a person who lives outside their native country
With the ease of travel today, a lot more people are making the choice to live abroad, which means you can find expats are in cities all over the world. But where is the best city for expats to live, and why? I put the call out to travel bloggers and asked them to contribute their favourite expat city, and why they think it is the BEST expat city in the world.
Did they get it right? Is there an expat city on this list you don’t agree with, or have we made a glaring omission and missed a great expat city entirely?!
Seoul, South Korea
Laura from Willful and Wildhearted
From my experience, Seoul, Korea, is an excellent place for an expat to live. Not only are there hundreds of people here from a variety of backgrounds, there’s a thriving nightlife and always something to do. I’ve met friends through yoga courses, via coworkers, evenings out.
People often form a special bond with fellow expats quickly as they’re sharing these extremely quirky experiences together. The only downside, as all expat experiences go, is that friendships tend to come and go quickly. Everyone is always on the move, whether it be to different countries or to different towns throughout Korea.
I’ve personally found that Seoul is the easiest to live in as it’s so convenient. The public transportation is exceptional across the board and virtually any city is accessible in under five hours by train or bus. The convenience and abundance of activities is what draws me to Seoul.
Shayan from Dose of Life
Buzzing, hip and dynamic. Those are just some of the words that would describe Bangkok, the city of angels and capital of Thailand. Apart from being one of the most visited city in the world, Bangkok is also an ideal destination for expats to settle in. Modern, affluent and affordable (if you do it right), you’ll find everything you ever need in this bustling city such as entertainment complexes, nightlife and even business opportunities. However, the best thing is that you can easily experience the stark contrast in the form of cultural temples, historical museums and nature getaways just minutes away from the metropolitan areas. I moved to Bangkok when I was just a kid and it has grown on me ever since. I can’t imagine living anywhere else because it is just so convenient here – from transportation to all kinds of restaurants, an amazing nightlife and tons of things to explore everyday.
Lies from Non Stop Destination.
I moved to Vancouver 6 months ago and I don’t regret the decision. My lifestyle has completely changed compared to my life in my previous expat city, London. Vancouver is not a big city, and might not have the historical aspect most European cities have, but the outdoor experience makes up for it! Vancouver has beaches and mountains just outside your doorstep. You can find me exploring a new place almost every single weekend. The Canadians are extremely friendly, the food is great (love the sushi!) and my work/life balance has never been better. The only downside is that I’m now quite far away from my family in Europe and the time zone is not the best one to keep in touch with them!
Esther from Trip To Adventure.
Last year I lived in Berlin for a short working period and never felt as a stranger there because Berlin is one of the most welcoming cities for expats. As a big and cosmopolitan city, there are a lot of internationals already living there and there are plenty of signs that make you feel comfortable and that ease your integration into the community. Here I list only 4 of them:
1) Berlin is an international city. You will hear many different languages in the streets, particularly if you’re Spanish or Italian you will feel that never left your country (for example, in neighborhoods like Neukoln).
2) Berlin is a welcoming city. There are a lot of associations, meetups or couchsurfing events that help expats and internationals to meet.
3) Berlin is an active city. There are multiple and various activities to do every day and night. You will find your places quickly to develop your hobbies and find new ones.
4) Try German! German is difficult but you will have plenty of free options to try to learn some of it and use it in your daily life, you can look for Facebook pages for learning German meetings.
MagTravelingGirl from TravelMe.World
Sydney is an absolute gem for an expat. It is one of Australia’s largest cities with limitless job opportunities and plenty of working holiday visa options, yet it is amazingly chill for such a booming metropolis. With hundreds of meetup groups connecting friendly locals with expats from around the world, white sand beaches, massive waterside entertainment hubs at Darling Harbour and Circular Quay, Blue Mountains just 2 hours away and phenomenal weather, this city has been made for an expat.
Jess from Jess is a Wanderer
I’ve lived in Cairo for five years. With cost of living at such a low, there’s plenty of opportunities to spend money on life’s pleasures and not just life’s necessities. Being located rather centrally within the world, Cairo is also a gateway to the rest of the globe. A five hour flight from London, twelve hours to New York City and three hours to Dubai – it’s a great place to be based throughout the year. Life in Cairo is similar to that of any bustling capital city – expats are well-accommodated with western-style malls and expatriate pubs and clubs. There’s also a more traditional side to the city with local markets and, of course, the pyramids. If you’re looking to save money in a place rich in culture and history; Cairo is the place.
