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I’ve been living as a digital nomad for over a year now, and that means I’ve tried my fair share of cities. Some of them have been well-known digital nomad destinations, while other have just been places I wanted to visit.
Related read: The truth about my first year as a digital nomad
Since July 2018, I’ve been spending longer – between 1 and 3 months – in each destination. That means I now have more time to get to know the place and suss it out for you. On this page, I’ll be sharing all the digital nomad cities I try, and updating it with each new one I call my temporary home.
Digital nomad essentials
When choosing a digital nomad base, some things are essential. Below are the things you’re going to want to consider and prioritise, no matter where in the world your travels take you.
Of course, there are lots of other cities beyond the ones on this page. I’m only human, and that means I can only live in so many places! So if none of these take your fancy, or you want to try somewhere else, these are the things to look for.
Nope, no surprises here. A good WiFi connection is one of the only things you need as a digital nomad. Other things – like the ones listed below – are nice to have, but WiFi is absolutely essential.
You may not want to call your new base home forever, but you’ll still need somewhere to (temporarily) lay your head. If you’re from an expensive city, most places will seem like a great deal. But if you’re trying to budget more or just getting started, you may want to choose somewhere with lower rent.
Even if budget isn’t an issue for you, you need to make sure you can get a short-term rental. I almost exclusively use Airbnb to find my temporary homes, but sometimes I’ll take a private room in a hostel. That usually only happens if it’s a very short stay, there’s a cool area to work or I want to socialise a little while I’m there.
Coworking & networking
This one will be more important to some digital nomads than others. But if you like having other people around or don’t like working from home, finding somewhere to work is important. In some places, you’ll be spoilt for choice. In others, not so much.
If having an office is important, look for coworking spaces before you arrive. If you prefer for your workspace to be as changeable as your lifestyle, you might prefer somewhere with a good coffee shop scene. And if you enjoy networking or meeting other nomads, check out Facebook groups or events nearby.
Other things that might matter
None of these are essentials – to most people. But there’s a good chance one or two of them might be essential to you. Here are some other things you might want to look into when choosing a nomad base.
Transport connections: If you’re staying long-term or like to travel hard, you might want to be somewhere that’s well-connected. On the other hand, you might like to be somewhere that’s not!
Fitness & health: When it comes to health, every place has pros and cons. Some places have a naturally healthy diet, while others have fantastic gyms. Greece was great for finding supplements and health foods, but there was a real lack of gyms. Japan had a lot of healthy food, but it was almost impossible to workout. If you follow a strict diet, your options might be a little more limited than someone who doesn’t, so just keep that in mind.
Car rental: Not everybody will want to (or be able to) rent a car, but it might be important to you. If you love having a set of wheels, don’t get caught out by crazy high places. Car rental prices never seem to fall in line with the general cost of living.
Visas: Something that’s easy to forget about, but you should definitely keep in mind! Unfortunately, we’re all restricted by our passports. Some of us are luckier than others and will find it easier to stay in certain countries. Others will need to be a little more prepared for certain destinations. Make sure you research your rights BEFORE you book the plane ticket!
The best digital nomad destinations
To keep it simple, I’m splitting this section into two categories: digital nomad places that are already popular – and those that aren’t. The latter are the ones that I’ve chosen to live in but aren’t yet considered a digital nomad hub.
Popular digital nomad cities
These cities already have a thriving a digital nomad community. That means it’s easy to meet other nomads and you can be sure someone will be able to help if you have questions.
Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list of digital nomad locations. It’s a list of places I’ve personally lived as a digital nomad.
Cape Town, South Africa
If you like the idea of going somewhere you might never want to leave, try Cape Town. It’s the city that has everything, with beaches on one side and mountains on the other.
Pros: There’s something to be said for being surrounded by nature. From surfing to safaris, South Africa pretty much has it all. Not only that but it’s easy to get hold of anything you want or need, including health, beauty and electronic products. The cost of living in fairly low compared to most capital cities and you’ll never ever get bored. Oh, and the food is INCREDIBLE.
