Digital nomads are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job.
The term digital nomad might sound abstract and cliché to some, but by 2035 there’ll be an estimated 1 billion of us roaming the planet. More and more people are becoming discontent with the standard 9-5 model of work. In the modern digital age, old work norms and structures are disappearing, and opportunities to work remotely are rising.
While being "location-independent" sounds glamorous, nomadic life is hard work. The beach laptop selfie may make a few friends jealous, but it doesn't accurately portray the impractical and difficult aspects of nomadic life.
It sounds simple, right? You can just roll up to any city, plug your device in and you’ll be an instant nomadic success. Oh, how many times I’ve made that mistake!
Initially, I never planned my trips specifically around the nomadic lifestyle. I was always more focused on finding new experiences, and then I’d shoehorn my work around that. Unfortunately, as my number digital projects increases, I’m finding that where I work from is a key consideration when planning future trips.
I currently have a variety of projects to keep busy. I recently released my first travel book, with the second in the pipeline for an early 2019 release. In addition to my own personal blog, guest-posting always helps to pay the bills. I’ve also got various online stores from where I design and sell clothing and other merchandise. Running Social Media accounts for other businesses is another standard money-maker.
Hosting Airbnb experiences is something I’ve also recently got into, and it’s a fantastic way to earn some money while on the road. You have complete control over where you go and what you do, how much you charge, etc. The only downside is the lengthy application process, which ultimately means it’s only really useful for people doing extended stays.
Unfortunately, my videography and photography projects have been temporarily put on hold due to "camera issues." Once they’re rectified that’ll open up a host of new opportunities offering VR Tours and promotional projects with local tourist boards.
So what makes a great digital nomad destination?
There is no one answer to this, as being a digital nomad nowadays can cover a million different jobs. You-Tubers, Instagrammers and Bloggers are the more "classic" digital nomad jobs that typically spring to mind. However, in the past year, I’ve met graphic designers, authors, online teachers, virtual assistants, voice coaches, Vloggers, translators, and so on. The list alone could warrant its own separate blog post.
Whatever your profession, your choice of location is very important. An adventure-You-Tuber in a dull, grey town would struggle for material, and an online teacher broadcasting from a cocktail bar on an exotic beach would be considered unprofessional.
While different digital professions have varying needs, I believe that there are 3 key features which are essential for all.
Without it, you're a driver without a car, a jockey without a horse, a dancer without music. Is there anything more frustrating than creating golden material that you're eager to share with the world, but the Wifi won’t connect? Or maybe you’ve got an impending deadline, and you’ve found a connection, but the upload speed is cripplingly slow.
(Obviously there are more frustrating things in life, but not for a Digital Nomad in full-flow).
This isn’t super essential if you’re earning big money, but most digital nomads are not. Unless you’ve got a few high-ticket products that mean money is no longer an issue, you’ll definitely want to research the cost of living. And even if you do have bags of cash, it doesn’t always last. Technology moves so fast, algorithms change and can cripple an online business overnight. Nothing is certain, so you’ll always want to keep an eye on your outgoings.
Digital Nomadery can be a lonely business. A good chunk of your time is spent glued to your laptop, so you’ll need the non-working time to be as inspiring as possible. You can’t create magic if your creative juices are all dried up. For some that means crazy nightlife, for others the great outdoors, or vibrant culture. Everyone has different creative triggers, but I guarantee that during the darker, less successful times you’ll question why you’re doing it. You’ll wonder if the digital nomad lifestyle is really for you. But, if you’re surrounded by a truly inspiring backdrop, it’ll certainly help keep you strong.
Bali ticks all the boxes. Co-working spaces — shared offices for digital nomads — are all over the place. In Canggu there is a full-range of these spaces, from noisy cafes to corporate spaces. Most have decent internet, power-points and are reasonably priced, but it’s worth shopping around for one that best suits your style.
Co-working spaces are great for working independently, collaboratively, or as meeting ground to connect other nomads, freelancers, and location-independent travelers.
The cost of living in Bali varies, depending on your lifestyle. Beach parties, mopeds and cocktails will all deplete your savings, or you can choose to live frugally. It's entirely possible to live cheaply or lavishly — the choice is yours.
Finally, despite all the tourists and Instagrammers, Bali remains incredibly beautiful and inspirational. There are also other nearby islands and cities you can easily visit, making Bali a great home-base from which to explore so many exciting and unique places.
A world away from Bali, the capital of Argentina is a completely different scene. Swap the greenery and dreamy beaches for outstanding architecture and enough diversity to satisfy the most curious of souls.
The outstanding hospitality of Argentineans is contagious and there is a great vibe in the city. And while it’s certainly not the cheapest place in the world, it is absolutely possible to survive on a budget. Cheaper accommodation is mostly located a little ways out from the city-center, but transport is affordable and reliable.
