The Ultimate List of Top Places for Remote Workers: 2019 Edition
Remote work is taking off. Some of the most successful companies in the world, like GitHub and Atlassian, are now baking distributed teams into their very infrastructure.
It’s a lifestyle that comes with distinct benefits, one of the most popular being the ability to travel and work remotely. As a remote worker, your town or your city is your office. Your boardrooms are WeWorks, coffeeshops and your living room. Liberated from the constraints of being at a fixed address at a certain time, remote workers often take advantage of their arrangement to see the world and spread their network farther and wider.
Concurrently, every silver lining has a cloud, and remote workers worldwide struggle with similar things as they travel and work remotely. While at an office, you might worry if the Tupperware you take to work is safe in the communal fridge, or how much you’ll pay for parking close to the office.
As a remote worker, your challenges might be quite different. Among the daily tribulations of the remote worker are:
- Working wifi: can you find it easily? Are places friendly to you sitting on a table for hours on end?
- Friendly faces: loneliness is a plague even in bustling offices – it can be 10x worse when you don’t have a built-in community of colleagues.
- Affordable living: if you’ve moved somewhere, you’re going to be hit by all sorts of moving fees, currency changes and the inevitable costly mistakes that come with being an exhausted expat: it helps to have somewhere that doesn’t charge and arm and a leg for them.
Additionally, just as not every office is a great fit for every employee, not all cities are great choices for all remote workers. It can be a challenge to decide where to go next, when there are 195 countries, each with fervent devotees and detractors.
We reviewed articles across the web, canvassed community groups and our own personal experience to compile this, a list of the top places for remote workers, based on the things that matter most.
What we looked at:
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Because money matters.
Wifi rating: Some cities are fully wired and you can find it in public parks. Some have local libraries which will offer it free of cost. Some are dotted with affordable coffee shops. We’ll let you know how easy it is to get online.
Great for: What travellers especially liked.
Look out for: No place is perfect, and what you may need to be aware of before booking your flights.
Overview: What our research says.
ASIA (MAINLAND & SOUTHEAST)
Asia has long held an allure for travelers worldwide. It’s no wonder: the breathtaking landscapes, mouth-watering cuisine, fascinating history and variation of culture from region to region make it irresistible.
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Indonesian Rupiah €; 1 USD = 14,144.47
Wifi Rating: 6/10 - Not great in houses, but easy to find coworking spaces.
Great for: Adventure seekers.
Look out for: The heat, the traffic.
Overview: A surfing / partying / coworking paradise, this isn’t a city or a town so much as a village that’s been turned into a haven for remote workers. Canggu village seems to be a hybrid of the extremes of work life balance. This is the ideal work escape for those who value the ability to escape to the waves and spend the nights dancing, as much as they need to spend their days sending emails and videoconferencing.
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Thai Baht ฿; 1 USD = 30.78 Baht
Wifi Rating: 7/10
Great for: Cultural experiences, meeting other expats, affordable living, stunning natural landscapes and outdoor escapes.
Look out for: Potential residents will need to have a certain tolerance for heat, and the city hasn’t escaped the plague of pollution that’s dogged many developing areas. Also, its distance from other cities, along with a high turnover of transient expats can make it a lonely and frustrating experience for some.
Overview: Chiang Mai is one of the first places remote workers name when surveyed about the best places to set up a home office-away-from-home office. While its relative fame is warranted, its popularity is a double-edged sword, and contributes to the congestion and influx that many now decry. Nonetheless, it remains one of the top destinations for adventurous remote workers looking for unforgettable workplaces. Close to numerous spots for adventurous weekends, with an infrastructure well set up for digital nomads and remote workers, and affordable, delicious food, there’s a reason upcoming remote working cities are sometimes called, ‘The next Chiang Mai’.
Currency, and equivalent to USD: New Taiwan Dollar $; 1 USD = 31.18 NT
Wifi Rating: 10/10 - if you can get it. Some report relying instead on their data plans, if they couldn’t find a living space with wifi.
Great for: Convenience and speed.
Look out for: Can be difficult to find affordable short-term housing. More expensive than other places nearby in Thailand or Indonesia.
Overview: Like cities? Need fast wifi? Want friendly residents around? Don’t mind a few weeks of being lost in translation, or comfortable enough in your Mandarin? You may be the next Taipei devotee. This city received praise for its public transportation, great wifi, expat community, delicious food, culture, proximity to weekend activities and convenience (7/11’s! 7/11’s everywhere!).
London and Paris aren’t the only cities worth visiting. While Paris is never a bad idea, and we’d never say no to a trip to London, remote workers worldwide are snapping up apartments in different parts of Europe.
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Euro €; 1 USD = 0.89 EUR
Wifi Rating: 8/10
Great for: A city for those who are weary of too much hustle. Pastries.
Look out for: Accommodation prices are rising, and because of its increasing popularity, the city in general is not as cheap as it used to be. As a tourist destination, certain parts of the city can be particularly crowded.
Overview: Residents seem to see Lisbon as a good medium between the laid-back nature of beach remote working locations, and the frenetic bustle of big-city destinations. A smaller city rich in culture, coffee and baked goods, Lisbon is great for those want to be near other European cities and near coworking spaces and the comforts of urban living, but still would like something slower-paced than Berlin or London. Meetups are regular among expats, so networking shouldn’t be a problem for the social remote worker.
GRAN CANARIA, SPAIN
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Euro €; 1 USD = 0.89 EUR
Wifi Rating: 7/10
Great for: Climate, beaches, things to do.
Look out for: Not as affordable as some South Asian destinations offering the same lifestyle. If you’re looking for an island to work remotely from, not the most economical option (but one of the best in Europe). There are also mixed feelings about the tap water.
Overview: Again, an island haven for those who want to work hard and relax hard, the Canary Islands is the European answer to Canggu and Chiang Mai. With a fairytale climate, coworking spaces full of remote workers, a culture of other expats and highly affordable prices, Gran Canaria is quickly making itself known to be an excellent choice. Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria, comes particularly recommended.
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Polish zloty zł; 1 USD = 3.79 PLN
Wifi Rating: 8/10
Great for: Walkability, culture, affordable food.
Look out for: Air pollution, less reliable public transportation than other places, cold winters.
Overview: Because of rising popularity and more tourism, Krakow isn’t the bargain it used to be, especially when it comes to finding affordable accommodation. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most popular cities, repeatedly praised for its bustling social life, fast wifi, friendly locals, delicious food, affordability, quality of life and aesthetics.
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Ukrainian Hryvnia ₴; 1 USD = 25.67 UAH
Wifi Rating: Variable; better in apartments than in public, but coworking spaces good.
Great for: Good travel connections to other places in Europe, highly affordable
Look out for: Hard winters. Both the languages in Kiev, Ukrainian and Russian, are a) difficult to learn and b) don’t use the Western alphabet, which can be a challenge for Western travellers. Additionally, English has not permeated the city the way it has some others, so it would be good to brush up on your Russian before you go.
Overview: Aside from political unrest, Kiev does not tend to dominate the news cycles or cultural conversation - unless you’re a travelling remote worker. Several people canvassed said it was one of the best places to work in Europe - affordable, fun, beautiful and convenient. Kiev was so good to a remote worker that one wrote that they no longer felt the need to travel, preferring instead to settle in Kiev. Overall, if you don’t mind winter, and you aren’t worried about the language aspect, Kiev seems a great fit for any nomad looking for a hidden gem of a city, packed with culture, good transport links, affordable living, things to do and good food. (Warning: we did hear that it was among the less tolerant of the cities on our lists, but these could be isolated incidents).
CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA
There was stiff competition between the countries in these regions: the islands off the coast of Central America, the sunny beaches of coast and the incredible culture of South America is often what pulls people into travel as a lifestyle to begin with. We wouldn't limit any remote worker to the places on this list; nonetheless, here are places that are especially friendly to people looking to maintain a foot in their professional life while they're abroad.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Mexican Peso $; 1 USD = 19.03 MXN
Wifi Rating: 5/10. On average, remote workers found wifi speeds in Cancun and nearby Playa del Carmen lower than other areas.
Great for: White sand beaches, Mayan ruins, other expats.
Look out for: Spring break!
Overview: “Beach” and “work” aren’t two nouns that we traditionally associate with one another. Nonetheless, Playa del Carmen was one destination that repeatedly popped up on our radar. The beachside Mexican town is Mayan Riviera, so it’s soaked in both sunlight and history. It will appeal mostly to remote workers who are fleeing freezing temperatures or unbearably fast-paced schedules, or those who don’t think a thriving business should inherently exclude a lifestyle of enjoying weekends burying your toes in the sand.
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Chilean Peso $; 1 USD = 683.99 CLP
Wifi Rating: 10/10
Great for: Good wifi, public transportation, thriving business community.
Look out for: More expensive than other Latin American destinations. Chilean Spanish is distinct, and if you’re a second language speaker, can be difficult to pick up.
Overview: Santiago is one of the business capitals of the region. Situated as it is, its relatively close to both to the unforgettable snow-covered Andes mountains, but also not too far from the Chilean coast.
Currency, and equivalent to USD: Colombian Peso $; 1 USD = 3202.25 COP
Wifi Rating: 7/10
Great for: Affordable living and networking with other expats. Good public transportation.
Look out for: Traffic. The city has a reputation of being unsafe (not helped by a certain popular Netflix series). While it's made a lot of progress since its worst days, new residents should still be cautious and travel sensibly.
Overview: Medellin is said to be the largest growing hub for digital nomads and remote workers in Latin America, and it has the infrastructure in place to support them. With reviewers speaking of reliable wifi (although it may not be the fastest), coffeeshops aplenty, multiple coworking spaces and meetups, and affordable living spaces - on top of the pure adventure of living in a country so unbelievable, it was the birthplace of magical realism - it’s received rave reviews from everyone surveyed.
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