7 cool and affordable destinations for digital nomads
As a digital nomad, you certainly want to find the coolest and most affordable destinations for your next big adventure. Well, you’d be surprised to see how many destinations you can pick from. Whether you prefer big city lights, artistic streets or sandy beaches, this list has got you covered. Just pick a city, book your spot and start packing!
I’ll break the rules and start with my absolute favorite. Barcelona is everything a laid-back digital nomad looks for: a gorgeous city by the sea, with a convenient transport system and a variety of things to do all year long. It’s relatively safe to wander around (well, it has been a terrorist target once in the recent past) and it’s a totally walkable city.
The weather in Barcelona is a typical mediterranean weather. The winter is mild (the sea helps a lot) and the summer is hot hot hot! It can get very humid during the summer months. I may be biased, because I love this city, but it’s an awesome all-year-long destination, weather-wise.
I must admit that Barcelona is crazy expensive for tourists. Having been multiple times there as a tourist, I haven’t stayed in a hotel that cost me less than €200/night. However, it can be quite cheap if you decide to become a resident, that’s why it made it to this list of affordable destinations.
The cost of living varies, but trust me, you can score a very good rental deal for as little as €650/month. If you decide to flatshare, the rent can down to €350/month. Not bad, right?
On top of that, add the bills, the most expensive of which would be the fibre optic internet bill at around €60/month. As for the rest, the electricity, water and gas could be less than €30/month each.
Generally, transport cost is low. A metro travel card can cost up to €43.50/month and covers metro, tram, suburban train (Rodalies) and bus.
Grocery shopping cost is also low, as well as entertainment. For example, a glass of beer can cost as low as €2.5 and a cup of coffee goes up to €2.5, too.
I highly recommend Ciutat Vella (Old Town), which is very central in the heart of Barcelona. The biggest downside is the limited parking, but why would you need a car when you live so close to everything?
Another lovely neighborhood is Sant Martí, a gorgeous place with easy access to the beach. It’s not as central as Ciutat Vella, but it’s very well connected to downtown Barcelona.
Gràcia is also a very good option, although it’s up on the hill. It’s where Gaudi’s Park Guell is, so it’s kinda hard to walk that bit of the city (unless you’re the athletic type). It’s lovely though and the views are breathtaking.
Finally, Horta-Guinardó is the ideal neighborhood, for those who need peace and quite. It’s full of old baroque buildings and has got a character. It’s not my favorite, as I prefer to feel the city buzz, but it’s very cheap and very well-connected to the city center. Definitely, worth looking into.
The entire city vibrates day and night. It’s amazing how many things you can do throughout the day, without getting bored. The locals are super-friendly and very chatty, while the tourists are all around, adding to that city buzz. One walk up and down La Rambla can confirm that. It’s one of the cities where I found it extremely easy to socialize and never felt lonely for a single second. Barcelona seems to have the whole package.
Medellin is one of the cheapest and, to my surprise, safest destinations for digital nomads. You’ve probably heard of Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord. During his time, Medellin was a very dangerous place. However a lot of things changed for the better, after Escobar’s era was over. Nowadays, it’s a lovely, homey city that’s very affordable and attractive to digital nomads.
Medellin is also known as “The City of Eternal Spring” and that, my friend, sums up its weather situation perfectly. A year in Medellin consists of 2 seasons: dry and rainy. The temperature is warm and consistent throughout the year and the rainfalls highly predictable.
Get ready to be shocked, because the housing cost in Medellin goes down to $550/month*. The utilities do not exceed $100/month and the Internet bill is about $26/month. On top of that, the average monthly grocery basket will cost you less than $150 and I’m being very generous here.
Transportation is also very cheap; a monthly ticket costs $37 and covers buses and trains. Getting around is very easy, by the way. Medellin has got a metro system, the only one in Colombia, and its network is pretty good.
Now for that glass of beer you were wondering how much it will cost you, I’ve got an answer for you. *drumroll* It’s lower than $2! A cup of coffee it’s slightly more expensive, though. Let’s face it, it’s Colombia we’re talking about and colombian coffee is top quality, so it’s worth the extra, very few cents.
*Disclaimer: the local currency is the Colombian Peso, but let’s do all calculations in US Dollars to make the costs more comprehensible
Let’s get one thing straight: living anywhere in Medellin is cheap. So, it’s really about which the coolest neighborhoods are. El Poblado is, hands down, the coolest. The main reason for that is that it’s been developed for travelers, a.k.a. digital nomads. It has some of the trendiest spots of Medellin and attracts the coolest crowds.
Another cool neighborhood is Envigado, an area very similar to El Poblado but slightly toned down. It’s quieter, greener and, generally, full of life.
Medellin is cool, day and night, offering standard amenities and entertainment options. You’ll find so many digital nomads around, it’s shocking! But it makes the city even cooler, since you’ll end up making tons of friends with common interests. Do not expect the perks of a big city, like late night food shops and fancy nightclubs, though. The city certainly is big, but it has a less stressful character. Medellin generally represents the latin american kind of cool, which is essentially stripped off the big city anxieties and living in the moment.
