Many people, especially Westerners, are mystified with Asian countries. The sultry weather, flamboyant culture, and gastronomic journey all make Asia an exciting destination for tourists. But how about expats? If you’re planning to move to an Asian city, we’ve got you covered. Here, we listed 10 of the best places to live in Asia for expats you can consider.
What are expatriates (expats)?
Expats are those who live off their native country. It’s usually a term used for people who accept work or prefer to reside in a different country. Most of the time, these are professionals, skilled workers, or artists who are assigned to work in a new place. Also, families become expats when one member secures a new job in a different country, which demands migration.
Being an expat is an excellent way to meet new people, seize a career opportunity, or raise a family in a much friendly environment.
What makes a city ideal for expats?
Most of the time, a city is perfect for expats when there’s already a network of expatriates living there. It’s like having a support group even before you move. Since other people have blazed the trail, the place is more accepting of foreigners and you can quickly adapt to the culture.
Another thing is the cost of living. Cities with lower prices tend to be more attractive for expats. For those who are moving to seize a career opportunity, cities with shorter work hours are also a good choice.
Aside from that, factors including ease of settling in, housing index, and language barrier are some of the criteria when ranking the best places to live in Asia for expats.
TOP 10 ASIAN CITIES FOR EXPATS
If you want to live or work in a different country, these 10 cities might fit the bill:
1. Taipei, Taiwan
The capital of Taiwan lands the top spot when it comes to expat-friendly cities in the region. Taipei recorded a high score in terms of urban living quality. Unlike New York and other busier cities, Taipei is more relaxed and organized. Working or raising a family is also ideal in this city.
Also, accommodation and housing are much cheaper in Taipei than in Western countries. The Taipei lifestyle is also known for convenience since the city is walkable and basic needs are within walking distance as well.
Most of all, public transport is excellent in Taipei. The whole city is interconnected through various transport links, including a clean and efficient MRT system. If you’re moving in Taipei, it’s not a need to purchase your own car.
Aside from a stable career, housing, and environment, Taipei is also home to the best nightlife in Asia. And if you want to pull the plug from the city, you can visit the countryside that’s just a few hours away.
Still, Taipei isn’t a city without some downsides. Traffic can get really heavy and the pollution level can fluctuate due to sandstorms coming from China and the smog from local industries.
If you have kids and planning to enroll them in school, private schools are your best bet. Taipei elementary schools are decent, but it’s usually crammed and uses the Taiwanese traditional teachings.
2. Manama, Bahrain
When it comes to the Getting Settled Index, Manama, Bahrain tops the charts. The capital recorded a higher score among expats since it’s easier to find friends and the locals are welcoming to expatriates. Back in 2017, Manama was considered the best place for expats in the world.
Manama is excellent when it comes to ease of living, but for those who are seeking a greener pasture for their careers, jobs are a bit limited. Still, for those who are being re-assigned, employability isn’t an issue.
The best thing about Manama is its affordable housing and essential goods. Expats in Bahrain also recorded higher earnings than the worldwide average. Since more and more international companies are setting up their headquarters in the capital, Manama becomes even more ideal for expats.
Also, expats are allowed to purchase and own properties in Bahrain, which is a big plus. You can also access Saudi easily. However, you have to deal with heavy traffic. The consolation here is there are a lot of shops and restaurants around.
3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur is where tradition and modern practices meet. The Malaysian capital is a harmonious place for expats who plan to live or work in the area. Since the city is home to many international companies, it’s almost normal to see the diversity of the people living in it.
Although a predominantly Islamic country, Malaysia honors various religions through multiple holidays throughout the year.
Also, many buildings in Kuala Lumpur are modern and planned for spacious living. Many developments in the capital compose of 3-bedroom floor plans perfect for families who are moving into the city.
Another significant advantage in Kuala Lumpur is the cheap petrol and many basic supplies are sold at bargain prices. Due to the tropical climates, wet markets are always filled with fresh produce of fruits, vegetables, and more.
For families, healthcare is also affordable in Kuala Lumpur. Even if it’s lower than most Asian cities, Kuala Lumpur has the best doctors too.
Still, you should factor in some of the ugly sides of the city. Kuala Lumpur has a bad case of traffic and imports are expensive due to taxes.
4. Bali, Indonesia
Bali is known for its breath-taking beaches and picturesque nature. Aside from that, it’s also a haven of an active expat community. The towns of Canggu, Ubud, and Uluwatu are the preferred settling areas of expats. It’s close to the beach and all the good things that the city has to offer.
Unlike other cities, Bali is a quiet place, as long as you choose the right spot. Also, it’s super easy to find an apartment in Bali plus it’s very cheap.
Aside from that, you should know that Bali is one of the Asian hubs of digital nomads. You can easily find a co-working space along Seminyak, Ubud, Legian, and Kuta.
When it comes to dining, you’ll never run out of gastro treats to try. Just beware of the so-called “Bali Belly” from unsanitary stalls.
Since Bali is a tourist destination, the locals are friendly. Still, you should be cautious since taxis and some vendors will try to rip you off when they realize that you’re a foreigner.
5. Bangkok, Thailand
A vibrant and bustling city in the Land of Smiles, Bangkok is one of the expat hubs in Southeast Asia. There’s always an accommodation to suit every budget as well as a meager cost of living. It’s perfect for young professionals and families who can deal with the buzz and traffic during peak hours.
