The Roaming '20s

The 14 Best Countries for Americans Who Want to Live Abroad

What might your life be like in a faraway land?

If you are among the many, many Americans for whom the past year caused massive anxiety, it might be nice to take a moment and fantasize about what your life could be like in a country besides this one.

There are somewhere around 9 million American civilians currently living abroad, which for scale is one New Jersey's worth of us out there roaming the world. Where to go, though, is an open question.

Whether a country has a lot of English-speakers or a favorable cost of living or an immigration process that’s (relatively) navigable, some are easier for Americans to move to than others. Luckily, in EuropeSoutheast AsiaSouth America and beyond, these countries make a pretty compelling case to leave everything behind.

A little food for thought before you read on: Consider all the times you’ve heard the term “expat” applied to (predominantly white) people from Western countries, and “immigrant” or “migrant” reserved for (predominantly non-white) people entering Western countries. Living abroad is a great way to gain a new perspective not just on a new country, but your home country as well.

Vietnam

Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, with a rising middle-class, low crime rates, and a way, way low cost of living. Americans can thrive here for nearly half the price of home; spacious one-bedrooms in lively, culture-rich cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi cost less than $700, while a mouth-watering bowl of phở is just $2. 

A flourishing community of digital nomads take advantage of reliable high-speed Wi-Fi to work remotely, or stick around to teach English and explore a laundry list of incredible domestic sights, from the beautiful rice terraces of Mù Cang Chải to the white sands of Phú Quốc. Traffic, pollution, and ever-changing visa rules are the tradeoffs for eating ridiculously well and connecting with Vietnam’s warm, welcoming culture. —Katie Lockhart
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Ghana

Seeking relief from the stress and violence of racism in the US, members of the Black Diaspora are drawn to Ghana’s stable economy, tropical climes, and vastly more affordable cost of living. Rents in the cosmopolitan capital of Accra range from $145 a month for a two-bedroom apartment to $700 a month for a three-bedroom house with security. 

English is the main language and business opportunities abound, but like many developing countries, the infrastructure in Ghana is iffy. Power outages are common, and the gridlocks in Accra rival LA. And although the Ghanian government has started a program to fast track citizenship for African Americans, obtaining any official document requires extreme patience. But clear these obstacles and a long-established expat community stands ready to welcome newcomers with happy hours, networking events, and social support groups like the African American Association of Ghana and the Diaspora Africa Forum.  —Rosalind Cummings-Yeates
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Spain

“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries,” said George Orwell. “How easy it is to make friends in Spain!” With its intoxicating sunshine, endless beaches, laid back culture, and cheap fine wine, Spain has long been a haven for American escapists like Orwell and Hemingway. And arguably, it’s never been easier to chase la buena vida. 

Among Europe’s most affordable countries, Spain has a high unemployment rate, so don’t get your hopes up on finding a job. But the Spanish government does offer a self-employment visa, perfect for freelancers and digital nomads who flock to international tech and fashion hubs like Barcelona or hide away in dreamy coastal enclaves like the Canary Islands. And while the work visa application process is painstaking, it has notably fewer requirements than some other EU countries, and allows for travel anywhere in Europe’s Schengen area for one whole year. —Barbara Woolsey
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Argentina

If you’re highly productive, punctual, or even remotely Type A, Argentina is not your place. Time runs differently here: The plumber you scheduled for Tuesday may not show up for a month, and you’ll be the uptight one for asking why. Wine or gelato at breakfast is totally appropriate, midday siestas in the hammock can last hours, and dinner doesn’t start until 9 or 10. In a country with a baffling number of national holidays, social life is always on and long weekends are spent guzzling Malbec in Mendoza, mountain biking in Salta, hiking to waterfalls in Iguazu, or exploring the Patagonian Andes.
 
