I was living in a luxury hotel in Rabat, Morocco's capital. I was used to living out of a backpack traveling around. But, here, I had my own little corner of paradise. Instead of bathing in buckets like I'd been used to on the road, I had an incandescent glass washroom with the ambiance of a rainforest, looking out to eucalyptus and citrus trees. Two showerheads rained in the marble tub. Instead of sleeping in bunk beds and in sleeping bags under the stars like I'd been used to, as well, I sank into a heap of emerald-tinged padded pillows on a large double bed every night. The bed was positioned below the mashrabiya latticework and meticulous mosaics that embellished the violet wall, lit by an elegant chandelier and the sun that reflected off the room's murano glass décor.
I had a fully stocked minibar packed with chocolates and high-speed Wi-Fi — all I really needed to be peacefully productive in my work.
I lived in this hotel at the start of my career — when I had little money to afford luxuries. But in Morocco, as well as some other countries around the world, expats can live like queens and kings for a fraction of the cost that we'd spend at home for living conditions that are far from indulgent.
Factors such as the cost of living, the accessibility of Wi-Fi and a supportive expat community make some countries more conducive to expat life than others. And when luxury comes at the cost of my electric bills alone in New York City, picking up and moving to a new country as an expat becomes an easier decision.
Given my experience traveling, living and working around the world, here are the seven of the best countries for expats (including Morocco!).
What are the seven best countries for expats?
I've lived in all of the following countries and can confidently recommend them for expats like me.
I've said it before: I've lived in Morocco more than once, for several months at a time, because life in Morocco is just easier, more beautiful and so much tastier. You can rent a riad for just about $3,244.44 Moroccan Dirham a month (about $339 USD), according to Numbeo, and you navigate the city with a monthly rail pass that you bought for just a few bucks. That means that you've got a big budget for spa treatments at the hammams and all of the couscous and tagines you can eat.
I'm currently living in Lisbon, Portugal's coastal capital city known as "The City of Seven Hills" tiled in intricate ceramics and characterized by cobblestoned streets. Here, a one- or two-bedroom apartment starts at around €600 (about $682 USD) per month, according to Portugal List. From my experience shopping around, most bedrooms in Lisbon and Portugal's other popular northern city, Porto, go for about $400-$1,000 depending on the neighborhood, so you can save a ton of money. I prefer Portugal to other countries in Europe because the number of people who speak English here is overwhelming, plus it's a relatively cheaper European destination that still has everything you could possibly want: old architecture, sprawling ubran cities and beautiful blonde beaches.
At the start of my travels, I lived in Buenos Aires, which vaunts a culture redolent of so many others, and yet it’s charmingly inimitable, sitting pretty on the estuary of the Río de la Plata on South America’s southeastern coast. To me, Buenos Aires is a sweet mélange of the architectural romance of Paris, the cool urban vibe of Casablanca and the swift pace of New York. It's the perfect amalgamation for an expat who wants the feeling of being some place else with all the comforts of home. But Buenos Aires isn't the only city to visit in Argentina, which is also known for the Patagonia region. Patagonia is a popular destination for outdoorsy types, thanks to the Andes Mountain range there and the famed RN-40 highway that passes the pinnacles of Monte Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. For foodies and wine aficionados, all of Argentina is also known for it's steak and Malbecs. And, the best of all, the cost of living in Argentina is 45.85 percent lower than in United States.
Chiang Mai, Thailand was one of the first places I'd settled as a digital nomad. It's recognized as the digital nomad capital of the world. But all of Thailand attracts both tourists and longer-term travelers who come for the sun and the Pad Thai, and stay for the ease of life. Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, which means that people live slower, more mindfully there. Life is easy. And because there are so many expats, life for expats is especially easy. You could eat most meals for under a dollar, and the general cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Chaing Mai, for example, will cost you just about 11,676.88 ฿ (about $381 USD), according to Numbeo.
Singapore is one of the biggest expat havens in the world, and that's largely because of its dense number of international corporations that base there. The good news for expats is that Singapore uses American dollars, which means that they don't lose money on conversion rates and they're not constantly doing a ton of mental math. The other qualifying characteristic that lands Singapore on this list is that its official language is English, making it an incredibly easy transition. That said, even though the cost of living in Singapore is relatively low, it is more expensive for Asian countries. Monthly rent for a 900-square-foot furnished accommodation in an expensive area is just over about $2,000, according to Numbeo.
Tapei, Taiwan is a traveler's heaven. That's because both travelers and locals alike are spoiled for choice when it comes to Taiwan’s innumerable night markets. Taipei — the profoundly Buddhist and Taoist 13,000-square-mile capital city — does not disappoint. Raohe Night Market, for example, is known for its variety of local snacks — pork feet noodles, squid stew, black pepper buns, sticky rice sausage, bubble tea. It's Taipei’s oldest night market, stretching almost 2,000 feet across the heart of downtown. It's at night markets like this one that expats can eat for the cost of a few U.S. cents. While the language in Taiwan, Mandarin, is quite difficult for most expats, the cost of monthly rent for a 900-square-foot furnished accommodation in an expensive area is just about $1,170 USD, according to Numbeo.
Serbia isn't the most visited cities in Europe, but it's arguably one of the most underrated. That's because Serbia, which is located in southeast Europe's Balkan peninsula, boasts a ton of geographic variety. There's unspoiled beauty like its Fruška Gora region, which has forested mountains and national park with fossils, vineyards and medieval monasteries. Then there's the crawling capital city, Belgrade, where most expats could live comfortably. Belgrade features Communist-era architecture and has hints of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires through its many historical sites like Kalemegdan Park, home to the Belgrade Fortress, and a plethora of 19th-century mansions. And then there are also smaller cities like Novi Sad, which is located in the northern part of the country on the banks of the Danube River. It features neo-Renaissance and gothic architecture that dates back centuries. There's a lot of history and inimitable culture in Serbia, and the cost of living in Serbia is 48.61 percent lower than in United States.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.