One thing that attracts expats to Bangkok is its colorful culture. And with the Thai people being welcoming of visitors and foreigners, expats don’t feel left out on local celebrations.
Aside from that, Bangkok healthcare is reliable and inexpensive. The transport system is also massive and you can go around the capital without renting a car. As a busy city, expect traffic jams during peak hours.
If you want to take a vacation, Thailand is your host. Floating markets are a must-see in the capital together with the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Leisurely activities are all around the capital aside from the very affordable bars.
The only thing that you may struggle with while moving in Thailand is the language barrier. It’s not as difficult as it is in Bangkok where professionals flock for work. However, in the countryside, fluent English is a bit of a rarity. Still, it’s one of the best places to live in Asia for expats.
Also, Chiang Mai, another place in Thailand is one of the most walkable cities in the world.
6. Hoi An, Vietnam
If you’re eyeing Vietnam as your next home, you should definitely consider Hoi An. This city in Central Vietnam is a paradise for expats. There’s a large expat community here, mostly retirees and professionals.
Hoi An has a charming beauty far from the noise of Hanoi. It’s a sleepy neighborhood surrounded by waterways and French-Vietnamese architectural treasures.
In Hoi An, you can live comfortably for just $1,000 a month, or less if you’re not into fancy things. Although the weather could be unforgiving at some period, the city is relatively untouched. Just note that the streets get replaced by boats during the wet season.
Most of the expats live out of town and near the beach. It’s like being on vacation every single day. Aside from that, food is cheap in Hoi An. You can enjoy a hearty bowl of Pho three times a day for just $5 or less.
If you’re moving with your family, you can find decent schools in the city, including the Hoi An International School. Also, healthcare is easy on the pocket on this side of the country.
7. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
If you’re a professional and looking for a career opportunity, it’s best to move to Ho Chi Minh City. This city in the south is the leading English-speaking place in Vietnam. It’s also considered the financial center of Vietnam, where large tech, finance, and international companies are based.
Aside from career opportunities, the expat community in HCMC is very active. They even have a closed Facebook group where expatriates exchange experiences, advice, and stories.
Also, it’s quite normal to see different nationalities in this city. Although a busy career hub, HCMC is also packed with sights and activities that you can enjoy. There’s easy access to the beach, the food is incredible, and you can shop to your heart’s content.
Ho Chi Minh City is also the home of top international schools in Vietnam, perfect for expat families. If you’re moving alone, you can live comfortably for just $1,100 to $1,500 a month with rent included.
Take note, though, that HCMC’s transport system is underdeveloped and some establishments will try to overcharge a foreigner. Also, beware of petty crimes like pickpocketing.
Overall, HCMC is one of the best places to live in Asia for expats looking for career opportunities.
8. Manila, Philippines
If you really want affordable living, you can consider moving to Manila, Philippines. The Filipinos are known to be incredibly accommodating, plus most locals are conversational in English.
Unless you live in the bourgeoisie areas of Manila (Forbes Park, Greenhills, Ayala Alabang Village, etc.), you can have a comfortable life for just $1,000 a month. Some could live for only $500 a month in less posh areas of the capital.
Also, the weather is great, except for very hot summer days and the pollution of the main roads. The good thing about Manila is the accessibility to many of the country’s top schools and hospitals. Also, visa policies are lax.
Families will have an easy time bonding together because Manila is dotted with dozens of shopping malls.
However, Manila is notorious for its poor transport system. You can get a car, but take note that major highways like EDSA are mired with chronic traffic jams during rush hours.
Another downside here is you can’t own a property in PH if you’re a foreigner. Unless you married a local, you could only purchase a condo unit and not a landed property.
9. Tokyo, Japan
If you can endure a (tad) higher cost living, Tokyo might be the right place for you as an expat. There’s a thriving expat community in the city, although culture shock is common among Western expats. Still, Japan is one of the best places to live in Asia for expats.
One thing that you’d love about Tokyo is their stunning infrastructures. Internet connection is at its finest, everyone has a smartphone, and the locals are very disciplined and respectful of your social bubble.
Japanese food is also amazing and they have bilingual TV buttons. It’s also an ideal place for those who are looking for career opportunities since Tokyo is the home of the largest international companies.
Except in Shibuya and other touristy areas, Tokyo is a tranquil city. The locals don’t shout and they are very polite to each other.
One downside of living in Tokyo is that the locals barely speak in English. Smokers are also allowed to light up inside bars and restaurants. Most of all, earthquakes happen almost every day.
10. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is our 10th best places to live in Asia for expats. A lot of young professionals and families move to Hong Kong after securing job opportunities.
The good thing about the city-state is there’s always a new building being built, which makes housing less of a burden. Hong Kong also has a wide expat community, which is why the locals are welcoming of foreigners.
There’s also a great selection of restaurants in the city. Most of all, their transport system is seamless. You don’t need to get a car just to move around the city. Taxis are also abundant and cheap that you can pay for a whole trip in the city without breaking the bank.
For professionals, it’s easy to establish a network in Hong Kong.
However, Hong Kong is the third most expensive city in Asia. If you can endure the high cost, Hong Kong is a vibrant place for living with all the basic needs right at your doorsteps.
These 10 best places to live in Asia for expats are easy to settle in and there’s a wide expat community that you can tap. Make sure that you plan your move to reduce the stress of staying in a new country.