Underrated Cities For Digital Nomads in 2020

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The world knows no shortage of amazing digital nomad destinations, and as more nomads take off into the wild each year, exciting new places are gaining popularity.

This year we surveyed top digital nomad bloggers and asked: What is the most underrated digital nomad city in 2020? Their answers were diverse and surprising. As nomads, we all choose our destination based on the kind of life we wish to live. Some of us are island people, while there are those who prefer a fast paced urban vibe. Whatever you’re into, we hope this list inspires you to check out some of these lesser known locales.

Underrated Cities for Digital Nomads

Koh Lanta Boats

Koh Lanta, Thailand

By Melissa | Nomadlife 101 

Are you looking for a digital nomads destination that will tick all your boxes? Look no more because Koh Lanta is a fantastic choice! Koh Lanta is a beautiful island which became another hot spot for digital nomads and it’s less crowded than other places around Thailand. The island is affordable even though the cost of living might be slightly more expensive compared to Chiang Mai. Prices for accommodation and food vary depending on how much you want to spend, but there is something for every budget. 

 

Digital nomads can find here the best rated coworking space in Thailand called Kohub, and there are many ways on how to connect with fellow digital nomads since the community in this coworking spot is great! They organize community lunches/dinners and various events each week, so it’s easy to network and explore the places around. Koh Lanta also offers some fun activities and day trips from which the most popular ones are diving and snorkeling trips to the surrounding islands, visiting beaches around, trips to caves, and kayaking. If you want to stay on the island, you can do some yoga or go to the gym and try Muay Thai.

Merida, Mexico

By Local Nomads

If what you’re after is a picturesque, culturally rich, affordable destination with walkable streets, amazing cuisine and a thriving expat community then Merida, Yucatan is an easy choice.

The digital nomad lifestyle is incredibly comfortable here. Meetups are a common sight in Merida’s trendy cafes, and the Yucatan expats community has a strong online presence which makes it easy to find answers to those very specific questions that always seem to pop up. 

Free days in Merida can be spent people-watching in the plaza, swimming in cenotes, touring public palaces, walking along the famous Paseo de Montejo, or just drinking tequila and micheladas in a pool or on a rooftop somewhere until you can’t feel your face anymore.

While the reputations of many of Mexico’s cities have been stained by violence, Merida is known for being one the safest cities in North America. And after six months of living here it’s not hard to understand why. We always felt safe walking around late at night, even when walking by ourselves. 

Night life in Merida offers something for everyone. Live music and dancing are a common theme. You’ll hear lots of rock and roll, even some jazz, mixed in with local favorites like salsa music and cumbia. You might even find yourself in a classy speakeasy sipping on world class cocktails jamming on some bluegrass. Fuck man, you just never know with this place. 

Just know this…Merida is the kind of city you can get stuck in for a while. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Taipei, Taiwan 

By Ron | Red Pill Rebellion 

Working Remotely from anywhere that has internet as a Digital Nomad can be a challenging feat.

 

Why is that?

 

well…

 

Simply because we are spoiled with choice. There are so many options and different variables to be considered when selecting a nomadic destination, it can drive one crazy. 

 

Personally, I think the number one consideration is a comfortable, reliable, and affordable work environment. Aside from that, I like to have a plethora of options for activities from which I can pick and choose: hikes, dining options, adventure travel spots, and local cultural events. Add on a a social culture and friendly locals and you’ve got a winner!

 

For me, this destination is Taipei, Taiwan. One of my absolute favorite cities in the world to work and explore. It is certainly an underrated city when it comes to nomadic life.

 

This city provides balance, convenience, affordability, and a great place to live and explore. There are lots of co-working options, from cheap cafes to expensive office space, and the entire country has reliable internet and world-class food. They also have the cleanest and most reliable public transportation I’ve seen.

 

There are many outdoors activities, cultural landmarks, hikes, night markets, bars, and social events that it’s impossible to get bored. One of my favorite spots is Shifen Waterfall, just a short trip outside the city. 

