7 Underrated Cities for Expats and Nomads

Written by Andrew Henderson
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Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

With the whole world at your disposal, it doesn’t make sense to stay where you were born

Several cities have become well known among nomads and expats as the place to be: Singapore, London the usual suspects. And in nomad circles: Lisbon, Bangkok, and Medellin

All of these are wonderful cities in their own right, but at Nomad Capitalist, we like to find the underappreciated and the hidden gems of the world. When it comes to the place where we live, it’s no different. 

The following are some cities for expats and nomads that I think deserve more attention.

I’m a big city guy – I like action. So, let’s start in Asia.

1. Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea - underrated cities for expats

Seoul, though underrated, is one of the best cities for expats.

Over the last 13 years of helping people immigrate to the country of their dreams, I’ve noticed that many people love Japan and China. They love going to Tokyo, Beijing or Shanghai. 

However, Japan is notoriously anti-immigration. You can go as a tourist, but staying there permanently can prove to be difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place to visit. But for a place to live as an expat, unless you have a job there, it is a little more difficult. 

As for China, many people are leaving, especially expats who have difficulties with the government and running a business there. 

But what people don’t appreciate is that you can have all the things that make Japan and China charming and desirable, whilst being in the same geographical area by going to Seoul in South Korea. 

Seoul is a vibrant place. It has the charm of Japan and China because both cultures have influenced the country for hundreds of years. 

Besides that, they are rather well developed, so their infrastructure is top-notch. 

If you want to live there, they offer special immigration options for investors.

From a tax perspective, they also have an expat tax scheme.

You won’t pay zero or even low taxes but you will only pay a moderate amount.

The city is not on many people’s radar, but if you like that part of the world, it should be on yours.

Learn How to Get South Korean Residency and Citizenship.

2. Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur - underrated cities for expats

Malaysia has long been the hidden gem of Southeast Asia and is one of my favorite bases.

Now, here is a location that is near and dear to me –  I’m even writing this article from my house here. 

In my opinion, Kuala Lumpur is dramatically underrated.

Overall, Malaysia is tax and immigration-friendly. You can invest, start a company, get a job, and live in Malaysia much more easily than other countries in Southeast Asia. 

Of course, it’s not perfect, nothing is. 

I assure you though, you won’t regret giving it a chance. It would be like the boyfriend or girlfriend you leave because they had one little flaw. But then you regret leaving them for the next decade. 

There are great consumer conveniences; you could travel around the region, you have endless restaurants, shopping, and friendly people from all around the world. 

Besides that, it’s the only country in Southeast-Asia where foreigners can own a house with land. And it gets even better as apartments are bigger than anywhere else in the region.

It’s really good value for money. 

The reason that it’s so underrated is that its tourist scene pales in comparison to the likes of  Singapore, Thailand and the like. It might not seem like it at first, but this is excellent news for you. 

Life and travel are two different situations – for much the same reason that you wouldn’t want your house next door to a club that goes on at all hours of the night. 

I did the same thing when I lived in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States for a while. It’s not a very interesting place to visit, but it’s a great city to live for many of the same reasons. 

So, if you’re looking for a place to spend time or to live or to use as part of your trifecta, Kuala Lumpur should definitely be on your list. 

Many people come here and love it more than they expect they would. Discover this Hidden Gem for the Asia Expat.

3. Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan

If you’re looking for safe cities for expats, Taipei checks that box.

If you’re looking for a more traditional East Asian influence rather than Southeast Asian, Taipei is a good option. 

It offers a good mix of Taiwanese or Chinese influence from a little further south. The city is a true melting pot of cultures with people of all religious and cultural backgrounds.

It’s not necessarily cheap to get a residency there, but there are some business options.

If you want a safe and calm life, this is the city for you.

Taipei is the second safest city in Asia and is even number four on my list of The 10 Safest Cities for Nomads and Expats.

4. Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia

One of the most underrated cities for expats, Serbia gives you European charm without European prices.

For my fourth choice, we will move over to Europe. 

Belgrade is among my favorite cities in Europe as it has vibrancy and life to it; unlike the rest of Europe that is slowly dying and stagnating. 

It doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of Asia, with sixty-story buildings, but it does have that entrepreneurial zeal of Asia mixed with just enough of the European vibe— including great restaurants and a great cultural scene. 

It’s also highly affordable, you’re able to purchase property, and they’re flexible on immigration. So you don’t need a ton of money to go there to enjoy the excellent value and great company.

The reason Belgrade is not on most people’s radar is that you can drive a couple of hours and get to Budapest, which most know about.  

European nomads go to Budapest because it’s within their border and it’s “safe”.

However, Belgrade is one of the most underrated European capitals precisely because it is not in the EU. Therefore, it is worth considering. 

Learn more about this fantastic city in The Nomad Guide to Living in Belgrade, Serbia.

5. Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland - Underrated cities for expats

Although most people love Ireland, Dublin is still among the underappreciated cities for expats and nomads.

This is a city I’ve loved for more than a decade. 

It’s drawn a lot of attention from people with remote jobs as it’s great if you’re looking for something calm and more slow-paced than other contenders from the Anglosphere. 

This shows in the fact that it’s rather straightforward to get in compared to the UK (which has recently made their visa rules more complex), the US or Australia.

The Emerald Isle really lives up to its name, as this small city is very green and bursting with life.

You can get residency in Ireland as a start-up entrepreneur or, if you have Irish ancestry, you could go for full Irish citizenship so you could drop in and visit the country any time you like.

6. Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico among underrated cities for expats

Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Merida, San Miguel de Allende, and Puerta Vallarta often top the list of best cities for expats in Mexico, but we’d like to add Mexico City itself to that list.

Now we go to the Americas. 

Everyone’s heard about Mexico City, especially Americans, but it might raise some eyebrows when they see it on this list. 

When people go to  Mexico, they go to Tulum, Playa Del Carmen (where we’re having our conference, Nomad Capitalist Live, this year by the way), Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco but not Mexico City. 

I think this is a missed opportunity! Despite being the New York of Latin America, as well as  the largest city in Latin America, Mexico City gets a bad reputation.

Of course, there are bad areas, just like any other place. But if you go to neighborhoods like La Roma, Condesa, Chapultepec, and Polanco – which are so large they could almost be considered towns in their own right – the situation is very different and pleasant. 

I’ve walked around at all hours of the night feeling perfectly safe. There’s a lot of police presence there – even my wife walks around alone, and she has no problems.

Even though my stomach still belongs to Kuala Lumpur, Mexico City comes a close second for my favorite places to eat in the world – the sheer variety and quality are staggering, and they have cuisine from all around the world. 

Besides that, the cultural life is excellent, it has among the most museums of any city in the world and it has theatres and operas. 

It’s also worth mentioning that there are great real estate deals there.

Overall, the city is affordable, has amazing food, super-friendly people, and a language that is relatively easy to learn.

Learn more about this fascinating city in our Nomad Guide to Living in Mexico City.

7. Bogota, Colombia

Living in Bogota, Colombia

Medellin has long topped lists of the best cities for expats, but we prefer Colombia’s capital city of Bogota.

As a rule of thumb, I usually prefer to invest in capital cities, as they are the places where people are coming to live and work from all over the country and the world, so there is a built-in demand.

So, despite what others might say, I prefer Bogota over Medellin. My decision is not purely based on financial consideration though.

In this city, you’ve got so many museums and excellent restaurants, all with beautiful scenery as a backdrop. I love it so much that I wrote a whole article on living there

It bears saying that it’s not as fast-paced as Mexico City or places in Asia; it’s a little slower. 

But it doesn’t get enough love.

Conclusion

I’ve traveled to and spent considerable time in every single one of the cities on this list over the last decade and more.

They deserve more attention than they get. 

Are they all the tax-friendliest places on earth? No, but many are. 

It’s a big world out there, and once you step onto the road, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. Where’s your adventure heading?

If you would like more direct help finding that out, we’re here to help. Contact my team and me to design your future life. 

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Apr 17, 2020 at 1:58PM

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1 Comment

  1. Bob

    Also fun are Vanuatu, Wellington (new zealand), and Ballito /Cape Town/Joburg and Umhlanga in South Africa. All good places with affordable costs and decent expat communities.

    Reply

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