Working while traveling as a digital nomad has obvious appeal and is now an option for 17 million people. The nomadic lifestyle has opened up countless possibilities when choosing where to work. Literally, all 195 countries on the planet can be your workplace.
But, choosing where to work for digital nomads needs careful consideration. Things like internet speed, entertainment, climate, safety, visa requirements, cost of living, nomad community, and many more need to be considered when deciding your next office.
One decisive factor is the cost of living. More and more American nomads are hopping around the cheapest digital nomad locations, such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Turkey, and many more.
In this article, we've listed 5 of the cheapest cities to live in for digital nomads earning US$1,200 per month and below and still able to enjoy a good quality of life.
The 5 Cheapest Cities For Digital Nomads
1. Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand
Ko Pha Ngan is an island made of granite seated in a paradise. Its unspoiled beauty is painted by hilly, lush tropical jungle, long white-sand beaches, and over 20 dive sites.
It became popular with digital nomads of all ranges. The north side of the island has peaceful, tranquil vibes, while the south side is packed with parties and festivals, especially the 'infamous' Full Moon Party.
If the idea of working on a beach while sipping a coconut as the sea breeze blows gently on you, then Ko Pha Ngan is for you.
Reasons why Ko Pha Ngan is great for digital nomads:
- Has something for everyone. The South is great for party lovers and the North is perfect for peaceful vibe seekers.
- Has a lively and diverse expat community.
- Able to work literally on the beach 24/7
- Can explore the island casually with a scooter
Digital nomad score: 3.95 out of 5 (Rank #24)
WiFi speed: Fast (17 Mbps on average)
Cost of living: $1296.95 per month
Visa: Visa is not required. Upon arrival, you'll get a 30-day stay stamp. For a 1,900 baht ($63) fee, you can extend for another 30 days, granting up to 60 days in Thailand.
Tip: Did you know you can apply for a digital nomad visa and stay in specific countries for up to 1.5 years?
2. Bengaluru, India
Famously known as the Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru (also Bangalore) is the meeting point of all tech-savvy engineers and startups. Nowhere in India is better than Bengaluru when creating connections and meeting experts in technology.
Besides, Bengaluru's climate is mild and pleasant throughout the year: mornings are sunny while evenings are cool with a gentle breeze.
Reasons why Bengaluru should be your next destination:
- Pleasant climate all year round (less rainy seasons compared to other places in India)
- Advanced technology facilities
- Low cost of living
- Plenty of trendy bars and hipster cafes
- Numerous meetups for entrepreneurs and digital nomads (mostly about technology)
Digital nomad score: 3.9 out of 5 (Rank #35)
WiFi speed: Fast (20 Mbps on average)
Cost of Living: $810.29 per month
Visa: A tourist visa is required to enter India.
Note: Currently, India is on Travel Level 4: Do Not Travel as declared by the US Travel Advisory due to Covid-19.
3. Da Nang, Vietnam
Although Da Nang is the third-largest city in Vietnam, it's very different from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Da Nang is shockingly clean and organized, and it has all three features a nomad looks for: beaches, mountains, and cities.
Da Nang is packed with picture-perfect landscapes such as the mountainous bridges, beaches just across the city streets, and majestic nature that seem to emerge straight out from heaven.
Oh, did I also mention that its low crime rate landed it a spot in a solo female traveler list?
Reasons why Da Nang is a worthy place on your list:
- Offers beaches, mountains, and cities all in one place
- Low crime rate
- Clean and organized
- Many spaces for living and working
- Local foods are cheap and tasty (don't miss the street foods!)
Digital nomad score: 3.78 out of 5 (Rank #52)
WiFi speed: Fast (17 Mbps on average)
Cost of Living: $1017.12 per month
Visa: A tourist visa is required.
Read: Curious to know where else digital nomads camp? Find out what are the top 10 digital nomad destinations for 2021.
4. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
South East Asia is a haven for digital nomads—and rightfully so. Its low cost of living, rich culture, and beautiful nature have captivated nomads worldwide. And one of the underrated cities is Kota Kinabalu, located in the northern part of Borneo island.
If you're looking for a relaxing, chilled-out place to work and stay, look no further. It has amazing weather, beautiful sunsets no matter where you are in the city, and is close to some of the world's most beautiful islands.
Reasons why you should call Kota Kinabalu home for a week:
- Cheap fresh all-you-can-eat seafood
- Beautiful sunsets everywhere
- Houses one of the highest mountain in the world, Mount Kinabalu (4,095 m above sea level)
- Near to some of the most serene islands in the world: Sipadan Island, Kapalai Island, Lankayan Island, and many more
Digital nomad score: 2.45 out of 5 (Rank #146)
WiFi speed: Fast (13 Mbps on average)
Cost of Living: $832 per month
Visa: Visa is not required for stays less than 90 days.
Note: Currently Malaysia is on Travel Level 3: Reconsider Travel as declared by the US Travel Advisory due to Covid-19.
5. Oaxaca, Mexico
Most probably, the first thing that came to your mind was, "Is it safe to work and travel in Mexico?"
Although the US Travel Advisory has issued a Level 3: Reconsider Travel warning to Mexico, Oaxaca is one of the few states that get a Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution warning—which is a piece of good advice for anywhere in the world. To reassure you, a solo female traveler wrote on her blog, "I felt very safe during my visit."
Now that we've got the safety issues out the window, let's look at why Oaxaca should be your next destination:
- Unique Oaxacan cuisines for the bold and courageous (grasshoppers, fermented cacao drinks, mole sauce, and more)
- Perfect for night owls. Locals eat a late dinner and then go out afterward. Plenty of live music and vibrant scenes at night.
- A long list of cafes, bars, and restaurant—great for people-watching
- Famous for the real Mexican culture
- Despite being a small city, it has 6 co-working spaces with great nomad communities
Digital nomad score: 3.87 out of 5 (Rank #42)
WiFi speed: Fast (21 Mbps on average)
Cost of Living: $1191.10 per month
Visa: Visa is not required if the visit is less than 180 days.
Not a digital nomad yet but interested to be one? Before you jump into action, there are multiple facets you need to consider like visa, finances, community, and many more. Learn more about what are the 7 things you need to consider when becoming an expat here.