So, you’ve made up your mind to make a big change and become an expat! Maybe you’re looking to move abroad for that dream job in Sydney or perhaps you want to escape the rat-race and retire to the beaches of Puerto Vallarta. Whatever reason you are making this courageous life-changing move , you’ll want to find that perfect city to start your new life. If you’re up to the challenge, join the estimated 5 million expats around the world as we explore the 10 best cities for expats.
1. Stockholm, Sweden
If you want to live in Stockholm you must be a fan of cold weather but it’s worth it; this beautiful Swedish city has so much to offer the expat. The economy is very strong and many big firms are looking to hire, especially if you are an English speaker. The Swedes are also a very welcoming people and go to great pains to welcome newcomers into their country by offering first-rate education, healthcare and public services. The language is a bit tricky to learn — have you tried to pronounce the furniture names at IKEA? Finding an apartment in Stockholm can also be a challenge because the market is crowded and competition is high. Your best bet is to search websites like Samtrygg before you go.
2. Bangkok, Thailand
If you are drawn by the sights and sounds of big city life, you might want to check out what Bangkok has to offer. It has almost everything that New York or Chicago has to offer—but so much cheaper! You get to enjoy modern and contemporary living surrounded by a culture that is still traditional and built around a sense of community and personal relationships. You can rent a condo for cheap and healthcare is top-notch. Also, getting a job teaching English or becoming a digital nomad is a piece of cake. Although traffic is a serious problem in this city of 8 million people, don’t worry, the Skytrain and metro system is very efficient.
3. San Jose, Costa Rica
If you want to join nearly 100,000 other Americans who call this piece of paradise home, then pack your bags and head for San Jose, Costa Rica. This tropical Central American country has made the right choice and invested heavily in education and infrastructure. You will find reliable airports, deluxe highways and enormous conservation districts in this beautiful country. San Jose has a wide variety of housing options, but if you want a quiet neighborhood, look into Los Yoses where it’s a short walk to supermarkets, bus lines, and cultural activities. The cost of living is pretty cheap and you can live comfortably in San Jose for $1,500 a month.
4. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is probably the most beautiful city on our list, offering you a unique blend of heritage sites and extraordinarily modern infrastructure. Capetonians are a fascinating and friendly group of people who are always willing to offer a helping hand. Nestled in the shadow of Table Mountain, Cape Town offers a vibrant waterfront, non-stop shopping and exciting nightlife. There is no shortage of local markets to do your daily shopping. With one of the most sought-after real estate markets in the world, finding affordable lodging in the city bowl area can be tricky, but the coastal suburbs offer amazing, modestly-priced homes and apartments with a sea view. It’s not a surprise that Cape Town has consistently been voted the “Best City in the World.”
5. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
If you want to live in paradise on a budget, then Puerto Vallarta has got to be in the running. Housing is unbelievable cheap (2-3 bedroom apartment for around $700/month) and a great public transportation system will get you around on the cheap so you won’t need to get your own car. Neighborhood markets stock all the essentials so you don’t have to lug groceries home on the bus. Don’t worry, they do have a Wal-Mart for those things you just can’t live without. Street food is a way of life and is cheap and delicious. Life on the beach in the “Mexican Rivera” never gets old!
6. Coronado, Panama
If retiring on the beach is on your mind, then Coronado, Panama is the perfect city for you. With the Pacific Ocean as your backyard, you will find an abundance of clean, white sandy beaches, shopping malls, and amazing golf courses. The expat community is growing and if you want to stay active, there are many business ventures available for anyone with a little capital to invest. Medical care is convenient and cheap. In fact, many hospitals are associated with renowned facilities in the U.S. Coronado offers a wide variety of housing from luxury condos to comfortable and affordable homes in every shape and size. The locals are very friendly and there is no shortage of settled expats who will show you the ropes.
7. Sydney, Australia
Sydney has it all! Sunshine, English-speaking locals, big city life, great beaches and incredible wages. So, what could be better than a move to the Land Down Under? Of all the places on this list, though, you will pay the price for a life in Sydney. Rent is pricey, especially in the city center and the many beach-front communities (you will find many expats living near Bondi Beach). Public transportation is pretty good, though, and you can get a good deal on passes. Ferries run from Sydney to the coastal suburbs as well. If you plan to work as an expat, then Sydney may be a great choice.
8. Dublin, Ireland
It is said that the Irish, to some extent, have a “tribal” culture and may be wary of outsiders. But in reality, the people are extremely polite and curious about life in America. If you are looking for a job, some of the best high-tech companies in the world set up in Dublin. Finding an apartment is all about timing because renters only need to give a month’s notice so you have to keep an eye out to find that great place. Once you have established residency, you may qualify for a medical card. That means that you’re completely off the hook from paying any medical fees—including ambulance rides.
9. Warsaw, Poland
You will find Warsaw a welcoming place to live, with a cosmopolitan city center and plenty of green space to enjoy. If you are a foodie, this Polish capital has a mind-boggling selection of culinary delights and a vibrant nightlife. The cost of living is lower than many other European countries but not as cheap as many other cities on this list. Many Polish people speak English well, so communicating and socializing is pretty easy. Finding a job is not that hard and if you have the right experience and qualifications the pay is very good. For example, there is a huge demand for native English speakers in information technology, finance and business services.
10. Seoul, South Korea
Since the 1950’s, the historic city of Seoul has grown and developed like crazy, becoming one of the fastest growing and most modern cities in the world. The government has also acknowledged the need for green space in a city of over 10 million people and have designated one-quarter of the city as green zones in the form of parks and other recreational areas. Although most people live in apartments, many expats live in private houses in the area of Itaewon. Public transport is exceptional and very affordable so there is little need to own a car. Medical care is tiered based on the type of facility so make sure that your health insurance will be honored. In many cases you must pay for care when you get it, so be prepared.
Born in Paris, Jim is a retired lecturer of African Studies and self-described life-long global trekker. His career as an Air Force officer gave him the chance to experience amazing and exotic destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa. He is at home on the golf course or backpacking anywhere there is a story to tell.