Dateline: Kotor, Montenegro
We’ve talked before about the various ways to live as Nomad Capitalist. It’s all about living where you want, but there are also different styles and ways of living. Some people enjoy staying in Airbnbs, others want five-star hotels and luxury living, while still others prefer backpacking.
As Nomad Capitalists, we realize that productivity comes from being comfortable so that we can get things done. The best way of living for you may be very different from the way I prefer to live, but what matters is that YOU are comfortable and in YOUR best environment for success. There’s no need to follow the herd.
For example, I’ve tried Airbnbs because I wanted to see what all the hullabaloo was about; but, quite frankly, I don’t enjoy most Airbnbs outside of London, Vancouver, etc. And I’m okay with not following the Airbnb crowd to every corner of the planet. I look for what works for me because I’ve seen a dramatic increase in my efficiency when I stay at nicer places that I feel comfortable with.
For most of us, though, we’re looking for places that have the comforts of a place to live, even if they’re not the most inexpensive places. Often times, the solution is to look to the more underrated places that people aren’t really talking about.
We all know the most popular locations: In Europe, people are talking about Berlin; in Asia their talking about Thailand (particularly Bangkok and Chiang Mai); they’re also beginning to talk a little bit about the Philippines; and in Latin America, Playa del Carmen in Mexico is a crowd favorite.
But is that all there is? Of course not. And just because most people aren´t talking about them, doesn’t mean that some of the more underrated countries aren’t worth a look. If they have the comfort of a place to live, they deserve a chance. So today we’re going to talk about the five most underrated places for living because they could just be your perfect location.
A lot of nomads are already on to Vietnam, but others still overlook it. It’s certainly not as friendly as Malaysia (in terms of getting in on visas), but it´s excellent if you’re looking for a part-time place to live.
Ho Chi Minh City offers up many places of entertainment, including a multitude of restaurants and cool cafes. James Clark has spent a great deal of time in Ho Chi Minh City and, though it’s not as attractive as Hanoi as a tourist city, he considers it a better city to live in. One of his main reasons for this is that HCM City is a fantastic cafe city, with wifi in every cafe making it a great place for work.
However, if you are looking for a touristy feel, Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, has a colonial charm that makes it a fun location for any expat.
When most people think of Europe they don’t see it as being underrated. But when people think of Europe they’re thinking of London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin. This just goes to show how underrated many of the other countries in Europe really are.
In fact, Eastern Europe, and particularly the Balkans, is one of the most underrated places in the world for a lot of things. We’ve previously discussed the region’s strategic advantage for hiring people, starting a business, and possibly for your second passport (including the interesting second passport option in Macedonia).
Because of that, I believe you’ll see a lot more people in Eastern Europe in the future. But why did Serbia specifically make this list? While Romania is one place that I like, even for livability, Belgrade is the best option for living in Eastern Europe.
For one, Serbia is connected. All the European airlines fly all over Europe to Belgrade, but you also have great access to Asia through Abu Dhabi on Etihad. Personally, I’ve never had problems with Air Serbia and they’re hooked up with Etihad Airways which makes for quick connections to pretty much anywhere.
Serbia is also the hub of the Balkans. You’ve got so much stuff just in the Balkans to see from Serbia, such as the beaches of Montenegro, the lakes of Macedonia, and the great investment opportunities in Albania. And while these places are nice for visiting, I’d prefer to live in Belgrade. For example, even though I’m trying to have more peace in my life, I still go a little stir crazy at my place in Montenegro. It’s just a little too quiet.
Belgrade, on the other hand, has the advantage of being well connected and is just a very, very livable city. Now, prices aren’t extremely low and I’m hesitant to buy real estate for personal use or rental there. In fact, it’s really not much cheaper than some of the EU cities and is actually more expensive than Budapest. However, rent is reasonably priced.
Serbia is a nice country full of beautiful trees and nice parks. It has a bit of the feel of the old world Eastern Europe, with interesting old buildings (nothing architecturally great) and a really cool vibe with more and more trendy new restaurants opening up each day. The people are very beautiful and surprisingly very open and receptive, as opposed to other places in Eastern Europe that tend to be on the socially cold side. Overall, Serbia is cheap, fun, hip and it’s coming up!
While it may not be underrated for nomads, Mexico is underrated in general. I see two groups of people who tend to overlook Mexico. The first group is made up of all the US citizens who, for one reason or another, feel they need to stay close to home. Perhaps they want to visit frequently or maybe they’re worried a family member may pass away in the near future. But even then, they forget Mexico.
The other group of people just straight up think that they have to go far away for it to count as world travel. “Mexico is right across the border!” they say. “That doesn’t count. I can eat Mexican food in the states. Why travel there?”
Nevertheless, Mexico is a great place to live. Unlike the Central American countries that are so overhyped by all the retirement magazines, you’ve got lots to do in Mexico. And if you’re of the idea that Mexico is poor, one visit can show you the endless possibilities for an abundant life there.
Another benefit is that the language is a common one to speak and the food is something you’re probably used to. However, you may be in for a surprise when you discover that TexMex is not the same thing as authentic Mexican food. Mexico has some of the best food in the world! On top of that, the people are very friendly.
