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Expat Exchange - 12 Best Countries to Live Abroad in 2024 2024
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Valencia, Spain


12 Best Countries to Live Abroad in 2024

By Joshua Wood, LPC

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Summary: More people than ever are interested in living abroad, and for a wide variety of reasons. Whether you are a young professional looking for international experience to advance your career, or a retired couple seeking fun and the perfect climate, this article is a great way to explore the best options in the world.

For this year's "Best Countries for Expatriates" list, we are presenting the top 12 countries in which to live abroad, but we are not ranking them. Our decision to use this format is to highlight what many expatriates, or people considering the idea of being an expatriate, often do not consider strongly enough - the "perfect" destination country is defined differently for each person or family for very specific and often personal reasons. In other words, one size does not fit all.

To illustrate this point, imagine an expat couple in their 30s who wants to gain international experience for career purposes. They have very different needs than a retired couple who seeks a destination country with a warm climate, lower cost of living, and plenty of recreational activities.

Portugal, for instance, is always highly ranked in "Best Country" lists and actually may benefit both of the two examples above. However, if you're a citizen of the United Kingdom, and you're interested in a country or city on another continent, well you're not even going to consider Portugal.

And remember, that is what each individual and family has to ask themselves. What do you hope to gain from your expatriate experience? How can you balance your needs with what you want? With that in mind, here is the list of the best countries for expatriates in 2024.

Costa Rica

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Costa Rica is often one of the first countries that expatriates ask about on Expat Exchange, and that stands to reason given the unique blend of attractions that it has to offer.

An excellent quote from Michael Chrichton's Jurassic Park (1990) illustrates the richness of Costa Rica's natural beauty that outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers will adore:

"Only seventy-five miles wide at its narrowest point, the country was smaller than the state of Maine. Yet, within its limited space, Costa Rica had a remarkable diversity of biological habitats: seacoasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific; four separate mountain ranges, including twelve-thousand-foot peaks and active volcanoes; rain forests, cloud forests, temperate zones, swampy marshes, and arid deserts. Such ecological diversity sustained an astonishing diversity of plant and animal life."

The country is renowned for its commitment to environmental conservation, ensuring clean air, abundant wildlife, and sustainable living. This focus on eco-friendly practices creates a healthy and environmentally conscious atmosphere that appeals to an ever increasing number of people.

Costa Rica's business environment is stable, dynamic, and eco-friendly, boasting a rich biodiversity and a strong focus on sustainability and renewable energy. It's an innovation hub, attractive for its quality of life, political stability, and supportive expat community. With its strategic location and investment-friendly policies, it appeals to entrepreneurial expatriates seeking a balance between work and life in a tropical setting.

Importantly, Costa Rica boasts a stable political climate, a strong democratic tradition, and a high level of safety, all of which contribute to a sense of security for expats. The healthcare system is extremely well-regarded and affordable, which draws retirees who seek quality medical care.

The "Pura Vida" lifestyle, emphasizing simplicity, happiness, and work-life balance, is a cornerstone of Costa Rican culture. This is the refreshing change of pace sought by so many expatriates. Moreover, the warm and friendly locals make it easy for newcomers to feel at home.

Quote from the Costa Rica Forum : "My experience has been that I can live comfortably on about $ 2,500 dollars monthly - including rent, food, gasoline, and eating in a restaurant 2-3 times weekly. Small communities are less expensive, and I have friends who live on considerably less because they do not have a car. You will find most everything considerably less than in the US, one caveat being that imported goods - gourmet foods, clothing made in the US, Amazon purchases, etc., are taxed heavily.

France

Paris France

France is often hailed as one of the best destinations for expatriates, and its appeal is multifaceted. The rich cultural heritage, world-class art, and renowned cuisine, make it a paradise for those who appreciate culture, gastronomy, and the arts. The French way of life, with its emphasis on leisure and enjoyment, has allured people from all over the world for centuries.

The country's healthcare system is highly regarded, offering quality medical care to residents. France also offers an excellent education system, including prestigious universities and schools.

Expatriates in France can enjoy a diverse range of landscapes, from the Mediterranean coast to picturesque countryside and vibrant cities like Paris and Lyon. The country's efficient public transportation and well-maintained road networks make travel within and beyond its borders easy.

France's central location in Europe makes it an ideal base for exploring neighboring countries. When you pair that reality with the nation's standard for work-life balance - shorter work weeks and generous vacation days - working expats really have time to savor the experience of living overseas.

That being said, it's important to note that France's economy is one of the most robust in the world. Its business environment includes strong sectors in technology, aerospace, fashion, and agriculture, among many others. It benefits from a skilled workforce, an impressive infrastructure, and proactive government support for innovation.

