Journal

Our Top 3 Nomad Friendly Cities - (Asia)

Hello everybody and welcome back to our next "Top 3" article. Last time we did this, the spotlight was on South America (you can read the article here). This time round the focus is on Asia. Asia is beyond incredible and there is SO much to see and experience, so we thought we'd give you somewhere to start. Anybody who has ventured into the world of remote work can tell you-- it’s tough to know where to even begin this journey so we'll help you by giving our Top 3 to get you started. While there are seemingly endless things to consider for those who are seeking a profound change of pace, opportunities to explore natural and cultural hotspots, and excellent food, we’ve compiled a list of the best locations in Asia for the aspiring digital nomad.

What makes a good location? These locations are great for new digital nomads because of their solid infrastructure, accessibility, affordability, and great work spaces.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

building-2868903_1920.jpg

Believe the hype! Chiang Mai is a number one digital nomad destination for a reason. This vibrant city is nestled in the beautiful rolling northern mountains of Thailand and boasts a well-established and friendly digital nomad community.

Why it’s great for first-time nomads: Chiang Mai balances relaxed lifestyle and sunshine with solid infrastructure and impactful co-working spaces.

Vitals:

Internet

Nomadlist, a popular digital nomad resource created by Pieter Levels, quotes Chiang Mai’s average internet speed at 20mbps.

Safety

Chiang Mai is a safe place to be. The most a typical nomad has to worry about here is some dropshipping and lifestyle scams here and there, according to Lonely Planet’s guide.

Access

This is a highly walkable destination, minimalists!

When neighborhood hopping within the city, inexpensive rickshaws and tuk tuks will get the job done. It’s also possible to hire a taxi for the day for those who wish to explore the many natural wonders that surround the city.

For the more daring nomads who wish to tackle Thailand’s famously terrifying traffic, scooters are also easy to come by. But check the fine print-- make sure theft, accident, and medical insurance are covered.

Work:

Phones

AIS, DTAC, and True are the three primary SIM providers. Even the most freedom-loving nomad needn’t shy away from SIM contracts in Thailand-- everything from monthly, to pay-as-you-go, and even daily contracts are available.

Co-working, cafes, and community

Chiang Mai’s co-working scene is rich with somewhere around 60 popular options and a great coffee scene to boot. Punspace, Mana, and CAMP are three of the biggest, but the possibilities are endless with unique, trendy, and functional places scattered all across the city.

The digital nomad community in Chiang Mai is equally as thriving. Weekly meetups are a great way to network and exchange ideas, and for nomads with FOMO there’re always groups planning day or weekend-long excursions.

Life:

Cost of living

Cheap! Nomadlist shows an average of $886 per month for rent, eating out three meals a day (definitely do-able with all the cuisine to explore!), and work-space costs.

Experiences

  • Local festivals
  • The “Grand Canyon”
  • Chiang Rai
  • Koh Phangan (Located in the Gulf of Thailand, but another great digital nomad destination!)

English

Thanks to the city’s booming tourism business, English is often available in the service industry.

Visas

Most can expect a 30-day visa upon arrival, which can be extended once for $55.

Bali, Indonesia- Canggu and Ubud

bali-1346249_1920.jpg

Picturesque nature scenes are a natural draw to this tropical island. But deeper than that is the spiritual Bali culture that digital nomads have the awesome opportunity to live and work in.

Why it’s great for first-time nomads: The growing digital nomad communities in the two main cities, Canggu and Ubud, have lead to stable internet connections and totally unique nomad cultures. There’s a ton to explore and it’s a great place to get centered.

Vitals:

Internet

Speeds in Bali are overall fairly slow, according to Nomadlist. Canggu’s speeds are the faster of the two at 15mbps, with more readily available small cafes. Ubud’s internet can be, on average, a crawling 5mbps, though the city is host to more co-working spaces with reliable connections.

Safety

Bali is an another safe place to be a nomad, with the primary concern being ATM skimming outside of bank ATMs, according to Lonely Planet’s area guide.

