This doesn’t have to be just a fantasy; if you work for yourself or can get your employer to agree to let you telecommute, these countries and five others are the best places for remote workers to live — or at least to travel to on an extended working vacation.
Their low cost of living means your earnings go further as a digital nomad, and you can more easily afford to save money than while living in America.
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How we chose the best countries to work remotely
- Cost of living: Some of the most popular travel destinations in the world are also some of the most expensive, so remote workers on a budget need to find a place with a low cost of living and affordable housing. We evaluated the 2018 Cost of Living Index by InterNations, a global expat network. We also looked at their index of the best and worst cities for expats, which factors in numerous other financial aspects and quality of life.
- Safety: Unfortunately, some countries that have a low cost of living also have higher levels of poverty and crime. We reviewed Gallup’s index of the safest — and least secure — countries. While Mexico had the second lowest cost of living in InterNations’ ranking, it also showed up on Gallup’s list as the country with the ninth worst “law and order” ranking in the world, so we removed it from consideration. We also looked at the International SOS map of countries with travel risks and eliminated countries with risk ratings of medium or higher, such as Colombia and the Philippines. We only kept destinations with no or low risk to travelers since it’s not optimal to stress about your safety while working abroad as a digital nomad.
- Internet speed: For digital nomads and other remote workers, a solid internet connection isn’t optional. So we reviewed an index by British company Cable.co.uk of countries with the fastest upload and download speeds. We also looked at a list of countries with the best Wi-Fi compiled by telecommunications company Ooma.
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How to land a job in the cheapest places for digital nomads
Unless you’ve amassed enough savings to travel long periods without working, you’ll need to find a way to make money as a digital nomad. Traveling and living or working in another country can sound like a dream, but be aware that most countries require you to obtain a work visa if you want to work for local businesses. Depending on the country, this can be a difficult task. Because of that, many American travelers find it easier to land a telecommute-friendly job based in the United States or work for themselves as a freelancer for clients based back home.
One of the best places to find remote jobs, both full-time and part-time, is job site FlexJobs.com. While the site requires a small subscription fee, they find and curate listings for flexible jobs, many of which are location-independent. If you want to go the freelance route and don’t have any leads, consider looking for gigs on Upwork.com.
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Why it’s among the best: Ecuador is one of the safest countries in South America, with a low cost of living and stunning landscape.
If you want to practice your Spanish while working remotely from another country, Ecuador could be the place for you. Home of the unique Galapagos Islands and ancient Incan history, the small country of Ecuador has the sixth lowest cost of living in the world, according to InterNations’ index. Ecuador is one of the countries in South America with the fewest safety risks for travelers, according to International SOS. Visas aren’t required from Americans for under 90 days within a 12-month period.
While the country’s mobile connectivity isn’t as good as in other countries, Ecuador’s capital of Quito could be a great place to work if you want some hustle and bustle. But the country’s diverse terrain also features gorgeous Pacific coastline, the Andes Mountains and tropical Amazonian rainforests, making it a wonderful place to work remotely for outdoorsy, adventurous types.
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Why it’s among the best: Malaysia is a culturally rich country with affordable living and the bustling, modern metropolis of Kuala Lumpur.
While you may be drawn to the beaches of Southeast Asia, the country of Malaysia also has much to offer digital nomads. Kuala Lumpur, the modern capital of Malaysia, is ranked by InterNations as the second best city in the world for expats, partly due to the ease of getting settled there and affordable housing options. There are also numerous coworking options in the area.
Malaysia also has the 30th fastest internet in the world, according to the Cable.co.uk analysis. You don’t need to obtain a tourist visa if you’ll be here for fewer than 90 days.
Malaysia is also a diverse country with rich culture; digital nomads working here will not only enjoy affordable living but also delicious cuisine, beautiful scenery and rich history to explore.
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Why it’s among the best: This gorgeous country is the most affordable in Western Europe, with excellent internet quality, many coworking spaces and delicious food and wine.
