Many people move to the United States of America to live the “American Dream”. Or even if it’s just for a vacation, there are so many states to visit and it can be confusing to choose which one, then on top of that to narrow down which city. I have reached out to other bloggers who have lived in different parts of the United States to let us know about their experience. This list is in alphabetical order by state then city, therefore it is not a ranking. Also, the cost of living index is placed for each city from Numbeo with New York as 100 and anything with a higher figure shows that it is more expensive than New York. And anything less than 100 shows it is cheaper.
Table of Contents
- The United States is part of the North American continent and includes 50 states.
- Between Canada and the US is the longest border in the world at 8,891 km/ 5,525 miles.
- The population of 333 million people is the third largest in the world.
- Within the United States, over 300 languages are spoken however, around 78% of Americans speak English only. The currency is known as the United States Dollar.
- The USA is ranked 44th in quality of life for expats.
- The biggest advantage to living in the US is the job market which allows room for many career dreams, unfortunately lacking a work-life balance.
1. California – Los Angeles
Recommended by: Fly Eat and Repeat
Cost of living index: 78
When anyone talks about diverse cities, Los Angeles almost always gets a top spot. With people from over 140 countries and more than 220 different identified languages, it’s not hard to see the appeal.
When a person moves from their native country, there is always a little bit of homesickness. With such a culturally diverse population, you are almost guaranteed to find a little bit of home.
The weather is hands down one of the main reasons we love Los Angeles. We enjoy almost perfect weather all year long. The summers are dry with highs of 29°C and the winters are mild compared to other cities like New York and Chicago. The winter months have highs of 20°C and lows of about 10°C. If you are migrating from a warmer climate, Los Angeles is a very easy city to adjust to.
Related: Best Cities in South America
However, so many people are moving to Los Angeles, traffic is bad. You will need a car for transportation because the public transport is not as evolved as other cities. Be prepared to sit in traffic for 45 min to an hour even if the physical distance is less than 10 miles to your destination during traffic hours.
When it comes to the cost of living, it is not cheap. In fact, Los Angeles is considered one of the most expensive cities in the US as well as on a global level. Don’t be surprised if you are spending over US$1500 rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
Despite the traffic and cost of living, we absolutely love living in Los Angeles. There is no shortage of outdoor activities, the food scene is great, and the cultural diversity makes this a great city to migrate to.
2. California – San Diego
Recommended by: Denise of Chef Denise
Cost of living index: 74
I’ve lived in New York, Connecticut, and California (both northern and southern), and San Diego has my vote for best city in the U.S. for many reasons. Unfortunately, cost of living isn’t one of the reasons why. However, if you’re just visiting, cost of living isn’t too big a factor fortunately.
Median income is considerably higher than the U.S. average, but the housing is some of the most expensive in the country. You’d be hard-pressed to find a 1-bedroom apartment for under $2,000/month. If seeking affordability, search inland neighbourhoods like Kearney Mesa versus beachfront La Jolla. Also, the neighbourhoods above Interstate 8 tend to be safer and have less crime.
However, the beautiful beaches are one of San Diego’s best assets,
and the ocean air contributes to its perfect climate (for me) of warm weather all year round. And I mean warm, not hot or humid: 10-21°C (50-70°F) in winter, 15-26°C (60-80°F) in summer.
Californians are supposed to like the rain because there’s always a drought, but confidentially, I’m not a big fan. I love being outdoors, so whether it’s swimming in the Pacific, watching the seals, hiking in the hills, or reading in the yard, San Diego makes it possible almost every day.
Another climate benefit—there’s much less to pack. You will not need bulky sweaters or down jackets unless you plan on a trip to the mountains to ski (about 2.5 hours drive away). I lived in San Diego for a year and a half with just one suitcase. And casual attire is usually okay for dining or exploring in San Diego’s many different neighbourhoods.
Although some public transportation exists in San Diego, driving can be the easiest and fastest way to get around, even in rush hour traffic. Try to live close to work or your commute can take an extra 15-30 minutes.
3. California – San Francisco
Recommended by: Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad
Cost of living index: 93
As a European, living in San Francisco was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the US. Out of all the American cities I’ve been to, San Francisco is the most cultured, diverse, and open-minded one which also makes it a good option even just for a visit.
The friendly atmosphere and melting pot of cultures there also gave it a slightly European vibe, which made adjusting to living in the US easier. The state of California is also the largest state with a population of approximately 40 million.
