Asia, the world’s largest and most diverse continent. This makes it a perfect place to explore and discover numerous different experiences. This article is geared towards giving you a brief overview of the city and what life is like there for those visiting and for those who plan to stay longer term.
The cities are not ranked but in alphabetical order by country, then by city. I have also inputted the cost of living rankings from Numbeo. This compares each city’s cost of living to that of New York which is 100. Therefore, any place with less is cheaper, a higher figure means more expensive.
Table of Contents
– Asia is the most populated continent with 4.7 billion people, 60% of the world’s population.
– Over 2,300 languages are spoken.
– Asia is the largest continent with a total size of 44,579,000 km2 (17,212,000 square miles).
– The continent has more billionaires than any other in the world.
– The tallest building is found in Dubai, Asia called the Burj Khalifa (828 meters).
– Asia is home to Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world (8,849 m / 29,035 ft).
– The Caspian Sea is the biggest lake in the world boardered by 5 countries.
1. Cambodia – Siem Reap
Cost of living index: 50 (using closest city – Phnom Penh)
Siem Reap is an area located in the northwest part of Cambodia, where travel to other parts of Southeast Asia is very convenient. The cost of living in Siem Reap as an expat is very affordable. Overall, Cambodia is said to be one of the cheapest places to live in Southeast Asia.
There are lots of options for accommodation ranging from a basic studio apartment for US$200 per month, to US$1,000 for a two bedroom fully furnished private villa with a swimming pool. Most apartments include free Wi-Fi, but utilities such as water, electricity, gas are additional costs and paid directly to the landlord.
Popular expat areas to live are within or near the city centre in areas near Sivatha Road, Taphul Road and Wat Bo Road. Most expats either ride a bicycle or buy a 125cc motorbike to get around town. However, no matter where you live, you will only be around 10 to 15 minutes away from everything you need.
Food costs can vary enormously between one person and another, depending on how much cooking you will do, where you want to shop and the types of restaurants you want to eat at.
One thing’s for sure though, alcohol is cheap! Expect to pay 50 cents (2000 riel) to 1 USD for a draft beer, and between US$2 to US$3 for a cocktail in most bars.
Expect your monthly cost of living to be anywhere between US$1200 to US$1800 depending on your accommodation and how much you choose to eat out and party.
In general, most locals speak a good level of English which makes communicating relatively easy.
The crime rate in Siem Reap is relatively low, when compared to other cities in Cambodia. However, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and not leave your belongings unguarded in busy areas.
The weather is steady throughout the year with highs between 30°C – 35°C (86-95°F).
Siem Reap is an amazing city to live in with a rich culture and lots of amazing things to do within and close by to the city.
Contributed by Peta and Jonas of Exit45 Travels
2. China – Hong Kong
Cost of living index: 80
Hong Kong is an international metropolis in the Asia Pacific Region. It has a good reputation for being a melting pot of the east and west. It has been an economic and cultural powerhouse that attracts millions of expats seeking different opportunities.
The cost of living in Hong Kong is undeniably high, ranking at the top of the list not only in the Asia Pacific but also in the world. One of the high costs to live in Hong Kong is housing, due to its lack of urban area.
The city is compact and living spaces are limited, renting an apartment is between US$380 to US$450 per square meter. Having said that, the cost of food (coffee US$2.50 -$5) and clothing is rather affordable. This is due to the city having no sales tax.
The cost of transportation is also affordable (a tram and ferry ride is less than US$0.4) and extremely convenient. The locals usually rely on public transportation to commute due to limited and expensive parking spaces in the city center.
It has an extensive work of subway, buses, minibus, and ferries. Commuters take these to almost any part of the cities efficiently and round the clock.
Hong Kong Island is generally where the upscale residential areas are located. Most expats who work in the city stay in an apartment in Soho, Kennedy Town, or Tsim Sha Tsui. These areas have cafes, bars, and grocery stores nearby that offers anything you may need.
For a little bit more peace and quiet, expats venture to New Territories or the outlying islands for a condo that’s more suitable for their suburban lifestyle.
Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world, even at night. Furthermore, many of the locals speak English, including customer services.
Hong Kong enjoys a subtropical climate with a hot summer (27-31°C) and a mildly cool winter (14-20°C).
One of the most special features in Hong Kong is the rural area and mountains. The sprawling mountains within the urban development create the most unique sceneries that is hard to find in any other part of the world.
