One of the best parts about returning from an exciting trip is settling back into your usual routine — but what if you never left that routine in the first place? Welcome to the joys of owning a home overseas, where you can experience the thrill of a new culture and the ease of the familiar all at the same time. Think of a vacation home abroad as the ultimate globetrotter’s hack, one that keeps you steeped in the energy of travel yet grounded in the comfort of home. Want in? These 5 locations are a great place to start. While each offers unique perks, they’ll all help you get that dose of global living you crave — right outside your (international) doorstep.
Best for Food Fanatics
To be clear, you’re probably not going to opt for a second home in Singapore just for the food. Most foreigners who buy property here do so for the safety and stability — with the added bonus of a phenomenal food scene. As you likely recall from the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians, this destination is known for its hawker centers: open-air food courts that serve up delicious street fare and are a staple of the Singaporean way of life. Local expats say that eating their way through these super accessible spots is a favorite pastime. But make no mistake: Street food isn’t the only epicurean draw here. The isle also has a booming fine dining scene, with haute cuisine outposts like Les Amis and Wolfgang Puck’s CUT leading the way. The crux? While you do have to have the capital to buy in (condos cost multiple millions, on average), the payoff can clearly be quite tasty.
Best for Outdoor Devotees
If you want to be one with nature, you could plop yourself in the middle of the woods Henry David Thoreau–style. Or you could get that daily dose of the outdoors without having to go full-on recluse in Cape Town, leaving room for possibilities like dining out on the waterfront or taking in a new art show at the convention center. Situated between the mountains and the ocean, the legislative capital of South Africa offers the best of both worlds for active types, meaning you can pair an epic Table Mountain morning hike with a chill afternoon beach session, all in the same day. And oh, the wildlife! Travel just a few hours inland and you’ll find yourself in prime safari land, where you can spot lions, zebras and giraffes galore. A top safety tip: Do as the locals do — plus avoid wandering around by yourself at night. Buying into the coveted neighborhoods of Bantry Bay, Camps Bay, Clifton, Green Point and Sea Point helps, too. Not only do these areas attract tons of expats, their prime safety location makes them a wise investment to boot.
Best for Unwavering Urbanites
Although Panama City doesn’t often appear on those big cosmopolitan city lists, it’s a buzzing metropolis worthy of your attention. The capital is filled with attractions that make you feel alive, from its vibrant historic district to its thriving restaurant and nightlife scene to its sparkly skyscrapers that remind you that things are happening here. The location can’t be beat, either. Not only are you an easy drive from some of the country’s best beaches, rainforests and national parks, you’re also just a quick flight away from the Caribbean, the rest of Central America and South America. This destination is increasingly popular among entrepreneurs, who come for the booming startup scene, as well as retirees, who enjoy the appealing benefits and cost of living. Bonus: Many homes are updated and modern, and insiders say you can expect to see good capital gains if you buy right.
Best for Inquisitive Investors
It’s easy to see why this popular stretch of coastline on the southernmost tip of Portugal consistently lures discerning world travelers. The region is known for its incredible golden-sand beaches, its otherworldly rock formations and ancient castles, and its bustling nightlife tradition. But Algarve is appealing on a more practical level, too, as the area boasts solid infrastructure, a top safety record and a high quality of life. Second home buyers also love the variety here. Properties run the gamut from luxe villas in Vilamoura (with its massive marina and golf courses) to more modern condos in Lagos (known for its charming old town juxtaposing newer parts of the city). The latter is especially seeing rapid change, with growing demand for high-end condos close to downtown and the beach. Experts say one of the biggest upsides of Algarve is that foreigners can get loans at appealing interest rates and a favorable LTV ratio — meaning setting down some roots here is a no-brainer.
Best for Luxury Lovers
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise, as luxury buyers have flocked to the French Riviera for centuries. Nicknamed Nice the Beautiful, this glamorous resort town has all the finer things in life: sparkling Mediterranean views, beautiful beaches, upscale shopping, and robust wining and dining offerings. The area is also renowned for its sunny climate and its rich cultural heritage (the town was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year, after all). Although Nice has long been a magnet for the rich and famous, drawing everyone from Hollywood stars to actual royalty, it still manages to ooze Old World charm. Expats are often drawn to the affluent areas outside the city center, like Cimiez and Mont Boron, where houses tend to be more spacious. That said, while many apartments in the more bohemian Old Town are in fact quite old, some have been renovated — and revamping one yourself poses a unique investment opportunity.
For this story, we tapped some top international real-estate experts, including former Finder Singapore Director Sara Lyle Bow, Real Estate Trend Alert Editor Ronan McMahon, Compare the Market spokesperson Hannah Norton, and InterNations Founder and Co-CEO Malte Zeeck.