When I left the UK with little more than a laptop and enough money to last a few months, it was pretty obvious I would be sticking to affordable places for the time being. Luckily, I’d already done enough traveling to know where I could find the right balance between rock-bottom prices and killer destinations.
These countries and cities are ideal places to start out too because they take a huge amount of the financial burden of those early days as a digital nomad.
My first stop was a return to Valencia – a cracking city on the east coast of Spain that comes with none of the hustle and bustles you expect from a major city. In fact, the place feels more like a giant town with incredibly friendly people, cracking rental prices and a climate to die for.
If you’re from the UK, like me, there’s also something reassuring about starting closer to home. And the super chilled mentality in this sleepy city is contagious enough to make it the perfect remedy for those nervy first few months as a digital nomad.
• Naples, Italy
• Lisbon, Portugal
Anywhere in Vietnam
It’s too hard to pick one place in this incredible country, which boasts a fine collection of affordable places for you to choose from – each with its own unique character. Whether you choose Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Dalat or one of the other gems in Vietnam, you can guarantee affordability at every stop.
We’re not talking the relaxing kind of refuge you’ll find in Valencia or the tropical sands of Bali, mind. There’s a real edge to this country, but it’s as addictive as its kick-ass coffee and noodle soup. So much so I’m back for a second six-month stint in little over a year.
• Phnom Penh, Cambodia
• Vientienne, Laos
Chiang Mai, Thailand
The other absolute budget destination in Southeast Asia has got to be Thailand. It’s up there with the most diverse nations on the subcontinent too, which means you’ll almost certainly find somewhere to fall in love with.
It’s also more developed in terms of tourism than most countries in the area, which can make things a little more convenient. The trade-off is you get more tourists, savvy locals trying it on and more tourist traps. It’s hard to recommend a single city, but I would say Chaing Mai is a good place to start – purely from my own experience and speaking to other travelers/nomads.
• Bali, Indonesia
• Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
On the South American trail, you have an endless collection of affordable cities, but my personal pick of the bunch (that I’ve visited) would have to be Medellin, Colombia. It’s just a cracking place to be and surprisingly cheap, considering this is the ‘second’ city of Colombia.
I’d go as far to say this is one of the most comfortable South American cities I’ve come across as a place to live. Strong infrastructure makes it a good, solid place to work too and there’s a real sense of culture for such a modern city.
• Buenos Aires, Argentina
• Santiago, Chile
As you can see, there are still gaping holes in my travel experiences – notably Eastern Europe, Central Asia and African nations. Then we have the wonderful, but more expensive destinations like Zurich in Sweden; Tokyo in Japan; Seoul in South Korea; Singapore; Toronto in Canada and Melbourne, Australia.
These are all cracking places if you can afford them in the early days of your nomad adventure, but if you’re jumping in at the deep end like I did, then you’ll do well on this list.
As for my personal favorite? Well, Medellin is a true gem and I would recommend it to anyone. But I’m a true Vietnam addict by now and it’s not the cost of living that keeps me coming back for more!