World’s Best Places for “Digital Nomads” Over 50

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“Not all who wander are lost,” said J.R.R. Tolkien. In fact, for many, being a wanderer is the lifestyle of choice, especially if the alternative means sitting in commuter traffic and being chained to the same desk, day in and day out.

In our increasingly digital world, the idea of “the office,” with its rows of monochrome desks, florescent lighting, temperamental printers, and bland coffee, is quickly losing its status as the working world’s modus operandi. Today’s office, whether there’s a physical location or not, exists primarily on the cloud and is accessible from anywhere that has WiFi.

In the cloud office, we communicate through Skype, Zoom, or Discord; we share documents using Google or Dropbox or WeTransfer; and we manage team projects with tools like Microsoft Project, Basecamp, or Asana.

The cloud office isn’t constrained by location or by traditional working hours, and it has equipped us with myriad fresh options when it comes to the workplace.

The most exciting of which is the ability to take a more nomadic approach to earning an income.

Question: Are you interested in retiring abroad?  

Untethered workers, or digital nomads, are a growing group of people who have decided to rip up the old rules of the game and use these new advances in telecommunications to travel as much as possible and live in whatever part of the world they choose.

Among their ranks you’ll find a whole spectrum of professions, including software developers, graphic designers, copywriters, and consultants—both working remotely for their employers and freelancing.

The remote workforce has grown by 44% over the last five years. It is estimated that by 2025, 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days in a month. This is a phenomenal change, and it hasn’t gone unrecognized by cities and municipalities all over the world.

For digital nomads, the opportunities keep expanding, while the benefits of having no fixed location look increasingly more attractive. Not only can you opt out of cold climates and enjoy sun-drenched locations instead, you can also save significant amounts of money by choosing a destination with a low cost of living.

Why struggle to pay rent in San Francisco or New York when you can live in luxury with the same income in Southeast Asia or Europe? With lower costs, you can choose to work fewer hours, save more money, or take extended vacations. If you can work from anywhere, what’s stopping you from taking your laptop to a low-cost escape where you could slow down, spend less, and enjoy life more?

You see, “home” could be in a laidback surf town on the Pacific in Costa Rica.

Or maybe you’d like the idea of a sophisticated royal outpost in Thailand.

Or how about an Old World port city on the Mediterranean in Spain?

All of these are among the spots that make our International Living Global Work-from-Home Index.

It’s our list of the world’s best places to go if you’ve got the flexibility of a laptop job and you’re ready to relax, take it easy, and start earning from a beautiful, interesting, lower-cost spot overseas.

In this report, we give you our picks for the top 10 places in the world to earn a portable income. We compare them across a list of categories that includes cost of living, ease of access, visas, and more.

All of the communities in this first-ever Global Work-from-Home Index offer strong infrastructure and are easy places to find housing, get settled, and set up a virtual office or source co-working space if you prefer that.

Right now is an excellent time to break away from the grind and try out a new life someplace where you could slow down, play first, and work second.

To help you narrow in on a destination, and give you a taste of what the untethered life is all about, we’ve compiled our top destination recommendations for boomer digital nomads…

How We Created IL’s Global Work-from-Home Index

There are no “losers” on IL’s Global Work-from-Home Index.

On the contrary, we’ve chosen these 10 cities that make up the Work-from-Home Index precisely because they are the cream of the international crop, and ranked them against each other in five key areas, so that you can make a decision about the location that’s perfect for you.

For our Global Work-from-Home Index, every destination had to meet a few preconditions: It had to be a comfortable place to live, with appealing weather; it had to have good internet infrastructure, so you’re not struggling to connect to WiFi. It had to be safe. The countries had to reach an overall level of development so that you’re never far from great healthcare or exciting entertainment and cultural options.

At International Living, this is our beat: We have a network of editors, correspondents, and contacts all across the world, from Latin America to Europe to Southeast Asia. Our team is constantly evaluating how cities and towns stack up against each other, so we can bring you expert advice on the best overseas destinations to suit you.

These are our choices. This is a subjective index, based on International Living’s four decades of experience scouting the best overseas destinations and opportunities for our reader. Our editorial team has assigned scores out of 10 to each chosen city, in five important, handpicked categories, and ranked each destination out of 50 overall.

Statistics form part of our calculations, for sure. How many international flights are there into each destination? What’s the average cost of a two-bed rental? How many co-working spaces are there in each city?

But there’s also the nuances we understand because we continually receive reporting from our on-the-ground contacts, and because we’re following the local news daily: Is it easy to find like-minded folks nearby? How likely is it that the immigration rules might change? Is that new visa really all it’s cracked up to be?

While there are some similarities, of course, the considerations in the Work-from-Home Index are different than those for International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index. The price of everyday items doesn’t change, whether you’re a nomad or a retiree. But, what you’re buying for your day-to-day needs might change…

More importantly, a country that has great visa options for retirees might not offer as much for digital nomads. Or, there might be awesome expat meetups for retired North Americans…but the kind of community you’ll want around you is different if you’re working from home: Are there ample co-working spaces? Can you network in-person with other professionals?

So, “fitting in” means something different to digital nomads… Easy access in and out of your selected destination—how connected it is to other travel opportunities—is also more important when you plan to country-hop… And, as a nomad traveling from country to country, you want to know that you can organize your taxes in the way that best suits you, that you don’t have to deal with onerous local rules that bog you down in bureaucracy and hurt your pocketbook.

So, we’ve added categories for “Networking & Fitting In” and “Taxes” to our Global Work-from-Home Index, as well as looking at “Cost of Living” and “Visas” for each location, and “Connectivity & Transportation” (getting in, out, and around; how connected is this destination to other places of interest in the country and internationally).

This is the first time we’ve created this one-of-a-kind Index… We hope it’s a useful tool for you to kick-start your own research.

With more and more people contemplating working from anywhere in the wake of the pandemic, countries are offering more and more benefits to attract these nomadic workers—in what Forbes calls “the war for digital nomads.”

However, we all know governments move slowly…and there is still a lot more that can be done to help regularize the status of digital nomads across the world—and give them the networking opportunities, visas, and tax benefits they need. The top destination on our Global Work-from-Home Index scores 41 out of a possible 50. As countries pull out all the stops to attract nomads in the years ahead…we expect scores to go even higher.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s considered in each category and how the scores are awarded.

Cost of Living

This category is not just about low prices. But also: Bang for your buck.

What are you actually getting for your money?

Are you able to enjoy First-World amenities for less than you would pay back home in the U.S. or Canada?

Is everything you might want available, at an affordable price?

Connectivity & Transportation

Perhaps the most important part of being a nomad is, of course, travel. You want to work-from-anywhere because you want to see the world…not remain in the same place.

So, this category considers how connected these destinations are. Is it easy to get a flight to wherever you might want to go? Is it a good base for travel farther afield?

Proximity to the U.S. is also a consideration, for those who want to be near family or a home base.

And then: How easy is it to get around the city itself? You don’t want to be stuck all day in your workspace; you want to get across town to a movie, a museum, or your favorite restaurant, quickly and easily.

Networking & Fitting In

Is there an established and diverse digital nomad community here?

Will you be able to find like-minded people?

Are there a lot of entertainment options available to suit every taste?

Visas

An increasing number of countries are adding official digital nomad visas to their residence options.

However, since this is still a relatively new development, a country does not have to have a dedicated digital nomad visa to make our list.

Certainly, bonus points go to locations that have special incentives to attract nomads…

But, the main considerations are: How easy is it to spend time here and set up as a remote worker? Is there an easy path to an extended stay, if that’s what you’re looking for?

Taxes

Nobody likes taxes—and your tax situation can get even more complicated if you’re hopping from country to country.

So, we’ve considered… Are there special tax schemes that provide advantages to digital nomads? How high are overall tax rates in the country? How simple is the system to understand?

*All category scores are ranked out of 10, adding up to an overall score out of 50.

9. (Tie) Medellín, Colombia—“The City of Eternal Spring”

Nicknamed “The City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín sits at 5,000 feet above sea level and has perfect spring-like weather all year round. ©iStock/Hispanolistic

After spending 10 years sitting in a cubical working as a data analyst for a U.S.-based company, Amanda Brightwater decided she had had enough.

“I was feeling very confined working in an office,” she explains. “I could have stayed with my same company and worked remotely from home, but I wanted to see the world.”

With travel in mind, Amanda started her own online analytics business, sold her furniture, and packed a suitcase. “I’ve been traveling from country to country for the past few years,” she says. “I stay as long as I want, within the country’s tourist stamp time limit, and, of course, depending how much I like the city.

“When I started looking into places that were conducive to digital nomad lifestyle, Medellín kept popping up as an up-and-coming destination. I’ve met so many interesting people who are working here with just a laptop, a cellphone, and a comfortable place to hang out. I initially came for the camaraderie, but discovered I love the weather, the culture, and the excitement of the city.”

Nicknamed “The City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín sits at 5,000 feet above sea level and has perfect spring-like weather all year round. With daytime highs in the mid-70s F to low-80s F and very little humidity, the city makes it very easy to live and work comfortably.

Despite having nearly 3 million inhabitants, Medellín has a relaxed vibe, feeling more like an expanse of neighborhoods connected by parks and green spaces than a large metropolis. Yet there is no short supply of museums, art galleries, concert venues, restaurants, and places to whet your whistle.

More than 30 universities add to the cultural life of the city, with regular free concerts, plays, and dance performances. For excursions away from your laptop, there are hiking trails through the nearby Antioquia Mountains, as well as horseback riding, and flying parepente (seated hang gliding).

Over the past few decades, Medellín has shaken off the shadow of its dark past to become one of the most progressive cities in the world, winning awards for innovation and design, and earning the moniker “Medellín Miracle” for its impressive social transformation. As such, it has attracted digital nomads in search of up-and-coming low cost destinations in droves, and now has a well-established remote working infrastructure.

