Inspiration

This Southeast Asian City Is the World’s Best for Expats in 2022

Credit to Malaysia for wooing foreigners with new visas for digital nomads. After Kuala Lumpur, can you guess the 19 other best cities for expats?

Best Cities for Expat: Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Skyline. Photo by Together We Watch’s Images/Canva

By Dobrina Zhekova

Oct 17, 2022

AS THE DIGITAL NOMAD lifestyle has become increasingly popular, countries are competing to make it easier for foreign workers to move abroad. As a result, many people have packed their bags and set up home in a different place. So if you’re contemplating joining the ranks of expats for the foreseeable future and you’re looking for cities that balance affordability with safety, high-speed internet access, and good entertainment options, Kuala Lumpur is your best bet, according to a new report from Preply, an online language learning platform.

kuala lumpur digital nomads best cities for expats
Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur. Photo by taikrixel/Getty Images Signature

The Malaysian capital topped the ranking with an overall expats relocation score of 6.62 out of 10 and the lowest cost of living per month: about US$1,057. According to Preply’s data, sourced from Numbeo, expats in this Southeast Asian city can expect to pay, on average, US$407 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center. Kuala Lumpur is also home something digital nomads definitely need: the most affordable co-working spaces out of the top 20 cities in the ranking; the average cost is around US$86 a month.

With 322 landmarks, including the famous Petronas Twin Towers, the capital also offers plenty of things to do, such as gallery hopping, exploring its exciting music scene, visiting its many temples and religious sites, and trying out its delicious cuisine.

Affordable dining options are also a major factor for expats. A meal in Kuala Lumpur costs about US$3.21 — the only city in the top 10 with a lower average meal cost per meal is Bangkok, which came in at No. 5. The other Asian destinations in the top 20 were Ho Chi Minh City and Taipei.

However, Preply points out that Kuala Lumpur underperforms when it comes to internet speed, digital nomads will definitely want to consider. With 11Mbps, KL is among the slowest on the ranking. The company also estimates that it would take an English speaker about 900 hours’ worth of language lessons to achieve professional working proficiency in Malay.

best cities for expats kuala lumpur digital nomads
Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Photo by helovi/Getty Images Signature/Canva

Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, is second on the list of best cities to live in as an expat, with an overall score of 6.58. While the city is more expensive than Kuala Lumpur in terms of average monthly rent (US$651) and cost of living (US$1,346), Tbilisi has one of the best safety scores on the list.

Lisbon takes the bronze medal on Preply’s ranking. The Portuguese capital, which is also one of the best places to retire, draws expats with an incredible variety of landmarks and things to do, low cost of living (about US$1,600 per month), reliable internet speed (29 Mbps), and a high safety index score.

Preply’s 2022 Rankings of Best Cities for Expats

Best Cities for Expats: Dubai kuala lumpur digital nomads
Dubai Marina. Photo by Juergen Sack/Getty Images Signature/Canva
Best Cities for Expats: Taipei kuala lumpur digital nomads
Ximending in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo by funky-data/Getty Images Signature/Canva

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