As the digital nomad world expands, more and more newbie nomads are heading straight for destinations like Bali and Chiang Mai. Don’t get me wrong, both can still be great for remote workers, but traffic and prices are starting to look more like Western Europe, and getting a spot at your favorite cafe may be reminiscent of trying to get into a world-famous club in Berlin. As prices go up and crowds grow, you might find yourself dreaming of cheaper and more low-key options.
It’s easy to assume that if you want to partake in a thriving remote work community you have to go to one of the hotspots, but there are actually plenty of underrated places to base yourself as a digital nomad. These are places where locals still outnumber travelers, and the cost of living hasn’t blown up.
After nomading from the mountain paradise of Hunza Valley for about 18 months, where prices are low and fellow remote workers relatively few, I can’t imagine going back to a place like Chiang Mai, where it felt like every cafe, hotel and restaurant was filled with other travelers on their laptops. Not only am I able to save more each month, but sans crowds and competition for workspaces, I feel like I’m really experiencing local life.
This list will hopefully make you feel the same. From the rugged coastal town of Dahab in Egypt to the walkable and wallet-friendly city of Krakow in Poland, these are 10 underrated digital nomad bases to consider moving to in the new year.
Overflowing with shrines, temples, and plenty of delicious places to eat and drink, it’s shocking that this friendly South Asian city isn’t on more nomads’ radar. Apartments can easily be rented for $200 or less per month, and plenty of hostels and budget hotels can be found throughout the city.
For such a populated place, Kathmandu is relatively easy to get around and is chock-full of both Hindu and Buddhist historical sites. Nepal itself is quite a small country, you also don’t need to feel confined to the capital. Plenty of day hikes can be easily accessed, such as the climb to Changunaryan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that provides stunning views of the surrounding Himalayas.
You’ll also be able to easily catch local buses or planes to anywhere else in Nepal—so bucket list adventures like the Annapurna Circuit or Everest Basecamp will be right at your fingertips.
Where to work: While still quite new to the scene, several coworking spaces already exist in Kathmandu like WorkAround, Rem.Work, and Kausimaa, which also doubles as a cafe. You could also go to La Palpasa Coffee for WiFi and momos (perhaps Nepal’s most famous dish), or sip on some of the city’s best coffee at Himalayan Java Cafe.
Where to eat: For Western fusion options as well as a lovely garden, you can check out Salon de Kathmandu. The Norling Tibetan Restaurant is is often filled with more Nepalis than nomads. Otherwise, you can expect to find unique options in every corner of Katmandu. From the best momos you’ll ever find (seriously!), to local favorites like daal baat tarkari and samosas, Kathmandu has got you covered from a culinary perspective whether you’re seeking street food, Tibetan fare, or a steaming bowl of Vietnamese pho.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
The world-famous UNESCO site Angkor Wat may be what draws most foreigners to Cambodia’s second-largest city, but it has so much more to offer than just one attraction. Surprisingly green for such an urbanized area, Siem Reap in particular is absolutely ideal for remote workers, because the WiFi is reliable and it’s easy to get around—not to mention the cost of living. Hotels and apartments can often average out to around $10-$12 a night, making it an especially great place for digital nomads on a budget.
Where to work: Professional coworking spaces have yet to reach this underrated remote work city, but luckily there are numerous modern cafes filled with plenty of sunlight, greenery, and speedy internet connections to choose between. The Little Red Fox is somewhat of an institution thanks to its healthy Western-style eats, strong coffee, and colorful wall art while the Footprints Cafe has some banging french toast, coffee that you’ll keep coming back for, and reliable WiFi.
Where to eat: As for food, you can find cuisine from all over the world in Siem Reap, from classic Cambodian dishes to authentic quesadillas cooked right on the road. The street food—which ranges from nutella and condensed milk-filled crepes to fried fish and a plethora of noodles and everything in between—is what really shines here. There are also a number of “Happy Pizza” restaurants throughout the city—we’re talking about full-sized cheesy pizzas infused with marijuana. Many of these restaurants also have delicious smoothies with a cannabis twist. Though do start slow, both the pies and the drinks can easily knock you out for the night!
Poland is extremely affordable compared to its European neighbors, and walkable city of Krakow—complete with historical palaces and landmarks, food trucks, and numerous tree-filled parks—is one of the best places to base yourself as a digital nomad.
You can easily find cheap accommodation on Airbnb, plus there are a plethora of local listings if you want to lock in a longer stay. It’s easy to get away with spending less than $1,000 a month here, which is virtually unheard of in more famous European cities like Amsterdam or Barcelona.
You’ll love the variety of Krakow's buildings, which feature Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic architecture as well as plenty of places to get lost in nature. Dąbie Park is perfect for cyclists, meanwhile, you can see fantastic views of the entire city from the offbeat Krakus Mound. On warm summer days, the Vistula River is the ideal place to rent a kayak or simply get your tan on along the riverbank. Add in fast WiFi and cheap data, and you’ll see that Krakow really allows you to thrive in the European Union for less!
