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The 6 Cheapest Cities in Asia for Nomads

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This article discusses the six cheapest cities in Asia for nomads where they can live affordably but not at the expense of living standards.

Asia is the up-and-coming region for investors, entrepreneurs, and digital nomads. 

The region is full of thriving investment and corporate opportunities. It also offers excellent residency options, vibrant culture, delicious food, and diverse experiences.

Many cities in Asia offer a range of environments to work from. Whether you prefer a big city, beach life, or a simpler country lifestyle, there’s an option for everyone.

While Southeast Asia is a great option for location-independent workers, other options exist in other parts of Asia, too, that definitely deserves to make the cut in this list of the cheapest cities in Asia in terms of cost of living, safety, and quality of life.

Whether you want to invest in Asia, start a company there, or establish a residency in an Asian country, we can help you do so. All you need to do is reach out to us, and we’ll handle the rest.

Canggu Bali Best cities for digital nomads
In Canggu, you can spend your days enjoying the surf or relaxing by the beach.

Canggu, Indonesia

Canggu is a small beachside town in South Bali where local Balinese and Australian and European expats live together in an odd harmony. We say “odd” because we have never been to an island where foreigners are so welcomed, but this is natural because the Balinese economy depends largely on tourism to keep local businesses running – not to mention the exuberant friendliness of the Balinese people. This is a place for anyone looking for small-town life.

The number one advantage of working and living in Canggu is, for sure, the community of expats and the potential for networking that exists here. There are Facebook pages for entrepreneurial expats, or better yet, if you can join a co-working space and meet other people face-to-face, you will be bettering not only your work life but your personal life, too.

There will be people working alongside you who are experts in their own fields – whether in web design, e-commerce, or photography – and are more than willing to help you with what you need for your business for perhaps only the cost of your work services in return.

At Dojo Bali, social events and educational classes are held daily to improve your knowledge of online work and, therefore, your business.

The cost of living can’t be beaten. For $500 per month, expect to live in a fully furnished private villa with a pool, an incredible view of the rice fields, WiFi, and private parking. Of course, you can find a beautiful apartment in the town center for much, much less – it all depends on what’s best for you. Of course, everyone gets by on a scooter, which costs $40 per month to rent.

In Canggu, the food is also to die for. With restaurants boasting a wide range of nationalities, you can get a traditional Indonesian rice dish called Nasi Goreng for $1.20 or pig out on an authentic Italian pizza for $4 USD. The selection is amazing, and Canggu is truly the home of smoothie bowls, surfing, yoga classes, and a swing attached to every tree in sight.

Canggu is highly accessible from Australia, with cheap flights running daily, but if you are traveling from Europe or the US, prepare for a stopover in Singapore or another major airport hub. Visas can be a little tricky unless you can get sponsored by a local Indonesian person. If this isn’t an option, a social-cultural visa is your best bet. Or you can get a B211a Business Visa.

Lastly, Canggu is quite safe by Southeast Asian standards, with your biggest risk being getting hit by a scooter. Just be sure you have insurance before you make the trip.

Ho Chi Minh City Saigon
Head to Ho Chi Minh City for affordable big-city living.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it’s still commonly known, is the original digital nomad hotspot of the world. It’s a large capital city of over 8 million people and boasts a colorful history. 

A balance of chaos and calm, once you look past the crazy traffic, you will find that life actually moves quite slowly for its residents. 

The city is divided into districts, with some parts being more cultural, more foodie, or more developed with large shopping malls, so you are bound to find an area that suits what you are looking for.

You can expect to pay between $700 – $1000 monthly in Ho Chi Minh, including accommodation, eating out, groceries, and entertainment. That’s not bad for a big city.

However, despite having such a modern setting, HCMC remains a city interlaced with tradition and history. Here, you will be greeted with a new cultural experience, amazing street food, and a thriving social scene to boot.
HCMC is one of the world’s largest coffee importers, making it a perfect setting for digital nomads or entrepreneurs to work from one of its many cafes with their laptops by their side. The city has fast internet speeds with great access to public WiFi. And if you’d rather work more comfortably without racking up a huge coffee bill, co-working spaces are plentiful.

Vietnamese is a relatively easy language to learn (at least compared to other Asian languages) since it uses the same alphabet as English and has no genders, plurals, or verb endings. Vietnamese people are acknowledged for being very direct while also friendly and helpful.

In essence, you will never have a dull day in Vietnam.

Chiang Mai Thailand
Chiang Mai is one of the best cities in the world for location-independent workers – and it’s home to some of Thailand’s most beautiful temples.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai always makes the list as one of the best cities in Asia and the world for location-independent workers – and it does so for good reason. As a smaller city with about a half million people, you can live big for very little here. 

Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest cities in Asia and the world that still boasts first-class amenities. Accommodation can range from $100 to the thousands per month, depending on your own preferences. Street food comes to as little as $1 for a meal. There are also a number of budget activities to fill your spare time, such as temple hopping, paintball, hiking in the mountains, and visiting elephant sanctuaries. Chiang Mai is also a convenient city to travel in and out of, so you can easily spend a weekend in Laos, Myanmar, or Vietnam.

