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Here Are the Best International Spots for Expats

The great migration into remote work has young professionals flocking to remote work destinations. If you’re one of these lucky folks (or are considering becoming one), where are the best places to work for online expats?

First off, if you’re considering moving abroad, make sure you have a job or enough money to survive for six months before you go. No one wants to be stuck outside their home country without any access to shelter or food. Second, you’ll want a quality of life that aligns with your wants and desires. Do you have children that need to attend school? Are you looking for an urban existence close to culture or do you prefer the quieter side of life?

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This, of course, is going to depend on your work situation, finances, health care, and other needs overseas. There’s no perfect way to create a broad list for the multiplicity of specific personal situations out there. We can, however, provide you with some of the best places in the world to settle for a few months, and let you sort through what fits.

A city nightscape featuring a river in the foreground, and lit streets and buildings underneath an aqua blue sky
Creative Commons

*Note: Make sure you follow CDC COVID-19 guidelines before traveling. Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself from severe disease and to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Make sure to plan ahead and check the current COVID-19 situation at your destination and follow all requirements of transportation operators and destination requirements.

Panama City, Panama

Panama City, as seen from the sky in 2016

With Mexico and Costa Rica often labeled as the Latin American places to go, there’s a less visited land to the south: Panama. Direct flights from at least nine major U.S. cities land in its capital city. Add this to a tropical climate, low crime, an advantageous tax system, a grooving downtown, and an excellent culinary scene, and Panama City isn’t a bad place to be.

Only a 2-hour flight from Miami, the city is often described as an inexpensive version of the South Floridian hub. There are salsa clubs, rooftop bars, Michelin-starred food, and great street eats if you’re going cheap.

When you’re tired of the urban life, you will find an endless strand of Pacific and Caribbean beaches, thousands of accessible islands, interior highlands that include cloud forests, a volcano, mountain summits, lakes, and rivers. Amid these unspoiled natural sanctuaries is an incredible biodiversity of flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the world.

*All unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travelers are required to present a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or Antigen) within 72 hours prior to traveling to Panama or be tested at the airport at their expense. Each individual entering Panama must complete and sign an electronic sworn affidavit prior to check-in.

Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo sunset seen from Playa Malvín

If it’s a relatively quiet capitaol city with a high quality of life and excellent culture, Uruguay’s capital city is a good choice. There’s a sunny Latin scene to dive into, and with beaches nearby, there are a number of places to explore and enjoy inside and outside the city.

If you’re a meat eater, the city’s parrillas (grills) are worth weeks of taste testing. There are museums and parks abound, and the 13-mile rambla (coastal promenade) offers hours of strolling. For digital workers, Wi-Fi hotspots are aplenty, health care is accessible, and there are a number of cute cafes to perch in. In your off time, there are music options and a thriving craft beer and cocktail scene.

Dinner is served late (beginning around 9 or 10 p.m.), but that just means restaurants will often be uncrowded around 6 or 7 p.m. Afterward, Uruguay’s musical traditions shine, from candombe to tango and murga.

*Vaccinated travelers with proof of vaccination do not require covid testing prior to entering Uruguay. Unvaccinated travelers require a negative PCR or antigen test within 72 hours before initiating travel, and an additional PCR test 7 days after arrival or complete self-quarantine for 14 days.

Lisbon, Portugal

The Belém Tower, one of the most famous and visited landmarks in Lisbon and throughout Portugal
Alves Gaspar

Europe is loaded with a wonderful variety of towns and regions for people who want to live and work overseas. None might be more popular right now than Lisbon, Portugal. With a huge population of expats, young people, cheap and tasty food and drink, safe streets, and desirable weather, it’s easy to see why.

Public transit is ubiquitous and affordable, the city is walkable, and there are edible influences from all over the world, from Italian to Austrian, Argentine to Japanese, and Peruvian to Nepalese. The food’s affordable and will only run you about $20 for a good dinner and $2 to $3 for a beer or wine. Lisbon is also a unique coastal town that offers over 300 days of sunshine a year and temperatures that rarely drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of its popularity, rent can be expensive in Lisbon, and the city is not called the San Francisco of Europe for nothing. It can be a hilly place to navigate, too.

*All visitors must submit either an EU Digital Vaccination Certificate or must present a negative COVID-19 test (PCR/NAAT test) 72 hours before boarding or a rapid antigen/TRAg test 24 hours before boarding.

Prague, Czech Republic

Sunrise in Prague's Old Town
Radovan Císař/PraguePhotoTour

For four seasons, a view of Old World Europe and a central continental location with easy access to other countries by train, you can’t beat Prague. Reasonably priced, filled with expats, steeped in culture (as one of the few European cities not destroyed or damaged during WWII), and featuring excellent mass transit, the City of a Hundred Spires is an attractive option.

Cafes and coffee shops sit and wait for you to arrive and people-watch behind your laptop. There are pubs, attractions, historic monuments, museums, sports, and more to keep you engaged for weeks. If you ever do get bored or need a break, Germany, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary are all just an easy train ride away.

*Effective April 9, 2022, the Czech Republic has suspended all COVID-19 related entry restrictions for travelers. Travelers to the Czech Republic are no longer required to complete a Passenger Locator Form, provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or prior infection, etc.

Crete, Greece

The Palace of Knossos in Crete
Olaf Tausch

Secluded yet close by, connected by Wi-Fi yet echoing bygone times, Crete is an exciting option for those willing to take the leap. What you’ll find on this Mediterranean island is sunshine, a slower pace of life, and good value. What you won’t find is people in a hurry — expats and locals alike.

Nomads have long established themselves on the largest Greek island, settling in for Crete’s unmatchable mix of yellow sun, blue sea, marble ruins, and green-covered villages. And the food is an almost endless expanse of fresh meat, cheese, and olives.