Expat Quote from the France Forum: "Saint Malo is a very old walled city also on the north coast. It has a lot of history and is nearly surrounded by beaches. It is very close to the perfectly preserved city of Dinan, located at the edge of the river Rance. Picturesque, incredible history and awesome crepes and galettes. It is very near the north coast and an easy drive to Mont Saint Michel... Rennes is an easy drive and is the largest city in the Brittany region."

Italy

Puglia Italy

Italy is one of the most romanticized destinations for expatriates. Its rich history, art, and culture are unsurpassed, and iconic cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice serve as living museums. The Italian cuisine, which is as varied as its many regions, offers a gastronomic paradise for food enthusiasts. It truly is heaven on Earth from a culinary perspective.

Italy's landscapes provide expats with a wide range of living environments from which to choose. Whether you desire stunning coastlines along the Mediterranean, picturesque countryside vistas in Tuscany, or the beauty of the majestic Alps, it's all there. Italy truly does have it all.

The country's healthcare system also is excellent and accessible. Additionally, Italy offers a relaxed pace of life, emphasizing the importance of savoring moments and enjoying leisure time.

Italy's business environment is dynamic, characterized by a strong manufacturing sector, renowned fashion and design industries, and a growing tech scene. As with other well-developed European nations, it boasts a skilled workforce, rich cultural heritage, and strategic location right on the Mediterranean Sea. This makes Italy attractive for both domestic and international investors.

The warmth and hospitality of the Italian people make it easy for expatriates to settle in, get comfortable, and enjoy their new life abroad. The country's central location in Europe facilitates travel to neighboring countries in both Eastern and Western Europe.

Expat Quote from the Italy Forum: "Where to live in Tuscany depends on your priorities and budget. Most cities are small to medium sized as cites go. Florence has the advantages of being the region's capital BUT suffers from the weight of (too much?) tourism. Cities like Lucca, Pisa and Siena offer authentic experiences."

Mexico

Tulum Mexico

With its desirable climate and proximity to the United States and Canada, Mexico is consistently ranked as one of the best destinations for expatriates from North America, and beyond. Its history and traditions offer an immersive and captivating experience for expats and tourists alike. And let's not forget about the food - the glorious gift that is Mexican cuisine.

Affordability is another major draw. The cost of living in Mexico is considerably lower than in many Western countries, allowing expatriates to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank. Healthcare in much of Mexico is also of high quality and often more affordable than in many other countries.

The country's mix of landscapes, from pristine beaches to charming towns, villages to bustling cities, all offer a wide range of living environments to suit various needs and preferences. Mexico's pleasant climate in many regions is another attraction, with plenty of sunshine year-round.

Mexico's business environment is vibrant and evolving, with a strong manufacturing base, burgeoning tech industry, and significant foreign investment. Its strategic location, free trade agreements, and young, skilled workforce make it an attractive destination for global and entrepreneurial ventures.

Mexico's warm and welcoming locals, known for their hospitality, make it easy for expats to integrate and build a sense of community. Add on the previously mentioned proximity to the United States and its well-connected transportation network make it a convenient base for exploring North and Central America. All these factors contribute to Mexico's reputation as an excellent destination for expatriates seeking adventure, affordability, and a high quality of life.

Expat Quote From the Mexico Forum: "The important things to figure out before you jump is elevation because it determines climate and temperatures. Beach vs desert vs mountains. Large city vs smaller. For me that is traffic vs culture. I live in Sonora on the Sea of Cortez. Here is where the desert meets the sea. We have desert activities and the sea. Cactus and palm trees. Proximity to the U.S. is huge for me for shopping for things not found in Mexico."

Netherlands

Amsterdam

The Netherlands is renowned for its high quality of life. It boasts an efficient healthcare system, excellent education options, and a strong social safety net that seeks to ensure a comfortable and secure living environment.

The Dutch are known for their progressive and inclusive society, and this makes it easy for expatriates to integrate and feel at home. The country's cultural diversity is celebrated, and English proficiency is widespread, simplifying communication for non-Dutch speakers.

The Netherlands offers a fantastic work-life balance, with shorter work weeks and generous vacation days, allowing expats to enjoy their leisure time to the fullest. The country's well-maintained cycling infrastructure and efficient public transportation make commuting easy and eco-friendly. Its central location in Europe makes travel to other popular European destinations convenient.

The Netherlands is also a hub for international business and innovation, with a strong focus on sustainability and technology. This provides ample career opportunities for expatriates to find work and earn a living, although getting a work visa in the Netherlands can be challenging without a job offer or sponsorship.

Outside of its many beautiful cities, the Dutch landscape is picturesque and features scenic canals, charming towns, and beautiful countrysides. All these factors combine to make the Netherlands an appealing choice for expatriates seeking a high standard of living, cultural richness, career prospects, and a well-balanced lifestyle.

