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10 Best Cities for Digital Nomads: Cost of Living, Visas, Lifestyle

Is 2024 going to be the year you say goodbye to the 9-to-5 office grind and trade in your cubicle for a coconut? If you already have a location independent source of income and are ready to to become a digital nomad, then you’ve landed on the right page! In this article, we’re going to share our list of the best cities for digital nomads.

Keep in mind that cities that ultimately wind up on a list of this kind are determined by which criteria are most important to any given individual making such a list.

Best Cities For Digital Nomads

Put another way, two remote workers could each create a best cities for digital nomads list, but the two lists wouldn’t necessarily match. However, it’s very likely that there would still be some overlap between them. After all, it’s no coincidence that certain cities consistently show up on the various iterations of these rankings.

Best cities for digital nomads: criteria for selection

When compiling a list like this, most digital nomads will typically take at least some of the following into consideration when deciding on a remote work location:

In the interest of brevity, we’re not going to apply this thorough analysis to every possible city that might be ideal for remote workers. What we’ll do instead, is pick one city for each of those categories that we feel is the best choice for that category. This will give us a list of the seven best cities for digital nomads to pick from.

If you plan on conducting this analysis yourself – and we encourage you to – then you’ll want to consider the categories that matter the most to you and arrange them in order of personal importance.

Remember that this list is a starting point. It’s a way to get you thinking about how to conduct your own analysis in the future. That way you can choose the digital nomad cities that are best for you.

Let’s get to it:

💵 Best digital nomad city for cost of living

Overall winner: Chiang Mai, Thailand 🇹🇭

Best digital nomad city for low cost of living with a high quality of life is Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand’s de facto northern capital needs very little introduction. It is one of the world’s most popular digital nomad destinations and has been for a long time. There are some very good reasons behind that. Most prominent among them, is that Chiang Mai’s low cost of living, relative to the quality of life it offers, is arguably unmatched [1].

In fact, anyone who follows the digital nomad scene will tell you that Chiang Mai has been responsible for building up the personal brand of many veteran digital nomad YouTubers who have highlighted this reality.

However, for complete transparency, Chiang Mai does not have the absolute lowest cost of living. A quick search on Nomad List with the cost of living filter applied will yield over ten cities for remote workers that are cheaper:

Top 10 cheapest digital nomad cities according to Nomad List

The reason Chiang Mai is our top pick and those other cities are not though, is because it’s the cheapest place for digital nomads when balanced out against all other criteria.

To be more specific:

The cheapest city for digital nomads according to Nomad List is actually Khartoum, Sudan. Its cost of living clocks in at $336 per month, versus Chiang Mai, which is almost triple that amount, at $898 per month.

The extra cost is justified though. Even an extremely quick glance at the five basic criteria on Nomad List will reveal a stark difference between Chiang Mai (on the left) and Khartoum (on the right):

Digging further, from the list of available cities that beat out Chiang Mai on cost, there were only two that had four out of the five criteria showing a green bar. These were Nagpur and Bengaluru – both in India. However, the bar that was yellow for both of them was the “overall” bar, which is an amalgamation of all the various lifestyle factors taken into account for any given location.

Simply put, while Chiang Mai might be slightly less fun than Nagpur and Bengaluru, it scored better overall on a long list of other considerations.

Finally, we considered that for many digital nomads, any marginal difference in the cost of living within the $0 to $1,000 monthly price range would not serve as a price deterrent. To put it another way, a digital nomad would likely be willing to spend an extra (several) hundred dollars more within the X < $1,000 price range, if they received a marginally better quality of life in return.

Therefore, for digital nomads on a limited budget or those who are just starting out on their remote work and travel journey, Chiang Mai is hard to beat. That’s why it’s our number one pick for the best digital nomad city with a low cost of living.

