Sometimes you just have to know where to start.
As a place to start exploring a city, the foreigner-friendly neighborhoods around the world are an easy place to get settled and accustomed to what’s happening. They let you get your feet wet when you first arrive without getting too overwhelmed by everything happening around you.
I’ve asked my travel blogging friends about the foreigner-friendly neighborhoods they can vouch for, and I’ll likely be referring back to this list myself as I travel on. It’s organized alphabetically by city — and you can safely bet the blogger who wrote about that city has plenty more on their own websites to check out.
Without further ado…
De Pijp (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
De Pijp (sounds like “dah pipe”) is a neighborhood in the heart of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and a haven for foreigners in a city where old-timers and newcomers can feel some friction.
Its cobblestoned ways are filled with trendy expats from all over the world, and that reflects in the bar and restaurant scene. From the cramped-but-chic Vietnamese Pho 91, to the quintessential buzzing brunch at Kiwi-run Bakers & Roasters, to the endless international beer assortment of De Gollem, De Pijp has something for everyone. The cherry on top? English is just as common as Dutch on its streets. Sebastiaan, Lost With Purpose
Jewish District (Budapest, Hungary)
Budapest’s 7th district, known as the Jewish quarter is not only the home of the largest synagogue in Europe, but it’s also a hip and trendy area, the focal point of international life in the city. This area of Budapest is buzzing with restaurants, cafes and ruin bars, which are abandoned buildings that were turned into pubs decorated with recycled furniture. Gábor Kovács, Surfing the Planet
City Bowl (Cape Town. South Africa)
On arrival in Cape Town, your reaction will be like most first-timers, “Wow this is more like Europe than Africa”. The “Mother City” is home to a deluge of expats and there is no better place for them than the City Bowl – nestled in the loving arms of Table Mountain. You’ll experience the backpacker-friendly CBD (with party central Long street and hipster haven Bree street), the historic Company’s Garden and District Six, affluent residential areas (Higgovale, Oranjezicht and Tamboerskloof), the artsy crowd of gentrified Woodstock and LGBT central De Waterkant. From hiking to shopping, fine-dining to café hopping, this is the heart of a bustling city. Callan Wienburg, singaporenbeyond.com.
Nimmanhaemin Road area (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Tourists assume everything worth seeing is within the old town Square. A fair bit is, but if you’re spending some time in Chiang Mai, make it a point to get to Nimmanhaemin. The excellent Maya mall has a bit of everything, and along the avenue are plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and more than a few apartments. Meander down the side streets for additional looks at what’s trendy or new. The only disadvantages? It’s far from the ‘authentic’ Thailand some are looking for, and some prices may be mildly inflated thanks to the influx of foreigners. Try the Salad Concept for a fast and uber-healthy lunch. Chris Backe, worthygo.com (hey, that’s me!)
Paharganj (Delhi, India)
Paharganj (Puh-haar-gunj) is popular among the backpacking community who throng it for its cheap hotel options and easy metro access. The area is a hub for first time visitors to Delhi with a thriving market. Street food and restaurant options around, and the New Delhi railway station and adjoining metro station are here. Given its popularity with the international tourists there are quite a few restaurants catering to international cuisine for the foodie and the budget conscious alike. For first timers, its best to acquaint yourself with the local cuisine slowly to avoid being a victim of the infamous “Delhi Belly”. Rishabh & Nirali Shah, gypsycouple.com
Dubai Marina (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
From hipster bars to the most glamorous clubs, a beautiful beach where no dress rules apply, the top fine-dining restaurants, 5-star hotels and the tallest skyscrappers, Dubai Marina is the favorite choice for both expats and tourists. This is the most westernized area in the whole United Arab Emirates, a place where you tend to forget that you are actually in the Middle East. Dubai Marina is pretty well-connected with the rest of the city, as it has two metro stations on the main metro line. It also has a brand-new tram for moving around the neighborhood itself. Joan Torres, Against The Compass
Wan Chai (Hong Kong)
You gotta check out Wan Chai. Not without character (it’s a red light district) Wan Chai offers a lot. It’s one of the artsier areas of Hong Kong, but Wan Chai truly shines in it’s nightlife. It is the epicenter for Western style bars, and has hands down the best live music in the city. Bars like Carnegies, Queen Victoria, and Trafalgar (which also does a great trivia night) will satiate your need for imported British brews. Then stop by The Wanch or From Dusk til Dawn for some great non-local live music. Albeit sligghttlly seedy, Wan Chai is an expat galore that’s too much fun. Aaron Radcliffe, Nomads Nation
South Kensingon (London, England)
London is a very multi-cultural town and it has many ethnic neighborhoods. South-Kensington is famous for being a neighbourhood for middle class expats from continental Europe, especially for the French. This neighbourhood has many colorful houses and it is one of the most expansive neighbourhoods of the city. London is the city with the second biggest French population and it is obvious here, as they rule this neighbourhood. Here you can find the French Institute, delicious french bakeries and creperies (pancake stores). You can also find great French restaurants and a few shops selling French delicacies like expensive jams and cheeses. It is very common to hear people talking in French on the streets. Barbara Wagner, Jet-Settera
Gueliz (Marakech, Morocco)
Finding a neighborhood that “fits” when you’re a foreigner living in Marrakech can be tough – especially if there’s a language barrier. Gueliz is probably the one that’s best suited for those choosing to build a life here. There is no shortage of restaurants, bars, and nightlife. You’ll also find all the modern conveniences you might expect in a modern city – with less of the hassle. That being said, within a 5 -10 minute taxi ride you can be in the old medina and enjoying a completely different slice of life. Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki – marocmama.com
Poblado (Medellin, Colombia)
Poblado (Poh-BLAH-dough) is most people’s introduction to Medellin, and a subway stop shares its name. From the subway it’s a 1km walk uphill or a green bus ride, but once you arrive it’s pretty self-contained. Bars, hotels, some clubs, and the local department store (Exito) are all nearby, but it’s the variety of restaurants that make the area worth returning to even after you’ve settled in. Some upscale apartments are within walking distance of the commercial area, though you’ll discover Poblado is a pretty hilly area! Chris Backe, Worthy Go (me again!)