That’s why hiking is one of the most beloved weekend activities as there are numerous hiking trails all around the city. Hikers are always rewarded by seeing the dramatic Hong Kong skyline for free.
Contributed by Knycx Journeying
3. India – Bangalore
Cost of living index: 28
Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka in India, is one of the best expat cities in Asia, with pleasant weather and a reasonable cost of living. Around 7% of all of India’s expats live in Bangalore, and I had also moved here for work.
Bangalore is also known as the garden city of India. It is famous for its luxurious modern lifestyle and comfort of living in a green environment.
The climate is mostly moderate throughout the year however with April highs of 34°C / 93°F. However, the occasional heat waves can make summer uncomfortable but fortunately, humidity is low. The “winter months” are the most enjoyable.
Most other months have highs of 28°C / 82°F and lows of 18°C / 64°F. There are many interesting places in Bangalore that attract tourists – Cubbon park, Bangalore Palace, Botanical Garden, etc.
Indiranagar, situated in the heart of the city, is home to numerous start-up businesses. It offers hospitals, hotels, parks, shopping malls, restaurants, gyms, and a lot more.
Marathahalli, Jayanagar, HSR Layout, and Whitefield, are the most preferred localities in Bangalore. Accommodations in the area called BTM Layout are pretty reasonable, and it is the best for working expats. The locality is also secured for both families and bachelors.
The rental rate for 2 (bedroom) BHK properties (bedroom, hall, kitchen – typical house unit in a multi-levelled building) varies from US$180 to $370.
Though the accommodation here is a little expensive; the facilities, entertaining options, and transport make this location very popular.
Also, Bellandur, the electronic city, is an ideal place for IT professionals. Above 200 IT companies are located here. If you are looking for paying guest (PG) rooms in Bangalore, this is the perfect place. Though the area is a little away from the central city, these places offer a low cost of living.
Bus, Metro, Taxis, and Auto-rickshaws are several intercity forms of transport available in Bangalore. Allowing for easy transportation though there is a frequent problem of traffic.
In addition, a massive community of people only speak English in Bangalore as many of them have migrated from other parts of India. Thus, English speakers like me, who do not know the local Kannada language, can easily survive here.
Contributed by NatureDiary
4. India – Goa
Cost of living index: 28
Goa, a popular beach destination in India, is one of the best places to live in. Both in general and as an expat. Living here is peaceful, cheap and there is a vibrant community of artists, travel enthusiasts and expats already thriving in Goa. Not to mention how incredibly beautiful this place is.
You can find home-stays, apartments, studios or bungalows in Goa very easily for all budgets. On average, a 1-bedroom apartment in Panaji – the capital of Goa costs US$160 (12,000 Indian rupees-INR).
Food, electricity, and other essentials are very cheap in Goa so the overall cost of living can be rounded up to US$400 (INR 30,000). This figure can vary according to your lifestyle naturally.
Panaji is a great central place to live in. However, many expats prefer to live in Anjuna and Arpora. This is in North Goa where there are plenty of cafes, lush greenery and easy access to beaches. On the other hand, Majorda and Varca regions of South Goa are also popular among retired expats. The advantage being the peacefulness, lack of tourists and the many tranquil South Goa beaches. It’s crucial to mention that Goa is very safe, although one must exercise basic safety measures everywhere.
One can easily get by with English in Goa as it is the most widely used language there. Learning the local language, Konkani, is not a requirement by any means.
To live in Goa, you must rent or own a two-wheeler or car. Two-wheelers are a cheap and convenient way to get around this small region and also a popular choice. Goa can get crowded in December-January so having a smaller vehicle will help navigate the traffic. All other times, there’s almost no traffic here.
In the monsoon months from mid-May to September, having an umbrella or rain proof clothes is essential. Apart from that, it is always hot in Goa with highs of 33°C (85°F) and lows of 20°C (78°F). From my 13 years in Goa, I know that it’s hard to leave once you’ve set foot here.
Contributed by Soujanya of The Spicy Journey
5. Indonesia – Bali
Cost of living index: 43
When talking about the best expat cities in Asia, one of the most popular spots has to be Bali! Bali is perfect for anyone who wants to live abroad and experience a new culture and style of living while keeping some comfort similar to home.
