For the longest time, the coveted dream of many is to travel and work anywhere in the world. But in the past decade, changing work trends and technology has made life as a digital nomad actually practical for the regular person.
If having the world as your office sounds like the kind of lifestyle you want, here are 5 Asian cities for digital nomads. These cities are selected from Nomad List, a crowdsourced database of city metrics, contributed by nomads, for nomads. Cities are ranked based on factors like cost of living, safety, weather, fun, and internet connectivity.
NomadCost gauges the average cost of living based on a short-term stay (up to three months), living in a cheap, private hotel or hostel located in the city centre and eating out three times a day. For reference, Singapore’s NomadCost is at $3,896 per month.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
From its rugged, mountain terrains to charming temples, Chiang Mai’s natural beauty is large draw to the waves of digital nomads who set foot on this city.
Chiang Mai is also a top destination for digital nomads due to its affordable cost of living and nomad-friendly environment. There are plenty of co-working spaces, fast Wi-Fi, active community of digital nomads and entrepreneurs and a vibrant food scene. It typically costs $1,578 per month to live in Chiang Mai.
Despite all its draws, this city is not without its flaws. Traffic is chaotic and roads are not exactly pedestrian-friendly and have a chronic lack of sidewalks. The ‘burning season’ plagues residents around March to April every year with smog pollution and plummeting air quality.
Visas for Chiang Mai
Singaporeans can stay up to 30 days on a Visa Exemption if you arrive by air. If you are entering through land borders (also known as border run), your stay cannot exceed 15 days, and entry in this way is only granted twice a year.
If you apply for Tourist Visa, you can stay for up to 60 days for both Single and Multiple Entry. You can apply for a Tourist Visa at the Royal Thai Embassy in Singapore, and get an additional 30 days extension at the immigration office in Thailand.
Canggu is a major draw for digital nomads. With dozens of beach bars and surf spots, it’s the perfect place for you to live out your fantasy of working from your laptop on the beach.
Apart from its sandy white beaches, Canggu is also an inexpensive city for digital nomads to live in, at $1,911 per month. Despite being a major tourist destination in Indonesia, it is still a safe city and residents are generally friendly to foreigners.
The main downside is that Canggu is not a walkable place. Most residents get by via scooters or cars. Traffic jams are frequent too, as Canggu is situated near Bali’s touristy area, Seminyak. Lastly, Canggu is populated with plenty of expats, nomads and tourists. So if you are looking for a place where you can live like a local, Canggu is not the kind of city for you.
Visas for Canggu
Singaporeans can visit Indonesia for up to 30 days without a visa, and you can do a one-time extension for 30 days. For a 60-day tourist visa, you can apply for it at the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore. The tourist visa can be extended up to five times a year, for 30 days per extension.
Da Nang, Vietnam
Another up and coming city for digital nomads is Da Nang. The seaside city is peppered with work-friendly cafes and co-working spaces and its cost of living hovers around $1,155 per month. Da Nang’s coastline stretches 30 kilometres and is renowned for its pristine beaches. The city lends a more relaxed pace of life compared to its busier neighbours like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
The language barrier can a challenge, especially since the majority of locals do not speak much English. With a much smaller digital nomad community, this Asian city is less developed compared to other hotspots. Housing and services are less nomad-friendly and those who live there have commented about prevalent construction noise.
Visas for Da Nang
Singaporeans have up to 30 days of visa exemption when visiting Vietnam. For longer duration, you can visit the Vietnamese embassy for a three-month single or multiple entry visa.
Both the tourist visa and visa exemption can be extended for up to two months at the Immigration Department in Vietnam.
Shanghai, People’s Republic of China
This fast-paced metropolis ranks well in affordability, great nightlife and entertainment. At $2,552 per month, Shanghai’s cost of living is higher compared to other Southeast Asian countries. But as a global financial hub and China’s largest city, Shanghai’s energy remains as an attractive city to digital nomads around the world.
A downside is China’s great firewall. The internet is the lifeblood for digital nomads. While a VPN connection goes around that challenge, internet access still remains spotty at times. Finding people who speak English will also be tricky, as the locals converse mainly in Chinese or the Shanghainese dialect.
Visas for Shanghai
Singaporeans can stay in Shanghai without a visa for no more than 15 days. For a longer duration, apply for a tourist visa at the Chinese Embassy in Singapore, its validity ranges from six to 12 months.
Taipei, Republic of China
Taipei is rapidly evolving with expats and remote workers due to its fast internet, welcoming locals and safe environment. Co-working spaces and cafes abound in Taipei and its vibrant night markets that bolsters its reputation as a foodie destination. According to NomadList, it costs about $3,773 per month for digital nomads to live in this city.
The only gripe that some digital nomads have for this Asian city is that accommodation tends to be on the pricer side. Neighbourhoods that are further from the city central will have more affordable housing options.
Visas for Taiwan
Singaporeans can stay in Taiwan for up to 30 days without a visa. You can apply for a tourist visa with validity of six months at the Taipei Representative Office in Singapore.
Make The World Your Office
If these 5 Asian cities for digital nomads sound like the kind of places you’d like to work and live, then start making concrete plans to make it a reality for yourself.
The world of work is changing to embrace mobility and flexibility and remote work opportunities are springing up across various industries. For aspiring digital nomads, there has never been an easier time to become one than now.
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