Where to Live and Work as a Digital Nomad – Part III Asia

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Mighty Travels’ mission is to guide you with ways to go everywhere and live well anywhere. Digital nomads now have the opportunity to live and work from anywhere and live a nomadic lifestyle without leaving the world behind.

  • Part I Middle East and Central Asia
  • Part II South America
  • Part III Asia
  • Part IV Africa
  • Part V Europe
  • Part VI North America

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

I have devised the following (very scientific) criteria for choosing the best places:

  • Cost of living (especially hotels, apartments, local transport and food)
  • Internet speed
  • Security situation
  • Language (how easy it is without knowledge of the local language)
  • Quality / diversity of food
  • Cheap flights (to and from your temporary home)
  • Friendliness of locals
  • Entertainment options – or how bored would I be after one month
  • General hassle factor (how much drama is involved in everyday transactions)

Since we do not cover employment on Mighty Travels, we are assuming you already have a digital job that you can do (for a limited time) almost anywhere.

Asia is chock-full of affordable, entrepreneurial and lively cities that will make your heart beat faster as a digital nomad. In general, the safety situation is good and the weather warmer than anywhere else.

Work as a Digital Nomad

Bangkok

Bangkok is the most visited city on the planet. Emirates alone runs eight (!) A380’s to the city every day, 365 days a year. The city is an amazing success story and has been able to easily absorb the huge amount of visitors.

Cost of living

After decades of development and increase in popularity, it’s amazing how the city is still so affordable. While a few areas have gone up in price, if you are ready to venture a bit outside the best areas you can still get incredibly cheap apartments.

Internet speed

It is easy to find fast internet in Bangkok. While public WiFi is a bit of a rarity, most dedicated lines are now fast – easily faster than 10 Mbit.

Security situation

Security is not an issue in Bangkok unless you are really reckless.

Language

Thai is a difficult language to learn and most locals aren’t exactly fluent English speakers, so communication is an issue; it’s even harder outside of the main tourist hot spots.

Work as a Digital Nomad

Quality / diversity of food

Bangkok is likely the city with the most diverse and the cheapest food in the world. Yes, it is mostly Thai, but there are so many options. Plus ethnic cuisine has taken off here, too.

Cheap flights to and from your temporary home

AirAsia Thailand will become your friend and you will follow its sales to the end. Bangkok isn’t the cheapest place to fly from, but since there is so much flying you will always find a cheap seat.

Friendliness of locals

The locals may not really be as friendly as they seem, but Thais are still some of the friendliest people on earth.

Entertainment options

Bangkok is one of the world’s most interesting cities.

Work as a Digital Nomad

General hassle factor

Rather high; the weather is annoyingly hot, everywhere is crowded and there are enough touts to make it even worse.

Work as a Digital Nomad

Taipei

Taipei is often overlooked, as many visitors to China come back disappointed and believe Taiwan is just like China or Hong Kong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Taipei is a strikingly modern city that’s full of friendly people and has some of the world’s best and cheapest food.

Cost of living

Apartments aren’t cheap, but everything else here is incredibly cheap. How such a modern city can be so inexpensive is a mystery to me (and to any traveler I ever met).

Internet speed

Some of the fastest speeds on the planet.

Security situation

No issue.

Language

Taiwanese speak Mandarin (the same as on the mainland) but it’s spoken so much softer and kinder that it is amazing. It is a great idea to learn Mandarin in Taipei; you can get around without it, though it’s not ideal.

Work as a Digital Nomad

Quality / diversity of food

Unlike the mainland, food is a big draw in Taipei; there is just so much diversity and it’s so cheap. I had some of the best and cheapest sushi of my life in Taipei.

Cheap flights to and from your temporary home

Not Taipei’s strong suit. The island is a bit isolated and flights aren’t as frequent or as low-priced as in other places in Asia.

Friendliness of locals

Believe it or not, Taiwanese are some of the world’s friendliest people.

Entertainment options

It’s no Bangkok, but there is plenty to do in Taipei for a few months.

Work as a Digital Nomad

General hassle factor

Minimal. Plus the metro is the quietest and best-organized subway I have ever seen.

