Before the pandemic, only a small community of people worked remotely while traveling. However, the number of digital nomads has exploded ever since.

The exact figure is hard to come by, but MBO Partners believes that there are 17.3 million digital nomads in the US – and there are few reasons to think that number will drop anytime soon.

As someone who has worked and traveled for the better part of a decade, it’s much easier to be a digital nomad these days. More people are doing it, the internet is more reliable across the world and many destinations are now catering to remote workers.

That said, some countries are still more accommodating than others. Here are the eight best countries to be a digital nomad.

A person is typing on a laptop while sitting outside, overlooking a lush green landscape.
Once you're set up as a digital nomad, you can work from almost anywhere © choochart choochaikupt / Getty Images

What is a digital nomad – can anyone become one?

The term “digital nomad” was first popularized by the 1997 book Digital Nomad by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners. The pair theorized that technology could allow us to return to a nomadic lifestyle. However, digital nomads didn't hit the mainstream until the late aughts when Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Work Week, inspired thousands to live and work abroad while making money in their home currency.

Since many of us had to work remotely during the pandemic, millions more have moved their home office abroad. Many have become freelancers, content creators, and entrepreneurs, while some have continued in their usual jobs, though this is less common.

Technically, anyone can become a digital nomad, but it’s much easier for those who have strong passports. That said, the term digital nomad isn't without some baggage, either. Some face accusations of avoiding taxes and showing little concern for the countries they visit. In popular remote working hubs like Mexico City and Lisbon, locals blame digital nomads for soaring housing prices and the proliferation of English speakers on their streets and in shops.

While it's possible to link global inflation, housing as a commodity, and the growth of the travel industry to these issues, digital nomads should understand their impact on the places where they stay and strive to minimize any negative effects.

A black woman at a laptop at a cafe in Florence with the city rooftosp in the background
You don't need much more than a laptop and an internet connection to work remotely © Westend61 / Getty Images

What tools do digital nomads need?

First, you’ll need a job that allows you to work remotely. Common income streams include graphic design, programming and copywriting, and many entrepreneurs can also work from anywhere. Then you’ll need a laptop or a tablet to work on. Everything else is just gravy, though you may want a few more comforts than if you were simply on a quick vacation.

Can I work from anywhere? Or do I need a digital nomad visa?

If you’re from a country with a passport that gives you easy or visa-free entry to many countries (such as Germany, Singapore, or the UK) border security probably won’t bother you if you stay for a few months on a tourist visa. Citizens of other countries may face more questions at the border, especially if they have to apply for a visa beforehand.

In the last few years, dozens of countries have attempted to bring digital nomadism out of the shady realm of tourist visas by introducing their own digital nomad visas. However, these visas can be bureaucratic and expensive, so they're not commonly used by remote workers. These visas still only make sense if you plan to stay in a country for longer than a tourist visa will allow.

If you’re traditionally employed and want to work “at home” from another country or even another state, you should get permission from your accounting department. Laws about doing business abroad often predate the internet, so countries may be able to tax you and your company if they find you working on their soil. That said, many companies will still allow you to work in another country for under 90 days since the risk remains low for short stays.

A woman sits cross-legged working on a laptop in front of a blue-tiled wall with traditional designs
Lisbon has become a magnet for digital nomads © Alexandra C. Ribeiro / Getty Images

The best countries for remote working as a digital nomad

1. Portugal

It has been said that Lisbon is this century’s Paris, with young entrepreneurs and artists congregating on its charming, hilly streets and in its adorable bars. It’s easy to see why. Lisbon has everything a digital nomad could want in a city: it’s affordable compared to other Western European countries, it has amazing cafes and coworking spaces, it’s safe, and there is an infinite number of meetups and parties.

Digital nomads began flocking to Portugal thanks to the government's friendly visa policies, which were designed to stimulate the local economy. The policies worked remarkably well – too well perhaps. Many Portuguese residents say they have been priced out of the capital.

As Lisbon continues to wrestle with gentrification, look for accommodation that’s priced for the locals. Or consider basing yourself somewhere else in Portugal.

