How Much Does It Cost to Be a Digital Nomad?

by Diego Navarro | LAST UPDATED June 28, 2021

Digital nomad cost
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Putting a price on a lifestyle is definitely not an easy thing to do. You’re going to need to take a lot of factors into account; local rent prices in a large number of countries, food and living costs, as well as healthcare and travel insurance—to name a few.

There are also going to be many fluctuations in price depending on the city that you go to, as well as whether or not the apartment you rent is located near the city center or in a more rural area with lower rent rates. Not to mention that we can’t cover the prices for more than a handful of countries in a single article, and we can’t really guess where you’re going to want to travel to since you might want to visit Southeast Asia while we describe prices for Australian cities.

We’d like to add a disclaimer that this article won’t be able to actually provide you with travel and living prices for every single location in the world. What it can give you, though, is offer a bit of advice on which cities you might want to visit and what the average cost of that adventure would look like.

The Digital Nomad Lifestyle

Inside an airplane

Being a digital nomad is a pretty easy concept to explain; you earn money working online while traveling around the world.

However, there are a lot of people that get this lifestyle confused with the location-independent lifestyle. Granted, both digital nomads and location independents make their living online by doing remote work, but there is a crucial difference between the two. 

Digital nomads are freelancers that earn money online so that they can focus on traveling the world. Location independents are simply remote workers that don’t care where they go as long as they have access to a decent internet connection.

We bring this up because there’s a big difference between the two lifestyles that would greatly affect your monthly expenses.

Travel Costs

If you’re working and living in a single location for months at a time, then you’ll generally spend about half as much as the standard digital nomad. Travel is the biggest appeal of this lifestyle, but it’s also its most costly aspect as well. 

There are specific shortcuts that you can take when it comes to plane tickets. For example, instead of going from the USA straight to Europe, you can choose to go to Mexico, then to Spain, and then finally end up where you originally wanted to go.

This is a bit more of a roundabout path, and you’re going to be paying for about four $500 tickets instead of one $2,000 ticket, for instance, but this way, you’ll see much more of the world. The prices don’t actually reflect the ticket costs, but our point is that a bit of planning can let you save some money while allowing you to travel more.

There are also cheap flights that you can get and affordable living accommodations that you can go for to try and save a few bucks for your travel expenses, but there are still going to be other expenses that are more costly.

For example, you’re going to need to think about how much money you need to put aside for travel and health insurance. Both of these costs are subjective since the travel insurance will depend on the countries you’re visiting, while the health insurance will depend on whether you’re privately insured or if you’re covered by your job.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to avoid paying the insurance costs, and the only thing that you can do there is just bite the bullet and pay whatever you need to pay. We don’t say that in an attempt to discourage you from trying to be a nomad yourself, but rather to prepare you for the digital nomad costs that you’ll be looking at when you start your journey.

Budget

Your monthly budget is going to primarily depend on the work that you do and the size of your paycheck. Certain remote jobs are going to be pretty lucrative and net you as much as $6,000-$8,000 a month, while others are going to barely allow you to live off of your $2,000.

There obviously isn’t a way to tell how much money you’ll make personally, so we can’t tailor our travel tips to your exact standards. However, we can still split the difference and set the average pay of a digital nomad to about $4,000 a month.

We believe that this is a pretty standard sort of paycheck that isn’t depressingly low or optimistically high, and we’ll be able to use it as a guideline for what you should be looking for when it comes to your travel plans. We’ll try to go for more exotic locations rather than just making a list of the cheapest places that we could find, but we’ll also try to keep to a generally low cost of living in order to make sure that almost everyone can afford the city that we recommend.

We should also mention that we won’t go over any plane tickets since the prices are location-dependent. Tickets from New York to Mexico aren’t going to be the same as tickets from Russia to Mexico, so that part of the equation is going to be left up to you.

The Best Places to Visit

As a world traveler, you will want to go to as many scenic locations as you can while also making sure to keep your spending as low as possible. However, while you might be able to keep the general digital nomad cost as low as possible, you still won’t want to reduce your quality of life too much.

The locations that we’ve outlined are some of the most beautiful cities in the world that won’t put a hole in your wallet. Any one of them is a great destination, and you can actually visit all of them if you manage your finances wisely.