Mexico also has a great path toward second residency and citizenship. Quite frankly, the Mexican passport is almost as good as yours if you’re a westerner. It is ranked 28th in the world with visa-free access to 139 countries, including Europe’s Schengen area. In reality, the only “desired locations” Mexicans need a visa for are the US and Canada — and even Canada will be visa-free as of December 1, 2016.
Within Mexico, you’ve got so many different places to choose from: beaches, mountains, big cities (including the vibrant capital city), small cities, jungles and ruins, countryside, desert… whatever it is that you want, it’s probably in Mexico. Imagine yourself living in the middle of the action in Mexico City (or wherever you choose) and then taking as many weekend trips as you’d like to travel to all of Mexico’s amazing locations.
And, of course, Mexico is close to the US. It is also well connected to most places, with the exception of Asia, which can usually be remedied by a quick flight to the US. Most of Central America is not well connected to Asia, but Mexico City does have a flight to Shang Hai a couple times a week. However, if you want to fly to Europe, it’s pretty straightforward. There are non-stop connections to places like London, Paris and Madrid.
When it comes to being able to connect with fellow nomads, both Mexico City and Playa del Carmen are great expat hubs. A lot of Americans are going down and rehabbing colonial apartments in Merida. You can get a beat-up colonial apartment for $25,000 in some areas and fix it up for a great investment. You’ve just got so many great things going on in Mexico.
Malaysia gets overlooked. Plain and simple. I’ve listed Kuala Lumpur as one of the five most livable cities in Southeast Asia, but with Thailand next door, Malaysia is easily overlooked and underrated. You’ll occasionally see tourists who are spending a lot of time in Thailand who come to KL for a few days on a visa run or just to visit, but they quickly leave. And that’s a shame because Malaysia is a great location for expat living.
Granted, Kuala Lumpur is not an amazing tourist city, but it is an excellent city for living. In fact, Malaysia provides a better standard of living and is a wealthier country than Thailand. You also have the diversity of three different cultures, plus a number of expats, both from the Middle East and from the West.
As a result, I’ve often said that Malaysia is the United States of Southeast Asia — for all the good things and none of the bad. The diversity is one of the greatest characteristics. Of course, it’s not perfect. The Chinese, like in every other Asian country, have an unfair advantage because they’re the richest, but you have the same thing in the United States and it’s actually not horrible there.
The good news is, like in other parts of Asia, you can go to Malaysia and be left alone. If you’re a westerner, they’ll let you be. They’re not going to chase you out, which is a big advantage over Thailand where the government is actively working to reduce the number of nomads living there and cutting down visa runs.
Malaysia doesn’t have that at all. They are some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever encountered. People give Malaysia a bad mark because alcohol is a bit more expensive there or because it’s a Muslim country — as if that matters, it’s one of the most modern Muslim countries on earth.
I remember we had a meeting once with some inner circle guys in KL at the Shangri-La and one guy said: “Oh, the women aren’t hot enough here.” You know what? That’s fine. Malaysia offers so many amenities, including a great airport. Kuala Lumpur is the home for AirAsia, which allows you to fly anywhere in all of Asia with the help of Malaysian Airlines. You’ve also got Singapore right nearby with more connections. That proximity to Singapore is also a plus if you’re living the Nomad Capitalist lifestyle because you can bank and store your gold right next door.
Living in Malaysia you have a more centralized core, you’ve got amazing malls, and it just feels more comfortable to me than Thailand. People overlook it when they’re rushing to go to one of the cities that’s on the official nomad tour everyone else in the nomad herd is going on. Don’t make the same mistake.
Some nomads are catching on to Colombia as a great country for living, but the general population still thinks that Pablo Escobar runs the place and that it’s falling apart while it’s actually a very safe place. So, despite a lot of advancement, Colombia is definitely still underrated.
Yes, there are still some challenges to living and investing in Colombia, but the country already boasts the second freest economy in South America next to Chile. (And I see Chile heading the wrong direction.) In fact, unless Argentina really gets its act together — which I’m not sure it will — I believe Colombia is quickly on its way to being one of the top economies in the entire region.
Because of that, if you go there now, you are really going to see the payoff longterm when people finally realize what the country has already become.
You also have lots of lifestyle options throughout Colombia. You’ve got Medellin, which is one of the most fun cities that’s coming up anywhere. They’ve got so many trendy restaurants and just a really quaint vibe. You also have the beach cities like Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, which is fun, even though it is still emerging.
Bogota, while not an exciting city, is very cheap. It looks nothing like you would think it would look like and almost has a few British touches in some areas. Malls in Latin America are not as good as in Asia, or in the US, but if you like good food and a cool vibe, the Bogota Beer Company is a place that’s hip; it’s fun and kind of the new trendy thing in Colombia.
Real estate is still a great deal there, I don’t often recommend it to people because there’s just a lot of stuff going on and I think it’s been overrun by too many expats, but if you go there and learn the culture, you real estate can be a great investment.
Colombia is also well-connected to Europe with non-stop flights to London. And to top everything off, the Colombian passport recently received access to the Schengen area and is easier to get than ever.