3. Chiang Mai
I feel that this city needs no introduction. If you are a digital nomad or an aspiring digital nomad, you’ve most likely heard of Chiang Mai and its popularity in the digital nomad community. It’s a classic. If it was a movie, it would be The Godfather. Its prices are unbeatable, its vibe is on fire and the overall experience it offers to digital nomads is beyond any expectation.
In summary, April is the hottest month in Chang Mai with an average temperature of 30°C (86°F) and the coldest is December at 22°C (71°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 9 in December. The wettest month is August with an average of 200mm of rain. [Source: holiday-weather.com]
Get ready to get your minds blown because the average monthly rent in Chiang Mai is around $400**! Oh, yes! The average monthly bills reach the ridiculous price of $50 and the monthly transportation cost is up to $33.
Shopping for food is disturbingly cheap; prepared to get fat. Coffee and beer cost around $2 per cup/glass, but you can find it even cheaper. Prepared to get drunk, too.
Bonus point: gym membership will cost you no more than $50. So, you can lose that extra fat and that beer belly, after all.
**Disclaimer: the local currency is the Baht, but let’s do all calculations in US Dollars to make the costs more comprehensible
Nimmanhaemin is the hottest (as in trendiest) area of Chiang Mai and attracts the coolest folks and most digital nomads. It has the most upscale amenities and is, without a doubt, the most lively area of the city. Most condos are contemporary (and crazy cheap, in case you forgot). If I had to pick just one neighborhood, that’d be it. Enough said.
Yes, let’s talk about Nimmanhaemin once again. This area is where all the action happens. Be it a boozy night-out, an all-you-can-eat dinner or a visit to an art gallery, all you need is there. Prepare yourself to be carried away by the city buzz and make some new drunk friends. Some action also happens in the Old City, but that’s very very crowded, full of tourists, so don’t get your hopes too high.
The Elephant Sanctuary is a must-visit place. Book a tour and enjoy this experience to the fullest. And be respectful of our giant friends.
4. Kuala Lumpur
Unlike Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur is not a popular digital nomad hub, despite being one of the most affordable destinations for our community. It combines the comforts of a big city and a very low cost of living, which makes this pretty capital an unbeatable value for money.
One of the greatest things about Kuala Lumpur is how well-connected it is to the rest of the world. Its location is pretty central in Asia and you can easily get to nearby countries, like Singapore and Thailand.
The weird thing about Kuala Lumpur is the fact that the coldest and hottest months are so close to each other (January and March respectively), while the rest of the year is warm and pleasant. Avoid visiting during October, November or December, unless you like the rain. All. Day. Long.
The monthly rent of a very decent furnished condo barely exceeds $500***. The bills average at $45/month and for your internet you’ll pay around $31.
Transportation is also affordable, with a monthly ticket costing $39 and covering trains and buses. If you ever get hungry, you’re in luck because food and basic need costs are very low.
Going out every day (and night) will not break the bank; the prices are ridiculously low. A good, filling dinner for 2 will cost you less than $20 and a glass of beer only $5. So 4 glasses will cost only a $20 dollar bill.
***Disclaimer: the local currency is the Ringgit, but let’s do all calculations in US Dollars to make the costs more comprehensible
The City Center is, obviously, the most lively part of the city, where all the crazy stuff happens. It’s the number 1 choice for expats. Basically, it gives off this feeling of belonging somewhere and it’s got everything you need to get by. And it’s got some very affordable condos to rent.
Bangsar is also a good choice. It’s a quiet neighborhood, but it’s very well-organized and it’s very cosy. Prices are a tiny bit higher there; don’t expect too much, though. It’s ideal for families, so if you go on your own, stick to the City Center.
It’s a big fancy city with many high-rise buildings and it’s very impressive city lights. Kuala Lumpur happens to have a diverse mix of cultures and ethnicities and that exactly is what makes it so irresistible. Generally, it’s a huge metropolis that hosts countless communities for every taste or conviction. You won’t be bored. Whatever you can do in a big city like New York, you can do it in Kuala Lumpur, too.
5. Puerto Escondido
Instagram has possibly brainwashed you and when you think of Mexico, Tulum comes to your mind. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Tulum! Tulum is great! Thumbs up for Tulum. However, it’s a tourist attraction, therefore terribly expensive.
On the other side of Mexico, in the region of Oaxaca, there’s a beach destination, which is surprisingly cheap. It’s name is Puerto Escondido. It’s not very popular or, at least, I haven’t seen it that much featured in the travel industry. What’s so great about it is, obviously, the fact that it combines the perks of a summer vacay with a low cost of living. Mark my words, this place is gonna be very hot in the digital nomad community soon.
Puerto Escondido is a tropical place, which means it is hot and humid all year long. Expect the wet season to last from end of May until beginning of October, with rainfalls presenting an extreme variation month to month.
If you fancy a nice beach condo in Puerto Escondido, it will cost you around $800/month†. Compared to the rest of Mexico, that’s a bargain; it’s one of the most affordable destinations over there. To be honest, compared to other beach cities, it’s still a bargain. Utilities will cost you up to the incredible amount of $25/month and your internet about the same. Crazy, right?