The best place to base yourself Lisbon, Ericeira or Madeira
Top things to see Historic neighborhoods like Alfama, Castelo & Graça, Lisbon
Monthly living costs  US$3000
Desk in a co-working space US$250
One-bed rental property per month US$1300
Hotel price per night US$80
Beer US$3
Coffee US$2
Meal out for one US$13
Internet connectivity  Lisbon ranked 9th in the world for mobile speeds and 57th for fixed broadband speeds.
View from behind a person relaxing in a hammock with a laptop open, overlooking a sandy beach.
Thailand – there are way worse places to work © Cavan Images / Getty Images

2. Thailand

We’re not reinventing the wheel when we say that Thailand is a fabulous place for digital nomads. The Southeast Asian nation cradled the initial surge of digital nomads more than a decade ago, especially in the northern city of Chiang Mai, which still has a bustling community of remote workers. Spend your days in Thailand eating pad Thai and mango sticky rice, and visiting an infinite number of temples. Or maybe take this opportunity to learn to fight Muay Thai?

If you’re looking to sip coconuts on the beach, Thailand’s islands are also terrific bases for digital nomads. In particular, Kho Pha-Ngan, the island known for its Full Moon Parties, has become something a digital nomad and wellness hub.

The best place to base yourself Chiang Mai or Kho Pha-Ngan;
Top things to see Temples like Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Mai
Monthly living costs  US$800
Desk in a co-working space US$175
One-bed rental property per month US$300
Hotel price per night US$50
Beer US$2
Coffee US$1.50
Meal out for one US$2
Internet connectivity Thailand ranked 60th in the world for mobile speeds and 9th for fixed broadband speeds.
Wide shot of smiling gay couple looking at data laptop while relaxing at beach cabana at tropical resort
Sun, sea and sending emails, Mexico welcomes digital nomads © Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

3. Mexico

Mexico is a feast for the eyes and, of course, for your stomach. Tacos, chilaquiles (fried tortillas), pozole (Mexican stew with hominy, chili, meat and avocado), mole (a rich chili and chocolate sauce) – is your mouth watering yet? – tropical fruit, cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork)… we could go on. Mexico has some of the best food in the world, and it’s also very affordable. Want more? The weather in Mexico is balmy year-round, the culture is spectacular and there are several thriving digital nomad communities across the country.

If you love endless restaurant options, surprisingly green neighborhoods, and constant action akin to Brooklyn or East London, go to the capital: Mexico City. Or if you’re a beach person, backpacker hub Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca and Playa del Carmen on the Yucatán Peninsula are popular nomad hubs.

The best place to base yourself Mexico City, Puerto Escondido or Playa del Carmen
Top things to see Museo Frida Kahlo, Mexico City
Monthly living costs  US$2500
Desk in a co-working space US$200
One-bed rental property per month US$1000
Hotel price per night US$60
Beer US$3
Coffee US$2.50
Meal out for one US$8
Internet connectivity

Mexico City ranked 92nd in the world for fixed broadband speeds.

A remote worker using laptop by a pool in Bali, Indonesia
Email, pray, love – Bali is the best place to work remotely in Indonesia © GaudiLab / Getty Images

4. Indonesia

Picture yourself on a beach on an island, with mangosteen trees and magenta-painted skies... Bali is a trip. It’s a stunning tropical island with a truly fascinating culture and Instagrammable bamboo cabanas that inspired a global architectural style. It’s also the spot for healing, wellness and new-age spirituality.

As wonderful as living in Bali is, some visitors haven’t been the best guests, which has prompted the government to consider a tourism cap. There’s also the fact that you’re supporting a country that prohibits sex outside of wedlock (though not enforced for foreigners). Like a good meditation practice, being mindful of where you are, and the impact you have, is critical if you plan to be a digital nomad in Bali.

The best place to base yourself Bali
Top things to see Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfalls
Monthly living costs  US$2300
Desk in a co-working space US$200
One-bed rental property per month US$1500
Hotel price per night US$40
Beer US$3.50
Coffee US$2
Meal out for one US$5
Internet connectivity Indonesia ranked 97th in the world for mobile speeds and 126th for fixed broadband speeds.
A person sits on a high vantage point during twilight hours, working on a laptop with the city lights sprawling in the background.
Barcelona is a hot spot in Spain for digital nomads © Westend61 / Getty Images

5. Spain

If you’re deciding between Italy and Spain, opt for the latter thanks in part to its new visa that allows foreigners to live and work here for up to five years. Spain also has a more entrenched digital nomad community, especially in Barcelona where there are endless events to meet others and the type of laid-back vibe only beach cities have. You’ll also find terrific weather for much of the year and prices that are lower than in neighboring countries, especially for local necessities like cañas (beers), vino (wine), and tapas.