Medellín has publicly available WiFi all over the city, but you won’t be short of cafés where you can find faster speeds. Airbnb rentals will typically offer speeds of between 10 and 20 mbps, but you can find between 100 and 300 mbps in many of the co-working spaces throughout the city.

During the past five years, the number of co-working spaces in Medellín has grown exponentially. You can find whatever type of space suits your working needs. They can be well-organized formal settings with a corporate, interactive vibe; quiet, small, intimate spaces; or hot desks (unassigned desk space in an open plan office).

In Selina, a popular co-working space in the popular El Poblado area, a hot desk will only cost you $100 per month, or $8 for a day.

Medellín is also an excellent city for meeting other digital nomads and networking. Many of the co-working spaces have regular meetups where you can get to know other digital nomads. Several of the language schools have free exchanges. Expat community groups, Medellín Guru and Medellín Living, have monthly social events as well.

The exchange rate in Colombia has been hovering around 3,000 pesos to the U.S. dollar for the past few years. This makes an already low cost of living even lower. It is possible to live on $1,500 to $2,000 per month in many parts of Medellín.

Medellín’s diverse gastronomy scene will satisfy your taste buds without emptying your wallet. Dinner at an upscale steakhouse, including wine and tip, averages $30 per couple.

Taxis, buses, and the Metro are easy to use and an inexpensive way to get around the city. For less than $10 you can travel from one end of the city to the other by taxi. However, most fares are less than $5.

Since moving to the thriving city of Medellín in May 2012, expat Nancy Kiernan has witnessed a dramatic increase in both the influx of digital nomads and places to accommodate them.

“Only a couple of years ago the digital nomad scene was just a few ‘20-somethings’ with laptops in hand, hanging out at a hostel,” says Nancy. “Nowadays it is growing by leaps and bounds and has even many remote workers from the baby boomer generation.”

What makes Medellín stand out is the number of facilities available for people who want to use the city as their working base while they explore Latin American. “At present count there are at least 20 co-working spaces scattered around the city of Medellin,” says Nancy.

“Or if you prefer the more relaxed café atmosphere, there are dozens of coffee shops with free WiFi and amazing Colombian coffee. You can spend hours working on your laptop without being rushed out.”

If you’d prefer to make your trip even easier, you can use Unsettled and Embark Together to plan your trip for you.

These companies are dedicated to creating tailored experiences for digital nomads, mixing travel and exploration with the facilities you need to work as you go. It’s a great way to test the waters and see if the nomadic life works for you.

Visas in Colombia

Travelers who hold a U.S., Canadian, or European Union passport do not need a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist. Upon arrival, an immigration official will stamp your passport and typically grant you a 90-day stay. At the end of the 90 days, you can usually obtain an extension for another 90 days. However, you can only stay in Colombia as a tourist for 180 days in a 365-day period.

If you want to stay in Colombia more than 180 days in a 365-day period, you need to get a visa. The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores—also referred to as the Cancillería—in Bogotá issues all visas. However, you can apply for a visa online, at any Colombian consulate, or at the Cancillería in Bogotá.

Medellín Index Stats

Cost of Living

Rent in one of Medellín’s nicest neighborhoods, Laureles, can be as low as $400 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. A combined internet and cable TV package typically costs $40 per month, and utilities will set you back less than $100.

Overall, it’s possible to live a good life in Medellín—including a generous budget for entertainment and dining out—from as little as $1,511.

Cost of Living Score: 9/10

Connectivity & Transportation

Four cities in the U.S. have direct flights to Medellín’s José María Córdova International Airport: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, and New York.

Within Colombia, bus companies—fleets of well-maintained buses and vans—offer routes that will connect you with just about any city or small town in the country.

Most taxi fares within Medellín cost less than $5, and traveling by bus or metro is also an option. (Medellín is the only city in Colombia with a metro system.)

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 7/10

Networking & Fitting In

Colombia offers something for everyone. Imagine a place where you can raft the rapids of an untamed river one weekend and enjoy a symphony performance the next.

For those wanting to keep active, Medellín has golf courses, fitness clubs, walking and hiking trails, and tennis courts. As well as an exciting entertainment scene.

More and more expats are moving to Colombia to start a new life. Medellín in particular has become a hub for nomad life, with exponential growth in co-working spaces and regular nomad meetups.

As in other locations, nomad culture in Medellín was hurt by lockdowns during the pandemic…but it’s set to bounce back.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 7/10

Visas

Colombia does not have a specific digital nomad visa, but it makes it relatively easy to stay for 180 days, visa-free (just short of six months).

You will get a 90-day tourist stamp when you arrive, and you can apply online for a 90-day extension.

If you want to stay in Colombia more than 180 days in a 365-day period, you need to get a visa: Type M is for migrants (pensioners or business owners), Type R is for residents (those who can make a significant capital investment upfront). There are multiple subcategories, depending on your circumstances.

Visas Score: 5/10

Taxes

A foreigner is only considered a resident for tax purposes if they stay in Colombia for more than 183 days (consecutive or non-consecutive) over the course of a 365-day period. If you meet these criteria, you must report worldwide income. If you are in Colombia for less than 183 days in a 365-day period, you only need to report your Colombian-source income.

Taxes in Colombia are progressive. You pay nothing on the first approx. $11,589 of your income; after that, the rates go up in bands, from 19% (on income between $11,589 and $18,074) up to 35% (on income above $92,180).

Taxes Score: 6/10

Medellín Overall Score: 34/50

9. (Tie) Los Cabos, Mexico—Perfect Weather and a Beach Lifestyle

You can live affordably in Cabo and enjoy days at the beach, a diverse restaurant scene, plenty of modern conveniences, and opportunities for outdoor activity.  ©iStock/rand22

Real estate expert Ronan McMahon spends his winters in his condo in Los Cabos (Cabo), at the south tip of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.

“Pre-COVID, my wife and I were the young people in my community. At parties, fellow residents would tell us about their kids not much younger than us. Now, it’s a different story,” Ronan says.

“The party room has been turned into a makeshift co-working space. The gym is packed with young work-from-homers. And I see Silicon Valley types having walking meetings around the community.”

Cabo’s proximity to some of the wealthiest cities in the U.S. is a major factor in its success. It’s just a three-hour flight from Houston and San Francisco, two hours and 20 minutes from Los Angeles, and two hours from San Diego.

The lifestyle in Cabo is another big factor. It’s like that of California back in the 1960s. The landscape, too. That’s hugely appealing both to those who are relocating and those who are vacationing…and those who are now working from home.

Cabo is in the throes of a major transformation. Massive investments are being planned and implemented by various groups and interests. More than $4 billion is being pumped into the area. It’s being spent on installing new infrastructure, new golf courses, and 20 new resorts. The airport’s being expanded and new flight routes added.

“No wind, no clouds, no rain,” is how expat Lynn Pierce describes the weather in Los Cabos. “Last Sunday it was 96 F. If you’re not in the sun, it’s still pleasant, because it’s so dry here.” With its dry desert climate, Los Cabos gets about 350 sunny days in the average year…and it doesn’t feel too hot because of the lack of humidity. Great news for sun-worshippers.

Set at the southern end of the Baja California peninsula, Los Cabos has a perception problem. As a favorite getaway of wealthy West Coasters, a cruise ship stop, an all-inclusive destination, and a time-share favorite, Los Cabos is seen by many people as just an expensive vacation spot.

But tucked in among the luxury developments and gourmet grocery stores are plenty of “normal” retirees and other expats who live there, too, including part-timers and digital nomads who swell the area’s population in winter. With walk-to-the-beach condos available to rent from $750 a month, a budget of $2,840 to $2,915 would be plenty to bankroll a very comfortable life for a couple. And you’ll enjoy days at the beach (or the pool), a diverse restaurant scene, plenty of modern conveniences, and opportunities for outdoor activity.

“It’s a very active community,” says Samantha Buckley-Hugessen, 50, who’s lived in Los Cabos for 10 years. “There’s great mountain biking, sport fishing, boating…we know a lot of people with boats here. We go out with them and fish for tuna. You don’t have to be adventurous all the time, but it’s there.”

Los Cabos actually consists of two towns, San José del Cabo on the east cape and Cabo San Lucas on the west. There is development between them along a well-maintained highway called “the corridor.” Many expats live in this area, up on the hillside from the highway or on the beach side. Lynn Pierce is one of them.

“My condo is up on the hill with a view of everything. It’s five minutes from Cabo San Lucas. I couldn’t believe how much cooler it is up here—it’s 10 degrees’ difference from town,” says Lynn. She pays $1,700 a month for a three-bedroom penthouse with a large private terrace and a Jacuzzi.

San José, founded in 1730, is a traditional fishing town that has adapted to tourism but has not changed fundamentally. You can stroll along narrow streets lined with restored colonial buildings, many converted to cute artisan galleries, cafés, and even a microbrewery.

Cabo San Lucas, by contrast, is centered around the expansive marina—a town built for tourism. If you’re into sport fishing (tuna, marlin, and more) or boating—not to mention late night partying—this is the spot for you. And the marina itself and surrounding zone is also filled with restaurants and bars, serving everything from local-favorite tacos to gourmet. Many cater to the tourist crowd; they’re overpriced and crowded. Savvy locals and fishing captains head to Tiki Sushi Bar at happy hour for half-priced drinks and sushi rolls.

Los Cabos Index Stats

Cost of Living

Los Cabos is associated with beachfront resorts, expat housing developments, golf courses, and a grand lifestyle.

Because of the tourism markup, you will pay over the odds if you’re not discerning.

However, stick to local brands and suppliers, and your cost of living will be similar to other locations in Mexico.

