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10 Best Places to Live in Asia as an Expat (2024)

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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 the best places to live in Asia. Not sure it's Asia for you? A different group of expats helped me uncover the best places to live in Europe.

For now though, it's time to head farther east. With so many epic places to live in the continent, I also created the list based on some other factors. These included:

  • Cost of living
  • Variety of things to do
  • Environment
  • Visas
  • Job opportunities/stable internet
  • Diversity within the list

With that in mind, these are the 10 best places to live in Asia.

1. Da Nang, Vietnam

Want to try surfing? Da Nang is great for beginners

Starting off our list in Southeast Asia, allow me to introduce to you one of my favorite cities in the world: Da Nang. While this place has obviously graced the top spot of places to live in Asia, it's also my #1 recommendation of best places to live abroad for expats.

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 in any of these best cities 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.

Dreaming of this life but don't know where to begin? Learn the steps you need to take to move to Vietnam.

Visa Options to Live 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. Currently, you can get a 90-day visa for Vietnam. After 90 days, you'd need to leave the country and come back in on a new 90-day visa.

2. Seoul, South Korea

Downtown Seoul 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. Regardless of the time of the year in Seoul, there's always something to do.

Visa Options to Live 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, expats find that you'll have a good chance at getting hired. Whether you choose to live in Seoul or another of the best places to live in South Korea, jobs are plentiful.

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.

3. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thai temple by depositphotos.com

Submission by Catherine Xu from Nomadicated.

At the age of 16, Chiang Mai was one of the first places I ever visited. It was with my parents back then, and I never imagined it would become my winter home. Since then, I've swapped bus tours to elephant sanctuaries for a local motorbike rental on the Mae Son Loop and traded hotels for an apartment.

If you're not heading to Thailand's southern beaches, most tourists go to the North for its temples and hills, and Chiang Mai is the northern epicenter.

Although it is Thailand's fourth largest city, the balance between urban and rural life is perfect, as you're never far from nature or a 7/11. Life here is a little more subdued than the bustling Thai capital of Bangkok and the Thai culture here feels far less influenced by Western tourism than Phuket.

The city is dotted with beautiful temples, fun local markets, and exciting cultural festivals. What I love most about Chiang Mai is its perfect size. It's big enough to offer many amenities and activities yet small enough to maintain a tight-knit community. In my circle alone, digital nomads have meet-ups at least twice a week, the acro yoga crew gets together every day, and the American expats celebrate every holiday and birthday together.

According to Martina from Places of Juma, the winter months in particular (the Thai dry season) is a particularly great time to spend in Chiang Mai. During these months, you’ll find the most digital nomads meeting to work here and enjoy life together.

Aside from the solid networks and incredible Thai food, the low cost of living makes Chiang Mai an attractive place to live. Areas like the Old City, Nimmanhaemin, and the River are popular among expats. And if you're working remotely, the city is filled with coworking cafes and offices. 

Visa Options to Live in Thailand

To call Chiang Mai home for a short while, Thailand offers many countries visa-free entry for one month, with an extension for another. Some people do a border crossing to reset the clock, but there are limits to how many times you can do that in a year.

If you plan to stay longer, Thailand has a few long-term visa options like the Education Visa, Volunteer Visa, and Thailand Elite Visa. It's also possible to get a work visa, most commonly as an English teacher in Thailand.

4. Taipei, Taiwan

A beautiful night in Taipei 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 vibrant metropolis 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.

Visa Options to Live 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.

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5. Osaka, Japan

The Osaka Castle in spring full of Cherry Blossoms.

Submission & photo by Lisa from 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 certainly 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.

Visa Options to Live 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.

6. Singapore

Singapore Gardens by the Bay by depositphotos.com

Submission by Marco from Marco & Clara Travels.

I am from Hong Kong and have lived abroad in Singapore for four years. I took this leap as Clara, my then-gf-now-wife is a Singaporean.

Singapore is a fantastic place to live abroad if you are looking for a safe, politically stable, clean, natural disaster-free haven! I would say it is perfect for families, especially with young children, to settle down. Being a multi-cultural well-planned cosmopolitan city, everything you need is always a stone's throw away. You can also get to any part of Singapore easily via public transport.

Food choices in Singapore are also endless. I found so many Hong Kong cuisine restaurants, so I barely missed food back home. Food portions are on the small side though, so I usually had to order two portions of food to be full!

Another great thing about living abroad in Singapore is its proximity to so many bucket list destinations in Southeast Asia. I've been on so many short weekend trips to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia!

Are a sports lover? Download the ROVO app, where you can host and join racket games, such as tennis, badminton, pickle ball and table tennis. That’s how I met many new expat and Singaporean friends, who shared my common love for tennis!

Singapore is also a bilingual country. English is widely spoken by many Singaporeans along with their mother tongue (Chinese, Malay, Tamil). The older generations also speak dialects like Hokkien, Cantonese or Teochew. So as an expat, if you can speak one of these languages, you should be able to get by. However, Singaporeans speak very quickly, and sometimes they mix terms from different languages. This is what people call Singlish. If you struggle to understand, you can ask them to slow down. In time to come, you will start to pick up Singlish terms which has its charm!

Grace from Pixie Dust and Passports said about her time living in Singapore, 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!).

Visa Options to Live in Singapore

For the past few years, I have held various visa options. A few of the visas I have held are also popular options for other expats moving to Singapore:

  • Work Holiday Pass: This pass allows eligible students and young graduates (18-25 years old from recognised universities) to work and holiday for 6 months.
  • Employment Pass: This pass requires one to find a job already, as the employer would be the one applying this pass for you.
  • Long-term Visit Pass: If you have graduated from a Singapore IHL or have a Singaporean spouse, you will be eligible for this pass.

