Bali has long been a stalwart for remote workers looking for that quintessential beach life in Southeast Asia, but over in India, the tropical state of Goa has its own budding community that creative or spiritually-minded digital nomads should have their eye on. I have spent time as a digital nomad in both destinations—working from Bali and the beginning of 2020 and Goa at the start of 2023—and can tell you that each has its own advantages and charms.
Below, we’re putting the destinations side-by-side to compare what each has to offer digital nomads and remote workers in terms of weather, work-life balance, and cost of living.
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Where is Goa?
On India's west coast, Goa is an emerging destination for digital nomads and historically has been more popular with backpackers and a hub for yoga teacher training and other related courses. But now, with the growing infrastructure and reliable WiFi, remote workers are coming to these beautiful beach towns. Goa is easiest understood when divided into North Goa and South Goa. The north was the first part of the region to be developed for tourists and is generally more built up while the south is much quieter. Similarly, the "party Goa" is concentrated in the north and the south has more to offer on the yoga and spirituality front.
The Best Time to Go
Another element to take into account is when you plan to go—and for how long. Goa is more or a seasonal destination as opposed to Bali which has year-round appeal.
Goa is a seasonal destination and the peak "season" runs between October and April. This falls in line with the weather and sees many businesses shutting their doors during the monsoon rains. While there are some people who visit outside the main season, you won’t experience the same community aspect. The majority of people who work remotely from Goa come for the season and spend the other half of the year elsewhere.
While Bali does have a rainy season (October and April), the remote work culture remains pretty constant throughout the year. There are fewer tourists in the rainy season but also a solid community of remote workers who call Bali home permanently. If you are therefore looking for somewhere to put down roots, Bali might be more suited but if you prefer to travel regularly or like the idea of splitting your time between two places, Goa probably ticks your boxes.
Where to Work
Both Bali and Goa have lots of coworking options for remote workers. Whether you’re just starting out on this journey or are a seasoned pro, the joy and freedom of remote working means you can try out both destinations and see which suits you best.
Both Bali and Goa make good destinations for remote working but if you’re looking for coworking spaces in Goa, you’ll want to head to Anjuna/Vagator area in the north. In the south, in towns like Agonda, Palolem, and Patnem there are a number of cafes for coworking but no specific spaces for remote workers. I spent two months based in Patnem and loved the cafe-hopping lifestyle. There’s a good selection where working at a laptop for a few hours is welcomed if you buy drinks or food (check out Zest or The Mill). However, if your work is more Zoom-heavy or you need a more professional environment, heading north might be a better idea. WiFi can be a little patchy at points but in reality, the power outages are pretty short. In my experience, normally if the power goes it is only for minutes not hours.
In Bali, the options for remote working spaces are much more abundant. I spent time in both Ubud and Canggu and was spoiled for choice when it came to cafes for working and coworking spaces and beyond this, Seminyak and Uluwatu have lots of options too. Post-pandemic, these options continue to grow as more and more remote workers move to Bali. Aurore Marital, a breathwork and kundalini facilitator, who lives in Canggu with her husband and two children, found the choice of cafes and coworking spaces a big pull. "I work from beautiful cafes with a rice field view, my husband prefers the extensive coworking options. Some places like Zin Cafe are free whereas others make you pay a monthly fee and extra for a private desk. Places like BWork for instance also have a beautiful yoga shala upstairs, a nice cafe, and a big coworking space." The friendly and entrepreneurial community of workers is also something Marital really appreciates about living and working in Bali.
Cost of Living
While Bali is no doubt more developed than Goa, prices in India remain significantly lower. Of course, it is all relative, and Goa is considered to be one of the more expensive places in India for short-term accommodation and eating and drinking out, but compared to other parts of Asia, it comes in cheap.
Local food is good quality and delicious. In Goa last winter, I would often stop by a local cafe for a masala dosa and pay 150 rupees ($1.80). You do pay more for food in remote worker-friendly cafes and for Western dishes (around two to three times more than eating local food) but it still works out to be very affordable. The same trend is seen with accommodation. In Goa, if you rent somewhere for the entire season you can end up paying as little as 20,000 rupees ($243 USD) a month for a one-bedroom apartment. Prices for shorter stays are of course more expensive but you get more for your money than in Bali.
Cheap accommodation is a thing of the past in Bali with prices continuing to rise post-pandemic. Martial points out that accommodation is nearly the same price as she was paying in London. “For us, it’s an improvement in terms of space and setting. We have a large villa with garden and pool and daily housekeeping versus a London flat,” she explains. Restaurants and cafes remain pretty affordable: “We are a family of four eating out of beautiful places every day for about $16 to $22 in total, a cafe would be about $2,” she says.
Goa vs. Bali Lifestyle
In terms of spending your free time, both destinations offer that outdoor lifestyle that so many remote workers crave whether it's sunrise mornings at the beach, hiking to waterfalls inland, or perfecting those surfing skills. Similarly, both have a huge array of options when it comes to yoga, fitness, and spirituality. In my experience, Bali is just a lot more developed in line with Europe, the U.S., or Australia whereas in Goa you still feel closer to the original culture and way of life. I found both were really great for meeting people easily, thanks to the welcoming and friendly crowd they draw and the big choice of events, meet-ups, and courses you can attend. The choice of fresh and healthy food is equally excellent in both destinations.