Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur popularity amongst expats

Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur popularity amongst expats

The overall popularity of Bangkok amongst expats has increased, according to a new survey. The Thai capital was ranked in 11th place out of 57 cities included in the survey for the best place for expats to live. The Expat Insider 2021 survey carried out by InterNations revealed that Bangkok is now more popular with expats than it was in 2020. Last year, Bangkok was ranked in 30th place out of 66 cities surveyed. In 2019, it ranked in 20th place out of 72 cities.

The affordability of housing, the ease in finding housing and friendly locals were the main positive factors for expats living in Bangkok. The survey said that finding housing in Bangkok was “a breeze”.

“Although it misses out on a place in the top 10 overall (11th), Bangkok comes in a proud third place in the Finance & Housing Index 2021, slowly climbing from spot four in 2020. It has consistently ranked in the top 5 of this index since 2017”, the survey said.

“Just over double the global average agree completely that it is easy for expats to find housing in the Thai capital (49% vs. 24% globally). And nearly two-thirds (64%) rate the affordability of housing positively (vs. 42% worldwide). A British expat sums it up: “Whether you are renting or buying — it’s affordable.”


“A similar percentage (65%) is satisfied with the general cost of living in Bangkok (vs. 48% globally). And indeed, an above-average percentage (83%) agree that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to buy everything they need (vs. 77% globally). This might be helped by the fact that only 18% have a gross annual income of 25k USD or less, compared to 30% of expats worldwide.

However, some of the negative aspects of living in Bangkok could be seen in the capital’s ranking in the Urban Living Index, where it received some of its lowest scores in the categories for Transportation, Safety & Politics and Health & Environment. In the Urban Work Live Index, a lack of career opportunities was also seen as a negative factor for expats living in Bangkok.

Despite Bangkok’s improvement in the survey’s rankings compared to last year, the Thai capital was still rated behind regional rivals Kuala Lumpur (1st), Singapore (5th) and Ho Chi Minh city (6th), which were ranked as better destinations for expats. The survey described Kuala Lumpur as welcoming and affordable for expats, saying:

Kuala Lumpur (1st out of 57) also ranks first in the Getting Settled Index — nearly all rating factors make it into the top 10. “It’s easy to live here, and the people are wonderful!”, a US expat sums up her experience.

“It boasts stellar results in the Finance & Housing Index (1st), too. Kuala Lumpur comes first in the Housing Subcategory and is only beaten by Ho Chi Minh City (1st) with regard to finance: 64% of expats have a disposable household income that is more than enough to cover expenses in Kuala Lumpur (vs. 52% globally).

“In the Urban Work Life Index (30th), it gets mixed results. Expats are happy with their working hours (75% vs. 66% globally) and work-life balance (72% vs. 66% globally). However, 34% rate the local career opportunities negatively (vs. 33% globally), and only 57% view the state of the local economy favorably (vs. 62% globally).

“Lastly, the Quality of Urban Living Index (41st) is Kuala Lumpur’s weakest point. While it lands in ninth place of the Leisure & Climate Subcategory, the results for other factors are rather subpar. This includes the urban environment (38th), personal safety (42nd), and transportation (47th). For example, 69% of expats globally rate the local transportation system positively, compared to 57% in Kuala Lumpur.

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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more than fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on

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