The Best Places Abroad To Be a Digital Nomad
A few years ago, many of us wouldn’t have known the term “digital nomad” and today it seems it’s everywhere. If you don’t know, digital nomads are people who live abroad and work remotely, either for themselves or for a company, with the flexibility to move around as they please.
With the recent shift in workplace trends, allowing people to work remotely seems to not only be a requirement but also is highly desired. What follows are some reasons to look for jobs that allow for remote work, what to consider when choosing a place to live and work remotely, and different countries and cities around the world that are friendly to foreigners while providing everything you need to work virtually.
Benefits of Remote Work
There are many advantages to working from home, aka working remotely. For instance,
- No commute – you save on time and money getting to and from work
- The ability to live anywhere – the world is your oyster!
- Flexibility – many remote work jobs allow you to make your own schedule
- More time with family and friends – if you’re working from home, you’re more likely to see your loved ones throughout the day. Alternatively, if you live abroad, it’s the perfect excuse to have people come visit!
- Avoid extremes of weather – depending on where you live, your ability to get to work, get home, or even do your job can change with the seasons. Being able to work remotely eliminates some of that hassle.
- Cultural Immersion – this is specific to those instances when you’re working remotely and living abroad. You not only get to experience work life, but you are no longer a tourist in a different country. You’re officially a member of society! What better way to get into the culture and really experience a new place. Plus, the opportunities for additional travel are endless.
What To Consider As A Digital Nomad
Whether you opt to try being a digital nomad for the short term or want to adopt a long-term nomadic lifestyle, there are several things to consider beforehand.
Our guest author for this post, Nabila Ismail is a pharmacist and avid traveler who also blogs at Dose of Travel. Many of these considerations come from her own personal experiences.
When moving and working abroad, there are a few things to look into before you choose and move.
WiFi connection and capabilities – Most remote job gigs involve working online, taking conference calls, video conferencing, or FaceTime. So, obviously, the Internet is essential. With remote work, your customers or clients are remote to you as well, so you want a stable and strong connection so you can get your work done.
Walkability/public transportation – Many places abroad have a culture of walking and using public transportation. Those places are usually best for those looking to move abroad to work remotely as it eliminates the need to worry about obtaining a car. Plus, aiming for these kinds of locations also signals that it’s easy to get around, and you’re more likely to find places to stay that are in close proximity to things to do, such as cafes, restaurants, and bars.
Cost of living – An affordable cost of living can be an important distinguishing factor, and be a dealbreaker when choosing your home abroad. While remote work is convenient, living abroad can get expensive. Depending on the type of job you have and how much you can afford, your choices may expand (or not). Either way, it’s important to factor this part in your decision making.
Safety – Some areas of the world, while the most exotic and exciting, may not be the safest in which to live and work. Do your due diligence in this regard, especially if you are deciding to move and live abroad on your own.
Visa costs & application – The ability to get a visa that allows you to work, and how it lasts, can vary greatly across the world. Be sure to understand the limitations and constraints of the countries you’re considering.
Expat culture and life – It can be daunting moving into an unknown region. Having an established community can help you with getting settled. Some countries are more popular than others for ex-pats. See which ones appeal to you. Having a community of ex-pats to reach out to can also help facilitate making new friends in your new hometown.
Language and dialects – Language is a huge barrier to living abroad and can impact your quality of life. If you are fluent in the language of the country you’re moving to, then this won’t be an issue. However, if you are going to rely on English to get around, then be sure to understand the language and culture of the areas you’re interested in.
Other helpful information to arm yourself with includes, the demographics of that city, understanding the healthcare system, and the best places to live.
Some of the Best Places to Live and Work Abroad
This list is by no means all-inclusive of the options available to digital nomads. It was put together with input from several different people, whose names are listed below the destination for reference. The descriptions are direct experiences from having lived, traveled through those areas, or knowing someone who has.
Hopefully, it kickstarts your search for work and travel!
Lisbon is a great place to live for so many reasons. The people are warm and friendly, the food is amazing and there is no shortage of things to do in the city or in the countryside.
It’s not the cheapest place to live however, it is cheaper than in neighboring countries. On average, an apartment will cost you around $700-900/USD for a 1 bedroom.
The downsides are that it does get chilly in the winter.
Edinburgh has a huge ex-pat population, and not just from the United States. People from all over the world that travel there, fall in love with it and then decide to move there. The country’s main language is English and the local natives are super friendly.
The average rent for a one-bedroom is $650-$850 depending on the location. The city itself has every modern convenience you could ask for while still maintaining its old-world charm. During the summers you’ll get daylight until 11 pm. WiFi is a non-issue no matter where you go. The downside will be the chilly winters, but I think some Scotch can keep you warm if you need it.
Barcelona is another great location for being a digital nomad and working remotely while abroad. The city itself is charming, the food is amazing, and the people are super friendly. Plus with beach access, you have an entire world of activities available.