Pro Tip 💡

If you normally use a messaging app like WhatsApp or Signal or Telegram, be prepared that in Thailand everybody uses LINE instead. Most Thai people, and even many foreigners who’ve been there a while, will ask to connect with you using this app. Also, if you’re coming from Europe and you use Bolt for transportation (or Uber if from the U.S.), then you’ll want to download Grab when you get to Chiang Mai. It’s the local equivalent.

Honorable mentions

  • Ubud, Bali, Indonesia 🇮🇩
  • Krabi, Thailand 🇹🇭
  • Budapest, Hungary 🇭🇺

🛂 Best digital nomad city for visa availability

Overall winner: Grand Bay, Mauritius 🇲🇺

Best digital nomad visa is Mauritius

First, it should be noted that while this is a list of the best cities for digital nomads, the topic of digital nomad visas technically falls under the broader umbrella of “country” rather than “city.” After all, there’s no visa that will grant you access to only one city in a particular country while excluding access to others. Barring unusual exceptions (e.g., political unrest), once you’re granted a visa by any given country, you can go to any city you want within the borders of that country.

That part is straightforward. What’s not as straightforward is choosing a definitive “best” digital nomad visa.

The reason it’s challenging is that when it comes to visas, the passport one holds plays a significant role in the decision-making process. What might be the best digital nomad visa for a European citizen might not be the best for a remote worker with a passport from India.

Now, if you do happen to be a digital nomad reading this, who does hold a European Union passport, then you already have access to many attractive remote work locations within Europe itself. You don’t need any sort of special visa. It’s simply one of the benefits that comes with having an E.U. passport.

However, not everyone who is a remote worker has this advantage. For this reason, we chose the picturesque African nation of Mauritius as our top pick, because it is the most accessible to all – regardless of nationality.

More precisely, the Mauritius digital nomad visa is available to passport holders from more than 110 countries around the world. While that’s not every country, it’s a lot of countries – and it’s more than most of the other digital nomad visa options available.

It was also named by the well-known flight-search website Kayak, as the best place in Africa and the Middle East to work from remotely – and the fourth best place overall worldwide [2].

Other advantages of the Mauritius digital nomad visa are that it’s free and that the income requirements are only $1,500 per month, which is a lot less than many of the other countries offering digital nomad visas.

Honorable mentions

📶 Best digital nomad city for fast internet

Overall winner: Bangkok, Thailand 🇹🇭

Best digital nomad city for fast internet is Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is another popular digital nomad destination in Thailand, and it also happens to be the best overall choice for internet speed as well. When consulting the holy grail of digital nomad speed tests, Thailand as a country ranks extremely high for fixed broadband speeds. It ranks decently for mobile as well.

At the time of this writing, Thailand has the third highest median fixed broadband speed in the world, and the 52nd highest median mobile speed:

Thailand speedtest results

While there are several data points to consider in making this overall assessment (e.g., mobile versus fixed broadband; median speed versus mean speed), when taking everything into account, Bangkok came out as the top choice for digital nomad cities with the fastest internet. It even beat out Chiang Mai.

Check out the screenshot for Chiang Mai’s internet speed versus Bangkok below:

Chiang Mai speedtest results
Bangkok speedtest results

Keep in mind that, depending on a number of factors, you could easily be in a completely different city or country and have better numbers than what you see above.

The idea behind this isn’t to find the absolute fastest internet speed on the planet. It’s to find the city where a remote worker will have the best chance of having really fast internet without having to buy a special wifi router or otherwise do anything extra to get it. In some countries, there might be a specific ISP (internet service provider) that offers extremely fast internet, but you’d have to research to find out who that is. You’d also likely pay an additional cost for “premium high-speed access.”

That’s not the case in Bangkok, where any digital nomad can step off the plane, spin-the-wheel-o’-ISP, and end up with extremely fast internet.

