You’ve hit send on an email. Now you slip back into your hammock to watch the sun set in a whirl of reds, pinks and oranges. Or you’re on a work call, sealing a deal, as a snowboarder skims down the slope behind you. Remote working is one of the easiest ways to extend and expand your travels. Here are the best countries in the world to work remotely – as chosen by Lonely Planet writers.
Although some of these destinations are currently inaccessible due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, we anticipate that many will reopen in 2021. So now’s the time to daydream about where your next desk will be located.
Mexico – as chosen by Joel Balsam
Cenotes and cabanas, mountains and mezcal, temples and tacos. Mexico is the stuff of dreams for travelers – and remote workers too. Situated in a corresponding time zone to many US cities, it has decent wi-fi and tourist visas that last for six months.
Despite the pandemic, Mexico’s beaches still swarm with visitors, so steer clear of the sand and opt instead for the country’s cultural corazón (heart): Oaxaca. In Oaxaca City, I’d take breaks from working at its many incredible cafes and coworking spaces to walk past 500-year-old churches, cute artisan tallers (workshops) and then eat at a food stall, dipping my tongue in Oaxaca’s culinary ocean.
On weekends, I’d hike to sky-scraping villages in the Sierra Norte mountains and taste smoky mezcal. While Mexico has struggled with COVID-19, Oaxaca is faring okay – it’s currently classified yellow, meaning bars and restaurants are open to 11pm but events, museums, and tourist sites are closed. Still, it’s a fantastic place to just walk and wander.
Need to know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): M$10,000 (US$500).
Coffee: M$20 (US$1). The coffee is local, organic and small-scale without being hipster.
Wi-fi: Ranges from livable to electric-fast in coworking hubs, but it’s a toss up elsewhere.
Weather: Blissfully warm year-round, though summer can be scorching in certain regions.
Australia – as chosen by Anita Isalska
Sand, surf and sunshine hardly need restating. But Australia’s allure for remote workers goes deeper than the country’s good looks. There’s a culture of optimism and resilience that makes you feel anchored, even if you’re far from home. Aussies make time for the outdoors and time for the pub (read: work-life balance). Plus there’s a wealth of outstanding cafes to work from.
When I was caught between lockdowns and travel restrictions, Canberra was my refuge. Only screeching cockatoos disturbed my laptop time. I’d take lunch-hour cycle rides by Lake Burley Griffin and weekend walks up Mount Ainslie. I didn’t have a single bad meal, whether Polish cabbage rolls, French patisserie, or nibbles at a winery.
Regional travel restrictions are tentatively easing, but it’ll take longer for non-Australians to join in. Currently, only citizens and permanent residents can enter (and with a pricey 14-day hotel quarantine). Roll on safer and freer travel, to allow a delicious remote-work dilemma between cities like Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
Need to know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): A$1500 (US$1100) for a furnished studio in central Sydney or Perth, less in Adelaide or Hobart.
Coffee: A$4.50 (US$3.30) for a velvety smooth flat white.
Wi-fi: Almost ubiquitous in cities, patchy in remote areas.
Weather: Slather on sunblock most of the year, particularly Dec–Feb. Jun–Aug is cooler (with some skiing in Victoria and New South Wales).
Japan – as chosen by Phillip Tang
For remote workers, Japan slowly reveals its charms. Big cities like Tokyo can be intense and dazzling, but intriguingly calm in its back streets. Here, the circular Yamanote train line whisks you from sky-high apartments to the temple greenery of Meiji Shrine, then onto scores of tiny whiskey nooks or darkened sake bars for you to discover. The country is kind on solo diners too: restaurants offer individual spaced seating and ramen or teishoku (meal sets) for one.
I like to work from cute uncrowded towns and sightsee in the afternoon. In Kurashiki, I’d often traipse along the historical canal area. In Saijō, I’d explore sake breweries. Finding somewhere I can work for hours can be a fun challenge. For sudden deadlines, Japan's 24hr konbini (convenience stores) are handy for seating, free wi-fi and actual good bento (meal boxes). At other times, I'd tap away in an internet cafe room, which often has a bed for napping.
A cafe with outdoor seating is gold right now, and it can be anywhere. Without being tied to an office, workers have the usually tourist-heavy Kyoto all to themselves. Meanwhile, mountain-air towns and cities hugging the coast are easy to reach on discounted bullet trains, which are still-operating during the pandemic.
Need to know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): ¥100,000 (US$1000) in Tokyo; ¥60,000 (US$600) elsewhere.
Coffee: ¥300 (US$3) ranging from jolting to deliciously snobby.
Wi-fi: Zippy in the cities, leisurely in the country.
Weather: Drenched Jun–Jul, but blazing sun in Aug.
