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Top Travel Destinations and Routes for Digital Nomads: Part One

Angkor Wat Sunset

As a digital nomad, choosing the right destinations is the cornerstone for maintaining an affordable, enriching, and productive lifestyle. Not every nomad is the same, some may love a fast paced city, where others would prefer kicking their feet up on a beach or overlooking a mountain vista.

In this article we will cover some of the best destinations in South East Asia that you may not have considered – as well as ones you should avoid.

From Southeast Asia to Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe and beyond – this series will shed some light on the nomad life.

We will also dive into visas, laws and how to make sure you don’t wind up accidentally getting in trouble along the way.

Southeast Asia

Siem Reap, Cambodia:

This destination is first on the list for good reason. Over the last 5 to 10 years, especially during the covid era, the government in Cambodia has reinvested a lot into their infrastructure. Building beautiful roads in the “Gateway to Angkor” with beautiful marble sidewalks where there used to be only dirt.

Internet speeds are acceptable for most remote workers. Mekong Net is the recommended provider, though it will be slightly more expensive than others such as Met Phone, they are the most reliable. You can get 100mbps for $34 a month.

Of course, one of the main perks of basing yourself out of Siem Reap is the Angkor Wat temple complex, one of the ancient wonders of the world. The next is the cost of living. You can find a nice apartment or condo anywhere around the town for between $150-$500 USD per month depending on if you want a pool, gym or other amenities.

The food in Siem Reap is incredibly diverse, you can find anything from delicious Indian cuisine for $3-$7 per dish, wood fired pizza for $8-$15, Mediterranean food and of course local food such as the delicacy Lok Lak, a beef dish with a nice gravy served over a bed of onions for around $1-$2 depending on where you go – also, many restaurants serve ice cold lager for just 50 cents.

For those who like to work and play, you will find the nightlife robust in Siem Reap. The famous Pub Street area in downtown features many clubs including the famous X-Bar with a wide open rooftop dance floor and skate halfpipe on the third level – DJs play everything from Deep House, Techno and EDM to club hits.

Looking for a more upscale experience? You will find plenty of wine or cocktail bars with great jazz, world music, rock and chilled out open mics around town with a great atmosphere.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Genuinely friendly locals who will help you with pretty much anything
  • Visas are easy, with a 0ne year business visa and work permit coming at a cost of around $800 USD. With a “self employed” work permit you can work in any capacity you’d like legally
  • Great western and local food
  • Vibrant nightlife
  • A beautiful place to settle for a bit on your travels

Cons:

  • The new airport is 45 minutes out of town and flights direct to Siem Reap still remain rare until more airlines start renting slips. So you will likely have to split up the trip and land in Phnom Penh first, which is a bit of a pain. 

You will also need to pay for either a private car which can be as much as $50 USD, or wait for a van to fill up and pay between $9-$20 USD that will drop you off somewhere in town.

  • There are Tuk Tuks everywhere in downtown that will give you a bit of hassle. It’s much better to book a Tuk Tuk through PassAPP or Nam24, as there is accountability through the app.  This ensures you won’t get ripped off or end up at the wrong destination with the driver demanding more money
  • For some, this may have that small town feel and they may want something a bit more fast paced such as the capitol Phnom Penh

Hanoi, Vietnam:

The cost of living is comparable to that of Cambodia and the Philippines – making it an attractive destination for digital nomads on a budget. Affordable accommodation, food, and transportation allow nomads to maintain a high quality of life without breaking the bank.

The vibrant culture and history from its ancient temples and pagodas to the charming Old Quarter and live aboard boat trips in . The city’s unique blend of traditional Vietnamese culture and French colonial influences creates a fascinating environment to explore in between your online work.

Hanoi has a thriving expat and digital nomad community. There are numerous co-working spaces, cafes, and networking events where nomads can connect, collaborate, and share experiences.

When it comes to food, Vietnamese cuisine is world-renowned, and Hanoi is at its heart. Street food stalls, local markets, and restaurants offer a wide variety of delicious and affordable meals. Pho, banh mi, and fresh spring rolls are just a few of the culinary delights to enjoy.

Hanoi offers reliable and fast internet, essential for digital nomads. There are plenty of co-working spaces and cafes with excellent Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, and conducive working environments.

The city is also well-connected to other parts of Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Frequent flights and an efficient public transportation system make it easy to explore nearby regions, such as the stunning Halong Bay and the charming town of Hoi An – known for its laid back feel and multitude of tailors.

Then there are the breathtaking landscapes. From the lush greenery of Ba Vi National Park to the serene waters of West Lake, there are plenty of opportunities for nature lovers to unwind and recharge.

Pros:

  • Ease of access. There are many affordable international flights direct to Hanoi, especially from places such as Australia.
  • Lot’s of spaces with fast and reliable internet for nomads to work
  • Cheap cost of living
  • World famous local food, including French influenced baking and dishes

Cons:

  • Depending on the country you are from, visas aren’t cheap. And if you want to stay in the country for an extended period of time, that will be a process.
  • Obtaining long term leases isn’t easy unless you have the right visa, so you may spend more staying at hotels and hostels than in other countries.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Formerly known as the digital nomad capital of the world, this city was absolutely busting at the seams with remote workers before the former and beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej unfortunately passed away on October 13, 2016. May he rest in peace. What ensued after his passing changed the course of how remote workers were welcomed in the country.

There were several raids of co-working spaces by immigration police around the city and country, as it is illegal to work in any capacity in Thailand without a business visa and work permit. 

The trouble for nomads in this country comes down to this – these visas and work permits can be quite spendy and require a mountain of paperwork to obtain. Even after paying for all of the fees to open a business and get a work permit, you can still be denied – losing your investment.

Immigration in Thailand started cracking down on visa runs, border bounces and even began refusing entry to those who had already obtained a proper visa through the Thai embassy before arrival, often citing that the person had been to Thailand too many times.

It’s best to work either directly with immigration when renewing your visa or hiring a reputable company such as Assist Thai Visa, which currently boasts a 4.6 star rating and has a long track record of taking care of visas for nomads and expats alike.

The food is of course delicious and the locals are generally friendly. Chiang Mai has so many temples to see that it’s ridiculous. There is also Doi Suthep mountain, which has many hiking and biking trails and the most famous temple in the city, Wat Doi Suthep.

For nightlife, keep in mind that there are strict laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol. You are only allowed to consume alcohol in a public venue between the hours of 11am to 2pm and from 5pm to 12am. So the nightlife is a bit lackluster in the city.

There are of course late night places that wont be named here, but you always run the risk of a raid from the police and paying hefty fines to stay out of jail – or end up there anyway and still pay large fines to get out.

Of course there are the beautiful vistas, mountains, waterfalls and unique culture to experience. Such as watching a Pro Muay Thai fight at Thapae Boxing Stadium, seeing the local villages and getting a feel for how they live life and visiting the old city, which still remains, although most of it was rebuilt after the Japanese army dismantled much of the walls to use for the construction of roads to get to British occupied Burma (now Myanmar) during World War II.

Pros:

  • Fast and reliable internet around the city
  • Great local food
  • Beautiful places to explore
  • Ancient temples and culture
  • Muay Thai Stadiums

Cons:

  • Expensive visas
  • Overall risk while working in public
  • More expensive than Cities in neighboring countries
  • Local law enforcement corruption

In the next article we will cover digital nomad destinations in Eastern Europe which offer amazing experiences, great work spaces, affordable living and much more. If you liked this article, check out this article on Tips and Tricks for Digital Nomads!

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