The cost of living in San Francisco is not cheap. While rent largely depends on the area you choose, expect to pay at the very least $1,350 for a studio apartment in a safe part of town. Three of the safest neighbourhoods which are great to live in are Nob Hill, the Richmond District, and Inner Sunset.
A regular meal at a restaurant typically costs $18, and monthly transportation passes cost around $80.
Transportation is very convenient in San Francisco and you absolutely don’t need a car
unless you plan to drive out of the city a lot. Within San Francisco, you can use the Metro, the Muni buses, the BART trains, and cable cars to get almost anywhere you want to go. Congestion can be high, so taking the Metro whenever you can is advised.
With that said, there are many benefits to living in San Francisco. There is simply no shortage of outdoor attractions in town and nearby. Once you’re done exploring all the parks and scenic piers in the city, you can head out to nearby Napa Valley for some wine tasting, Yosemite National Park for some epic hiking, or go for a swim at Carmel Beach — one of the best hidden vacation spots in the US.
Last but not least, the weather in San Francisco is definitely something to look out for. While the city is warm even in the winter months (14-8°C / 58-46 °F), it can get unpredictably windy very suddenly.
Always carry a jacket with you no matter the weather or time of year — you’ll be grateful for it even in the summer (22-14°C / 71-58°C)!
4. California – Silicon Valley
Recommended by: Tiny Trailblazers
Cost of living index: 93
Although not exactly a city, California’s Silicon Valley is a distinct region of the San Francisco Bay Area. Running along the peninsula, bounded by San Francisco in the north and the Santa Cruz mountains to the south, the Valley has a diverse range of climates and communities to explore.
Overall, it is a great spot for expats to live in the US, due to the diversity of people who live here. Everyone is welcome and no accent sounds out of place which also perfect even for a visit.
My favourite thing about living here is the microclimates. If it’s too hot in San Jose, I can drive north to Half Moon Bay or Pacifica for a refreshing hike in the cool grey fog. I am also lucky to live among the most amazing trees on the planet, redwoods. However, the weather throughout the year fairly mild with summers of 25-15°C / 77-59°F and winters of 15-6°C / 59-42°F.
On the downside, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is stark. Homelessness is a growing problem. Cost of living is so high, an example of rent would be $3,500 a month for a 2-bedroom in Sunnyvale.
Essential workers are being driven from the communities they serve to beyond the bay, enduring long commutes. Traffic is also an issue, with a lack of good public transport.
If you are weighing up a job offer to move here, I recommend checking out the rental costs on Craigslist to get an idea of how much you will be spending on accommodation each month. For commuting times, be sure to check Google Maps at rush hour for a realistic estimate of your daily drive.
5. Colorado – Denver
Recommended by: Jaclyn from MyRestingBeachFace
Cost of living index: 74
Denver is a large city and a small town, all at once. When I first moved to Denver, I remember being amazed by how close the mountains were, but I had the luxuries of a big city I could need.
The cost of housing, for a one-bedroom, one-bath in the metro area, is about US$1500 – $2500 a month. As for other cost of living areas, Denver is about average compared to other cities across the nation.
The main form of transport in Denver is public transportation, your own vehicle, and Uber / Lyft. I personally use the light rail quite often, as the system is quite good.
Denver’s weather will give you all four seasons. Summers are generally warm and it cools off at night (33-16°C / 91-60°F). Fall is a great time of year, but you can blink and winter is here (8 to -7°C / 46-19°F)! When it snows here, it doesn’t ever stay that long on the ground and when the sun comes out, it is quite nice. Spring can be a bit difficult, as it can snow and hail.
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Finally, one piece of advice I have for anyone wanting to move to Denver: be patient and understand that going to the mountains on the weekends will take some time.
Denver is a very cool city, as well as Colorado which has a lot to offer. I am a California native and moved here from Houston. While it has taken me a few years to get used to, I can genuinely say I enjoy living here.
6. Florida – Miami
Recommend by: Victoria of Guide Your Travel
Cost of living index: 77
Living in Miami in the United States as an expat is one of the best choices you might make. There is a large community of foreigners all over the city. On the one hand, the cost of living is a bit higher than in other cities in America, but the various bars, shopping malls, restaurants, gyms and coffee shops are perfect for expats and digital nomads or anyone visiting.
Another bonus is that you will find many coworking spaces close to the city centre, which allows you to connect with like-minded people.