Honorable mentions

  • Bucharest, Romania 🇷🇴
  • Seoul, South Korea 🇰🇷
  • Lisbon, Portugal 🇵🇹

🌦️ Best digital nomad city for nice weather year-round

Overall winner: Funchal, Madeira Island, Portugal 🇵🇹

Best digital nomad city for nice weather year-round is Funchal, Madeira

Many people that choose to call Funchal home will often say that “it’s always spring in Madeira” – and it’s not far from the truth. At ground level, the weather on this subtropical island is very pleasant.

The other interesting feature with regard to Madeira’s climate is a result of its extremely diverse topography. There are lots of micro-climates that range from cold, snowy mountain tops to warm, tropical beaches. The most mind-blowing thing about it is that if you live on the island, you can access both of those climates within an hour or two.

That means you can have a video conference with a client or a coworker under some palm trees by the warm ocean in the morning, and then go for a snowy hike in the afternoon on the same day. It’s so surreal that your friends and family back home might not believe it’s even possible unless you live stream it.

Seriously, how cool is that?

Honorable mentions

🍕 Best digital nomad city for food

Overall winner: Bangkok, Thailand 🇹🇭

Best digital nomad city for food is Bangkok, Thailand

Yes, Bangkok shows up twice on this list and is the overall winner in two different categories.

Granted, we’ll be the first to say that, when it comes to the topic of food, it’s a lot more subjective than internet speed. We can measure and pull data on cities that have fast internet. That’s not quite possible when choosing the best digital nomad city for food.

So, then why Bangkok? Why not any of the other amazing foodie-lover locales on this planet?

Well, our first clue comes once again from Nomad List, where thousands of digital nomads contribute to its ratings for all sorts of criteria. Food is no exception, and when we type in the word “food” into the Nomad List search bar, the very first city that comes up is:

Nomad List rating for best digital nomad cities for food options

Is this because millions of digital nomads around the world have a special affinity for Thai cuisine? Possibly, but more than likely, that’s not the case.

While many people do love Thai food, it’s a subjective preference. Maybe you’re a digital nomad reading this who couldn’t care less about it. If so, keep reading, because that’s not why Bangkok was chosen.

The primary determining factor was actually a variety of choices combined with price.

The fact is that Bangkok truly has something for everyone. That holds true across taste preferences and budgets.

Virtually every single type of major world cuisine is represented in some fashion in Bangkok’s sprawling food scene. Whether you enjoy Italian, Japanese, French, Egyptian, Mexican, or have weird food fetishes like being served by robots – Bangkok has got you covered. Actually, that’s not even that weird compared to Bangkok’s Cabbages & Condoms restaurant, where all the decor is made up of various multicolored and multisized condoms. Oh, and their motto is: “Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy” (no, seriously, that’s really their motto).

Bangkok also has options for people with various dietary restrictions – whether for health, ethical, religious, or other reasons. That means a vegan digital nomad in Bangkok as well as a remote worker seeking out halal food will both find plenty of delicious options.

If that’s not enough, there’s plenty of street food, a plethora of fancy rooftop bars, and all sorts of cute cafes with free high speed internet to work from. Bangkok truly has something for every palate, every occasion, and every price point. For this reason, it takes the crown for best digital nomad city for food.

Honorable mentions

Tokyo, Japan 🇯🇵

Chiang Mai, Thailand 🇹🇭

  • Why: Similar to Bangkok, it has something for everyone, but on a smaller scale than Bangkok.
  • Must-Try: Goodsouls Kitchen (vegan fare that non-vegans will love, or put another way: amazing food that just happens to be vegan)

Hanoi, Vietnam 🇻🇳

  • Why: It has everything from street food to fancy restaurants that cater to all sorts of tastes.
  • Must-Try: Maison Marou (a cocoa lover’s paradise)

🦺 Safest city for digital nomads

Overall winner: Lisbon, Portugal 🇵🇹

Safest city for digital nomads is Lisbon, Portugal

The most challenging of the seven criteria to choose on this best cities for digital nomads list is safety. This is because there’s so much that goes into this notion, including our subjective perception of how safe we might feel. We can take two digital nomads who are very similar in appearance and demeanor and put them in the same location, but their own feelings of how safe they feel could vary widely.

