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Top 8 Locations Expats Can Build A Real Life Abroad

7 min read

Top 8 Locations Expats Can Build A Real Life Abroad

Here is a list of the best 8 countries that I’ve found on my travels around the globe where expats can build a real-life abroad. Don't be surprised with #1...

I love to travel…a lot.

I love to visit new and exciting places that I believe my clients can move to and live a good life, a really good life. So every month, I actively search out countries that have great amenities with a great cost of living. I look at the real estate, the culture and the language, all with my clients in mind.

I also love to eat; whether it’s daily fresh organic fruit, great restaurants or a street vendor, I want my taste buds to go wow, and I look for countries that can do that for me.

Here is a list of the best 8 countries that I’ve found on my travels around the globe where expats can build a real-life abroad.

Starting with…


Pejibaye, Costa Rica

Pejibaye, Costa Rica

#8 costa rica

Costa Rica is a small country situated between Nicaragua and Panama. They’ve made a name for themselves over the years for being eco-friendly, with dozens of resorts to attract adventurers from all over the world. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful country, and the people are amazing.

  • Costa Rica is a dream destination

  • The weather is amazing the cuisine is spectacular

  • Eco-Tourism is on the rise, and no better place to be a part of it than Costa Rica

  • USD has amazing purchasing power over the colon

  • Ranked #1 out of 140 countries on the Happy Planet Index

  • Known as the world’s top retirement destination

  • You don’t have to be a citizen to own a property outright

  • An extremely peaceful country, though basic safety precautions are recomended.

  • The Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean on the other side

  • Excellent infrastructure

  • Proximity to the USA is only a short flight away

  • Stable government

  • If done right, residency can be yours in this amazing country if you want it!


View of Boats, Cartagena, Colombia

View of Boats, Cartagena, Colombia

#7 Colombia

Colombia is one of my favourite countries on this list to visit, and in the future, we will be purchasing real estate as a 2nd home. The weather is absolutely outstanding, with perpetual spring-like conditions that suit me just fine.

  • Low cost of living

  • Beautiful coastal area with wonderful beaches and year-round destinations to visit

  • Amazing National Parks dotted throughout the country

  • The 2nd most biodiverse nation in the world from the wildlife-rich Amazon jungle

  • Cartagena is a magical walled complex of cobblestone streets and shady squares

  • Medellin is a city reborn. Settled in the middle of the mountains, it is breathtakingly beautiful, a paradise. Known as "The City of Eternal Spring"

  • Andes mountain range in the north of the country gives you a beautiful outlook over the area

  • Colombians know how to cook and eat! They love their cuisine!

  • Real Estate is extremely cheap for investors in the real estate market, unlike in North American Countries.

  • I value my clients' safety, so I will warn you not to travel to Arauca, Cauca, and Norte de Santander Departments.

  • Beautiful spring-like climate year-round

  • Known worldwide for their medical tourism and amazing healthcare

  • Colombia is known for their coffee

  • USD has amazing purchasing power over the Colombian Peso

  • A retirement visa is fairly simple to navigate



Ayutthaya, Thailand

Ayutthaya, Thailand

#6 thailand

I love Thailand. One of my favourite cities in the world is Bangkok because it has so much to offer, so much culture, and the cuisine is world-class. But Bangkok is just one spot on the map. Thailand offers so much more. If you’re drawn to a little cooler weather, you can go north to Chiang Mai, or if you love the sun and beaches, then south it is to Phuket. There are many different environments for you to see there.

  • #1 visited country in the world

  • Thailand is known as the "Country of Smiles"

  • Possibly some of the most beautiful beaches in the world

  • The cuisine is amazing, with fresh fruits and vegetables at your fingertips

  • Regardless of the season, it's never cold, and there's plenty of sunshine  

  • Low cost of living

  • Pad Thai is the national dish of Thailand

  • For Americans, Canadians or British citizens, you are allowed entry to Thailand without the need for a visa.

  • Thailand is ranked #9 out of 140 countries on the happy planet index

  • Amazing country to raise a family

  • Thai Citizenship can be obtained by Naturalization, to name just one

  • Thailand has several visas to be able to stay in the country long-term legally, and the Elite Visa is just one of the ways.

 Related content: St. Lucia - How To Get A Second Passport


Cable Cars in Portugal

Cable Cars in Portugal

#5 Portugal

If Europe is where you want to live, Portugal ticks a ton of boxes for the perfect location to settle down in. Even if you choose to live here part-time, you will enjoy it tremendously. You will also get to enjoy really low crime rates.

  • Amazing weather and probably the #1 reason why people move to Portugal

  • Arguably Portugal has some of the best golf courses in Europe

  • Lowest cost of living in Western Europe

  • Great pricing when it comes to buying a home

  • They offer some really interesting visas

  • Lots of fresh veggies and fresh fish that not only taste great but are cheap and easily available

  • Portugal ranks as the 17th safest country in the world. Violent crime is rare, and petty crime is largely limited to street crime during the busy tourist season

  • A country where you feel comfortable raising a family

  • Unbelievable country to retire in, with so much to offer, and has been rated in the top 20 countries for retiring to

  • Healthcare in Portugal is top-notch and is famous for its state-funded system, called Serviço Nacional de Saude, or SNS for short

  • The ability to open a bank account in Portugal is easy if you are not a resident. You just have to be in the country to do it

  • So many wonderful locations to choose from, whether it be in the city or on the coast, like in the Algarve. You will love the lifestyle and the culture that Portugal has to offer.


