Thanks to the Internet and increasing opportunities for remote working, more people can move abroad and live like “digital nomads.”
These are people who telecommute and live nomadic lifestyles — spending as much time as they’d like in cities of their choosing.
Digital nomads earn a living, many of them in the tech industry among many different sectors. Contrary to popular opinion, they’re not out on the beach or on Instagram all the time. Digital nomads have their own Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members and a Reddit group which has 25,000 subscribers. Digital nomad conferences are held in Asia and Europe. “Before that it was a tiny fringe scene,” says Pieter Levels, a Dutch programmer who has worked remotely from different cities for the last three years. “Now it’s actually becoming a normal thing and it’s a popular topic among my (non-nomad) friends. People are up for it.”
In 2014, Levels started a site called Nomad List, a website that crowdsources information to share with fellow nomads.
Over the years, people have contributed their thoughts on topics like the weather, how much English is spoken, safety, Wi-Fi and monthly cost of living across hundreds of cities.
The results are these 10 most popular cities for digital nomads, based on real-time check-ins on Nomad List.
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
This mountainous city perpetually ranks at the top for digital nomads as a calm place to work and play.
“It’s the perfect combination of low costs of living, stable Wi-Fi, friendly people and community,” says Johnny Jen, who left his corporate job in California to move to Chiang Mai.
“There’s also a ton of culture, great food, warm weather, a great coffee scene and all of the comforts of a big city while having a laid back, easygoing vibe.”
Depending on how well you budget, you can live on $600 to $1,500 a month, says Jen, who blogs about Chiang Mai living.
According to users, the city is very safe and boasts a number of co-working spaces.
As for downsides, it ranks poorly for nightlife — it’s a quiet city.
Monthly estimated costs: $963
2. Bangkok, Thailand
With a bustling nightlife, Bangkok is a stark contrast to quiet Chiang Mai.
Bangkok “has all of the big city perks,” says Jen. Nomads found the city extremely affordable, with a basic meal costing on average $2.27.
But digital nomads haven’t been impressed with the air quality and weather — it can get hot.
Monthly estimated costs: $1,439
3. London, UK
With its increasingly sophisticated start-up scene and crazy amount of activities, London is a major draw for digital nomads.
The digital nomads love the lively nightlife but don’t care for the air quality.
However, the cost of living is high and the dust has yet to settle from last week’s game-changing vote for the UK to quit the EU.
Monthly estimated costs: $3,264
4. Berlin, Germany
This is a more affordable Western Europe route.
The city draws a younger, start-up crowd. People who stay in Berlin ranked it highly for a great quality of life, safety and friendliness.
The downside is that central heating and air conditioning is not Germany’s forte. Prepare to sweat.
Monthly estimated costs: $2,323
5. San Francisco, USA
Your wallet will get much slimmer here, but at least you’ll have new memories.
San Francisco has the highest rent in the United States, with an average one-bedroom apartment going for $3,590. You might be sharing it with more housemates than you ever thought possible.
But San Francisco’s charms can’t be denied with its high ratings for quality of life, Wi-Fi and nightlife.
Monthly estimated costs: $4,523
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Start-ups are increasing in this city along with more innovative co-working spaces.
Nomads love the nightlife, the overall friendliness and the air quality.
But settling in Amsterdam is not necessarily cheap.
Monthly estimated costs: $3,628
7. Prague, Czech Republic
It’s hard to beat the scenery of Prague with its majestic architecture and historic streets.
The city was highly rated for being friendly to women, great nightlife and entertainment.
But it scored poorly for air quality, racial tolerance and English-speaking.
Monthly estimated costs: $2,179
8. Hong Kong
Start-up entrepreneurs find Hong Kong an easy place to set up shop, thanks to business-friendly policies.
With scenic skyscrapers and more dim sum than you know what to do with, digital nomads rank the city highly for great Internet, weather and abundance of air conditioning.
However, it ranks poorly for air quality.
Monthly estimated costs: $1,825
9. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The city formerly known as Saigon has becoming increasingly popular with digital nomads.
This fast-paced metropolis ranks well in affordability, but finding people who speak English can be tricky and the Internet can be spotty.
Monthly estimated costs: $732
10. Tokyo, Japan
Crammed with food, culture, cutting-edge technology and efficient public transit, you can’t really get bored in Tokyo.
But the language barrier can be a challenge.
Monthly estimated costs: $2,755