7. 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 expats 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 expats 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.

Visa Options to Live 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 visa.

8. Abu Dhabi, UAE

Submission and photo by Keri Hedrick from Our Globetrotters.

Abu Dhabi is a visually stunning city, forged on a series of islands jutting into the Persian Gulf. A humble fishing village just 60 years ago, the discovery of oil has seen one of the most rapidly developing modern cities in the world rise from the desert.

The capital city of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi has been an exciting place for us to see grow and develop for over a decade as our family has grown from babies and toddlers to now teens. Like many rapidly developing expat cities, it’s not without its quirks and frustrations at times - from paperwork to traffic manners and construction woes - but the pros do massively outweigh the cons in this wonderful multicultural city (expats here outnumber locals by about 9:1)

Exceptional health care is available to all residents, not to mention its income tax free, so you pocket everything that you earn locally. The city's geographic position really puts it quite centrally in the world for international travelers, and you are just an hour away from the bustling city of Dubai.

Tourism is abundant, but unlike neighboring Dubai it doesn't feel like the sole purpose of the city, it still belongs to its residents first. Schooling options for families are great and now widespread (though a little pricey for expats as the only option is private; government schools are reserved only for Emirati children) and a growing range of social pursuits available for all ages and interests.

Hitting the water is popular, be it by boat, paddle board or kayak. You name a sport or social club, you can probably find it in Abu Dhabi! Camping in the desert dunes and cycling are also common winter pursuits. Foodies are very well taken care of with an abundance of international dining options and a growing nightlife scene.

The development of the Etihad Arena on Yas Island has seen a string of international acts arrive since we left the days of COVID behind. In 2024 we will see Hamilton and Matilda the Musical, Cirque du Soliel, along with comedy acts and Middle East Comic Con at ADNEC. The opening of the world's largest wave pool is shortly expected, along with the much-awaited Zayed National Museum, followed by the Guggenheim in 2025.

A pitfall, like many wonderful cities in the Middle East, is the summer heat. It is intense enough to drive most activities indoors 6 months of the year as temperatures regularly top 45c, but that still leaves 6 incredible months of the year for pursuing outdoor adventures; winters in Abu Dhabi are utterly idyllic.

Visa Options to Live in the UAE

Seeking anything close to permanent residency used to be near impossible for most with GCC passports. However, the UAE have recently introduced a Golden Visa to many categories of workers, entrepreneurs and investors. This means a growing number of expats can move from a 3-year employer visa to a 10-year personal visa, giving more long-term surety and security to expats looking for a more permanent change to life in the sun.

9. 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 pleasantly 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 you're moving here, you'll be able to enjoy the highs and lows of all the seasons.

Visa Options to Live 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 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.

10. Tbilisi, Georgia

Sweeping Tbilisi views by depositphotos.com

Georgia has gained a lot of traction as a great place to live in Asia as an expat or digital nomad. This is primarily thanks to its laid back vibe towards visas but more on that below. While I haven't lived in Georgia (just the state in the US!), I've heard good things about the city and feel like it's worth sharing, especially for those that are looking for a home abroad quickly.

Here you won't get those typical Asian or Middle Eastern vibes like you will in the other places on this list, you'll instead get a unique mix where things feel a little bit Eastern European and a little bit Russian...but not quite. Central Asia really stands out as it's own unique place in the world.

While the way of life might be shocking, the cost of living won't be - unless you're shockingly pleased. The cost of living is lower of course in smaller towns in the country but for a capital city, you'll get great bang for your buck.

What you might not realize is that Georgia is a wine country so if you like sipping vino outdoors, you'll have your hands full of vineyards to visit on the weekend. The food might get a little repetitive if you stay put in one small area but the regional cuisine is varied and in the city you can typically find a little bit of everything.

Visa Options to Live in Georgia

The biggest perk to living in Georgia is the ability to stay in the country visa-free for up to a year. This is really unheard of anywhere else so it is a good choice for those that want to skip visa hurdles and settle right in abroad. It's important to note that this isn't available to all nationalities but still a whopping 94.

It is important to note that they do offer a visa for digital nomads if you plan to work remotely during your year here. It seems like many work under the radar without the visa but if you want to do things "right," you should apply for the visa. It seems like a stress-free option and the whole thing can be done online.

How to Decide Where to Move Abroad

Moving to Asia can feel like an intimidating step, especially if this will be your first time moving abroad. One of the biggest steps to moving abroad, and also the most necessary to actually go, is choosing where in the world you'll call your home.

It can feel like a huge decision and one that if you mess up, you can't take back. Here's the thing though: nothing you do when it comes to moving from one country to another has to be permanent. You're allowed to go back home or start over in a new country if it doesn't work out or just because you want to.

Once you feel more confident and ready to make your decision about where you want to live in Asia, think about these things to help narrow down your options:

  • How long do you want to stay in country X?
  • Where can you get a long-term visa or residency permit?
  • How important is it that locals speak English?
  • What type of weather do you really want to avoid? And likewise, what type of weather would you really love?
  • What lifestyle are you most eager to have? Laid back, cosmopolitan, access to nature, interesting culture, etc.
  • How far away from your home city/town do you want to be?
  • What cost of living can you comfortably afford?

If you're having a tough time narrowing down where in Asia you want to move, take some time to answer these questions first. Knowing this will give you some clarity on your needs and wants and where your priorities lie in a home abroad.

Where Will You Live in 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 and diverse continent.

What's lucky about living in Asia is that no matter which country you choose, you're guaranteed natural beauty in a variety of forms, excellent food, and typically a fast growing economy with more than a handful of job opportunities.

From living in the city center of a mega city to the outskirts of a small town and navigating 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.

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