The Top 5 Most Livable Cities in Southeast Asia for Expats


Southeast Asia is an attractive destination for expats, especially young entrepreneurs and families, due to its affordability and opportunities for growth. In this article, we’ll explore the top five most livable cities in the region. These cities offer a combination of thriving business environments, excellent living standards, and a high quality of life.

1. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

As the fifth most livable city in Southeast Asia, Ho Chi Minh City offers expats a bustling environment with numerous amenities, such as shopping centers, fine dining, and nightlife. Districts 1 and 3 cater to Westerners, providing an upscale experience, while District 7 is perfect for families seeking an expat-friendly environment. District 2 has a European vibe with affordable housing options, including villas with swimming pools and top-floor penthouses.

2. Manila, Philippines

Despite some negative opinions about Manila, this city is the fourth most livable in the region. Manila is similar to Los Angeles, featuring a mix of luxurious areas and less affluent neighborhoods. Expats typically reside in Makati or Fort Bonifacio, where they can enjoy a westernized lifestyle, shopping malls, and a wide array of restaurants. The Philippines is also an excellent choice for those seeking a more familiar environment, as the culture and cuisine are more westernized than in other Asian countries.

3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, the third most livable city in Southeast Asia, boasts an efficient public transportation system and a diverse, friendly population. The city is a food lover’s paradise, offering street food in Bukit Bintang and fine dining throughout the city. English is widely spoken, making it easy for expats to acclimate. Although alcohol is more expensive due to Malaysia being a Muslim country, Kuala Lumpur is a harmonious melting pot of cultures.

4. Hong Kong

Hong Kong, located on the edge of Southeast Asia, is ranked as the second most livable city in the region. This bustling city offers a mix of urban grit and natural beauty, with mountains, jungles, and green spaces within reach. As a gateway to China, Hong Kong is perfect for those doing business in the country or simply appreciating its culture. Despite its high cost of living, Hong Kong offers affordable entertainment and dining options, as well as a world-class airport.

5. Singapore

Topping the list as the most livable city in Southeast Asia, Singapore is known for its cleanliness, safety, and high quality of life. Ideal for families and young professionals, the city offers excellent public services, shopping, and dining options. As the second freest economy in the world, Singapore provides access to banking, gold storage, and other financial services. While owning a car is expensive, the public transportation system is efficient and reliable.

Honorable Mention: Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand, just missed the top five but is still a popular destination for expats. However, it falls short in terms of development, ease of navigation, and overall benefits compared to the cities listed above.


In conclusion, Southeast Asia offers a diverse range of cities that cater to expats seeking a better lifestyle, more freedom, and business opportunities. Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, and Singapore are the top five most livable cities in the region, providing excellent living standards and a high quality of life.

Thomas Raynott

Thomas Raynott

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