It’s easy to get around, though it is a bit more pricey than some other options in Europe. Average rent varies greatly ranging from 600-1200 Euros depending on location. It made this list for it’s ease of living and how welcoming it is to outsiders.
Medellin is becoming more popular for travel and for digital nomads. There’s still a lot of weariness about Colombia in terms of safety, however, I felt pretty safe. I traveled to Colombia alone for about 10 days with no issues.
The cost of living and weather are definitely bonuses, with rent for a 3b/2ba apartment that’s unfurnished running about $400-$1000 per month. The internet, however, can be iffy. I really enjoyed the city and thought there was a lot going on. Plus, the country itself is beautiful and there’s so much to explore! They have a fairly decent amount of co-working spaces and plenty of coffee shops to work from!
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
While Cancun mostly brings the spring breakers, Tulum has become the Miami of Mexico, and Playa Del Carmen is one that draws families and ex-pats.
Even when the US was on strict lockdown, many people were flocking there due to its proximity to the states, warm weather, and its relative affordability compared to other beach cities (average rent here for a 1 bedroom in the city center is $300 USD). You will certainly pay more than you would be compared to other parts of Mexico but you’ll find prime shopping, conveniences of home like Starbucks, and cuisine from all over the world.
The Internet is better than most places in Mexico and it’s a walkable city so those are a bonus.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires has a lot of character with several distinct neighborhoods that reflect its unique heritage. From French architecture to colorful buildings, or the hipster bars and restaurants of Palermo, there’s a lot of places to choose from to live and work in this cosmopolitan city.
It’s relatively affordable, with monthly rent for a one-bedroom ranging from $232-$314 outside and inside the city center respectively. The city is walkable, the people are warm and friendly, and the internet is fast. It does get cold in the typical summer months because the seasons are flipped so make sure you’re prepared for that!
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul has all of the best parts of Asia with street food, vibrant culture, beautiful temples, and palaces, plus the added benefit of high technology and some modern-day conveniences.
You can live a good life in terms of cost as rent for a one-bedroom outside the city vs inside the city is $582-$839, respectively. Plus, you will have no shortage of things to do, especially at night. They really know how to work hard and play hard.
These three locations are grouped together due to their similarities for working remotely and geographical proximity:
- Vietnam – Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh (Rent $400-$900)
- Thailand – Bangkok (Rent $360-$700)
- Cambodia – Siem Reap (Rent $150-$300)
Each of these places is amazing. They are extremely affordable to live in, have plenty to do to keep you busy in your free time, and are friendly to foreigners. I’ve never lived in these areas, but I have traveled through and I’ve heard first-hand accounts from people who have lived there for short periods of time. I always hear rave reviews.
Since these locations are further from home, doing your work or serving your clients from a completely different time zones might be a challenge. However, the rest of the experience of living there is one worth taking.
I lived for six months in the cities of Mysore, Bangalore, and Pune. India is very rich in culture and a very inexpensive place to live. Also, anyone who can speak English can get around easily.
I usually would work during the week and spend my free time traveling to different parts of the country, visiting palaces, touring tea farms, and seeing the Taj Mahal.
Living and working in the big cities in India (not just Bangalore) will give you all the creature comforts you’re used to, and public transportation is affordable and readily available. Plus, much of city life there is pretty tech-savvy, so obtaining the internet connection you need shouldn’t be a problem.
The Future Of Remote Work
Given the changing trends in the workplace, and people’s shifting preferences, companies, and countries will likely try to capitalize. In addition to the areas that Nabila and Jonathan mention above, locations anywhere around the world will likely start to open up to foreign workers. There are rumors that Hawaii, Bulgaria, and some areas of Italy will likely start to offer incentives for remote workers.
While not every job or industry can offer remote work, it is important to understand this shift, especially since it seems that it will be here to stay. As business owners, CEO or startups, or manager you may have employees that are interested in work from home, or may want to live abroad. Being aware and being prepared can help companies ensure they’re providing all the options possible as well.
The Draw Towards a Nomad Lifestyle
Work-life balance is a huge deal nowadays. The work culture in the US, especially, emphasizes work and often penalizes us for taking breaks. It’s all about productivity. Yet, more recently we are seeing the effects of that overwork: there’s burnout, reduced job satisfaction, and unhappiness. We are also realizing that it’s not about working long hours, it’s about making the best use of those hours.
With how the world is connected, and how easy it is to complete work online, this shift in work from home is only going to grow. Remote work opportunities are likely to become more in demand. If you can maintain a job, travel, and get paid while living anywhere, why wouldn’t you?
Knowing where to go can make your decision to take the leap to be a digital nomad that much easier. Hopefully, this list of areas around the world helps with your search for job opportunities, gives you the boost you need to push your comfort zone and travel the world.