Discover the Best Expat Locations in Asia

Discover the Best Expat Locations in Asia

Asia is a region that has become a popular destination for many expats. Obvious examples such as Singapore and Hong Kong remain more of the established locations but what about Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia?

With higher taxes being imposed on some of these main centre’s, companies are looking to relocate to some of the periphery countries in the region, a perfect opportunity for you to move there to network and wait for their arrival.

Here is an overview of the strengths of each country.


Thailand is an excellent location that lures expats to move to. Regularly ranking within the top 50 cheapest countries to live in, expats regularly detail having to spend less than average on a number of important day-to-day expenses including housing, transportation and utilities.

Bangkok may be the epicentre of the country, but the best bargains can be found in other parts of the country. Such as the largest city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, where the cost of living is about half that of Bangkok.


Be aware however, as although local cuisine is where you can take advantage of the incredibly cheap prices, if you wish to live off imported goods or goods from your own country, these can be extremely expensive. So much so that you can be almost be paying for double what you pay for at home.

An expat cannot own property in Thailand, but you can rent condos and apartments. Prices are comparably very cheap to other Asian destinations. A 3-bedroom apartment in the city centre will cost an average of $890 USD; a considerable amount compared to other popular expat destinations such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Visa’s can be hard to obtain unless you have a company signing off for you. Regardless, you would need a ‘B visa’ to apply for a work permit there. For this, you need the following documents:

  • A letter approved by the Ministry of Labour (to be obtained from the office of ‘Foreign Workers’ by your prospective employer in Thailand)
  • A letter of invitation from a Thai company that is allowed to employ foreigners
  • An employment contract
  • Your CV, education documents, and letters of recommendation from previous employers
  • Corporate paperwork/ details of the employer in Thailand (business registration, business license, company profile, balance sheet)

Thailand is a great place for many reasons. Cost of living is an attractive factor and with plenty of beauty to see on the weekends, it will ensure you will always have something to do.

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A destination for the more adventurous and nomadic expat. The country makes an excellent home base from which you can explore the rest of what Southeast Asia has to offer. Recent times have seen great reduction on travel prices, making it easier than ever to explore its neighbouring beauties such as; Thailand, Indonesia, India, Japan and more. 


Quality of life in Malaysia is also exceedingly cost-efficient. In typical expat communities, such as Kuala Lumpur or Penang, high-end real estate is available for rent at low costs. Rent for a 3 bedroom apartment in the city centre of Kuala Lumpur will cost on average $1,368 USD where as in Penang that price will plummet to a meagre $649 USD per month. Obviously the choice of where to live will not only be a financial cost but a lifestyle cost as well, with Kuala Lumpur providing more modern amenities and international market.

Malaysia provides an appealing mix of archaic and modern. At times, it can feel like you are stepping back in time surrounded by Old World charm and tradition. But you can easily go home to all the benefits of modern comforts. This provides plenty to do on the weekends with trips through the rainforests or shopping adventures in Kuala Lumpur it really does cater for all types of personalities.


Vietnam is a location full of history, not only recent but ancient also. A great expat location to move to, a tremendous element of this revival is due to the nation losing its Vietnam War- perception of terror and violence. It is now recognized as a safe place for foreigners to live and work.

Expats are attracted by the tropical weather, low cost of living, lively culture and the steady improvements in Vietnam’s infrastructure. Expatriates can live a very comfortable life with a moderate expenditure; one of the main factors bringing foreigners into South East Asia to work.

There is a varied accommodation model available to suit all budgets- from up-market apartments in major cities through to modest houses in the surrounding suburbs. Unless you have experienced living in Asia before, a starting point of living in an up market apartment in the city is advisable. This can expect to cost you around $690 USD for a 3-bedroom apartment in Hanoi or $908 USD for the same in Ho Chi Minh City.

vietnam 11

Expatriates observe a big difference in the price of local and western food in Vietnam. Those who are prepared to eat out at the local bars and taverns will find that they can eat quality meals at extremely low prices. Many western bars and restaurants, however, are much more expensive.

With a range of ancient history sites and more recent historical memorials and locations from the Vietnam War, for someone who is interested in history it can be a truly remarkable and breath-taking experience.  

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong has been a popular destination for expats. With many advantages, including high wages, low taxes (compared to the rest of the world) and high living standards, why wouldn’t you consider this quaint but bustling island below China?