The cost of living in Bali can vary drastically depending on choice of accommodation and lifestyle. It can be super cheap if you need to live on a budget or super expensive, think villa, pool and fancy restaurants!
Although a rough guide, living in Bali for a month is between US$650 (budget) and US$1,180 (splurging). A local meal will cost less than US$2 (between 15,000 – 30,000 IDR). However, eating at a mid-range restaurant will cost anything above US$7 (100,000 IDR).
During our time in Bali we lived at a guesthouse in Canggu. We had our own room and bathroom with a shared kitchen and pool! We grabbed this at the bargain price of US$250 (3,500,000 IDR) per month, however this was a low rate.
The normal rate for a mid-range double room is around US$315 (4,500,000 IDR) per month but you can always try to negotiate. Remember in Bali you pay per room not per person! This is a typical type of accommodation, even for families.
A 2-bedroom guest house with shared kitchen costs US$420 (6,000,000 IDR) per month. But the price will vary if you want a pool and garden.
The best areas to live are Canggu, if you love the beach, parties and surfing; Ubud for the spiritual vibes, health scene and yoga; and Uluwatu for a calmed paradise and great surf!
Bali has a really low crime rate and, from my experience, it’s totally safe. Plus, since there are lots of expats, it’s easy to get by speaking English!
If you want to live in Bali then you will have to get a scooter! It’s the cheapest and easiest way to get around as there’s little public transport. You’ll notice only a few areas have pavements and traffic is usually really bad, especially in peak season (April to September).
Walking isn’t a good option since it can be hot! The weather throughout the year is pretty consistent with highs of around 26°C (79°F) and lows of 15°C (60°F).
Renting a scooter will cost you between US$40-$55 (600,000-800,000 IDR) per month. Make sure to wear a helmet! An alternative is to use the Gojek or Grab app which is like a taxi service but it can add up quickly.
P.S Bali has a crazy rainy season; it’s likely to rain everyday but only for a few hours however it can come on quick and heavy. A good tip is to carry a waterproof poncho in your scooter at all times!
Contributed by Abi Dalton from I’m Going On An Adventure
6. Indonesia – Bali – Ubud
Cost of living index: 43
We’ve lived in Bali for years, and Ubud is one of our favourite areas to stay. There are lots of great things to do in Ubud like the rice terraces, waterfalls, markets, cafes, temples, and of course the famous monkey forest. People also come here for yoga, massages, and souvenir shopping.
The cost of living in Ubud is quite cheap, so you can rent a private hotel room (for two people) with air conditioning and a pool for as low as US$17 (250,000 Rupiah) a day, and monthly or yearly prices can be even more affordable.
Many expats choose to live in hotels like this, but if you need more space there are also villas and houses for rent and they are not much more expensive.
Food and transport are also relatively cheap in Bali (a meal can be as low as $3 USD), so we often eat out every day rather than cooking our own food.
A lot of Balinese speak English fluently as their third language, so it’s not necessary for expats to learn the Indonesian or Balinese languages, although it can still be fun to learn!
Traffic does get pretty heavy in Ubud because of all the tourists, but once you get away from the town center it eases up. We like to stay not too far from the town center so that way we can walk to almost everything we need.
Much of Ubud is walkable, but if you need to go further, then you can easily rent a scooter or hire a driver with a private vehicle.
A scooter rental costs about US$3 (50,000 Rupiah) per day, and monthly prices are even cheaper. A private driver with a car will charge US$40 (600,000 Rupiah) or less for a full day of driving and sightseeing.
Overall, our average monthly spend in Bali can be as low as US$1,000 per month as a couple, although this varies a bit from month to month.
Contributed by David & Intan at The World Travel Guy
7. Malaysia – Penang
Cost of living index: 38
With its eternal tropical weather, world-renowned street food, a UNESCO protected heritage old town and biosphere reserve, Penang Hill, I’ve found the Malaysian island of Penang an amazing option for expats.
It’s as cheap as it can get — a plate of street food goes from about US$1.50 — and also offers all sorts of Western comforts, from food to cinema multiplex, bowling alleys, and fine dining.
The expat community in Penang veers towards the elder/baby boomer group, especially because of the Malaysia My Second Home visa which makes it easy for those over 50 to move permanently to Malaysia.
The best part of the expatriates community is made up of British, Australian and American retirees or executive workers for the many international companies that soar in Bayan Lepas, in the southwestern side of the island near Penang airport.
