8 best places to be a digital nomad
A glimpse into the digital nomad lifestyle. Photo: Shutterstock
Who says traveling has to be reserved for personal vacation time? These days, more and more people are taking off on their own, setting up shop as digital nomads (a.k.a. remote employees who work from all over the world).
"Southeast Asia is the center of the universe for many nomads," says Nick Schneble, co-founder of 7in7. The company is all about bringing together digital nomads through international conferences.
Looking to take off on a bit of work-related travel of your own? Here are eight of the best places to be a digital nomad.
Talk to most digital nomads and they'll tell you this: Thailand is shaping up to be the hot spot for working remotely.
"It's where I frequent the most during the winter. I personally like being close to the beach; it's essential to my lifestyle," says Silvia Christmann.
Thailand certainly has no shortage of heavenly beaches that can be converted into quickie "home" offices. Ko Lanta and Phuket are among the most bustling nomad hubs on the map. If sun-drenched coastlines aren't your thing, Thailand has plenty of other options on offer.
"The Nimmanhaemin district [of northern city Chiang Mai] is very walkable, the Internet speeds are excellent, and everything is really accessible," says Kevin Graham. "There are plenty of great coffee shops to work from with free Wi-Fi, and the food is amazing. You can get off the plane and be setup in under 24 hours."
The Thai digital nomad community is said to be thriving most in Chiang Mai, Pai and Bangkok. If you're looking to touch down here for an extended time, Graham adds that it's relatively easy to setup a cell phone plan and rent bikes or scooters for transportation.
"In Southeast Asia, Bangkok probably wins for my favorite hub," adds Schneble. "It's a big, bustling city, with an endless array of cafes, co-working spaces and of course - amazing Thai food. We actually picked Bangkok as the inaugural city for 7in7 because of its inherit characteristics that favor the nomadic lifestyle."
Ready to check it out for yourself? Insight Guides' Best of Thailand trip is a great place to start.
Vietnam is a not-so-hidden gem for long-term travelers, attracting nomads of all types with its strong community and relatively low cost of living.
"For digital nomads, that simply means having more resources for starting your business and having an easier time supporting yourself, especially if you get paid in USD," says Allen Walton. "The real value is in the community, though. I was in HCM [Ho Chi Minh] just two weeks ago and dropped into the co-working space Dreamplex. It was an eye opener. There were solopreneurs, startups, and major corporations all hanging out in the same place; getting inspired, making connections."
Hanoi also has a reputation for solid workspaces, ideal weather, and overall positive working conditions for remote employees. Discover Vietnam with this luxury getaway.
While Asia usually gets the most love from digital nomads, it definitely doesn't stand alone. South America has carved out a space of its own with this community, particularly Argentina. In addition to Buenos Aires, Córdoba is said to be a real jewel.
According to the Never Ending Voyage, Córdoba is a hip, inviting town loaded with culture. Local cafes are perfect for working; and when it's time to cut loose, folks are known to take to the streets for a bit of tango and fun. You can always venture off to Buenos Aires, which is known the world over for its vibrant digital nomad community. Get to know Argentina a little better with the help of some local experts.
Mexico is a definite front-runner here.
"One of my favorite nomadic hubs was a small surfing town on the Pacific coast of Mexico called Sayulita," says Aaron Dutil. "Like Bali, it has a large surfing and yoga community but it is a much smaller area, not nearly as well known or developed (yet) as Bali. I almost didn't leave.
"I extended my stay in order to soak in the relaxed, Mexican hippy vibe. The food is amazing. I actually had the best Italian dinner there. The Internet connectivity wasn't great there, but they have a co-working space there now and it seems to be getting better. The town is 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta international airport."
Speaking of Puerto Vallarta, digital nomads flock there in droves. This bit of Mexican paradise is especially popular when it comes to working remotely.
In Southeast Asia, Malaysia is a much-buzzed-about destination among digital nomads. Kuala Lumpur, with its bustling, big-city vibe, is a refreshing alternative to the laid-back beach scenes that usually get all the attention. For something a bit different than the capital city, Penang is also known for its abundance of coffee shops and rich historical roots. George Town, its main attraction, is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Looking to breathe in the magic of Malaysia? This too-good-to-be-true trip should do the trick.
6. Costa Rica
Turning our attention back to Latin America, Costa Rica is earning its stripes as a go-to locale for digital nomads (especially nature enthusiasts looking for a spectacular vacation).
"I've been very productive in Costa Rica, where I stayed for a bit at a hotel next to a volcano that even had hot springs," says Pamela Wagner. "This one was perfect for reducing work time a bit and relaxing a bit more, e.g. meditating."
It might be Costa Rica's wide variety of excursions and eco-adventures that attract so many long-term travelers. Its natural parks and unreal coastlines are enough to earn it a spot on most bucket lists. Throw in the Wi-Fi and the abundance of remote workers, and you've got yourself a bonafide digital nomad hot spot.
Mongolia may not be a locale that has historically gotten much love from digital nomads, but it's getting there. According to Nora Livingstone, Ulaanbaatar is seriously underrated.
"It's a challenge to get to Mongolia; it's a long plane ride from everything but it's worth it," she says. "It's beautiful, wild, and Wi-Fi is just about everywhere! There are many friendly areas around UB, and since it's seen as such a wild place, the other digital nomads have a thriving and supportive community.
"It's a bit of the masters class with some power cuts and questionable air quality in winter, but the supportive community, the abundant history, and absolutely gorgeous landscape made it one of my favourite places to Skype with people back home."
This one deserves a shout-out as an up-and-coming destination for digital nomads.
"One of my favorite hubs was Morocco, where I spent about 10 days traveling across the country," says Antonella Pisani. "Everyone thinks of digital nomads as solo travelers, but I took this trip with a group of 16 photographers. We had a blast, and I was able to work during mornings and early afternoons before heading to dinner or to explore each city.
"Wi-Fi was reliable everywhere we went, except for one night where I had to make a few updates on my iPhone, but it was a trade-off that was well worth it... We were in the Sahara shooting photos of the stars."
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