Suitable for any expatriate in the financial sector it is home to the highest concentration of banking institutions in the world with over 71 of the largest 100 international banks having operations in the territory. Personal income tax is capped at a rate of 17% with visa requirements not as stringent as in many other countries. Forms can be completed in English with many companies assisting in the process greatly.

hong-kong-emailThe cost of living in Hong Kong can be high for expats. Listed third in Mercer’s 2014 Cost of Living report, the “Pearl of the Orient” has an extremely overinflated real estate market, which makes finding accommodation an expensive endeavour to start with.

Your average price for a 3-bedroom apartment in the city centre can cost you around $4,437 USD per month, making it one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world. Your average 3-bedroom apartment outside the city will cost you $2,706 USD per month which might be more of a viable option, just a longer commute to work.

The city thrives on perpetuating and amplifying its bustling urban energy. Despite the prices, there are always restaurants to dine in, bars to drink in, clubs to dance in and attractions to enjoy.


Finance is one of the most important industries found in the capital, and where many expatriates look for opportunities while an increase in innovative entrepreneurs and high growth start-up firms are a trend emerging. Ultimately, for those looking for employment options, opportunities are likely to abound in every sector.great_wall_beijing

The government imposes a high personal income tax rate of 45% and depending on your work situation will depend on the visa you apply for.

Public transport is well developed and very cheap which is not the same for accommodation. A 3-bedroom apartment in the centre of Beijing will most likely cost on average $3,062 USD and like many of the other cities around the region will drop dramatically to $1,360 USD for the same apartment outside of the city.

If you wish to live a western lifestyle you can, but it will come at a price. Eating local cuisines will minimise such costs, however it will take a while to settle in and find the cheapest way to do so. Beijing’s size is not to be underestimated!

Going out or staying in, there are many ways to entertain yourself in China’s capital. The nightlife and restaurant scene is very active and frequently changing. As a national capital, Beijing can also provide a great blend of touristy attractions with traditional Chinese living. Beijing has multiple expat-centric magazines also, which can help to keep you on top of what is available in this vibrant city.

Beijing offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new and different culture in one of the world’s most important cities. A host of new and fascinating experiences awaits you on arrival!

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Singapore has been one of the most popular expat destinations in recent decades and one where you can earn higher rates of pay than anywhere else in the world. But will you have more money left in your wallet after rent, tax and other living expenses?

Singapore has been built on several key industries. To stay atop of the global economic landscape, some of the most heavily invested in (and developed) industries include electronics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, finance, logistics, and shipping.

singapore-asiaAs an expat to work in Singapore you would need a work permit, often referred to as an EP (Employment Pass). These are grouped according to salary rather than occupation.

There are three types of Employment Passes for professionals who already have a job offer in Singapore:

  • P1 is for people with a fixed monthly salary that exceeds that of SGD 8,000+
  • P2 is for those who earn more than SGD 4,500 and are equipped with relevant recognized qualifications
  • Q1 is for everyone with a fixed monthly Salary of a minimum of SGD 3,000 and recognized qualifications and/or relevant work experience.

There is a useful self-assessment tool provided by the Ministry of Manpower, which can help applicants find out which work permit they qualify for. 

In recent years, Singapore has moved up to be ranked as one of ten most expensive cities in the world, for expatriates. Within Asia, Singapore remains the 5th most expensive, falling shortly behind Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, and Beijing. 

Food and general living is not too overly priced with a host of local market cuisine options, however Singapore definitely has a range of upper market dining options available. Alcohol however is an exception, with those who enjoy a glass of wine or specialty beers finding their drinking options limited due to the enforcement of high import and alcohol taxes, as well as having fewer local manufacturers.

The most influential factor in regards to the cost of living is the exceptionally high priced rent. One of the most expensive markets to rent in the world, a 3 bedroom apartment in the city centre is likely to cost around $4,139.06 USD per month on average. The same apartment outside of the city centre will cost an average of $2,542.73USD per month.

With rent being alarmingly high, living outside of the city centre is an option many expats take. With public transport readily accessible, you can be in Singapore city within 30-45 minutes, depending on how far away you live. Ensuring your apartment is close to public transport routes is essential, as it can be difficult to get around if you are not close to a transport hub. Singapore climate

With an equatorial, humid climate, Singapore offers a unique climate that is pleasing to live in all year round. Singapore is generally warm and humid. For those who enjoy the sun and heat, Singapore can’t be beat. With many beaches on the island you will have just as many opportunities to enjoy the weather. 

It was also recently ranked as the second safest city to live in, in the world in terms of personal safety, infrastructure safety, health security and digital security. Traditional crime rates are now at its lowest point in decades making it an enticing location to move to with your family. 

Singapore, along with all of the other Asian destinations mentioned are truly exciting destinations to move to.

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