 

Practical Advice: If you’re looking to travel here for longer than 2 weeks, don’t just book an Airbnb, the city may seem like it has overpriced accommodation at first glance but it may make sense to look at Facebook groups (search for Taipei Apartment Rentals) or this website: https://www.591.com.tw.

 

Have fun and I hope you enjoy Taipei as much as I do!


Brighton UK

Brighton, UK

By Danni | Live in 10 Countries 

The city of Brighton and Hove along England’s South Coast has so much to offer digital nomads. It’s known for its relaxed, hippie and queer friendly vibe (if you’re familiar with San Francisco, it’s in that arena). This means that there’s a host of things to do, unique activities and hobbies to suit people globetrotting.

One of the city’s biggest industries is education, with throngs of adult students visiting in the summer to learn English at a crowd of English schools, and relax on the beach of course! This means that nomads fit in perfectly and there are so many local and international people to mingle with.

Of course, you’re here to work and not just relax. Thanks to a local conglomerate which is the city’s best known employer and supportive of distance working, working without a standard office is very normal here. There’s a great range of co-working spaces and public wi-fi is almost everywhere you go. 

Bratislava, Slovakia

by Slavka | On2Continents.com

Bratislava is not a typical nomad destination but has the potential to become one. First of the numerous strong points is its location. Right in the centre of Europe in close proximity to other popular European capitals, it offers great travel opportunities for day trips. Bratislava is very well connected to its surrounding countries and there’s s a good transportation network within Slovakia. Slovakia is 80% hills and mountains and those who like hiking and sports will love it there. Other tourist attractions include a myriad of medieval castles, exquisite caves (5 out of 13 are on the UNESCO list), tasty food and very social, fun and colourful folklore. 

Cost-wise, Bratislava is on the cheaper side when compared to other European capitals. To rent a 2-room apartment, it may cost anywhere between €300 – 600 depending on the location, unit type, level of upgrade and facilities. One can save money by renting a room with other nomads or students sharing one apartment or by renting a room in someone’s private home. The Internet in Slovakia is very fast and cheap. Under €30/month you can have a bundle of internet, cable and phone. Food is also less costly. When eating out, two people can dine for less than €25, including soup, main meal and a drink.    

If you consider digital nomading from Bratislava, I suggest April to October for the best weather. Join expat groups on social media to gain more insight and to connect. Many locals under 40 speak a foreign language, mainly German and English and the older ones know mostly Russian or Hungarian. Try to befriend a local for a better connection to the country’s culture, insight, friendship and fun. Slovaks are a bit reserved, especially when it comes to people of different religions and races. It’s the result of tumultuous history and past regimes. If you are friendly, respectful and smile a lot, you’ll be more welcome. Once you win their trust, Slovaks are very generous and friendly hosts.  

Siem Reap, Cambodia

By Temple Seeker

Siem Reap in Cambodia is certainly a more chaotic Southeast Asian digital nomad city than the popular Thai alternative of Chiang Mai. Yet it just seems to work – the traffic and pollution are outweighed by the vibrant night life on pub street and the wealth of ancient temples to explore. WIFI is readily available in the majority of bars, hotels and restaurants in Siem Reap. You can download the GRAB app to easily navigate the city by tuk-tuk. 

 

One of the the biggest challenges of being a digital nomad in Cambodia is figuring out the money – working in two currencies (Cambodian Riels AND American Dollars) is tough, but you will quickly get used to it! $1 is 4000 Riels and so if you are expecting $1.50 in change you will get $1 and 2000 Riels!

 

Once you get used to the dual-currency system, you will realise that the cost of living is very low. Shopping in Siem Reap is fantastic with an abundance of markets and malls that cater for all budgets.

 

If you are staying in Siem Reap as a digital nomad you will enjoy year round sunshine and a thriving expat community.  Plus – who can say know to a place with $1 beer – or even 50c during happy hour?!

