Top 7 Digital Nomad Destinations in 2018
Digital nomads rarely stay in the same location for too long, but as much as this is a benefit of the lifestyle, it also poses a regular, very common problem:
Where to go next!?
As an experienced digital nomad, I’m going to share some of my favorite destinations that can be easily overlooked.
Everyone seems to know places like Bali are go-to digital nomad hotspots. But there's so much more to see in the world!
After 15 years of traveling through over 50 countries as a digital nomad, I've compiled a list of 7 of my favorite places, along with reasons why I think they’re worth visiting.
First, though, here are my criteria for ranking the destinations:
COST: The destinations on this list have a varied average cost of living, but they all have one thing in common: a high quality of life.
SAFETY: Each destination must have a good standing and be ranked before the US in the Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 163 countries on 23 indicators of safety and security (with 1 exception). FYI, the U.S. ranks near the bottom, at 121.
INTERNET: High-speed internet must be widely available.
PLACES TO WORK: There should be co-working and/or co-living options available.
ENTRY/EXIT: Must have easy visa policies.
Now let’s get to the list.
Bulgaria has probably never crossed your mind, but it is practically designed for the digital nomad lifestyle. Bulgaria checks all the boxes:
Extremely low cost of living, lower than SE Asia for sure.
Consistently ranks among countries with the fastest internet speeds in the world. You can get 1GB download and 100MB upload speeds for less than €15 per month.
It's a super safe country that provides great co-working spaces in towns like Sofia, Plovdiv and Bansko.
As a bonus, Bulgaria is in the EU but not in the Schengen. So, this is a great option for people who want to stay in Europe but ran out of days on their Schengen visa. I'm actually here right now! Bulgaria has 4 distinct seasons, so whether you like summer or winter sports, this is the place to be.
Sofia airport also offers cheap direct flights to tons of places in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East.
GPI Ranking: 26/163
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Playa is just one of those places that everyone loves. Maybe it's the white sand beaches, clear blue water or endless bottles of tequila on every corner, but it appeals to everyone.
I really like Playa as a digital nomad destination because it's safe, fun, affordable and everything is super convenient. You're never more than a 5-10 min walk from the beach and amenities. Bars, restaurants, and clubs are open 24 hours, and there's a large expat population plus co-working spaces where you can make friends.
Although pockets of crime and violence unfortunately bring Mexico’s overall GPI score down, it’s a huge country. After having traveled through Mexico from coast to coast, I don’t think it’s fair to judge international hubs like Playa and Cancun by the broader GPI score, as tourist areas are generally accepted as very safe.
I’ve been traveling to Mexico alone or with friends (both driving and flying) since I was 18 years old, and I’ve never felt like I had to look over my shoulder.
The only downsides to Playa are the weather, which can be fickle, and the heat, which can result in a bit of a “mañana” attitude and a high electricity bill. Also, the internet can definitely be inconsistent with spotty coverage. Either way, digital nomads tend to go there and stay there, so obviously they're making the most of it.
Mexico also offers a flexible 180-day tourist visa that allows re-entries, which is helpful for citizens who can enter on just a passport. Cancun is the closest airport and it's only 30 or 40 min from Playa on a paved road. Luckily, it's also one of the busiest airports in Latin America with the most international flights.
Not to be cliché, but if you like beaches, siestas, and cerveza, Playa del Carmen could be a great place for you. It literally looks like a postcard.
GPI Ranking: 140
I've spent a solid 8 years of my life in Costa Rica, and I think it's a great option for digital nomads. Even though it's a very small country, there's so much to do that you'll never get bored. Whether you prefer city living or a laid-back beach lifestyle, Costa Rica has something for everyone.
It's known as the Switzerland of Central America because it doesn't have an army. While that sounds nice, it has created some safety and security drawbacks. On the plus side, though, that has actually resulted in a melting pot of local residents. So, you'll easily meet people from all over the world.
Many people come for a short trip and never leave. There are more than 15 local airports, so you can fly anywhere in the country in less than an hour.
The infrastructure has improved a lot in recent years. High-speed Wi-Fi can be found almost everywhere now. For more on Costa Rica, check out my digital nomad destinations video right here!
GPI Ranking: 40
Poland is such an underrated destination. It has a low cost of living, super nice people and, of course, very fast internet. Co-working spaces are available in all the main cities, with the country offering a nice balance of history, culture, nature, and nightlife. There are even beaches!
Its central location in Europe makes it easy to get around for day trips.
The only problem with Poland is deciding where to live since there are so many wonderful cities to choose from. Also, the winters can be cold and rainy, but besides that, I might never leave.
GPI Ranking: 32
Even though Holland isn't the cheapest place to live, I find it to be optimal for life as a digital nomad. Every city has a unique vibe, laid-back attitude and innovative start-up culture and tech scene.
I really love how easy it is to live in the Netherlands. Everything is clean, organized, reliable and just works. For transportation, you can walk, bike, take the tram, metro, bus or train. It's easy to get around the country and hop on a high-speed train to London or Paris, for example.
Amsterdam airport is one of my favorites in the world, and it's also the most important European hub, which makes it convenient to get just about anywhere.
The only issue with the Netherlands is the high cost of living and fickle weather.
GPI Ranking: 23
Canada might not be the most exotic digital nomad destination, but it's old faithful, in my opinion. Everyone knows Canadians are the nicest and most polite people around, but besides that, it's just a pleasant place to be.
If you're on a budget, definitely check out the border towns or city suburbs. Canada consistently ranks above average in pretty much every quality of life index: housing, security, well-being, environment, healthcare and more. The internet speeds are amongst the top in the world, and there are all sorts of co-working spaces including WeWork.
The only cons to living in Canada are the long winters and the high cost of living in the downtown metro areas.
GPI Ranking: 6
No digital nomad destinations list would be complete without Thailand. The low cost of living, beautiful coastline and uber fast internet have made it somewhat of a digital nomad hub. In fact, Thailand consistently ranks as having some of the fastest internet speeds in the world.
Chiang Mai is a veritable digital nomad capital, with events and conferences year-round and possibly more co-working spaces per square kilometer than anywhere else. It’s a great place to socialize and meet other like-minded people.
Whether you want to live on a tropical island like Koh Phangan, in the capital city of Bangkok or the mountains to the north, Thailand offers a diverse landscape to suit almost any digital nomad preference.
Cheap and plentiful Thai food also deserves a mention!
The main downsides to living in Thailand are the tropical heat, sketchy visa and residency situation and rainy or burn seasons that make places like Chiang Mai only habitable for part of the year.
GPI Ranking: 113
Those are my favorite places, and I like to go back to them.