Nikita from Life in Transience
“I came here for a semester abroad… Thirty years ago.”
I don’t know how many times I heard this in Galway, but it stopped surprising me. This Irish town that pretends to be a city has a way of sucking you in, and keeping you trapped.
Is it the ease of living? The charm of Galway Bay? The abundance of quality beer, the active nightlife? The arts festivals? The friendliness and helpfulness of the people, that the rest of the world can only dream of rivalling? The proximity to the rolling green hills and jaw-dropping cliffs of the west coast?
Probably all of these things.
Most importantly, Galway feels like home. It welcomes you in and showers you in so much love, you don’t mind being showered by a bit of rain too. Life in Galway is so relaxed, each day trickles effortlessly into the other… Until 30 years later, you still haven’t left.
Tamz from Tamz Explores
The culturally diverse Singapore has established itself as one of the best places to live in, thanks to the near-perfect efficient governance of this place. As an expat, you are never quite short of entertainment here. What makes this city so popular with expats is the safety factor. You can roam around the city all night without the fear of getting mugged or being chased by street-dogs. With friendly locals and an irresistible food scene, expats like me are always in the company of good times. Ignore the unpredictable weather; one can easily get immersed in the culture and colors of this vibrant city.
Prague, Czech Republic
Nikita from Life in Transience
Pointy spires. Old stone bridges. An ornate castle perched on a hill. A river cutting through the city.
And a whole lot of expats. And we aren’t all there (just) for the cheap beer.
I could spend a million years in Prague and never peel back all the layers. It’s a city like no other, with thousands of years of complicated history, with triumphs and failures. It’s also a city that is embracing its freedom and the ability to move forward, while maintaining its culture and pride. Trendy, international restaurants stand alongside traditional Czech pubs. Music from all around the world can be heard, but Czech artists still have a special spot in the hearts of the locals. While English is seldom spoken in the rest of the Czech Republic, in Prague locals and expats eagerly swap languages. It’s a great place to observe, to learn, to experiment and to have the time of your life!
Marta from Vegan Beauty Travels
It’s the most freelancer-friendly city I’ve ever lived in, especially if your activity falls into the broad category of ‘art’ (includes all types of creation: programming, writing, blogging, editing, even translating!), which grants you super low-cost insurance. Being a freelancer also means tax-free up to certain income and spares you quite a few costs and formalities when compared to the One Person Company. Talking esthetics, you’ll find here countless hiking getaway possibilities in the nearby Alps as well as fairly cheap road & air connections to worldwide destinations. Not to mention Munich itself has a lot of historical and nightlife attractions.
Nina from Where in the World is Nina?
Krabi, Thailand is a fab place to call home for expats. I called this place home for over a year myself and I’d go back in a heartbeat! The infrastructure is comfortable for expats as you’ll have everything you need. I lived in Krabi Town, but many choose to live in Ao Nang. Krabi Town is a small quiet town that’s more budget friendly, and Ao Nang is great, but is pricer and far too touristy for my taste. If you’re lucky enough to live here, you’ll get to enjoy tons of beaches and islands at anytime you please, world-class rock climbing, adventurous national parks and more. I love this spot! Check out my Krabi guide!
Katrinka from Katrinka Abroad
Istanbul is not an easy city.
But for the right kind of expat, Istanbul is a wonderland. There’s something addictive about the relentlessness of it, the contradictions. Istanbul feels like it’s in the middle of everything, and draws expats who crave that connection. There are the usual English teachers, sure, but also journalists, photographers, academics, travel writers, entrepreneurs, and adventurers. We are all people who have chosen a difficult city and thrive, who aren’t afraid to make the lives we desire by sheer force of will. The relatively accessible resident permit visa allows expats to live here without being tied to a local job, and the city’s position as a hub makes the rest of the world easily accessible.
