Digital Nomads And South East Asia: A Beginner’s Guide


One question we think that every first time digital nomad wants answering is, “Why Southeast Asia?” after all, there are a lot of options out there for travel and work – why should you fly halfway across the world to hit up these places rather than stay closer to home?

Well, digital nomads and Southeast Asia go together very well, indeed, and we’ve got 10 great reasons that this is the perfect region for a digital nomad at any stage of their journey:

10 Reasons That Southeast Asia Is Perfect For Digital Nomads

 

You don’t have to take our word for it that Southeast Asia is awesome for digital nomads, here we offer some hard proof:

 

The Weather Is Great

 

It’s hard to escape the fact that Southeast Asia is, generally, hot and sunny all year round. The coldest places in Southeast Asia rarely get colder than Spring or Autumn weather in the UK and Canadians will wonder how anyone could consider them as “cold” at all.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to get some seasons in Southeast Asia, Chiang Mai, and Hanoi, for example, have cooler Winters but they’re never freezing either.

I confess that it’s often hotter than I would like but that’s why they invented air-conditioning – so you don’t have to sweat to death, either.

It’s Very Safe

 

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, there is occasional violence in the very Southern Region of Thailand, in Mindanao in the Philippines and rather more regular violence in the Rakhine province of Myanmar.

Do you know what these exceptional places have in common? Nobody ever really visits them. Fortunately, apart from Myanmar (where the glory of Mrauk U awaits – and I will get there one day), there’s very little to see in these areas and (including Myanmar) they’re quite hard to get to as well.

Otherwise, you have very little risk of encountering violent crime in Southeast Asia with the possible exception of drunken violence in nightclubs, bars, etc. which is true everywhere in the world.

Digital nomads in Southeast Asia are going to be safer than they would be in South America, North Africa or even Eastern Europe in many respects.

It’s Foreigner Friendly

 

There may be tourist areas of Thailand where people are a little jaded towards “farang” (the Thai word for “foreigner”) but by and large, throughout the region – foreign guests are welcomed enthusiastically by the locals.

From Vietnam to Indonesia, you’ll be greeted with open smiles and warm hearts. This is a real change from many other parts of the world where there is a more guarded or reserved attitude to strangers.

English Is Widely-Spoken

 

This does not mean that everyone in Southeast Asia speaks English. The lady who sold me my breakfast in Hanoi this morning doesn’t speak a word of English and I don’t speak a word of Vietnamese and we do just fine.

But it does mean that you can normally find somebody who speaks English around when you really, really need it. Of course, Google translate makes this less urgent than it once was.

This is in stark contrast to much of say, China, where if you can’t speak Mandarin, you may find life very difficult indeed. (I lived in China for 3 years, I can’t speak Mandarin, trust me this is experience talking).

The Internet Is Decent

 

Not everywhere, the Philippines is particularly bad and rural locations may be terrible anywhere in the region, but mainly – you can work easily from wherever you want to in Southeast Asia because the Internet will be fine.

Be careful if you need a very high-speed connection though, that may limit your choices somewhat. As a writer, I’ve never really had to worry too much though in Malaysia it took the best part of a week to download the latest Call of Duty to my laptop, first world problems eh?

Accommodation Is Pretty Cheap

 

Even in Singapore, if you’re prepared to live a long way out of the city, you can find budget-friendly accommodation. In the rest of the region, you can normally find cheap accommodation in the center of even the capital cities.

If you’re prepared to pay a bit of a price premium for your accommodation – you can get facilities that would cost hundreds of dollars extra back home for next to nothing. Gyms, pools, private security, concierge service and more are available to anyone on a modest budget.

Everything Else Is Cheap Too

 

We have to exempt Singapore from this statement because it’s not cheap but the cost of living in all the other Southeast Asian nations including Malaysia is far lower than it would be at home.

From buying a beer to a new suit – you can save a small fortune every single day during your stay in Southeast Asia.

If you’re prepared to move around a bit to buy what you want, you can probably get the world’s lowest price on any item in Southeast Asia.

There Is Somewhere For Everyone

 

Love beaches? Then you’ve got a huge range of choices from the Thai and Philippine islands to the East coast of Vietnam or the South coast of Cambodia. In fact, the only place you won’t find a beach is Laos and that’s because it’s landlocked. Some say the thousand islands in the Mekong are pretty close though.

Want mountains? Hit Chiang Mai to be surrounded by them, Cebu is overlooked by a huge mountain, Vietnam offers you Sapa the most beautiful mountainous region of the lot, Malaysia has the Cameron Highlands (pleasantly cool all year round), the Genting Highlands and more.

Big cities? Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Ho Chi Min City, Hanoi, Yangon, Jakarta, and more, mean that you can always find a cosmopolitan vibe and a hectic pace of life.

Medium-sized cities? Calm things down in Da Nang, Vientiane, Baguio, Cebu, etc. there are plenty of places that aren’t as frantic as the big cities.

Fancy something more village-like? Siem Reap, Battambang, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vung Tau, Hua Hin, etc. all offer small expat communities and smaller city life experiences without sacrificing life’s little luxuries.

It’s impossible to get bored in Southeast Asia because there are endless choices of places to be. Why not get off the beaten path a little and blaze a trail rather than just moving to a digital nomad hub and hunkering down?

The Nightlife Can Be Great

 

Not every destination is famous for its nightlife but it’s hard to beat clubbing in Bangkok or Singapore. The small bars of Phnom Penh of dubious repute. The karaoke dens of Manila. And so on…

Whatever way you like to party, you can find it in Southeast Asia. In many countries, the beer’s so cheap that you can party every evening if you have the stamina and still never break into your savings.

We warn you that too much partying can put a real damper on your digital nomad life though, you need to keep work and life in balance if you want to stay on the road.

There Are Amazing Places To See

 

We find it odd but many digital nomads seem to have no interest in the culture and heritage of this region but who would want to miss out on Bagan, Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Preah Vihear, Sukhothai, Ha Long Bay, etc.

This region is quite literally stacked with spectacular places that will blow your mind and the minds of all your friends and family on Facebook/Instagram too.

Conclusion

 

There are a lot of great reasons for choosing Southeast Asia for adventures as a digital nomad. We’d argue that the “nomad hubs” are overrated to some extent but the availability of world-class facilities at developing nation prices is an unbeatable combination. Throw in the culture, history, nightlife, etc. on top and you have a winning formula for everyone.

Nicholas Barang

Nicholas Barang is a veteran digital nomad. In fact, he was probably "digital nomading" before it was called that. He believes that anyone can make a free and independent life if they want to. He wants to help those who commit to finding their own path. And to cut through the nonsense told about this "lifestyle" by those in search of a quick buck. If you want to reach him you can send him an e-mail at nicholasbarang@gmail.com or to nick at nomadtalk.net.

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