It's something everyone should do at least once in a lifetime - pack up, take off, and settle down in a city on the other side of the world for a while. These days, living and working abroad is more accessible than ever, with countries acknowledging that tourism feeds economies and individuals lusting after a life and career that's transnational.
Whatever you do to make ends meet, there's a city that has a job and an apartment waiting just for you. Check out this list of the best cities to live and work abroad right now, and start planning your biggest adventure yet.
40. Tbilisi, Georgia
Located in the tiny country of Georgia, the culture here is a rich mix of Slavic and European influences. It recently became even easier to live and work abroad in Tbilisi after the country passed a law allowing foreigners to stay there for a year without a visa. A quirky, hospitable place with a decent cost of living and lots of opportunity for ESL teachers, expats move here in part for the natural glory of the countryside beyond the city’s borders.
39. Oslo, Norway
It’s certainly not the cheapest option, but what makes Oslo a contender for one of the best cities to live and work in abroad is its premium lifestyle. Great healthcare, lots of job opportunities for qualified professionals, and abundant recreation make this colorful city an obvious choice for people who want to live well - hey, Norway’s royal family lives here, so it’s probably not too shabby, all things considered.
38. Helsinki, Finland
It’s one of the more difficult cities for expats to settle into, what with its complex language, austere climate, and cultural differences - but once you do, you’re sure to fall in love with this metropolis of the north. Extremely safe, with a great infrastructure and quality of life, Finland’s economy is on fire right now, so professionals in various industries, and remote workers, should look on Helsinki as an option for their next adventure.
37. Bangkok, Thailand
One of the best things about Bangkok is that it’s highly livable on any budget. Backpackers who want to squeak by on $600 per month can do it here, and those with a higher income can sample the swankier side of the city. Creative tech start-ups abound, and major corporations have a firm hold as well, so it’s comparatively easy to find a job, though the salaries are lower than what you’d command in the West.
36. Canberra, Australia
It has recently become the first city in Australia to legalize pot, and if that’s not enough of a reason to go, it also has an agreeable standard of living to cost ratio. Since it’s the capital, expats have no end of choice when it comes to jobs at the many embassies and consulates in the city, where you can also expect a better than average salary.
On the downside, it’s a political center, so there isn’t as much fun to be had as in, say, Melbourne (see below) or Sydney.
35. Auckland, New Zealand
Big data, fin-tech, and the tourism industry are the lifeblood of New Zealand’s commercial center, but there’s another booming business here that makes it one of the best cities to live and work in abroad: movies. Since Peter Jackson transformed New Zealand into Middle Earth, films are being shot here every day. So if it's your dream to break into the production side of cinema, this is the place for you.
34. Buenos Aires, Argentina
If you’re looking for the kind of city where you’ll do nothing but rub elbows with the locals, look elsewhere. Buenos Aires is a huge metropolitan center that has accumulated a large population of foreigners living here full-time. However, that also makes it a great place for anyone hoping for a multicultural experience, in a city where there’s something happening around every corner. You’ll also be able to get away with speaking English until you pick up enough Spanish to get by.
33. Dubrovnik, Croatia
With over 3,000 miles of coastline, you could drop your pin pretty much anywhere in Croatia and there’s a good chance it would land seaside. Dubrovnik is on the Adriatic, and a lot prettier than the country’s more industrialized capital, Zagreb. Tourism is a big industry here, and though it’s a little less approachable than other cities in terms of language and housing, there’s a lot to love in terms of food (seafood), recreation (sailing), and relaxation (hanging out by the sea).
32. Seoul, South Korea
This used to be a no-brainer for expats looking for a cheap place to live, but its popularity and economic expansion have sent the cost of living in Seoul shooting up as of late. The good news is that the demand for trained professionals in the tech and financial sectors has sky-rocketed, and so has the need for ESL teachers. In your downtime, you can immerse yourself in Korea’s totally unique culture and food scene.
31. Ubud, Bali
Florescent wildlife, a zen attitude, and tropical weather make living in Bali akin to living in a fairytale. The expat community in Ubud is thriving and it's a popular hub for digital nomads (people working remotely online), so you’ll feel right at home from the get-go. When you’re not working, Ubud outdoes itself in health and wellness retreats, extreme sports, spiritual services, and there's a non-stop arts and music scene as well.
30. The Hague, Netherlands
Often overshadowed by Amsterdam, The Hague is a center for international business, politics, and culture. If you can get a job here, then you can afford to live here, with expats reporting high incomes in professional positions that tend to pay less in North America. If you have a thing for tulips, expect to get your fill of them in spring, when the green spaces in the city explode with color from hundreds of different varieties of Holland’s favorite blossom.
29. Quito, Ecuador
A city nestled in the Amazon Rainforest, Quito is a study in extremes. Formerly one of the poorest places in South America, industry has grown exponentially over the past few years, and expats can find jobs in the sectors of science, medicine, and technology fairly easily. Escape the urban setting on weekend jaunts into the lush surrounding rainforest. Rent is cheap, the climate is welcoming, and guinea pig is always on the menu.