Cons: The location. If Cape Town was somewhere a little bit more accessible, it may just be perfect. I’d move there in a heartbeat if I didn’t have to endure a long-haul flight to get to the places I visit most. I guess that’s what happened when you have everything!
Cost of living: Cape Town isn’t cheap for South Africa, but it’s much more affordable than most European or North American destinations. We paid around £500 per month for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre. Eating out costs less than £10 per person, while a healthy takeaway lunch will set you back around £2-5. The most amazing gym I’ve ever been to cost me £40 per month, including all classes.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
It wouldn’t be a post about digital nomad locations without Chiang Mai. Pretty much the original DN hub, Chiang Mai still attracts a large number of location independent folk.
Pros: The thing about Chiang Mai is that it’s just so, so easy to live there. The quality of life to cost of living ratio is incredible, and it’s easy to fall into a very comfortable routine. Food is cheap, people are friendly and it’s incredibly safe. It’s also a great place for travel, with cheap international flights as well as everything that’s on your doorstep. Oh, and the WiFi is great.
RELATED READ: Katie, one of the many nomads I met in Chiang Mai, put together this awesome in-depth guide to living in Chiang Mai.
Cons: Aside from the fact it’s hard to leave, most nationalities can only stay in Thailand for 30-90 days. Apart from that, I can’t think of anything I didn’t enjoy.
Cost of living: Chiang Mai prices have increased over the last couple of years, but they’re still very affordable. We paid around £300 for a condo near the Nimman area (where most digital nomads and expats live). Eating out usually cost less than £1, and a splurge on all you can eat sushi only set us back round £5 per person. My favourite thing of all was a weekly Thai massage, which set me back a measly £4 (+ tip) each time.
Other digital nomad destinations
Not quite so popular as the cities above, these spots could be the next big digital nomad spots.
Tbilisi took me by surprise in many ways. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it turned out to be a great base for a month. Check out this post to see a more detailed guide about living in Tbilisi.
Pros: Georgia may just be one of the most underrated countries in Europe. Still relatively unknown, it’s largely free of tourists but has heaps to offer. The food is varied, fairly healthy and designed for sharing. And you’ll be able to get your hands on almost anything you need. Plus, the people are some of the most hospitable in the world (once you break down their barriers a little).
Cons: Rental cars and gym memberships don’t come cheap, but they’re offset by the general low cost of living. Plus, the gym membership included a rooftop pool.
Cost of living: A nice apartment in a good location will set you back around £200-400 per month. On top of that, expect to pay around £2-5 per day for food if you eat in, or add an extra £5-7 if you eat out. £850 would be enough to live comfortably, but you’ll need to bump that up a fair amount if you want to travel around.
The Greek Islands
Greece is another destination that could soon by on the mainstream nomad radar – but isn’t yet. It’s a much more popular tourist destination, with plenty to offer all kinds of visitors.
Pros: The quality of life in Greece is incredible. If you like a chilled pace of living and can get on board with siesta culture, Greece has a lot to offer. It has some of the best coffee shops around and incredible food to go with it. Not only that, but the lifestyle is mostly very healthy. The Greek diet includes lots of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, and there’s no shortage of health food stores and supplements.
Cons: The WiFi! Admittedly, it’s not all bad, but you’ll need to choose your base carefully. In Crete, we really struggled with the slow and temperamental WiFi. Even though the coffee shops were amazing, their WiFi wasn’t much better than our own. If you can, get an EU sim card with unlimited data, such as the all you can eat package from Three (what I use). It’ll make a huge difference!
Cost of living: Your monthly costs are going to depend largely on which island you want to live on – this is based on Crete. Our apartment cost around £300 per month. That’s an average because we stayed for two months, with September being MUCH cheaper than August. A freddo cappuccino usually costs around £1-1.50 and eating out costs around £5-10 per person. Supermarket food isn’t super cheap, but it’s cheaper than most European countries – especially if you shop at stores like Lidl.
I’ll be updating this post with every new destination I visit (and some previous ones, too). Pin this post for later or share it with someone so you don’t miss out on any updates.