Panama

Panama

For those interested in living in Central America, Panama is consistently ranked as one of the best destinations for expatriates. Its strategic location at the crossroads of North and South America makes it a global business and transportation hub, offering abundant career opportunities for expats.

The country boasts a stable political environment, a strong economy, and a favorable tax regime, making it an attractive destination for professionals, entrepreneurs, and retirees alike. Panama's currency, the U.S. dollar, adds to its financial stability.

Panama's natural beauty is breathtaking, with pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and diverse ecosystems. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore national parks, go hiking, or enjoy water activities all year round.

The cost of living in Panama is generally lower than in many Western countries, and the healthcare system is of high quality and affordable, which draws retirees seeking excellent medical care.

Panama's locals, who often speak English, create a welcoming environment for expatriates. The country's Pensionado program offers various benefits to retirees, including discounts on numerous services.

Panama's business environment is dynamic and growth-oriented, highlighted by its strategic geographical position and robust logistics sector. The economy offers attractive tax incentives, and a significant international banking presence, making it a key hub for trade and investment in Latin America. Securing a work visa in Panama typically requires a confirmed job offer and employer sponsorship, but starting a business in Panama as a foreigner is relatively straightforward compared to many other countries. Panama encourages foreign investment and entrepreneurship with various incentives.

Expat Quote From the Panama Forum: "Panama is only single digits north of the equator. So, while there are seasonal variations, there is relatively little temperature difference and little change in daylight hours. There is, however, considerable choice of elevation at which very nice and habitable housing can be found."

Portugal

Algarve Portugal

Portugal - which lost its status as undiscovered expat gem a long time ago - has earned its reputation as one of the best destinations for expatriates for innumerable reasons. Beautiful beaches, rolling vineyards, and historic cities such as Lisbon and Porto offer a high quality of life and countless opportunities for outdoor activities.

Portugal also boasts a relatively low cost of living compared to many other Western European countries, making it an attractive option for expats seeking affordability without compromising on amenities or quality of life. The healthcare system is excellent and accessible, ensuring peace of mind for residents.

Portugal's also has a welcoming and friendly culture, and that fosters a strong sense of community between expats and locals alike. While there were significant changes to the Golden Visa program, which grants residency to investors, there are still other options even though the real estate track is gone. There are also a number of other options, such as the relatively new Digital Nomad Visa and the D7 visa for those with a regular income stream.

Portugal's business environment is increasingly attractive, with a focus on services, innovation, tech startups, agriculture and renewable energy. It offers a skilled workforce, competitive costs, and strong EU ties, making it ideal for entrepreneurs and companies looking to expand in Europe. Getting a work visa for Portugal is relatively straightforward, especially for EU and European Economica Area nationals who do not require one. Non-EU citizens typically need a job offer from a Portuguese employer who must first demonstrate that the position couldn’t be filled by an EU citizen.

Lastly, Portugal's mild Mediterranean climate, with over 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, adds to its appeal. All these factors, along with its rich history and vibrant culture, make Portugal an ideal destination for expatriates seeking a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.

Expat Quote From the Portugal Forum: "So, I would say, that most everything we have experienced in Portugal so far, from the people, to the food, and the experiences they share, including helping us with pronunciation of Portuguese... is amazingly positive and welcoming."

Singapore

Bordeaux France

Singapore is famous for its orderly society. With its highly-developed economy and a thriving job market, it is a magnet for professionals and entrepreneurs seeking career opportunities.

The city-state offers a superb quality of life, with an efficient healthcare system, excellent education options, and a low crime rate. Its modern infrastructure and well-connected transportation network ensure convenience and ease of living.

Singapore's multi-cultural society creates a welcoming environment for expats from all over the world. English is one of the official languages, which helps to facilitate communication for non-Mandarin or Malay speakers.

The country's cleanliness, safety, and green spaces contribute to a high standard of living. Its vibrant food scene, which blends various cuisines, is a gastronomic delight for locals and expatriates alike.

Singapore's strategic location in Southeast Asia also provides an ideal base for travel.

Singapore's business environment is highly competitive, with a strong focus on technology, finance, and international trade. It offers a robust infrastructure, a pro-business government, and as noted above a strategic location from which to conduct international business. Securing a work visa, or "Pass" as they are called in Singapore, is streamlined but requires meeting specific eligibility criteria.

Singapore's economic opportunities, quality of life, multiculturalism, safety, and accessibility to Asia make it an attractive destination for expatriates seeking a dynamic and prosperous lifestyle.