Buenos Aires not only has hundreds of co-working spaces, but is also home to thousands of Starbucks and other amazing cafés, all with excellent Wifi.
And if you can’t find inspiration in Buenos Aires... go home. (I’m only joking). But seriously — music, dancing, vast green parks, incredible food, sports, live shows, protests and marches. Buenos Aires truly caters for all tastes.
It’s back over to Asia for the next one — and to the largest city in northern Thailand! Located 700 km north of the capital Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a UNESCO World Heritage site. A mix of ancient temples, bustling city and nature, Chiang Mai should definitely stir those creative juices.
Chiang Mai might not be considered the prettiest city in Thailand, but the cost of living is hard-to-beat. It’s certainly one of the cheapest Asia-based locations on this list, from accommodation to street food to bike hire to co-working spaces. And, to help you clear your mind between work, free yoga sessions are scattered throughout the city and meditation retreats are just a short drive away.
A favorite for travelers since forever, Mexico City is also fast becoming a go-to location for nomads to settle down and get some work done.
Businesses and start-ups are launching all the time, attracting even more opportunities. And although it might not be the safest city on the planet, if you’re smart about carrying your equipment and research the area then you should be fine.
Accommodation is mid-range, but you can always save money by enjoying the local street food... which is a great reason for a visit alone!
And when you’re not working? Mexico City is both the oldest capital city in the Americas and one of two founded by Native Americans (the other is Quito, Ecuador). This guarantees incredible museums, stunning architecture and boundless culture to explore.
Recent investments in technology and infrastructure have attracted a flock of digital nomads to take residence. Friendly on the wallet and fun for your dancing shoes, Medellin is also seeing new co-working spaces pop up at a furious pace. If you prefer privacy, there’s also a ton of cozy cafés with excellent Wifi.
Hikes and treks up the nearby mountains are plentiful and views are spectacular, plus it’s a great base to go exploring further afield and discover a paradise beach or two for the weekend.
What Europe lacks in exoticism, it makes up for in spades with culture, history and excellent transport. Budapest is a fine example of this. Split in two by the river Danube, you effectively get two cities for your money; the old and the new.
Cited as one of the prettiest cities in Europe, it’s also very cheap compared to western Europe. You’ll have your fill of ancient architecture, museums and the buildings lit up at night can take your breath away.
Plenty of cafes with excellent Wifi or a good choice of affordable co-working spaces, and unlike the other listings above, safety is hardly ever a consideration.
Everyone should spend some time in Krakow... period. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about it. It’s one of the cheapest places in Europe, the internet speeds are very impressive and the atmosphere, culture, and nightlife are incredible. You can find amazing deals on accommodation, co-working spaces are cheap and plentiful, and you’ll have an amazing time visiting all the different sectors of the city.
The capital city, Warsaw, is much more business-oriented and, although another popular hub for digital nomads, it lacks the history and diversity of Krakow. For best digital nomad destinations in Europe, Krakow has to be near the top of the list.
If I had to nitpick and find one fault, I’d say that it does get a little chilly in the winter. It frequently drops below zero celsius, although the summer months make up for it with mid to high twenties.
As far as digital nomad destinations go, this is a winner. Lisbon has embraced the nomad culture with wide-open arms, and there’s a crazy amount of choice of where to work. Luxurious office spaces, bohemian cafés, work with others or work alone. There’s also the emergence of ‘Creative Artistic Hubs’, which aim to stretch your creativity to the limit. These hubs are located in art galleries, museums, pubs and even teach Parkour and free-running. You won’t struggle to find inspiration in Lisbon.
The cost of living is a little more expensive than Asia, but the sheer amount of fun you can have here is worth every penny. From the aforementioned creative spaces to the nightlife, the beaches and surfing, the relaxed culture, wine and beer, the history, culture and architecture. As more nomads descend, Lisbon could lose some of its natural, local charm, but right now, it’s a digital nomad’s heaven.
Definitely an up-and-comer, Georgia is a world away from the more typical choices but is definitely worthy of standing alongside them. Bordered by Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, it blends Western Asia and Eastern Europe... and the mix is good! Ancient history stands beside modern architecture and the culture reflects this.
The cost of living is also a mix as it comes in somewhere between Southeast Asia and Europe, making it very competitive. Outside of the city-center the prices of accommodation drop, and with super cheap public transport, it’s a great option.
Co-working spaces are slowly beginning to spring up, and the community is growing as word spreads. If you’re unable to find a space to suit your needs, then take your pick from any number of cafés all offering great free Wifi.
When you’re not working, the country is so small that you can drive from snow-capped mountains in the morning and relax in the Black Sea in the evening. In between you can feast your eyes on the awesome natural beauty on a hike, or relax by a lake or three.
