Spain is the easiest country to settle in for expats

Published 2023-11-24 09:07:43
Málaga, view from Plaza de Toros - Credit:Image by Enrique from Pixabay

A 2023 survey reveals top cities for a seamless transition and Spain dominates. Malaga, Alicante, and Valencia lead the way, while Estonia emerges as Europe's pioneering digital hub, according to InterNations' annual expat insider survey.

By definition, expatriates are travelers and after the pandemic this is even more prevalent with the increasing popularity of remote work. Many countries introduced easy ways, like digital visas, to attract these expats to their shores. These special visas assist expats with residency and tax requirements.

Expatriates, especially those with good financial conditions, now have many attractive options and only have to choose a country and city that appeals to them and the lifestyle they’re chasing.

We look at the top-ranked countries for both 2022 and 2023 based on expat surveys conducted by InterNations.

Malaga, Alicante, and Valencia in Spain ranked top expat destinations in 2023

Spain leads with an overwhelming majority in 2023 by taking the top three spots for the “best city in Europe for expats” category. The results are unsurprising due to the high quality of life, diverse and vibrant culture, glorious weather, amazing architecture and great food.

Malaga is crowned top destination for expats

This coastal city in Spain secured the overall number one spot out of 49 in the Expat City Rankings 2023. This accolade was received for friendliness and making new friends. The survey respondents reported that foreigners were well-received by locals who were very friendly and welcoming.

The city scored very high on the Quality of Life Index. This included factors like climate and weather, as well as the surrounding nature. Malaga was also declared a winner in the category of Leisure Options with many outdoor activities to enjoy.

However, Malaga ranked only in thirteenth place for the category of Working Abroad and 41st for finding jobs. Nevertheless, it was at the top of the leaderboard for work-life balance.

Housing was ranked quite high with respondents reporting that adequate and affordable housing was easy to find. Cost of living ranks at the top in addition to the highest rank on the Personal Finance Index.

Overall, 88% of the respondents were happy with their life in the city of Malaga compared to the average of 72% globally.

Alicante is the best for affordable housing

This port city is on Spain’s southeastern coastline and placed second out of the 49 cities ranked in the survey, with 92% of respondents were happy with their life in Alicante. But it misses the top spot due to the working abroad conditions, that ranked poorly (40th).

Alicante took the first place in the Culture & Welcome Subcategory and ranked second in the Ease-of-Settling-In Index. This translates to expats feeling welcome in the city, being very comfortable and very satisfied with their social lives.

The city ranked third in the Personal Finance Index meaning expats were very satisfied with the general cost of living. Housing is very economical and healthcare is similarly affordable and easily available. Leisure Options ranked highly due to the excellent weather and numerous activities on offer.

On the downside as we mentioned previously, expats felt the local business culture did not support flexibility, creativity or independent work. There were also fewer career opportunities than other cities in the survey.

Valencia triumphs in Quality of Life despite some professional opportunity issues

This is another coastal city in Spain that ranked third overall and even better, in the Quality of Life Index, it won outright beating all other 48 cities. Like Malaga, it ranked very high on the Leisure Options, and the city boasts many facilities for recreational sports.

The survey results revealed expats were satisfied with the available healthcare which was found to be very affordable. Transport in and around the city was deemed convenient with safe walking and bicycle tracks, and dependable public transport. 

Once again, the Working Abroad section and Career Prospects did not fare well on the survey, as often the case for those Spanish cities, the career opportunities being the worst of all Spanish cities surveyed. Despite 79% of people reporting having a healthy work-life balance, the lack of job security was a negative factor against Valencia. 

The city featured prominently in the top ten for the Personal Finance Index and featured third for the cost of living. Housing was affordable for most expats, ranking it number seven. They also noted locals were welcoming and friendly.

Generally, 91% of expats reported satisfaction with their life in Valencia.  

In 2022, Estonia was favourite destination in Europe for expats

According to the InterNations 2022 Expat Insider survey, Estonia came up on top. Globally, Estonia featured in fourth place but number one in Europe.

The bureaucracy and the administration of settling into the country as expats is minimal and the process is easy to navigate. Government services are largely online which paved the road even further, in terms of ease and convenience. 

80% of Respondents to the 2022 survey noted that it was an easy process to obtain the necessary visas compared with the global index of 56%.

Estonia’s easy-to-use cashless payment options for services like high-speed internet were another feature that scored highly by respondents. 

Without much surprise. disadvantages included the language barrier, which respondents described as difficult to learn. Housing is also a point that let Estonia down in the rankings.

Large European cities and major capitals did not perform well in 2023

A number of major European cities did not get particularly good marks in this year's survey. Paris and London finished in 41st and 42nd place respectively, while Italy found itself at the bottom position, with Rome and Milan occupying the last two ranks. Expats in Rome do not feel satisfied with their jobs and encounter daily challenges with administrative tasks if they do not speak Italian.

On the other side of the world, Vancouver emerges as the place where expats feel least content (49th), facing considerable financial difficulties. The financial aspect significantly impacts the quality of life and is evident across the survey.


InterNations is an international organisation of people who live and work overseas.

The annual Expat Insider survey, which is conducted by InterNations every year, is particularly valuable to potential expats who want to know the advantages and pitfalls in different host countries. A list is compiled every year by InterNations naming the best to worst countries to settle in according to surveys taken by expats.

For the 2023 survey, approximately 12,000 expat respondents answered questions from different categories, including how easy it is to establish themselves in the host country, how difficult it is to find work and the various recreational activities you can participate in in those countries and cities. The survey also reports on digital services available, healthcare, housing, bureaucracy and communication. The list of countries is not exhaustive but covers about 49 major cities scattered globally over several countries. 

Share your experience, participate in the discussion and leave comments in our forum HERE.

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Author: KashGo
Expat Mum in the Desert and content writer for

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

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