Expats often hang out in the many eateries and cafes in the expat districts of Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Tikus and seaside resort galore Batu Ferringhi.
Generally, the coastal areas of Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah are the best for Penang expat.
There’s plenty of guarded condo accommodation available in and around the marina of Straits Quay — consider an average of US$600 (Malaysian Ringgit 3,000) monthly to rent a swanky, fully furnished 1,500 square feet unit with a sea view and facilities such as a swimming pool, gym, jogging court and the like.
And you can get long-term accommodation for much less if you don’t need that fancy lifestyle.
Penang is generally safe for expatriates and travellers, with no serious crimes ever reported among residents. Even its network of hills and beaches, which can be seamlessly hiked at leisure, is free of dangers — unless you consider packs of macaques going about their business as a threat.
A much bigger hassle is the heavy traffic, which is best negotiated by renting or buying a motorbike. Even though riding with Penang crazed motorists is something that only the most courageous would dare try.
The weather is pretty much the same year-round with highs of around 32°C (90°F) and lows of 24°C (75°F).
Grab Car is a very convenient alternative to get around town, as is the Rapid Penang Bus System, which can shuttle people comfortably between the main expatriate areas of Gurney Drive, Batu Ferringhi and George Town, where the iconic Penang Ferry also connects the island with the rest of Penang state and Peninsular Malaysia.
Contributed by Penang Insider
8. Philipines – El Nido
Cost of living index: 37 (using closest city – Baguio)
El Nido in the Philippines is not only a popular tourist destination but also one of the best cities in Asia for expats to live. It’s located on the island of Palawan, which has been named “The most beautiful island in the world” several times.
After having lived in El Nido for over a year myself, I can confirm that the island really is absolutely stunning!
In El Nido the weather is warm all year round (25°C / 77°F), although it can be pretty rainy and stormy from May to November. Plus, there are many things to do, like visiting the surrounding islands of El Nido or trying your like with water sports.
Due to loose visa regulations, it’s also a great place to live in. Many expats have come here over the years, establishing businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry or working online. Also, it’s easy to make friends with locals, as almost everyone in El Nido speaks English!
Keep in mind, that rent in this town can be quite expensive!
A nice apartment can cost US$600-800 a month. However, if you’re not picky and happy to live outside of town in Lio (which is about 15 kilometers north of El Nido), you can also find a simple room for far less than that.
Eating out in restaurants is more affordable, as a meal in a nice restaurant costs only US$5-6. Plus, if you decide to ride a motorbike to get around, you can also save a lot of money on transportation!
Given the cost of rent, transport, food, and activities, you can expect to pay US$600-$1,000 a month. However, this number can vary strongly depending on what type of accommodation you choose, as this will be your biggest expense!
Contributed by Not Another Backpacker
9. Philipines – Moalboal
Cost of living index: 39
Moalboal is a beautiful seaside village in the South of Cebu in the Philippines. It is known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and amazing snorkelling and diving opportunities. Moalboal is very safe and Filipinos are extremely warm and friendly people.
Also, English is widely spoken so it is a great place to live if you are looking for a happy and easy expat life.
Cebu International Airport is the closest international airport to Moalboal and it is approximately 100 kilometres to Moalboal city centre. The easiest and fastest way to get to Moalboal is via a private transfer booked in advance, however, catching the Ceres Bus from the Cebu City South Bus Terminal is an easy and budget friendly alternative.
Moalboal has pretty good weather all year round and the temperature typically ranges from 24°C to 33°C.
The year is split into a dry season from December to June, and a wet season from June through to December. However, the best time of the year is from October to March, when the temperatures are cooler and the humidity is lower.
There are a wide range of housing options in Moalboal to suit all budgets and requirements. Expect to pay between US$400 and US$600 per month to rent a small 1 to 2 bedroom house and these are easily found in the Facebook Expat groups or by word of mouth.
We recommend staying closer to Panagsama Beach due to its convenient location (walking distance) to restaurants and the beach. However, if you choose this location, be prepared to ride a motorbike or rent a tricycle to get your groceries in the centre of town (only 10 minutes away).
You will also need to factor in additional costs such as electricity, gas, scooter rental (or purchase), food, eating out etc., but a budget of between US$1000 and US$1500 will allow you to live comfortably. Your biggest expense will be accommodation and motorbike rental (approximately US$120).