Cost of Living Score: 7/10

Connectivity & Transportation

There is a wide selection of flights and airlines from Los Cabos International Airport (San José del Cabo Airport), mostly to destinations across the U.S., since Cabo is a vacation hot spot for Americans.

There are actually two towns that make up Los Cabos, San José del Cabo on the east cape and Cabo San Lucas on the west. The stretch of highway between them, called the Corridor, is well maintained, and overlooks some gorgeous beaches.

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 7/10

Networking & Fitting In

Known more as a party hot spot, Los Cabos is not often considered an established digital nomad destination.

There is certainly less here in terms of active nomad communities and meetups, compared to other destinations on our Index. (There is one co-working space in San José del Cabo, Koral Desk, and LCI Coworking Space is located in downtown Cabo San Lucas.)

While it might not be best known as a work-from-home hot spot, that may be changing. Tucked in among Los Cabos’ luxury developments, there are plenty of part-time expats.

The 1960s-California lifestyle is undoubtedly appealing, not only to those who are relocating and those who are vacationing…but also those who are now working from home.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 6/10

Visas

See page XX above (entry for Mexico City) for Mexico visa information.

Visas Score: 7/10

Taxes

See page XX above (entry for Mexico City) for Mexico taxes information.

Taxes Score: 7/10

Los Cabos Overall Score: 34/50

8. Chania, Greece—A Digital Nomad Visa With Huge Benefits

Located on the northwest coast of Crete, Chania is a beautiful city of under 110,000 people featuring a Venetian port surrounded by a lively and elegant downtown. ©iStock/DaLiu

Crete, the biggest island in Greece and the 88th largest in the world, is an ideal choice for anyone who wants to experience Greek island living. Geographically, it is about the size of Delaware in the U.S., and with a population of over 630,000, the island is active and lively all year round largely because of local industry and agriculture. With stunning beaches like the world-famous pink sanded Elafonisi Lagoon, Crete has a lot of tourist offerings, but it is also one of the only Greek islands that can support itself independently without tourism.

Located on the northwest coast of the island, Chania is a beautiful city of under 110,000 people featuring a Venetian port surrounded by a lively and elegant downtown. This city is one of the tourist centers of Crete giving it a diverse and international feeling. Chania is divided into a charming old town near the port and the modern city inland. Both are intriguing in their own right and if you want an international flair, Chania is for you.

On a recent visit to Chania, Global Intelligence Letter Editor Jeff D. Opdyke went in search of a place to work on an assignment. As he wandered the streets, he found a small, quintessentially local pub, untouristed, where he could sit and write for a while.

“I downed a couple of very frosty Alfa beers, met my writing deadline, and then relaxed in the afterglow of work, content with a life earning my keep from anywhere in the world,” Jeff reports. “At that exact moment, there was no better place I could think to be.”

Now, Crete, other Greek isles, and the country as a whole are looking to attract a lot more people like Jeff—digital nomads who can live and work from anywhere in the world they find a decent WiFi connection.

“The Greeks are doing so with a plan that, once it comes to fruition, will be the best digital nomad visa I’ve seen so far,” says Jeff.

“Having spent 10 days traveling through Crete on assignment, I can tell you it has a warm, laidback lifestyle, punctuated by fabulously fresh food (especially seafood), superb Cretan wines, and Aegean sunsets that make you want to stop working every evening just to sit on the beach and chill.”

Compared to the U.S. and Western Europe, Greece is definitely affordable. You can rent a modest one-bedroom apartment in Chania for about $420 a month. Meal prices range depending on your taste, but you can easily find a good taverna meal for two with wine for under $30. A coffee drink will cost you between $1.20 to $5, depending on where you order it from. A basic cost of living (including rent) will come in at around $1,000 a month. Add in entertainment, healthcare, and incidentals and your total cost would be around $1,800.

Located in the southern Aegean Sea, Crete can be reached by sea or air. The ferry trip from the Athens port of Piraeus to Heraklion, the capital of Crete, typically takes nine to 10 hours. A flight from Athens to one of Crete’s three airports (Heraklion, Chania, and Lassithi) is less than an hour.

Visas in Greece

Late last year, the Greek parliament introduced new legislation to create a visa that gives you more time abroad and, when you read between the lines, is effectively a way to build a new life in Europe permanently.

Applicants must:

  • Not have been a tax resident of Greece in five of the last six years.
  • Be a tax resident of the European Union or a handful of other non-EU countries, including the U.S. and Canada.
  • Provide their services in Greece.
  • Agree to live in Greece for at least two years.

Most countries offering digital nomad visas kick you out after a year. Greece is giving you two years in-country right off the bat.

But it gets better.

The Greek visa provides for a sharply reduced tax rate for seven years, so that digerati workers would pay taxes at just half their normal rate on the income they earn in Greece. At the highest level, that would cut the current 44% rate to just 22% on earnings over €40,000 per year (about $45,000). But read between the lines and that’s where you find the most interesting element of the Greek plan: Why would a two-year visa offer seven years of tax benefits?

Because the Greek authorities will very likely want you to stay longer than two years—they want you to renew this visa.

Which means this Greek visa becomes one of the most appealing in all of Europe. Why? Because, conveniently, after seven years a non-Greek is eligible to apply for Greek residency and citizenship. That comes with a Greek passport, which is a European Union passport. And a European Union passport grants you unfettered, visa-free mobility to live and work anywhere in the European Union (if you happen to tire of an Aegean lifestyle).

Several localities in Greece already have campaigns in place to attract digital nomads.

This past spring, Crete launched the first website in Greece specifically aimed at digital nomads (See: Workfromcrete.gr). It mostly promotes the national digital nomad agenda, but from a Cretan point of view of working “remotely from paradise.”

Athens, meanwhile, recently launched the #BetterInAthens campaign that highlights the lifestyles of digital nomads from around the world who have relocated to the boisterous Greek capital. And Astypalaia, a butterfly-shaped island in the Dodecanese group, northeast of Crete, is pushing development plans that aim to make the island “a desired place of residence” for people who want to live and work remotely.

Chania Index Stats

Cost of Living

Compared to the U.S. and Western Europe, Greece is definitely affordable.

You can rent a one-bedroom apartment in Chania for about $420 a month. You can easily find a good taverna meal for two with wine for under $30.

A basic cost of living (including rent) will come in at around $1,000 a month. Add in entertainment, healthcare, and incidentals and your total cost would be around $1,800.

Cost of Living Score: 8/10

Connectivity & Transportation

Island life can sometimes mean you’re not as connected to the rest of civilization.

However, Crete can be reached by sea or air. The ferry trip from the Athens port of Piraeus to Heraklion, the capital of Crete, typically takes nine to 10 hours. A flight from Athens to Chania’s airport takes less than an hour.

Buses from Chania will connect you to other parts of Crete.

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 5/10

Networking & Fitting In

Crete has become popular with digital nomads (who wouldn’t want to work from a Greek island?), and Chania in particular is a hub.

Check out the Facebook Group, Digital Nomads in Chania, which has 2,600 members.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 7/10

Visas

Greece has a new two-year (renewable) visa for eligible employees or freelancers who relocate from abroad, which offers up to seven years of tax benefits. You’ll receive a 50% reduction in tax for those seven years.

However, you must be working for a Greek employer or performing your freelance services for Greek clients in order to receive these benefits.

Greece also has a different new Digital Nomad Visa, which doesn’t require that you work for a Greek employer (in fact, you explicitly can’t). You must be making €3,500 (around $4,000) per month, and you’ll be entitled to stay in Greece for one year.

Visas Score: 8/10

Taxes

Greek tax rates are high. You’ll pay 9% on your first €10,000, 22% on the next €10,000, 28% on the €10,000 after that, 36% on the next €10,000, and the top rate of 44% on all income over €40,000.

However, Greece’s new visa cutting eligible applicants’ entire tax bill in half, is a significant incentive.

Taxes Score: 7/10

 Chania Overall Score: 35/50

7. Tallinn, Estonia—The Future of Nomad Life

What Tallinn offers above all else is a glimpse of the future for digital nomads. ©iStock/scanrail

The beauty of being a digital nomad is that you don’t have to find that perfect forever destination. You can go to Berlin for the nightlife, Paris for the cafés, or Bali for the surfing, enjoying all of their best qualities without having to settle for any of them. Because you’re never tied down to one place, you can enjoy a destination when the weather is good, then travel to the other side of the world when it starts to turn wintery. And certainly for this next location, you’ll need to time it right.

Tallinn, Estonia is not a year-round destination. Winter temperatures can fall as low as -20 F, with heavy snow. Summers are milder, reaching the mid-70s F. But what it lacks in climate, it makes up for elsewhere.

What Tallinn offers above all else is a glimpse of the future for digital nomads. In Estonia, internet access is enshrined as a human right and everything happens online. With the second-fastest public WiFi in the world (next only to its Eastern European neighbor, Lithuania), citizens can vote, secure mortgages, open bank accounts, and even open businesses in minutes, without ever leaving their café table.

Garrett Oden and his wife, Lauren, made Tallinn their first stop on their digital nomad adventure once they realized that they could earn from anywhere while freelancing. “We wanted to start somewhere that was affordable, had somewhat familiar Western cultural norms, and was still a bit off the beaten path. Tallinn seemed perfect for a month-long stay in August,” says Garrett.

“The city has approximately 500,000 people, but despite its size, Tallinn actually feels small and quiet. The streets aren’t jammed with traffic, calm green parks were everywhere, and even in one of the most busy intersections, at the crossroads of old town and the modern tech town, Hobujaama, you never feel like you’re in a large city. Tallinn is very pedestrian friendly. There are countless tree-lined paths and forest walkways throughout the city.

“The city has a stunning blend of modern, soviet brutalist, and ancient architecture,” says Garrett. “But old town, the most fascinating area of Tallinn, features colorful, fairytale-esque buildings, all smashed close to each other, lined by cobblestone streets.

“Restaurant food is typically $8 to $15 per meal. A comfortable and modern Airbnb on the edge of town is $800 for the month. An Uber costs just $3 to $6 for a ride into downtown. The city bus system was also affordable, at $30 for the month, and very pleasant to use—the most pleasant buses we’ve ever used.

As a growing tech hub, Tallinn doesn’t disappoint when it comes to internet and remote working infrastructure. “The internet speed in our Airbnb was incredible, and we easily found WiFi in restaurants, coffee shops (so many great ones), and even throughout one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen—Kadriorg Park,” says Garrett.

As the birthplace of Skype, the city of Tallinn knows the value of the digital economy, and tries to attract and nurture remote workers with meetups and events like Estonian Founders Society, Garage48, Startup Estonia, and e-Estonia.

For anyone attempting to turn a business idea into reality, there is hardly a better environment in the world. Local accelerators include Startup Wise Guys, Elevator Startups, and Buildit, while other top incubators include TÜ Ideelabor and Startup Incubator.

Co-working spaces dot the city, with hot desks available from about $6 per day or $106 per month.

“The nomad community was definitely smaller in Tallinn compared to other places I visited, like Athens, Greece and Antigua, Guatemala,” says Garrett. “I think that’s changing quickly though—more and more people are learning about the fascinating city of Tallinn, and with their ‘nomad visa,’ the city will probably see far more nomad visitors.

Visas in Estonia

Estonia has the distinction of being the first country to announce an official visa for digital nomads. The permit entitles nomads to 365 days of working in Estonia, including 90 days’ travel in the Schengen area (which covers most of mainland Europe). They have also created an e-residency program, making it possible to start an EU-based company online.

By all accounts, Estonia is creating the framework for the new digital nomad world, and Tallinn is at the heart of it.

Tallinn Index Stats

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Estonia is low.

In Tallinn, restaurant food is typically $8 to $15 per meal. A comfortable and modern Airbnb on the edge of town is $800 for the month. An Uber costs just $3 to $6 for a ride into downtown. The city bus system is also affordable, at $30 per month.

Overall, costs are about 25% cheaper than the U.S.

Cost of Living Score: 8/10

Connectivity & Transportation

If you base yourself in Tallinn, the capital city’s airport will connect you to 24 other countries around Europe, which is a perk when you consider one of the benefits of Estonia’s digital nomad visa is the ability to spend 90 days traveling in the rest of Europe.

However, there are no direct flights further afield.

Tallinn is a walkable city—in fact, you can walk from one end to the other in about an hour.

For $30, you can buy a monthly pass that will enable you to use the city buses and trams as often as you want. Taxis and Ubers are also readily available.

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 6/10

Networking & Fitting In

Estonia is ahead of the curve when it comes to digital rights (internet access is enshrined as a human right), and very encouraging of startup culture and nomad communities.

However, building connections and community is hampered by the fact that this is simply not an ideal year-round location, with minus-20 F temperatures in winter, and heavy snow.

Still, come here at the right time, and you’ll get to experience the best of what this pioneering location for nomads has to offer.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 5/10

Visas

Estonia certainly gets points when it comes to leading the way in the digital nomad revolution—recognizing early that location-independent workers have unique needs when it comes to residence.

Estonia was the first country to announce a distinct visa for digital nomads, entitling them to work for up to a year in the tech-focused country, and also travel for up to 90 days throughout most of mainland Europe (known as the Schengen Area).

Visas Score: 8/10

Taxes

If you spend more than 183 days in Estonia on a digital nomad visa, you will be considered resident there for tax purposes, and will be required to pay taxes in Estonia on your worldwide income.

The good news is that Estonia’s tax system is relatively simple and straightforward—and has been declared the most competitive tax system in the developed world by the Tax Foundation.

Estonia has a flat 20% rate of income tax, with a portion of income (depending on circumstances) considered exempt.

Taxes Score: 9/10

 Tallinn Overall Score: 36/50

6. Málaga, Spain—Big-city Life by the Sea

In Málaga, you’ll enjoy one of Europe’s lowest costs of living, tastiest cuisines, and most attractive lifestyles. ©iStock/Deejpilot

Beaches…mountains…fabulous cities…lively festivals, and, of course, guaranteed sunshine in many places. From Andalucía’s sleepy white villages to Gaudí’s Barcelona, Spain is an ever-popular retirement destination for Europeans.

And today it’s increasingly popular among North Americans, as well, whether you look to live here fulltime or—like many North Americans—make Spain your part-time home.

For some, Spain’s appeal is golf and Mediterranean beaches with 320-plus days of sunshine a year. For others, it’s fiestas, flamenco, and dreamy Moorish architecture. And for others still, it’s the verve of scintillating cities like Barcelona, Valencia, and Málaga, or the quiet charm of rural, red-tiled villages in the Pyrenees and along Spain’s mild, green northwest coast.

Málaga, on Spain’s southern Mediterranean Coast, is the gateway to the Costa del Sol, long one of Spain’s biggest beach-tourism regions. Málaga’s international airport greets more than 19 million tourists, primarily Europeans, each year on their way to Torremolinos, Marbella, and a dozen or more whitewashed villages along this coast that today make their living from tourism.

Incredibly tourist-friendly, the city center is also consumption-savvy: It’s a disciplined soul who can pass by the cheerful outdoor cafés, the ice cream parlors, and the many beckoning shops without pulling out their wallet to buy something.

This city of over half-a-million people (more than a million in the major metropolitan area) is lovely and lively, with a rich history, plenty of shops and museums, and food to die for.

That wasn’t always the case. Twenty years ago, Málaga was definitely scruffy. Since then, the city government has given Málaga a makeover.

It has doubled the length of the city’s cheerful seaside boardwalk. It has smartened up the harbor area, which now offers well-maintained park space and the trendy Muelle Uno (Wharf One), a long wharf lined with shops and restaurants. A huge section of downtown is pedestrian-only and enticingly chock-a-block with hotels, shops, restaurants, and museums, including the Museo Picasso Málaga and the Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga.

The city is a major business and financial center, the fourth largest in Spain in terms of economic activity. High tech, industry, and, increasingly, transportation are all big here.

(In addition to the international airport, you can get ferries to nearby North Africa from the port. The centrally located train and bus stations can take you all over Spain. The highspeed AVE train can get you from Málaga to Madrid in three hours and on to Barcelona in seven.)

For digital nomads, Málaga is a great choice for those who want big-city life by the sea. As in other Spanish cities, centrally located living tends to be in apartments or condos that are small by U.S. standards. An acceptable size for a couple in a two-bedroom apartment is about 950 square feet. (Many Spaniards, in fact, live happily in 600-square-foot apartments.)

One especially pleasant location is Huelín. It’s just two or three miles from the historic center in a neighborhood known as the Carretera de Cádiz (Cádiz Highway).

Today, Huelín is a lively middle-class neighborhood of good-quality apartment housing, with plenty of bars and restaurants, supermarkets, and other amenities. Bus service is frequent, and there’s a metro line from the city center to Huelín. The main bus station and the María Zambrano train station, which sit conveniently back-to-back, are not far away.

Long-term rentals in Málaga’s historic center start at about $550 a month for studios and small one-bedroom apartments (up to about 550 square feet) and at about $865 a month and up for a two-bedroom apartment. In still-central areas like Huelín, where you can walk or take buses everywhere, one- and two-bedroom apartments start at about $820. Your total cost of living, including rent, will come in around $2,500.

Visas in Spain

Employment Visa and Residency Permit: This is what you need when a company hires you to work in Spain.

Self-Employment Visa and Residency Permit: Also known as the autonomo, this is what you need to work freelance, including remote work. You have to apply from your home consulate, submit a business plan and any permits needed, and document that you have the funds needed to get your business going. Once you get the visa and arrive in Spain, you need to register your address, get the residency card, register with Social Security, and register as a freelancer.

The autonomo requires you to pay an escalating monthly fee that begins around €60 ($71) and rises to over €280 ($330), as well as Spanish social security, VAT tax, and personal income tax. It does not establish legal residency for spouses or dependents. Consult with an expert to figure out if this makes financial sense for you. Autonomo holders can access government healthcare, which saves the cost of private health insurance.

Spain also launched a new digital nomad visa in late 2021. All the details are still to be worked out… But, under the proposal, those who work remotely for foreign companies, or freelancers with 80% of their income from non-Spanish sources, will be eligible to stay in Spain for one year, without the need for a full work visa.

Málaga Index Stats

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Spain is one of the lowest in Western Europe. Spain is one of the best bargains right now for First-World, Western European living.

Anywhere you choose to live in Spain is going to be less expensive—and in some cases substantially less expensive—than comparable places in many other Western European countries or the U.S.

Tourist-oriented coastal cities like Málaga offer a great compromise: lower costs than huge metropolises like Madrid or Barcelona, but enough amenities to make life comfortable.

Still, you will pay more in Málaga than in some locations in Spain’s interior.

Cost of Living Score: 7/10

Connectivity & Transportation

Málaga is a major business and financial center, the fourth largest in Spain in terms of economic activity. High tech, industry, and, increasingly, transportation are all big here.

In addition to the international airport, you can get ferries to nearby North Africa from the port. The centrally located train and bus stations can take you all over Spain. The highspeed AVE train can get you from Málaga to Madrid in three hours and on to Barcelona in seven.

Málaga is also the gateway to the Costa del Sol, one of Spain’s biggest beach-tourism regions.

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 10/10

Networking & Fitting In

Málaga is incredibly tourist-friendly, but it doesn’t rely totally on tourism. Spanish is spoken everywhere, but you can get by with English, too.

