Tired of the long commute and the same scenery? How would you like to work in an exotic location while still keeping your job and getting paid the same? The Covid-19 pandemic has seen office staff working from home like never before. With innovative new web technologies, it is now possible to do many knowledge-based service jobs from anywhere in the world, and some countries are hoping to lure remote workers to their shores by offering enticements.
Just think about it for a moment. With little more than a laptop and valid passport you could potentially be doing the same job you’ve been doing for years, but instead of cramming into a crowded Tube train or bus every morning, you could be sitting on a veranda overlooking a tropical beach, or living like the locals in Hanoi or Buenos Aires. With the rapid shift to remote working, more and more co-called digital nomads are making this dream their daily reality.
Barbados is the first country to try and tempt itchy-footed knowledge workers to its palm-fringed shores with talk of offering of a free 12-month work visa. The ‘welcome stamp’ would allow people to work on the Caribbean island remotely for a year at a time, with the possibility to renew when the time comes.
The country’s parliament has made the proposal following a slump in holiday arrivals, and with tourism accounting for 40 percent of the Barbados’s income the scheme would see an influx of foreign workers, giving a shot in the arm to the nation’s economy.
What if Covid-19 proves to be the spark that ignites a global revolution in international co-working? There is certainly no shortage of people willing to swap their normal everyday lives and transplant to somewhere totally different. Even if it’s only a for a few months, continuing your career abroad would widen your horizons and present new opportunities. And then there’s the cost of living gap.
The cost of living varies widely from country to country, yet if your income remains fixed then moving somewhere with low everyday costs in terms of housing, food, entertainment and travel could effectively act as an income boost. According to data from the statistics site numbeo.com, the UK ranks at no. 30 on the cost of living index, so living anywhere lower down the list would theoretically represent a pay rise – possibly a big one. As you might expect, countries such as Switzerland, Bermuda and Hong Kong are the most expensive places to live, so it would not make much sense relocating there simply for financial reasons. However, there are other countries much lower down on the index that would represent a big income boost.
Of course, as yet, only a few countries have stated that they are trying to attract remote workers – at least officially – so for others you will have to check the visa situation and be flexible. But some places are already well-established hangouts on the digital nomad circuit – here is a selection of them:
Malaysia. Tropical Malaysia is a firm favourite with digital nomads. With its high-tech capital Kuala Lumpur, its sandy beaches and its vast rainforests it’s not hard to see why people are attracted there. The average cost of living there is £772 a month, and numbeo.com ranks Malaysia as the 94th most expensive place to live, with an average restaurant meal costing under £5.
Bulgaria. Right next to Malaysia, at no. 95 on the cost of living index, is Bulgaria. The capital, Sofia, is a beautiful cosmopolitan city popular with tourists and packed with Eastern European charm. The average monthly rent in Sofia is £256, so you’ll have plenty of your income left over to spend on other things, such as dining out in the city’s many restaurants. The cost of living elsewhere in Bulgaria is markedly cheaper still.
Vietnam. If you want to get a taste of the charm of the old Orient, but still want somewhere with modern infrastructure and fast broadband, why not head to Vietnam? Famed for its cuisine, its stunning scenery and the bustling yet picturesque city of Hanoi, Vietnam is a treat for the senses as much as is it a place to set up your office. Coming in at 84 on the cost of living index, a month’s living in Hanoi starts at under £650.
Argentina. Known for its dizzying landscapes, charming Spanish colonial style cities such as Buenos Aires and, of course, the tango, living the life of a digital nomad in Argentina could easily be within your grasp. Way down the cost of living index at 133, being paid your UK salary in Argentina would mean you’d be able to live a very comfortable life there. A flat in the centre of Buenos Aires, for example, would only set you back around £180 a month, while a decent three course meal in a restaurant (including a glass or two of Malbec) costs around £8.
Thailand. Finally – said to be the most popular destination in the world for digital nomads– is Thailand. Most people are familiar with the rich and varied scenery of Southeast Asia’s tropical gem, known far and wide for its incredible food, scenery, beaches and anything else you care to name. But opinion varies as to where in Thailand is top destination to lay your laptop. Consensus is that the northern jungle city of Chiang Mai is the absolute best place in the world to live and work. Known for its café culture, its fine restaurants and clean air, life in the freelancer hub of Chiang Mai is also very affordable. Thailand comes in at 54 on the cost of living index, and a nice city centre flat in Chiang Mai costs around £230 a month.
So, you’ve decided to jet off to an exotic country for a few months/years and still retained your job … it’s important to make sure you don’t have to worry about getting access to your salary, which will likely still be paid into your UK bank account.
The best thing to do is get in touch with a currency provider who will set you up with an account that you can use for ongoing money transfers. It’s simple to do and it means you’ll sidestep many of the charges usually levied if you had just made a transfer from your bank account.
So go on, consider your options and make your move – the world is your oyster!
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