Mexico City

Mexico City

#4 Mexico

Next up is Mexico. I’m sure everyone you talk to knows something about this country, and most have been on vacation to one of the hundred resorts along the Pacific Ocean or on the Gulf of Mexico. Millions of Americans and Canadians venture south to live full-time in Mexico, and here’s why,

  • Low cost of living
  • Close to the US border
  • Mexican culture is amazing, with so much to see and do, no one ever gets bored
  • USD has amazing purchasing power over the peso
  • You can live on the beach in one of many amazing locations, either on the Pacific Ocean or in the Gulf of Mexico, or if you like a little cooler weather, the mountains are breathtakingly beautiful
  • Getting residency is easy and getting a retirement visa is simple
  • Mexico is #2 in the world on the Happy Planet Index 
  • Extremely strong economy
  • If you do it right, you can purchase a beautiful home on the beach for a fraction of what it would cost in the USA
  • Locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables on your table for less than $5 a day


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

#3 Brazil

I had the opportunity to live in Brazil for six months. In fact, my wife and I gave birth to our 2nd child here. It was an amazing experience to live on the island of Florianopolis, surrounded by beaches and eat BBQ every day. With warm and friendly locals, the real estate is abundant for those that dream of living on beautiful warm beaches.

  • Extremely low cost of living, especially if you are earning USD. Canada is 2.6 times more expensive than Brazil, and the United States is 2.8 times more expensive.

  • Warm and welcoming people

  • Culturally, there is so much to see in this huge, massive country.

  • Brazilian citizens are free to travel to any country inside of South America with just their ID

  • Eating and drinking are a national past time

  • The beaches are some of the best in the world

  • The island of Florianopolis is possibly the safest island in the world

  • Brazil is self-sufficient in energy

  • Real estate is at its lowest point in the last decade, and today is the best time to buy

  • Citizenship can be yours when you give birth in Brazil, and residency can be quick and easy

  • All residents and visitors have access to free health care at public hospitals, regardless of nationality

  • If done right, Brazil will grant you residency to live, work or study

Related content: Montenegro - How To Get A Second Passport 


Marina of Punta del Este, Uruguay

Aerial View of Peninsula and Marina of Punta del Este, Uruguay

#2 Uruguay

I just came back from Uruguay. I was searching for a new great location to settle down and live the most comfortable life possible. Uruguay is amazing. It offers expats something rare and unexpected, and you should really take a look at this small, well-developed country.

  • A small country in South America with a population of 3,495,500 people

  • Montevideo is the capital on the beautiful coast of the Atlantic Ocean

  • Uruguay has a low-key lifestyle, and most would consider it a 1st world country

  • Beautiful beaches 

  • Uruguayans are family-focused and love getting together to enjoy friendship, comfort, and Asado, which is a variety of meats and vegetables on the grill.

  • Expats living in Uruguay, in general, are happier than when they lived in their home country.

  • The top cities to visit are Punta Del Este and Montevideo

  • Affordability with favourable tax laws and high quality of life

  • The government of Uruguay is happy to see new people come and live in their wonderful country, so they have very few barriers for entry

  • Amazing wildlife throughout the country

  • If you decide to make Uruguay your home country, you are allowed to bring your household furnishings duty-free

  • Nobody does BBQ like the Uruguayans

Last but not least, my favourite country on this list,


Panama City at dusk

Panama City at dusk

#1 Panama

Panama has been my home for several years now. This is the best country to live in for my family and me. Here’s why…

  • Low cost of living

  • Sunshine every day

  • The currency is the USD

  • You can own your home on the water, in the mountains, or in the city. All locations are amazing.

  • Restaurants are world-class

  • Locally grown fruits and vegetables, you never have to buy imported again

  • Residency is easy and doable for the investor and the pensioner

  • Qualified pensioners receive 25% off in restaurants, movie theatres, airline flights and more.

  • Real Estate prices are still low compared to almost anywhere in Central and North America

  • And best of all, income earned outside of Panama is tax-free

So there you have it, my favourite locations expats can build a real-life abroad. These countries have fairly easy immigration rules, the cuisine is fantastic, and the weather is outstanding.

The plan for my family and me is to have a home in each of these countries and possibly one more country that I will talk about in the future. Stay tuned over the next few months as we talk more and more about these 8 pivotal locations that will help us all to secure our freedom.




While other countries are mentioned in the expat insider ranking, like Indonesia, Taiwan, Spain, and the UAE, this list is based on my personal experience in each of these countries. When I put this list together, I thought about my personal experience in the country, its affordability, safety, and other factors that attracted me to that country. I have lived in all the listed places, and these are my best options to start a life abroad.


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I help my clients to move offshore for freedom, privacy and autonomy by focusing on the immigration, legal, and tax issues that you will face when becoming an expat. If you would like to work one-on-one with me on getting out of your home country (or setting up a Plan-B location), then read this important letter and fill in an application form to become a Private Client. My fees are not cheap; however, I can assure you that when you work with a professional firm like ours, the results will be worth it.



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Mikkel Thorup

Written by Mikkel Thorup

Mikkel Thorup is the world’s most sought-after expat consultant. He focuses on helping high-net-worth private clients to legally mitigate tax liabilities, obtain a second residency and citizenship, and assemble a portfolio of foreign investments including international real estate, timber plantations, agricultural land and other hard-money tangible assets. Mikkel is the Founder and CEO at Expat Money®, a private consulting firm started in 2017. He hosts the popular weekly podcast, the Expat Money Show, and wrote the definitive #1-Best Selling book Expat Secrets - How To Pay Zero Taxes, Live Overseas And Make Giant Piles Of Money, and his second book: Expats Guide On Moving To Mexico.

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