As such, for full- or part-time living, Málaga is a great choice for those who want city life by the sea.

And it’s increasingly popular with North Americans.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 9/10

Visas

In late 2021, Spain launched a new digital nomad visa. Those who work remotely for foreign companies, or freelancers with 80% of their income from non-Spanish sources, will be eligible to stay in Spain for one year, without the need for a full work visa. The visa is renewable for a further two years.

However, the tax provisions with this visa are unappealing: You’ll pay 24% on your earnings for the first 183 days, regardless of the source of the income, and after that you will be taxed according to the provisions of double-taxation treaties (which prevent the same income from being taxed twice by two different countries).

The autonomo, or Self-Employment Visa and Residency Permit, is the traditional visa for freelancers, including remote workers.

The autonomo requires you to pay an escalating monthly fee that begins around €60 ($71) and rises to over €280 ($330), as well as Spanish social security and personal income tax.

Visas Score: 6/10

Taxes

Residents of Spain are subject to tax on their worldwide income. You’re considered a resident for tax purposes in Spain if you spend more than 183 days of the tax year in Spain, or if the main center of your business, professional, or economic activities is in Spain.

(As mentioned above, Spain’s new nomad visa would mean you’re taxed on your worldwide income in Spain.)

Tax rates on salaries and other earned income range progressively from 19% to 45%.

 Taxes Score: 5/10

 Málaga Overall Score: 37/50

5. Prague, Czech Republic—Easy Transition in an Old World European Capital

For a European capital, Prague represents a great lifestyle at a great value. ©iStock/Eloi_Omella

The Czech Republic actually is at the heart of Central Europe. And its capital, Prague, is easily one of the most beautiful, ancient, Old World cities on the European continent. Czechoslovakia, and especially Prague, never experienced the devastating bombing raids that destroyed so many European cities during World War II. As such, the country and her cities still reflect much of their 1,000+ years of history.

For a European capital, Prague represents a great lifestyle at a great value. You can generally expect to spend $1,900 in a month to call Prague home.

The Prague Castle complex, standing sentinel on a hill overlooking the city, is the largest in the world. UNESCO has named Prague’s entire Old Town as a World Heritage site.

It is an increasingly modern city, with all the creature comforts of Anytown USA. It’s home to a diverse food scene, a high standard of living, high-quality healthcare, an expansive arts culture, parks big and small, and endless opportunities for walking and exploring.

Global Intelligence Letter Editor Jeff D. Opdyke has lived here since 2018. He fell in love with Prague’s beautiful, atmospheric, and ancient Old Town the moment he set foot in it. And when given the opportunity to live and work in Europe, that idealized image of Old Town is what he had in mind.

“That’s where I wanted to live—right in the heart of Old Europe. But that’s not Prague. And that’s not where I live.

“Friends I had here told me I’d be an idiot to live there: costs are higher, apartments are smaller, conveniences like supermarkets are more challenging to find, and the place is wildly over-touristed, meaning it’s always crowded—and loud late into the night.

“Instead, I ended up in residential, real-life Prague—local-family Prague.”

Leafy, hilly parks everywhere. The farmers’ markets. The 200- and 300-year-old, low-rise residential buildings in all sorts of pastel, rainbow colors. The always-lively alfresco cafés in all the neighborhoods. The sense of community you notice everywhere you go. The tree-lined streets and their sense of quietude. The views of the city, or Prague Castle in the distance, that sneak up on you when you a turn a corner.

Because the expat community in Prague is so deep and so well developed, alighting here means an easy transition into a normal routine. Support is on hand to help you navigate everything from buying an annual pass for the metro (a fabulous deal at only $155 a year for all of the city’s public transport options) to finding your way around the very high-quality Czech healthcare system.

Costs are a primary consideration for expats and on that front, the Czech Republic offers the opportunity to live a very nice, Western-style life at a substantially reduced cost.

Grocery bills are quite low, unless you demand imported Western brands. A two-liter bottle of water will run you $0.38. Bread costs pennies. A whole chicken is about $5. A pound of onions: $0.25. A pound of carrots or potatoes: $0.22. A dozen farm-fresh eggs at any of the farmers markets that pop up every week will cost about $0.30.

Depending on the neighborhood, housing costs in Prague, including water and electricity, can range from well below $1,000 a month to well over $2,000 for a modern one-bedroom, 750-square-foot apartment on a high floor with a balcony.

Visas in the Czech Republic

When Jeff began researching places to live in Europe back in the summer of 2018, he quickly settled on the Czech Republic for personal reasons: He wanted four seasons, he wanted Old World Europe, he wanted former Soviet Bloc, and he wanted to be in the center of the continent to easily access other countries by train.

He also liked the ease of the process for becoming a resident and a freelance worker. He had all his documents in just over two months. It’s a two-step process. First step: apply to join the živnostensky list (zivno). This isn’t specifically for foreigners. It’s a trade license for any Czech resident who works independently, be that a plumber, masseuse, artist, or whoever. That will take a week at most. Zivno in hand, you can then apply for a one-year, temporary residence visa.

This is where it gets a bit chicken-and-egg. You must apply for a residence visa at a Czech embassy outside of the Czech Republic, but you will have to show you have housing (a notarized lease agreement) for the full-length of the visa you seek, up to one year. That means you’ll need to visit the Czech Republic to arrange that. Many people Jeff knows move to Prague, obtain their housing and zivno, then take the train to nearby embassies in Berlin, Vienna, or Bratislava and complete their application.

“That’s the best way to do it—come here as a tourist,” says Tereza Matějovská, the visa expert Jeff used at 4expats.cz in Prague. “But there are some documents you have to bring from home first.”

You need a signed letter from your bank stating that you have the equivalent of 125,000 Czech crowns on deposit (about $5,700). That will need to be translated into Czech, which a visa agency can handle for you. Be sure the account has a debit card, and that you bring that card to your application meeting at the Czech embassy, because officials will want to see it—it’s proof you can access the account.

You also need an FBI criminal background check, though as an American you also can go to the U.S. embassy in Prague and sign an affidavit attesting to your criminal-free background. Along with your passport and an application form, that’s pretty much all the documents you need.

In theory, you can undertake this process yourself, or have a Czech-speaking friend help you. But if you’re on your own and don’t understand Czech, good luck. Better to hire a local agency. That should cost you less than 15,000 crowns (about $685) for everything. The embassy fee is a separate 5,000 crowns (about $230).

Once your temporary visa expires after a year, you can easily trade it for a renewable, two-year long-term residence visa. After five years as a legal resident, you can apply for Czech citizenship and a Czech passport, which is an EU passport and thus gives you free rein to live and work anywhere in the EU.

Prague Index Stats

Cost of Living

Home to a diverse food scene, a high standard of living, high-quality healthcare, and an expansive arts culture, Prague represents a great lifestyle at great value.

Unless you require imported Western brands, grocery bills are low. A two-liter bottle of water will run you $0.38. A whole chicken is about $5. A pound of carrots or potatoes: $0.22. A dozen farm-fresh eggs at any of the farmers’ markets that pop up every week: $0.30.

Depending on the neighborhood, housing costs can range from well below $1,000 a month to well over $2,000 for a modern one-bedroom, 750-square-foot apartment.

Cost of Living Score: 8/10

Connectivity & Transportation

Prague is literally right at the center of Europe. You can travel all across the continent by air or train.

There are many ways to get around Prague itself: frequent buses, two tramlines, and a metro. And, tickets are valid across all the different modes of public transit. For only $155 a year, you can get unlimited travel on public transportation.

Taxis are also available, at better value than in other European capitals.

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 8/10

Networking & Fitting In

The expat and nomad community in Prague is well-established, so arriving here can mean an easy transition.

Support is on hand to help you navigate everything from buying an annual pass for the metro to finding your way around the high-quality Czech healthcare system.

The city of 1.3 million also has plenty of co-working spaces.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 7/10

Visas

U.S. and Canadian citizens can visit the Czech Republic for 90 days without a visa.

The process for becoming a resident and freelance worker, i.e. joining the živnostensky list and obtaining temporary residency, is relatively straightforward.

When your one-year temporary residency expires, you can easily trade it for a renewable, two-year long-term visa.

Visas Score: 7/10

Taxes

If you are resident in the Czech Republic for tax purposes, you are taxed on your worldwide income.

Income up to CZK 1,701,168 (about $75,000) is taxed at 15%; income above this is taxed at 23%.

Taxes Score: 8/10

 Prague Overall Score: 38/50

3. (Tie) Chiang Mai, Thailand—An Easy Start in a Westernized Haven

Chiang Mai has long been considered the spiritual home of digital nomads, and is highly recommended for anyone starting out on their remote working journey. ©iStock/Sean Pavone

What makes Chiang Mai such an easy starting point is that well before it became a popular digital nomad destination, it was a popular retirement haven for expats from around the world. This means that there is an established Westernized community within the fabric of the city, with plenty of cafés, restaurants, social groups, and entertainment networks for every kind of proclivity—dwarfing the size of most metropolitan digital nomad communities, many times over.

Aside from being low cost, with pleasant temperatures, Chiang Mai offers a more romantic reason for its popularity too. The ancient city, filled with temples and historic treasures, melds comfortably with the sprawling modern metropolis that has built up around it. It has a laidback atmosphere, and, it feels more like a sleepy country town than a chaotic city.

Canadian digital nomad Shikha Dhawan was once a marketing manager of a niche software company working 10-hour days. She recalls, “I was working intensely and not taking care of myself. I realized that I needed to create balance in my life. I just wasn’t happy. I wanted something different.

“Because everyone pretends to be happy with a conservative life, you think you are crazy for not being happy. I’d say to myself, ‘Why am I still unhappy when I make good money and I can buy what I like?’ It just wasn’t right for me.” A $70,000 annual income was not enough to keep Shikha in the country that she grew up in.