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Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is one of my favorite cities on the planet. It’s a great mix of a first world country and a developing country and has a diverse population and awesome food. The weather is tropical but rarely too hot.

Cost of living

Kuala Lumpur is more expensive than Bangkok but it’s still cheap. Food and transportation have gotten very cheap with the sliding Ringgit.

Internet speed

It’s often very fast now!

Security situation

KL is one of the more dangerous Asian cities. Now the standard for danger is low in Asia; it still takes a lot of ‘effort’ to get mugged in KL, but it is possible.

Language

English is the lingua franca in KL, but Mandarin or Cantonese will help.

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Quality / diversity of food

The Chinese, Malays and Indians all bring out their best food in KL. You won’t go hungry.

Cheap flights to and from your temporary home

This is the primary Air Asia hub and fares are low if you stay with this discount airline. Legacy airlines often charge much higher prices from KL than from Bangkok, though.

Friendliness of locals

Not the world’s friendliest, but still, that won’t be an issue.

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Entertainment options

KL is exciting for a few days but then something strange happens and suddenly everything becomes boring. I can’t really pin it down, but many travelers confirm this feeling. Prepare yourself for it!

General hassle factor

If you stay around the city center, you will live in a first world environment for a much lower cost and the hassle here is minimal.

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Denpasar, Bali

The sprawl of Balinese cities is home to a (still) growing number of expats. Bali seems to have it all – low cost of living, great beaches and (some) modern infrastructure.

Cost of living

Bali is cheap; as with the rest of Indonesia, you can get a bargain on just about anything.

Internet speed

This is still a major issue in Indonesia (though it is better in Bali). On average, the internet is slow and you need to invest in finding (or renting) a rather expensive connection.

Security situation

Not an issue if you avoid the seedy parts of Kuta.

Language

Bahasa Indonesia is rather easy to learn and most locals speak some English, but don’t expect many fluent locals.

Work as a Digital Nomad

Quality / diversity of food

Indonesian food isn’t that great all the time. However, the many food entrepreneurs in Bali have started so many restaurants that you won’t ever be without somewhere to eat.

Cheap flights to and from your temporary home

Bali is one of the world’s biggest hubs, even though the airport is small. You will have a lot of choice here.

Friendliness of locals

Indonesians are the world’s friendliest people, although Bali has the least friendly Indonesians. Make what you want of it, but it shouldn’t trouble you too much.

Entertainment options

If you like the beach and a simple lifestyle close to nature then Bali will not get boring. Otherwise there is not much to do after a while.

Work as a Digital Nomad

General hassle factor

Rather high. The weather is incredibly hot, roads barely exist and you will always hang out with tons of short-term tourists.

Also-rans

Asia is so full of great cities that it’s hard to choose and some of the following cities would also easily be recommendations if they were on other continents…

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Jakarta and Bandung

I wouldn’t want to send my children to live abroad in Jakarta as it’s too crowded and polluted. Bandung is much more calm than Jakarta and a lovely city destination, but it’s just too small after a few days here.

Manila

Manila has its share of problems – it is crowded, the traffic is manic and the general impression is of a Bombay-style ghetto. That said, it has fantastic, warm people and some great beaches just a short flight away.

Tokyo

Tokyo is VERY expensive and crowded. While I could deal with that, it is especially hard to do much in Japan without being fluent in Japanese. This is a real hurdle anywhere in the country.

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Hanoi 

I really loved my recent stay in Hanoi. However, it is more a city to visit than to live in. There is something unruly and annoying about the city that would likely get to me after some time.

Seoul

Seoul can be a great city, but it can also be a gray, boring place. It’s not cheap and once you have tried all the excellent Korean food there isn’t much diversity with the local cuisine. It’s also rough to do much without some basic Korean (though much easier than in Japan).

Singapore

Singapore is a great city but it’s just really expensive and hot. If I had a choice between here and Kuala Lumpur, I’d choose the latter, but if you want to splash out a bit more, then Singapore is the better place.

Work as a Digital Nomad

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a great city to visit, but it’s too crowded and living costs are astronomical. The locals also tend to be less friendly and always in a crazy rush.