Where to eat: Polish food is delicious and super cheap—you’ll soon fall in love with pierogies and street food kielbasa stands. The Milkbar Tomasza is particularly fantastic, meanwhile, GOGO Burger serves up (arguably) the best burgers in the city.
This small town is known for its many adventurous activities, but it’s also a solid place to base yourself as a digital nomad in Ecuador. Less than four hours away from the capital Quito, Baños is where nature and modern conveniences like fast WiFi and colorful cafes come together in the very best way.
These days, Ecuador is more welcoming of remote workers than ever thanks to its digital nomad visa, which was recently launched in October 2022. This exciting opportunity will allow you to work and live in the country for up to two years, which is certainly enough time to see it all if you really wanted to. With a minimum income requirement of $1,275 per month, even newbie nomads might be able to make it work.
On your off days, incredible views like what you’ll find at La Casa del Arbol await. This was undoubtedly my favorite memory from my time in Baños, and it only takes about 45 minutes to reach from the city center. The treehouse and attached swing will give you lush, panoramic views of the entire valley (which is covered in emerald-green mountains) at a whopping 8,530 feet. Meanwhile, when it's time to work, Baños is easy to get around without having to rely on public transport or your own vehicle.
Where to eat: Ecuadorian food is varied, though a lot of cheap eats feature bistec, rice and beans. The best places to eat in Baños range from small, low-key eateries like Arepas to Go that will only set you back a dollar or two to places like the Sativa Studio Cafe, which is a top-rated vegetarian restaurant famed for its delicious menu items and incredible hand-painted murals.
This laid-back beach town is a long-time favorite of water sports enthusiasts, but also the definition of an underrated digital nomad destination. It’s cheap, sunny, and offers fun in both the beaches and mountains.
Multiple trails lead to sweet viewpoints of the town below, but the main draw of Dahab is its watersports. If you’re a nomad that loves (or wants to learn) scuba , free diving, snorkeling, or even kitesurfing, then you shouldn’t think twice about booking tickets.
Another digital nomad locale where it's easy to survive on $1,000 per month or less, you’ll soon fall in love with the laid-back bohemian vibes and slow pace of life.
Where to work: Coworking spaces aren’t yet plentiful in Dahab, but there is one shining star that you’ll likely find yourself in pretty often: Mojo Cowork Cafe. Expect a reliable internet connection and a variety of tasty eats. Tim’s Munch is another great place to work in the area, and as for food—there’s everything from middle eastern eats to french toast and smoothies.
Where to eat: The Everyday Cafe is a highlight, whereas Yum Yum has got you covered when it comes to authentic and cheap Egyptian options. You’ll also be able to find everything from sushi—Seaweed Sushi Bar is the best—to high-quality vegan eats thanks to the organic and nutritious options at The Vegan Lab.
Hunza Valley, Pakistan
Located in high-altitude territory of Gilgit Baltistan, Hunza Valley was referred to as Shangri La by early adventurers and the description still rings true today. Here, dozens of snowcapped peaks encircle a lush green valley, which is home to an indigenous community with a unique and beautiful culture. Perhaps the most offbeat of all the nomad locations, it is the most magical mountain community that you’ve probably never even heard of.
Hunza is by far the safest place in all of Pakistan, and crime of any kind is essentially unheard of. While long a popular trekking destination, it’s now possible to work online from the valley thanks to the recent introduction of fast, fiber cable WiFi.
Karimabad is the centralized hub of Hunza and undoubtedly the best place to base yourself as a nomad. Filled with plenty of cute cafes, restaurants, and epic views, you’ll forget this cute little town sits at more than 8,200 feet. I’ve spent plenty of time getting to know each and every corner of Karimabad, and while it might be offbeat, the screensaver-esque view of my now-favorite peak, Rakaposhi, makes it my favorite place in the world to crank out a work day.
You can easily find a decent place to stay in Karimabad for less than $20 a night, with many hotel owners happy to offer discounts on long-term stays. Karim Hotel is one of the oldest in the area and ensures 24/7 backup connection to their fast and reliable WiFi. Hot water can be a bit unreliable in such a remote region, but Karim ensures not only perfect temperatures, but high water pressure that will make you feel right at home.
Where to work: While there aren’t any coworking spaces yet, Cafe de Hunza has long been famous for its delicious eats and its strong fiber connection makes it a fantastic place to work. Meanwhile, Mountain Cup has some of the best coffee in the area as well as excellent outdoor seating views.
Where to eat: There are dozens of restaurants in the area, but you absolutely can’t miss out on Hunza Food Pavillion, which serves up delicious Hunzai food cooked by a team of local female chefs. Meanwhile, the Yak Grill in Passu (about an hour’s drive from Karimabad) has some of the best homemade burgers you’ll ever eat in your life to quickly satisfy any western food cravings.
This Indian state is commonly referred to as “God’s Own Country.” Kerala is a lush, magical oasis in South India filled with plenty of locales that are perfect for remote workers to settle into the slow life. Not to mention that it’s totally possible to make it all happen on as little as $500-$600 USD a month.
