With so many people working remotely these days, my inbox abounds with one question:
What’s the best place to work from as a digital nomad?
Now that more and more bosses are okay with you working from anywhere (as long as you have reliable Wi-Fi and are online during normal business hours), people are picking up and moving. Why stick around high-priced are when you can escape to more affordable locales around the world?
Here at Nomadic Matt, our entire team is fully remote. I have team members across the US, as well as in Sweden and Australia. And most of them spend at least a few weeks working on the road. We are nomads, after all.
If you now have the freedom to work anywhere, you’re probably wondering what is the best place out there. To help you pick the ideal destination, I thought I would list my favorites, as well as five things you must consider before picking a place.
5 Things to Consider When Picking a Destination
When evaluating a place to live and work from, there are numerous factors that determine if it is right for you. After over 14 years of being a digital nomad, I know what matters — and what doesn’t. Here are the five most important things you’ll want to consider:
1. Wi-Fi connectivity
If you’re working online, reliable Wi-Fi is vital. You don’t want to be wasting your day trying to find Wi-Fi. I always check the reviews of the places I stay for comments specifically about the Wi-Fi. When in doubt, email the Airbnb host/hostel/hotel directly and ask them about their internet speeds — because nothing is more frustrating than slow Wi-Fi — no Wi-Fi is better than slow Wi-Fi if you ask me! Moreover, Google the destinations you are thinking about —if they have a lot of coworking spaces, they usually also have reliable Wi-Fi.
2. Cost of living
If you’re going to be staying somewhere for months at a time, you need to make sure the cost of living fits your budget. While I’m sure working in a cool city like Reykjavik would be amazing, Iceland’s cost of living would likely consume a hefty chunk of your business’s revenue. Accommodation, food, and transportation are going to be your largest expenses as a traveler and digital nomad, so you need to make sure the destinations you stay in long-term are affordable in those respects.
Traveling the world solo is an amazing experience… but it can also get lonely. If you’re going to be spending months somewhere, finding a community is a must. Use Facebook groups, platforms like Meetup.com, and coworking spaces to connect with like-minded people. Having a community will deepen your experience and help you better adjust to life in your new home. You’ll also get to network with other creators and remote workers, and learn insider tips and advice from locals and travelers alike, which should also help you get out from behind the laptop now and then.
All work and no play is a recipe for burnout (trust me, I’ve learned that lesson the hard way). You didn’t travel halfway around the world just to spend every day looking at your laptop, so make sure you get out there and actually enjoy the place you’re staying in. That means you’ll want to pick a base that has lots to see and do. Museums, nature trails, extreme sports, nightclubs — whatever you’re interested in, make sure your destination has plenty of that on offer. That will help you develop a better (and healthier) work/life balance.
5. Transportation hub
Working from the beaches of some remote tropical island sounds relaxing… but if you have to buy an expensive flight each and every time you want to travel or go home to visit family, you’re going to break the bank sooner rather than later.
The Best Cities for Digital Nomads
Ok, so now that that is out of the way, what are some awesome places to be a digital nomad in? While everyone is going to have their ideal destination from which to work remotely, there are a handful of cities out there that remote workers tend to flock to, since they check all of the above requirements. Here are ten of the best:
The Best Cities for Digital Nomads
1. Oaxaca, Mexico
I loved my time in Oaxaca. So does pretty much everyone else who spends time in this pretty city of colorful buildings, scenic rooftop restaurants and bars, plentiful street art, and historic colonial churches.
While not as popular as Tulum or Playa Del Carmen for digital nomads, I think Oaxaca outshines them. It’s safe, has a world-class mezcal scene, boasts plenty of opportunities for day trips and weekend getaways, a large group of remote workers here, a few coworking spaces, and lots of activities that will help you meet people. Plus, it’s very affordable and has direct connections throughout the region (and to the US).
