Best Places to Live in South East Asia

South East Asia is an incredible collection of countries that form the Indochinese Peninsula and is known for many things. This includes everything from sandy white beaches to historically rich locations, fantastic cuisine, and unique cultural experiences.

With so many unique cities in countries like Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia, each with several different things you need to know. The choice of where to root yourself can be pretty tricky and potentially dizzying.

However, your decision does not need to be that hard, as we have compiled this definitive guide on the best places to live in South East Asia.

Best Places to Live in South East Asia for:

  1. Expats – Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
  2. English Speakers – Bangkok (Thailand)
  3. Digital Nomads – Chiang Mai (Thailand)
  4. Solo Travelers – Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)
  5. Couples – Phuket (Thailand)
  6. Groups – Hoi An (Vietnam)

Top 10 Places to Live in South East Asia

1.  Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

The Best City to Live for Expats

Cost of Living: $

Kuala Lumpur easily takes first place as the best place to live for expats — and for many reasons. Being Malaysia’s largest urban area and commercial, cultural, and transportation hub, Kuala Lumpur is, without a doubt, the ideal place for any expat to call home.

Tip: For any commercial needs, visit The Golden Triangle, the commercial hub of the city, which the iconic Petronas Twin Towers characterize.

Who Would Like to Live Here: Expats, English Speakers & Digital Nomads


  • Affordable ‘residence permit.’
  • Great healthcare
  • Amazing cuisine


  • Traffic issues
  • Rising air pollution levels
  • Slight security issues

2.  Bangkok (Thailand)

The Best City to Live for English Speakers


Cost of Living: $$

As one of the cities in Southeast Asia that boasts the highest number of foreign tourists annually, Bangkok has become a haven for English-speaking travelers. Being the perfect mix of traditional and modern, this city has captured the hearts of countless tourists and has become home to many.

Tip: Having your own motorbike or scooter will make navigating the city a lot easier, but be sure to get your license first.

Who Would Like to Live There: Expats, English Speakers, Solo & Group Travelers


  • Very low living costs
  • Traditional Thai food is amazing
  • Bangkok is a massive cultural hub


  • The city can get overcrowded quickly
  • Potentially unstable government
  • A lot of unspoken traditional rules

3.  Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)

The Best City to Live for Solo Travelers


Cost of Living: $

Running down the Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam. It boasts eye-catching architecture, beautiful natural integration, a wide variety of museums, and just the right combination of culture and commerce. Known as the ‘Pearl of The Far East’, this city will dazzle any solo traveler.

Tip: The weather can be unpredictable, so it’s best to always carry either an umbrella or a poncho.

Who Would Like to Live There: Solo Travellers, Digital Nomads & Urbanites


  • The sights and activities offered by the city are great
  • Cheap travel in and around the city
  • Affordable cost of living


  • Generally hot and humid conditions year-round
  • Can be overcrowded
  • Restrictions on freedom of speech

4.  Manila (Philippines)

The Best City to Live for Urbanites


Cost of Living: $$

Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, is located on the island of Luzon. This bustling city is home to many different people. As with many other places in the Philippines, English is widely spoken, and the people are friendly.

Tip: To avoid some of the possible long commute times in and around the city, plan your daily trips and travels in advance.

Who Would Like to Live There: Urban Travellers, Expats & English Speakers


  • Manila is a massive travel hub
  • Almost everyone speaks English
  • Condo living is very affordable and recommended


  • The rainy season in Manila can become quite hectic
  • Healthcare systems and establishments can be better
  • Unstable politics

5.  Singapore

The Best City to Live for Business


Cost of Living: $$$

One of the most developed and economically focused cities in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a business paradise. It is a hub of global businesses, and any aspiring entrepreneur will find the efficiency of the city, paired with its pursuit of wealth, the perfect place to live.

Tip: Never trust the weather. Instead, pack an umbrella and come prepared.

