The phenomenon of overseas remote workers and digital nomads is not entirely new but has become more noticeable in the workforce since the COVID-19 pandemic. With many countries upgrading their technical infrastructure and offering more tax and residency incentives for foreign professionals, the global economy has created a sustainable business model for remote workers, independent contractors, and digital nomads.
A recent study by virtual private network specialists ExpressVPN suggests 20 of the best overseas locations for ex-pat Americans, including remote employees and digital nomads.
Best International Locations for Ex-Pat Remote Employees
Often referred to as the “Island of the Gods,” Bali, Indonesia, has become a popular destination for digital nomads and independent remote workers. Bali’s thriving international community and abundance of co-working spaces make it easy for foreign workers to set up shop, find accommodations, and build a social network within the city’s borders.
The government of Bali and private investors have significantly improved its digital infrastructure, with Wi-Fi access widely available in public areas and communal workspaces.
Jessica Bishop, author and founder of The Budget Savvy Bride, recalls her experiences. “I’ve been living a digital nomad life working remotely for over 5 years. I’ve spent time in Southeast Asia, England, Europe, the US and Mexico. Quality of life and cost of living has been my biggest driving factor in choosing this lifestyle. My favorite place I’ve stayed was Bali, Indonesia — I spent about 6 months there, and other than [the] time zone being a struggle, I absolutely loved my time there and would love to go back someday.”
However, some international remote workers and digital nomads express some reservations about working in Bali. When asked about her personal experiences in Bali, Marjolein Dilven from Radical FIRE responds, “While I expected Bali to be a great remote working place, their internet connection was very spotty compared to almost all other Southeast Asian countries. Plus, the cost of living is not that low when you’re staying in the popular and more touristy areas.”
As other Portuguese cities such as Lisbon and Porto witness a surge in costs and crowds, Madeira is emerging as a more affordable alternative for digital nomads and foreign remote workers. Its temperate climate and oceanside location make it appealing for ex-pats and remote workers seeking a traditional culture at home and a modern culture in the workplace.
Because of recent infrastructure upgrades, Madeira claims to have the fastest internet speeds in Portugal. It is possible for foreign remote workers to rent hybrid ‘workation’ facilities combining housing and workspace. Rental for a two-bedroom apartment starts at $900 USD per month.
Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn, is located along the Baltic Sea’s rugged but beautiful coastline. The climate is colder than other cities on the shortlist, but the advanced digital infrastructure is still appealing to remote workers and digital nomads. With competitive internet speeds and online access to virtually every public service, Tallinn offers an affordable alternative to more expensive or touristy European cities.
One major advantage Estonia offers for digital nomads and remote workers is a flexible residential and visa policy. Digital nomads can qualify for e-residency status, allowing them to own and operate businesses without the required physical presence.
The island of Bermuda is a temptation for adventurous remote workers and digital nomads considering a complete departure from the traditional corporate environment. While Bermuda is still primarily a tourist destination noted for its pink sand beaches, it also features competitive internet capacity and well-equipped co-working spaces for temporary assignments.
In addition, Bermuda’s tax codes do not include an income tax on residents. It’s possible for remote workers to obtain a Work From Bermuda certificate, allowing them to work and live on the island for up to a year.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Located in Thailand’s northern hills, Chiang Mai has become a popular destination for younger remote workers and digital nomads. There is a strong ex-pat and digital nomad culture in Chiang Mai, although Thailand does not currently have a defined visa program for digital nomads or temporary remote workers. A government work permit is also required before foreign remote workers can earn any income in the country. A ‘Special Tourist Visa’ allows long-term travelers to stay in Thailand for up to 270 days.
Digital nomad Marjolein Dilven had this to say about her experiences in Thailand: “When in Thailand, the internet was always spotless. Even when we were on small islands in the south of Thailand, we had a good enough connection for video calls and remote work. The cost of living in Thailand is significantly lower compared to the US, and the opportunities of places to work remotely are endless.
The bustling city of Bangalore has been called the Silicon Valley of India because of its tech-friendly economy and well-trained local workforce. Remote workers and digital nomads can easily find a niche in the city’s business district. Bangalore’s climate is relatively mild compared to other regions of India, which makes it a more comfortable environment for foreign workers.
The country also offers a long-term visa for foreign professionals seeking to work remotely in India. While no specific visa program exists for temporary remote workers or digital nomads, a traditional work visa can be extended for up to five years.