Penang, Malaysia

By Ming Lee | Flyerism 

 

Are you looking for a home base to build your digital nomad career? You should definitely consider Penang island. At the date of writing, I’ve stayed in this beautiful island for more than three years. Although it doesn’t get a lot of publicity, Penang is an excellent digital nomad hub. Here’s why: 

#1. There are many reasonably priced co-working spaces in town, including aCAT (which is government-funded), FlexiSpace, Regus, Habitat, Settlements, and Common Ground. As well, there are many cafes with good internet connection where you can work. My recommendations are 75 Travellers Lodge, Coffee Addicts and Wheelers Cafe. 

#2. Penang is one of the hottest travel destinations in Malaysia and it has a thriving expat community. Not to mention, most locals are friendly and speak English. Although there isn’t an active digital nomad community in Penang, you can still connect to fellow travelers and like-minded people through various events and associations, including Couchsurfing meetups, aCAT networking events, HASH, hiking groups, etc. For the latest happenings in town, you’ll want to subscribe to Penang Free Sheet on Facebook. 

#3. Living in Penang is extremely affordable by the western standards. According to Nomadlist, the average cost of staying at Georgetown (the capital of Penang) is a little more than $1100. Here’s the tip: if you enjoy nature and prefer quieter area, try Balik Pulau instead. Your rent will be significantly lower.

Kuching, Malaysia

By Iuliya | Vidadeliya.com 

Kuching is the capital city of Sarawak – the largest state in Malaysia and located in the island of Borneo. Also known as the City of Cats (“Kuching” is very similar to the Malay word “kucing” which means cats), my hometown is something of a hidden paradise. An untouched resource, even for Malaysians!

 

Whenever one thinks of Malaysia, there is a tendency to stop by Kuala Lumpur and consider Malaysia done. Bucketlist destination ticked. But I would argue otherwise, particularly if you’re a digital nomad. 

 

Firstly, Kuching offers all the amenities of a capital city minus the dreaded thing called “traffic”. That has changed a little in recent times, admittedly, but most times you can get from Point A to Point B in an average of 15-20 minutes. The food is also really great and so much cheaper (I would also argue better!) then in Peninsular Malaysia. A bowl of kolo mee (a local noodle dish you can only find in Sarawak, not in KL) can cost around RM 5  (less than USD 2) on average, if not less and that’s the price for most local food unless you head to a fancy restaurant!

 

There are plenty of hipster cafes that have sprung up; all of them with fast internet. And Starbucks, if you’re inclined towards something more familiar. Quaint and historical accommodations in the heart of Kuching are also popular and there is a growing community of expats who choose to call Kuching home. Finally, the local art scene. It’s thriving, and you can read my post for a list of the most instagrammable street art here!

Athens, Greece

By Kathleen | My Lonesome Roads

Athens is the city where I started my digital nomad life – and I fell in love. Greece is often seen as more of a vacation destination, and Athens as a quick stopover on the way to the islands. But Athens is a great digital nomad destination in it’s own right. Why? The cost of living is pretty low – €500-€600 euros for a month in a nice Airbnb, €10 for a meal in a quaint taverna, €3 for a glass of wine or a coffee at a cafe where you can linger for hours, working or just enjoying the scenery. Athens is incredibly safe – as a woman alone, I never felt uneasy in the months I lived there. Staying outside the main tourist areas is best for both lower costs and less pickpockets – I loved staying in the artsy and bustling Kypseli neighborhood. And Greeks are very friendly and social, so making friends was easy in even a short period of time. WiFi can be spotty, so joining a coworking space (I recommend Stone Soup for its sense of community) can be helpful in getting faster and reliable internet. And for the cheapest and freshest food, stop by your neighborhood’s weekly laiki agora, or farmer’s market, and stock up on olives, fruit, and fresh fish. 

