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Want to Live Overseas? Head to One of These 5 Countries

By Maya Stanton
January 12, 2022
Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica
Courtesy <a href="http://mybt.budgettravel.com/_Arenal-Volcano-Costa-Rica/photo/4676782/21864.html" target="_blank"> sandayle13/myBudgetTravel</a>
If you're dreaming of the ultimate escape, these are the best countries for expats in 2017.

What traveler hasn’t gone on vacation, fallen just a little bit in love with a new locale, and fantasized about picking up and moving? 

It’s not hard to see the upside of expat life, but those truly considering taking the leap can’t afford to wear rose-colored glasses—not all destinations were created equal. For insight into what it’s really like to live abroad, this year’s Expat Insider study ranks 65 countries on factors, ranging from feeling welcome to family well-being, based on more than 12,500 expats’ experiences. Here, the five locations that offer the warmest welcome to long-term residents.

#1 Bahrain

Immigrants make up about half the total population of Bahrain, and they seem to be flocking there for good reason. Expats named this archipelago in the Persian Gulf the best overall destination and the easiest place to settle, even without speaking the language—25 percent of local survey respondents said they started to feel at home right away. With a capital city boasting a mix of avant garde and traditional architecture, a lively food scene, and a dynamic artistic community, it’s a country that extends a warm welcome. Culture vultures should be sure to check out Manama’s postmodern museum or catch a show at the third-largest theater in the Middle East, while those with a historical bent should see Beit Sheikh Isa Bin Ali Al Khalifa, a circa 1800 home in Muharraq Island that gives a glimpse of ruling-class life in the time before oil. There’s also Bahrain Fort, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and the lesser-visited Arad Fort, built by the Bedouins a hundred years earlier, not to mention mosques, markets, and malls galore. Don’t miss: The Tree of Life, a 400-year-old mesquite thriving in the desert.

#2 Costa Rica

For folks unwilling to give up a social circle in exchange for warm sun and sandy beaches, Costa Rica is the place to be. Known for its sustainable adventure travel and pura vida perspective, this Central American country claimed the runner-up slot with its gregarious population, a painless acclimatization process, high quality of life, and family-friendly atmosphere. And with greater biodiversity than America and Europe combined, plus environmental protections for more than a quarter of the country, Costa Rica is a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise. Scope out monkeys, sloths, tropical birds, and frogs in one of the many national parks, or combine your love of animals with a volunteer stint at a rescue center on the Caribbean coast. It’s not all eco-tourism—the capital of San José, with its neoclassical theater and jade museum, provides a respite from all that nature—but there’s no shortage of outdoor endeavors here, from surfing in Pavones to white-water rafting in Turrialba. Don’t miss: Volcán Arenal, a recently active, resting volcano, located in a national park rife with hiking trails and lava fields. 

#3 Mexico

A perennial expat favorite, Mexico has appeared in the survey’s top five since its inception in 2014, and this year, America’s south-of-the-border neighbor takes third place—even with a few points docked for healthcare and safety. With 74 percent reporting general satisfaction with their financial situation, respondents raved about the low cost of living, the ease of settling in, great weather, amazing food, and a welcoming population, all of which are a boon to visitors and residents alike. Check the state department’s advisories before you book, obviously, but try not to let a bad reputation cloud your vision—this geographically diverse country rewards the intrepid traveler. Explore the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City, befriend artists in San Miguel de Allende, take a train through the Copper Canyon, or chill out on the Yucatán Peninsula or the Riviera Maya—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t miss: The ancient temples of Palenque, awe-inspiring Mayan ruins in the middle of the jungle.  