Spain

Valencia Spain

Spain is increasingly talked about as an option for expatriates. Whether you're looking for affordable living in Europe or willing to spend more to find the experience that best suits your dreams of living abroad, there are all kinds locations to explore in Spain.

First and foremost, the rich Spanish culture offers a unique experience for expats. From the lively fiestas to the exquisite cuisine and stunning architecture, Spain provides a vibrant and captivating environment.

The country boasts a high quality of life with its excellent healthcare system and well-developed infrastructure. Spain's Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and long, sunny summers, is a major draw for those seeking pleasant weather year-round.

The cost of living in Spain varies significantly by region, but in many areas, it is relatively affordable compared to other European countries. This affordability, coupled with a strong expat community, makes it an attractive option for those looking to relocate and settle in quickly.

Spain's business environment boasts strengths in tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and renewable energy, among other industries. It benefits from EU integration, a skilled workforce, and significant foreign investment. For a Spanish work visa, a labor market test is applied and applicants must have health insurance and no criminal record. Employer sponsorship is another requirement.

Spain also has a well-connected transportation network and close proximity to other European countries, which makes it an ideal base for exploring the rest of Europe.

Switzerland

Bordeaux France

Switzerland offers a multitude of compelling reasons for its appeal to expatriates. Its strong economy, stable political climate, and well-developed financial sector make it an attractive destination for professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors.

Importantly, low cost of living is not on the list of reasons to move to Switzerland. So if you're in need of stretching every dollar, you'll definitely need to look elsewhere.

The country's educational institutions, including prestigious universities and research centers, provide excellent opportunities for academic and career advancement. Switzerland's emphasis on innovation and technology further enhances its appeal for expats in various fields.

Switzerland's stunning natural landscapes, from the Swiss Alps to picturesque lakes and charming villages, offer a high quality of life and abundant outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and cycling.

The Swiss healthcare system is world-renowned for its quality, accessibility, and efficiency, and its efficient public transportation network and well-maintained infrastructure make commuting easy.

Switzerland's business environment is highly competitive, known for innovation, precision engineering, finance, and pharmaceuticals. Securing a work visa in Switzerland is complex, requiring proof that no suitable Swiss or EU candidate could fill the position. The process is highly regulated, with stringent government quotas and the necessity of employer sponsorship. Applicants must demonstrate high qualifications and professional skills. Not surprisingly, expats gleefully accept assignments there to enhance their prospects of advancement later in their career.

Thailand

Bordeaux France

Thailand is often hailed as one of the best destinations for expatriates, and there are a broad range of reasons for its appeal. First, its warm climate and stunning natural beauty, from tropical beaches to lush mountains and vibrant cities like Bangkok, create an enchanting backdrop for expatriates seeking adventure and relaxation.

The cost of living in Thailand is relatively low compared to many Western countries, allowing expats to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank. The country's renowned cuisine, bustling markets, and rich cultural heritage offer a feast for the senses.

Thailand's welcoming and hospitable locals, known as "Thai hospitality," make it easy for expatriates to integrate into the community and forge meaningful connections. Additionally, Thailand's modern healthcare facilities, affordable medical services, and well-established expat communities provide peace of mind for residents.

Thailand's business environment is dynamic, centered around tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing. It's growing in tech and digital sectors, supported by government incentives and strategic geographic location.

Obtaining a work visa and work permit in Thailand generally requires employer sponsorship, a valid job offer, and meeting the minimum salary threshold set by Thai immigration laws. Additionally, the employer must justify hiring a foreigner by proving that the skills needed are not available locally. The process involves extensive documentation and can be bureaucratic and time consuming.

Overall, Thailand's affordability, natural beauty, cultural richness, and welcoming atmosphere make it an ideal destination for expatriates seeking a vibrant and fulfilling life abroad.

United Arab Emirates

Dubai

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is often considered one of the best destinations for expatriates, especially among those who wish to garner international experience at a young age. This potential for career growth attracts professionals from around the world. Additionally, the UAE offers tax-free income, which provide expatriates with significant financial benefits.

Importantly, expats should know that they will NOT be alone as foreigners in the UAE, particularly in Dubai. There are more foreigners than there are UAE citizens. This often makes it easier for expatriates to integrate and feel at home.

The UAE boasts modern and cosmopolitan cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, known for their broad swath of amenities and vibrant cultural and entertainment opportunities. Expatriates can enjoy a high standard of living with access to world-class healthcare facilities, educational options, and recreational activities. The country's safety and security, efficient transportation networks, and excellent public services add to its appeal.

Getting a work visa in the UAE typically involves having a confirmed job offer, as employment is tied to visa sponsorship. The process is employer-driven, relatively straightforward, and often expedited, especially in free zones, which have their own regulatory frameworks.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


First Published: Apr 14, 2024

Valencia, Spain

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