Becky Hart | Mar 23, 2023
You hear the term “digital nomad” thrown around a lot these days. We’ve even covered remote work extensively, showing you how you can take advantage of bleisure travel to make the most out of a week-long getaway without burning all your vacation time. But a week isn’t that long. What if you want to make working remotely overseas a lifestyle?
Don’t cut your adventures short. Consider this your ultimate guide to taking work — and life — on the road as a long-term digital nomad.
If you’re wondering if you can be a digital nomad in Bali, the answer is yes. Indonesia, which includes the island of Bali, is considered a top destination for long stays when working remotely. But really, there’s no single or right answer for the best country for digital nomads. Make a personal priority list and then find the place that best matches what you need and want.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Do you want to live and work in a country where everyone speaks the same language as you — it can make it easier if you need to conduct business — or do you want to use this time to immerse yourself in a totally different culture and learn a new language?
For English speakers who want to stick with English, try Australia. There will still be a bit of translation required, but at least you aren’t starting from scratch. (Note: If someone offers you a choccy biccy, say yes. It’s a chocolate cookie.)
Plus, with so much to see and do Down Under, you’ll never get bored on your weekends off. Australia also offers remote work visas for those who meet specific qualifications.
To learn a new language, try a country that could help you in your career. For example, knowing Chinese could give you a major boost professionally. A lot of it depends on your industry. Whichever language you'd like to pick up, think outside the box. You can learn Chinese in China, obviously, but also Taiwan or Singapore. In addition to Spain for Spanish, consider Peru, which has countless language academies that cater to nomads and backpackers. Wannabe German speakers can try Austria or parts of Switzerland.
Do you want to be fully on the grid or be able to escape more? You can’t go totally dark; you’re there to work, after all. But decide if you want to be in the heart of it all or can get away with being more, well, remote.
If hustle and bustle is what you want, try Japan. Head for a metropolitan hub where you get a mix of technological amenities that make remote work easy and urban life with theaters, clubs, restaurants, and cultural events to keep you busy beyond working hours.
For a more remote feel, try Malta. This Mediterranean island has a nomad residency permit to encourage more remote workers to its borders, or in this case, beaches. When staying connected is important for work, you’re in luck there, too. CIA World Factbook describes Malta as having “one of the most advanced telecom systems in Europe, with high penetration of mobile and broadband.”
Most digital nomads are solo travelers, and some remote work visas require you to be traveling alone. However, some studies estimate that 61 percent of digital nomads are married (only 31 percent of those travel with their partner full-time). Not surprisingly given the logistics of traveling long-term with children, only 26 percent of digital nomads have children 18 years old and under. Blogger Anna Everywhere says traveling with babies is easier, and being a digital nomad family gets tougher as the kids get older.
Just as you plan a vacation differently when you’re traveling with kids, you need to make special considerations if you’re going to be a digital nomad with a family. What will you do about your kids’ schooling? Will your partner also be able to find remote work to travel with you?
If your new digital nomad lifestyle includes a significant other, be open with each other about what you want out of the experience. Make sure you have the same goals and travel style, and be ready to compromise. If one of you wants the activity of Japan and the other the slower pace of Malta, like we mentioned above, it’s best to find that out before you depart. When picking a destination and setting your budget, factor in two working spaces, whether that means an extra room in an apartment or the extra fee at a co-working space. Some couples report that spending that much quality time together — living and working side by side 24/7 — wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
If the kiddos are coming too, try a country that’s similar to yours, at least to start. In other words, ease your kids into the experience, especially if they’re older. As Anna Everywhere said, babies don’t know they’re in another country. Your pre-teen will.
It’s common to get advice about considering the cost of living when deciding where you can work as a digital nomad. How much will rent or accommodations cost? What’s the price of food? Of transportation? If you aren’t sure how to figure out the cost of living, try a site like Numbeo.
On top of that, don’t forget to factor in the cost of working. Figure out what kind of working environment you need and then start doing the math on what those expenses are. For example, if you want to find a co-working space where you can collaborate with fellow digital nomads, is there a membership or fee to be part of that community? If you’re going to get an apartment and work from home, albeit a foreign one, will you need to buy a desk or other office furniture to stay productive? Maybe you decide you need to rent a furnished apartment with space for an office. How will that increase your monthly expenses? What about getting a printer or other technology?