#4 Taiwan

Last year’s winner dropped a few spots in 2017, but Taiwan still ranked second in the overall quality of life index, taking top honors in the health and well-being category, earning great reviews for its transportation infrastructure, and claiming the highest percentage of expats who are completely satisfied with their healthcare. Though its environmental quality is cited as average, thanks to rapid industrialization, this island nation off the coast of China has no shortage of natural beauty. Hike the stunning Taroko Gorge (or for more serious climbers, summit the main peak at Snow Mountain), go diving at Kenting National Park, a reserve spanning the southern tip of the island, or jump in a hot spring in Wulai. And when you’ve had enough of the great outdoors, Taipei awaits. Between temple visits and shopping on Dihua Street, set aside time for the National Palace Museum’s impressive collection of Chinese art, take the elevator up to the 89th-floor observatory of Taipei 101, once the world’s tallest building, and grab a snack at the bustling Shillin Night Market. Don’t miss: The 19th-century Dalongdong Baoan Temple, a beautifully restored, UNESCO-recognized archetype of historic Taiwanese architecture.

#5 Portugal

Crowning the quality of living index for its moderate temperatures and abundance of leisure activities, Portugal rounds out this year’s top five. Expats here are a happy bunch—93 percent of respondents say they’re satisfied with life on the Iberian Peninsula, rating it first in terms of friendliness and feeling welcome, and literally no one had a bad thing to say about the country’s climate or weather. For visitors seeking fun and sun in an approachable atmosphere, that’s good news. In Lisbon, meander through the narrow streets of the Alfama district, hit the beach in Cascais and the wine bars in Bairro Alto (making sure to save room for pastéis de nata, those much-beloved custard tarts found all over the the city, most famously on the Rua de Belém), and cruise the miradouros, a collection of terraces overlooking the city, for unbeatable skyline views; in Porto, gawk at the gold leaf–laden baroque interiors of the Igreja de São Francisco, wander the medieval alleys of Ribeira in the city’s historic center, and tour a port-wine cellar or plan a daytrip to the justly renowned Douro Valley wine region. Don’t miss: Sintra, a dreamy hillside town that’s home to colorful villas, lavish palaces, and the ruins of a 10th-century Moorish castle.

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Inspiration

Hurricane Help From Airbnb and HomeAway

The immediate danger posed by Hurricane Harvey may have passed, but the regional crisis in Texas and Louisiana is far from over, and Hurricane Irma is approaching Florida and the Caribbean.  As the shelters in the Houston area empty out, many residents are returning home to discover that their onetime sanctuaries have been damaged beyond repair, and the devastation runs deep: Thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana have been displaced, with FEMA-funded hotel rooms in short supply and renters in a particularly precarious situation. (In the past week alone, hundreds in the Houston area have been served with eviction notices.) Help often comes from unexpected sources, though, and vacation-rental sites such as Airbnb are stepping into the breach. Hundreds of hosts from Corpus Christi to New Orleans are opening their doors to evacuees and relief workers—and they’re doing it for free. Under a disaster-response policy implemented in the wake of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, Airbnb is encouraging hosts in the affected and surrounding areas to list their homes at $0 until September 25, and in return, the company is waiving all booking fees. Nearly 1,000 properties have been offered to date, and demand is high, with many vacancies filled soon after they’re posted. At last count, some 500 urgent accommodations were available on the website’s dedicated page. “We are proud to see our Airbnb community coming together to help their neighbors in need,” says Kellie Bentz, Airbnb’s head of global disaster response and relief. The hurricane hit close to home for the Texas-based HomeAway, and in response, the site is giving its property owners and managers the option of renting to survivors for free or at a discount through the end of the month, waiving service and booking fees in the process. The company, which also runs VRBO and VacationRentals.com, has set up a temporary-housing page for those who want to make their homes available, and so far, more than 100 have opted in. For good samaritans who may not be able to pitch in physically or monetarily, offering up their space is tangible way to offer a helping hand. “I personally don’t have the financial funds to donate as much as I’d like to,” Austin resident and Airbnb host Edith Flores told The New York Times on Sunday. “This is one thing I can do.”