Colombia – as chosen by Danielle Dorsey
Colombia has it all: it’s the only South American country with access to both the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines; the dizzying hulk of the Andes cut right across its bows, and a third of its territory is jungle, including the rich, biodiverse Amazon rainforest. Not bad choices for a Zoom background.
Typically I’d base myself in Medellín, Colombia’s progressive second city, and I’d work from a cafe in the tree-lined Laureles neighborhood, a central hub alive with fondas (bars blasting traditional Colombian music). I’d always walk to my daily Spanish class and then unwind in the evening with outdoor salsa lessons. On the weekends, I’d often explore the vast Parque Arví, an ecological nature reserve and pre-Hispanic archaeological site.
Medellín has slowed down during the pandemic, but with a street food scene that’s centered around cheap and filling treats like arepas (cornmeal cakes) and empanadas (filled pastries), residents have adapted to the new restrictions.
Need to know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): COP$1,276,975 (US$350).
Coffee: COP$5475 (US$1.50). It's worth splurging if you find an artisanal shop with local beans.
Wi-fi: Medellín and Bogotá have the best speeds. Not as great elsewhere.
Weather: There are two rainy seasons (Apr–Jun and Oct–Dec), but Medellín enjoys mid-80°F (27°C) temperatures all year. Cartagena and Cali are humid and tropical; lofty Bogotá is often overcast with frequent light rain.
Indonesia – as chosen by Mark Eveleigh
Indonesia has over 17,500 islands, but not all offer equal appeal for digital nomads. Java and Bali have the best infrastructure with fast and inexpensive internet, great cafes and lifestyles that can be as healthy, or as fast-paced, as you wish. Most remote workers are drawn to two places: the highland town of Ubud, which appeals to yogis, and the hipster beachfront vibe of Canggu, a surfer's paradise.
I prefer to stay in West Bali, an ideal island paradise, where jungle mists rise out of the valleys at first light and drift out across the rice paddies and up over the volcanoes. It’s a slower-paced spot where you'll spot people in sarongs wafting incense upwards to the gods in ornate Hindu temples. My days would start with a coffee on the beach and end with a local arak and coke in the same place. The affordable rent and cheap internet are just bonuses. Work is defined by the tides and I would ease out of my office (my hammock) each day for high-tide surf sessions at my favorite point break.
Digital nomads push for a new visa to work in Bali
Need to Know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): IDR3 million (US$210).
Coffee: 5000Rp (US$0.35) for a local Kopi Bali coffee (Java brims with coffee plantations), but an affogato "made with love" in a yogi cafe might cost ten times as much.
Wi-fi: Fiber-optic broadband is available across the islands, but internet from a mobile hotspot on a local SIM card offers decent speeds for around 95,000Rp (US$6.50).
Weather: There’s really no bad time to be in Indonesia. It's warm all year round, but expect short, sharp, dramatic storms from Nov–Mar.
South Africa – as chosen by Meera Dattani
It’s the sheer variety of experiences and cultures that make South Africa one of the best places to work remotely. There's (usually) reliable wi-fi, high-quality but low-cost food, plus weather and landscapes for all temperaments.
I’ve taken my laptop to the Northern Cape’s deserts, tapped away with views of the Atlantic from Paternoster, and filed copy from many a Cape Town hostel. My most memorable "office", however, was at the family-run Umkhumbi Lodge in KwaZulu-Natal, close to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. My desk was outdoors in the family garden, with two boa constrictors for company. At the weekend, I’d go on game drives, potter around Hluhluwe, or drive north to Kosi Bay near the Mozambique border to snorkel.
South Africa is currently on the lowest of its five-tier COVID restrictions. International borders are open, but with travel off the cards for many, those spectacular beaches and national parks remain pleasantly crowd-free.
Need to know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): R5000 (US$300).
Coffee: R35 (US$2.30). Inexpensive and generally top-notch.
Wi-fi: Speedy in Durban and major towns. Using a SIM card with data is recommended if traveling.
Weather: Hot, sweaty summers (Oct–Apr) and mild, dry winters. The coast is especially hot, but it’s cooler inland and to the west.
Georgia – as chosen by Jonathan Campion
Affordable, safe and with a new remote-working visa, Georgia may not top online searches for digital nomads, but this varied little country has everything that freelancers could need.
With the Black Sea resort of Batumi to the west, the inspiring Caucasus Mountains in the north, and many other spectacular places to experience in between, working from this bridge between Europe and Asia always puts me in a productive mood. I tend to work from the capital Tbilisi, a vivacious and positive little city, much like its people – with legendary food and wine to look forward to in the evening.
