Revealed: the 10 best and worst cities for expats in 2020

Iberian Peninsula dominates the list with pleasant climate and friendliness of locals among its attractions

Abu Dhabi was voted as the 10th best city for expats to move to, and the number one Middle Eastern destination for people to relocate to in the world.
Powered by automated translation

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has had a substantial impact on expatriate life.

Yet despite nationwide lockdowns, people are still crossing borders, changing their location in the hope of a new start.

Expat City Ranking 2020 sounded out more than 15,000 expats of 173 nationalities for their opinions on living abroad and listed the best and worst cities in which to live as an expat.

The top 10 cities for expats:

Why Spain and Portugal are popular for expats

The Iberian Peninsula proved particularly attractive in the survey, with five of the top 10 cities in the region. People are lured by the pleasant climate, quality of living and the ease of settling there.

The coastal city of Valencia came top out of 66 cities, due in part to its healthcare and excellent weather.

Alicante on Spain’s south-eastern Costa Blanca followed, with more than 80 per cent of expats reporting they felt at home in the city, while Lisbon was third, with no respondent expressing any qualms about their personal safety in the Portuguese capital.

One expat called Portugal “a weirdly wonderful country, with plenty of idiosyncrasies but the people are king, life is relaxed, the food and drink are excellent and the weather is generally great”.

Malaga and Madrid came sixth and ninth respectively.

Where in the Middle East do expats want to live?

Abu Dhabi was rated the top Middle Eastern city for expats, coming 10th overall. The emirate ranked highly on health and environment, as well as in safety, social life and friendliness. It performed particularly well in the Getting Settled Index, coming 17th, while, due to the diversity of its inhabitants, it is an easy place in which to get by without speaking the local language. The UAE is home to 200 nationalities and around 80 per cent of its population are expats.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Muscat came 14th, Doha 15th and Dubai 20th.

Where do expats want to move to in the Americas?

Panama City scored highest at fourth place, followed by Buenos Aires in seventh.

Expats in Panama City are happy with its financial stability and how easy it is to find housing there. Three in four surveyed (76 per cent) said they felt at home in Panama City, too.

Despite the Argentine capital’s poor performance on the Urban Work Life index, because of expats worrying about the country’s unstable economy, it rated well on housing and the cost of living indices.

“It’s a cheap place, with affordable private health insurance if you have US dollars,” one American expat told the survey.

Where do expats want to go in Asia?

Singapore was the highest-ranked Asian city, coming fifth, and was followed by Kuala Lumpur, which came in eighth spot.

Singapore performs best in the Quality of Urban Living Index, coming 9th, mainly because it is known for its safety and political stability. However, an Indian expat said: “Living here is expensive, and as they say ‘Everything comes with a price tag!’”

Where do expats not want to go?

Expats in Salmiya, Kuwait, are disheartened with their quality of life and how friendly the locals are, leading the city to rank lowest on the index. An Indian expat in Salmiya earmarked “the local-expat divide, an unprofessional and rude bureaucracy, and the one-day weekend” as downsides to life in the city.

The historic city of Rome came 65th out of 66th. Although it scored well for its local climate (12th), it fell short on political stability (64th), personal safety (61st), the availability (57th) and quality (51st) of healthcare, and poor public transport infrastructure (62nd).

Milan, Nairobi and Dublin also featured among the bottom 10 places overall.

The 10 worst cities for expats: