If you’re feeling disenchanted with life at home in your country of origin and you’re in a place to be able to travel long term while working online – essentially being a digital nomad – you might be wondering where the best countries are to head to. In terms of working as a nomad it can be difficult to pinpoint the right country for you. It depends what you want out of your nomadic lifestyle – some countries are better than others for fun things to do, while others are cheaper but lend themselves to kind of buckling down to get work done. Here we look at 8 of the cheapest countries in which to live if you’re looking to live the nomadic working life.
India is known worldwide as one of the cheapest countries to not just travel in, but to live in. Of course this brings with it some of its own challenges such as dealing with pollution, noise and the like, but it depends entirely where you live. If you’re looking to live here as a digital nomad it’s worth doing your homework on where you want to base yourself. Heading away from cities like Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai can have its benefits, but sometimes the internet is less than great, so definitely keep this in mind.
Upsides include incredibly cheap rent prices in most areas as well as low cost bills and food. Additionally you have the added benefit of all the amazing food India has on offer right on your doorstep nearly anytime of day! Also India offers extremely long term visas to visitors, some up to five years, so this can be a great place to stay for a longer term stint on your travels.
Nicaragua is fast becoming a favourite amongst nomads, mainly due to it’s very open door policy on immigration and long term stays, alongside its relative inexpensive way of life and its proximity to amazing and beautiful beaches and volcanoes. The added benefit is that all of Central America is within close travelling distances, lending itself to amazing opportunities for visiting other locales. The Nicaraguan people are also known around the world for their hospitality and welcoming nature of foreigners, so even if you don’t intend to stay for years, spending a few months in this wonderful Central American country can help cut costs down. The downside is that internet may be sketchy in the sticks, but there are workarounds such as using restaurants in which to work or scheduling working around certain hours of the day when the internet is more accessible.
Mexico might have a bit of a reputation as being an unsafe, drug-riddled country, but in many cases the level and frequency of attacks are sensationalised by the media. Parts of Mexico – particularly away from the western and northern borders are considered to be the safest parts of the country, with Mexico City having cleaned up its reputation in recent years with the violence issues seeming to head north and closer to the border with America. Rents can be inexpensive, depending what you’re looking for and where, and Mexico is a great place full of friendly locals, great food, great internet access nearly everywhere and provides great opportunities for longer term stays. It is the cheapest option in what many consider North America (USA, Canada, Mexico), and in the Caribbean, with the islands being notoriously expensive.
Hands down, most of Oceania is going to be fairly expensive to live in as a nomad, and New Zealand is possibly the cheapest of the countries, with the islands, again, being notoriously expensive. Wellington and Auckland are two ideal locations for digital nomads, where the internet is ideal and there are a lot of opportunities for great nightlife and fun to be had. Other more remote towns and cities may provide cheaper rents, but food prices may increase the further away from the main cities you get, so keep this in mind if heading into the sticks.
You might be wondering what Morocco has to offer a digital nomad – and the question should be more about “What doesn’t it?”. Morocco is a great nation, with incredibly cheap access to food and housing and fantastic internet connections. Morocco is notoriously cheap for certain things such as yoga retreats and spa days, making this Arabic nation quite the location for those looking to work on the go. Rents vary from city to city but can be cheaper in lesser known cities such as Fez or Essouira. Food is cheap and lends itself to being primarily geared towards either lots of lamb and goat or very vegetarian friendly – it’s your choice! Morocco is also within only a few hours flying time to mainland European cities such as Paris or further to London.
Most people wouldn’t think of Ukraine when they’re trying to find an inexpensive European city to live in – and you might be right in thinking so. Ukraine is rarely in the news except for slightly negative reasons, and perhaps this contributes to its relative inexpensive way of living. I can tell you from experience having been to Ukraine myself that it’s a wonderful country that is very misunderstood. Many people are incredibly welcoming and helpful. Beer, vodka, wine, and food are almost criminally cheap, as is local transportation (example: In Kiev the Metro costs US $0.16 per trip!). Rents are the most expensive thing in Ukraine, but even these are lower than throughout the rest of Europe, averaging between $300-$700 per month, depending on location and city. Internet is some of the best in Europe, so this makes it an ideal location for nomads.
The African continent might not be one that you’d consider, and why not? While many African nations have their share of issues – along with South Africa – this country is perhaps the cheapest for travelling and living in due to its much more significantly developed infrastructure to the rest of the continent. South Africa is geared up and prepared to accept tourists, and has a lot of great competition amongst things such as rents, housing, and food options so this drives the prices down. While some places in other countries surrounding South Africa might sound cheap, the lack of tourist infrastructure – including internet – is extremely lacking. Therefore, if you are looking for the cheapest country in Africa, consider Morocco, discussed previously, or South Africa.
Bolivia is known as one of the cheapest countries in South America, not just in rent and food, but in transport as well. With decent internet, this is also a great location for nomads. Rents will be lower than in neighbouring, more developed countries such as Chile or Brazil, and transportation will be cheaper as it will be primarily local transportation in most towns and cities. The only downside to Bolivia is the internet, but in the cities it’s considered to be quite good.
*Honourable Mention* Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand is known as probably one of THE backpacker destinations in the world, and for good reason. The price and the culture make it the ideal place to spend time working and travelling, and really living the nomadic life. The northern city of Chiang Mai is ideal – lower rents and prices in general than Bangkok, and with a cool, laid back vibe that most people really dig. The added benefit is you will be likely to meet loads of really cool travellers on the tourist trail between Chiang Mai and Laos, which can be eye opening, even for the most seasoned traveller.
So there you have 8 of the cheapest places to live and work as a nomad. Keep in mind some of the countries listed have strict visa regulations meaning that if you want to stay for a long period of time you may need to seek out specific visas or residency permits, but on the whole most people should be able to stay for periods of 3-6 months in many of these countries.