A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving – Lao Tzu
Is there really an “ideal” location for a digital nomad? Well, the answer to that question is not very simple. Nomads – where the now popular term digital nomads originate from – are travelling communities who go from one place to another looking for fresh pasture. They are resourceful enough to make the best use of their current environments, and then after some time they travel looking for another promising place. That is what defines them, their flexibility and the never settling nature.
Therefore, asking if there is one ideal location for a digital nomad is quite ironical. There are some places that are better than the others, but ultimately digital nomads keep travelling, just like the nomadic tribes did since forever.
With that being said, the following are some of the best cities in South and South Asia that I have personally experienced to be quite pleasant and accommodating for a digital nomad like me. I have to give you a disclaimer, however, that my life is very minimalistic. It does not take me much to be satisfied and happy, as long as I am safe, happy and in peace with a good internet connection. Needless to say, the following cities made me very happy during my travels!
1 – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Ah, the digital nomad’s paradise! Affordable accommodations, good and affordable food, good internet, stunning views, friendly locals and peaceful ambience in general – what more could you ask? With the popularity that it has gained over the years as a Digital Nomad hotspot, there are many co-working spaces that are sprouting everywhere in Chiang Mai, making it all the more desirable for a DN. Located in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a large city that is refreshingly calm and peaceful.
Apart from the good internet and comfortable cafes that you can work on for hours, the city itself is culturally and historically rich. The beautiful mountains surrounding you and the stunning Buddhist temples that you see around you will make you feel closer to your spiritual self, while you work on your best projects as a digital nomad. The food culture in Chiang Mai is quite rich, with restaurants containing delicious Thai cuisine, well-accommodating vegans and vegetarians as well. Plenty of fresh fruit and greens available in abundance will help you eat healthier and be a better version of yourself among the misty mountains of Chiang Mai.
2 – Ubud, Bali
The culture, spirituality, food and also the networking opportunities that Ubud has to offer you are unmatched – I might be a little biased here since Ubud happens to my personal favourite location ever as a Digital Nomad. Away from the high spirited bustle of tourists in Kuta and Canggu, Ubud stands still with an amazingly spiritual aura that only Ubud has to offer. You get a few popular co-working spaces there filled with many successful digital nomads if you like to network and get insights into the lifestyle especially if you are a beginner. If you are, like me, love the solitariness and working along in silence, there are many villas, homestays and hostels that you can stay at very affordable prices with wifi.
The locals in Ubud are very friendly and generous. The few months I stayed in Ubud, I was invited to plenty of traditional ceremonies in their homes that they served an array of heavenly food! While it is a popular tourist attraction, Ubud has its own peace and calm amongst everything, without much noise or disturbances around making it one of the most ideal DN location in my opinion.
3 – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Vietnam is a country that has a lot to offer when it comes to natural wonders and fascinating culture. The highlight of Southern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is also popular as a great location for digital nomads. You get extremely affordable accommodation and access to good internet and the city itself has a population of the great progressive community. After its neighbour Thailand, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam is popular as a good bootstrap ground for new startups, mainly online businesses. The long term visa process is fairly easier when compared to many of its neighbours, and office space with a good internet connection can be rented for a very reasonable price.
Due to the progressiveness of the city, when compared to other parts of Vietnam, the fun factor that you can expect including a very active and entertaining nightlife can be expected. Whenever you are tired of this urban metropolis, you can take a quick and easy getaway to a stunning beach town nearby, making this city even more attractive to live in for a working traveller.
4 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
With its central location in South East Asia, Kuala Lampur makes a great semi-permanent home away from home for digital nomads. The flights from KL are famously cheap due to the many budget airlines in the country, and you can always return when you need to refresh your visas from the neighbouring countries. It is a very common stopover for digital nomads, and those who love the culture and the vibe of KL, tend to stay for longer terms as well.
Malaysia is a commercial hub in the region, with many stunning skyscrapers and bustling city life. You get access to really good internet, and an active tech and developer community if you are a programmer/developer. There are many hawker centres around the city of KL when you want to try some amazing exotic food at affordable prices. You can find plenty of affordable accommodation in the city as well. The startup scene in the city is also quite active, with many local and international startups making the city their running around.
When you need a break for the city life, you can take a quick and cheap flight to neighbouring “hippie” town Penang for some beer and chilling, or Kota Kinabalu for the mountains, greenery and some beautiful beaches.
5 – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Famous for the beloved Buddhist temple complex Angor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia is one of those places that you would not think to be a good digital nomad location, but ending up delivering a great experience with everything combined. Due to the amazing surroundings and the affordability of everything, it is increasingly getting popular among the DN community all around the world. There are new co-working centres showing up in the area, and the cafes all around the city offer good wifi with the travelling workers in mind.
You can meet many travellers and other digital nomads in this area. Due to the heightened visa laws in Thailand, many Digital Nomads who were based in Thailand seem to eventually make their way to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The city is also full of great food culture with delicious local cuisine and dishes inspired by many surrounding countries. The locals are known for their friendliness and generosity as well. It is better to avoid the rainy season when you are visiting the country since the rains in Cambodia can get very heavy, and disrupt internet connections.
Check out the South East Asian countries that have digital nomad visas in place to welcome you.