Imagine that you could live in any country in the world! You have won the lottery, and every country in the world will give you a visa to live there. Given the world to choose from, which country would you want to live in? Which is the best country to live in for you? Well, what you may love about a country may be the exact thing that another person hates. We’ve chosen the factors we think are the most important in making your decisions. Explore the ones that mean the most to you. We have links to the best resources available to make your choices. These include:
- Expat reviews
- Ranking indexes
- Personal Freedom
- Cost of Living
- Travel Options
- Safety and security
- Environment and Climate
- Visa and Residency Options
Check back in the next couple of months. We are creating an excellent tool to help you work out which the best country is for you to live in. In the meantime here are some factors and other tools to use to help you choose where you should live.
Listen to those who have already moved abroad
Internations conducts an annual survey of over 20,000 Expats. They rate 48 factors about life in their new home country. These include ease of settling into working abroad to family life and cost of living. Their top 5 destinations in 2019, based on Expat satisfaction was as follows:
Best Country to Live In Indexes
Believe us when we say there are many indexes and companies that rank countries. The indexes rank and rate countries using all sorts of factors. We have looked at all of them, and our favourite is the Legatum prosperity index. It has 12 pillars that it uses to rank countries. They range from Safety and Security to the Natural Environment. The website allows you to rank countries by those factors you consider important. With the default weight to each of the 12 rankings, the top 5 countries are:
Are these the best countries to live in? There is no doubt that the residents of the top 5 have a good quality of life. However, that does not necessarily make them the best countries to move to. All five of those countries have high costs of living. They also have relatively high tax rates to fund their exceptional social programs on offer. So, if you move there, will you be able to manage your same standard of living? Only if you have extensive savings or can get a good job!
Cost-of-living and personal finances
Cost-of-living is the day-to-day cost you will incur. These include accommodation, food, utilities, and more. A cost-of-living calculation is tough to do accurately. Some key factors can include:
- Do you eat at home or in restaurants?
- How much domestic help do you want?
- What hobbies, sports, and entertainment will you do?
- What are your transportation requirements?
- Do you want to travel internally and internationally?
- What are your educational needs?
- Do you need to access special healthcare services?
- What taxes will you be paying?
- What are your utilities (water, gas, electricity, internet, etc.) usage?
- Will you be purchasing many imported goods?
Given this complexity, it is no wonder that there is so much argument. There are many sites online that have a very questionable methodology. Treat all internet figures with care! Additionally, cost-of-living varies hugely across single countries. For example, in Australia, living in a beachside suburb of Sydney will have a very different cost-of-living to Umina just 2 hours drive away.
Cost of living calculations
One way to get a rough idea is to check out the per diem rates the US Department of State reimburses its employees. A per diem is to cover the cost of food, lodging, transport, and some incidentals. Bermuda is the highest per diem. Let look at some popular Expat destinations as a percentage of Bermuda’s per diem. The ranking is from the most expensive country to the least.
- 1st Bermuda 100%
- 69th CYPRUS 51%
- 70th ESTONIA 50%
- 104th COSTA RICA 45%
- 105th INDONESIA 45%
- 118th SPAIN 43%
- 135th PHILIPPINES 39%
- 136th MALAYSIA 39%
- 151th MEXICO 37%
- 163th PORTUGAL 36%
- 178th PANAMA 34%
As you can see, the daily cost of living can be as little 1/2 to 1/3 of Bermuda. Effectively, you would be three times as wealthy in Panama as you would be in Bermuda. The Wall Street Journal has a more straightforward method. Check out their graphic for the price of a beer in 75 different countries. We strongly suggest visiting your prospective country for a short time to get a real feel for cost-of-living. Speak to locals and Expats. Check out estate agents, leisure facilities, and shops. This research will give you a much better indication than unverified crowd-sourced internet sources. This VisaHQ tool will show you if you need a travel visa for your trip.
A significant consideration of a move abroad is the healthcare services available. You want to be secure in the knowledge that you can get the services you require. Happily, in many countries, there are private healthcare services aimed directly at the Expat community. The best country to live in is one where you can be healthy as well as happy. Private healthcare and private health insurance can be very cheap. Services do range in quality, so do your research. In places like Panama, the variety and quality of service in Panama City are world-class. In smaller cities and towns it can be lower quality. The Lancet medical journal rates the healthcare systems of the world in this study. Importantly, this is the entire health system of the country. The private insurance and healthcare system of a country may rate considerably higher than the overall system.
Access to travel options from your new home abroad
Isolation is a risk of a move abroad. Having access to excellent transport infrastructure makes this easier. You can have visitors, and you can travel. If you live on the Costa Dorada in Spain, it is a 30 minute trip to Barcelona airport. This major European air travel hub has low-cost flights around the world. It also has access to high-speed train lines and excellent bus services. If you want to be able to have regular visitors and to travel, this is important when choosing your new country to live in.
Safety and security
What makes a country safe? The Global Peace Index tries to quantify this. It ranks the world’s countries according to a wide range of verified statistical sources. For example, Panama rates 47th most secure country in the world. For Expats and tourists, the truth is that it is much safer than that. Violent crime tends to be drug and gang-related, and so it is very geographically contained. Areas like the Darien Gap (adjacent the border of Colombia) and the port city of Colón are no-go zones. But outside of these areas, Panama is considered a safe destination. Again, try to find first-hand experiences. Look at Expat blogs and reviews of Panama as a destination and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Obviously, if you flaunt money and expensive electronic goods, you are asking for trouble, but that is true in most places!
Environment and Climate
Many people move to countries chasing eternal sunshine. However, the sunniest places in the world also happen to be deserts. Generally, a balance is what we are after. Places like the South Western United States, Central America, and Australia fit the bill well. Other people love winter and winter sports. For them, the highest snowfall rates are most important. Japan, Northern Europe and South America come into their own. For others, having four distinct seasons is essential. Southern Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and similar areas are favourites for these folk. You may be choosing between urban and rural, beach or mountain, hot or cold. These are personal decisions that have a significant impact on your quality of life and how you feel about your new home country.
Is the best country to live in the happiest country?
The United Nations has measured the happiness of the world’s citizens. Over seven years, they have used annual surveys to find out where people are happiest. Check out the full results here. Same rules apply, there will be a vast range of results within each country. But, if you live abroad surrounded by content people, this might be an excellent place to start your research.
Language of countries abroad
Learning a new language can be a positive. For some, it is essential to be able to speak to people in their mother tongue. Having a chat at the market or a bar in your second language is rewarding. Talking to a healthcare professional can be less so. Countries like Spain and Portugal offer many services in English as well as their native languages. However, there will be times when English won’t work for you. Choosing areas of a country with large groups of Expats from your home nation will help with this. There are also ways to see the relative English proficiency of countries like this. Counties with high English proficiency will be more likely to offer this support. The same applies to all other languages.
Visa and Residency options
You need to be able to legally live in the country you choose. The best country for you has a visa or permit you can access. If you plan on making it your home you may be able to apply for citizenship through naturalisation and a passport over time.
Is there a best country to live in?
Yes, and no. There is the best country for you right now. The ideal country to immigrate to is highly personal. And, for an individual, it may change over time. If you can identify the things that matter most to you, you are well on your way to a happy life abroad. Do your research, and try to seek out people who are similar to you. Use their experience to judge how you will feel about your new home. Check out the countries on your shortlist in more detail with our Country Explorer.