Wherever you are, you’ve likely come across the term ‘digital nomad’. The idea of being able to go about your work from anywhere in the world is an enticing concept, and the digital nomad trend is gaining traction as a result. I’ve written a guide already on how to be a successful digital nomad, but this time I’m providing my recommendations for the best digital nomad cities around the world.

The Best Digital Nomad Cities in Asia:

Best Digital Nomad Cities - Taipei

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai was perhaps the first true digital nomad hub. The city in northern Thailand boomed in popularity, particularly with bloggers and freelancers several years ago as it provided a relatively inexpensive yet comfortable lifestyle. Although Chiang Mai may not be as affordable as it was before the influx of the location independent crowd, it still offers tremendous value in a beautiful setting complete with temples, excellent weather, an established digital nomad community, and some of the most delicious street food in southeast Asia.

Bangkok

Another Thailand locale on the list is Bangkok, with it’s non-stop energy it’s the exact opposite of laid-back Chiang Mai. Bangkok is a proper metropolis with millions of residents, so a good fit if you’re more of a big city person. Bangkok boasts dozens of modern and sleek co-working spaces with new ones popping up all the time. There’s a sizeable expat community to connect with, making the transition a little bit easier. It’s also a great home base if you’re interested in traveling around Asia as there are a ton of inexpensive direct flights out of BKK to across the region.

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, alternatively called by its former name Saigon, is having a moment as the spot for aspiring and legitimate entrepreneurs. Overall, the scene is more advanced than in other places in Asia, with a lot of people choosing to launch and run their start-ups from here, which means tons of networking, collaborating, and resources to support building your business. While co-working spaces are a dime a dozen, Ho Chi Minh has one of the best café cultures with coffee shops, serving deliciously decadent Vietnamese coffee, all over the city.

Ubud

The island of Bali has never had any trouble attracting people to its lush jungles, turquoise waters, and spiritual way of life. While landlocked, you’ll find rows of rice terraces, lush gardens, and an abundance of yoga studios so if you enjoy spending time in nature and recharging, Ubud might be the perfect place for you. Great coworking spaces are abound such as Hubud, allowing you to get some meaningful work done and connect with likeminded individuals as well. Alternatively, Canggu, another town on Bali, is encroaching on Ubud’s spotlight and is attracting more and more digital nomads to its beautiful beaches.

Taipei

While Southeast Asia has dominated for digital nomads in the past, there’s a crop of other Asian cities outside this region that have a lot to offer. Taipei is one of those places, a destination that has been gaining popularity with the location independent crowd. The capital of Taiwan is extensively developed and very safe for travelers, which has helped the island become a tech hub on the continent. While Taiwan has several large cities, it also boasts phenomenal natural areas and tons of outdoor activities, such as surf spot Kenting National Park.

Honourable Mentions: Seoul, Siem Riep, Kuala Lumpur

The Best Digital Nomad Cities in Europe:

Best Digital Nomad Cities - Budapest

Prague

Often said to resemble a fairy tale city, Prague is truly a beautiful place to visit and live. Unlike many of the destinations described above, the weather in Prague is truly four seasons complete with cold winters and mild summers, which to some is more appealing than constant heat and humidity. With stunning architecture, a rich history, hearty Czech food, and tons of beer, it’s no surprise that Prague has taken off with digital nomads. Your money also stretches further here relative to other European hubs.

Las Palmas

While the Canary Islands are an autonomous region of Spain, they’re closer to Northern Africa lying off the coast of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean. Las Palmas is the capital city of Gran Canaria, the largest of the Canary’s islands, and is a perpetual favourite among the location independent set. It’s hard to ignore the appeal of Las Palmas: gorgeous weather virtually year-round, sprawling beaches, and all the activities that come with living near the ocean like surfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. While the Canary Islands may seem isolated, there are frequent discount flights to and from major European cities as the islands are a popular tourist destination.

Berlin

Still hailed as the cheapest capital in Western Europe, Berlin continues to dominate the entrepreneurial scene in Germany. Eclectic, hip, and creatively minded, Berlin attracts expats in droves who appreciate the diversity and culture of the city. Berlin is not only a world class city worthy of a visit in and of itself, it also ticks off many elements that digital nomad’s look for including affordable housing, networking opportunities, and co-working spaces (there are hundreds of them across the city). And perhaps the best part: living in Berlin gives you access to so many travel opportunities within Western and Eastern Europe.

Budapest

Budapest has been increasing in popularity as a tourist destination and as a draw for digital nomads. The Danube River cuts right through the picturesque Hungarian capital, with the Buda region on the west side and Pest on the east. For European standards, Budapest is affordable with Airbnbs in the vicinity of $25 per night for a private room, and those staying longer term are likely able to score a cheaper rate. Offering a lot of diversions for visitors, from its cultural centres to its thermal baths and riveting nightlight, Budapest is an ideal spot to both work and live well.

Porto

Lisbon often gets most of the glory in Portugal, while the Algarve region sees its fair share of visitors too, but Porto is a destination in its own right – and people are taking notice. Over the past several years, Porto has evolved into a hip city complete with excellent restaurants, great co-working spaces, growing craft beer scene, and legendary surfing in nearby Matosinhos, all while maintaining a small town vibe. The weather deserves a mention here too as it’s nice year round, with warm summers and mild winters.

Honourable Mentions: Lisbon, Zagreb, Sofia

The Best Digital Nomad Cities in Central & South America:

Best Digital Nomad Cities - Santiago

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is not new on the digital nomad scene, in fact it’s been the spot in South America for the location independent for years. The Argentinian capital is valued by entrepreneurs and freelancers for being a vibrant, open-minded city that offers a tremendous amount of cultural exploits. While it’s not as inexpensive as it used to be for the expat and digital nomad, years of being on the radar has ensured sufficient infrastructure and a developed community for the digital nomad set. Despite rampant inflation, it’s not a bad place to be so long as you’re being paid in another, more stable currency.