Antigua, Guatemala

By Kim | Kim and Way

One of Guatemala’s top tourist destinations also happens to be a digital nomad paradise. Antigua is known for its stunning colonial architecture, lush landscape and is surrounded by majestic volcanoes.

The region produces some of the best coffee and chocolate in the world. So it makes sense that the streets are lined with cafes that have high-speed internet. The city also hosts co-working spaces that provide an instant community for those passing through. 

Every year, Antigua welcomes a multitude of visitors during its Lenten season when the streets are lined with its famous sawdust carpets, and all attention is on the processions weaving their way through town.

It is a walkable city with plenty to explore. But what really makes Antigua ideal, however, is its cost of living. Guatemala is extremely affordable, and a digital nomad can live quite comfortably on $1,000 USD per month. 

It is indeed a tourist destination. Even so, the city rarely feels crowded or touristy. It is the fact that it is a tourist attraction that makes it easy to find some of the comforts of home.

Taghazout, Morocco

By Clare | https://www.ilive4travel.com/

Taghazout is a little surf town, located just north of Agadir in Morocco.  Every day in taghazout it is sunny with the temperature above 20 degrees Celsius all year, though in winter it can drop cool on an evening and you will need a jumper.

It is a place popular with digital nomads as it has a co-working space with fast reliable wifi.  Sundesk is the only co-working space in town but if you work online you will find that the wifi in the hotels and hostels is just not good enough.  With the co-working space you have the option of either day passes in the office or you can include your accommodation too.  

They also arrange group lunches and dinners and activities and everyone gets to know each other well and it is also a great atmosphere.

It will cost you around 1,000 euros a month if you have a private room, but the price does drop if you spend longer than a month there, you can also make it cheaper by staying in a hostel or apartment instead. 

Taghazout is a quite busy tourist town with the main attraction being surfing, though you can also visit local villages, walk along the beach for miles and watch amazing sunsets every day.  There are many restaurants in town with great food, though you will find only a few places that sell alcohol. Make sure you have a filtered water bottle with you as you are unable to drink the tap water in Morocco.

Da Nang, Vietnam

By Team Hazard RIdes Again

My husband and I have been traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Africa since 2017. By the end of 2019, we needed a place to pause, catch our breath and get some work done on our website. After some research, we settled on Da Nang in Vietnam.

Let me start by saying that Da Nang is the easiest city we have landed in throughout our adventures. It’s so easy that we spent the first two weeks amazed and waiting to find the down side. 

Other than slightly scarce ATM’s in our area, there isn’t one. 

Otherwise, internet is fast and cheap, coffee bars are abundant and the cost of living is low – and, you can have all this while being very close to the beach. Rent for a hotel room or studio apartment ranges from $200-650/mo, depending on how fancy you want to go.

We’ve ordered dinner for 2, had it delivered through Grab (SEA Uber for rides and food), and spent about $6-7, total. Or you can get noodle soup on the corner for $1.

Not only do local SIM cards give you plenty of cheap data, but hotel Wi-Fi is actually really fast and good as well. 

There are a number of attractions around for when you want to play tourist and plenty of restaurants, both local and western. 

Da Nang is modern, it’s picturesque and has pretty much everything you need to settle in and get some work done, or play, or both. Being a digital nomad in Da Nang is easy-peasy.

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

By Susannah | The Obriens Abroad

After two years of full-time travel as digital nomads, we arrived in Kota Kinabalu, the only official city in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah, in search of adventure. We knew Sabah offered some of the best adventures found in Southeast Asia, but the opportunities to comfortably work blew us away. We found in Kota Kinabalu all we look for in a digital nomad hub: a multilingual population fluent in English, inexpensive, modern accommodations and food, a network of other expats, international shopping centers with familiar fare, and fast internet. Kota Kinabalu, often referred to as KK, is the best combination of being able to relax, live, and work as an expat while being surrounded with incredible people, traditional food, beautiful landscape, and interesting culture. After all, isn’t that golden combination of work + adventure what makes life a digital nomad so appealing? Being able to work, find friends, speak your native language, and get away easily for a cheap, once-in-a-lifetime adventure made Sabah one of our top digital nomad locations in the world! 