But let’s not sugarcoat the notoriously unstable Argentine economy. Prices can change so dizzyingly fast due to inflation, many small stores don’t even bother marking items. But if you can earn your living in US dollars, you’ll live incredibly well off very little in vivacious cities like Buenos Aires. —Cathy Brown
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Germany

Along with cheap beer and wine, schnitzel and the Autobahn, Germany's got much to offer weary Americans. Being smack in the middle of the continent, it's prime territory for weekend trips. Your gateway to the Alps, Munich offers exquisite outdoor escapes and access to huge multinational firms. And in the diverse melting pot of Berlin, a low cost of living, legendary nightlife, and booming startup culture lures ambitious tech types and free spirits in equal measure. 

Ze Germans love bureaucracy—Americans can enter the country with a three-month visa, but an official move requires streams upon streams of documentation. Simply opening a bank account or getting a mobile phone creates its own paper snail trail. And in Berlin, the struggle is especially real when it comes to finding a place to call your own: Showing up at apartment viewings to compete against 20 other hopefuls is just the way it is. —B.W.
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

South Korea

Between the enduring popularity of K-pop, K-dramas, K-beauty, and K-style, South Korea’s moment isn’t ending anytime soon. Americans tend to gravitate to the metropolitan behemoth that is Seoul, where public transit is a breeze, the shopping and street food are world-class, and boozing is a national pastime. Open-container laws allow for soju in the streets well into the morning hours.
 
The nation at large is mountainous and modern, with some of the fastest Wi-Fi speeds in the world (though online censorship is real, so have a VPN handy). Housing can be pricey sans roommate, but otherwise, the cost of living is surprisingly low. And unless you're in English education (in which case you’re in luck!) visa-sponsored jobs can be hard to come by. —Farah Fleurima
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Milford Sound, New Zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand | Pat Suraseang / EyeEm / getty images

New Zealand

Imagine living in a country where you could learn about indigenous culture straight from the Māori, hike to waterfalls and active volcanoes, tour film locations from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and sip delicious, locally produced wine—and that’s just the North Island. The South Island, a three-hour ferry ride away, is home to ancient forests, impressive glaciers, vast wine regions, and some of the best ski slopes in the world.

If you’re between 18 and 30, get a Working Holiday Visa (once applications open up again), stay for a year, and pick up odd jobs in tourism, hospitality, and agriculture. Your paycheck will go towards skydives or any other adrenaline-pumping activities you’ll want to try in the country that invented bungee jumping. —Kaeli Conforti
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Uruguay 

A nation the size of Washington State, Uruguay has maintained a stable economy, a functional political system with little corruption, and progressive LGBTQ laws and attitudes. Particularly since the 2010-2015 tenure of President Jose Mujica, who famously spent his term living in a humble farmhouse on a dirt road, the country has become the darling of the liberal world. Public transit in Montevideo (the culturally rich capital city) is good enough you won't need a car, while the wine, beef, and beaches are among the best in the world.

A decent standard of living doesn’t come cheap, although food and rent are very reasonably priced. It's not overly burdensome for foreigners to buy property in Uruguay, and there's a path to residency—and a nice social safety net that comes with it—that doesn’t require bribery. For the most part, native Uruguayans are a highly educated, welcoming lot—but to navigate daily life you'll need near-fluency in Spanish, because almost no one speaks English. —Bison Messink
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Thailand

Thailand is the most livable of tropical paradises, with strong infrastructure and incredibly low living costs. In busy Bangkok, $600 a month comes with high-rise perks like a pool, sauna, and gym; in ultra-chill Chiang Mai, an established community of freelancers and other self-employed folk spend nearly half that. And if you can do without big city comforts, there are even better deals to be had on island bungalows in beautiful beach towns, where you’ll subsist on the freshest, cheapest, and very often spiciest seafood of your life.
 
Tight visa rules usually make long stays in Thailand tricky, though the government just announced a game-changing, nine-month tourist visa for foreigners who quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. —B.W.
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Canada

Life up north comes with diversity, amazing food, low crime rates, excellent public education, healthcare, a stable economy, eco-consciousness, ketchup chips, and most importantly, more nature than you can even bother to care about. (Canadians are so obsessed with nature that their version of The New Yorker is named after a sea mammal.) Wander around Canada's mountains and glaciers and beaches and islands to ski, surf, kayak, dive, hunt, hike, or just hibernate in a house on the prairie. And you can take your pick of several different ways to move to Canada (well, once the borders open). You'll probably already know the language, so you can skip the culture shock and go straight to cultural immersion.