So, we’re faced with the subjective interpretation of “feeling safe,” versus the objective reality of actual near-and-present danger. Unfortunately, the lines between the two often get blurred.

For example, take someone with low-risk aversion – who would maybe even be described as foolish by many people – going to a city that is known for kidnappings, shootings, robberies, etc. They might feel completely safe there, and they may even spend some time there without anything bad happening to them.

Does that mean that they weren’t in danger just because nothing happened to them? Were they safe because they felt safe?

On the flip side, what about a digital nomad with high-risk aversion, who goes to a city that is considered “safe,” but ends up getting robbed while walking to their AirBnB? This person did their due diligence, chose a safe location, and yet something bad happened to them anyway. They were in a generally recognized safe place, and they initially felt safe, but their safety was violated.

Does that now mean that the reputation of the place should change?

There is no correct answer to that question. It’s more to reinforce the underlying premise, which is that judging the safety of a location is not easy. Also, it’s often commingled with our personal feelings of safety, rather than actual dangerous events happening to us or around us.

So then, how did we decide what we think is the safest city for digital nomads?

Well, it was a combination of data-driven decision making and the approach we took with choosing Maurititus for the best digital nomad visa.

That is to say, we tried our best to pick a city that was the safest for the broadest demographic of people. This naturally meant selecting a city with cultural and racial diversity, that’s also open to people of different sexual orientations (#2 on the Gay Travel Index), and respects the rights of women. In short, a city that exhibits a wide degree of tolerance for others.

The data-driven piece of our decision came from the annual Global Peace Index country rankings, where Portugal came in as the sixth safest country in the world for 2022 [3].

Having said that, the country as a whole isn’t perfect and still has work to do. However, the vast majority of people from different backgrounds will find Lisbon to be a safe place. This isn’t an endorsement, it’s just an attempt at drawing a reasonable conclusion on a difficult topic.

Honorable mentions

  • Chiang Mai, Thailand 🇹🇭
  • Tokyo, Japan 🇯🇵
  • Barcelona, Spain 🇪🇸

🏄🏻 Best digital nomad city for lifestyle

Overall winner: Lisbon, Portugal 🇵🇹

Best city for lifestyle is Lisbon, Portugal

Lifestyle is arguably the most subjective of criteria on this entire list. Yes, even more subjective than food and safety. The main reason for that is the fact that the word lifestyle itself has such a simple definition: the way in which a person or group lives.

Since the way in which people live is so vastly different, it naturally follows that the “best lifestyle” from an Inuit eskimo’s perspective is going to look very different from a Kenyan Maasai person’s perspective. While there probably aren’t too many Inuit or Maasai digital nomads, those examples are meant to illustrate a point:

Those who identify as digital nomads are not a homogeneous group, and among them, you will find people whose ideal lifestyle encompasses a wide spectrum of things.

For this reason, we can think of lifestyle as a catchall word, and for our purposes here, as the “best overall” category.

At the moment, that distinction goes to another city appearing twice on this list – Lisbon. Referring back again to Nomad List, it is currently trending in the top spot for best overall city for digital nomads. If you check out the screenshot below, you’ll see that it has red bars in only three categories. There are a healthy amount of yellows as well, but the green bars clearly dominate the list:

If the above is not enough to convince you, consider that CEO Magazine recently featured Lisbon at the top of their own list of best cities for digital nomads as well. In their write-up, they mentioned that there are currently more than 17,000 remote workers living and working in Lisbon [4]. If that’s not considered social proof, then we’re not sure what is.

Honorable mentions

  • Chiang Mai, Thailand 🇹🇭
  • Budapest, Hungary 🇭🇺
  • Canggu, Bali, Indonesia 🇮🇩

Where to next? You tell us! 🙋

Are you a digital nomad? What cities are on your personal list of best cities for digital nomads? Drop ’em in the comments below and let’s have a conversation!

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