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11 Best Places to Live in Asia as an Expat

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Kat Smith
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Asia is a big, bold, beautiful continent. Stretching from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and everything in between, there's a lot to unpack here.

Whether you're chasing mega cities like Seoul or hidden gems like Muscat, there's an idyllic place to live based on your needs and wants. Outside of the cities in Asia, there are quirky and cool small towns speckled all throughout the region.

With so many great places to live in Asia, it can be tough to narrow it down. That's why I reach out to fellow female expats living all over the globe to get their take on it the best places to live in Asia. A different group helped me uncover the best places to live in Europe but now it's time to head farther east.

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Getting Ready to Move Abroad

Before we dive into where to go, let's make sure you're ready to make the leap. Moving abroad can feel like a big scary step but I promise, once you go for it, you'll be so glad you did.

Whether you stay abroad for a decade and counting like I have, hopping from country to country, or you give a go for a year or two and head back home with a new perspective and plenty of new experiences under your belt, there's nothing quite like setting up a home in a foreign country.

To ensure you're ready to live abroad, make sure you have these things taken care of before jetting off:

  • You've narrowed down your belongings to a suitcase or two.
  • You have your source of income sorted out.
  • You know which visa you'll be on and have already applied if needed.
  • You have your pet's travel documents ready if you have a furry friend along for the ride.
  • You've told your friends and family your plans.
  • You're excited and ready for a new adventure!
  • You have international health insurance, like Safety Wing, in case you're moving without a job that'll handle that.

While those are just the basic steps to moving abroad, with just those, you're actually ready to go! Before you start shouting from the rooftops that you're going though, let's be sure you know where you're off to.

It's important to note when you start your planning process that many countries in Asia don't yet offer visas for remote workers like in Europe, so you'll either need to get a work-sponsored visa or deal withe visa runs as a digital nomad.

After living in Asia for about 4.5 years, I can safely say there's a lot to love. I know from experience just how tough it can be to narrow down your destination, too. Take it from me, a girl who moves constantly, even though you picked one place to live today, doesn't mean you can't try out somewhere new next time!

With that's let's dive right into the best places to live in Asia.

Da Nang, Vietnam

The quaint alleys you can expect to see everywhere in Da Nang.

I was lucky enough to call Da Nang home for 2 years. During that time, I was able to enjoy beautiful beaches, friendly locals, delicious and fresh food, and a low cost of living. What stuck out so much to me living in Da Nang compared to the year I spent living in Ho Chi Minh City is balance.

Cut in half by the Han River, the city is split in two: the beach side and the city side. Most expats choose to live on the beach side, filling their days with great views, a tranquil pace of life, and everything you need usually within walking distance. Cross the river and you're back in any Vietnamese city life, just with a bit less traffic than Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi.

Although Da Nang has my heart, you can't go wrong living anywhere in Vietnam. But if you prefer a laid back lifestyle, affordable places to live, and great beaches just steps away from your home, Da Nang might just be your perfect fit, too.

Long-Term Visa Options in Vietnam

If you'd like to live in Vietnam for at least a few years, the most straight forward way to snag a visa is through work. Many expats in Vietnam are there working as an English teacher and get a sponsored visa that way.

There is also a large portion of the expat community who work online and do visa runs to Cambodia, Laos, or somewhere farther for a day or weekend trip.

Udaipur, India

The stunning City Palace in Udaipur.

Submission & photo by Ruma at The Holiday Story.

The beautiful city of Udaipur in Rajasthan is one with immense cultural and historical significance. It’s often known as the Venice of the East. It’s located south of Rajasthan on the banks of Lake Pichola. It’s the only Indian city to achieve this feat now.

Udaipur used to be the capital of the former princely state, Mewar. Thus, there are several stunning palaces in the city.

 Some of these have been transformed into luxury hotels for tourists. The whole city is a hub of architectural excellency of medieval India. It’s one of the cleanest places in India

The cost of living here is lower than in other major cities in the country. Udaipur is small and constricted, with a radius of about 7 km, and everything is available nearby. Modern healthcare facilities are available at an affordable price. Locals here are friendly and welcoming towards new people. 

It’s also relatively safe and thus makes an excellent place for female ex-pats to settle in. The average cost of living is around Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 ($240 - $310 USD). All of this combines to offer exapts a high quality of life at a low price tag.

Offering a more laid back lifestyle, if you prefer more chaotic, busy cities, you might prefer living in Mumbai, India.

Long-Term Visas in India

Many foreigners living in India are on visas either provided by their work, their Indian spouse, or because they are studying in the country. If you're not yet sure you want to move to the country but instead want to scope it out first, most nationalities can stay in India for up to 60 days on a tourist visas.

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Dubai, UAE

The amenities you could have at your apartment.

Submission & photo by Danni at Danni in Dubai.