Stay tuned for Worldpackers opportunities in Tbilisi!
10. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a gem in the European crown. A beautiful, old, romantic, mysterious city. It feels like there’s always another avenue to explore, another café to find or beer garden to enjoy. It’s a joy to wander through the cobbled streets and listen to the world go by and let the multitude of accents wash over you.
Accommodation isn’t the cheapest in the world, but you can definitely still find bargains through either Airbnb or renting privately. If you can avoid the temptation to eat out in one of a million delightful restaurants then you can easily keep the expenses in check. And whether it be a blessing or a curse, you can find beer for around a dollar a pint.
The community for shared working spaces seems to be small, but there are plenty of cafés set up especially for nomads. The only downside with this is that it gets VERY busy in the summer, so finding a quiet spot may be an issue. In Spring and Autumn though, you’ll be laughing.
It’s back around the world to Southeast Asia, and no digital nomad destinations list would be complete without mentioning Vietnam.
It’s usually one of the first places people go to cut their digital nomad teeth, as it’s low cost, solid facilities yet still exotic enough to remind you that you’re in a different world.
Collaborative spaces are aplenty and well-priced, with most containing meeting rooms and many offering social events to help you get to know other fellow nomads and network. This may be a turn-off for the more hardened nomad, but is fantastic for someone new to the nomad experience.
Ask most Europeans about Tenerife and they’ll describe it as either a party island or a place for family holidays. Yes to both, but it’s also a great hub for digital nomads of all variety. With the differing climate from the north to the south, the stunning beaches and natural scenery, outdoor activities for all fitness levels and lively nightlife, it’s easy to see why people are attracted.
There are a few co-working locations around the north, but Wifi is great around most of the island, with some beaches even having free Wifi (always use a VPN). Accommodation ranges from luxury beachfront properties to cozy little apartments, so there’s something for every budget, but once you’re there everything is really affordable due to low taxes.
Another rising star in the digital nomad community, Sofia — the capital of Bulgaria — is developing fast.
Nomads are definitely embraced here, and you’ll have your pick of workspaces. While none of them have beachfront views or swimming pools inside, they are well designed, fully equipped and have great connection speeds. Some even help with networking when you arrive, and will point you towards beneficial people to speak to, depending on your goals.
Accommodation is very affordable, and the cost of living is a dream compared to other European destinations. And when you’re not working, stroll around and explore the beautiful city, or jump on a bus and take your pick of mountains or the sea. Low cost airfares mean it’s also a great basecamp for exploring Romania, Greece, Turkey, Serbia and Macedonia.
Sofia is not action-packed like South America or Asia, but it’s super cheap, very safe and within throwing distance of a handful of other amazing countries.
There’s not much that needs to be said when describing Barcelona, as it’s famous the world over. The food, nightlife, beaches and Gaudi artwork... all are spectacular and something everyone should experience at least once in their life.
As for digital nomads, it’s a tricky one. The inspiration is there in bucketfuls, and you will never get bored in this city. The co-working spaces are plentiful (they have a 'Barcelona Silicon Valley'), as are street cafés where you can watch the world go by as you work away with excellent Wi-Fi.
The cost of living can be an issue, though. This is probably why it's becoming a destination for more professional, successful nomads who are done with the madness of Asia, the uncertainty of South America, and just want to get down to some serious business in a reliable, beautiful city.
I know, I know... this is a country and not a city, but stay with me. In early 2019, Estonia plans to roll out the world’s first Digital Nomad Visa. The birthplace of Skype and Transferwise and a champion of the tech-driven digital age, Estonia has been named "the world’s most digitally advanced society." They even went so far as to declare internet access a human right!
This buzz is drawing speculation that it may soon become the next great digital nomad hub. Free Wifi covers vast areas, including forests and beaches, and there’s already a fine amount of co-working spaces. If the Digital Nomad Visa delivers the much talked-about access to healthcare and other social services, this could be a serious game changer.
So there you go! These 15 best cities for digital nomads comprise very different locations to cover all levels of experience and budget.
I’d have loved to include more of South America, especially Brazil. Having spent so much time there it has a special place in my heart, and probably the best Brazilian digital nomad destination would be Florianopolis. It has paradise beaches, beautiful mountains and a party vibe comparable to Rio de Janeiro. It even has a few co-working spaces, but generally, internet services in Brazil are unreliable.
Krakow has a massive place in my heart and I’d love to go back and spend more time working and exploring, but not before I check out more of Eastern Europe. It’s growing and developing at a great pace, and I wholly expect more spots to pop up on this list in the coming years. If the Estonian Digital Nomad visa proves to be successful, then I hope it will catch and spread, and make even more countries digital nomad friendly!