Who Would Like to Live There: Entrepreneurs, Urban Travellers & Digital Nomads


  • Singapore is notoriously clean and hygienic
  • It is one of the safest places to stay
  • Extremely easy to commute in and around the city


  • Singapore has a general high cost of living
  • The city is not a tourist attraction and has very little for tourists to do
  • Due to its nature, the city is always busy

6.  Chaing Mai (Thailand)

The Best City to Live for Digital Nomads


Cost of Living: $

In a mountainous region of Thailand, Chaing Mai is commonly known as the rose of the North. Boasting the beauty of the countryside around it, Chaing Mai is ideal if you love stunning views, great culture, and fantastic food.

Tip: Chaing Mai has many stunning places to visit, so take your time with each to enjoy them all.

Who Would Like to Live There: Digital Nomads, Expats & Group Travellers


  • Chaing Mai is extremely rich in Thai culture
  • Inexpensive food and shopping
  • Compared to other places, the weather is great


  • Traffic congestion is a big problem
  • Due to its location, there are language barriers
  • High rate of motorcycle accidents

7.  Hong Kong

The Best City to Live for Social Butterflies


Cost of Living: $$$

Hong Kong is host to one of the most significant populations of multicultural people in the world. Taking great pride in the celebratory vibe of the city, there is no better place to live if you love having an engaging and active social life.

Tip: There is always something new and exciting to try, so don’t shy away from new experiences.

Who Would Like to Live There: Group Travellers, English Speakers & Digital Nomads


  • Food from all around the world is always available
  • The nightlife is unparalleled
  • The travel system in Hong Kong is highly efficient


  • Income inequality is widespread
  • High cost of living
  • Increasingly bad air pollution

8.  Phuket (Thailand)

The Best City to Live for Couples


Cost of Living: $

If you’re looking for the perfect city to explore and call home with your significant other, then Phuket is your goal location. From Patong Beach to Bangla Road, this city is built for couples and offers unmatched romantic experiences.

Tip: For the perfect moonlight stroll with your partner, head to Surin Beach.

Who Would Like to Live There: Couples, Solo Travellers & Expats


  • The cost of living for couples is meagre
  • Everywhere worth going is easily accessible
  • A growing community of expats


  • Monsoon season hits hard
  • There might be some language barriers
  • Bugs, bugs everywhere

9.  Penang (Malaysia)

The Best City to Live for Island Urbanites


Cost of Living: $

Penang, otherwise known as Penang Island, has become synonymous with urban island living. Blending modern city staples with history-rich culture, the city is home to a bit of everything. The island features both dazzling coastlines and mystifying mountains.

Tip: Adopting a laid-back attitude to most things will get you very far on the island.

Who Would Like to Live There: Expats, Solo & Group Travellers


  • The island is not too overcrowded with tourists
  • Good and affordable healthcare
  • Excellent food


  • Constant building sites and construction
  • Year-round hot weather
  • Alcohol is quite pricey

10.     Hoi An (Vietnam)

The Best City to Live for Groups


Cost of Living: $

For those of you who love traveling and living with your group of friends or potentially new friends, the growing expat community in Hoi An holds a lot of benefits. Hoi An has become known for being a mix of culture and art. With a relaxing vibe, the city is perfect for large groups.

Tip: The city takes a ‘break’ every day between 11:30 am and 2 pm, and getting things done becomes harder.

Who Would Like to Live There: Expats, Digital Nomads & Couples


  • The city is very relaxed
  • There are almost no traffic issues
  • Affordable housing


  • Not much nightlife in the city
  • Internet connectivity can be slow
  • It can get crazy hot in the summer


1. Is It Safe in South East Asia?

It depends. Although all the major cities on our list are generally safe for travelers, petty crime can occur in certain areas.

2.  How to Travel Around South East Asia?

The best methods of travel in and around mainland South-East Asia are:

  • Air Travel (With many local airlines offering very affordable prices)
  • Commuter Train (Ticket prices are very low, but travel times can be lengthy)
  • Bus Services (These are more country-specific with low fees)

Tip: For tourists looking to visit this part of the world, check out our guide on the best places to visit in South East Asia.

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