Are you a digital nomad considering where to go next? When the world is your oyster, how do you choose?
Read on for our complete guide to how to select your next destination as a digital nomad. We start with how to come up with a long list of destinations to consider, and then share six key criteria to use to assess whether a destination should make it to your short list.
It can feel like a lengthy process, but the time spent evaluating destinations is not wasted! It also forms part of your pre-planning process for your next stop, and you may find yourself lining up your next five destinations!
So, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you select the ideal location for your next digital nomad journey.
Make your Possible Destination List
It is hard to choose a destination when you can literally go anywhere in the world. You will need to start by making a list of places to consider and assess. So, what destinations should be on this list?
Of course, first on your list should be places you have always wanted to go! What countries, cities, and destinations have you always wanted to visit are or you dying to go back to?
To this list, you can also add places that are currently a “good deal”. This might mean cheap flights or affordable accommodation that you have found through services such as Remote Base. Now might be the perfect time to travel to these destinations on the cheap.
If you aren’t feeling inspired, you can dip into digital nomad communities and see which destinations fellow remote working travelers are currently recommending. Something about their recent experience might grab your attention.
Once you have your list of possible places, you can start assessing them based on criteria for whether they will make a good destination for a digital nomad.
Criteria #1 – Cost of Living
For most digital nomads, finding a place with an affordable cost of living that will let your money go further is an important consideration. You will want to consider the general cost of living for each place on your list.
You can use resources such as Numbeo to get a general idea for the cost of living. But remember that these figures relate to what it costs for a local, and it can cost you more, especially for accommodation.
It is a good idea to look at accommodation separately to get a good idea of how much an Airbnb or local rental is likely to cost you for the duration of your proposed stay.
Criteria #2 – Visa Requirements
Of course, you are going to need a visa to stay in your chosen destination. What kind of visa you need depends on the passport you hold, where you are going, and how long you intend to stay.
In most cases, if you intend to stay for less than three months, you can probably travel on a tourist visa. Most tourist visas let foreigners stay for up to 90 days but prohibits them from working within the local economy. Whether you can work remotely for a foreign company on a tourist visa is a bit of a grey area, but most border authorities don’t monitor this and turn a blind eye.
If you want to stay for longer than three months, you will need to consider alternative visa options. Many countries now offer specific digital nomad or remote work visas, which are often the easiest for digital nomads. They generally only require that you have a minimum monthly income coming in from international employment. They are granted for between six months and two years.
But some digital nomad visas are only open to individuals from certain countries or require that you work in certain fields or meet specific minimum education requirements.
This tool can show you where you can get a digital nomad visa.
If there is no digital nomad visa available, getting a different kind of long-term visa can be challenging and often requires steps such as registering your business in your destination country. This is only really recommended if you want to stay somewhere long-term and are considering setting down roots there in the future.
Criteria #3 – Season
Many digital nomads are sun chasers and like to outrun winter, but this is not universally true. There are plenty of digital nomads who enjoy organizing ski trips or follow the autumn leaves. Everyone has their own preferences.
But whatever you are looking for, consider what the climate will be like when you are traveling. While some destinations enjoy balmy warm weather year-round, they often have intense rainy seasons that can leave you confined to your accommodation much of the time. In big cities, there can be certain times of year when pollution and smog are particularly bad.
In addition to the changing climate, it is also worth considering if you are traveling in the high tourist season. Everything is more expensive at this time, and you can expect many of the sites you want to see and things you want to do to be crowded.
If you have the luxury of choosing when you travel, it can be a good idea to choose to avoid the busiest months of the year.
Criteria #4 – Lifestyle and Quality of Life
What kind of lifestyle are you looking for on this trip? Are you keen to get out of your comfort zone, discover new cultures, and challenge yourself? Or are you looking to relax and enjoy the warm climate with as few hassles as possible? Do you enjoy the hustle and bustle of big cities, or do you appreciate the tranquillity of smaller settlements?
Consider what you are looking for right now and whether you chosen destination meets your current needs.
Also, assuming you want to discover new things and have new experiences, is there plenty to see and do where you are going? Are there great things on your doorstep for days on which you are busy working, and are there great day and weekend trips in the vicinity for you to make the most of your time off?
Part of this assessment can be considering how easy it is to get around. Will you be staying somewhere walkable or with a great metro system, or will you need to rely on taxis or a hire car? Are there train, flight, and bus links for traveling further afield?
You might also want to consider whether there is an existing digital nomad and expat community in the area. Some digital nomads love this as it means that there is a strong community that they can tie into a feel part of it. But some digital nomads don’t like destinations that feel oversaturated and prefer to look elsewhere.
Criteria #5 – Safety and Health
Considering how safe a place is to visit is always a priority. Websites like the Global Peace Index provide rankings of countries based on their safety, including local crime, potential for terrorism, and health concerns.
It is not always easy to determine safety as in a single country some areas can be extremely safe while others can be highly dangerous. It can be worthwhile to consider a few specific safety concerns for where you will be. For example, will you be able to stay in standard accommodation or will you need to invest in something with higher security? Will you be able to catch public transport, or will you need to make other arrangements?
Health considerations go hand in hand with this. How will you access health services while you are there? You will probably need to invest in health insurance to pay for any services that you might need, but do local health networks have the necessary facilities?
Criteria #6 – Work Needs
Of course, if you are a working digital nomad, you will also need to consider whether you will be able to get you work done.
How is the internet connectivity where you will be staying? You can get a decent internet connection in most cities these days if you are willing to pay for it, but remote areas can be tricky.
If you have specific contact hours or meetings, are you in a time zone that will make that realistic? If you are more than five hours in front or behind your work time zone, establishing a healthy work pattern can be very challenging.
If you like to work in coworking spaces to network or like to work in cafes to people, are these facilities available where you intend to travel? Not everywhere has a café culture that accepts people sitting and working on their laptops for several hours while sipping brews.
Make Your Final Choice
Once you have made your assessments and turned your long list into a short list, it is just about making a choice. You probably aren’t asking where you will go, but rather where you will go first. So, things such as season and how long it takes to get a visa may be influential factors.
But the biggest factor will probably just be where feels right. Looking at your short list, which location is calling your name the loudest?