Top 10 Best Cities For A Working-Holiday

Top 10 Best Cities For A Working-Holiday

If you’ve just finished university or quit that miserable job, a wise option for many is to take a gap-year or a working-holiday. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and the opportunity to combine it with work will allow you an extended holiday, with the benefits beyond a typical tourist visit. 

HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey sought out and ranked the best countries in the world for expats to live and work. The study is the largest global survey of its kind— 7000 expats answered extensive questions regarding “Economics, Experience, and Raising Children.”

Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey ranks 221 cities based off 39 factors including political, environmental, personal safety, health, and safety.  

Drawing from both studies, with added focus on living conditions, job opportunities, social and entertainment, the following is a list of the best cities for a working-holiday. 

Tokyo, Japan

Truly the city that never sleeps, the capital of Japan is the most populous metropolitan area in the world with over 35 million people. The bustling city is a melting-pot of experiences; the mass transit system will shoot you from ancient temples, to skyscrapers, and hole-in-the-wall noodle shops.

Teaching English is perhaps the most popular and easily obtainable work, many also find work in nightclubs and bars in the Roppongi district. Various research and professorship positions are also granted to foreigners with any background in engineering. Living in Tokyo isn’t cheap, so if your motivation is making money, you may want to choose another destination. 

If you are able to pick up some of the language, your foreign background can be leveraged for acting and modeling roles. The work may be sporadic, but pays well.

The whole process of obtaining a working-holiday visa is available through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Vancouver, Canada

If you struggle to choose between the buzzing city and the country scenery, then Vancouver is the place for you. The cosmopolitan city boasts some of the best sushi in the world, which you can enjoy as soon as you finish hiking up the stunning wooden steps of Grouse Mountain.

You won’t have much trouble finding a place to stay, Vancouver has one of the highest numbers of condominiums available downtown, with more than 70,000 Vancouverites currently occupying.  

There are plenty of foreigners who will head to Whistler, the ski resort town just outside of Vancouver to find one of the many jobs that will allow you the perks of skiing all day when you’re not at work.

Job opportunities can be found at Vancouver City Jobs. Information on obtaining a visa is available here on the Working Holiday Canada site. 

Frankfurt, Germany

Located in the heart of central Germany, the contrast of historic squares, cobble stone streets, and its futuristic skyline makes this city not only a must to visit but to plant yourself for work. For foodies, Frankfurt has some of the nations most unique culinary concoctions—Handkäs mit Musik (“handcheese with music”), a sour cheese marinated with oil and onions, which goes perfectly with their Ebbelwoi (apple wine).

In terms of work, if you happen to speak an Asian language, you’re the perfect candidate to work in one of Germany’s many exporting companies located in Frankfurt. There are also opportunities to teach English, although at more of an advanced level as many Germans already have a basic grasp. 

While EU citizens won’t need a permit to work in Germany, citizens from other countries should visit:

Moscow, Russia

With breathtaking historical preservation, Moscow is the renowned home to The Kremlin, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Tretyakov Gallery, and the Pushkin State Museum. Indeed Russia’s 23 UNESCO World Heritage sites have propelled the nation into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Along with its elegant and luxurious reputation, Moscow is known for having a fantastic public transportation system, and with "Gypsy taxis" (private cars) readily available and affordable, it’s very easy to get around. During the summer, open-air festivals set the city buzzing with activity.

You’ll have plenty of time to be a tourist while you work, Russian law requires employers to give 28 days of vacation in addition to state holidays. 

Obtaining a working-visa in Russia can be a little rigid, but overall similar to most countries policies. "Expatriate packages" are available in some fields, particularly for oil and construction specialist. Other common positions available are in engineering, senior management, IT, and investment banking. Also with high living costs, make sure to have living arrangements included by your employer. 

Here is a step-by-step guide to obtaining a work visa in Russia.

And also a listing of available jobs nation-wide. 

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

A recent poll of over 18,000 people in 24 different countries gave Abu Dhabi the label of "the world’s fourth favourite city," only edged out by New York, London, and Paris. For doing business, the city did even better, coming in second after New York.

Known for its sophistication and style, The Corniche is an impressive four-mile promenade that plays the perfect backdrop for some of the city’s astonishing architecture. The 3 billion dollar Emirates Palace stretches one kilometer and hangs 1000 Swarovski crystal chandeliers.

