Image Credit: Oliver Clarke/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: At least four cities in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have been rated among the 20 best cities in the world for expatriates to live and work in.

InterNations, an expatriate community  of 2.8 million people, released on Tuesday the latest ranking of top cities for foreign workers.

The ranking is based on a poll of nearly 13,000 people who were asked about places they’re happy with, especially when it comes to housing rents, quality of life and job security. The findings also highlight which places where expats find the locals very friendly, or which destinations are easy to get settled in.

Manama in Bahrain took the first place in the overall ranking of 51 cities, with Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Dubai following behind in the 12th, 15th and 17th positions, respectively. These cities were all found to have particularly friendly local residents.

  AUH Doha Dubai Jeddah Manama Muscat Riyadh
Overall City Ranking 15 45 17 50 1 12 48
Quality of Urban Living Index 22 43 20 47 35 31 46
Getting Settled Index 13 31 8 45 2 3 50
Urban Work Life Index 33 46 39 51 12 36 43
Finance & Housing Index 21 29 31 14 4 11 10

At the other end of the scale, Doha, which emerged in the 45th place, Riyadh (48th)  Jeddah (50th), are significantly less popular with their expat residents. They’re found in the bottom 10 cities, with expat residents struggling to feel at home.

20 best cities for expats

4.Kuala Lumpur
10.Frankfurt am Main
11.Mexico City
15.Abu Dhabi
16.Luxembourg City
19.The Hague

Jobs, quality of urban work life

When it comes to urban work life, however, many cities in the Gulf are not so popular, with Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Dubai, Riyadh, Doha and Jeddah all appearing in the bottom half of the ranking in the category.

On the other hand, Manama bucked the trend, coming in 12th globally, with  about 64 per cent of expatriates  saying they feel secure about their jobs. In Abu Dhabi, 55 per cent of the expats feel positively about their job security, way ahead of Dubai and Muscat (both 39 per cent), and Jeddah (37 per cent).

In terms of employment opportunities, Dubai was voted ahead of most of its peers, with 53 per cent of foreigners in the emirate rating local career prospects positively, compared to  Jeddah (30%), Doha (37%), and Muscat (39%).

Cost of living

As far as living costs are concerned, however, data collated by Numbeo showed that it is more expensive to live in Dubai than in many other cities. 

The good news is that the cost of living index in Dubai is 27.6 per cent lower than in New York, according to Numbeo's data.

If rents are not taken into account, a four-person family needs about Dh11,511 per month to live in Dubai, while a single person will require Dh3,300.

Top 5 cities' living costs


Cost of living index in Manama, Bahrain is 19.44 per cent lower than in Dubai
Four-person family monthly costs: Dh9,044.26 without rent
Single person monthly costs: Dh2,497, without rent


Cost of living index in Prague  is 29.83 per cent lower than in Dubai
Four-person family monthly costs: Dh7,584.51, without rent
Single person monthly costs: Dh2,237.85, without rent


Cost of living index in Madrid is  10.01 per cent lower than in Dubai
Four-person family monthly costs: Dh9,902.28, without rent
Single person monthly costs: Dh2,782.59, without rent.

Kuala Lumpur

Cost of living index in Kuala Lumpur is 38.21 per cent lower than in Dubai
Four-person family monthly costs: Dh6,395.80, without rent
Single person monthly costs: Dh1,786.65, without rent.


Cost of living index in Amsterdam is 16.88 per cent higher than in Dubai
Four-person family monthly costs: Dh12,649.95, without rent
Single person monthly costs: Dh3,530.84, without rent.

Friendliness of locals

When it comes to getting settled in, a huge number of residents in Abu Dhabi (75 per cent), Dubai (73 per cent), Manama (84 per cent) and Muscat (85 per cent) said the locals are friendly towards foreigners.