For freelancers looking to relocate, they need to be from one of 95 countries and earn at least US$2000 a month. New arrivals will have to quarantine on arrival right now, but Georgia itself isn't locked down, though a few precautionary measures are in place like restaurants closing early and a 10pm curfew in the cities.
Need to know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): 1300 GEL (US$400).
Coffee: 7 GEL (US$2) for a cup of life-affirming Georgian coffee.
Wi-fi: The internet is great in Tbilisi and Batumi but disappears elsewhere.
Weather: Georgia has four lovely seasons. The temperature in Tbilisi doesn’t often go above 85°F (29°C) in summer, or below freezing in winter.
United Arab Emirates – as chosen by Gabby Beckford
As the future-facing, technologically-innovative, ever-evolving gem of the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates has been geared up to welcome remote workers for years. Each of the seven emirates exudes its own charm and lifestyle, but Dubai – which has recently unveiled a new one-year long visa for freelancers – is where to plug in.
With city-wide wi-fi, beautiful sunny weather and diverse residents, buzzing Dubai is also regularly ranked as one of the safest cities in the world. There's lots to do, too – you can go indoor skiing, try skydiving, or visit a safari park, as well as take on a food scene to rival anywhere else in the world. If you're looking for museums, head a little further afield to see the world-class collection at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened in 2017.
Thorough COVID-19 precautions are currently in place for visitors, including mandatory PCR swab tests required up to 96 hours ahead of flying, and possible quarantine on arrival too. However infection rates are low, meaning restaurants and outdoor spaces remain open, so there are plenty of places to download a dose of high-grade vitamin D whilst working.
Need to know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): Dhs6600 (US$1800).
Coffee: Dhs16 (US$4.50) for a cappuccino, but as little as Dhs4 (US$1.50) for rich, slightly bitter, but excellent Arabic coffee.
Wi-fi: Quick and abundant across all the emirates.
Weather: Hot and humid in summer, though with air-conditioning everywhere, you’ll need a jacket anyway. Winters are breezy, temperate and perfect beach weather.
Uruguay – as chosen by Lola Méndez
When it comes to working remotely, Uruguay has everything digital nomads need: an easy residency process, great internet connections, affordable coworking spaces, and comfortable accommodations. I often stay on the coast in the Punta Carretas neighbourhood of Montevideo. My favourite cafe to work from is Botanico, but a little further inland, in Cordón, Sauco café and Casa Pastora both welcome laptop workers.
After work, I'd meet friends for merienda (a 6pm snack), and between projects, I'd walk along La Rambla. It’s cheap and easy to navigate the city by bus, but as South America’s smallest country, buses are the best way to travel almost everywhere. With fewer than 5000 COVID-19 cases, Uruguay hasn't implemented a mandatory quarantine, so restaurants remain open, but if you’re tied to your desk, there are some great delivery options in Montevideo like Monana, which makes plant-based sushi. On the weekend, I’d go wine tasting at Bodega José Ignacio, chasing waterfalls in Lunarejo, or glamping at Big Bang Nature Stays.
Need to know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): UR$30,000 (US$700).
Coffee: UR$150 (US$3.50) for an excellent cappuccino with almond milk.
Wi-fi: Fast in Montevideo and Maldonado and available in most cities and larger towns. For elsewhere, SIM card internet plans are your best bet.
Weather: Hot and humid from Dec–Mar; chilly Jun–Sep.
Thailand – as chosen by Tharik Hussain
White sandy beaches, serene mountain temples, mouth-watering street food and an electric party scene. If you’re going to work remotely, it should probably be from Thailand: the rent is cheap, there's fast internet everywhere, and tourism visas are easy to get.
On Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, I’d love nothing more than to pitch up at a beachside cafe serving gourmet coffee, its tables and chairs spilling out onto the sand. Once I’d finished work, I’d cool off with a dip in the azure waters, and head to local villages like Ban Hua Thanon in search of massaman curry, my favorite southern Thai dish. On weekends I’d make for the jungle-covered hills looking for hidden temples and cooling waterfalls.
Thailand has coped well with COVID-19 by closing its doors to outsiders, but it means Ko Samui, which is heavily reliant on tourism, has been hit hard. Life here is restriction free, but it does feel eerily (perhaps blissfully?) quiet.
Need to know
Average monthly rent (one-bed apartment): 8000B (US$260).
Coffee: 80B (US$2.60) Deeply aromatic and often locally sourced.
Wi-fi: Fast enough in most cafes and super fast in coworking spaces.
Weather: Avoid the monsoon rains between Oct–Dec, otherwise expect sun all year.
You might also like:
How digital nomads can find friends and a real-life community
Expats say these are the best cities to live and work in
7 tips for remote work from digital nomads around the world