28. Stockholm, Sweden
Swedes enjoy five weeks of vacation a year, so if you’re looking to scale back on your hours, put Stockholm on your list of options. The people here love to live instead of living to work, and the city has a happy atmosphere that makes sense given its high standard of living - it's one of the more expensive places to live on this list. If you’re wary of having to learn a whole new language, you can rest assured that almost everyone who went through public school in Sweden speaks English.
27. Cairo, Egypt
If you’re looking for a quiet, provincial backwater to work on your latest project, Cairo is not it. It’s the second-largest city in Africa, and has been a global mecca of trade and commerce for millennia. Its lively hospitality sector means there are tons of jobs for chefs, servers, and hotel managers. If you’re trying to take your teaching career abroad, Cairo boasts a wealth of schools and universities. It’s also incredibly welcoming to foreigners, and pretty much anything you’ve ever wanted to do, see or eat, can be found here.
26. Brno, Czech Republic
A little overlooked, Brno offers a more “authentic” Czech experience than Prague, if that’s what you’re looking for. The cost of living is surprisingly low for such a beautiful, safe, and culturally vibrant city, home to the famously creepy Capuchin Monastery. Good times, good brews, and hikes in the Moravian countryside all make this one of the best cities to live or work in abroad.
25. Lisbon, Portugal
If you work remotely, Lisbon offers an almost ideal experience. The cost of living is low, but life here is good; Portugal has a perfect climate 10 months out of the year, a jaw-droppingly beautiful coastline, lush mountain landscapes, and unique arts and cultural traditions going back centuries.
This one is best for people who support themselves by working online because the average salary in Portugal is unfortunately fairly low.
24. Salta, Argentina
Salta is smaller than Buenos Aires, which isn’t saying much. It's still big enough that you’ll be able to find everything you need, but it’s a better choice for someone who wants to be immersed in the never-rushed Argentinian lifestyle. Brush up on your Spanish, dabble in the local art of weaving rainbow-hued textiles, or just hop from café to café for the free wifi and killer espresso, then spend the weekends hiking the hills and touring majestic colonial villas.
23. Budapest, Hungary
Maybe because of its uncommonly violent history, Budapest now is fiercely city-proud, so you can expect to be embraced by enthusiastic locals as they eagerly show you everything there is to love about it. Careers in business, diplomacy, and international publishing are available to internationals here, and when you’re not working there is more culture to experience than anyone can do in a lifetime, with a funky art scene, over-the-top nightlife, and rich historical landscape.
22. Dublin, Ireland
Ireland is especially welcoming to young people looking for international experience, making it easy for them to get work and travel visas. It’s also a very friendly city, with expats citing how easy it was to get acquainted with the locals within their first few weeks of relocating. It’s the perfect way to experience European living without the high price tag of other mainly English-speaking cities like London and Edinburgh.
21. Chiang Mai, Thailand
This capital city in northern Thailand has more than its fair share of golden-domed Buddhist temples. Due to its “smoky season” - hot-weather months that are terrible for air pollution - it’s not the best choice for people who worry about their respiratory health. Other than that, you can live well on less than $1k per month here, and it’s a great spot for ESL teachers, photographers, and remote workers to call home.
20. Eindhoven, Netherlands
This under-the-radar city has recently become the Dutch capital for tech start-ups, so if you’re hankering after a position in the tech world, this is the place to go. Cost of living is reasonable and some of the major companies in the world have offices here, so if you’re looking for something impressive to put on your resumé, start scouring the job boards.
19. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Currently experiencing massive economic growth and cultural development, if you move to Vietnam now you’ll have the privilege of being in the midst of all the action. Expats report that the work hours, especially for ESL teachers, can be overly demanding, but in exchange you’ll be immersed in a vibrant, friendly community where housing, food, and entertainment are easy, and cheap, to procure.
18. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is steeped in history, a lot of it recent enough that living here will make you feel like you’re part the major events that have shaped the Western world as you know it. Once the city where the Soviet East clashed against the West, Berlin is now a city where anything goes - which makes sense given how hard-won that cultural freedom was. A ton of nightlife and rents that are reasonable make this a great hub for artists, writers, and musicians, as it has been for the last century.
17. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Consistently rated as one of the happiest places for expats to live and work abroad, Kuala Lumpur is a bustling metropolitan with lots of major corporations offering jobs to internationals. The culinary scene above par, and the health and fitness scene is equally active; tennis courts, rooftop pools, and squash clubs pepper the city, so you can eat the amazing food here to your heart’s content and work it off later.
16. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
For one of Europe’s smallest countries, Luxembourg packs a serious punch for expats. The capital city is lush with old-world charm, and you can live the high life here for less than you would shell out in equivalent cities elsewhere in on the continent. It also has one of the highest ratings for gender equality in Europe, especially in terms of pay, making it a choice destination for women working abroad.