The weather is quite consistent all year round. The month of July with average temperatures of 28°C (82°F) is the hottest, and January with an average temperature of 20°C (68°F) is the coldest month. Miami also has excellent beaches, which are very popular among swimmers and surfers.
You should plan to spend at least US$1,000 per month (without rent) for your day to day needs like groceries, gym membership and other expenses.
The metro and bus system works quite well in the city and is often faster than taking the car. However, for more extended stays, it is recommended to rent a car to be better able to get from one side of town to the other. Otherwise, you can easily take the bus from Miami to Tampa to visit the next top city.
7. Florida – Tampa
Recommend by: Lara Clevenger
Cost of living index: 74
Tampa is one of the largest cities on the West coast of Florida. It is booming in population and the housing market is increasing drastically since it has become a popular location to call home.
For a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment in Tampa you are looking at roughly US$2,400-$3,500 per month for about 1,000-1,300sqft – higher for waterfront and ones with balconies. I live on the water with a balcony overlooking a pool. From where I live on Habour Island you can see the beautiful views of downtown from balcony.
The main form of transportation are personal vehicles. If you live downtown and just need to travel downtown traffic is very minimal. But if you live in suburbs or neighbouring cities i4 and 275 traffic is very bad at times. There are the Selmon and Veterans Toll roads which help though!
Also if you’re going from one part of downtown to another you can take the free trolly. There are also buses as well that you can take as well as plenty of Lime, Bird and Spin scooters! These are great when you want to go from Harbour Island to Soho or downtown to Soho since the free trolly doesn’t go there.
Weather in the summer is sunny around 33°C (91°F). Late Fall, Winter and Spring are amazing! Bright but cool and the humidity dies down. It’s beach weather year round except when a hurricane looms off the coast!
With Tampa athletics seeing such an unbelievable last few years, people are flocking here! You have the Tampa Bay Bucs who were the Super Bowl Champions, two time in a row Stanley Cup winners the Tampa Bay Lightning and then the Tampa Bay Rays made the play World Series last year!
Related: Best Cities in Central America
8. Illinois – Chicago
Recommended by: Our Offbeat Life
Cost of living index: 76
Chicago is one of the best cities in the United States for expats to live or visit for a number of reasons. I lived there for 16 years. While traffic can be bad, it is really easy to get around on public transit without owning a vehicle. The bus and train system connects every part of the city as well as two international airports: O’Hare to the north and Midway to the south.
I recommend getting a place within walking distance to a CTA train stop to make a commute much easier. Not needing a car is important because the cost of living in Chicago is much higher than the national average.
A two-bedroom apartment in a popular part of town, like Lincoln Park or Streeterville, often costs over $2,200 monthly. Grocery costs are reasonable thanks to affordable chains found throughout the city such as Aldi, Trader Joes, and Jewel. Good neighbourhoods to live that are more affordable but still walkable and accessible to public transit are Logan Square and Wicker Park. I lived in the latter for over 10 years. Many popular Chicago foodie restaurants are located in these neighbourhoods, too.
However, Chicago is a foodie dream world. Local mom-and-pop restaurants have more affordable mid-range prices. But you can’t live in Chicago without visiting some of the Michelin-rated restaurants which can unfortunately cost hundreds of dollars a meal. My family enjoys eating out for breakfast when possible since the meal prices tend to be cheaper than dinner fare.
The weather in Chicago is really nice in the summer (28-21°C / 82-70°F) and usually enjoyable in spring and fall. Winter is not always enjoyable, though (3 to -3°C / 37-26°F). Especially for expats relocating from warm or hot climates, the wind and low temperatures can be unbearable in January and February. My family always planned a tropical vacation during January to make the coldest month tolerable.
9. Maine – Portland
If you want to live in one of the best cities in the USA then be sure to give Portland, Maine a visit.
Not only is it a stunning seaside metropolis that overlooks the ocean, but the area is home to many charming lighthouses, including Portland Head Light, Bug Light, and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse – just to name a few.
Additionally, residents will love the friendly and safe vibe of this city – a place where you can stroll along the cobblestone filled streets and old warehouses of the Old Port before catching a ferry to Peak island and sampling some epic fries at Duckfat Friteshack.
In terms of the cost of living, a one-bedroom apartment will cost your around US$1,466.
However, if you opt to live in nearby South Portland, you can still easily experience all the best things to do in Portland and enjoy a slightly lower cost of living before digging into the bagels from Scratch Baking Company.