Bandra (Mumbai, India)
There are quite a few pockets in Mumbai popular with the expat community but Bandra (Ban-Drah) takes the cake. A popular suburb in Mumbai, it is actually central in terms of distance and accessibility. A very safe, self contained area with multiple market areas and malls, upscale restaurants catering to a wide range of International and local cuisine and clubs. There are a lot of events happening in cafes, bars and even public spaces which make it one of the more happening places to be. The downside: rentals cost more and have a smaller average size. Rishabh & Nirali Shah, gypsycouple.com
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
If you’re an expat or a tourist visiting Playa del Carmen, Mexico, you’ll want to stay in “Playa Centro.” It is literally is the center of Playa del Carmen, and most refer to Playa del Carmen as Playa. Everything you could possibly want is within walking distance in Playa Centro: the beach, the famous 5th Avenue full of restaurants/bars/shops, tasty street food, Wal-Mart (yes there’s a Wal-Mart), bus station, etc. I’ve lived in Playa for 6 months and always tell people Centro is where you want to be. Hannah Lukaszewicz, GettingStamped.com
Zona Sul (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Zona Sul (zo-nah-SOOL) is the hotspot of Rio de Janeiro, most popular for its sparkling beaches and patterned boardwalks. Whether catching the last colorful rays of sunset on the Arpoador rocks, checking out the rainforest at the Jardim Botânico (botanical garden), or grabbing a fresh coconut water at one of the beachside quiosques, there’s always something going on in this busy pocket of Rio. Most of the homes in this area are in high rise apartment buildings, with supermarkets, cafes, bars, and restaurants scattered around the main streets. On the weekends, there are often street markets that sell local produce and artisan goods. With its lively and vibrant culture, Zona Sul is an upbeat area for tourists, expats, and locals alike. – Kay Rodriguez, The Kay Days
Barrio Italia (Santiago, Chile)
Barrio Italia is a growing neighborhood in Santiago. It’s turning into a lively area where art, culture and family life combines perfectly. There’s a wide variety of restaurants, art galleries, design and antique shops, co-working and start-up’s offices. These are some of the biggest attractions for foreigners and Chileans in the Providencia area, one of the most popular districts in Santiago. Barrio Italia is easily reachable by public transportation. My favorite bakery in the city is located there, and the owners are expats! Gloria Apara, Nomadic Chica
Yeonnam-dong (Seoul, South Korea)
Somewhat new to the scene, Yeonnam-dong (Yuh-nahm-dohng) is a neighborhood that is quickly gaining popularity as a hot spot for authentic international cuisine. It’s the peaceful and attractive neighbor to chaotic Hongdae. The quiet streets, lined with restaurants and cafes, have secret murals and an artsy vibe. The Gyeongui Line Park cuts through the neighborhood – a relaxing place to sip your coffee. The high caliber of restaurants will make choosing what to eat difficult. Don’t miss the kebabs at Jilhal Bros, tacos at B’Mucho Cantina, curry at Tuk Tuk Thai, or coffee from Coffee Libre. To get there use exit 3 of the Hongik University subway station. Yeonnam-dong is to your left. Katie McGrain, www.aroundtheworldinktdays.com.
Haebangchon, also known as HBC (Seoul, South Korea)
At the base of Namsan Mountain is where you will find Haebangchon (Hey-bahng-chan), also known as HBC. This mountainside neighborhood is often overlooked for the foreigner centric Itaewon neighborhood (just a subway stop away). To miss this global spot in Seoul would be a shame. From Noksapyeong Station exit 2, walk straight for 5 minutes. The road will bend to the left – this is HBC. Along the main drag you will find cocktail bars, bakeries, and restaurants with lines out the door. If you have it in you, turn left and walk straight up the mountain through to the top of the hill. You will be huffing and puffing for 10 minutes, but the views of Seoul from the top plus the restaurants popping up on a regular basis make the haul worth it. Katie McGrain, www.aroundtheworldinktdays.com.
Little India (Singapore)
Known as “Tekka” to the local Tamil community, Little India is Singapore’s most vibrant neighborhood. This buzzing ethnic district demands your attention at every corner from 24-hour shopping (Mustafa Centre) to authentic Indian food (Khansama Tandoori) and beautifully designed temples (Sri Veeramakaliamman). As the traffic can be a bit crazy at times, Little India is best accessed by train, hopping off at Little India Station. The more adventurous travelers can take a trishaw. Ideal periods to visit are in October to observe the celebrations of Theemithi (Fire Walking Festival) and Deepavali (Festival of Lights) in November. Mar Pages, onceinalifetimejourney.com
Jaffa (Tel Aviv, Israel)
People who are not in for the more active scene in the center of Tel Aviv often choose to live in Jaffa. Rent is less expensive (Israel in general is expensive, by the way), it’s a totally different world because of the mixture of different cultures. Restaurants, hipster cafes and the best market (Jaffa Flea Market) in the whole of Tel Aviv are situated in Jaffa. Buses are also accessible in the whole city so there is no problem to go here even if most of the ‘cool kids’ think that it is very “south.” Expats feel at home here as everyone can speak English and people are very friendly. Although this area is flocked by expats and foreigners, it’s not the typical area which you won’t be able to meet locals. Trisha Velarmino, P.S. I’m On My Way