15. Sliema, Malta
Its great health care, Mediterranean climate, and reasonable cost of living make the island of Malta a popular retirement destination for expats, but it has plenty to offer young people who want to work abroad, too.
Sliema is slightly more affordable than other tourist-rich cities, and right across the water from the capital. When you go, try to land a job that lets you take advantage of the island’s mid-day three-hour siesta.
14. Gdansk, Poland
Cheaper and quainter than Poland’s more well-known destinations like Krakow and Warsaw, Gdansk has a lot to offer those hoping to live and work abroad. Lots of English speakers means lots of English-speaking job opportunities. Set on the Baltic coast, it’s a pretty seaside community vibrant with Gothic architecture and the amber trade, plus many other commercial enterprises.
13. Tallinn, Estonia
Estonian culture is an enigmatic mashup of Scandinavian, Russian, and Georgian influences, and tends not to get a lot of attention in the tourism world. But as a place to live and work, it has a lot to offer. Tech has a home here (it’s where Skype was invented), many services like public transit are free, and the landscape is magical. Another thing to note is that, due to concern that the Estonian language is dying out, the country offers grants to people who want to learn the national tongue.
12. Taipei, Taiwan
Friendly, cheap, and warm; these are some of the characteristics that keep Taipei on the top of the list in terms of living and working abroad. It’s a well-worn city, and parts of its reputation are less than savory. But expats across the board generally rave about their time here. Perfect for ESL teachers and remote workers who only need a wifi connection, you can look forward to great food, non-stop nightlife, and easy access to other popular Asian destinations.
11. Singapore, Malaysia
If you don’t mind hustling, you’ll find Singapore one of the most exciting places to live in the world. People here work hard - with the average workweek stretching to 46 long hours - but they also party hard. Due to the high concentration of extremely wealthy citizens, this city-state has the best of everything: food, shopping, healthcare, quality of life, and karaoke.
10. Manama, Bahrain
A low cost of living coupled with the fact that the local population is uncommonly welcoming to expats puts Manama on our work abroad map. Banking and tourism are this Middle Eastern island’s primary industries, so professionals looking for a working hub with international flair have a good chance of finding a job here.
9. Aachen, Germany
Its job market is competitive and securing a visa can be a little tricky, but once you set foot in this city in the west of Germany, you’ll probably be tempted to settle in for good. It has a high income to cost of living ratio, and some beautiful historical sites, including the Aachen Cathedral, a Unesco Heritage Site that dates back to Charlemagne’s 9th century empire.
8. Panama City, Panama
If your goal here is more on the live side than the work side of things, Panama is the way to go. Perfect weather, low cost of living, and hedonic culture all conspire to make this a popular spot for tourists, but if you live here the cost of living is relatively low and best of all, you don’t pay taxes on any income earned outside of the country. If you work remotely or simply want to protect your billions from the IRS, this is the place for you.
7. Prague, Czech Republic
If you like castles and bridges, then Prague has your name written all over it. Prague, interestingly, has one of the highest demands for people teaching English as a second language, offering pay that matches the slightly higher living cost than cities with a similar demand in Asia.
6. Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Chances are if you’re thinking of moving to Mexico, you’re thinking of sandy beaches, sea breezes, and palm trees. If so, then Playa del Carmen is a gem on the coast, touching the Caribbean sea but offering affordable rentals for expats who want to stay awhile. Unless you work in the tourism industry though, you’d better be a laptop jockey - there isn’t too much going on in this locale outside of great food, great fun, and lounging beachside with other people living the expat dream.
5. Melbourne, Australia
Think of Melbourne as Sydney’s hip younger cousin who’s into street art and caffeine, and likes wiling away the hours talking philosophy as much as going on walkabout to commune with the local wilderness. Australia is a popular destination for living and working abroad, making it easy for foreigners to access visas, jobs, and housing.
4. Cusco, Peru
It’s less built-up than Lima and undergoing a lot of expansion at the moment, which means plenty of job opportunities and a lower cost of living, with a temperate climate that’s tough to beat. Plus, it’s close to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and the Inca Trail, so you’ll never have a lack of things to do in your spare time.
3. Dubai, UAE
This glittering urban oasis in the desert tops the list for cost of living, but the high salaries offset that. Companies in Dubai are also willing to pay more to certain professions than other places - careers in teaching, hospitality, and retail can be lucrative here.
2. Shanghai, China
If the tech or finance worlds are your jam, you might be able to secure a super-competitive internship here, in the skyscraper-studded city that could double for the set of Blade Runner. It won’t be cheap to live here, but the career advancement opportunities could make it worth it - plus, there’s no end of things to see, do, and eat in your free time.
1. Ottawa, Canada
Canada’s capital might not seem as glamorous as the other destinations on this list, but according to this recent survey, it’s a terrific locale for expats. It is beautiful, livable, and lacks the high rent problem that Toronto and Vancouver present. It’s got a great culinary and arts scene, and when you inevitably get bored of admiring Parliament, it’s an easy commute to Montreal and Toronto.