Remember that you’re doing this long-term. And if you’re staying in one place the whole time, it might be a worthy investment to get the comfy desk chair. Just make sure you budget for it.
One study found that half of digital nomads preferred to stay at a hotel, but if you’re working remotely long-term, that might not be economically feasible. That same study reported that 36 percent opted for Airbnb or similar rentals.
If you’ve booked an Airbnb or Vrbo for a microcation, you know how this works. Make sure the property has the space and furnishings you need, but also research the location. Even using Google street view can help. Take a virtual stroll around the neighborhood to see if it looks clean and safe, or to find out what restaurants and stores might be nearby.
Many people take up the digital nomad lifestyle to save money while traveling. For that reason, you might find a lot of digital nomads at hostels. These inexpensive accommodations can free up your budget if you want to pay down your debt, pay for a dedicated co-working space, or have more cash for sightseeing in your spare time. If you’re concerned about the security of your laptop or other company technology when you aren’t around, though, a hostel might not be for you.
For those planning to stay in one spot and get the expatriate vibe, an apartment could be a good choice, especially if you can find one that’s furnished. You can search real estate sites online, just as you would in the U.S. Another option is to check with local colleges or universities. They often arrange long-term housing for visiting professors, so they may be able to put you in touch with a reputable agency.
It’s important to note that some countries have restrictions on non-citizens renting or owning property, so double-check the regulations before you hand over a down payment.
If you pick a hub where you’ll find loads of other digital nomads, you might be able to find one of these co-working/co-living spaces all rolled into one. The accommodations will likely be pretty basic, but you’ll get a place to work and sleep with a neighborhood flair. Consider booking a space that’s locally owned so your money goes directly back to the community.
Sometimes the appeal of becoming a digital nomad is escaping the paper-shuffling monotony of the office. When you’re working abroad for the long-term, though, there’s going to be a bit of extra paperwork, at least at the beginning. Long-term international stays often require a visa. And if you’re going to work in another country, even if your boss is back home, you might be expected to have something beyond a tourist visa.
Some of the best places for digital nomads right now are the ones that make it easy. Countries like Antigua & Barbuda are still trying to rebound from losing tourism income during COVID-19. As a result, the Caribbean island started a Nomad Digital Residence visa to encourage digital nomads to work from their shores. The visa is good for two years for any remote worker who can prove they have the means to support themselves and who has travel or health insurance.
Other countries are playing up their strengths and attracting digital nomads in certain sectors of industry. Estonia, for example, is known as a hub for successful start-up businesses and young entrepreneurs, and in 2020 became the first country to offer a full Digital Nomad Visa specifically for location-independent workers.
You’ll also find companies that can help you navigate the bureaucracy and paperwork. WorkMango specializes in helping people become digital nomads in the Caribbean. They provide long-term visa assistance while also arranging accommodations for living and working in the islands. Your membership also earns you a spot in a global community of others living out the same dream.
Trips of any length need travel insurance, but when you’re going to be overseas for several months or longer, having protection for your financial investment or your health can have even greater benefits. You won’t just be protecting the fun excursions of a vacation. You’re also protecting your ability to work from anywhere.
“The travel insurer’s primary role is to ensure their customers receive insurance benefits and assistance when they need it. For someone spending months or years working on the road, this is key,” Seven Corners president Jeremy Murchland wrote in International Travel Insurance Journal in May 2021. “A travel protection plan that includes coverage for emergency medical expenses and evacuations, trip interruption and cancellation, and even lost luggage, are assets to a digital nomad.”
It’s also important to remember that many countries require travel insurance. All European countries in the Schengen Zone require international visitors to have proof of travel medical insurance if they plan to stay for more than 90 days. Some other countries have similar requirements.
Some travel medical plans provide coverage up to 364 days, while some trip protection provides coverage up to 180 days. Contact our sales team to get the right plan for your digital nomad adventure.
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