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The 15 Best Places to Live Overseas

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Summary: We try not to get political, but we can help you find a great place to live overseas if the U.S. election results have you thinking about moving overseas. Here's a list of 17 of the best places to live overseas based upon expats' advice and recommendations.

Living Overseas - The 15 Best Places to Live Overseas

If you are among those interested in exploring the possibility of moving abroad, we have compiled a list of some of the best places to live overseas. Our list is based upon the advice and input of other expats already living in these countries.

Here are the 15 best places to live overseas:


Move to Croatia

Expats living in Croatia love expat life there. One expat exclaimed, "First of all, Croatia is a beauty! The long coastline, from high up near Italy to deep south Albania is one long stretch of magnificent views with hundreds (if not thousands) of islands."

Many people find it difficult to decide where to live in Croatia, because there are so many amazing cities and towns to consider - from Split to Dubrovnik, Zagreb to Hvar (and many others).

Individual tax rates in Croatia are as high as 40% and corporate tax rates are 20% according to KPMG's tax tables.

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Costa Rica

Move to Costa Rica

With its stable government, tropical weather and beautiful beaches, Costa Rica is a very popular expat destination. Tamarindo, Dominical, Uvita, Ojochal, Escazu, Atenas and Grecia are among the best places for expats to live in Costa Rica.

"Leave most everything where you came from, sell it off, come start a new life in Paradise. Be prepared for some culture shock and getting used to the slower pace of life but be prepared for more exercise and a better quality of life where you will live life, not watch it on television. (not that we don't have tv's and cable)," advised one expat living in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has an individual income tax rate of up to 15% and corporate tax rate of up to 30% according to KPMG's tax tables. The cost of living in Costa Rica is considerably higher than other countries in Central America.

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Move to Spain

Spain offers expats great nightlife, amazing cuisine, thriving cities with great diversity, picturesque coastal villages and rich history. A couple who chose to move to Spain described how they made their choice, "As for Spain itself, we did a lot of on-line research into the country, and read a lot of books. We narrowed down our choices of where to live, and then took a trip to just those cities. Though we did some sight-seeing, we spent most of our time just doing regular things. We went to a laundromat, a supermarket, a hardware store. I got my haircut. And by doing so, we realized we could make it work. A trial run will give you the confidence that you're up for the challenge." People considering a move to Spain should learn as much as possible about obtaining residency in Spain.

Expats love living in Spain's cities - many move to Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and the coastal city of Valencia.

One forewarning for those considering living in Spain, "The only thing I should have brought is my patience! Everything here (compared to the UK) seems to take forever, especially when it comes to business matters. There are queues everywhere and the Spanish seem to take it in their stride to stand around for hours just waiting - can be very stressful. If you are coming from a prosperous Western European city or the States, I would say they should expect a much lower level of quality in customer services and professionalism in the working environment. Barcelona is great if you can party and sunbathe all the time and not worry about work and earning a good salary."

Corporate tax rates in Spain are 25% on average and individual tax rates are 45% according to KPMG's tax tables.

New Zealand

Move to New Zealand

Expats are drawn to the stunning beauty of New Zealand. Some like living there and others find the culture to be unwelcoming. If you are someone seeking nature, solitude and clean air, New Zealand may be the perfect destination for you.

Expats in New Zealand often choose to live in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, The Kapiti Coast and Hawkes Bay.

Individual tax rates in New Zealand are as high as 33% and corporate tax rates are 28% according to KPMG's tax tables.


Move to Portugal

Portugal sits on the Atlantic Ocean and shares the Iberian peninsula with its larger neighbor Spain, Andorra and a small area of France.

In an article offering tips for moving to Portugal, an expat advised to, "Do plenty of research before you come, then when you get here take your time finding the perfect place to live, ask around for information from others that have made the move... possibly rent first in an area to see if its right for you before buying."

In answering a question about whether to move to Lisbon or Cascais in Portugal, "The wonderful thing about your dilemma is that you have to visit both places to decide... We take the train directly from Cascais into Lisbon (30-40 minutess each way) almost weekly, just for lunch or the day; to meet friends or go to a museum; to get into a busier scene. We walk out our door in Cascais, within minutes we're at a cafe, restaurant, museum; we have no car, using buses or renting a car for longer trips. Groceries can be delivered right to our kitchen, so we shop and have them delivered later in the day." She then recommended others, "Spend a few weeks in each locale. I have a great connection for short-term apartments in Lisbon and in Cascais if I can help you with where to stay, as I really want you to get an authentic experience. We'll be here to help!"

"Almost everyone speaks English, especially youth, try to articulate and speak slowly," another expat added.

