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The best risk I ever took was quitting my job on Wall Street to focus on The Points Guy full time. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to travel for a living and help others get the most out of their travels. If you’ve ever wanted to take a similar risk, this post is for you. TPG Contributor Ryan Gargiulo of Pause the Moment has been a true digital nomad for the past six years, traveling the world and living long term in exotic destinations. Here, he shares with you five hot spots for digital nomads, as well as a great resource for planning your adventures.
These days it seems like everyone and their brother is a digital nomad and if they’re not one, they know someone who is. I’m sure you’ve all heard a story or three about someone who decided to take the leap and risk it all by trading in their 9 to 5s (or their post-college job search) for a life of travel and location independence.
Imagine rewinding back to five or six years ago before the term “digital nomad” existed and breaking the news to your parents that you’ve decided to quit your job search after graduating college only to pack your bags and head to southeast Asia in hopes of starting an online business. I would imagine the response would be something like: “Are you out of your mind?”
Nowadays, stumbling upon a group of online entrepreneurs is becoming more common than ever. Don’t believe me? Next time you step foot inside the hippest cafe in town, take a look around. It’s very likely that you’ll spot a digital nomad and his or her co-working crew hunched over their laptops working away while sipping on their locally roasted lattes and espressos.
So, what the heck is a digital nomad anyway?
For those of you who are new to the term, here’s a quick breakdown. The term digital nomad is used to define individuals who leverage today’s technology in order to work remotely and live an independent and nomadic lifestyle.
What do digital nomads need in order to survive?
Believe it or not, a lot less than you might think. The majority take their knowledge, skillsets and portable businesses to countries where the cost of living is low and the networking potential is at an all time high. Oh, and as you might’ve guessed, most are on the hunt for destinations with above average Internet speeds. Preferably blazing fast, if possible.
Which destinations are digital nomad hotspots right now?
These days, countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia are more popular than ever. Some would even say they’ve become overrun with digital nomads and location independent professionals, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone from flocking to these destinations in droves.
If you’re looking for the best resource when it comes to finding the latest and greatest destinations for digital nomads, be sure to check out NomadList.io, a community and catalogue of top destinations based on cost of living, climate and likeminded individuals.
Here are some of the most popular digital nomad hotspots around the world today.
Over the course of the last few years, this bustling little city has been growing like wildfire. New cafes, restaurants and shopping malls seem to be popping up here on almost a daily basis. Chiang Mai is also home to an international airport, which offers convenient 1 hour and 15 minute flights to/from Bangkok.
Average cost of living (short-term): $650 USD/month (including central accommodations, food and some entertainment). If you’re looking for long-term living costs here, you’re probably looking at somewhere around $525/month.
Internet speeds: up to 20Mbps
Best Coworking Space: Punspace
Best time to visit: November to February during the cooler months. Your best bet would be to avoid visiting Chiang Mai during what is known as the “burning season” (February-April). Instead, head down to the islands in the south of the country where you’ll find amazing weather and beautiful white sand beaches.
Note(s): I spent 6 months living in Chiang Mai in 2013 and I published an in-depth cost of living report, which you can find here.
Bangkok, Thailand – Bangkok is Thailand’s capital city, as well as one of Southeast Asia’s most popular hubs. If you’re a lover of big cities, sprawling markets, rooftop bars, delicious roadside food stands and towering skyscrapers, you won’t find it too hard to settle down here.
As with most major cities in Southeast Asia, Bangkok suffers from pollution, poor air quality and its fair share of scam artists. It’s something to be mindful of if you choose to setup shop here.
As you’ll notice below, Bangkok is quite a bit more expensive than Chiang Mai, yet it’s still very affordable considering you can live it up in a big city for less than $1,500 per month.
Average cost of living (short-term): 1,350 USD/month (including central accommodations, food and some entertainment). Long-term cost of living drops quite a bit here and could go as low as $900/mo.
Internet speeds: up to 20Mbps
Best time to visit: November to mid-January.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is one of the most popular digital nomad destinations in Southeast Asia right now due to the climate, ridiculously cheap and delicious food, along with the plethora of Internet marketers, e-commerce guys and other online entrepreneurs who have setup shop in the city. The networking potential, WiFi speeds and the cafe scene are some of HCMC’s major draws.
There’s so much to see, do and experience in Ho Chi Minh City. History lovers will enjoy the number of museums and historical sites. Some of HCMC’s top attractions include a visit to the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum and the Museum of Vietnamese History.
While the city can be unbearably hot at times, air conditioned cafes with free Wi-Fi are plentiful and can be found on just about every corner.
Average cost of living (short-term): $975 USD/month (including accommodation, food and some entertainment). Long term stays could drop your costs down to somewhere around $700/month.
Internet speeds: up to 20Mbps
Best time to visit: Dry season runs from December through April. Please note that this is also the hottest time of the year with temps ranging from 82 to 102 degrees.
Note(s): Ho Chi Minh City is known to have a horrible air quality index. If you’re particularly sensitive, you might want to skip out on this one. For more information on HCMC’s air quality index, click here.
Ubud (Bali, Indonesia) – Ubud is a tranquil little jungle town located in central Bali, approximately an hour and a half drive from Bali’s disgusting worn out beach town known as Kuta.
While the town of Ubud has grown exponentially over the course of the last couple of years, the Internet speeds have not. Unfortunately, the WiFi speeds in Bali as a whole are one of the major drawbacks for a lot of digital nomads who want to explore here. That being said, if you’re not in need of insanely high speed Internet connections and you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, Ubud could easily be a place to stay for a few months.
Ubud is home to many adventure activities, arts and crafts, museums and galleries, endless photo opportunities and a wide variety of wildlife, so you’ll never have a problem finding something to see or do in your spare time.
Average cost of living (short-term): $1,150 USD/month (including accommodation, food and some entertainment). Long term stays could drop your costs down to $1,000/mo.
Internet speeds: 5Mbps on average. 8-10Mbps fiber optic lines are available at Hubud Coworking Space with a basic coworking membership cost starting at $55/month.
Best time to visit: Ubud’s dry season runs from June through September. Please note that tourism is booming in the months of July and August, so be sure to reserve a room well in advance.
Prague, Czech Republic – Last but not least, a digital nomad hotspot that’s not located in Southeast Asia. Yes, they do exist!
Believe it or not, Prague is one of the most popular location independent destinations in the world right now, and for good reason. Nevermind the very affordable cost of living, let’s talk about the Internet speeds, shall we? With Internet speeds of up to 40Mbps, Prague crushes the rest of the destinations on this list when it comes to blazing fast Internet.
But, what about the weather?
Unlike the rest of the destinations on this list, Prague actually sees four seasons of weather throughout the year. If you’re a fan of weather change and you don’t mind suffering through the cold and snowy winters, Prague might be one of your best bets.
Prague has a lot to offer. From beautiful cathedrals to cobblestone alleyways, spectacular bridges filled with street performers, a wide variety of museums, really cheap beer (cheaper than Coca-Cola) and more. It’s also home to Prague Castle, the biggest ancient castle in the world. In other words, it will take a long time before you’ll find yourself bored here.
Average cost of living (short-term): $1,150 USD/month (including accommodation, food and some entertainment). Long term stays could have you floating somewhere around $900/mo.
Internet speeds: 40Mbps
Best time to visit: Spring/Summer
This is just a peek at some of the top cities for digital nomads at the moment. There are many more to explore, such as cities like Medellin, Phnom Penh, Timisoara, Lima, Davao and the list goes on.
Do you have dreams of becoming a digital nomad or are you already one? What destinations are on your radar?
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