This is a little power-ranking I am making to reflect my opinion to which countries in SEA and Asia are more suitable to live as a Digital Nomad. Not surprisingly I rank Thailand on top. As is a country that offers it all.
So what is a Digital Nomad?, quoting Wikipedia: “Digital nomads are a type of people who use technologies to earn a living and conduct their lives in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles.”
Factors I considered (From most important to less):
- Easy to obtain short and medium term visas.
- Cost of living.
- Quality of internet (Price, speeds, freedom)
- General ease to obtain tourist waivers.
- English is spoken?, English-spoken services?.
- Quality of food.
- Quality of leisure activities.
- Local people. (Friendliness, English, ease to socialize).
THE POWER RANKING: Best countries for Digital nomads in SEA =
An important note: The most common problem for a digital nomad is the Visa-problem. But it’s impossible for me to advise on this. Visa regulations change from country to country. Do your homework, and update yourself on what your passport can provide you. 🙂
For some, this might be surprising number 1 choice, but once knowing Taiwan a little in-depth one can realize is borderline the perfect place:
- Really cheap housing options especially outside Taipei.
- English widely available.
- Relaxed about visas and relaxed visa-runs if needed.
- Cheap cost of living in general.
- Super safe.
- Super friendly people.
- Godly-tier internet and cheap.
- Available and convenient flights to anywhere.
Consider cheap cities outside Taipei such as:
For me, Taiwan has it all, little to no cons. Check hotel deals for Taiwan here.
Thailand is a typical choice for Digital nomads and it counts with the digital nomad capital of the world which probably is Chiang Mai.
And yes, I can vouch that Chiang Mai is perfect and awesome for the purpose. A lovely city with an awesome vibe that captivates everybody. The cost of living is really affordable and the internet can be decent, to an extent.
Other than that, Thai food is world famous. To have a decent social life is also easy.
The biggest drawback I see for Thailand is the eternal visa situation problem. Checking the visa options for nomads in Thailand:
- Thai elite visa: Best option, definitively if you have the cash. It’s a long term solution but it costs around 12K USD for 5 years. Expensive but it solves the problem for good ( Or at least for good for 5 years). For those who can afford this option, I would go this route and definitively choose Thailand over Taiwan.
- 30-day visa runs: People doing this, but is not very sustainable over time. And there are crackdowns on this already. I would avoid.
- Student visa: Doable, decent option.
- Business visa: Might be an option, I haven’t explored this.
- Thai elite visa: Definitively a great option if you have the cash.
- Retirement visa: Yep, if you are 50 and want to still work as digital-nomad.
- Marrying a local to stay: Even it would solve the issue… right…well…yes… but nope, don’t, and avoid this route.
- Working a small job to get a visa and stay: Another way, but I think it might siphon too much of your time. But yeah, doable.
Check special hotel deals for Chiang Mai here.
Check hotel deals for Thailand here.
When I say Indonesia I don’t say Jakarta, I say… yes, you guessed it, Bali.
Bali is so easy mode and it would be great for digital nomads. Other places to consider are other islands like Lombok or Yogyakarta.
I haven’t actually stayed in Indo for this purpose, but it sounds really interesting and Bali is very international.
Check BALI hotel deals here.
Malaysia is often compared to Thailand. Perhaps because they are neighboors.
Malaysia can be a decent choice for a Digital nomad. More relaxed visas than in Thailand too.
Food is good, affordable, not so hyped as Thailand. Less nightlife, but one can lead a quiet life here too.
It also features some good island worth living at.
Check Malaysia hotel deals here.
I would have rated Cambodia as high as top 3 in the recent past, but there has been a recent crackdown for the very easy to obtain 1-year business visas.
Noways the dust has not been settled yet, but it seems that the maximum to be obtained is a 1 month + 6-month visa. Which is still a decent thing, to be honest.
Cambodia is developing so rapidly and probably looking at its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam.
The country is affordable, lovely and laid back. Def a great choice for nomads.
A good entry guide for Cambodia is the Lonely planet guide that can be found in here.
Check Cambodia hotel deals here.
Good places to visit in Asia, but actually not fully suitable for Digital nomads =
- Philippines. For those who can solve the visa issue and find a good city PH might be a decent choice.
- Singapore. Singapore might be a decent choice, but for me, at least the housing is crazy expensive and the only actual deal breaker, but as I say many love this choice.
- Hong Kong. Same, housing too be expensive. Food actually is not very expensive.
- China. I love Mainland China, but the difficulty to obtain visas and the internet quality would be a deal breaker for digital nomads. Even then, a 1 year living in Mainland as a Chinese student could be very doable.
- Japan. Good internet, but expensive, hard, no visas. Probably the last place I would choose.
- Korea. Similar difficulties as Japan.