That said, Canada's notoriously livable cities are getting silly expensive, and Canadians are oddly cliquish when it comes to hiring. They tend to value "Canadian experience," whatever that is, over the skills you bring from abroad. And all that wilderness can get lonely in the long gray winters, but cannabis is legal, which certainly helps. —Laura Yan
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Georgia

The Republic of Georgia was already one of the best countries in the world for digital nomads, as wandering types could stay for up to a year on a tourist visa. But the government just relaxed its visa requirements even further, with a “Remotely from Georgia” program that allows remote workers earning at least $2,000 per month to reside in the country for a full year.

Why Georgia? The obvious attractions include breathtaking hikes in the Caucasus mountains, khachapuri (that Instagram-famous cheese bread), and Tbilisi's rowdy and rakish club scene. You’ll live on a steady stream of orange wine, herby salads, and organic stews (wine-inclined countries usually sprout fabulous veggies). Georgia is also exceptionally affordable: Most foreigners in Tbilisi are paying $700 a month or less per month for well-furnished apartments. And Georgians are fun-loving and hospitable; as soon as they figure out that you’re not Russian, you’ve made a friend. —Bruce Northam, American Detour
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Mexico

“In Mexico, we spend less on all our expenses added together than we did just on rent in the US,” says longtime expat Tim Leffel, who literally wrote the book on moving abroad. From the Caribbean to the Pacific, along tropical beaches and in cool mountain highlands, most foreigners in Mexico pay between $400 and $1,000 on rent. The biggest deterrent might be the bureaucracy—plan on all paperwork taking an extraordinary amount of time—but it’s relatively simple to fly to the US once a year to restart the clock on a six-month tourist visa.

Without a doubt one of the greatest cities in the world, Mexico City is among the most popular places to relocate. Newcomers can get their bearings and work on their Spanish with cosmopolitan comforts in the Condesa-Roma area before branching out to more affordable locales like Juarez, San Rafael, or Narvarte. Alternatively, Oaxaca City lures with its mezcal, mole, and architecture; Puerto Escondido with its low-key beach vibes. —B.N.
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.
 

Australia

With the US dollar now worth $1.29 Australian dollars, it’s more affordable than ever to live in one of the most culturally and geographically diverse continents on Earth. While most Americans stick to tried-and-true hubs like Sydney and Melbourne, smaller cities like Darwin, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Broome also lure expats with cheaper rents, unparalleled scenery, and the chance to really connect and co-mingle with Aussies.

If you’re between the ages of 18-30, the Working Holiday Visa lets you live and travel around the country for a year—or up to three if you do enough specified work—though applications are on hold until further notice. —Kaeli Conforti
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

Rio Celeste, Alajuela, Costa Rica | Helbert Ruiz/Cultura/Getty Images

Costa Rica

In a lot of ways, Costa Rica feels like California broke off from North America, headed south, grew a rainforest, and got rid of its superiority complex. A steady democracy that spends its money on education instead of the military, Costa Rica has been chummy with the US for more than 150 years, making culture shock minimal for those who wish to call it home, though be forewarned: Tourist visas are a cinch, but residency can be slow going for anyone who's not working for a big company. And once you get here, residency is going to be top of mind.

A million Americans visit the country every year (well, in normal years), and the Ticos have put those dollars back into infrastructure—reliable airports, deluxe highways, huge conservation districts—that make the country easy to get around and easy to enjoy. It has volcanoes, mountains, beaches, and oodles of badass animals. The healthcare system and public health insurance are above par and the literacy rate is one of the world's highest. If you have a full-time job you get Aguinaldo -- an extra month’s salary at Christmas. Not surprisingly, the people here report being pretty dang happy. —Sam Eifling
Keep up with current travel restrictions here.

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