Inspiration

5 Reasons Why We Love Southwest's September Fare Sale

Are you inspired by our recent fall travel chat on Facebook and ready to pack up and go? Southwest’s current fare sale (good for travel through December if you book by Sept. 21) will enable that urge. Don’t expect to fly around the major holidays, but if you’re in the market for a weekend getaway, you may be in luck—cheap flights to some of our favorite destinations are up for grabs. Here, five especially great deals we love. Chicago to Austin, from $94 Like a booster shot for seasonal affective disorder, a serious dose of sunshine at the beginning of the season can help ward off the February blues, so head south and soak up some vitamin D before that Chicago winter really kicks in. Check out the Austin City Limits Music Festival at the beginning of October, or go on a five-hour meat binge with the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest on Nov. 5. If you’re not willing to plan your trip around a one-off day of carnivorous consumption, that’s OK—it’s always taco weather in this food-crazy town. Dallas to Boston, from $78 When the Texas heat has you dreaming of colorful leaves and crisp autumn air, consider New England. Boston makes a great jumping-off point for a fall-foliage tour, and the city is a destination in its own right. Catch a game at Fenway Park, channel your inner history nerd and play colonial-landmark bingo, have a bowl of clam chowder at Yankee Lobster, and mingle with the college crowd in Cambridge. We like dem apples very much, thank you. Indianapolis to NYC, from $89 For those who can’t get enough of that noel, New York in December is a must-do trip. Rockefeller Center’s tree-lighting ceremony kicks off the festivities on November 29, and the Fifth Avenue department-store window displays appear soon after, leaving holiday lovers with plenty of non-blackout dates to explore a city that feels just a wee bit softer under those twinkling lights. You won’t escape the cold, but you’ll definitely get into the spirit of the season. Los Angeles to Denver, from $93 Endless summer bumming you out? Swap sand for slopes with a stint in the Mile High City, a veritable paradise for outdoor-adventure enthusiasts. Denver boasts miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails, white-water rafting excursions, and, of course, ample opportunities to ski and snowboard in the nearby Rockies. There are even disc-golf courses for those who want to take it a little easier. If indoor activities are more your thing, may we suggest the Great American Beer Festival in early October? With 3,800 beers from 800 breweries, you’ll be sure to find something to wet your whistle. Washington, D.C., to Orlando, from $92 Orlando’s amusement parks hit peak capacity around the holidays, but if you absolutely have to plan a family vacation around the kids’ school schedules, at least you’ll get to Florida at a discount. When you book in December, do so knowing that the crowds will be nuts, and embrace the chaos. Our Disney survival tips are your secret weapon—they’ll help you keep your sanity on the ground, so don’t forget to bookmark and read before you go. All rates are starting prices, one-way, as quoted on southwest.com.

Inspiration

Walk This Way: Meet the Next Generation of Audio Tours

If you’re one of the thousands upon thousands of travelers and commuters who’ve walked across NYC’s Brooklyn Bridge and thought to yourself, “Wow, this bridge is amazing. I wish I knew more about it,” there’s an app for that. Thanks to Detour, you can traverse the span across the East River with a self-guided audio tour narrated by Ken Burns, the award-winning filmmaker who wrote and directed a groundbreaking documentary film about the iconic bridge. A great self-guided audio tour can add depth and authenticity to your vacation, and the San Francisco-based Detour offers an immersive experience, using your phone’s GPS to give directions and deliver location-based information with each step. And with 150 offerings at $5 apiece in cities from Savannah to Seoul, you’re bound to find a walk to suit your interests. Browse by theme or place, or choose the voice you’d like to hear in your headphones: In New York, Burns will take you over and around the Brooklyn Bridge (and remind you to look both ways before crossing the street), while Broadway legend Joel Grey spills the dirt on his time on the Great White Way. Actor Peter Coyote leads you through San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and shares his memories of the famous Summer of Love, and over in the Castro, activist Cleve White details the city’s fight for gay rights. You can also set your itinerary around an iconic location. Stop by Checkpoint Charlie and learn about life in divided Berlin from a Cold War-era spy, or visit Fenway Park in Boston for a fan’s-eye view of the stadium. If food is your thing, there are delicious options—in Charleston, retrace the steps of Nat Fuller, an enslaved chef who hosted a reconciliation feast at the end of the Civil War, check out Los Angeles’s Koreatown with the editor of Eater LA, or get boozy with a New Orleans absinthe tour. Because of the detailed, hyper-specific knowledge on display, travelers aren’t the only ones who will get something out of a Detour experience. “My friend was visiting Oakland, and we decided to do the Black Panthers history tour of the neighborhood where I live,” says reviewer Lizzy Go. “It was full of mind-blowing anecdotes from the ‘70s that totally transformed my perspective of the places I walk by every day. Now every time I pass the stoplight on Market and 54th, I have this mental image of Panthers in their black leather trench coats serving as crossing guards for the elementary-school kids.” At five bucks a pop, you can’t ask for much more.

