Best spot to be a digital nomad

CHIANG RAI, 27 September 2022: I hope to catch my first sighting of a Digital Nomad here in my hometown of Chiang Rai, which traditionally relies on seasonal budget travellers from Europe to keep the travel business ticking.

The quest is complicated by the different descriptions of a traveller who stays more than 30 days in a single destination. They used to be lumped together as long-stay visits, but that loose definition needs refining. Are they workaholics who prefer to describe their miserable lives as a workation in progress, or should we go for the buzz phrase “digital nomads”?

Photo Credit: Expat Life — William Russell

A Google search suggests Digital nomads are people “who are location-independent and use technology to perform their job, living a nomadic lifestyle. Digital nomads work remotely, telecommuting rather than being physically present at a company’s headquarters or office.”

A study released last week by the UK insurance specialists William Russell attempts to identify the world’s top 10 destinations for a workation described in the study’s preamble as  a place where you”do the same job, but with more sand and better coffee.”

It claims the global searches for ‘working holiday’ have soared by 82.66% since April 2021 to July 2022.

Surprise, William Russell’s top 10 destinations worldwide for a workation that could “extend several weeks or months” is none other than Pha Ngan Island, a close neighbour of Samui Island in South Thailand.

It’s definitely a surprise because Thailand’s swathe of visa options miss the category “Digital Nomad”, and if a traveller works in the country, technically, they will need a work permit. That drawback needs sorting out if Thailand’s tourism planers are to welcome digital nomads with open arms.

The only other Asian destination in the top 10 list is Canggu in Bali, Indonesia. It’s in the seventh slot with monthly rentals of USD1,411. Pha Ngan Island’s monthly rentals are lower at an average of USD1,051, and claims an internet speed of 24 Mbps which is bettered by most of the destinations listed in the top 10.

The team at William Russell sets out its stall with workation tips.

“Schedule it in advance and do your research properly to know what to expect. What are the risks? And how can you avoid or minimise them? Calculate your budget: living in another city or country can be unpredictable and expensive. Be prepared to save money for housing, coworking (if needed), food, insurance, and other options.

“Be aware of culture shock and cultural sensitivities to avoid finding yourself in tricky situations.

“Schedule your free time to explore the new country and stay productive.

“Have a safety net in case things go wrong – international health insurance will enable you to access private treatment if you’re injured or become ill.”

William Russell’s marketing director, William Cooper says: “Combining work and vacation time is a clever way to extend your stay in a destination that benefits both you and the local people. More places are setting up coworking spots, beefing up wifi, and changing legislation to attract remote workers.

“The workation trend emerged in 2012. Then large corporations introduced this option as one of the bonuses for their employees. However, the format of a workation was a little different: several teams travelled together out of town or to another country for a week to work, relax and unite.”

He claims the global searches for ‘working holiday’ have soared by 82.66% from April 2021 to July 2022.

Top 10 best workation destinations

RankCity, CountryMonthly rental cost (USD)Internet speedFunSafety
1Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand$1,051Fast: 24MbpsGreatGreat
2Gran Canaria, Spain$1,789Fast: 35MbpsGoodGreat
3Lisbon, Portugal$2,429Fast: 28MbpsGreatGreat
4Austin, TX, USA$3,797Super Fast: 76MbpsGreatGood
5São Paulo, Brazil$1,495Good: 6MbpsGreatOkay
6Budapest, Hungary$1,637Fast: 30MbpsGoodGood
7Canggu, Bali, Indonesia$1,411Fast: 25MbpsGoodGreat
8Belgrade, Serbia$1,555Fast: 27MbpsGoodGood
9Berlin, Germany$3,465Fast: 27MbpsGoodGreat
10Buenos Aires, Argentina$904Good: 6MbpsGoodOkay

Source: William Russell insurance specialists UK

For more information on the study visit https://www.william-russell.com/blog/best-workation-destinations-work-from/

But if you decide to head for Thailand claiming you are a digital nomad, be aware that Thailand does not currently have a digital nomad visa. It also has strict work permit rules.

For more details visit https://visaguide.world/digital-nomad-visa/thailand/

The website warns: “A quick online search will show many results for foreigners who have worked remotely or as freelancers while living in Thailand. However, working remotely as a foreigner in Thailand contravenes the labour law.”

(Source: William Russell Insurance specialist UK)

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