You have decided that the digital nomad lifestyle is your thing and that you want to change your life for the better (yes, the better- I’m biased, ok?). In best case, you have already figured out your location-independent income and are now ready to prepare the nomadic part of your new lifestyle. One of the biggest questions you might have at this stage is probably: Where should I go first? There are so many great countries so how do I find out which one is best for me? To make your decision-making-process easier, check out the following list and see which factors you should take into consideration when you want to find the best places for digital nomads to live.
Want to get some inspirations? Here are the most popular digital nomad cities around the globe.
Best Places for Digital Nomads: Influencing Factors
If you have several countries or cities that you are interested in, you need to narrow down your selection. The following factors will help you to find out which places work great for digital nomads and which might not be the easiest choice to start this lifestyle.
1. Climate / Season
The climate can be an important criterion. I couldn’t spend too much time in a colder climate, for example. I’m an absolute heat lover and feel only comfortable when it’s nice and warm. Others don’t mind cold and windy days. Some prefer snowy winter regions. It all comes down to your preferences.
Another point you have to take into consideration are seasons. If you want to go to a Southeast Asian country, make sure you don’t go there during the monsoon season. Even if you don’t mind the bad weather outside, storms could have an impact on the internet connection. And the least thing you want as a digital nomad is bad internet quality.
Plus, keep local happenings in mind. Let’s take Chiang Mai, the unofficial digital nomad capital, as an example. Between January and May they have something called the burning or smoky season. Farmers burn their fields to get ready for the new crop season. As a result, the town is covered in smoke almost 24/7. Everything smells of bonfire and gets a gritty film on it. Some people even experience sinus trouble or asthma attacks. Most people would not want to be there during that time.
In short: Do your research and see if your dream destination has any particular seasons you would like to avoid.
As a digital nomad, you are dependent on the internet. To be clear: No internet. No work. No money.
Although it’s really surprising how many regions of the world have excellent WIFI access, there are also many with a very poor internet quality.
The problem: It’s hard to find out for sure before you get there. Even countries which you would expect to have great internet, might have terrible connections (Hello Australia! – I still love you).
The only thing you can do is google and see if you can find recent statements of other nomads or tourists regarding the internet. If you are still unsure, join local Facebook groups, like Montreal Digital Nomads or New in Berlin, and ask for experiences.
Alternatively, you could check websites like Nomad List to get a general idea.
It won’t help you much to create a list with the best places for digital nomads to live in, when you won’t be able to get a visa for it. While most people can get at least a tourist visa fairly easily, some nationalities have bigger issues with that.
For instance, Israelis find it very hard to get a visa for Indonesia. Or many nationalities will get an easy visa-on-arrival in most South American countries whereas others will have to apply for a visa there in advance.
Check online with the respective consulate if you are required to get a visa, how long you are allowed to stay and what you can do with that visa. Are multiple entries ok? Can you work with it? How easy/hard is it to extend your visa in case you want to stay longer?
Although it’s not the most exciting part of your planning, make sure you have your visa situation sorted to avoid unnecessary trouble.
4. Costs of Living
This might not be an issue for everyone. But especially when you are new to the digital nomad lifestyle your budget could be limited. Finding a way to generate consistently enough income doesn’t come easy to everyone. To be on the safe side you probably don’t want to spend all your savings in the first couple of weeks.
If you want to find out how much money you should save before becoming a digital nomad, check out the linked article!
In general, Southeast Asian and Eastern European countries are known to be fairly cheap. So are some places in South and Central America. How much you need exactly, depends, of course, on you standard of living and how much you want to restrict your expenses.
You could check general costs of living for particular countries on websites such as Nomad List, Expatistan or Numbeo.
5. Finding Rentals
It is also not a bad idea to quickly browse through the housing situation in your desired country or city and see what the market is like.
Let’s take Chiang Mai as an example again. Since there are so many digital nomads and expats, locals have adapted to the increasing demand. You can simply arrive in town, go to letting agencies or knock on doors of apartment buildings and see what they’ve got available. If you are lucky, you can move in the next day and find a fully furnished apartment, including a decent WIFI connection, at a great price.