An expat living in Lisbon wrote that, "The long tradition on this end of the Iberian Peninsula of traders, explorers, and mixing cultures means that Portugal is a place of extreme diversity. It should go without saying that one can find pockets of people with more narrow views. The influx of disadvantaged people from the ex-colonies in Africa and to a lesser extent Brazil means that there are those cold shoulders blaming economic hardship on immigrants. However, speaking from the point of view of a US citizen, even the most hard-lined opinions about politics and capitalism were nearly always tempered with a good measure of curiosity about my experience and life before Portugal. A little curiosity and understanding on the part of the newcomer about Portugal can almost guarantee a smile and a bit of friendly conversation."

Individual tax rates in Portugal are as high as 48% and corporate tax rates are 21% according to KPMG tax tables.


Move to Singapore

Singapore is a world-class city with residents from all over the world - it's bustling, clean and expensive. "I loved the people, the lifestyle, the safety and the food. Most everything was healthy and wholesome -- not much food with preservatives or boxed food. They had many fresh vegetables and fruits which I loved and a variety of food including Chinese and Indian, which I liked," said one expat.

Singapore offers numerous international schools for expat families. Expats living in Singpore caution that people should only move there if they have a great expat package from their employer or can afford to live there without employer assistance.

Individual tax rates in Singapore are as high as 22% and corporate tax rates are 17% according to KPMG's tax tables.


Move to Ecuador

Ecuador is a very popular destination for expats. Expats living in Ecuador appreciate its low cost of living, bustling cities, laid back beach towns, affordable health care and friendly people.

"The weather here is great, wardrobe is mostly shorts, sleeveless shirts and sandals. As expected, so much less stress than in the U.S. due to slower pace of life and simplifying daily tasks. The fresh, inexpensive seafood, vegetables and fruits you can get at the outdoor markets are wonderful and daily walks on the beach make for a healthy lifestyle," said one expat in Salinas.

Individual tax rates in Ecuador are as high as 35% and corporate tax rates are 22% according to KPMG's tax tables.


Move to Netherlands

Expats living in the Netherlands appreciate that the Dutch are very tolerant and environmentally conscious. "For the first time in 20 years I am riding a cycle... and using public transport! I love how everyone skates when there is ice - I purchased my first pair of ice skates during our first winter. [I love their] appreciation of the sun... I really took that for granted. Nederlanders worship the sun," commented one expat.

The one downside of expat life in the Netherlands is that expats often don't feel entirely accepted by the Dutch. "Overcoming the social barrier between you and the Dutch... [it] is pretty hard for a 'vremdelingen' (foreigner) to get accepted by the Dutch" to the point where you would exchange invitations, confessed one expat. As a result, many expats find the greatest friendship and support in the local expat community.

With income tax rates of up to 52%, the Netherlands is a country rich with social programs. Some expats in the Netherlands are eligible for the 30% rule and have only 70% of their income taxed. The Dutch government started the program to attract foreign specialists with skills that were scarce in the Netherlands. There is also a health insurance premium. Healthcare system in the Netherlands is partly public and partly private. For example, public health insurance covers long-term care and hospitalization.


Move to Mexico

If you can afford to retire early and want to live on the beach in a country with low taxes and a laid-back vibe, Belize may be the right choice for you. Income taxes in Belize run around 25%. The unemployment rate is extremely high and expats have a tough time finding work and obtaining a work permit. "Almost all jobs are given to Belizeans and very few are given to outsiders. By all means you need to be in the country for 6 months before you can apply for a work permit. You may find better luck with foreign corporation," advised one expat. Belize is an offshore tax haven with offshore corporations paying no tax on income earned abroad.

It is important to note, however, that the government of Belize is NOT tolerant with respect to gay rights. Homosexuals are prohibited from immigrating to Belize. That being said, one expat replied to an inquiry about whether or not Belize is gay-friendly saying, "Also, is Belize gay friendly? (Officially it is "illegal") but you can live here without issue as long as you keep it private and do not keep anything on your PC, LT, tablet or items in your rental/home to that fact. All it takes is one pissed off neighbor or friend to make an accusation and the police have the right in Belize to bust your door down. But that is rare unless you are extremely flamboyant in public or piss a lot of people off..."

If you have health issues, most expats would advise you not to move to Belize. "Belizean health care is, on the whole, mostly primitive even by typical developing nation standards. The nearest thing to a saving grace is that quality health care can be had a few hours away in either Mexico or Guatemala. If you're comfortable with the idea of having to be medevaced for anything more serious than a sprained ankle - and some people are - then Belize may be worth a closer look. In that case you'll probably want to spring for an insurance policy that includes medical evacuation coverage," described one expat living in Belize. You may get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA for insurance coverage that includes evacuation.


Move to France

France is known by tourists for its incredible food; vast selection of art museums; breathtakingly beautiful cities, towns and countryside; and chic, stylish people. Expats living in France enjoy all of these things on a daily basis, but tend to add a few negatives to their descriptions of life in France: bureaucracy, strikes and high taxes. That being said, most expats agree that the pros outweigh the cons.

