Best Cities in the World for Expats

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InterNations has named the best cities in the world for expats, and Valencia topped the list. This year, 11,970 expats across the globe took part in the expat city ranking survey, and the Spanish city of Valencia ranked highly for many factors, securing the number one spot and beating the other world cities of Dubai and Mexico City. One hundred seventy-seven nationalities living in 181 countries participated in the city survey.

Topics of interest included quality of life, personal finances, digital life, language, expat essentials, housing, working abroad, and settling in. To identify the best and worst cities, expats rated 56 aspects of urban life from one to seven. The aspects included emotional topics and practical matters like making friends, cost of living, or healthcare facilities. The survey then grouped these aspects into five categories.

The last question was, “How happy are you with your life abroad in general? “The survey doesn’t factor in external results but bases itself on expat city opinions. For example, when it comes to personal safety, the survey doesn’t refer to local crime rates or native residents. For cities like Valencia, Dubai or Mexico City to be eligible for the survey, 50 participants must participate.

The Best Cities in the World for Expats

1: Valencia City in Spain

As Spain‘s third largest city after Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia city is home to 19 districts covering 88 neighbourhoods. Ideal city neighbourhoods include North Ciutat Vella, South Ciutat Vella, Russafa, El Carmen, Gran Via, Pla del Remei, El Pilar, La Xerea, El Botanic and El Cabanyal. Ciutat Vella is Valencia city’s old district, often called Valencia’s most romantic neighbourhood, but when staying there, expect hordes of tourists. Major factors working in Valencia’s favour are the city’s primary polling features ranked for the quality-of-life index, which covered public transportation, recreational sports, and safety.

villas in valencia

For the ease of settling in the index, Valencia also ranked for social life. Other winning factors were personal finance and the cost of living. This city for expats came out on top for life quality, and many clients who moved there agreed. Valencia certainly hit the mark for life quality for retired expats, but not so much for working expats. Valencia ranked 41 and 50 for career prospects for the working abroad factor, with expats looking at the job market and their careers as unfavourable. However, the working abroad index changes everything and ensures different results from what retired expats feel.

2: Dubai for Expats

This expat city also ranked highly for quality of life, which is no surprise given that leisure and pleasure feature highly on the social life agenda in Dubai. Given the tax rules, Dubai often ranks highly in working abroad circles, and the strong international business presence ensures good career prospects and job security. When considering the local culture, Dubai is quite easy-going despite international stereotypes. Additionally, Dubai also runs an investment scheme for people looking to retire there. Open to anyone over 55, Dubai introduced the project two years ago to boost local economies and housing markets, raising Dubai’s global profile as an ideal retirement destination.

which is the best area to live in dubai for expats

3: Mexico City for Expats

This city came out on top for settling in. This included culture and welcome, local friendliness, and finding friends. However, for working abroad, the city ranked 24 out of fifty cities. But, expats in Mexico City also have high financial satisfaction because incomes stretch further thanks to the low cost of living. Moreover, with 9 million people living there, expats also enjoy learning about the rich cultural heritage.

4: Living in Lisbon

Expats said they were pleased; however, like many other places, Lisbon scored poorly for working potential. One expat said wages in Lisbon didn’t match the economy, and their career had not progressed. The Belem district is where most tourists head to. Still, popular neighbourhoods for expats include Avenidas Novas and Alvalade for families, Ajuda for property investment, Alfama and Graca for views or Saldanha for working professionals. Another reason why expats like Lisbon is that they feel very safe. Lisbon is also one of Portugal‘s best cities for foreigners to buy apartments because everything is on your doorstep, including cafes, bars and restaurants, great shopping, art galleries and umpteen museums. Just on the outskirts of Lisbon, you will find one of the best national parks in Portugal.


5: Living in Madrid

Ranking at number 7 for ease of settling in, Madrid is another Spanish city attracting expats from around the world. Unfortunately, for working abroad, Madrid ranked number 38, 10 for personal finance, and 20 for expats’ essentials like housing and language. Madrid, Spain’s capital city, features many cultural, art, modern, nature, and historical attractions like Plaza Mayor, Buen Retiro Park, the National Madrid library, Royal Palace, Royal Theatre and 1850 Opera House, and the capital Golden Art Triangle.


Anyone would be forgiven for thinking Madrid only excels in urban landscapes, yet the stunning city is home to the most beautiful green areas just 15 minutes in any direction. So, put the best El Retiro next to Madrid Royal Botanical Park on your beautiful places and spaces list. Madrid is perfect for an evening drink and exciting nightlife after exploring art and history attractions.

6: Worst Cities in the World for Expats

Coming in at number 50, the South African city of Johannesburg was the worst. The expat city ranking showed unaffordable as a significant factor, making the destination the world’s worst expat destination. Johannesburg also ranked purely on safety concerns and travel and transit. Frankfurt Aim Mann and Istanbul also scored poorly with low-quality living. The work-life factors and local business culture in Istanbul were disappointing, as was Hamburg’s hard-working life.

More About Global Destinations for Expats

Beautiful Places in Spain: Forget about the best cities in the world because this list of beautiful places in Spain presents much to anyone who wants to experience everything in this corner of Europe. Some incredible places and towns in Spain, like Andalusia, Malaga, Madrid, Barcelona, the Costa del Sol, Cordoba, and Ronda, rank as the most visited and earn international travel fame.

Unique Places in Turkey: The vast range of places to visit in Turkey is the perfect way for any expat to get to know their new country. Whether for weekend breaks or day-trip excursions, visit these unique places to learn more about each region’s culture and heritage. To be clear, Turkey stretches for thousands of miles and hundreds of places scattered from east to west display diversity and different local histories.


About Natalie

Natalie is a dedicated real estate professional currently working at Spot Blue International Property. With over a decade of experience in the industry, she has acquired a wealth of knowledge and expertise regarding global properties.

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