Shikha decided to do research before she came to Chiang Mai. “There were three places I was interested in: Budapest, Hungary; Medellín, Colombia; and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Ultimately, I chose Chiang Mai. I love Asia, and I was looking to expand my travel repertoire. Chiang Mai has very welcoming nomad groups; I just post on the Facebook page and all my questions get answered. The community are so kind and so giving, and I love that. There are a lot of groups that meet face to face too. I’m even doing an improv course at the moment. I also love street food.”

Shikha’s costs are minimal compared with her costs of living in Canada. To survive in her city of Toronto, she would need at least $5,000 per month to pay living expenses. In Chiang Mai, however, things are very different. Not only can digital nomads save thousands per month while living in Chiang Mai, they compromise on nothing in terms of lifestyle experiences.

Her rent is $500 a month, she pays $20 a month for internet, $200 (maximum) on food, $13 on water bills, $20 on electricity, $200 on business expenses, and $100 on a personal assistant—allowing Shikha to work just 10 hours per week while she builds her health and wellbeing business, The Millionaire Hippy.

Internet speeds in Chiang Mai are fast and services are cheap. You also have access to the massive amount of WiFi hot spots all over the city—to the point where you’re rarely without a connection as you walk the streets.

Another attractive feature if you’re planning to stay for a while is the excellent healthcare available. A variety of public and private hospitals cater to the population with well-trained doctors and nurses, many who speak English.

A consultation with a specialist rarely costs more than $20 and most medical procedures are available at far less expense than in the U.S.

Visas in Thailand

Thailand, known for its beaches and mountainous jungles, is one of the world’s most desirable destinations for digital nomads. Sand, sun, millennia-old culture, fabulous food, a crazy nightlife (at least in Bangkok), relatively quick access to everywhere from the Middle East to Australia, and an affordable, exotic lifestyle.

Alas, Thailand has never been the easiest place to live and work for nomadic expats. If you want to stick around longer than a two-month tourist visa will allow, it usually means making cross-border “visa runs” every couple of months.

Don’t even think about overstaying your welcome. Penalties include arrest, confinement to a detention center, and a ban that could see you denied re-entry into Thailand for 10 years.

Yet, the country has never offered an official freelance-worker visa program. This makes living and working in Thailand burdensome, since legally you need a Thai work permit to earn a buck there and to apply for residency. Though there is an application process for the visa and work permit, the process is a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape for independent workers.

Now, however, things look to be changing. That could be an opportunity for anyone who’s ever contemplated living and working from a beach (or a jungle) in Southeast Asia.

The Thai government has approved a plan that would markedly simplify the visa-application process and would award a visa that allows an applicant to live and/or work in Thailand for a decade at a time.

That would make Thailand’s visa one of the longest-duration visas in the world. The visa targets four specific groups of people:

  • Wealthy: Those who can prove they have at least $1 million in assets and the ability to invest at least $500,000 in Thai property or in Thai government bonds
  • Skilled workers: Think: university professor, tech worker, or investment banker. You need to prove income of $40,000 per year, minimum.
  • Digital nomads: Not necessarily skilled workers, but workers who have a proven history at their job. Must have a bachelor’s degree, five years of experience in your field, and earn at least $40,000 per year.
  • Retirees: Must be over 50, must earn at least $40,000 yearly from a pension or investment income, must show proof of a long-term pension (such as Social Security), and must be willing to invest $250,000 in real estate or Thai government bonds.

The measures are a direct response to the pandemic having destroyed Thailand’s tourism industry. It also highlights the government’s growing awareness of a trend among those four targeted groups: The desire to relocate their lives to safer, happier, more affordable locations.

Numerous countries have been jumping on this trend over the last year, particularly in the Caribbean, Europe, and parts of the Middle East. Several of those offerings, however, center on one- and two-year visas, and require proof of annual income of between $50,000 and $100,000.

For someone with the means, who relishes a tropical, Southeast Asian lifestyle, the Thai visa is a game-changing opportunity. The income requirements are more affordable, and the visa’s 10-year duration means no need to either reapply (with the added costs involved) or leave the country after your document expires (which several of the digital-nomad visas require).

Not only that, the visa comes with a unique perk: It allows you to buy and own land in the country. Currently, foreigners cannot do so. Thai law forbids direct ownership of land by non-Thais. A foreigner can own the house atop the land, but not the land itself, which can present its own headaches.

Land ownership through this 10-year visa program is a meaningful perk for anyone who wants to, say, settle down on their own piece of beachfront property on the Gulf of Thailand, or maybe build a new life in the mountains near Chiang Mai.

Though Thailand’s new visa isn’t yet available, soon enough, Thailand could have one of the world’s most appealing digital-nomad visa programs.

Chiang Mai Index Stats

Cost of Living

Chiang Mai is very affordable, with rents available in the $600 to $700 range for furnished two-bed condos, and internet available from $20 a month.

It’s easily possible to live on under $2,000 a month (whether single or a couple) in Chiang Mai.

When you consider that Chiang Mai comes with all the amenities of a large, modern city, you can appreciate just how low these costs are.

Cost of Living Score: 9/10

Connectivity & Transportation

Chiang Mai Airport offers domestic flights to other locations around Thailand, including popular destinations like Ko Samui, Hua Hin, and Bangkok; as well as direct flights to other countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Singapore.

You won’t need a car in Chiang Mai—most everything you need will be within walking distance. (The city is also flat, so bicycle riding is a wonderful way to explore the surroundings.)

Or, you can catch a Grab—Thailand’s version of Uber—for as little as $2. Just download the Grab App, and book when you need to go somewhere.

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 6/10

Networking & Fitting In

Chiang Mai is a university town and creative epicenter… One reason it has become a thriving nomad scene, with excellent infrastructure and co-working spaces to support remote workers.

The city hosts innovation and design expos; there are philosophy groups, writer’s and book clubs, and even cryptocurrency groups.

There are lots of sporting clubs and trekking in the mountains is also popular.

Plus, wherever your interests lie, they will not damage your hip pocket too much.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 9/10

Visas

Canadian and U.S. passport holders can visit Thailand without a visa, for up to 30 days—just make sure you have at least six months remaining on your passport and a ticket for your departure from Thailand.

(Check the requirements before you depart, as entry eligibility is subject to change as a result of the pandemic.)

Thailand’s new 10-year visa is a potential game-changer, because the income requirements are more affordable than other “digital nomad” visas around the world, and because of the length-of-stay allowed without having to renew.

As Global Intelligence Letter Editor Jeff D. Opdyke puts it: “That is the holy grail of the true digital nomad: to get a visa that is multiyear.”

Visas Score: 9/10

Taxes

If you spend less than six months in Thailand and work only for overseas clients, you won’t owe any tax in Thailand.

If you spend more than 180 days in Thailand in one calendar year, you will be considered a resident for tax purposes. Residents are required to pay tax on income earned in Thailand and a portion of their foreign-source income (the effective rate on your foreign-source income will probably be less than 10%).

Thailand’s progressive tax rate ranges from 5% on income above 150,000 baht (approx. $4,500) to 35% on income over 4 million baht ($120,000).

Taxes Score: 6/10

 Chiang Mai Overall Score: 39/50

3. (Tie) Tamarindo, Costa Rica—A New Law to Attract Remote Workers

In Tamarindo, new fiber-optic internet companies have blown away the region’s old provider and brought lightning-fast speeds to the beaches. ©IL

It’s not surprising that expats, especially from the U.S. and Canada, are attracted to Costa Rica.

With one of the highest standards of living in Latin America and a variety of different climates to suit all tastes, Costa Rica is the perfect overseas destination.

Long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches on the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts…dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife…towering volcanoes, picturesque green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes, rivers, streams, and waterfalls…mesmerizing sunrises, sunsets, and star-filled evening skies…all these things, and much more, including good-value real estate, are drawing people to Costa Rica.

In recent years, Costa Rica has also emerged as a go-to destination for a new breed of digital nomad—older, more experienced online workers who prioritize factors like safety and healthcare, in addition to climate and affordability.

Tamarindo, the most developed beach town on the Gold Coast of Guanacaste, suffered from sloth-speed internet for decades…until now! A couple of new fiber-optic internet companies have blown away the region’s old provider and brought lightning-fast speeds to the beaches.

Tamarindo also boasts dozens of coffee shops and beach restaurants with free internet access. Who doesn’t dream of sipping a cup of java overlooking the sparkling deep blue while conducting business? Consulting in the morning and surfing in the afternoon are not unusual “work from home” schedules for many digital nomads in Tamarindo.

Since 2017, Missouri native Brittany Braucher has been working remotely as an accountant for a U.S. construction management company from the resort town of Tamarindo. She says that not only is her quality of life here better, but thanks to the significantly lower cost of living, she is able to build her nest egg for retirement.

Originally a tiny surfing town, Tamarindo now has the reputation of being arguably one of the most developed on the North Pacific Coast, but it still has lots of rugged charm, as well as luxury homes, restaurants with cuisines from around the world, casual beach bars, sophisticated nightlife, and a choice of 18-hole golf courses 20 minutes to the south or north. There’s also terrific fishing and surfing. Tamarindo is close to protected green areas and several national parks.

In Tamarindo, everybody seems to know everybody. Long-term expats number in the high hundreds, perhaps thousands. So, it is a terrific place to land if you are looking for a strong expat community conducting classes, events, fundraisers, and more. It’s completely walkable, which makes it ideal if you do not want to own a car.

Main Street (it does have a name, Calle Principal, which means “Main Street,” but no one knows it!) is lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants run by Costa Ricans, Israelis, Argentinians, Italians, North Americans, and people of a dozen other nationalities. It is not unusual to hear five different languages on any given day. It feels like you are on vacation every day—even if you live and work here.

