Choosing the right city to call home is often both a daunting and exhilarating prospect. It’s one of the most important decisions that expats will make and can have a significant impact on their employment opportunities, financial stability, and quality of life. Luckily for us, expats from around the world have been sharing their experiences and insights on the best and worst cities to live and work in. Whether you are a seasoned expat looking for a new adventure, or a first-time mover seeking guidance, in this article we will focus on five of the top-ranking cities and provide valuable information for your next move.
Located on the eastern coast of Spain, Valencia was voted as the best city to live in by expats, in a recent survey conducted by InterNations. It grabbed the top spot for the ‘Quality of Life’ Index and scored highly in the ‘Culture and Leisure’ and ‘Ease of Settling In’ categories. Expats complimented the city on its strong focus on work-life balance and its laid-back, friendly atmosphere. Valencia is also known for its excellent healthcare system, which is ranked among the best in Europe.
One reason for Valencia’s high performance on the quality-of-life index could be down to the sheer diversity of cultural pulls the city has to offer. Not only is Valencia the birthplace of Paella, boasting some of the most famous sea-food restaurants in the world, but the city also attracts thousands of visitors each year to internationally famous events, such as the Fallas festival in March. Valencia is also known for putting forward innovative and caring policies that have a positive impact on the people living in the city. For example, in December, The Local reported that the city-wide initiative that allows under-30s to travel free on public transport will be extended for another six months to help people with the cost of living crisis and to benefit the environment.
In general, Spanish cities performed extremely well in the rankings, scoring highly in several different areas, and it’s likely that we’ll see an increase in the number of expats choosing to relocate to these desirable locations. Another exciting prospect which could make Spanish cities even more attractive for expats, is the new Startups Act, introduced by Spanish government in December in a bid to boost entrepreneurship, which includes a new type of visa for digital nomads.
Dubai is a city that has rapidly become one of the world’s most popular destinations for both tourists and expats alike. It is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf. The city is known for its iconic skyscrapers, luxurious lifestyle, and vibrant culture.
This city did extremely well when it came to the ‘Expat Essentials’ index, which looks at digital life, bureaucracy, housing, and language in the city. The city provides a high level of infrastructure that makes these particular aspects of expat life relatively stress-free. Of course, another major factor that entices expats to Dubai is the UAE’s relaxed taxation policy, which means expats can earn tax-free income – a powerful financial incentive that is increasingly attracting more people to the city.
Dubai is located centrally between Europe, Asia, and Africa, which means the city has the advantage of being accessible to a range of other important hubs. If you are looking for a city where you can make trips to other parts of the world quickly and conveniently, Dubai is certainly somewhere to consider. Another advantage of living in Dubai is its low crime rates and relative safety in comparison to other cities. In January, Dubai was named one of the safest cities in the world.
Home to the tallest skyscraper in the world, Dubai can often feel like a city constantly under construction, with the next big architectural project always on the horizon. Although luxury property developments tend to be the main focus of the city’s large construction projects, there are some other initiatives that are being developed in Dubai that could have a more far-reaching impact on expats and other residents. CNN recently reported that Dubai could become a new centre for sustainability and wellness, with a proposal for a 58-mile “sustainable urban highway”. This project would transform the transportation system and give expats the opportunity to access different parts of the city on two wheels rather than commuting everywhere by car.
Mexico City ranks first when it comes to ‘Ease of Settling In’ and ‘Personal Finance’, with expats feeling both welcomed in the Latin American city and content with the state of their bank balances. During the pandemic, the city saw a huge influx of expats, the majority arriving from the USA, with the US State Department reporting that approximately 1.6 million US-citizens are currently living in Mexico.
Mexico City is a cultural juggernaut in the Americas, with more museums located there than any other city. The cream of the crop includes the National Museum of Anthropology, Frida Kahlo’s Blue House and the National Museum of Art. Expats considering moving to the city will also find that there are many interesting and diverse neighbourhoods, with low rents and grocery bills, affordable restaurants and bars, and attractive employment opportunities.
The downsides of living in this city of 22 million people include poor air quality and lack of access to natural beauty spots, but there are efforts to reduce the levels of pollution in the city and provide more green spaces. For example, there are plans for a new ecological park, which will be built close to city centre. Lake Texcoco Ecological Park will open in 2028 and be 40 times bigger than Central Park in New York.
Lisbon scores high on the ‘Quality of Life’ and ‘Ease of Settling In’ indexes and also has some of the highest happiness levels for a city in the world. Lisbon is a city with a rich cultural heritage, with a history that dates back to the Roman Empire. The city has a wealth of historical sites and museums, such as the Castle of São Jorge, the Jerónimos Monastery, and the National Museum of Ancient Art, which are popular among both locals and tourists. The city also has a thriving contemporary art scene, with many galleries and museums showcasing the work of Portuguese and international artists.
Lisbon is one of the most affordable capital cities in Europe, with a cost of living that is significantly lower than many other major cities in the continent. The cost of accommodation, transportation, and food is relatively low, which can make it easier to maintain a high standard of living without breaking the bank. Expats can enjoy a variety of affordable restaurants, bars, and cafes, which offer both traditional Portuguese cuisine and international flavours.
In recent years, the city has seen a surge of public initiatives that have brought about significant changes and improvements to the quality of life of its residents. For example, The Green Corridor Project seeks to create a continuous green corridor along the banks of the Tagus River. The project aims to connect different areas of the city with a 50-kilometer-long green corridor that will provide an alternative mode of transportation, recreational areas, and environmental benefits. The initiative has already resulted in the development of several public parks, such as the Parque das Nações and the Jardim da Estrela, which offer a unique blend of green spaces and cultural amenities.
Bangkok is home to over 8 million people and one of the most popular destinations for expats in Southeast Asia, with a rich cultural heritage, delicious food, and a wide range of activities to suit any taste. Although Bangkok doesn’t score so well in areas such as bureaucracy/admin and job security, the city makes up for these low rankings with high scores on the ‘Personal Finance’ and ‘Ease of Settling In’ indexes. It is a place where expats feel warmly welcomed and can make friends without difficulties.
The city is home to many temples and shrines, such as the Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun, which are some of the most iconic landmarks in the city. The city also has a thriving art scene, with many galleries, museums, and street art festivals throughout the year. Bangkok is also a very affordable city, with a relatively low cost of living compared to many other major cities in the world. This means that expats can enjoy a high quality of life without breaking the bank. Housing, transportation, and food are all relatively affordable, which can make it easier to save money or enjoy a higher standard of living.
Another attractive feature that is perhaps in part generating the positive reaction to Bangkok is high-quality healthcare facilities and procedures that the city offers at affordable prices, making it an attractive destination for both medical tourists and expats thinking of living in the city.
Each of these cities offers something unique, from the vibrant culture of Mexico City to the modern amenities of Dubai, from the stunning architecture of Lisbon to the beautiful beaches of Valencia. These top-ranking cities offer a great starting point for anyone looking to make a move abroad.