Dubai can often be overlooked by expats since they assume it is ridiculously expensive to live! However compared to many global cities, Dubai offers not only good value but an extremely high level of lifestyle.

Apartments are modern, spacious, and often come with extras such as swimming pools and gyms. In fact, the vast majority of apartment buildings have these amenities free for residents. Many buildings also have security or a concierge too. Making life easier for deliveries and building safety.

It's really hard to beat the standard of living you'll have in Dubai.

In terms of food, activities, and events, you really will be spoilt for choice in Dubai. Every possible food you can imagine is here, so if there's one particular dish from back home you miss, chances are you'll find it here!

The same goes for activities and sports, you'll be hard-pressed to find something that doesn't already exist in Dubai. Events and social activities are on every single night too so making friends won't be as big of a challenge.

Other perks of living in Dubai is the safety with extremely low levels of crime, it is especially safe for women where you don't need to worry about walking late at night on your own. It's also a city full of expats, making it easier to network and make friends in a short time. Once you get used to living in Dubai, it's very hard to live anywhere else!

Long-Term Visas in the UAE

Various visas are available depending on your situation, including the affordable Remote Working Visa which allows anyone employed or self-employed to get a year-long visa to stay in Dubai. Requirements are you must be earning over $60,000 USD per year. If you plan to work directly in Dubai, you can apply for a Freelance Visa or set up a company in a Freezone.

This is just one of many countries in the world that now offer remote worker or freelancer visas.

Osaka, Japan

The Osaka Castle in spring full of Cherry Blossoms.

Submission & photo by Lisa at Lisa Eats the World.

After living in Osaka, Japan for close to a decade, it's safe to say I've been spoiled. It's hard to imagine living anywhere else. Other expats agree, Osaka is one of the best cities to live in Japan.

The main form of transport in Osaka is the subway, which makes exploring the city extremely convenient. Trains on most major subway lines will depart every few minutes during peak hour, and the subway is clean and well-maintained, making the commute easy and stress-free.

In addition to the convenient subway, traveling from Osaka to other major cities is simple thanks to the well-connected rail system. It's easy to enjoy a day in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Nara, or Kobe at the last minute, as these places are all within one hour of Osaka by train.

Osaka is a great city for eating and drinking - so much so that it's often referred to as the "Kitchen of Japan." In Osaka, you can eat and drink to your heart's content. In addition to delicious traditional Japanese food, Osaka has some great Italian food and an emerging café culture.

Best of all, Osaka is a safe city by Western standards. I never have to worry about my safety on the subway late at night, and I can comfortably walk in the city and rural areas without having to constantly look over my shoulder.

Cherry blossom season in Osaka is one of my favorite times of the year, but the city can be enjoyed during every season.

Long-Term Visas in Japan

A large number of expats who live and work in Japan are on the following visa types, but please note there are many other additional visa types available, like the Working Holiday Visa that allows you to stay in the country for 1 year.

  • Instructor: Generally for teachers in Japan working in elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools.
  • Entertainer: For actors, musicians, sportspeople, etc.
  • Engineer/Specialist in humanities/International services: A broad visa category which covers jobs such as IT engineers, foreign language teachers, designers, interpreters, etc.

Singapore

The modern skyline that could be your new backyard.

Submission & photo by Grace at Pixie Dust and Passports.

I could literally talk about Singapore for hours and never get bored. From its glittering skyline to its delicious local food and impressive attractions (I’m talking to you Gardens By The Bay!), it’s unsurprising that this part of Asia is adored by expats and tourists alike.

Although you’ll struggle to pull me away from Merlion Park, Raffles Place, or Marina Bay Sands, there’s much more to the famous Lion City than first meets the eye. Outside of its touristy spots like Universal Studios Singapore and the beachy paradise of Sentosa, you’ll find charming cafes and bizarre attractions like Haw Par Villa (which took me around 10 years to visit, by the way!).

When I was living as an expat in Singapore, you’d usually find me getting my nails done and grabbing a cocktail at Holland Village before heading to Dempsey Hill for a mouthwatering meal. And at the weekends? It could be anything from ice skating and moviegoing at J-Cube in Jurong to hanging out at the National Library at Bugis.

But when I wasn’t living my best life at lesser-known spots, I was taking advantage of the world-class transport system and appreciating the almost ridiculous level of cleanliness in the country. You might hear jokes about gum being illegal here, but you won’t be scoffing when you see that everything is pristine!

Long-Term Visas in Singapore

I only lived in Singapore as a dependent of my lovely parents, but getting a Visa here is relatively straightforward. It’s way easier if you’re planning to marry a Singaporean resident, but you’ll need to earn a minimum of $5,000 a month to secure a work pass on your own. You’ll also need to meet a few specific criteria to make the cut for an employment pass.

But once you’re in, you’ll never want to leave. Just ask my parents – they’ve been in Singapore for 26 years (and counting!).