Contributed by Peta and Jonas of Exit45 Travels
10. South Korea – Busan
Cost of living index: 79 (using closest city – South Korea)
Without a doubt, South Korea is one of the best places to live as an expat in Asia. With the widely spoken English, the technology, the food, and the convenience of everything, it is a fairly easy transition for people from any country.
While the most common thought would be to move to Seoul, the sheer size of it as well as the cost of living is enough to make someone think twice. The better option is Busan, the second biggest city in South Korea, located on the southern tip – right on the sea.
While produce is a little pricey, eating out is exceedingly cheap, and the cost of living here is very low. A 30-minute taxi will cost about US$14.
As far as rent goes, most apartments require a larger deposit (called “Key Money”, which you get back at the end of your lease), but the bigger the deposit, the cheaper your rent. If you provide a big enough deposit, you can live rent free!
My place of work pays for my studio apartment, but the rent is US$400 (450,000 won) per month.
The best parts of the city to live in are the areas surrounding Haeundae and Gwangan – as they are very well connected to the rest of the city, are right on the beach, and have just about everything you need within a few metro stops.
Honestly, anywhere on the green line (the metro and bus system here is amazing) is a fabulous bet. Although traffic can be bad during rush hour.
Korea is known for its extremely low crime rate, and you will feel safe wherever you are.
The weather is hot and humid in the summer (highs of 29°C / 84°F and lows of 23°C / 73°F), and dry and mildly cold in the winter (high of 8°C / 46°F and lows of -2°C / 28°F)! Watch out for the monsoon season in August as well.
Contributed by Emma’s Daydream
11. South Korea – Seoul
Cost of living index: 79
Little did we know on our 4 day trip to Seoul that this city would soon become our home. After living as expats in Hong Kong, the move to Seoul without knowing anything about the local culture or speaking the language was one of the biggest challenges. While not many people will go out of their way to speak English, we could get along just fine without any spoken Korean.
In our opinion, Seoul could easily make it on any list of the best expat cities in Asia mainly because of its high standard of living, great infrastructure, delicious and (mostly) affordable food, and plenty of activities inside and outside of the city.
Living in Seoul is not as affordable as other towns in Asia due to expensive accommodation.
In Seoul, prices for apartments are some of the highest in the world. Depending on the area, a small 2-bedroom apartment could set you back between US$600 – $3000.
Sometimes, you don’t even have the luxury of time to think too much before deciding on an apartment since many rent or buy property without even seeing it. With a unique rental price structure, there are typically 3 options for payment but this is decided by the landlord:
- one payment up front for the whole period of 2 years of contract without monthly rental
- a deposit paid up front (between $10,000 to $40,000) depending on the apartment and area)
- monthly rental instalments
A coffee at a popular chain cafe is around US$5, while a meal at a local restaurant can cost as little as US$7. If, however, you prefer to eat at a Korean barbeque place or a westerner style restaurant, you can expect higher prices of around US$100 for 2 people.
For a city with over 10 million inhabitants, Seoul is an incredibly safe place, with high-tech infrastructure and extremely effective governmental services.
Traveling by public transportation is affordable, fast and easy, with a large network for subway, suburban trains, or buses.
While most expats choose to stay in Itaewon or Hannam districts, we prefer a more local district that offers access to plenty of parks, the Han River, and plenty of supermarkets. Digital Media City is perfectly linked to the city center by buses and subway and is also set on the Airport Railway route making it easy to get to both Gimpo Airport and Incheon Airport.
Other great neighbourhoods are Yeonam-dong, Yeonhui, Sincheon, or Buam-dong.
Seasons are very different in South Korea with cold and snowy winters. Many days with temperatures below 0°C (32°F) and average highs close to 3°C (37°F). There are hot and humid summers with temperatures averaging at around 28°C (82°F).
Contributed by Ingrid Zen Moments
12. Thailand – Chiang Mai
Cost of living index: 42
One of the coolest places to live as an expat or a digital nomad is Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. Especially in dry season (the winter months), a community of chill vibe dropouts and expats meet here to work, eat, and party.
I love the many temples and the ancient old town, but also the surroundings with the waterfalls and the mountains.
Chiang Mai is famous in the scene and there are good reasons for that. You don’t need to speak the local language, because you can communicate wonderfully in English here.
