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Ten of the best places for expats to live and work

29 October 2018

These are not the cheapest places to live but they are locations that offer good value in terms of quality of life and taxes. If you are considering a move abroad here are our top 10 best places to live as an expat and why.

There’s no doubt the world is getting smaller – technology is bringing people from all parts of the world closer together and demystifying what would once have been completely alien cultures. We’re more adventurous and ambitious than ever and less willing to just settle for the lot we’re given. There are global economic pressures more severe than we’ve seen in many decades, which are pushing us to think outside of the box when it comes to earning potential. 


Perhaps these are all reasons why more people than ever are looking outside of their own country for work and a new lifestyle? 


If you’re considering a move, no matter what time of life you’ve reached, research is key to ensure you find the right fit. Will you be able to work in the industry you want? What language is commonly spoken in business circles? What will the living costs be? Will I be able to get good healthcare? How far will my money go? 


Here, we take a look at some of those issues in 10 of the best locations to consider if you fancy becoming an expat:



As the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo is home to around a third of the country’s total 1.9 million population. While the official language is Spanish, English is commonly used in the business community. The city is pretty safe and medical facilities are good but ex-pats can expect to pay a fairly high price for treatment. Cost of living for expats is high, particularly for alcohol and clothes, meanwhile education costs are very low. 


The Uruguayan peso (UYU) equates to 0.034 USD or 0.026 GBP. The average monthly rent is UYU 20,605. Uruguay’s ‘friendly system’ means taxes on worldwide income for foreign nationals spending more than 183 days a year in the country are non-existent for the first 5 years of residency. Expats are, however, expected to pay income tax with the rate ranging from 10% to 25%.

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Dubai has the largest population of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (2.5 million). Its main revenues are tourism, property and financial services. Dubai’s official language is Arabic but English is widely understood and is the main business language. Security risks for expats are low. 


While medical facilities are good, expats will pay a high price and must provide proof of insurance or the means to settle fees before being treated. Cost of living is very high, in particular for education and alcohol (where available) but costs are low for transport and meals out. 


Currency is the Dirham (AED) and this equates to 0.27 USD or 0.21 GBP. Expats can expect to pay in the region of 6,194 AED in rent. Dubai is known as a tax-free country, however if you are earning an income in Dubai but are a tax resident of another country, you may be liable to declare your income and pay taxation on it. 


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Singapore is an island city-state with a population of 5.2 million and its official languages are English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. English is the usual language for business. It is known as one of the safest destinations in the world. Medical treatment is of a high quality but is typically expensive. 


The cost of living is also very high in most, if not all areas. For example, groceries are 60.2% more expensive than in the USA and household costs are more than twice as high. The currency of Singapore is the Singapore Dollar (SGD) and this equates to 0.73 USD or 0.56 GBP. 


On average, it will cost an expat 2,615 SGD in monthly rent. Income for those resident in Singapore for upwards of 183 days a year is subject to taxation at a progressive rate, meaning higher income earners pay more, with the highest rate in the region of 22%. Worldwide earnings are not subject to taxation. 


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Perth is the capital of Western Australia and its official language is English. It is an administrative centre for business and government and has a population of 2 million. It is a safe destination with low crime levels. 


Healthcare standards in Perth are high but expensive, as is the general cost of living in the city. The cost of education, however, is ranked as average. Currency is the Australian Dollar (AUD) with the exchange rate at 0.77 USD or 0.58 GBP. Generally, it will cost an expat in the region of 2,173 AUD in rent per month. 


You become Australian resident for tax purposes once you have lived in the country for 6 months. At that point you must pay Australian tax for all income earned worldwide. Rates are progressive up to a level of 45%. 


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Kuala Lumpur

With a population of 7.2 million, Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. Its official language is Malay and most Malaysians understand English. Expats in Malaysia are at a low to medium security risk. Medical facilities are good but private treatment can be expensive. 