Krabi, Thailand

By Nina | Whereintheworldisnina.com

While most digital nomads flock to Chiang Mai or Bangkok to bust out their laptop, I’m a Florida chick and I NEED the beach. So I went south, wayyy south, down to Krabi. Where karst mountain jut out of the water, the water is warm, and there’s plenty of sandy spots to sink my toes in. I love a good city but I love beaches more, so if you’re anything like me, try heading to Krabi, Thailand to get that fix.

 

The internet was never a problem for me, and this was a few years ago. Luckily, most of Thailand is very well connected and you’ll get great speeds almost anywhere.

 

To keep costs down, I decided to stay in Krabi Town, which is about 30 minutes from the beaches. It’s also where more expats hang out.

 

I won’t say there’s a massive community, but there definitely is one. You’ll make friends with digital nomads and others teaching English at the local schools. I made friends with a mix of teachers and fellow DNs (and, of course, locals to).

 

My apartment was studio-esque but a bit bigger with two “open rooms” in the center of the town. I paid around $160 a month for this place, with internet. Not too bad!

 

If you grab a place near the beach you’ll be paying quite a bit more. It’s also far more touristy there.

The best way to find a spot is to talk, walk around, and get the word out. I stayed at a hotel for a week and then found a place. There are also Krabi Facebook groups to join and ask. 

 

Many will think the town is quite uneventful but I’m not a night owl at all and I didn’t mind the chill town. If you want to get a bit crazy, the beach area isn’t far and there are plenty of parties there. I liked that I could be away from the craziness and the parties but choose to go when I wanted to. Plus Krabi Town has much better night markets and I choose good cheap food over a party street any day (I know, I’m just coolest, aren’t I?)

 

On the weekends (/ you’re a DN so whenever you give yourself a day off) you can hang out at any of the beaches (there are tons), go on a few hikes, go rock climbing, island hopping, and more… There’s a lot to do in the area!

 

From Krabi Town, you have a decent airport that goes to the hubs in Southeast Asia too, so “escaping” for a week to another nearby spot is easy. Plus you have tons of islands at your fingertips with multiple piers in your backyard to get you there.

 

Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

By Dream Big Travel Far 

We had an epic time exploring Sri Lanka in 2018, but by and far one of the best places we got the chance to stay and work in was Unawatuna. As full time digital nomads, we are always on the lookout for cities filled with plenty to see and do, as w

ell as practical working arrangements for us. And luckily enough, Unawatuna ticks all the boxes!

 

In the morning, I would get up early and go out surfing. In the daytime, if we weren’t out sightseeing, we had our pick of top notch cafes and restaurants to work in. What’s great is that many of these places are very easy to find and located right on the beach itself. We found WiFi strength to be great all across Sri Lanka and Unawatuna was no different. 

 

What helped make it great for nomads as well is that it’s so cheap! Which is perfect for us and other remote workers who are still in the stages of building their income and can’t afford to splash the cash in expensive cities. I can’t comment on long-term housing arrangements, as we weren’t there for long enough to look into this. But what I can say is that there are tonnes of cheap hostels, apartments and hotels to be found. 

 

The whole city has a very chilled out vibe and it’s just really nice to live and work in such a place with great people, great weather, awesome sunsets and incredibly cheap restaurants all along the beach. As a final tip, make sure you check out the Unawatuna Dog Care Clinic which helps thousands of stray dogs all across Sri Lanka, but seems to fail to get the promotion it needs amongst backpackers

Further reading:

2 Responses

  1. Desiree
    | Reply

    Another awesome blog post!
    Thanks for sharing your life on the road!

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Thanks, Desiree! So many great bloggers contributed to this post, I’m so proud to be able to feature them on Local Nomads!

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