Digital nomads are a unique type of traveler.
We look for much more than simply entertainment options, beautiful beaches, and warm weather. Since digital nomads stay in a destination for a few weeks or months at a time at least, we require much more out of a city – all of which needs to be affordable.
For many years now, the countries in Southeast Asia have been attracting digital nomads from all over the world. There are several cities and towns around the region that have exactly what it takes for a thriving remote work lifestyle, but they are equally just as beautiful to stay in. I myself have traveled to a handful of digital nomad-friendly cities around here, and I can attest to why so many love staying in Asia.
It also helps that English is already widely used in many countries around here, making it much simpler to get by with your day-to-day needs. But before you set out to live in Asia, here are 5 things you should already secure:
Reliable high-speed internet is essential for any digital nomad. Look for cities where providers can offer 25Mbps or more, which these days should already be fairly common especially in destinations with large digital nomad communities. I for one, find more peace of mind when signing up with a fiber internet package if a place offers it.
Internet access is also a reason why remote destinations may not be suitable for remote workers, no matter how pretty a place is. Without reliable internet, it will be difficult and frustrating to get any work done. In addition, you may also want to look into mobile hotspot options if you plan to travel frequently within your destination.
Other things you may want to have with you include power banks and a quality headset, which comes in handy if you have to go on virtual meetings for work.
Visas and bank accounts should be another priority before you decide to spend time in a place. When it comes to visas, the countries in Southeast Asia vary in terms of ease of application which is why it’s critical to research this aspect thoroughly before you firmly decide on a place.
Because of the popularity of digital nomad workers, some countries already offer digital nomad visas which are also known as long-stay visitor visas. In Thailand, for example, you can opt for the Special Tourist Visa in Thailand and Vietnam (90 days), or a Long Stay Visitor Visa in the Philippines which can be extended for 6 months. The immigration rules are constantly changing, so be sure to do your homework.
Traditional banks primarily cater to individuals who live in one place. Many of them aren’t convenient for the use of remote workers, which is why digital nomads should consider neobanks or digital banks, a new type of financial technology company that operate online.
Whereas traditional banks may impose international transaction fees, have difficult-to-reach customer service, high foreign exchange rates, and high ATM withdrawal fees, these new breed of banks have everything that a remote worker needs from: costs are significantly lower since they don’t have large overhead fees, more transparent, and have better customer service.
However, digital nomads’ finance requirements will vary depending on your needs and the type of business you operate, as well as whether you are looking to merely receive your salary or if you need to pay people or open a bank account in your destination.
Regardless, some of these neobanks and digital banks to consider include: Wise (formerly TransferWise), Revolut, Tonik, Capital One, Charles Schwab, Payoneer, and Starling. At the end of the day, the ideal financial service best for you will largely depend on your nationality and where you’re from, so research is important.
What will your work be, as a digital nomad? There’s the option of going freelance like I am, which gives me the benefit of having a regular workload and getting paid by my clients. Then again, there are those who set out to build internet companies. There’s no right or wrong answer for the type of income you do as a remote worker; the possibilities are endless and it all depends on your skills as well as what you’re passionate about.
I recommend having this aspect sorted out before you leave home for a few months at a time, unless you have a significant amount of savings in your emergency fund (also recommended) that can weather you through periods of time with no income.
Digital nomad communities in your chosen destination will be a valuable source of information about work, too, while helping ensure that you aren’t lonely.
It may seem attractive to leave everything behind to live in an island off the coast of Thailand, but if the nearest hospital requires getting on a plane or a ferry, it’s best you reconsider. No matter how fit and healthy you are, we should prepare for the unexpected at all times just in case of emergency.
I remember the stress of realizing my upcoming trip to Bali was coinciding with worrisome activity from Mount Agung. Digital nomad groups on Facebook that I joined all said that it was safe to travel to Bali even with the potential of a volcanic eruption looming, save from a few earthquakes that could be felt if you were in Ubud.
I was torn on whether I should go on with my trip or not, but I’m glad I did. Nowadays, with SafetyWing travel medical insurance, I know that I’m covered for unexpected accidents or natural disasters when I travel.
Even though I was born in the beautiful tropical country of the Philippines and grew up here, it wasn’t until I embarked on a remote work lifestyle that it enabled me to see more of the incredible islands all over.
I’m currently living in Dumaguete City in the Visayas, and there’s so much I love about it: fiber internet, healthcare, and easy access to stunning islands, waterfalls, and beaches nearby. The cost of living is also much lower compared to big cities such as Manila and Cebu.
I spent a few weeks in Thailand some time ago, and I can understand why it’s so popular with remote workers. Chiang Mai, in particular, is a truly special place: ancient temples, incredible (and cheap!) Thai cuisine, a booming digital nomad community, healthcare options, entertainment, cheap flights around the country, and so much more.
For those who prefer to stay in the beach rather than the mountain, I highly recommend Krabi though it’s much quieter too.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that Bali is my favorite place in the world. Unfortunately, holding a Philippine passport makes it difficult for me to live in Bali though I have stayed for a few weeks to a month at different points in time.
There are all kinds of digital nomads in Bali, and the low cost of living makes it easy to get by. There are big hospitals around the island, and the many towns all over have something unique to offer based on your own personal preferences: Ubud for the yoga and healthy lifestyle and Canggu for surfing and beaches are the most popular options.
Asia is a melting pot for remote workers and for good reason. As long as you’ve got what you need to succeed, and travel medical insurance to make sure you’re covered in case of any emergency, you will have a fantastic time here.
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