Dateline: Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is a charming emerging European city and, until the increasing rampant racism made it unpleasant, a great place to be. While the government here has long been questionable, the city itself has a lot to offer. One of the signs of this was the arrival of low-cost carrier WizzAir, which now connects Budapest to plenty of other cities in Europe.
Personally, I’m no fan of these low-cost carriers, but if you want to establish a base city in Europe, they may be an easy way to get around.
As a perpetual traveler who plans to set foot in about 35 countries this year, connectivity is important for me. While I think Ubud is a great place, for example, the Bali airport itself isn’t exactly well connected to a lot of places, and Bali itself is rather far from almost anywhere you’d want to go unless you hail from Australia.
As I see it, living the life of a digital nomad requires one to be connected to the internet at most times. If you’re a self-employed entrepreneur who works via the internet managing a business, you wouldn’t want to find yourself stranded in places like Cuba or North Korea where only one-star airlines fly at irregular intervals.
While I simply prefer both the lifestyle and the greater efficiency of Europe and Asia, I also spend less time in Central and South America due to a lack of flight connectivity. Not only did my last flight from Costa Rica to Panama cost over $400 – in economy, no less – but flight schedules from and among many American countries are simply not up to par with the endless options in Europe and Asia.
With that I mind, I took my nearly 1 million miles of flying and compiled a list of the five most well-connected cities for flying as a Nomad Capitalist.
5. Bogota, Colombia
This Colombian capital has so much history from its colonial past that is evidently on display in every nook and corner of this gorgeous city full of gorgeously, proud people. The people are not only beaming with national pride but they are also intelligent and friendly (they are said to be amongst the happiest on the Earth) which is why it is gaining a lot of traction as a suitable hub for digital nomads.
In terms of living costs, expect to reduce your costs in half when compared to other major North American metropolitans. Not only does it boast of Bogota as a sprawling city but it also has Medellin, Cartagena, and Cali – all of which are substantial cities offering their own unique flavor into the Colombian experience.
The country is well-connected through a reliable and steady transportation infrastructure which is why it is easy to navigate around the country as well as fly out whenever needed.
In terms of the internet, it is fast enough but more importantly, it is cheap and easily accessible. Contrary to its dark history a few decades ago, the country has been able to restore peace and is relatively safe and stable. Getting into the country through affordable visas is also there.
4. Mexico City, Mexico
What if you could remain in North America while still living in an exotic place that is unlike anything you are used to? That destination is anywhere inside Mexico and the number one stop for expats is its bustling capital, Mexico City.
For me personally, I found Mexico City to be chaotic and hard to navigate on my own. The war on drugs is an omnipresent battle as cops were visibly engaged in shootouts throughout the city. This is a city that requires local knowledge to get to know better, but the history, the culture, and the food in this city is truly spectacular. The exotic architecture alone will leave you floored.
I personally found the infrastructure to be better on the more affluent side of Mexico, i.e. the Quintana Roo region which is where Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen are located. The wi-fi is a bit faster in that part of the country. One of the biggest quips about Mexico, that I cannot sugar-coat is the corrupt traffic cops. Just be prepared to be hassled as a foreigner roaming the country but the smaller towns or expat hot-spots are usually friendlier and less chaotic.
I am particularly enamored of the expat hub, Playa del Carmen. This is a beach-facing town that is synonymous with luxury resorts but don’t be fooled, like Cancun, it has a lot more to offer than off-the-hook spring break parties. If you do decide to venture out of the resort cluster, the local zocalos or city centers have plenty of local flair.
3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The South-East Asian region is overshadowed by the mammoth that is Singapore but there are many underrated destinations hidden in this region. Singapore had once tried and failed to join Malaysia back in the 50s but it did not work out. Since then, Singapore blossomed into the sprawling city-state that is revered globally, while their neighbors, Malaysia watched on.
A liberal Muslim-majority country, this country truly came into its own under the leadership of Mahathir Mohammad, their Prime Minister in the 90s, who transformed the country into a modern, trailblazing economic powerhouse that it is today. Although it might have slumped in recent years due to troubles with its national airline, Malaysia Airlines, this is still a country that was able to rapidly transform itself over one decade.
As for Kuala Lumpur, not only is this city renowned for one of the tallest buildings in the world, the Petronas Towers, it is also a great gateway to South-East Asia. No-frills airlines such as Air Asia are available through KL airport and you can travel around Asia for airfare as low as $10.
It is more affordable than Singapore and Hong Kong and a lot more laid-back. With the recent boom of startups in the city, there are many co-working spaces that are available throughout the city. The internet speeds are top-notch and sometimes, you might find blocked websites but there are ways to work around this hurdle through express VPNs. Some other attractions include the flavorful food and mostly English speaking population. You will not have a hard time assimilating in this clean, serene country.
One thing to consider when living in Malaysia is their hassle-free Permanent Residency Program if you are encouraged to live in the country long-term. Malaysian PRs can live in the country indefinitely, seek employment as well as own property akin to Malaysian citizens.
2. Istanbul, Turkey
In the heart of the Mediterranean, Turkey is a beautiful country that truly came to notice after the success of its eponymous airline. Since Turkish Airlines burst onto the scene, Bond movies were being shot in Istanbul while Hagia Sofia was being celebrated as a true testament to the rich history of Turkey.
This region had been the seat of power for various dynasties from the Christian Byzantines to the Muslim Ottomans. And until a few years ago, its entrance to the EU was being seriously considered until political unrest destabilized the city.
Today, Turkey is undergoing a bit of a rough patch politically but it is still a viably livable city for expats because of its various attractions as well as the cheap cost of living. Other pros of living in this vibrant city include the many old-fashioned bazaars that sell exotic artifacts, the favorable exchange rate, and its proximity to both Europe and Asia.
The internet is of a relatively high standard in this city but the government has been known to crack down on online dissidents so some caution should be maintained on that front.
1. Bangkok, Thailand
What can I say about Bangkok and the many charms that are hidden in its many sois (streets)? Unbeknownst to many, immigrants have been flocking to the ancient land of Siam for years, and today this melting-pot city truly reflects its dynamic heritage. In one block you will find Bengali doctors, Indian tailors, and Chinese restaurateurs all co-existing together.
One of the most popular digital nomad destinations in the world is another Thai city, Chiang Mai. Although Bangkok may not afford the picturesque views that Chiang Mai can offer, Bangkok offers cheap living costs, delicious food, and high-speed internet access – all of which are conducive to the digital nomadic lifestyle.
You might be asking “what about Dubai?” or “what about New York?” I excluded cities in the United States for this list because, well, this is Nomad Capitalist. While there are cities in established wealth havens like Dubai or Doha that are well-connected, they have not risen to become popular nomad destinations as of yet, and thus I excluded them as well.
The entire idea of the Nomad Capitalist lifestyle is “going where you’re treated best”, and that means living where you want for more reasons than just good flight availability or because your bank job took you there.