If you go to Frankfurt on the other hand, you won’t find that many flexible rental opportunities. Often apartments have to be reserved a few months beforehand, are unfurnished or long-term rentals only. In case you have to organize your own internet, many broadband providers offer only 12-months contracts. Of course, there are also a few short-term furnished rentals. But they are fairly expensive.
So do yourself a favor and run a quick check on the housing situation. Just so you know roughly what prices you can expect and to know if you should book something well ahead of time.
6. Digital Nomad Community
Another factor that determines a great place for digital nomads to live in is the existing community. Of course, you don’t need to be surrounded by other digital nomads. But particularly when you are at the beginning of this lifestyle it can help you to meet like-minded people every once in a while, exchange experiences and support each other.
A great way to tell if there are many other nomads around is to check the coworking space situation. Are there a few shared offices nearby? Any cafés that are popular with location-independent professionals? Check with websites or apps such as Workfrom to find to get a better idea.
Another idea would be to check out Facebook groups, e.g. search for something like “Bogota Digital Nomads” or “Cape Town Coworking” and see what comes up. Alternatively, have a look at local groups on Meetup to see if there are more remote professionals or expats in town.
7. Food Options
Well, what can I say. Food is an important factor for many of us, right? If you are a foodie and don’t like spicy Indian food at all, then moving to India for half a year might not be the best idea. Or if you are living on a plant-based diet, regions which heavily rely on diary and meat products won’t do it for you for more than a few weeks.
But it’s not just about preferences. Maybe you have a medical condition that restrains you from eating certain types of food or that requires you to eat very particular ones. You will surely survive somehow for a holiday or short visit. But if our options are super limited because of that, you might not want to move there for longer.
Since we are talking about medical conditions: In case you suffer from any kind of disease or condition, you will have to plan that in, too. Do you need certain medications or examinations on a regular basis? If so, can you get that in your desired country?
Trust me, been there, done that. When I was living in Thailand I had to take medications on a daily basis. Eventually, I ran out of it and thought I can easily get it at any pharmacy over there. Oh was I wrong! I desperately checked with 7 pharmacies and a doctor, all telling me that they don’t sell that drug in Thailand and there was no way to send it there in time. What a nightmare! A terrible and silly mistake of me that I didn’t check that earlier.
So I strongly advise you to sort out your healthcare before you move to a new country.
9. Things To Do
Another factor that influences your decision on where you want to move next are potential areas of interest. What things can you do in that region? Are you into culture and would enjoy many museums or theatres? Or maybe you are an outdoorsy person and would love to have mountains to hike nearby or the ocean because you like to surf?
After all, you are moving to a new place not only because want to work all day, but also because you want to explore the region and culture. You want to go on adventures and make new and fun experiences. So make sure you won’t get bored in your new place too soon.
10. Local Culture
Generally, I’m open to every culture. I love to get to know different mentalities and find out why people think and act the way they do and how it affects their daily life and all that kind of stuff. I find it super fascinating.
However, that doesn’t mean that I feel comfortable or homely in every culture. There are many that I deeply respect but wouldn’t want to stay in for longer than a few weeks.
So when you choose a place to live, bear in mind that although you might love the nature and food, the local mentality and culture are important factors to take into consideration, too.
Ok, I’m really struggling to come up with a great place for digital nomads to live in that isn’t widely considered as safe. The most popular cities for nomads are perfectly fine as their mentalities are usually very modern and open-minded.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t places out there that you consider as the perfect digital nomad place for you and that aren’t the safest choice to make.
I’m not only talking about obvious threats, such as civil wars or terror attacks. But maybe the region has some serious issues with violence against women. You might not want to go there as a female solo nomad. Or what about homophobia? If you are gay, try to get information about how gay-friendly the area is that you would like to move to.
Start Your New Lifestyle
As you can see, there are quite a few factors to take into consideration when you are looking for the best places for digital nomads to live in. You have to consider hart facts, such as visa requirements, costs of living, or rental opportunities. But there are also more variable factors, such as the local culture, digital nomad community, food options and potential things to do, which you should think twice about.
Of course, you could also screw this list, move to wherever you feel like and go from there. Maybe you like it, maybe not. If you stay flexible enough, i.e. you don’t sign a renting contract for 12 months, you can always leave if you don’t feel comfortable enough to stay longer.
Whichever strategy you go for I hope this list gave you at least a rough idea what you should expect and take into consideration before moving to a new place.