Inspiration

Book a Great Hotel Deal Right Here at BudgetTravel.com

Where are you going this fall? At Budget Travel, we’re all about inspiring you to “see more for less” and to discover great new affordable destinations. Now, we’re upping our game: Our new “Book a Hotel” page allows you to book great hotel deals through our partners at Booking.com. I took our new “Book a Hotel” page or a spin, planning some fall travel for me and my family. Some highlights include: Select a Destination and Travel Dates. On the left of the page, type the name of the destination you’re thinking of visiting. The Booking.com database will almost certainly recognize even the most far-flung places (I tried to play “stump the database” with some islands in the South Pacific, and it recognized every place I could think of, including tiny Cooke City, MT, a cool small town with a population under 100). With leaf-peeping season coming soon, I searched for hotels in Bennington, Vermont, one of Budget Travel’s “51 Best Budget Destinations in America.” Get Inspired. Even if you’re not sure where you’re going next, our “Book a Hotel” page can help you make up your mind, with recommended destinations along the right-hand side of the booking tool. The more you use the tool, the better the page will get at making appropriate suggestions for you. In my case, it has already figured out that I’m interested in family-friendly weekend escapes in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Review Available Lodgings. Hit "Search" and a list of available lodgings appears within a second or two, and, using a menu at the top of the listings, you can order the lodgings by price (low to high is what most of us Budget Travelers prefer), or starting with "top picks," which are frequently booked and/or highly recommended properties (an especially good idea the farther your destination is from your cultural or geographical comfort zone). When I searched hotels in Bennington, Vermont, I was pleased to find rates in early October starting as low as $85. Get Picky. Using a menu to the lower left of the hotel listings, you can get a bit choosy, filtering using criteria such as price range, breakfast included, free Wi-Fi, and even kitchen facilities. For my leaf-peeping search, I filtered for breakfast included and free Wi-Fi (because my trip will be in October, I didn’t filter for “swimming pool,” but it’s nice to know I can do that for summer travel): I was psyched that, post-filtering, my $85 deal was still available. Read Customer Reviews (and the Fine Print). Your lodgings list will give preference to properties that have received good reviews, but you can dive into the world of customer reviews if you’re curious about details. As I started to read the (glowing) reviews, the fine print about check-in and check-out, and some additional helpful info about nearby landmarks, I realized that the $85/night hotel in Vermont was actually a property I’d already taken my family to a few years back - and we’d thoroughly enjoyed the place. That was an unexpected, and welcome, confirmation that our new booking tool was steering me in the right direction! Reserve It. Selecting a room and making a reservation takes just a minute or two, and you don’t have to share credit card information or set up an account, just your name and email address. I found the experience inspiring and refreshingly easy. Ready to explore some affordable fall travel ideas? You’ll find a “Book a Hotel” button on the upper-right corner of the BudgetTravel.com homepage. Or just CLICK HERE.