2. Medellín, Colombia
Medellín is a hip, tech-forward city with excellent public transportation that offers incredible value for long-term travelers and digital nomads. It’s one of the “go-to” spots for remote workers these days and the most popular hub in South America (especially if you love to party). There is a well-established community of ex-pats and digital nomads making it super easy to meet people, there are lots of coworking spaces, fast Wi-Fi, friendly locals, delicious food, a plethora of events to keep you busy, and just terrific all-around energy.
3. Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is one of my favorite cities in the world. While many people don’t love it on their first visit (I certainly didn’t), once you peel back some of the layers, you’ll find a lively (though chaotic) metropolis where anything is possible. With its cheap cost of living, huge ex-pat community, incredible food and nightlife scenes, great weather, and robust transportation links to other parts of the region and the world, Bangkok checks all the boxes. I absolutely loved my time living there.
4. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is another city I fell in love with from day one. Having become popular over the last few years as one of the warmest and cheapest destinations in Western Europe, Lisbon is the perfect choice for digital nomads who want to stay in Europe during the winter but don’t want to embrace the continent’s colder climates. You’ll find marvelous food, music, dance, lots of co-working spaces, and tons of creatives and entrepreneurs.
5. Berlin, Germany
For years, Berlin has been Europe’s primary hub for nomads for years since the country has a freelancer visa that easily allows self-employed people to live there. Providing easy access to the rest of Europe, it’s a great choice for those looking to bounce around the continent but who also want to stay in a safe destination with efficient transportation, tons of culture, people, history, art, and fast and affordable Wi-Fi. If you’re looking for a big city to be a digital nomad in, this is the best one in Europe.
6. Santiago, Chile
As one of the safest cities in South America, Santiago, Chile is an excellent choice for remote workers looking to extend their stay on the continent. Surrounded by towering, snow-capped mountains, it’s perfect for those who enjoy urban living but want the option of heading out into nature. Here, you’ll also find fast internet, plenty of coworking spaces, welcoming locals, and generally high quality of life. The country has really put an effort into attracting entrepreneurs over the years and it definitely shows!
7. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is another popular and underrated hub for nomads in the country. Considered “the New York City of Mexico,” it balances quality of life with affordability. I just love this city – there’s so much to do here, tons of museums, art galleries, food markets, and one of the best food scenes in the world. You’ll find a robust ex-pat and digital nomad scene, lots of networking events, coworking spaces, and connections to anywhere in the world.
8. Austin, USA
Every year, more and more companies are moving their headquarters to Austin (I moved here in 2016 myself). Austin is full of startups and there is a huge tech and entrepreneur scene here. This is one of the best cities in the US to meet other remote workers, online creatives, digital nomads, and people doing interesting things. There’s a plethora of events and coworking spaces here, easy access to the outdoors, and a top-notch food scene. It’s a city that has a lot happening in it and is probably the number one spot to live in the US if you’re an online creative.
9. Tbilisi, Georgia
Tbilisi has a young, fresh vibe as it evolves into a progressive, hip city. English is widely spoken, the wine is plentiful and delicious (Georgia was one of the first countries ever to make wine), and the historic district is beautiful. It has a low cost of living, there are plenty of coworking spaces, and the Wi-Fi is fast and reliable. And as one of the newer up-and-coming digital nomad hubs, there’s a growing ex-pat community here as well. Plus, Georgians are incredible and awesome people. All in all, it’s a great place to live.
10. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Originally a backpacker hub, Chiang Mai has evolved into the biggest remote-worker hub in the country (it has even surpassed Bangkok though I like Bangkok better). While it’s not as cheap (or as quiet) as it used to be, it’s still very affordable and has everything you need to enjoy a thriving work/life balance. The street food is plentiful and delicious, the Wi-Fi is fast, and the digital nomad community is huge and welcoming.
The pandemic sped up the transition to remote work and encouraged more people than ever to embrace the digital nomad life. That transition is only going to continue to grow — even after the COVID pandemic has ended — as more and more people are seeking a lifestyle and career that give them the freedom they deserve.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.