In addition, there is always good internet availability, and the city is full of nice cafes and co-working spaces. There are also very cheap and excellent hostels with free Wi-Fi access. And more importantly, the costs of living are really cheap.
Accommodations like hostels are affordable and a great place to meet like-minded people. For a small apartment you pay about US$270 per month, it becomes a bit more expensive in a condo with a pool.
However, like everywhere else in the world, the same applies to expats: how much it costs to live in Chiang Mai depends on personal expenses. A cheap Thai meal at the night market often costs only US$1-$2.
Laundry is also cheap to get done for only US$1 per kilogram. For getting around inside the city, you can rent a scooter for about US$8 per day, but even without a scooter you can get everywhere cheaply on foot or of course by cab or tuk-tuk.
Another plus is the traffic in Chiang Mai. The town has its own airport so it’s easy to travel around. Also, there is a train connection to Bangkok.
From November till April, the weather is hot, but dry and the sky is mostly blue and sunny. The highs are between 29°C – 36°C (84°F – 97°C).
Contribute by Places of Juma
13. Thailand – Taipei
Cost of living index: 66
For three years in a row, Taipei ranks No 1. in the best city for expats by InterNations. As living in Taiwan as an expat for the past five years, I can vouch for it.
Taipei is an international metropolitan city in Asia with thriving expat scenes; it is not too difficult to feel at home. I also met many welcoming Taipei locals who went above and beyond to help a foreign friend settle down comfortably. As if the locals can sense foreigners in distress, someone always shows up to help.
Second, Taipei is safe and clean. Taipei has a world-class subway system, and high-speed rail connects the capital city to the southern cities in 1.5 hours.
Third, the cost of living in Taipei is significantly lower than in other capital cities, like Tokyo and Seoul. While a luxury lifestyle is accessible, living affordably also is possible. For example, a bowl of beef noodle soup can cost NTD 120 (USD 4) or NTD 10,000 (USD 350).
You can rent a studio apartment for NTD 8,000 (USD 280) or NTD 50,000 (USD 1,800). Depending on your budget and other preferences, you can find housing in any of the 12 districts in Taipei.
Lastly, Taiwan has an excellent national healthcare system. Universal health insurance is affordable and open to foreign nationals. There is no need to wait for doctor’s appointments or find in-network physicians.
No country is perfect. If I must pick one downside of living in Taipei, it is the weather. Taipei has a subtropical climate, which means it is hot and humid. And it rains all the time. Summer highs reach 34°C (93°F) while winter in Taipei is particularly gloomy and wet with highs 19°C (66°F).
But if you can look past this minor downfall, Taipei is a great city to live in and the quality of life is excellent.
By Chloe of Chloe’s Travelogue
14. Vietnam – Dalat
Cost of living index: 39 (using closest city – Ho Chi Minh City)
Dalat, also known as The Flower City, is located on the highlands of Vietnam 6-hours north of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s one of the best cities to live in Vietnam for its amazing cool weather, loads of pine trees, and beautiful lakes. Going outdoors for hiking and biking trails is something unique in Vietnam.
The temperature in the area is pretty steady all year round about 15°C-25°C (59°F-77°F). Although it’s still can be humid during the day, the night temperature is perfect, but during winter it can be a little colder.
However, it rains about 6-8 months a year, hence, it’s important to always carry an umbrella or raincoat during the months of April to November.
Compared to other cities popular with expats, Dalat is a bit pricier. The housing options are limited while the price can be higher. There are no skyscrapers in Dalat, hence, the accommodations are usually houses or apartments in low-rise buildings.
The rent for a studio apartment is somewhere between US$200-$300, while a one-bedroom is about US$300-$350. A two-bedroom apartment or house is about US$400-$500.
All of the accommodations come with basic furniture such as a bed, couch, table, chairs, kitchen appliances such as a fridge, cooktop, microwave, and even some utensils. Bedroom items like mattresses, pillows, sheets, and blankets are available too. There are cheaper housing options, about US$150 for a studio or mini loft with no furniture which is popular among locals.
Again, compared to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, Dalat doesn’t have an area where expats usually live. Foreigners are scattered around the city.
Vietnam is popular for English teachers, however, Dalat has very limited job opportunities in this field and the pay is a lot lower than in the big cities. Expats who live in Dalat are usually retired people, digital nomads, or entrepreneurs.