As Kerala is an entire state, you’re going to want to pinpoint exactly which part is best for you. Fort Kochi is a good option for beach lovers, as the small seaside town is touristy enough to make it easy to nomad from, while still retaining an adventurous old-school charm.
The Kashi Art Cafe is perhaps the most famous spot in the entire town, and for good reason. Aside from its fast WiFi, plants like bamboo fill both the indoor and outdoor sections, and an attached art gallery makes it unmatched as far as Kerala cafes are concerned.
For a different vibe, check out the world-famous backwaters of Alleppey, which is about an hour south. The breezy canals can be cruised on in everything from luxurious private houseboats to local “taxi” style ships. Surrounded by mangroves, it's these luscious waters that make most nomads fall in love with Alleppey. This sleepy town also has some pristine stretches of sand with the popular namesake beach and the more offbeat Thumpoly Beach which has a more local feel.
Where to work: Two dedicated coworking spaces can be found near Fort Kochi, so do check out both Fortune Cowork and Centre A to see if they have the vibes you’re looking for. Cafe Catamaran gives you and your laptop a front-row seat of the Arabian Sea. You can also check out the Asado Cafe for some of the best vibes around thanks to plenty of artsy decor and a wide variety of food options.
Where to eat: Kathi rolls are a local specialty that are similar to tacos but with an Indian twist, they’re cheap as can be and you’ll find them all over the state. Other favorites include thattu dosa paired with coconut chutney, and lots of street food. You’ll find everything from spicy mussels masala to prawn curry here, all of which are best sampled at small hole-in-the-walls. When you’re in need of a sit-down meal, try Mary’s Kitchen in Kochi or the Ayodha Seafood Lunch House in Alleppey.
Tirana won’t be underrated for very long as more and more digital nomads are discovering that this incredible Balkan city ticks every box. Locals are incredibly friendly, and there are lots of cheap stay options. Airbnb and apartment rentals are peppered throughout the mountainous city’s streets. Slightly more expensive than some of the other choices, you can still be comfortable in Tirana for $1,200 per month or less depending on your spending habits.
Where to eat: For food, you’re going to want to get acquainted with street eats, which are some of the best in the country and very budget-friendly. Must-trys include byrek, which is a flaky pastry filled with cheese and often other ingredients like spinach or meat, and petulla, which you might recognize as being very similar to fried dough. Oda is a must as far as traditional Albanian cuisine is concerned, whereas SALT is an excellent upscale choice for global dishes.
Luang Prabang, Laos
We have a feeling Luang Prabang, Laos’ lovely riverside city, is about to take the digital nomad world by storm. The French architecture, rolling green hills, and lazy riverside eateries make this an ideal place to work abroad—and it’s incredibly affordable.
There are some great activities to be done inside the city itself, such as the short hike up to Mount Phou Si that will reward you with sweeping views of the entire city. Do try to visit around sunset if you can! Moreover, Luang Prabang is only a short drive away from one of the world’s most stunning waterfalls: Kuang Si, a multi-layered turquoise wonder you can swim in.
Sure, internet speeds aren’t quite as fast as Bali or Chiang Mai, but WiFi is certainly acceptable for virtually any kind of remote work and it can be found at virtually any hotel for free.
Where to work: While you won’t find any proper coworking spaces around, there are plenty of fantastic cafes and restaurants to spend your days in. Cafe de Laos is known for its reliable WiFi, with Cafe Sinouk being another fab option.
Where to eat: Despite being a city, Luang Prabang still feels like a small village. Almost everywhere is within walking distance, and street food stalls dish out delicious eats for cents. Due to past French rule, one of Laos’ most delicious street eats might be more familiar than you’d think. Khao jee pâté as it’s called, is a baguette filled with your choice of ingredients. The Luang Prabang Night Market is somewhat of a right of passage into the city’s culinary scene, though for an upscale sit-down experience, make a reservation in advance for Manda de Laos, which specializes in local cuisine from across the country.
Mexico itself is definitely on most digital nomads’ radars these days, but what about Merida? This city is incredibly safe, has fantastic WiFi, and is only 30 minutes away from Merida International Airport. Located in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida is a neat and clean locale that takes you beyond the bustle of Mexico City and sky-high prices of Playa del Carmen.
You can easily find apartments to rent, though keep in mind that prices do tend to be a bit higher than other destinations both in Mexico and beyond. Still, you can likely make things work for $1,500 a month or less depending upon your accommodation choice.
Where to eat: You certainly won’t go hungry or thirsty while nomading from Merida—dozens of cafes, bars, and restaurants serving up delicious Mexican faves as well as international fare like Cuban, Italian, French, German and even Thai can be found all throughout the city. Taqueria la Lupita has tacos that are truly out of this world whereas Pan & Køf.feé is one of the best places to work and sip on your favorite drink.
Samantha Shea is a freelance travel writer and blogger who was born and raised in the US and is now based in Hunza Valley in Northern Pakistan.
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