Flexible working makes sense. Working remotely is awesome. Working in paradise is on a totally different level of cool.
The globe-trotting digital nomad trend is a flexible working experience that’s pretty much out of this world. Not literally of course, unless you’re a NASA engineer (though we’re willing to bet that Elon Musk or Richard Branson are doing something about that).
We recently discussed the digital nomad lifestyle and how remote workers can get the best out of living (and working) in paradise. Because whether you’re a virtual company, a freelancer, a startup or a mobile worker, there are plenty of amazing productivity hacks that come from combining work, travel and adventure.
But just like everything else that’s worth doing, a lot of other people are doing it too.
So why live in backpacker land when you can visit somewhere a little more off-grid? Okay, we’re not talking about disappearing into the depths of Alaska or trekking into Timbuktu. To fit the digital nomad lifestyle we still need power, a half-decent cell reception and WiFi.
So we reached out to some awesome digital nomads to get their take on some of the world’s best under-rated digital nomad destinations, starting with Asia. Here’s what they said:
1. Koh Lanta, Thailand
Recommended by: Ryan Biddulph
It might be backpacker central, but Thailand gets a big thumbs-up from the digital nomad community. “I’d recommend Koh Lanta in Thailand as an under-rated digital nomad hotspot,” says traveler Ryan Biddulph, author of Blogging From Paradise.
“Think Phuket-like as far as size and scale but without the larger crowds which dominate parts of the biggest island in Thailand. Lanta is quiet, peaceful, serene and brimming with wildlife. It has superb accommodation and eats too, so it checks the nomad prerequisite.”
As for the digital aspect of things, Ryan recommends nabbing an Internet connection at one of the many restaurants on the island or aiming for an Internet-enabled lodge. But, he says, be sure to do your homework first before booking.
“My wife and I rented a beautiful home on the bay through Airbnb for a month in Old Town. Before we booked the place we double-checked with the owner on Internet speed and reliability, explaining how we ran businesses online. She gave us the go ahead and we fell in love with the place.”
Koh Lanta in a nutshell? “Be ready and willing to drive a motorbike as it is THE dependable form of transportation around the island. Other than that, if you love breathtaking, peaceful beaches, deep jungle and friendly folks who haven’t been jaded by tourism, this is the place for you.”
Average cost of living and working in Koh Lanta according to NomadList (click here for more details):
- Average monthly cost: $997 per month
- Hotel room $986 per month
- Airbnb apartment $47 per day
- Coworking space $138 per month
- Basic meal (outdoor) $1.43
- Pint of beer (0.5L) $1.43
2. Goa and Tiruvannamalai, South India
Recommended by: Elaina Giolando
“Where else can you live in an ashram for $3 per day, all meals included, have fast Wi-Fi when you need it, and soak up so much creative inspiration in one place?” says blogger Elaina Giolando, the brains behind careers advice platform Life Before 30.
Elaina offers advice about all things long-term travel including self-development, charting unconventional life paths, and finding real jobs overseas. Elaina recommends two under-rated places in South India that are an absolute must for digital nomads. The first is Goa, with its postcard-perfect beaches, and the second is the town of Tiruvannamalai – one of Tamil Nadu’s holiest destinations that’s famous for its enormous Arunachaleshwar Temple (one of the largest in India).
“I’ve been working from India for the past 3 months and it’s been the best place in the world in terms of value for money that I’ve seen,” says Elaina.
“I easily live on $15 per day, not to mention the FOOD, the landscapes, the sheer variety of things to do and see, and the whole cast of oddball characters who find themselves in India.” Elaina credits all of these experiences with the ability to open her mind and keep motivated, and describes South India as “a total game-changer, an awakening”.
As lesser-visited digital nomad destinations, Elaina warns against expecting 24/7 Internet connections in either Goa or Tiruvannamalai. However, in her own experience she found it was enough for “bouts of research” in-between working offline.
- 1 bedroom apartment in city centre $150 or $122 outside of centre (per month)
- Basic meal $2.20
- Pint of beer (0.5L) $0.90
Average cost of living and working in Tiruvannamalai according to Numbeo (click here for more details).
- 1 bedroom apartment in city centre $120 or $60 outside of centre (per month)
- Basic meal $1.20
- Pint of beer (0.5L) $1.60
3. Luang Prabang, Laos
Recommended by: Elaina Giolando
India isn’t the only place that enchanted Elaina Giolando. She also recommends Luang Prabang in northern Laos (officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic), evocatively described by Lonely Planet as languid, lovely, and one of the most alluring places in Southeast Asia.
“Thailand gets all the attention in digital nomad circles, but I loved my few weeks curled up in a guesthouse outside Luang Prabang,” says Elaina. “It’s the most beautiful town in Southeast Asia as far as I’m concerned.”
While digital nomads may find the practicalities a little challenging, to Elaina, this is all part of the experience: “The Internet isn’t the fastest, but the country itself is so charming that it makes up for any inconveniences by way of quiet inspiration.
“To me, the idea of being a nomad isn’t to just go surround myself with a whole bunch of other nomads doing the same thing, but to meet the wide variety of travelers, locals, expats, and volunteers that make their way to a place slightly off the beaten path like Luang Prabang.”
Average cost of living and working in Luang Prabang, Laos according to Numbea (click here for more details)
- 1 bedroom apartment in city centre $303 or $180 outside of centre (per month)
- Basic meal $2
- Pint of beer (0.5L) $1.80
4. Ao Nang, Thailand (Krabi)
Recommended by: Cody McKibben
“Definitely not enough of my nomadic colleagues spend enough time in Krabi, Thailand,” says Cody McKibben, an award-winning lifestyle business and travel blogger, and creator of Thrilling Heroics.
In addition to the beaches at Krabi, which Cody counts among his all-time favorites, he recommends opening your laptop in one of Ao Nang’s coffee shops or checking out the town’s relatively new coworking spot, Phansa Space.
Compared to some other lesser-known places, Ao Nang may seem a little touristy to some. However, it’s described by Lonely Planet as “compact and straightforward to navigate” with a good choice of accommodation and plenty of places to hunker down and work. It’s also just 40 minutes away from Krabi airport.
Average cost of living and working in Krabi, Thailand according to Numbea (click here for more details)
- 1 bedroom apartment in city centre $129 or $86 outside of centre (per month)
- Basic meal $1
- Pint of beer (0.5L) $1.50
Next we’re taking a closer look at under-rated digital nomad destinations in other parts of the world, so watch this space for further information. We’re also researching the practicalities of a career on the road, including Internet security and how to find reliable Wi-Fi hotspots.
One thing to bear in mind as a digital nomad is to stay contactable, even when you’re in hard-to-reach places. This isn’t just so your mom can check up on you. When you combine work with travel, it’s important to stay ‘grounded’ whenever possible so clients and prospective employers can get hold of you — even when your cell signal is low. You never know when you’ll be down to your last dollar and that quick freelancing job could come in really, really handy.
Consider a VoIP phone as a means to stay contactable, from which you can check up on voice messages anytime you’re connected to the Internet. This helps keep the business plates turning should your cell signal fall flat, and also gives you another line of communication to the outside world (that’ll keep your mom real happy).
More tips for wandering workers from real digital nomads can be found on our recent blog post, ‘Living and Working the Dream‘, which includes advice on how to stay productive when working in paradise. Keep an eye on our remote working blog for more tips and tricks on digital nomad trends and practices.