“Which Asian beach towns would be easiest for an English speaking expat to settle?”

I am hoping to move to Asia this year due to the low cost of living and easy beach living. I would like to live in one of the many beautiful beach towns that IL talk about in your magazine.

My question is Which Asian beach towns would be easiest for an English speaking expat to settle?

Thanks in advance!


Wendy Justice – Vietnam Correspondent

Wendy JusticeHi Paul,

Vietnam has more than 2,000 miles of coastline, so you’ll find no shortage of beach towns in this country! You’ll find sizable expat communities in the coastal cities of Da Nang and Nha Trang, and the small city of Vung Tau, and smaller expat communities in Hue, Hoi An, Mui Ne and Phu Quoc.

Of those, my personal favorites are Da Nang and Nha Trang. Both have beautiful beaches and enough expats and expat-focused amenities so that it would be easy to feel comfortable without knowing the language (though I recommend that you try to learn at least a little Vietnamese eventually, as it will come in handy).

Nha Trang has the feel of a typical beach town, though the beach is just one part of a larger city. There are many restaurants and bars catering to a mainly foreign population, and there is a part of town near the beach called “the tourist area” that is popular among expats. This is where you can find a house or apartment at a very reasonable price and be within just a few minute’s walk to the beach. Many of the local Vietnamese people in this part of town have a good command of English, too.

Da Nang has the best of both worlds. Downtown is located on the west side of the Han River. Here, you’ll find the bulk of Da Nang’s better restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. The east side of the river has a distinctively different ambiance. The main attraction on this side is the long, clean, sandy beach, which is almost never busy, even on the hottest days. There are some good restaurants and a bit of nightlife in this part of town, too. Many of Da Nang’s expats settle down in the An Thuong neighborhood on the east side of the river. This area is usually pretty quiet, and you can get around easily on a bicycle. There’s the occasional surf shop and other businesses catering to sun-worshippers. It has a very local feel to it. Most housing in this part of town is just a five or ten-minute walk from the beach.

Hoi An is only about a 30-minute drive from Da Nang, and the best beach around there is An Bang. It’s a very pretty beach and there are several good restaurants and bars in that immediate area. Hoi An has about 1,000 expats, too many good restaurants to count, and a small-town feel to it. Hoi An receives a lot of tourists, as the ancient center of town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is good for expats, as you’ll find an abundance of western amenities here and practically every local knows at least some English.

Mui Ne and the island of Phu Quoc are small towns with plenty of expats and beautiful beaches.

If you’re interested in Vietnam, I suggest entering the country in Ho Chi Minh City, then check out Vung Tau and Phu Quoc. From there, head north and explore the other destinations on your way towards Hanoi. Each place on this list has its own unique feel and you’ll likely find one that is just what you’re looking for.

Good luck!

Steve LePoidevin – Thailand Correspondent

Steve LePoidevin

Hello, this is Steve LePoidevin, IL’s Thailand correspondent.

There are many great choices in Thailand for an easy-going beach life. You won’t have a problem with language in any of the resort areas such as Phuket, Hua Hin, and Koh Samui.

My personal favorites would be the towns of Boput and Maenam on the north end of Koh Samui. Great beaches, close to the international airport, and good shopping nearby. Health care is also excellent and relatively inexpensive.

Hua Hin would also be a good choice. It is a little cheaper than the more popular resort areas such as Samui but still has all the amenities.

It is best to narrow down your possibilities and stay a few weeks in each one. That is the best way to decide which is best for you.

Kirsten Raccuia – Malaysia Correspondent

Kirsten RaccuiaHi Paul,

That’s a great question because Southeast Asia has so many beach towns to choose from. I’m an American living in the island of Penang, Malaysia and I love it. Because the British were here until 1957, almost everyone speaks English. That being said, it’s not a very beachy lifestyle. It has beautiful secluded beaches but it doesn’t have that crystal clear turquoise water that Thailand has.

Areas like Phuket, Ao Nang (Krabi) and Hua Hin in Thailand have some great beaches and because they are also tourist driven, many people speak English. The same goes for Sanur and Seminyak in Bali. It all depends on the lifestyle you’d like.

Each area has its own appeal and flavor so do a lot of research and if at all possible, visit your top choices before making the move.

Good luck,

Keith Hockton – Malaysia Correspondent

Keith Hockton

I’d have to say Penang. The beaches that I would recommend on the island would be Tanjong Bungah Beach and Batu Ferringhi Beach. Both have a good selection of apartments to choose from, good local transport (air-conditioned busses right outside) and a fantastic selection of cafes and restaurants all within walking distance of the beach.


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