This is the most affordable country for expats in 2024, according to a new report

Ernestine Sui
CNBC
Hoi An ancient town in Vietnam.
Hoi An ancient town in Vietnam. Credit: stock.adobe.com

Moving to a foreign country may seem like a pipe dream, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.

When deciding whether to move overseas for life or work, one of the biggest factors to consider is personal finances.

For the fourth consecutive year, Vietnam is the most affordable country in the world for expats, ranking first out of 53 destinations when it comes to personal finances, according to a 2024 InterNations study.

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To be clear, out of 53 places, it came in 40 for quality of life, 29 for expat essentials such as digital life, housing and language, and ranked 14 for working abroad — with considerations like career prospects, salary and job security factored in.

More than 12,000 expats across 174 territories worldwide participated in the broader Expat Insider 2024 survey which provided insights including the best and worst places to live, quality of life, working abroad and personal finance.

For the Personal Finance Index, InterNations asked survey respondents to rank their personal satisfaction levels in three areas: general cost of living, satisfaction with financial situation, and whether disposable household income was enough to lead a comfortable life.

This data was used to compile the report which remains largely unchanged from last year, with the exception of a new entrant to the list — Brazil (9th) — replacing Malaysia, which dropped from 5th in 2023 to 11th this year.

Here are the top 10 destinations expats say are best for their personal finances:

  1. Vietnam
  2. Colombia
  3. Indonesia
  4. Panama
  5. Philippines
  6. India
  7. Mexico
  8. Thailand
  9. Brazil
  10. China

Asian countries dominated this year’s list, nabbing six out of the top 10 positions. Southeast Asia, in particular, stood out with Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand all ranking in the top 10.

“Housing is a big plus in all four countries: Thailand ranks 1st, Vietnam 2nd, Philippines 5th, and Indonesia 8th,” Kathrin Chudoba, chief marketing officer for InterNations, told CNBC Make It. “Most expats agree that it’s easy to find housing, and they are happy with how affordable it is.”

Out of surveyed expats living in Vietnam, 86 per cent rate its cost of living favourably — that’s more than twice the global average of 40 per cent, and 65 per cent of respondents in the country say they are satisfied with their financial situation compared to 54 per cent globally, according to the report.

In addition, 68 per cent of respondents say their disposable household income is more than enough to lead a comfortable life, compared to 41 per cent globally, the survey showed.

Not only are the costs of living low, expats tend to be paid more in Vietnam.

“Close to double the global average report a gross yearly income of $US150 ($A222,000) or more (19 per cent vs. 10 per cent globally),” according to InterNations.

View of cruise ships and islands in Halong Bay, Vietnam.
View of cruise ships and islands in Halong Bay, Vietnam. Credit: Getty Images

In addition, general job satisfaction is also very high among expats in the country. Vietnam jumped from 24th rank last year to 3rd in 2024 for this factor, which is part of the “Work Culture & Satisfaction” subcategory, said Chudoba.

Generally, “work-life balance trumps career advancement” in Vietnam, according to the report. Notably, less than half (46 per cent) of the country’s expat population works full-time, compared to the global average of 57 per cent. About one in five expats (21 per cent) work part-time, and about 18 per cent of expats are retired.

“Life here is stress-free for me, it’s a wonderful change from my work life, which was very consuming and hectic,” said a British expat in the report.

Along with measuring expats’ satisfaction with their finances, the InterNations Expat Insider study also gathered data on what the overall best destinations are for expats globally.

This broader list explores how expats feel across other aspects of life abroad, based on 5 indices: general happiness, quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad and their “expat essentials” index, which is based on administration, housing, digital life and language.

Out of 53 destinations globally, four Asian countries made it into the overall top 10 list this year: Indonesia (3rd overall), Thailand (6th overall), Vietnam (8th overall) and the Philippines (9th overall).

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