The options for working remotely in Tamarindo are infinite. Think about the skills you have that can be done online successfully…programming, writing, translating, coaching, administration, accounting, design, and more. It’s the perfect way to make your dreams come true so you can enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica, all while being able to earn an income doing something you love. And with the lower cost of living available there (a couple can live on $2,000 a month)…you can live well on a much lower budget than back home.

You will, of course, need a good internet connection and a convenient place to work.

This won’t be a problem here, where high-speed internet is widely available, and there is a widespread cellphone network, including 3G and 4G.

Visas in Costa Rica

Project 22.215, known as the “Digital Nomad Law,” could be a better fit for short-term expats who are not looking for a long-term investment or retirement in Costa Rica. A digital nomad is anyone who can work remotely using the internet. This used to be young nomads traveling around the world on tourist visas—often couch surfing, working online from cafés, co-working spaces, and hostels. Not the people who were sent overseas by a company on a work visa.

However, the world has changed since the pandemic. According to a Pew Research Center survey, a whopping 71% of workers were able to work from home during the pandemic. Even if half of these workers return to the office, that still leaves huge numbers of people who can now work remotely from anywhere. This new law offers fantastic opportunities for those in the workforce who want a change of scenery and a taste of pura vida (the good life).

The new digital nomad visa is valid for one year. It is also extendable for an additional year, if the nomad remained in Costa Rica for at least 180 days during their first year. The visa offers many benefits over the typical 90-day tourist visa on arrival.

For example, a digital nomad visa holder will be allowed to open a bank account in Costa Rica (which is often a challenging process prior to residency approval). This type of visa will also allow the individual to drive using their foreign license for the entire term of the visa. There is no need to leave the country every 90 days. And if equipment is necessary for their business, they can import it all, tax free. Families can also take advantage of the benefits.

Further details are soon to be determined. So, it is best to check with your local Costa Rican attorney or search online for Costa Rican visa options.

Tamarindo Index Stats

Cost of Living

With few exceptions, nomads in Costa Rica spend less on day-to-day expenses than they do in their home country. A couple can live on $2,000 per month (or less) and live even better on $2,500 to $3,000.

Bear in mind: Costs in popular coastal communities like Tamarindo can be 10% to 25% higher than they are in other parts of Costa Rica.

If you try to completely replicate a North American lifestyle here, you may end up spending more than you did in the U.S. or Canada. Those who acclimate to the natural air temperatures will save on electricity.

As a general rule, locally grown produce is the best value, while imported foods can be relatively expensive.

Cost of Living Score: 7/10

Connectivity & Transportation

Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, the closest international airport to Tamarindo, has flights to multiple cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, and New York; plus flights to Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary in Canada.

The bus network in Costa Rica is widespread and efficient. You can get from outlying areas into town, around town, from town to town, and across the country easily on the bus.

These aren’t “chicken buses.” Everybody gets a seat. It’s comfortable, and costs are low—about 75 cents for a local bus, $4 if you’re traveling a half-hour to an hour to another town, or $10 to $20 if you’re going across country.

Taxis and private transportation companies are widely available and low cost too.

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 5/10

Networking & Fitting In

Tamarindo has been a popular relocation destination for North Americans for decades. As a result, there’s a strong and supportive expat community here.

Today, traditional expats and retirees are joined by a host of folks who want to work remotely from a low-cost surf town on the Pacific.

Tamarindo has emerged as a go-to destination for a new breed of digital nomad—older, more experienced online workers who prioritize factors like safety and healthcare, in addition to climate and affordability.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 10/10

Visas

Costa Rica recently announced a new digital nomad visa, valid for one year. It is also extendable for an additional year, if you’ve remained in Costa Rica for at least 180 days during the first year. The visa offers many benefits over the typical 90-day tourist visa on arrival.

For example, a digital nomad visa holder will be allowed to open a bank account in Costa Rica. This visa will also allow you to drive using your foreign license for the entire term of the visa. And if equipment is necessary for your business, you can import it all, tax free. Families can also take advantage of the benefits.

Further details are still to be determined. So, it’s best to check with a Costa Rican attorney.

Visas Score: 8/10

Taxes

In Costa Rica, all personal income that has a foreign source is tax exempt. Only revenue earned from within Costa Rica is subject to an assessment by the tax authorities. So, any income you earn from working remotely with a U.S. company, for example, would not be taxed by Costa Rica.

For income from Costa Rican sources, the top rate of 25% applies to salaried income above 4,337,000 colons (approx. $7,000) and profitable self-employment income above 18,683,000 colons ($30,000).

Taxes Score: 9/10

 Tamarindo Overall Score: 39/50

2. Mexico City, Mexico—A Major Travel Hub Close to the U.S.

Within the buzzing districts of Mexico City, startup activity is attracting many local meetups, big name conferences, recognized accelerators, and a community of co-working spaces. ©iStock/atosan

Mexico City shares a similar story to Medellín in Colombia, in that it has entirely regenerated as a city in recent years, becoming one of the most powerful cultural and economic hubs in Latin America.

At over 573 square miles, the city feels massive, but most expats and digital nomads—as well as the capital’s 1,200-plus startups—tend to congregate in just a few central districts.

“There’s an ease to moving about the city, it’s very inviting and nomad friendly,” says Karina Cobb, a business consultant currently working remotely in Mexico City. “I am enjoying how walkable the neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa are, all the green spaces, parks, and avenues, and how easy it is to find a co-working space or coffee shop to sit and work from.”

Colonias Juarez, Condesa, Roma, San Rafael, St. Maria de Ribera, and Polanco are all within walking distance from the city’s incredible museums, parks, and monuments. Nightlife is electric, from dance clubs to underground jazz bars and salsa dives.

But also within these buzzing districts, startup activity is attracting many local meetups, big name conferences, recognized accelerators, and a community of co-working spaces.

The international co-working brand WeWork has six locations here (costing about $160 a month for a hot desk)—monster spaces with hundreds of shoulder-rubbing opportunities with other freelancers and entrepreneurs. Smaller co-working spaces like A255 Social Working Club in Condesa (starting at $250 a month) or Impact Hub (starts at $145 a month) in Roma, come in more intimate sizes.

Amy Martyn, a freelance writer who used a co-working space called We are Todos in Roma, says that she was the only American using the space, but everyone made her feel welcome.

“There were all sorts of creative things going on. One person was starting a sewing business, others were working in digital media.”

Internet speed here is excellent and available in most coffee shops and businesses. Even though there is no free citywide system, you can get WiFi in many of the central parks and several lines of the metro.

Unlike other popular expat locations in Mexico, there is lots of mixing and mingling between the foreign community and locals, and it’s a great place to learn Spanish, even with the high rate of English spoken amongst residents.

The country’s history of cross migration with the U.S. and its massive tourism industry means that people here are used to interacting with people from the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere.

The city is also extremely affordable. In Colonias, Roma, and Condesa (three of the most popular for visitors), average rent is $500 to $900 a month. Airbnb has meant lots of great spaces have opened up that allow temporary residents to really dig into neighborhoods and the city.

“It was really easy with Airbnb,” says Amy. “We did a little research on the neighborhood beforehand, and when we arrived our apartment was right off of the bike path. It was a four-mile bike ride in a protected lane to get to Roma, and because there’s a really great bike sharing program it just made sense to sign up for that while I was there. We were really centrally located.”

ood in restaurants, on the street, and in the markets, is relatively inexpensive and you can find products and cuisines from across the country and around the world. A remote worker can easily live in Mexico City on $2,000 a month and that includes everything: rent, food, utilities, and transportation.

Sharing a time zone with the U.S. makes it easy to do business remotely, and Mexico City is just a quick, inexpensive trip for a meeting, conference, or to visit family or friends.

As a major travel hub, it’s also an ideal place to base yourself for visiting the rest of Latin America.

Visas in Mexico

There are only two broad resident visa categories: temporary resident visas and permanent resident visas.

(Within these categories, however, there are various classifications, depending on whether you’re seeking residence as a retiree, an artist or scientist, a company employee, self-employed, and the like.) Anyone wishing to become a permanent resident in Mexico can do so immediately, without having to become a temporary resident first.

The temporary resident visa (residente temporal) is designed for those who wish to live in Mexico for more than 180 days but for less than four years.

Most expats seeking a temporary resident visa get a temporary resident visa for non-lucrative purposes. This means that you live in Mexico on funds received from abroad.

You must begin the application process for a temporary resident visa at the Mexican consulate nearest you in your home country. You will need to provide the following:

  • The proper form, filled out from Mexico’s online system at https://www.gob.mx/inm and signed by you.
  • A passport (a photocopy and the original of the photo and personal details page). Be sure that your passport is valid for at least six months after the time you submit your application.
  • Four color photos taken against a white background, passport size, with ears and forehead exposed, no jewelry, and no glasses.
  • Evidence of a domicile in Mexico, such as a utility bill or rental agreement in your name.
  • Statements from your bank, investment company, or Social Security proving that you are financially independent.

If you are using a lawyer or a visa-processing service to process the visa on your behalf, you’ll also need to provide a copy of this person’s legal ID.

It’s also easy in Mexico to work as a consultant, via the internet, with money paid to you in the U.S. or your official country of residence.

Mexico City Index Stats

Cost of Living

Mexico City is extremely affordable, with rent from $500 to $900 a month.

A remote worker can easily live in Mexico City on $2,000 a month and that includes everything: rent, food, utilities, and transportation.

Cost of Living Score: 9/10

Connectivity & Transportation

As a major North American capital, Mexico City is a powerful cultural and economic hub, connected via its international airport to cities all across the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and beyond.

A total of 28 destinations in the U.S. have direct flights to Mexico City, making visiting family and friends a quick, inexpensive trip.