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Cafes just like this one are sprinkled all throughout the city.

Submission & photo by Martina at PlacesofJuma.

Chiang Mai is of the coolest places to choose in Asia as an female expat. Especially in dry season, in the winter months, a whole community of expats meets here to work and enjoy life together.

I loved the fact that there is such a big exchange with like-minded people, you have plenty of opportunities to go out together, have a dinner, and to party. Moreover, there is such a wide range of fun things to do in Chiang Mai, like visiting temples, go hiking, enjoying national parks, and many more.

North Thailand, and especially Chiang Mai is a quite famous place in the expat scene and there are good reasons for that. You can communicate wonderfully in English here, there is always good internet availability, and the city is full of nice cafes and co-working spaces.

A big plus is also, that the cost of living is really cheap. If you don't know where to stay first, try good hostels, they are so affordable and a great place to meet like-minded people. 

In case you plan to stay a longer period of time, then you can also rent an apartment. For a small apartment, you can expect to pay only about 250 euros per month, it becomes a bit more expensive in a condo with a pool.  Laundry is also cheap to get done for only 1 euro per kilo. For a scooter, you pay about 7 euros per day, but even without a scooter, you can get everywhere cheaply on foot or of course by taxi or tuk-tuk.

Another advantage is that Chiang Mai has its own airport so you can travel to many destinations in Thailand but also abroad. Also, there is a train connection with Bangkok, if you prefer to travel by train.

Long-Term Visas in Thailand

Foreigners intending to work remotely from Thailand can apply for the LTR VISA ( long-term resident visa).  This allows you to stay in Thailand as a "digital nomad" and also work there legally for up to 10 years if you meet all the requirements.

Do note though that this visa is intended for foreigners who make a high paycheck so isn't as attainable for the average digital nomad. Many of the expats or nomads in Thailand arrive on tourist visas and do visa runs (leaving the country when their visa expires and entering back in on a new one days later).

Muscat, Oman

Photo by shutterstock.com/Sirio Carnevalino

Submission by Cait Shaw at Faraway Dispatches.

There are few places left in the world where the natural wonders are still quite as wild as in Oman. From the towering sand dunes of Wahiba and the Empty Quarter, to the jagged peaks of the Hajar Mountains, the swathes of unspoiled white sand beaches all along the coast and the turquoise waters of the fjords of Musandam, there is no shortage of adventure to be had in Oman. 

Whilst not nearly as well known as an expat destination as Dubai just over the border, living in Muscat offers great lifestyle opportunities for those looking for a more low key expat experience.

If you're chasing a "Western experience" abroad, Muscat probably isn't the city for you. If trying to replicate your lifestyle here, your expenses will rack up. If though, you're interested in a local way of living, you'll be presently surprised. Skilled expat workers tend to make a high salary and with 0 income tax, you'll be able to save more of your paycheck.

Although the summers get ridiculously hot in this region, there's plenty to see and do in Muscat all year round. If you're just passing through, you'll want to plan the best time to visit but if moving here, you'll be able to enjoy the highs and lows of all the seasons.

Long-Term Visas in Oman

Anyone visiting Oman as a tourist can do so easily. The visa process is done online and most nationalities can stay for up to 90 days. If though you want to live in Muscat, your residence permit and visa will be tied to your job.

Over the last few years, Oman has really prioritized giving jobs to locals but there are still plenty of opportunities for skilled foreign workers.

Taipei, Taiwan

Photo by Pixabay.

Submission by Katy Liang.

While life in Taipei can be fast-paced and busy, its central location in East Asia makes it the perfect gateway to easy and affordable travels whenever wanderlust calls.

For many expats, this metropolitan city offers a high quality of life, with all of the buzz and glamour and none of the price tag. Plus, the country of Taiwan is a beautiful island that holds a wide variety of outdoor adventures when you need a break from the city.

At the same time, pockets of old-time gems and diverse food options from local and afar expose travelers to a whole new world of cultural exploration and discovery. With an openness towards newcomers and a friendly atmosphere, it won’t be long before you find yourself feeling at home. 

Once things for sure, living in Taiwan will keep you entertained. Like most big cities in Asia, it's one that never sleeps. Regardless of what you enjoy doing and the time of day you want to do, you'll find others wanting the exact same thing.

With great food and endless entertainment options, Taipei is a fast-paced city that's a lot of fun. And whenever you need a break, head down a quaint alley for a chill cafe serving up delicious boba.

Long-Term Visas in Taiwan

Taiwan is actually one of the best places to live in Asia in terms of their visa options. While it's certainly possible to get hired right away as an English teacher or a non-teaching job and get a work visa, you can also move here on a "job search visa" and be given 5 years to search in person for a gig. Many digital nomads take advantage of this visa, without the real intention of getting a job here but instead to just stay for a year or two.