Off the mainland close to Africa, the Canary Islands are a burgeoning hub for digital nomads, particularly in Tenerife, which is known for its wine and surfable waves.

The best place to base yourself Barcelona or the Canary Islands
Top things to see La Sagrada Família, Barcelona
Monthly living costs  US$3000
Desk in a co-working space US$300
One-bed rental property per month US$1350
Hotel price per night US$150
Beer US$3
Coffee US$1.50
Meal out for one US$13
Internet connectivity Barcelona ranked 53rd in the world for mobile speeds and 11th for fixed broadband speeds.
A person is perched on the hood of an off-road vehicle with a laptop, with a mountainous desert landscape in the background.
Argentina is an affordable and adventure-filled place to work © Jupiterimages / Getty Images

6. Argentina

It seems that all the digital nomads are either in Buenos Aires right now or plan to go. Argentina's capital has the comforts of Europe at a fraction of the price (due, sadly, to the country’s decades-long economic crisis). Plus, it has world-renowned grass-fed beef, fluffy empanadas and scrumptious pasta. There are also ample coworking spaces and specific meetups for whatever type of interest you have – from rock music shows and tango dancing to ice-cream tasting.

If you’re going to base yourself in Buenos Aires, make sure to take some time off work to climb the peaks of Patagonia – absolutely one for the bucket list.

The best place to base yourself Buenos Aires
Top things to see El Caminito in La Boca, Buenos Aires
Monthly living costs  US$1000
Desk in a co-working space US$60
One-bed rental property per month US$550
Hotel price per night US$60
Beer US$2
Coffee US$1
Meal out for one US$8
Internet connectivity Buenos Aires ranked 101st in the world for mobile speeds and 59th for fixed broadband speeds.
A man is working on a laptop at a bar counter, with a pint of beer next to him.
Cape Town, South Africa is great for those with jobs in Europe © Hello World / Getty Images

7. South Africa

Cape Town is one of the world’s most handsome cities, with lush mountains sloping down into pristine beaches. This alone makes the city a great digital nomad hub. But Cape Town has so much more. An extremely active community of hikers who organize climbs via WhatsApp every day of the week makes this a great place to make new friends. The cost of living is also very low for many – even compared to other African cities. Those who have a job in Europe will also love the GMT+2 timezone.

If you’re in Cape Town, make sure to visit a township like Langa, where locals organize informative tours. And plan time to get out of the city to see penguins, go surfing, or do some wine tasting.

The best place to base yourself Cape Town
Top things to see Wine country, Stellenbosch
Monthly living costs  US$1500
Desk in a co-working space US$200
One-bed rental property per month US$800
Hotel price per night US$60
Beer US$4
Coffee US$2
Meal out for one US$8
Internet connectivity Cape Town ranked 67th in the world for mobile speeds and 122nd for fixed broadband speeds.
A woman lounges on a pool chair in Colombia working on a laptop, surrounded by tropical plants.
Colombia is a good alternative to Costa Rica for digital nomads © RicardoImagen / Getty Images

8. Colombia

Colombians are some of the world’s warmest people and many locals are genuinely happy to welcome foreigners to their country. That’s especially the case in Medellín, the country’s primary digital nomad hub, which has terrific cafes and coworking spaces in the principal expat neighborhoods of Poblado, Laureles, and Envigado. Make a trip up to La Comuna 13 barrio and consider volunteering.

If you’re in the mood for seaside chilling, Colombia is a more affordable alternative to Costa Rica, with a gorgeous coastline that features Cartagena, which has a vibrant Afro-Colombian culture, and the multiday Ciudad Perdida trek. Internet connection in the north, however, isn’t as reliable, so leave these destinations for your days off.

The best place to base yourself Medellín
Top things to see Ciudad Perdida
Monthly living costs  US$1500
Desk in a co-working space US$180
One-bed rental property per month US$550
Hotel price per night US$50
Beer US$2
Coffee US$1.50
Meal out for one US$8
Internet connectivity Medellín ranked 154th in the world for mobile speeds and 39th for fixed broadband speeds.

This article was first published December 2020 and updated January 2024

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