Although, other nice neighbourhoods to live in include the West End for historic feels, Deering Center for more of a small town feel, or East End which is a cheaper, up and coming area.
Also, because Portland is a relatively small city, most residents choose to bike, walk, or the bus to and from their chosen destination.
Whatever you do though, don’t use a car since parking is expensive and quite limited within the city itself.
Now, as far at the weather is concerned, the summers are pretty comfortable with warm temperatures and cloudy weather. The average highs are 26°C (79°F) and lows are 15°C (59°F).
In contrast, the winters can be long, cold, snowy, and windy with highs of 0°C (32°F) and lows of -10°C (14°F). So, don’t move here if you are not a fan of winter.
Contributed by Kelly of Girl with the Passport
10. New York – New York City
Recommended by: Offbeat Escapades.
Cost of living index: 100
New York City is one of the best cities in the world for expats to live or even visit. It’s a city that’s deemed to be where dreams are made of and where the possibilities are infinitely endless. You stroll through its streets filled with bright lights and majestic skyscrapers, and you instantly feel renewed. This is the largest city in the US with a population of around 8.5 million.
Located on the East Coast of the United States with one of the major airport hubs and most developed subway systems in the country, NYC is a very accessible place for expats. You can easily go around town and enjoy a variety of its incredible sights.
From taking a bike ride through Central Park, visiting the sparkling lights of Times Square, ice skating at the Rockefeller Center, seeing the skyline from the Empire State Building, walking through the hipster neighbourhoods of Williamsburg, High Line and Chelsea, and checking out the world’s biggest financial hub, Wall Street – there are a million cool things to do in New York.
However, an important thing to note is that living in NYC can be quite expensive. Rent goes for above US$2,500 per month for a single bedroom. The cost of utilities, groceries, and eating out will add up to another US$2,000 to US$3,000. In other words, you need more than US$5,000 a month to live comfortably in NYC.
The weather is also quite cold in the later seasons. But to be honest, this is not really a disadvantage. Temperatures in summer are (29-20°C / 84-68°F). For us, winter is the best time of the year in the city (6 to -2°C / 42-28°F). For example, December in New York is when the festivities are at their liveliest, the skyscrapers are capped in snow, and the buzzing energy of NYC is at its peak.
After having lived here as digital nomads and expats, we can attest to the fact that its bustling energy and vibe doesn’t compare to any other place in the world.
11. Oklahoma – Tulsa
Cost of living index: 83.2
If you’re an expat looking for a great place to live in the United States, Tulsa, Oklahoma, should be at the top of your list. With its friendly people, relaxed lifestyle, low cost of living, and thriving economy, Tulsa has something to offer everyone. Whether you’re looking for a big city or a small-town atmosphere, Tulsa has you covered.
I was born and raised in Argentina. However, I met my wife in Colorado years ago, and we have been living in Tulsa for the last six years. Escaping the high cost of living in Colorado has allowed us to buy more bang for our buck in Tulsa.
In 2022, according to Realtor.com, the median home price was $220K, with the cost of living 8% lower than the national average.
Also, being an expat, it was easy for me to find work.
Midtown is the best part of town to live in if you’re young and without children. Midtown has historic neighbourhoods along with trendy restaurants, shopping, and a great river trail system. You might enjoy the school system and larger houses out in the suburbs if you have a family.
The main form of transportation is still personal vehicles.
Despite Oklahoma being known for its tornados, the weather is actually really nice. Winter lasts about two to three months and does get rather cold with average highs of 9°C (48°F) and lows of -3°C (26°F).
The summers are hot and humid from June to September with average highs of 34°C (93°F) and lows of 23°C (73°F). But, the rest of the year, the weather is mild and enjoyable. We camp and hike year-round. There are great hiking trails near Tulsa!
You’ll love knowing that your hard-earned money goes far if you’re considering moving to Tulsa. There is also a lot to do within the city, and if you’re into the outdoors, Oklahoma has impressive state parks.
Contributed by Pablo Fechino of The Happiness Function
12. Oregon – Portland
Recommended by: Marco Sison, Retirement Coach at Nomadic FIRE
Cost of living index: 76
For expats looking to live abroad and move to the US, Portland checks many boxes that make a city ideal for international expats and even visitors alike.
Expats coming from Europe will have an easier time adapting to Portland versus other cities in the US. Portland has city characteristics Europeans are accustomed to: highly walkable, multi-cultural food scene, reliable public transportation system, and café culture.