Istanbul has challenged me, nurtured me, depressed me and thrilled me. I came here with a vague idea of teaching English, now I make my living in travel, writing and photographing and managing. I have opportunities to show my art in galleries, to collaborate with local bloggers and academics, and to lead expat organizations. It’s not an easy city, but it can be incredibly rewarding. It has been for me.
Kaley from Communication is Difficult
Sapporo, Japan was the third Japanese city I lived in. Before that was a tiny town of 5,000 and before THAT was a small city of 200,000. Sapporo quickly became “my city” even though I am from Florida and Sapporo gets meters of snow every year. The main reason for this is, of course, the expat community! The town of 5,000 came in second and the one with 200,000 was.. not so great. Sapporo was the perfect size where you have just enough to do and a wide variety of people to meet, but it is still small enough where you’re probably going to run into someone you know.
The people who live in Hokkaido were generally really nice, too, usually because they either really wanted to live in Hokkaido or are more laid back and willing to put up with the winter. Also, foreigners are still novelty enough in this large city where you get loads of positive attention, and since non-Asian tourists aren’t super common, people don’t always assume you’re just visiting. You get a more “real” Japanese experience, with all the benefits of living into a major city!
Eniko from Travel Hacker Girl
Budapest is becoming a very popular destination for expats, as the low cost of living, friendly locals, delicious cuisine and high quality services make it the best place for them to settle down for a while. English is widely spoken in the capital, so there’s no reason to worry about any language barrier! Also many international students come to study to the Hungarian capital, because of the low tuition fees and high quality of education, so it’s easy to meet other expats as well. Budapest has great transport network. You can not only move around in the city without hassle, but Vienna, Prague, Salzburg and other European cities are accessible via railway. So don’t hesitate, come and move to the heart of Europe! You won’t regret it!
Mel from A Broken Backpack
Picture yourself living in the middle of the Canadian Rockies… Does it sound great? I couldn’t imagine how great it would be! When I moved to Canmore (which is about 20 minutes from Banff National Park), I was supposed to be there for two months. Well, 5 months later, I was still in love with the place! Mountains, blue lakes, glaciers, wildlife, National Parks are simply the best neighbours. Both towns are perfect destinations for International expats and for outdoor lovers. You might want to be there long enough to enjoy its four seasons!
Odoardo from QueiDue
For its tiny size, the island of Malta can be considered as a city. Multicultural, a large community of foreigners, a wonderful weather, low taxes, good health care and cheap life make it one of the perfect destinations for expats. And don’t forget the blue sea and the beautiful beaches of Malta surrounding the island, where you can take short breaks any time you have a day off. Definitely a perfect destination for expats.
Vicki from Make Time To See The World
There is so much to love about Melbourne it’s hard to know where to start! It’s famous for having the best coffee in Australia, with an amazing restaurant scene to match. It’s sports mad and hosts AFL (Aussie Rules Football), Cricket & Soccer in addition to major world sporting events like the Australian Grand Prix and the Australian Open. It boasts a beautiful city centre that hides quirky, graffiti covered lane ways and easily has some of the best shopping any girl (or boy!) could ask for!
London, United Kingdom
Nam from Laugh Travel Eat
It is true when people say that London isn’t representative of England, despite its history and architecture – that’s because of the cultural diversity of the people living there. If you like markets you have Brick Lane and Portobello, if you like street art you have Shoreditch; if you are a cultural nut you have South Kensington, if you are a foodie you shouldn’t miss Soho. What I am trying to say is whoever you are, you are bound to find a piece of London you will love – and you can count the rest as your adventure ground.
Nam from Laugh Travel Eat
As a former British Colony, Hong Kong is where east meets west; we are used to the western world but are part of the eastern world. Hong Kong is incredibly modern and yet wildly traditional at the same time. Here you also get a dizzying variety of gastronomic experience to choose from at an affordable price. You can choose to integrate or segregate with the locals as much as you want to – not to mention the fact that you have access to the beautiful country parks of Hong Kong as well as the hundreds, if not thousands of shopping malls.
Wellington, New Zealand
Gemma from Gemma Jane Adventures
I moved to Wellington, New Zealand by chance after getting a ‘proper’ job. New Zealand’s capital, aptly nicknamed ‘Windy Welly’, is a great city for those who love culture and the outdoors. There’s a decent amount of sightseeing and Te Papa, New Zealand’s best museum is located here, as is perhaps the ugliest building, the Beehive Government Building. Lord of the Rings fans will love visiting the Weta workshop where all of the props, costumes and prosthetics were made.