Just like any island, food and other staples can get expensive. Crete is not built for speed, so you’ll have to be patient. What you find, though, are welcoming people, fast friends, and an easy pace to enjoy an ancient paradise.

*Masks are still required on public transit. As of May 1, 2022, however, travelers entering Greece are no longer required to display a certificate of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Skyline of Downtown Dubai from a helicopter in 2015
Tim Reckmann

One point of moving away from one’s country is to forge fresh vistas. There are few places in the world as scrubbed, shiny, and spanking new as Dubai.

Sitting on the eastern edge of the Persian Gulf, Dubai is one of the most visited cities in the world. It’s a fantastical Arabian town with a fairy tale futuristic skyline towering over its rich harbor. Now it’s driven more by luxury shopping and wealth, and you’ve likely seen pictures and videos of its ultra-modern architecture, stratospheric glass towers, palm-leafed carvings out of the sea sand, and lively, multicolored nightlife scene.

Capping this desert vista is Burj Khalifa, a 2,721-foot tall tower. At its base sits the Dubai Fountain, which shoots jets and strobes spotlights choreographed to music like the Arabian Bellagio. Like its Vegas cousin, Dubai’s restaurants serve up world-class fares, and there are excursions to offshore artificial islands that include Atlantis and The Palm. Like an adult theme park, there are at least 10 things to do for everyone.

While you can enjoy a drink in the city emirate’s private clubs and restaurants, public drinking is strictly prohibited and carries a heavy fine. For English teachers, entrepreneurs, and anyone else doing business in Dubai, there’s no income tax and salaries tend to be high. Life is sweet, but it ain’t cheap in the business hub of Western Asia.

*Travelers to Dubai/United Arab Emirates mush present a valid vaccination certificate (with a QR code) or negative COVID-19 test issued within 48 hours (with a QR code) or present a valid medical certificate issued by the relevant authorities that the passenger has recovered from Coronavirus SARS COVID-19 within one month the date of arrival (with a QR code).

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, economic capital of Africa, lit up at night
African Modern

For those securing a truly exciting alien world where the language remains English, Nairobi is quite the choice. There’s no end to the new things to soak in situated in the capital of Kenya, on the edge of the bush.

The city itself is a modern capital, complete with skyscrapers rising over former colonial British streets. Often ranked as the top African city for expats, an emerging middle class and established business climate offer an encouraging atmosphere for new residents to quickly build a healthy social life and enjoy Nairobi’s vibrant nights.

Alongside affordable housing, however, visitors will have to be more vigilant about their own safety than in many other places. The roads and infrastructure are creakier than most of its Western cousins and the business environment is going to offer more blatant corruption. Still, there are few places in the world where you can spot a giraffe on that same vista with the Nairobi National Park close enough to abut man-made civilization.

*Eligible unvaccinated travelers must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test 72 hours before departure. Unvaccinated travelers will also be required to take a $30 rapid antigen test upon arrival.

Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi's National Botanical Garden of Georgia in Tbilisi is concealed from view as it resides among the hills of the Sololaki Range

Though Tbilisi is a bit off the beaten path for some, two things make the Georgian capital city stand out: Inexpensive living and a lack of visa requirements. That’s right, you can stay for 365 days without any hassle.

Tbilisi is an ancient city as buildings hundreds of years old can profess. There are festivals throughout the year and options for music entertainment from classical concerts to techno clubs. Abundant hiking trails, parks, and lakes offer an option for nature lovers and speed trains give access to the nearby mountains and the Caspian and Black Seas.

Because of its remoteness, food and groceries can get costly in Tbilisi. Formerly communist buildings contain aged appliances and don’t always have heat. Still, the food is tasty, rent is cheap, and Georgia’s people are ready to welcome adventurers from far shores.

*All travelers must present valid vaccination certification or a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of departure.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Night view of Ho Chi Minh City from Bitexco Financial Tower
Diego Delso

If you’re looking for cheap, tropical living inside one of the world’s wildest metropolises, Ho Chi Minh City is your spot. Few places in the world offer the sheer amount of stimuli and sensory submersion as Vietnam’s vibrant capital.

Bustling, dirty, and loud, Ho Chi Minh City stuffs 9 million people into the southeastern Saigon River delta. On this side of Vietnam, you’ll find local open doors and another 100,000 fellow expats, all there where their dollar stretches across a spectacular and sprawling culinary and cultural spread. Find noodle stews and Buddhist temples and experience incredible shows and outdoor sites. And when you get bored or need a change, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and even Australia are just a hop, skip, and jump away.

*E-visa (30 days) is required for entry. Travelers must provide proof of valid medical/travel insurance covering Covid-19 treatment (minimum $10,000 coverage) and a downloaded PC-Covid mobile app presented upon entry.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Changkat Bukit Bintang, an upmarket gastronomy area and red light district in Kuala Lumpur at night

Another hot spot that has made many Best Of Expat lists, Kuala Lumpur is overall one of the fastest-growing Southeast Asian mega cities and Inter Nations’ top 2021 city for expats. Covering 94 square miles, the city houses 2 million people and over 8 million in the greater Klang Valley.

The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur’s stunning streets are colored by an abundant culture and tropical landscape. Rich in natural reserves, Malaysia’s largest city is a prosperous tourist and retail hub after only officially becoming a city in 1972. In some ways, the city is the daylight version contrasting Ho Chi Minh’s neon lights.

There’s ubiquitous English spoken, clean streets, great shopping, stellar food (especially on the streets), and cheap living. There’s little crime, the beach is close by, and temples, galleries, and hills all await wandering feet.

*Individuals entering Malaysia not fully vaccinated are required to provide the results of a COVID-19 (RT-PCR) test taken within 48 hours of departure.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and explore!

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