Traffic in Portland is light compared to many larger US cities. However, like a European city, a car isn’t even a necessity.
Contrasted to most of the United States, the city has decent public transportation options. For US$100 per month, I could take unlimited rides on Portland’s extensive light rail, bus, streetcar, and aerial tram.
The downside to Portland is the high cost of living. A single person in Portland will need to budget over $3,500 per month for living expenses. Unless you are an expat looking to retire abroad, you will need a well-paying job to maintain a high standard of living and enjoy the benefits of expat life in Portland.
The good news is Portland is part of the “Silicon Forest,” with several high-tech companies with excellent pay. In fact, Intel, the #1 semiconductor company globally, is the state’s largest private employer, with over 17,000 employees.
If technology isn’t your field, Nike’s global corporate headquarters and Adidas North American headquarters call Portland their home base.
Even after living in some of the “most beautiful places in the world,” I still don’t think any place compares to Pacific Northwest in the summer (27-14°C / 80-57°F). Perfect temperatures, low humidity, and green everywhere. However, the other nine months of the year are overcast and cloudy.
Winters are mild with occasional snowfall, but there is always a chance of rain (8 to 3°C / 46-37°F). Normally people in Portland wear rain jackets so it will be best to have one handy. People from the Pacific Northwest take a sense of pride in NOT using an umbrella.
13. Washington DC, Washington
Recommended by: Terri of FemaleSoloTrek
Cost of living index: 81
Washington DC is a “capital” city for expats to settle as it is the home of dozens of embassies, international schools, universities and think tanks. The DC in Washington DC stand for District of Columbia. As the capital of the United States, Washington DC attracts travellers from around the world.
I love Washington DC because there are so many world-class museums, art galleries, theatres and memorials.
The cost of living is high as is true for most major East Coast and West Coast USA cities. But Washington DC borders two states (Maryland and Virginia) so it is possible to rent apartments in nearby Arlington, Virginia or Takoma Park, Maryland at lower rental rates.
Since so many students attend its world class universities (Georgetown, George Washington and American), it is also possible to find a room to rent in an apartment or house through Craig’s List.
Washington DC is “bike friendly” and “scooter friendly” so it is not necessary to own a car. In addition, the Metro subway system can take a resident anywhere in the city as well as Montgomery County, Maryland, Prince Georges County, Maryland, Arlington County, Virginia, and Fairfax County, Virginia.
A Metro ticket is costly (typically USD $5) at rush hour. If traveling by car, expect heavy rush hour traffic between 6-9 am and 4-7 pm.
Washington DC enjoys a four-season climate. The best seasons to visit are spring (cherry blossoms festival) and autumn when temperatures are comfortable. In summer the temperatures can get to a high of 32°C (90°F) and low of 20°C (68°F). It is rare to get more than a few inches of snow in the winter (6 to -4°C / 42-24°F).
My advice to anyone considering moving to DC is DO IT. Expats rarely feel lonely because there are always events at embassies. I highly recommend walking tours of DC neighbourhoods, such as Dupont Circle, to meet people and learn about the city’s history.
14. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Recommended by: Paulina of Paulina on the Road
Cost of living index: 73
Milwaukee is an affordable place to make a living. It is cost-effective, has great employment opportunities, a lot of heritage, popular dining scenes known for their cheese and craft beer, and family-friendly activities. In short, it is a perfect means to live in the United States.
The cost of living in Milwaukee is considered to be 10% lower than the US average. The biggest expenditure there is housing, where a majority of people choose to rent a space.
The average cost for a small family to live in Milwaukee is US$3,470 without paying rent. The housing costs in the city are about 40% lower than the US average. Furthermore, the rents of houses are 16% lower than the country’s average. You can choose to live around the East Side neighbourhood for a lively vibe.
The most common method of transportation in Milwaukee is by car. According to studies, about 80% of households in the city own at least one car. However, the citizens without a private vehicle can travel via the public bus system that connects different parts of the city. The average commute time is not usually more than 20 to 25 minutes. The average rush hour for traffic is between 7 and 8:30 am and 4 to 5:30 pm.
The climate in our city is never too cold or too hot. The summers here are short but warm (27-17°C / 80-62°F).The city sees all four seasons that overlap with each other. Winter in Milwaukee can be quite cold though (-2 to -10°C / 28-14°F).