The city is loved by outdoorsy types too, unsurprisingly given it’s location near hills and on the coast. There are beaches to sunbath and stroll along and fishing to be done. Surfers can often be seen at Lyall Bay and paddle boarders by Petone. Pretty walks with great views, such as red rocks from where the South Island can be seen, are popular with locals and tourists alike. The café culture also means eating out is brilliant, with loads of choices of cute cafes. It’s no wonder many Wellingtonians don’t want to leave.
Tricia from The Adventure List
Anyone looking to live in a sunny gorgeous place should check out Roatan. It is an island off the coast of Honduras. With average temperatures in the 80s, Roatan offers Honduran culture with splashes of Americanism. There is a large expat population located on the island. While Spanish is the official language, English is widely spoken. Roatan is known for it’s incredible reef which allows for excellent diving and snorkeling. Even if you are not a diver, the numerous white sand beaches and crystal clear water will draw you into its idyllic tranquility.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Keri from Baby Globetrotters
Abu Dhabi is a city of stark contrasts, perhaps mysterious to outsiders, but quickly wins the heart of those who come to call it home. You can certainly easily forget when living in this Middle East hub that you’re actually in the desert – immaculate new buildings, beautiful beach front promenades, state of the art shopping malls and hotels live up to the countries luxury reputation. Right on your doorstep however are the beautiful blue waters of the Persian Gulf connecting to vast open deserts and traditional Bedouin culture.
When in comes to entertainment we are quite spoilt for choice. Many international sporting events like the Grand Prix, Tennis and Golf Masters now have regular spots in the social calendar as well as numerous live music acts making world tour stops. With a vastly expat population from all over the world, there is a real melting pot of cultures which gives way to an amazing array of cuisines, many top chefs and restaurants now call Abu Dhabi home. Soon the Saadiyat Cultural District will open with several museums including the Louvre and the Guggenheim.
With young children, we have also found it an ideal place to raise a young family with plentiful schools, healthcare, parks and sporting opportunities to keep everyone happy. For us, there is simply no where better to live.
Fresno, United States
Ghowneu from Ghowneu’s Adventure
Born and raised in Fresno, California and now living in one of the coldest states. So for me to choose which one and whatever places I’ve been, my heart will decide on Fresno.
Fresno used to be a small town when I was growing up, now it is a “city”. It is known for the “arm pit” of California because of the environment. But honestly, this stomping ground is filled with diversities , food from all over the world, the culture, people, awesome music and most of all it’s the Central Valley.
The Central Valley is what holds the agriculture together and provide jobs for farmers. Not just only farmers but the community to grow their fruits and vegetables. Although it is in the middle of California, the drive to any destinations isn’t too bad.
So for my expat city is Fresno, California because the atmosphere is filled with new activities everyday and the road trips aren’t too far way!
Trisha from P.S. I’m On My Way
4 hours from Lima, Paracas is a fishing city where a lot of expats live and start their own business (restaurants, hotels, etc). It’s a laid back town where people use quad bikes as a mode of transportation. Not so popular landmarks in Peru like the Paracas National Reserve and the Ballestas Islands are located in Paracas. Rent is extremely affordable and there is a lot of opportunities for opening a business. There is also a small and close group of expats so learning how to live there is definitely easy!
Panama City, Panama
Al from Sell All Your Stuff
Panama City, Panama is home to numerous expats from all corners of the globe. With a skyline reminiscent of Miami, the tropical weather coupled with the business opportunity not only draws expats looking to retire, but expats looking to reinvent themselves in a new country. Simply known as Panama to locals, the city offers a wide variety of activities that one would see in cities of developed nations. There’s opera and jazz festivals, cycling races and triathlons, and food and craft beer events, to name a few things. And of course you can’t experience Panama without an afternoon of ceviche and beer at the fish market at least once a month. The city’s tourism is relatively young, but Panamanians are learning quickly and are transforming Panama into a world class city for locals, for expats, and for future generations of both.