Medellin

This Colombian city is breaking free of the less than savoury reputation it was once branded with and digital nomads are taking notice. Medellin is in the midst of an economic boom, which is bringing with it an emphasis on innovation and infrastructure, as well as a cultural focus. Situated in the mountainous region of Antioquia, Medellin’s moniker the ‘City of the Eternal Spring’ references its near perfect weather all year round. The cost of living in Medellin is relatively low, with rents around $700 USD per month for a private apartment and $300 for a shared flat.

Santiago

Chile has been on the rise as a hub for innovation, technology, and entrepreneurism in South America and its capital city has a lot to offer digital nomads. Santiago is a huge metropolis of more than 7 million residents, yet set against the backdrop of the epic Andes mountains so nature is never too far off. Often touted as the ‘safest city in South America’, Santiago is increasingly becoming a prime spot for expats and entrepreneurs to set up. Not only are there an ever growing network of co-working spaces, but there is a strong tea and coffee tradition so many cafes to work from for a few hours.

Lake Atitlan

This picture perfect lake in Guatemala’s western highlands has captivated tourists and expats looking to slow down and unwind. A number of distinct towns line the lake, each offering various characteristics and amenities allow digital nomads the opportunity to choose based on their lifestyle. Not only does the brilliantly blue lake make a lovely setting, the three looming volcanoes and fascinating Mayan culture truly round out the Lake Atitlan region. Like most towns in Latin America, some proficiency in Spanish will make it much easier to acclimate when staying around Lake Atitlan.

Cuenca

Ecuador’s third largest town has a lot of things going for it. A city centre that’s a designated UNESCO world heritage site, the Andes Mountains as a backdrop, and (almost) perpetually sunny weather have made digital nomads, and retirees, take notice. With a population of less than 500,000, Cuenca has a small town feel yet is not lacking in culture. An established expat community makes it easy for newbies to get connected and the many wifi enabled cafes are ideal for hunkering down and getting some work done.

Honourable Mentions: Bogota, Lima, Antigua (Guatemala)

The Best Digital Nomad Cities in North America:

Best Digital Nomad Cities - Vancouver

Austin

Currently heralded as the premier spot for startups and entrepreneurs in the US, Austin has a ton of hype surrounding it at the moment. The city is seen as a progressive hub, attracting the location independent set in droves who come for the indie music, solid arts scene, cheap rents, craft beer and the BBQ. While big things are happening in Austin on the start up front, it’s also a city where work life balance comes easier than in other parts of the US, and the abundance of outdoorsy things to do makes it easy to stay active.

Vancouver

Vancouver is one of the most stunning cities in the world and with mountains, the ocean and forests on your doorstep, there’s always an opportunity to get back to nature. While Vancouver is not the cheapest base for digital nomads, particularly when it comes to housing, it does have the essentials like a strong cafe culture, community events targeting the location independent, and a plethora of co-working spots to get things done. The central part of Vancouver is relatively small giving it a bit of a small town vibe but with a lot of restaurants, bars, indie shops, and live music there’s always something going on in the city.

Portland

While the city has garnered considerable notoriety in the past several years, Portland continues to attract individuals embracing an alternative way of life, the location independent included. It offers digital nomads many of the same benefits as Austin and Vancouver like plenty of outdoor activities and a seemingly never-ending choice of coffee shops, but its ‘Keep Portland Weird’ mantra implies that no matter how obscure your entrepreneurial dreams are, someone will embrace it. Portland is also a great base for many events targeting creative and lifestyle design enthusiasts such as the annual World Domination Summit.

Montreal

Montreal is a culture rich city in Quebec, Canada’s French speaking province, although Anglophones will do just fine here too. Compared to the already profiled Vancouver, Montreal is more affordable with living expenses such as rent lower than its west coast counterpart. The city is sprawling with a myriad of diverse neighbourhoods from the more touristed historic old town to the indie inclined boroughs of Mile End and Mile Ex. Montreal boasts a cool music scene, vibrant nightlife, and epic food – the bagels are a must. Summers are hot and humid while winters can be harsh, but ideal if you’re into winter sports like skiing and snowboarding.

Oaxaca

This Mexican city in the south of the country is attracting digital nomads in droves with its pleasant weather, friendly locals, rich culture and low cost of living. Expats and longer-term visitors can get their own place for under $500 per month and about half that if they opt for a shared flat, meaning one could live pretty well in Oaxaca for under $1,000 per month. The food in Oaxaca is some of the best anywhere, where fresh, seasonal and unbelievably delicious specialities are super affordable, whether from a restaurant or street vendor. If Oaxaca is too large or has too many tourists for your tastes, there are many smaller towns on the Oaxacan coast that you could alternatively stay in.

Honourable mentions: Playa del Carmen, San Cristobal de las Casas

The above digital nomad cities are on my radar. Of course, there are so many other places where the location independent are carving out exceptional lives for themselves, and many more that will inevitably pop up as ideal locations for digital nomads as people continue to seek out this type of lifestyle. I haven’t included any digital nomad cities in Africa, but Cape Town and several cities in Morocco including Rabat, Fez, Marrakesh, and Taghazout are popular.

Where would you want to go – or where have you gone – as a digital nomad?


Best Digital Nomad Cities photos courtesy of Flickr: i.gunawanMark & Collette, Claudio Sepúlveda Geoffroy, and Gord McKenna.