Taipei topples Manama to take top spot in 2018 expat city ranking; Bahrain remains hottest country for expats

20 November, 2018

The Taiwanese capital, Taipei, has replaced Bahrain's Manama to the title of the top city for expatriate life, according to the annual Expat City Rankings from InterNations, the largest international community for people who live and work abroad. However, Bahrain has held off Taiwan to retain its position as the most popular country for expats.


  • Taiwanese capital, Taipei, has replaced Bahrain's Manama to title of the top city for expatriate life, according to annual Expat City Rankings from InterNations;
  • The ranking of global destinations, now in its fifth year of publication, is based on how cities and countries were rated across more than 40 individual factors;
  • The top ten cities for expats comprise: Taipei, Singapore, Manama, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Aachen, Prague, Madrid and Muscat.

The ranking of global destinations, now in its fifth year of publication, is based on how cities and countries were rated across more than 40 individual factors that influence an expat’s experience of living in a foreign country in a survey of more than 18,000 respondents. With more than 55 million expats worldwide the community is a key part of the corporate travel sector and underpin many leading travel flows across the globe.

This year's analysis has been expanded to include 72 cities, up from 65 last year and shows a clear skew to Asia. Alongside Taipei topping the ranking after being positioned in the top five for all main categories of the survey, Singapore was ranked second, Ho Chi Minh City fourth, Bangkok fifth and Kuala Lumpur sixth. Last year's 'hottest' city for expats, Manama, slipped to third this year, while Aachen in seventh, Prague in eighth, Madrid in ninth and Muscat in tenth completed the top ten.

The highly ranked European cities prove to be the exception rather than the rule, with the Continent prevalent at the bottom end of the ranking. According to respondents, the worst ten cities in the world for expats are Milan (63rd), Johannesburg, Stuttgart, Dublin, Paris, London, Stockholm, Rome, with Saudi Arabia's Jeddah, and Riyadh holding the bottom two spots.

Taipei received its best ratings in terms of quality of urban living (1st). The ranking shows all expats in the city (100%) are happy with the local transportation system (vs. 70% globally) and safety in the city (vs. 80% globally). What is more, more than seven in ten expats (72%) rate the local cost of living as good, compared to 44% globally. Lastly, Taipei is named the friendliest city for expats in the world: 94% of expats rate the general friendliness of local residents positively (vs. 62% globally).

A high level of safety helped Singapore into second position, but ultimately the cost of living remains an issue. The majority of expats in the city-state (88%) are extremely satisfied with their personal safety, compared to 48% globally, but the high cost of living (50th) poses an issue: more than half (52%) are dissatisfied with that factor, compared to 37% globally. Last year's winner, Manama, remains the world’s best city to get settled as an expat, but the quality of urban living (50th) is among the reasons it has slipped down the ranking.

The performance of the top three cities varies significantly to the two Saudi Arabian cities at the bottom of the ranking. Expats in Riyadh (72nd) have the worst work-life balance and the city ranks low for quality of urban living (72nd), getting settled (70th), and urban work life (70th). Expats do not feel at home (72nd), and almost half of them (46%) claim that locals are unfriendly towards foreign residents (vs. 21% globally).

In Jeddah, expats struggle with many aspects of life, including a low quality of urban living (70th), poor urban work life (69th), and issues with getting settled (68th). To make matters worse, the city ranks 71st out of 72 cities for satisfaction with working hours, only better than Santiago de Chile.

InterNations has already revealed that Bahrain has retained its position as the best country for expatriates for a second successive year. The top 10 countries for expats in 2018 are Bahrain, Taiwan, Ecuador, Mexico, Singapore, Portugal, Costa Rica, Spain, Colombia, and the Czech Republic. Panama, Israel, Australia, and Ecuador improved the most in the eyes of expats since last year, while Sweden, Romania, Hong Kong, and Switzerland have lost popularity. Meanwhile, the world’s worst destinations for expats in 2018 are the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, Peru, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.