Ruben from Gamin Traveler
Angeles City, Philippines might have a grim reputation from foreign travelers, because of one of its streets, but it is still one of the best places for living and working in this country. With food available 24/7 from 50 cents up, a big local market, delicious exotic food, beautiful people who can communicate well in English, a Spanish influence on the city’s structure, plus booming international businesses, it’s a very accessible place. Also, since it’s far from mountains and seas, it is one of the cities not in the typhoon belt of the country, making it safer during the monsoon months.
Lottie from Princess in a Caravan
Toronto is a ‘melting pot’ of cultures embracing newbies and absorbing them into its lifestyle, culture and community. Despite being filled with people from all over Canada, Northern America and the rest of the world, the city doesn’t have an expat vibe to it; everyone lives in the city is their own. Toronto is an unusually small, navigable major city unlike NYC or London, making you feel like you’re part of something rather than getting lost in the millions. It’s location makes it a great base for exploring eastern Canada from the Ontario Lakes right out to Halifax. Being a ‘stones throw’ away from the US also makes traveling there convenient.
Despite being home to many businesses, NGOs and corporations, Toronto has a culture that enables people to use their initiative and do their own thing, whether that’s start up an independent restaurant or store, a babysitting agency or to focus on your dream career in the acting industry, there’s something for everyone. Toronto has an unusual mix of being a well run and maintained western city with cultural representation and influences from across the world. Making a move there will likely not include too much culture shock but at the same time will expose you to plenty of new experiences.
Carmen from Carmen Everywhere
Casablanca is the financial center of Morocco yet retains that bohemian look (think Europe fifty years back). The city’s architectural heritage is marked by different styles ranging from neo-Moorish to art deco. What I love most about Casablanca is the perfect combination of modernity and tradition in harmony and the mediterranean climate all year long. Head to the big medina for food and mint tea or treat yourself at the fancy restaurants but don’t miss the Al Massira Al Khadra Boulevard either. Keep an eye on Casablanca because soon they are building Al Noor tower, the highest skyscraper of Africa (540 m). But it won’t be completed until 2018.
Jatin from Wandering Jatin
Imagine working from the banks of Tungbhadra river while the boulders rise high in the backdrop. The cultural hub Hampi, thanks to travelers from round the world, also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the architectural ruins of a once successful empire. Hampi boasts of travelers’ cafes which offer cuisines from everywhere, the Wifi’s, and the lively culture familiar to travelers! One can cycle their days to the offbeat villages, climb for the best sunrises and sunsets while working from this quaint town called Hampi.
Larissa & Michael from Changes in Longitude
When we arrived in Bucharest, Romania we didn’t have high expectations. What we knew about the country was viewed through the historical prism of a closed nation during the Cold War and we hadn’t heard much since. What we found there really surprised us. The city has a definite upbeat vibe with interesting architecture, good food and lots of social activities for young people.As bloggers several things attracted us to Bucharest. Since the country is loaded with high-tech computer geeks, it offers the 3rd fastest Internet in the world and the fastest in Europe. It’s also very cheap. Our Airbnb apartment was very affordable and food prices were sometimes shockingly low. At times it felt almost Asian in that regard. Many ex-pats travel to places like Chiang Mai for the cheap prices and blogger camaraderie. We consider Bucharest to be a European version of that experience. And don’t get us started on the wonderful Romanian pastries which are an attraction in themselves. While we were there we met up with two prominent bloggers, David Lee of Travel Blog Success and Wandering Earl, who attested to Bucharest’s attraction for ex-pats. Best of all for us, Romania is a non-Schengen country.
Maya from Travel With The Smile
Shortly after moving to Calgary, 3 years ago, we were greeted very warmly wherever we went. The city is very internationally oriented and you hear english as often as many other foreign languages. Not only foreigners are moving to Calgary, but people from all over Canada. Province Alberta had the lowest uneployment rate in Canada, making it a place where you could find a job easily. It’s located only an hour from one of the most beautiful national parks in the world – Banff national park. Calgary has over 30 parks with ponds and bike paths – our favourite are parks around Glenmore reservoir for biking, running and having barbecues.