Seoul, South Korea

Photo by Markus Winkler.

Another incredible Asian city that I've had the pleasure of living in, Seoul is a fantastic city to call home. As a mega-city, you could spend an entire year here exploring a new neighborhood every week, and you'd still leave alleys unturned.

Not only is a fun place to live for someone who bores quickly of routine, it's a lot of fun because each neighborhood has it's own distinct vibe. Want to party all night? Head to Hongdae. Prefer beauty products and high-end street food? Go to Myeong-dong.

Getting from neighborhood to neighborhood is super easy thanks to the public transportation. The buses and subways run on schedule and connect every bit of the city, even some of the suburbs.

Seoul has a massive expat community filled with foreigners who planned to move to the country for a year and just never left. It's that easy to fall in love with! Plus, it makes making friends a lot easier. Koreans are always welcoming and if you treat your co-workers with respect, chances are they'll become your first friends in this bustling city.

Once aspect of living in Seoul that I wasn't expecting was it's easy access to nature. Surrounded by mountains, you can enjoy a great hike just steps away from a subway stop. Travel a bit farther out of the city and you can ski and snowboard in the winters, too.

Long-Term Visas in South Korea

A vast majority of expats living in South Korea work as English teachers. With such a large population and a high demand for native English speakers, if you have the basic qualifications, you'll have a good chance at getting hired.

It's important to note that teaching is taken seriously here so don't plan to move here as a teacher unless you're actually prepared to work. On the same note, the students take school seriously, too, so behavior problems in the classroom are minimal.

For those that have taught in the US, teaching in South Korea, especially at a private school (hagwon), will be a step up. But it is also possible to live in Seoul not as an English teacher.

Doha, Qatar

Just a glimpse of the expansive coastline here.

Submission & photo by Emma at Wanderlust and Wet Wipes.

Qatar is a place with a glittering skyline and surrounded, save for a few kilometers of border shared with Saudi Arabia, by turquoise sea. Hear the word Qatar these days, however, and you’re more likely to think of the 18-karat gold FIFA World Cup Trophy and the negative press the country has received since winning the country won the bid 12 years ago.

While some of those unflattering articles are true, it’s the ones about women living there that many (who actually live there), dispute. For women living in Qatar, life is pretty easy. With the right credentials, women are able to get visa approval to work, they can drive cars, and go out without issue. While the country does request that everyone dresses respectfully, there is no requirement to wear an abaya or hijab.

Living there also means making friends with people from all over the world – of the approximately 3 million people living there, only around 350,000 are Qataris. It means fun activities in Qatar at the weekend including lavish brunches in 5* hotels, dune bashing near the Inland Sea, and exploring the back streets of the sounds and the old town. Home to the one of the world’s best airlines, it also means the opportunity to travel to your heart’s delight!

Long-Term Visas in Qatar

Visas are relatively easy to get in Qatar. For short term visits, many nationalities are able to get tourist visas on arrival. Tourist visas for up to three months can be applied for at your local embassy. Work residence permits are the most common way that most foreign nationals reside in Qatar and these are applied for by your employer.

Bali, Indonesia

Photo by alleksana.

Popular among digital nomads, I actually debated adding Bali to this list or not. What I'm about to say might come as a shock but I feel like Bali isn't the best place to live in Asia. I'm including it though because of it's incredible popularity.

And just because it's not the right place for me, doesn't mean it's not the right place for you. People flock here for a reason after all.

Living in Bali means beautiful beaches, friendly locals, incredible nature, and being positioned in one of the world's largest hubs for remote workers. All of that is fantastic and if that's where the list ended, I could see why you'd want to live here, too.

On the other side, because of it's popularity, you have a mass number of foreigners flocking to this once serene island. The housing prices have skyrocketed and even finding a long-term rental can be tough. Chances are you won't spend too much time rubbing elbows with locals but instead with other expats and nomads.

If though, you're craving a creative and mindful hub and want a high quality of life of still less than you'd pay in most other places, ignore me, and give Bali, Indonesia a chance.

Long-Term Visas in Indonesia

Currently, Indonesia doesn't offer a digital nomad visa. Most remote workers there are on a tourist visa, doing visa runs, like you'd do in many Southeast Asia countries. I have heard from others though that it can be possible to set up your own business visa if you plan to stay long enough to jump through the hoops.

Ready to Move to Asia?

Starting in the Middle East, working your way through Central Asia, all the way to the beaches and islands of Southeast Asia, there's a lot of ground to cover in this vast continent.

From a city center to a small town, Islamic culture to Buddhist, whatever it is that you're looking for in a home abroad, you'll be able to find a lovely version of it in Asia.

Hero photo by Marius Mann. *This article may contain affiliate links, meaning I make a small commission on any purchases at no extra expense to you. Read our disclaimer & privacy policy here.

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