s St. Petersburg is renowned for its breath-taking historical sites and buildings. It also boasts some of the highest ranked universities in the country, including Saint-Petersburg State University, which is consistently ranked in the top 300 of the QS World University Rankings®.

It also ranks seventh for affordability in the best student cities table, and 76th overall. According to Numbeo, a monthly cost of living here can be expected to typically amount to US$539.46 (without rent), making it 52 percent cheaper than London. Tuition fees average on US$4,600 at both of its internationally ranked institutions.

6. Novosibirsk

Best Student Cities 2018

Our next Russian city ranks 96th in the best student cities index, and sixth in the affordability indicator. As well as the many touristic intrigues this beautiful Siberian city has to offer, a cheap but cheerful cost of living (US$447.71 per single person excluding rent) is another bonus you won’t miss out on. With one-bedroom monthly rent costs ranging between US$236.57 and US$352.17, Novosibirsk’s overall cost of living totals to a comfortable 59 percent cheaper than London, as stated by Numbeo (August 2018).

The city of Novosibirsk offers two internationally ranked universities, and if you’re considering it as your study destination, expect to pay an average of US$4,500 per year on tuition.

5. Hsinchu

Best Student Cities 2018

Featuring at fifth in the affordability indicator and ranking 73rd overall, this colorful and innovative city in northern Taiwan has climbed a remarkable 10 places as one of the most affordable student destinations in our best student cities index. Tuition fees are low, averaging around US$2,300 at both of its internationally ranked institutions, and you can expect lower costs of living here than in Taipei – the city’s highest ranked institution, National Tsing Hua University, estimates that student accommodation costs no more than TW$26,640 (~US$870) per year.

4. Tomsk

Best Student Cities 2018

The snowy Siberian city of Tomsk climbed an impressive 17 places to rank 74th in this year’s Best Student Cities, and went up two places for affordability – now coming fourth for this indicator. According to Numbeo (as of August 2018), with rent at a staggering 87 percent lower than in London, 91 percent lower than in New York and 70 percent lower than in Russia’s very own capital city Moscow – living costs are comfortably cheap, ranging between US$181.19 and US$260.03 per month for one-bedroom accommodations. As for tuition fees, you can expect to pay an average of $3,300 annually at its internationally ranked universities.

3. Riyadh

Best Student Cities 2018

Ranked 72nd in the Best Student Cities index for this year, and third for affordability, Riyadh is the largest city in Saudi Arabia, thriving off business, culture and the desert! Since it’s the capital city of a country renowned for its wealth, average student fees in both of its internationally ranked universities cost a mere US$500.

Although Riyadh’s cost of living isn’t considered the cheapest in the world (with monthly costs averaging on US$641.82 per single person excluding rent), the city offers one-bedroom accommodations which cost between US$284.10 and US$444.89 monthly, making it a significantly more affordable choice (up to 86 percent cheaper according to Numbeo) in comparison to more popular study destinations, such as London and New York.

2. Kuala Lumpur

Best Student Cities, 2018

Having gone from topping the affordability category for two consecutive years to taking second place this year, the Malaysian capital climbed four places to rank 37th in the overall Best Student Cities index.

Combining reasonably low tuition fees and living costs, Kuala Lumpur is an ideal hotspot for students looking to study and explore at quality level – and on a budget. On average, student fees cost US$3,400 across its four internationally ranked universities, and the average rent of a one-bedroom apartment costs anywhere between US$335.57 and US$557.82 per month, according to Numbeo.

1. Budapest

Best Student Cities 2018

Ranking first for affordability this year, and 49th in the Best Student Cities overall, Hungary’s capital city climbed an impressive seven places from last year in the affordability category.

Budapest is a spectacular tourist destination with so much to see and do, and living costs are very reasonable, with Central European University estimating that students need around US$8,600 per year, with US$3,000 of this going towards accommodation.

The city has 35 higher education institutions, three of which are featured in the most recent QS World University Rankings®, and if you study an undergraduate degree as an international student, you can expect to pay US$3,200 per year.

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This article was originally published in August 2018 . It was last updated in January 2020

Written by

A former content writer for, Belkis published a range of articles for students and graduates across the globe. She has a zeal for history and a natural flair for the arts and sports. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language & Communication with Journalism from the University of Hertfordshire and is a native speaker of the Arabic language.

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