Want to become a digital nomad? This is where you should go
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
These days, it seems like more and more workers are becoming digital nomads — and those who haven't done it themselves probably know someone who is.
A 2020 report by MBO Partners, a jobs platform that connects and supports independent professionals, found that the number of U.S. digital nomads – whose careers allow them to embrace a lifestyle of travel and remote, digitally-connected work – rose from 7.3 million in 2019 to 10.9 million in 2020.
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Digital nomads don't like to be weighed down. The majority of them take their knowledge, skill sets and businesses to countries and cities where the cost of living is low and the networking potential is at an all-time high. And — no surprise here — most are on the hunt for destinations with above-average internet speeds (at or above 25 Mbps, according to AllConnect, a site also owned by TPG parent company Red Ventures) so they can work uninterrupted.
Many countries including Bermuda, Georgia and Barbados have put programs in place to attract digital nomads, and there are some other surprisingly popular spots as well. Here's a look at some of the most popular cities and countries around the world for digital nomads and what it costs to live there using numbers from NomadList.io.
Related: 345 flights, 218 award nights, 132 cities: How I spent 3 years as a global digital nomad
Digital Nomad Valley Zadar, Croatia
Croatia wanted to attract digital nomads, entrepreneurs and work-from-anywhere professionals, so the country built and opened the Digital Nomad Valley Zadar on Oct. 10. The village is located about 30 minutes from the ancient port city of Zadar, with living spaces from studio apartments to two- and three-bedroom apartments that can be rented for stays as short as two weeks.
Currently, U.S. travelers must either be fully vaccinated, have a recovery certificate, present a negative PCR or antigen test performed within 72 hours of departure, or pay to take a PCR or antigen test upon arrival and self-isolate until those results are in. If the test cannot be carried out, a traveler must undergo a 10-day quarantine.
Average cost of living (short-term): Private apartments in the village start at $1,148 a month, which includes access to an exclusive co-working space, free Wi-Fi and events organized by the village.
Internet speeds: 19 Mbps
Number of coworking spaces: Outside of the village, there is one other coworking space, COIN Zadar.
Best time to visit: The weather is great between June and October, with temperatures ranging from 69 degrees in October to 87 degrees in August.
Related: You can be a digital nomad and live in Croatia paying just $600 a month in rent
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Over the course of the last few years, this bustling little city has been growing quickly. New cafes, restaurants and shopping malls seem to be popping up on an almost daily basis. Chiang Mai is also home to an international airport, which offers short, convenient flights to and from Bangkok.
Thailand is open to tourists, but if you stay for more than 30 days, a visa is required. Anyone coming to Thailand must get a Certificate of Entry, along with a negative COVID-19 test, medical insurance of up to $100,000 that covers COVID-19 and a reservation at an Alternative Quarantine Hotel — regardless of vaccination status.
Average cost of living (short-term): $998 a month, including accommodations, food and some entertainment. If you're budgeting for long-term living costs here, you're probably looking at somewhere around $467 a month.
Internet speeds: 30 Mbps
Number of coworking spaces: More than a dozen in the center of the city.
Best time to visit: November to February during the cooler months. Avoid visiting Chiang Mai during what is known as the "burning season" (February-April). During that time, head down to the islands in the south of the country where you'll find amazing weather and beautiful white-sand beaches.
Related: The best credit cards for digital nomads and long-term travelers
This Eastern European country unveiled the Remote from Georgia program on Aug. 27, which garnered more than 2,700 applicants in the first few weeks from the online application opening. The program allows foreign citizens to work and run their businesses remotely from the country.
However, there are some hoops to jump through. After completing and submitting an application, foreigners granted permission to travel and work from Georgia must undergo a mandatory 12-day hotel quarantine upon arrival, at their own expense. After quarantine, they'll have to take a PCR test. If negative, travelers can stay for up to 180 days.
Average cost of living (short-term): $1,232 a month, including accommodations, food and some entertainment. If you're looking for long-term living costs here, you're probably looking at between $274 and $760 a month.
Internet speeds: 13 Mbps
Number of coworking spaces: 70+
Best time to visit: May to June and September to October, when temperatures range from 75 degrees to 86 degrees.
Related: UPDATED: Americans can now visit 112 countries and territories — here’s the complete list
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The Vietnamese government has announced plans to reopen borders to foreign visitors starting in June 2022, with several provinces, including Phu Quoc and Khanh Hoa (where Ho Chi Minh City is located) implementing pilot phases as early as November 2021, according to the U.S. State Department.
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is one of the most popular digital nomad destinations in Southeast Asia, thanks to its climate, cheap and delicious food and the plethora of internet marketers, e-commerce workers and other online entrepreneurs who have set up shop. The networking potential, Wi-Fi speeds and the café scene are some of Ho Chi Minh City's major draws.
While the city can be unbearably hot at times, with temperatures topping more than 85 degrees, air-conditioned cafés with free Wi-Fi are plentiful and located on just about every corner.
Average cost of living (short-term): $959 a month, including accommodations, food and some entertainment. Long-term stays could drop your costs down to somewhere around $528/month.
Internet speeds: Up to 13 Mbps
Number of coworking spaces: More than 45 across the city's districts.
Best time to visit: Dry season runs from December through April, but note that this is also the hottest time of the year, with temperatures ranging from 82 to 102 degrees.
This Caribbean island was one of the first countries to launch a comprehensive work-remote program for digital nomads and other travelers. The application process requires:
- Completed C-5 application form, including basic contact, emergency and identifying information; brief description of employment and employer details; income declaration; passport information and details of any dependents who would travel with the applicant.
- Passport-sized photograph for each applicant and any associated family members over the age of 18.
- Biodata page of passport for applicant and associated dependents.
- Copy of birth certificate for each applicant and dependent.
- Proof of relationship between the applicant and all other members of the family group, such as a birth certificate, adoption documents or marriage certificate.
If the application is approved, individual applicants must pay a nonrefundable fee of $2,000 while a family group must pay $3,000 for all members.
Average cost of living (short-term): Barbados is on the pricey side, at $3,886 a month, which includes rent, food, utilities and transportation.
Internet speeds: 26 Mbps
Number of coworking spaces: 2
Best time to visit: July through November. This falls during the Caribbean's hurricane season, but those storms rarely hit Barbados. However, temperatures remain between the mid-70s and mid-80s year-round, so if you want to save money, avoid peak season.
Related: Barbados offering work from home program
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Average cost of living (short-term): $1,345 a month, including accommodation, food and some entertainment. Longer-term stays drop to $900 a month.
Internet speeds: 10 Mbps
Number of coworking spaces: 8
Best time to visit: April and May, since there are fewer people visiting and temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees. Summer comes with high temperatures and humidity, along with hurricane season.
Related: Need to escape America? U.S. travelers can work remotely from these countries
Sometimes you need a change of scenery, especially after being trapped in the house during the pandemic. This is just a peek at some of the top cities for digital nomads. There are many more to explore, such as Medellin, Colombia; Malta; and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
But before you store your possessions and pack your bags, do your homework. See if your chosen country is open to digital nomads. Make sure you get a visa, if necessary, and check how long you can stay in your chosen country. Speak with your accountant about any tax implications.
Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery
Additional reporting by Ryan Gargiulo.