Access

Both Canggu and Ubud are best roamed with a bike or scooter, with Ubud being the most walkable of the two.

Doesn’t sound appealing? Don’t worry-- Bali’s creature comforts include cheap and accessible Uber rides too.

Work:

Phone

Telkomsel Simpati, EX, and Smartfren are the three big companies in Bali. SIM cards can be found primarily at phone shops scattered all around the island.

Co-working, cafes, and community

Beach front, open air, bamboo ceilings, poolside... Being at peace is a powerful tool for tackling work and passion projects. Co-working spaces in Bali are an oasis for the mind and spirit. With about 10 in Canggu and 20 in Ubud, there are plenty of options available.

Hubud, in Ubud, and Dojo, in Canggu, are among the best, which also offer co-living services.

The different cities have different vibes, which is half of the fun to explore. In any case, it’s easy to find like-minded people in Bali.

Life:

Cost of living

Bali is a place of affordable and abundant luxury. Nomadlist quotes an average of $1,124 a month, which makes it a little more expensive than Chiang Mai, but still budgeter-friendly.

Experiences

  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Surfing
  • Scaling volcanos
  • World Heritage Site Subak Irritation System

English

Bali is a well-traveled tourist destination, so English is widely spoken.

Visa

30-day visas are available for $35 upon arrival for most. It is possible to extend.

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Estimates for scooter ownership in the city, formerly known as Saigon, range anywhere from 2 million to 7 million. Now, that’s a pretty wide range, but even at the low end it’s safe to say that this city is bursting with life. Ho Chi Minh is popular amongst exuberant nomads who appreciate cheap and good eats.

Why it’s great for first-time nomads:

Reliable connections, low cost of living, a world-class cafe scene, and one of Asia’s top co-working spaces make Ho Chi Minh a great first adventure.

Vitals:

Internet

Speeds, while reliable, are estimated to hover around 10mbps, according to Nomad list.

Safety

Although pickpocketing is a known issue in the area, Ho Chi Minh is a safe city.

Access

Ever had an Uber driver pull up to your driveway with a scooter? It might happen in Ho Chi Minh! Uber and Grab are both available.

Like Chiang Mai and Bali, rental scooters are available.

Work:

Phone

Viettel, Movifone, and Vinaphone are the main SIM providers in Vietnam. Like in Chiang Mai, it’s easiest to take care of this at the airport.

Co-working, cafes, and community

With over 30 popular co-working spaces to choose from, Ho Chi Minh’s District 1 and 2 are great places to be.

One of the largest facilities, Dreamplex, was featured in Forbe’s “11 Best Coworking Spaces in Asia” and described as “modern” and “upscale”.

The digital nomad community in Ho Chi Minh is not as strong as in Chiang Mai or Bali, so it may be better for those who prefer small groups.

Life:

Cost of living

Nomadlist ranks Ho Chi Minh as another irresistibly affordable location. Monthly costs hover around $780.

Experiences

  • Canoeing in the Mekong Delta
  • Vietnamese coffee
  • Tet (Vietnamese New Year)
  • Hoi An City (another great digital nomad destination!)

English

Although the overall usage of English is poor, it is possible to get by and locals are friendly.

Visa

This visa must be taken care of ahead of time with an E-visa, pre-approval for a visa, or the full mail-in application. Visas are given in 1-, 3-, and 6-month increments.

Although this list is hardly comprehensive, we hope it gave you a place to begin your journey towards going 100% remote. Important things to consider are what your professional and personal needs are; do you need the community soundboard and great internet connections in Chiang Mai, or do you get your motivation from being surrounded by bustling city life like in Ho Chi Minh?

Next steps include taking a self-inventory, doing supplemental research on your top picks, and figuring out how to make it happen!

We’d love to hear from you-- let us know if this was, or wasn’t helpful, in narrowing down your choices. And if you have your own top picks for the best first-time digital nomad destinations in Asia, we’d love to hear those too.