An expat in France commented on living in Paris, "I embraced the long lunch, the food and the wine. I'm now fluent in French, and am able to do business in German and Italian, so the language skills I have picked up have exceeded my language expectations. My flat was tiny but gorgeous. The fresh fruit and vegetables at the market was brilliant with seasonal foods, and I even got to buy and eat fresh cranberries, which I never would have in Australia as the climate isn't suitible. Dealing with bureaucracy met my expectations and did take a long time for anything to be done (9 weeks to connect phone and internet), but you just have to take it in your stride and try again next week/month."

From a liberal vs. conservative standpoint, France legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. Marijuana along with all other narcotics are illegal in France. From a tax perspective, France boasts a high corporate tax rate of approximately 33% and individual tax rates of up to 49% according to KPMG's tax tables. France has a universal health care system that is available to expats and retirees who become permanent residents. Initially, an expat is required to purchase private health insurance. If needed, you may get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.


Move to Canada

Culturally, many Americans find Canada to be a lot like home, despite the obvious climate differences. Expats love Canadians for their liberal attitudes and tolerant views. One expat in Toronto said, "Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. We are not just a tolerant city we are an inclusive city. All religions and cultures are welcome as long as they are peaceful, do not impose their belief on others and practice in the same inclusive and welcoming manner."

A socially progressive country at heart, Canada enacted the Civil Marriage act in 2005 legalizing same-sex marriage. According to a Los Angeles Times article, Canada is poised to become North America's new cannabis capital, as Canada could legalize recreational Marijuana use as early as next year. This might help Canada beat the US to a lead position in the booming multi-billion dollar industry.

Canada's public healthcare system started in 1984. Citizens and permanent residents may apply for public health insurance, but there is a common misperception that health care in Canada is "free." Families and individuals in Canada pay for healthcare via their individual taxes.

Canada has individual tax rates of 33% and corporate tax rates of 26.5% according to KPMG's tax tables.


Move to Colombia

Expats living in Colombia are trailblazers who are paving the way for others who will follow in their footsteps. Expats love Colombia for its warm climate, low cost-of-living, welcoming locals and family-focused culture.

An expat living in Bogota said, "The new culture is invigorating, energetic, exuberant, fast-paced, challenging and exciting. I so needed a change from Hawaii where I had become bored and complacent. The people are very sincere and helpful. They are happy and easy-going and really know how to have fun. The family unit is so close and includes most of the family tree, all of whom go to church together, visit each other frequently, even travel together. Most U.S. families that I know are no where near as close knit as those of the Colombian culture."

Where should you live in Colombia? Expats often choose cities like Pereira, Medellin, Bogota, Cali and Santa Marta.

Individual tax rates in Colombia are as high as 33% and corporate tax rates are 25% according to KPMG's tax tables.


Move to Uruguay

Expats living in Uruguay love Uruguay for its friendly people, stable government, tolerant views and laid-back coastal cities and towns. Expats typically choose to live in one of Uruguay's coastal cities, such as Punta del Este, Montevideo and Atlantida. Many expats choose Uruguay as a destination for off-the-grid living.

Uruguay is liberal in many respects. Not only is marijuana legal in Uruguay, but the government of Uruguay created the first nationalized market for marijuana in 2014. LGBT rights are among the most liberal in South America and the world according to Wikipedia. Same-sex civil unions became legal in 2008 and same-sex marriages were legalized in 2013.

Healthcare in Uruguay is a system through which you pay monthly to belong to a hospital and any of its clinics. This type of hospital membership plan is called a Mutualista. Or, you may pay as you go. "Medical care is OK. Slow service like in Canada but you have to pay. We have health insurance [mutualista] that's about $100/mo/person," explained one expat. Another added, "Yes, you cannot change Mutualistas except once every two years in February. Most have age restrictions now. We were told by Asociacion Espanola in Atlantida that my husband was too old at 70, but we went to the main office in MVD and they signed him up no problem. It can take weeks to get an appointment with a specialist and my friend waited 10 days before they actually operated on her broken hip."

From a tax perspective, KPMG's tax tables state that Uruguay's corporate taxation rate is 25% and the individual tax rates is as high as 30%.


Move to Australia

With several key destinations in Australia that boast a "stunning landscape, beautiful coastline and desirable way of life, Australia is a popular destination for people to migrate to from afar. With six states and two territories there is a great choice of places to consider relocating to."

Our Top 10 Tips For Living in Australia article quotes an expat who advised new expats to "pick a sport, any sport and that is the best way to meet someone over here. If sport isn't your thing then try bushwalking, volunteer groups, join a gym, whatever, there really is quite a diverse range of groups you can join," said an expat in Perth.

The cities of Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne are a few of the more popular areas to consider.