But what expats really talk about when advocating for Chiang Mai is the community of expats that exists there. Events include meet-ups, educational seminars, and excursions to see local sites. The co-working spaces there are top-class, with high-speed internet reaching the entire city. There are hundreds of co-working spaces and late-night cafes for young entrepreneurs and digital nomads to set camp. At these coworking spaces, you will find other extremely successful businesspersons working, making it an excellent networking destination.

Chiang Mai is also renowned as being one of the safest cities in the world, with a very low crime rate against foreigners.

Kuala Lumpur cheapest cities in asia
Kuala Lumpur is one of the most multicultural cities in Asia, with residents from all over the world.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, hosts a population of 7.5 million people, and although the primary religion is Islam, this only makes up 50% of the public’s religious beliefs. Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism make up the other half, creating a multicultural melting pot that welcomes cultures and religions from all over.

As another treasure for big-city lovers, you’ll get some of the world’s tallest buildings interwoven with the city’s old-town architecture in Kuala Lumpur. This is another place where you can live in a large city for a quarter of the price you would pay at home (depending, of course, on where home is for you). 

Rent in a one-bedroom apartment in the city’s center will set you back about $500-$700 per month, and food and healthcare come cheap too. That means there’s a lot of potential for saving your money.

Luckily, the visa process for Malaysia is straightforward and easygoing. The currency is the Malaysian ringgit, which is currently majorly undervalued, meaning your shopping is going be cheap, and investments are ripe for the picking.

The light rail public transport system in KL is cheap and extremely efficient, with a line that connects to the city’s international airport. Kuala Lumpur is also an international flight hub so you can get in and out rather easily.

Hanoi Vietnam best cities for digital nomads in asia
Hanoi’s charm and historical beauty will draw you in.

Hanoi, Vietnam

The second Vietnamese entry on the list, Hanoi, is the country’s capital city, and it is one of the fastest-developing cities in Southeast Asia. 

However, it is still encompassed in nature. The Red River lies along the east side of the city, and large parks and lakes dot the land. Due to Vietnam’s interesting political history, it is another cultural mix of Chinese and French influence. In this respect, we find it more colorful and interesting than its counterpart, Ho Chi Minh. We’ve often heard that walking down the city streets in Hanoi is like walking through a museum.

The local street food scene in Hanoi is bustling with little plastic stools allowing you to sit down and enjoy your dish. Of course, you’ll also find a number of high-end restaurants available, but it’s important to experience the local way of living. This city is yet another example of cheap living, with a one-bedroom apartment in District One costing about $450 per month. Of course, cheaper and more expensive variations of this are available to suit your needs.

Vietnamese visas typically allow you to stay in the country for 30 days with the possibility of further extensions.

The main fault that we find with working remotely from Hanoi is the unreliable internet speeds. It is difficult to find cafes or working spaces outside of the home that are up to scratch enough to work with. This is a stark contrast to HCMC and is generally a pity, as Hanoi is almost a digital nomad’s utopia in every other way.

Phnom Penh cheapest cities in asia for nomads
Cambodia’s capital is rapidly developing, with new buildings and businesses cropping up almost every day.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Although more and more Western-style buildings are appearing throughout Cambodia’s capital city, it is still rather underdeveloped compared to other Southeast Asian cities. For this very reason, Phnom Penh holds so much charm and allure. Numerous temples, markets, and the Royal Palace all transport you to the past while new architecture and modern restaurants and cafes are also opening up. Phnom Penh is truly unique and not like any of the other cities in Asia you’ve ever been to.

Phnom Penh has come to the forefront for young entrepreneurs recently because of its extremely low-income tax rate. Starting a business there could potentially save you thousands of dollars over the years. The cost of living is also very low, with an entire apartment costing approximately $500 per month. Phnom Penh is also one of the few cities in Asia on this list that would be perfect for someone looking to join a foreign company to work with. As modern Cambodia is quite a new country, they are actively seeking skilled expatriates from other countries to come and work. The expat and digital nomad community is thriving, and the possibility of networking is ever-present. In this city, expats communicate with each other a lot but keep an equal level of connection with locals.

The visa process in Cambodia is one of the most expat-friendly in the whole of SE Asia. Upon arrival, you can get a business 30-day visa, which you can extend to a full year by the end of the month. This visa will also allow you to set up your own business in the country.

If Cambodia is to your liking, you can always get Cambdia My 2nd Home (CM2H) visa and live there for ten years. CM2H visa holders can apply for Cambodian citizenship after five years. Moreover, CM2H is the only government-official pathway to obtaining a Cambodian passport.

Hangzhou China
Located just an hour from Shanghai, this charming city has all of the amenities of a major city – minus the craziness and the cost.

The Best Cities In Asia

Considering the vastness and diverse opportunities in Asia, it’s no wonder that investors and entrepreneurs are moving there.

Real estate is thriving, corporate ventures are aplenty, and the same can be said about investment potential. Many Asian countries also offer excellent second residency programs to foreigners.

The one thing that the continent usually doesn’t offer is citizenship. However, that won’t be an issue for someone who only wants to establish an Asian base or live there temporarily.

If you want to start a company, invest, or establish a residency in Asia, get in touch with us today. We can make that happen for you.

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