As a Western European country, Portugal is a little more expensive than some of the others on the list. But according to the InterNations cost of living index, Portugal is the most affordable country in Western Europe, coming in as the country with the 11th lowest cost of living worldwide (just before Spain). Additionally, it’s one of the top 20 countries with the best public Wi-Fi, according to Ooma, and in the Cable.co.uk analysis, it was the nation with the 32nd fastest broadband speed worldwide, so you shouldn’t run into internet issues here. No visas are needed for visits to Portugal under 90 days.
The country is known for its mild, sunny weather, hundreds of miles of coastline and beaches, delicious cuisine (lots of seafood!) and superb wines, including its famous port. Lisbon, the colorful capital of Portugal, is ranked by InterNations as the sixth best city in the world for expats and is teeming with jaw-dropping architecture, art and historical sites.
As an emerging tech and startup hub, Portugal has an increasing number of coworking spaces that make it one of the best places for digital nomads.
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Why it’s among the best: Vietnam is popular among digital nomads for its affordability and friendly locals — not to mention its yummy cuisine.
In the InterNations index, Vietnam is ranked as the country with the third lowest cost of living, meaning a little money goes a long way here for digital nomads. The organization also ranked one of Vietnam’s major cities, Ho Chi Minh City, as the third best city in the world for expats, in large part due to its affordable housing and friendly population.
While it’s not ranked as high on the internet speed charts, Vietnam is one of the countries with the fastest internet growth speeds in recent years, according to Ooma. Note that you are required to obtain a visa to enter the country, adding a little bit of a headache factor, but it’s a beloved place for American travelers that’s considered low risk by International SOS.
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Why it’s among the best: This underestimated country has the lowest cost of living worldwide and some of the fastest internet speeds.
Bulgaria may not be the first place you think of for a journey abroad, but this Eastern European gem is a wonderful place to work overseas and stretch your dollars. Of all nations worldwide, InterNations found that as of 2018, Bulgaria has the very lowest cost of living, which will make it easy to save money. Additionally, Ooma ranks Bulgaria as one of the top 20 countries in the world with the best public Wi-Fi. No tourist visa is required if you stay for under 90 days.
Bulgaria is known for its gorgeous coastline along the Black Sea in addition to picturesque mountains where you can go skiing. The country has a diverse population and is rich in history and stunning architecture. Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, is a busy urban destination that makes it one of the best cities for digital nomads. It also has a unique East-meets-West feel due to its Soviet-Era history.
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Why it’s among the best: Affordable living, beautiful scenery and a large expat community make Thailand a popular destination for digital nomads.
Postcard-worthy beaches, delicious street food and a huge expat community; what more could you ask for in a location for digital nomads? Chiang Mai has been a popular spot for travel bloggers and digital nomads for many years, in large part due to its low cost of living and large expat community. In the InterNations index for cost of living, Thailand comes in fourth worldwide, so if you’re earning American dollars from remote work, your money will go far here.
You won’t need a tourist visa if you stay for less than 30 days, though you can easily get one for two or three months if you’d like to stay longer. While its internet speeds aren’t remarkable, they have been increasing more quickly than most other countries, according to Ooma.
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Why it’s the best: With the world’s fastest internet, low cost of living and no visa requirement, Taiwan tops the list for the best places to live for digital nomads.
Digital nomads require reliable internet, which can be harder to find in less developed (and more affordable) countries. But Taiwan’s technology infrastructure is on point: According to Cable.co.uk’s analysis, this East Asian country has the fastest internet speeds in the world. Taiwan also has dozens upon dozens of coworking spaces, making it an ideal location for digital nomads who want to get outside of their Airbnb or hotel room and meet locals.
Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is ranked by InterNations as the top international city for expats due to its high quality of life, affordable housing and a great work/life balance. In its cost of living index, InterNations ranked Taiwan as the 10th most affordable country in the world. You also don’t need a visa if you’re an American traveler staying for less than 90 days, making the logistics of traveling easier than many other countries in Asia.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this report.