Transport is almost $17/month but don’t expect a variety of means. The good thing is that the city is walkable. Well, at least, if you like walking in the heat. I do. It burns more calories, too.
Your basic monthly needs can be covered at a very very low cost, which is surprising, considering Puerto Escondido is a tourist attraction (like most places in Mexico). Don’t think twice about embarking on a wild night-out with plenty of margaritas. At the price of $3.50/glass, who would resist! Come on, drink up. Bottoms up!
† Disclaimer: the local currency is the Ringgit, but let’s do all calculations in US Dollars to make the costs more comprehensible
Most neighborhoods in the Oaxacan coast are divine. Playa Zicatela is the most popular (and fanciest). It ‘s claimed to have the world’s best surf beach. If you’re a surf fan, you probably know it. It’s posh without being pretentious. Don’t expect a big city, but rather a nice little beach town with character.
The crowd is awesome. Everyone is very friendly and easy-going and many expats live around, so get ready to make some cool new friends. The area has every various amenities and is not quiet at all. It’s ideal for those who like the buzz, coming either from the crowds or the waves.
Bali is an absolute favorite destination. Ubud a popular area, that Instagram brought to the spotlight. In a nutshell, it’s a gorgeous and super-cheap destination with terrible wi-fi. Digital nomads love it and I don’t blame them. Living surrounded by the wild nature is as dreamy as it sounds like.
Ubud is in the southern hemisphere, which means that its hottest month is January and its coldest is July. It’s a tropical destination, so it’s pleasant all year round. The temperatures are consistently high. Avoid visiting in January, February, March and December, unless you like heavy afternoon showers. It’s driest during June, July and August and it’s the ideal time to visit.
The rent depends on whether the villa you put your eye on is fancy or not, its size and the size of its pool. A descent one with a pool can cost from $400†† to $2,500/month. Digital nomads tend to stick to the lower end of this range and score some really good condos. The bills do not exceed $30/month and they’re usually included in the rent.
Transport is no good, so you’d better rent a car or motorbike. That can cost you $50-100/month. Your monthly shopping will not cost you more than $100. Also, you’ll be privileged to shop natural, organic food at a low price, which I think is a big plus, if you’re into that lifestyle.
†† Disclaimer: the local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah, but let’s do all calculations in US Dollars to make the costs more comprehensible
The City Center is the most popular. Everything is at a close distance. It’s also the most crowded area of Ubud.
Most digital nomads prefer Penestanan, which is quiet and gorgeous. The villas are lavish and the nature is a work of art. This area is also popular in the yoga industry, as many retreats take place there.
There’s not much to do in Ubud. You’ll basically live in the wild wild jungle along with friendly animals. It will be quiet and at times crowded. Ubud is a hot tourist destination; do not forget that.
Lisbon is a beautiful European capital with character and low prices. It’s no surprise that it’s among the most affordable destinations in the world. Digital nomads prefer it because it combines a high living standard with a low cost. Besides, it’s got great internet speed, which is kinda crucial for the average digital remote worker.
Lisbon is the average european city where the weather is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It’s a popular travel destination throughout the year, especially in the summer, since it’s by the ocean. However, if you plan on swimming there, even in the summer, you should expect the water to be coooolddd!
The monthly rent is a little over €800, which is considered affordable for a european capital. Well, if you compare it to the asian cities above, then yeah, it’s kind of a lot, but if you think about it, it’s not that bad. Utilities cost around €100/month and internet is around €27/month.
A monthly public transport ticket can cost €39 and covers bus, tram, funicular and metro travel. Your basic needs can be covered at the reasonable cost of €150. A gym membership is not gonna break the bank either; it’s only around €42/month.
There’s a lot to do in Lisbon, so if you like having fun with friends (who doesn’t!), then you should expect €2-3 for a coffee or beer or a bit more (up to €8) for a fancy cocktail. If you’re the romantic type, the gastro-scene of Lisbon is pretty strong and you should be spending about €30 for a descent dinner for two.
Bairro Alto in central Lisbon is a favorite. It’s a popular choice for the young crowds, attracting a lot of hipsters. It’s got the loudest nightlife and all the good stuff. It’s not very clean, though. But there’s no doubt that you’ll be close to everything, if you choose to live there.
Baixa is also very popular and lively, mainly during the day. It’s in the lower part of the city, full of shops and tourist attractions.
Like every european capital, Lisbon is a big city with great architecture and awesome climate (bonus point: the fact that’s it’s by the ocean). Naturally, tourists from all over the world simply love it. It’s got many attractions, a great nightlife, awesome restaurants where you can find the finest seafood and an excellent transportation system. I think Lisbon is big and small at the same time. It’s a fascinating destination.
Try them all
Not all of the above recommendations may be in your bucket list, but they’re all totally worth visiting. The living and working conditions are ideal for a digital nomad. Besides, their cost is basically screaming at you “try me! try me!”
I bet at least one of them is to your taste. So, give them a shot and let me know if I was wrong about them.