The main transportation in Vietnam is the motorbike. However, you need an international driver’s license that covers motorbike driving and convert it to a local version to drive legally.
Dalat is small enough to walk around or simply have a bicycle. There’s also Grab (a ride-share app) that offers motorbike and car services.
Communicating in English is a bit more challenging. The younger generation usually speak English well, however, with the older generation, you will have to use a translation app which is good enough to help you get by on a daily basis.
Contributed by Isabelle of Move To Vietnam
15. Vietnam – Hoi An
Cost of living index: 39 (using closest city – Ho Chi Minh City)
Hoi An, Vietnam’s popularity with expats has grown as the UNESCO World Heritage Ancient Town, beaches, nearby amenities, fantastic food, and affordable cost of living are all part of the attraction.
One of our favourite aspects of living in Hoi An is that meals can cost as little as US$1 or $2 per person! A couple can live on US$1,000-$1,200 per month fairly comfortably.
Long-term rent, including utilities, is US$300-$500 per month. We stayed several months in a one-bedroom suite “homestay” with internet, daily breakfast for two people, bicycles, laundry service, and hotel-style furnishings for US$350 per month. This also allowed us to get to know a local family really well.
We recommend staying near the Ancient Town but not inside it, as it can get crowded with tourists (and it occasionally floods). Some expats choose to live near the beach or the rice paddies, which are nice settings but less convenient to walk to restaurants and other amenities.
The main form of transit throughout Vietnam is the motorbike, which can be rented for about US$80 per month. Taxis are also common in Hoi An and buses can be taken to other parts of the country.
While it is a city, Hoi An often feels more like a laid-back small town, and the traffic is nothing compared to major Vietnamese cities. Hoi An is also safe and easy to get around on foot, or even by bicycle.
Being in Central Vietnam, Hoi An is warm year-round and gets hot and humid in the summer with highs of 36°C (97°F). Fall is the rainy season, so it’s recommended to always be prepared with a rain jacket or poncho for sudden downpours.
Also, Hoi An just a 40-minute drive to Da Nang airport where you can get cheap flights to cool off in the mountains of Da Lat or explore the rest of Asia for a change in climate.
Some unique benefits of living in Hoi A include easy access to made-to-order, custom tailored clothing at affordable prices. Hoi An’s spas offer affordable beauty and massage services with one-hour body massages start at US$12.)
The expat community in Hoi An has various social events, volunteer outings, and an active Facebook group to stay connected. But it’s also easy to mingle amidst the daily life of locals, be it shopping at markets, eating at family-owned restaurants, or participating in local celebrations and events.
Contributed by Michelle C. of Intentional Travelers
16. Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City
Cost of living index: 39
Ho Chi Minh City (also referred to as Saigon and HCMC) is one of the most affordable places to live in Asia for expats. After living here for 4+ years, we couldn’t be happier exploring HCMC’s incredible things to do, eating at delicious restaurants, and experiencing its vibrant environment.
The cost of living will vary depending on your comfort level and location. HCMC has 24 districts to choose from.
The best suggestion is to live somewhere close to your work. The roads are crowded all day. During the high traffic time, the roads are even more congested so it can be stressful traveling to and from work.
Many expats live in Thao Dien, an area in Thu Duc (formerly District 2) or District 7. Thao Dien is a popular area due to the easy access to international schools and Western restaurants and bars. We currently live in Binh Thanh District, between Downtown in District 1 and Thao Dien.
The monthly average cost of a fully furnished 2-bedroom/2-bathroom apartment is US$500-$1200+. Most apartments include a washing machine, air-conditioning, and access to the pool and fitness center.
The majority of people ride their motorbikes to travel. Other transportation options include taxi, public bus, or ride-hailing car or motorbike (using the Grab or GoJek apps.) The metro is currently getting built now. Walking is doable, but the sidewalks aren’t in the best conditions or used for motorbike parking.
HCMC has consistent hot and humid weather all year. Expect an average of 30-34℃ (86-93℉). There are two seasons – dry and wet season. The rainy season isn’t too bad. The rain can last up to 30 minutes and then the skies are clear the rest of the day.
You can get by speaking English if staying in the expat areas and visiting touristy sites. However, it’s recommended to know some basic Vietnamese and numbers when venturing to local areas and shops.
Contributed by Jackie and Justin of Life Of Doing