"Australia has virtually free health care... about 75%-100% of health costs are borne by the Government. The system is called Medicare and is not too bad but not perfect; the same as with every country with free health care you can be confronted with long waiting lists for non essential surgery, and sometimes have to wait for an hour in a waiting room to see a doctor for the flu or something. Of note to see a GP is free, all you need to do is present your medicare card, and prescription medicines are subsidised about 75% Noting some shortcomings in the system, a lot of people opt for private health cover which ensures priority treatment in private hospitals etc. Prices are very competitive and attract a tax break at tax return time," said one expat in Australia.

One expat explained, "To work in Australia you need to apply for a skilled visa, either as an independent or sponsored by an employer. There are several visa options and each of them have specific requirements, which include age, English language knowledge, skills and experience in an occupation in demand in Australia. You can read about all the options and all their requirements at"

Individual tax rates in Australia are as high as 45% and corporate tax rates are 30% according to KPMG tax tables


Move to Mexico

The U.S. Media has made many Americans fearful of Mexico, but there are still a number of areas that are safe expat destinations. Cities and towns along Mexico's Pacific Coast and Riviera Maya; Lake Chapala and Ajijic; and other cities such as San Miguel de Allende and San Cristobal de las Casas are all great places to live or retire in Mexico.

Same sex civil unions are legal in several states and cities in Mexico, including Mexico City. The Mexican government is taking steps to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use. According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Mexicans are practicing Catholics.

Mexico has an individual income tax rate of up to 35% and corporate tax rate of up to 30% according to KPMG's tax tables.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Comments about this Article

Nov 13, 2016 12:14

I didn't read the description for every country but the one for Canada is certainly incorrect in several aspects if not simply misleading. How anyone can suggest a list of 'best' places to live is a ridiculous claim to make. Look up the definition of 'hack writer' if you don't know it already.

Nov 14, 2016 04:21

Panama! Government provides easy immigration paths. Panama City is very developed and inexpensive. Cheapest international City . Rents are low. Transportation by taxi and Urber Are very inexpensive . Much to do. Restaurants are reasonable and great. Shopping is fanrastic. Dollar country for more than a hundred years. Country is beautiful like Its Costa Rican neighbor.

Nov 15, 2016 15:25

Good article! Thank you.

Nov 19, 2016 12:36

I like to see the real data on this list because more than half of your "Best Places" is very misleading. Trust me, I've been to these places. While it's different than actually living there but you will certainly get a feel of the place

Nov 20, 2016 17:33

I've lived in many of these places. Some key info is missing, substituted for the 'feel good' stuff. Mexico , although safe in some areas, can be dangerous. Belize is a joke. I know many expats who have given up on that circus. New Zealand can be racist. France? No mention of the muslim unrest. Same as with the Netherlands Good try. If you did some more research, this would be a great article. But the things that matter most to me when choosing a new home are noticeably absent.

Nov 23, 2016 12:58

What about BRASIL ? Obviously Brasil is in a bad way right now politically and economically but there are many nice areas of Brasil worth exploring, especially if you are retired and don't need to work. I prefer the south of Brasil or what is usually called the European Brasil vs the Nordeste called the 'Real Brasil'. Much less crime and mostly Europeans in the south (Italians and Germans). Beautiful small towns with European flair ; Blumenau, Novo Petropolis, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, etc Brasil has some of the best beaches in the world. Worth a look !

Nov 23, 2016 13:16

Disagree totally on some of your recommendations. Your advice is out of touch with the reality of today. MANY of he European countries you recommend DO have a huge immigrant problem and makes them dangerous ; France, Spain, Greece, Italy. BELIZE is a very dangerous place and should not be recommended for anything except for murders. I spent 3 months working in New Zealand and found it one of the most BORING countries I have ever visited. Boring food, boring people. Horrible. Costa Rica is also VERY BORING unless you enjoy spending your lifetime in the forest. BORING. SINGAPORE is a great city but expensive beyond compare. Have to be wealthy to live there unless you want to live in the slums. South American countires like Ecudor, Nicaragua might be cheap etc but I would think they are so 3rd world no way I'd enjoy living there. Uruguay should be a nice place to live except for the winters, very cold. Very cosmopolitan country with intelligent people. Same goes for Argentina. I DO like your choices of Canada, Portugal, Croatia, Colombia if you are tired of being oppressed and subject to radical right wing conservative attitudes in the USA.

Dec 26, 2016 09:44

What about Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Certainly any expat trying to move to Singapore is in for a shock as it is not retirement visa friendly and very expensive. Would appreciate the inference of needing to move out of the country as a partisan political position best kept out of this web site. Certainly not professional and an insult for those of us happy with the change in government. As for those who want to leave by all means please feel free to leave as soon as possible as you are part of the problem and not the solution.

Jan 3, 2017 03:14

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First Published: Nov 09, 2016

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