It’s also the ideal place to base yourself for visiting the rest of Latin America.

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 9/10

Networking & Fitting In

Central Mexico City is buzzing with nomad communities. It’s easy to find a co-working space or pleasant coffee shop to work from.

Mexico’s history of cross migration with the U.S. and its massive tourism industry means that people here are used to interacting with folks from the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere. It’s easier to get by communicating solely in English, compared to other destinations.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 8/10

Visas

When you visit Mexico, the cost of a visitor permit is automatically added to your airline ticket. (If you are traveling by car, you will pay for it—a $36 fee—when you cross the border.)

Your visitor card allows you to remain in Mexico up to 180 days. You can easily renew it by leaving Mexico before it expires and then re-entering the country. For this reason, some people never bother getting any other type of visa.

However, if you are planning an extended stay in Mexico or plan to purchase property, it’s a good idea to look into a more permanent visa.

There are two broad resident visa categories: temporary resident visas and permanent resident visas.

The temporary resident visa is designed for those who wish to live in Mexico for more than 180 days but less than four years.

Anyone wishing to become a permanent resident, however, can apply immediately, without having to become a temporary resident first.

Visas Score: 7

Taxes

Individuals resident in Mexico for tax purposes are taxable on their worldwide income. Those who are not residents for tax purposes are only subject to Mexican tax on Mexican-source income.

It’s important to note: Legal residence in Mexico via visa does not automatically make you a tax resident. If you have a home in another country as well as Mexico, the key question is the location of your center of vital interests.

Under Mexican tax law, your center of vital interests is located in Mexico if: More than 50% of your income came from Mexican sources during the calendar year; or, Mexico is the primary location for your professional or business activities.

Taxes Score: 7/10

Mexico City Overall Score: 40/50

1. Lisbon, Portugal—300 Days of Sunshine in a Cosmopolitan Capital

Lisbon was always a top candidate for the most popular city in Europe for digital nomads. ©iStock/Jacek_Sopotnicki

“Lisbon is full of amazingly creative talent, cozy cafés, exciting co-working spaces with high-speed wireless internet, and a deep-rooted global view that’s hard to find anywhere else,” says Californian Kevin Mullins, who relocated to Portugal in 2010, fell in love with the country, and stayed. Today, he’s the managing director of Atomivox, a branding agency based in the seaside town of Cascais, just a few miles west of Lisbon.

“The wonderful coastal weather, amazing food and wine, and entrepreneurial spark among Portuguese friends and business associations made it so easy to settle here,” he says.

“The rebirth of Portugal after the financial crisis has been extraordinary. It went from millions of young Portuguese leaving in droves to many returning with fresh ideas in AI, e-commerce, blockchain, and industrial automation. The fact that we get to participate is icing on the cake.”

Lisbon was always a top candidate for the most popular city in Europe for digital nomads. It is one of the cheapest capital cities in Western Europe; it has 300 days of sunshine per year; the winters are mild; the nightlife, coffee, and food scene can compete with anywhere in the world; there is access to beaches; great healthcare; and the powerful allure of yellow trams, azulejos tiles, terracotta rooftops, and custard tarts make it irresistible.

But what makes Lisbon exceptional is how well it has adjusted to the influx of digital nomads. It has a reputation as one of the most welcoming digital nomad scenes in the world—with Portugal designated both the fourth safest (Global Peace Index) and friendliest country in the world for expats (Far and Wide).

There are digital nomad meetups held regularly, with active Facebook groups and events run by digital nomad accommodation startups like Flatio. And, perhaps the biggest indicator of all that Lisbon aims to position itself as a digital nomad stronghold, the city has hosted the Web Summit, dubbed “the best technology conference on the planet” by Forbes magazine, since 2016.

Lisbon has many co-working options available, and with a few exceptions, prices tend to hover around the same rate. You can easily find a hot desk to do your work for proximately $13 a day, or $112 to $250 for a month.

Each different co-working space offers something unique. In Lisbon’s Alcântara neighborhood, sunny, light-filled Impact Hub offers two private Skype booths. Community-minded, it sponsors events like movie screenings and wellness classes. A co-working space called Bworking offers a program for entrepreneurs that supports startups, the process of business development, and social and humanitarian projects. Another co-working space, called Workup, offers free cycling, walking, and running sessions for health-conscious digital nomads.

Portugal has invested a lot in its WiFi infrastructure, with 90% coverage nationwide and an average internet speed of 21 mbps in Lisbon. You can find free WiFi in many of Lisbon’s parks and cafés, and most Airbnbs will come equipped. But if you want your own landline internet connection, it will cost $20 to $30 a month, depending on speed.

You can rent in Lisbon from approximately $600 a month. However, as a digital nomad, you’ll probably be searching for shorter-term solutions. On Airbnb you can you find one-bedroom apartments in the city for $55 a night off-season, and $90 a night in the height of summer. Factor in other monthly costs of about $1,200 (for a couple), which would cover your utilities, groceries, entertainment, and any incidentals.

Visas in Portugal

U.S. and Canadian citizens can stay in Portugal for up to 90 days for tourism or business without a visa.

For longer stays, Portugal has two visas that would apply to someone wanting to live and work on the Iberian Peninsula: D2 and D7. Technically, the D2 is for independent workers and entrepreneurs, while the D7 is for those who are retired or earning passive income. In practical terms, the D7 will make sense for most people, even if you’re not retired, because you can base it on income. That’s because the D2 requires that you prove you can support yourself as a freelancer, and then begin issuing Portuguese invoices on which your business will be taxed, though the tax rate is fixed at 20% for 10 years.

With the D7, instead, you’ll only need to show that you have €8,000 (about $9,100) per person in a Portuguese bank account. Immigration authorities will want to see this before they’ll process the application.

When Athina Kallel moved to Lisbon in May 2019 from San Diego, she opted for the D7 because “the savings requirement was reasonable and easy to meet.” She chose Portugal for numerous reasons: cultural warmth, costs, the ease of the visa process. But healthcare was also high on her list because she’s a cancer survivor, and Portugal has one of the most highly rated healthcare systems in the world. Better yet, its cost to citizens is minimal. Athina was paying nearly $1,300 a month for health insurance in San Diego. As a Portuguese resident, she pays $1,400 a year, and that’s only because of a technicality that required a private policy tied to her cancer care.

“I really worried about ‘what if you go broke and can’t afford healthcare,’” says Athina. Under either the D2 or the D7, you gain immediate access to the Portuguese health system, “and you can’t put a price on that peace of mind.”

To apply for either a D2 or D7 visa, you have to enrol in the Portuguese tax system and become a tax resident. That requires obtaining a Portuguese tax number before you can even apply for a visa. And for that, you will need a sponsor, which can be a law office, accounting office, or migration office.

For that reason, you’ll need to hire a pro to walk you through the process and be your sponsor for the tax number. All in, that will cost you between €1,000 and €2,500 (about $1,135 to $2,850). The process will require two to four months to complete.

As an expat freelancer, you’d also want to apply for Non-Habitual Resident status, or NHR, which is issued to people who’ve never lived in Portugal before and move to the country.

With NHR status, certain types of income earned outside the country are exempt from taxes (any employment income, plus self-employment income in certain categories, including authors/journalists, artists, and managers). You have to file a Portuguese tax return and declare the income, though you’ll owe no taxes if you qualify. The other benefit of this is that it shows Uncle Sam you’re a tax resident of another country, which then helps trigger your eligibility for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

You can apply for Portuguese citizenship and passport after five years of residence, though you have to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language.

Lisbon Index Stats

Cost of Living

For low-cost living with First-World amenities, few countries in Europe can match Portugal.

Though Lisbon is more expensive than other cities in Portugal, overall cost of living, including real estate, is arguably the lowest for any capital in Western Europe.

You will pay less than in, say, Paris, London, or even Madrid. Living in New York City will cost you a whopping 96.73% more than living in Lisbon.

Cost of Living Score: 8/10

Connectivity & Transportation

Lisbon is a vibrant First-World capital, with dozens of direct connections across Europe, to North America, and beyond.

Most of the country can be accessed by public transportation. However, renting a car is probably the best way to see Portugal, as you’ll reduce your journey time.

Taxis are readily available from almost any location, though the cost is not cheap by Portuguese standards—about $4 to start and 50 cents per mile. However, Uber is available as well.

Lisbon’s metro system is extensive and easy to navigate.

Connectivity & Transportation Score: 10/10

Networking & Fitting In

Popular with Europeans as a vacation and expat destination, Portugal was long overlooked by North Americans. However, there is rapidly growing interest in this warm and inviting slip of a country.

There is a NATO presence here and the American Embassy is very active in the community.

For digital nomads, Lisbon is positively buzzing. This is one of the most welcoming digital nomad scenes in the world, with regular meetups and an abundance of co-working spaces.

A true sign of its digital credentials, Lisbon has been the permanent host city for the Web Summit since 2016, when this premier tech event moved from Dublin, Ireland.

Networking & Fitting In Score: 8/10

Visas

Foreigners can stay in Portugal for 90 days for tourism or business without a visa.

For longer stays, there are two options for freelancers or those earning passive income: The D2 and D7 visas.

The D2 is for those earning from business activities within Portugal, whereas the D7 could suit anyone who meets the minimum savings requirement (around $9,100 in a Portuguese bank account).

Visas Score: 7/10

Taxes

To apply for either a D2 or D7 visa, you have to enroll in the Portuguese tax system and become a tax resident.

A major advantage of Portugal’s D2 visa is that your income tax will be fixed at 20% for a decade.

If you qualify for Non-Habitual Resident status, however (issued to people who’ve never lived in Portugal before and move to the country), your income earned outside the country may be totally exempt from Portuguese taxes.

Taxes Score: 8/10

 Lisbon Overall Score: 41/50

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