Carmen from Carmen Everywhere
Shanghai is a perfect and modern place to live if you love city life. Being the most dynamic city in China, it’s very possible to have a good living standard. Sky scrappers, company headquarters, people’s mentality and restaurants for every budget. And for those who love nightlife, just go in the nightclubs of the city to see how many bottles of champagne are consumed by night and by table. It’s amazing! Some call it Expat Land. What is more, here you can have a normal life in an asian city without anyone staring at you constantly.
Maya from Maya The Explorer
Manila is SO underrated. It gets a bad rap for heavy traffic and pollution, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. For starters it is very affordable, giving you amazing savings potential, without compromising standard of living. The low cost of labor allows you to afford household help so you are able to focus on work and/or family, without having to sacrifice your time on things like cooking and cleaning (unless you want to). While you are putting your money away in the bank, you can still afford fine dining regularly, spa treatments galore and great entertainment. The cost of a night on the town or movies and concerts is very reasonable. Manila draws some fantastic music tours, at a fraction of what you would pay in the U.S. or U.K.
It is also easy to make friends, as there is a fairly close-knit expat community as well as no language barrier keeping you from getting to know locals. And while it is totally possible to live in Manila without ever learning Tagalog, you also have the opportunity to learn a new language if you are up for the challenge.
Lastly, with over 7,000 islands in the Philippines you can quickly jet set to some of the most pristine beaches in existence. Most flights to neighboring islands are around an hour and extremely cheap when booked in advance. So if you tire of Manila you can head out of town and be swimming with whale sharks, scuba diving, hiking up a volcano, surfing, or sunbathing with a book in one hand and a drink in the other in no time.
Lucia from Viaggi Dei Mesupi.
I suggest Rome as the best expat city because I was born there and I live there, so I know it very well. I know everything the media says about Italy and its political and economic situation, but according to me the media often overstate the real situation, and Rome still offers good opportunities for life, compared to other Italian cities.
It has its problems like every city in the world, but, as it is known, “Italians do it better”. We can find the bright side of everything and often problems become a joke, something to laugh about. This is the main reason to be expat here: learn how to smile in front of the problems, learn how to drink a coffee, how to eat a pizza or a dish of spaghetti, learn how to drink wine, learn about art, about history, about world culture, learn how beautiful a smile can be.
Brock and Tangerine Trubiano from A Travelogue by Brock and Tanj
Doha is predominantly run by expats from different sorts of nationalities, like a revolving door in a United Nations building. You will get to know different cultures and learn to deal with diversity. English is widely spoken and its very easy to navigate around the area but there’s changes that you need to adapt as well. It is a Muslim country and respecting their customs and traditions will go a long way. Truth be told, living and working in the Middle East left a whole lot of new impressions for us. It’s either you will really love it or hate it. We consider Doha as one of the best expat city because you will get to enjoy the real Arab culture, diverse food and the vibrant souqs (markets) despite how tiny this nation is. Our advice, brace yourself, be open minded and be prepared.
Finally, I share my favourite city for expats!
Firstly, you should move to Edinburgh is purely because it’s a beautiful city! Everywhere you look the city is framed by something, Arthurs Seat, Calton Hill, Edinburgh Castle or the Pentlands. You can get lost in the history of the old town, discovering great places to eat in the closes, wander around the Museum of Scotland, enjoy the blossoms in the Meadows in the spring or a barbecue in summer. That’s all without even mentioning the Festival, a month of comedy, theatre, arts and music that takes over Edinburgh in the summer. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland so has great connections to the rest of the UK and Europe, plus many work opportunities. At Hogmanay (New Year) you can take part in the biggest celebration in the world. Edinburgh is never short of things to do, but somehow it manages to maintain a small city feel. The great public transport helps, and all the main sites are within walking distance. If you’re looking to move to the UK and want a change from the usual choice of London, I can’t recommend it enough!
I put the call out to bloggers a few times for their recommendations of the Best Expat Cities in the world, and I have to say I was surprised by some of the places for expats that were included. Some I hadn’t thought of before, like Malta or Bucharest, but other’s I thought were missing, like New York or Stockholm. I think we’d all agree though, if you want to live abroad, you need to do it now!
Did we get this right or would you like to see something else on (or off!) this list?
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