The city and country is so attractive for travellers to work that the expat community outnumbers the local population. In fact, the small number of locals makes the city in need of foreigners to fill positions. 

With the perk of tax-free salaries, there are positions available in a wide range of fields from IT to construction, automotive, and hospitality. Employment packages will typically include living expenses with options for pre-arranged housing.

Here’s a great site for everything you need to know about working in Abu Dhabi. And another site with job listings.

Istanbul, Turkey


The city that straddles two continents is indeed one of beautiful contrasts. From the luxury yachts to the old men playing backgammon in tea houses, Istanbul oozes an exotic flair. The opportunity to sip cocktails opposite the stunning Byzantinian beauty of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, together with Turkey becoming one of the fastest economies in the world. It’s just another reason to spend your working holiday in the historic city.  

The easiest and most common way for expats to find work is teaching English. And initially, that’s the advice most give as you network with folks in your desired industry. If you’re a freelance writer, there will also be opportunities to work for organisations that engage with English speaking audiences. 

Those interested in relocating should connect with Bedel Relocation, a firm that provides assistance for anyone looking to spend some extended time in Istanbul. 

For information on visas and work permits, visit Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

You can read the experiences of four expats here.

Valencia, Spain


The city that lies on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea is the third largest after Madrid and Barcelona. Valencia is known for its multiculturalism and welcoming spirit. The old city centre is a hub of activity, cafe’s with crowded terraces make for a perfect viewing of the Riu Turia river. 

Valencia is also the birthplace of the traditional Spanish dish Paella, the home of the international Falles celebration, and perhaps most appealing; the La Tomatina annual tomato fight is held in the nearby town of Bunol. The cost of living is lower than Madrid and Barcelona, making it a very popular destination for expats.

The city hit the spotlight hosting the America’s Cup and European Grand Prix, increasing the already booming tourism industry, thus making both the tourism and hospitality industries good places to find work. Many expats have also been successful finding work in the engineering, IT, and finance industries. 

Here are some resources for job listings and obtaining a work visa


One of the most popular places for foreigners to relocate, 6 in 10 jobs are filled by foreigners, with more than 7,000 multinational companies currently in Singapore. It’s often described as clean, diverse, safe, and an excellent place to raise a family. One major reason is the many strict laws. 

There are plenty of job opportunities in various sectors following the economic boom in 2010—the city state was labeled as the world’s fastest growing economy. 

One of the major sectors attracting plenty of foreign workers is in biomedical science. There are over 2,000 scientists, researchers, and technicians working for Singapore’s Biopolis, an international research and development facility. 

Other industries attracting many expats include oil and gas, financial services, shipping and chemicals. 

The Ministry of Manpower has an extensive list of skills that are in demand. Contact Singapore provides all the information you need to relocating and obtaining a work visa. 

Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand’s beauty was certainly thrust into the international stage with Lord of The Rings. The untouched scenery bearing fact that New Zealand was one of the last places to be discovered. It’s also a very attractive place for a working-holiday with Auckland ranked #3 on the Mercer Quality of Living Survey. The largest and most populous city, located on the North Island boasts an incredible city skyline. Those wanting a sea-change need only travel half an hour to get to a sub-tropical rainforest. 

If you have an interest in forestry, New Zealand has a huge industry. Although salaries may not be as competitive as other countries, there are also opportunities to be found in finance, engineering, healthcare, and IT. The cost of living in Auckland is very affordable, compared to Hong Kong which was ranked 3rd most expensive, Auckland was ranked 58th.

Work permits can be obtained for up to three years. Everything you need to know about a working-holiday, and other visas for New Zealand is found here. 

Vienna, Austria

This city will capture your attention with its stunning architecture spanning multiple eras. Coffee lovers will not want to leave the many traditional Viennese “kaffeehauses” that are scattered amidst the beautiful baroque castles and parks. Vienna has topped Mercer’s list three times as the top city for quality of living, reflected by the countless multinational corporations based in the renowned metropolis. 

With much of the population speaking English, there is no shortage of opportunities for foreigners, a vast range of positions can be found in almost any line of work. Most notably, the city’s large media, hospitality, and finance sectors. Also, many of the Global 500 companies are well represented in Vienna due to it’s favourable location between Central and Eastern Europe. provides extensive information for job seekers.