Just keep in mind that actually going to all of these cities is going to mean footing the bill for all of the expenses that we mention in the sections below, as well as the travel costs and the additional items like the insurance that we mentioned earlier.

Canggu, Bali, 

digital nomad cost Bali

This small island in Indonesia is a real feast for the eyes and a real break for your credit card. Among the most notable attractions are the beaches, the multiple internet cafes with free wifi, and the street food stalls that are just chocked full of delicious exotic cuisine.

One of the biggest issues that people seemingly have with this location is its lack of Airbnb and rental apartments. We don’t really understand the issue since there are plenty of villas that are available for rent, and the prices range from anything between $10-$30 a night. This means that your monthly rate can be as low as $300 or as high as you want.

Similarly to the rent, your average spending prices will be as low or as high as you want, but you should be able to get by with spending around 700-1,000 USD on living expenses per month.

Budapest, Hungary

Digital nomad cost Hungary

This city is a trendy spot in the digital nomad community. This is in no small part, thanks to the multiple coworking spaces that it has to offer. While you might be more of a coffee shop person yourself, actually having the option to rent a space and be able to get your work done in peace and quiet is always good.

Budapest also had very low rent rates, with most moderately sized Airbnb apartments being around the $500-$700 mark. If you’re not traveling alone you can split the modest bill into two or more parts, but if you’re riding solo, then there are plenty of small apartments with even lower prices that you can choose from!

Lisbon, Portugal, 

Digital nomad cost Lisbon

Lisbon has rent prices that are as low as the previous entry on our list, which is strange since the city itself is a very popular tourist destination that’s absolutely teeming with life from dusk till dawn and from winter to summer and winter again.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that Lisbon is the capital city and a tourist destination, the living costs aren’t quite as low as Budapest, and you should probably be looking at around 1500-2000 USD in general monthly costs.

However, as long as you keep the Uber usage to a minimum and prioritize buying groceries over eating out, then you really shouldn’t have any trouble supporting yourself for quite a while in this city.

Chiang Mai, Thailand, 

Digital nomad cost Chiang Mai

This city is one of the most popular destinations for ex-pats from all around the world, and for a good reason. The rent and the living costs are meager even though this is a relatively large city that sees millions of people come and go each week.

The city is a perfect blend of practical and beautiful, meaning that it can offer some stunning sites and attractions as well as a large number of coworking spaces that you can rent out and use.

Any foodies are also going to be happy with the selection of local delicacies that are on offer as well, and you’ll easily be able to go for a few months without repeating a single meal and having everything you taste be a new dish.

Medellín, Colombia, 

Digital nomad cost Colombia

Medellin also has a pretty active ex-pat community, which will allow you to meet up with other digital nomads that know the area and the people a lot better. That can help you better grasp your surroundings a lot quicker.

The city is also incredibly easy to “survive in,” and most of the people that have been there have told us that you could probably get away with spending as little as 1000 USD a month on food and overall living costs.

Of course, the city also has quite a lively nightlife as well, which means that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to live it up and spend a few more bucks if you just want to let loose and have a good time every once in a while.

Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh city

Digital nomad cost HoChi Minh

There really isn’t much to say about this entry since all of the digital nomad costs you’re likely to run into are so affordable that the city doesn’t need any additional advertisement.

This means that full-time digital nomads are going to have a very easy time finding an affordable apartment and covering their monthly expenses with a remote job that even pays as little as $2,000.

The city is also a top-rated ex-pat destination, has several attractions that you might want to visit, and is pretty much a combination of all of the best traits of the previous entries on our list.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for any more potential destinations than the ones that we’ve given you, then you might want to go on to Nomad List since that seems like the ideal place for an aspiring digital nomad to start.

We’ve done our best to provide you with info on the prices that you might expect for the locations on our list and explanations for why we weren’t able to calculate all of the expenses that you’re going to be faced with. The only thing left to add is that we hope you’ll find being a nomad worthwhile!

Diego Navarro
Diego became interested in a nomadic lifestyle during a semester abroad during college. He spends most of his time in central Europe and the American southwest (where his family is from). He loves exotic food and playing video games on his Nintendo Switch.

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