Cost of living is average – alcohol and clothes can be costly but education will cost an average amount and transport and general healthcare costs are low. Malaysia’s currency is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) and the exchange rate is 0.24 USD or 0.18 GBP. 


The average monthly rental cost is a low 1,830 MYR. Expats will pay up to 26% tax on their income, unless you are retired above the age of 55, are receiving a pension from your employment in Malaysia or living off bank interest. 


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Nassau is the capital and commercial centre of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and, with a population of 250,000, is home to 80 per cent of the country’s population. Nassau, which is heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking, is located on New Providence, one of the islands in the chain that make up the Bahamas. 


The official language is English. Overall, expats are safe in the Bahamas but should take care in the southern neighbourhoods of Nassau where the risk rises to medium. Healthcare is good but expensive and the cost of living for expats is very high in all areas. 


Currency is the Bahamian Dollar (BSD), which is fixed to the US dollar. There is no personal income tax but non-residents may find they are liable for taxes in their home country on the money they earn in the Bahamas. 


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Isle of Man

The Isle of Man is a British Crown Dependency and its official language is English. It has a population of 84,000 and its key industry is financial services. Security risks are low for expats. Medical facilities are good but the cost of treatment for expats from outside the EU can be high. 


The general cost of living is high but, on the plus side, the government runs a key employee initiative enabling approved key employees moving to the Isle of Man to start up a new business or diversify/expand an existing one, to be taxed only on their Manx-source income for the first three years of residence. The currency of the Isle of Man is the British pound. 


Expats living in the Isle of Man for more than 6 months in the tax year or who are present for an average of more than 90 days each tax year over 4 consecutive years will pay income tax at a rate of 20%. You will also be taxed on worldwide income. 


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Panama City

Panama City is the capital of the Republic of Panama and its official language is Spanish. It has a population of 1.5 million. Most residents speak English and it is widely used in business circles. Banking and tourism are its key industries. 


The security risk for expats is low. Medical facilities, unlike in other areas of Panama, are generally good and are inexpensive. The cost of living is average with the cost of education being ranked as low. Panama’s currency is the Panamanian Balboa (PAB) which equates to 1 USD and 0.75 GBP. 


As a resident of Panama for tax purposes (you live in the country for more than 183 of the tax year), you will be taxed on your earnings at a rate of up to 25%. You will not be taxed on worldwide income. 


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Spain’s capital is a major centre for international commerce and business, with a population of 6.5 million. Its official languages are Spanish, Catalan, Valencian, Gailician and Euskera (a Basque language). 


English is the foreign language most commonly spoken. Security risks are low. Medical facilities are good but can be expensive for non-EU expats. The cost of living is average, with education costs also ranking as average. 


Currency is the Euro (EUR), with an exchange rate of 1.18 USD and 0.89 GBP. You become a Spanish tax resident after 183 days’ residency and will be liable for income tax at a rate ranging from 24% to 45%. You will not be taxed on worldwide income. 


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Bangkok is the capital and economic centre of Thailand and has a population of 14.6 million. Its official language is Thai, while English is widely spoken in business circles. The security risk is assessed as medium for expats living in Bangkok. 


Private medical facilities are generally good but costly. Many of the country’s hospitals require payment guarantee before treatment begins. The cost of living is average and for education costs are very low. 


The cost of alcohol and clothing, however, is considered very high. Currency is the Thai Baht (THB) and the exchange rate is 0.030 USD or 0.023 GBP. You will pay income tax at a rate of up to 37% once you become a Thai tax resident (again, 183 days plus in the country). You must pay tax on worldwide income. 


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While much advice for prospective expats can be found online, there is no substitute for a chat with a good financial adviser, who should be able to shed light on the key issues facing foreign residents in a particular country. If you are considering a move to a different country and are about to start a new life as an expat Finding a good financial adviser is the first step towards attaining your saving goals. 


Being an expat and working abroad has its rewards. Are you making the most of them? Whether you are about to relocate or already living in your host country, our list of expat blogs will help you in making a smooth transition and have the best experience living abroad.