Since the pandemic began, more people are being allowed to work from home than ever before. But why work from home when you can work from anywhere in the world!?
These days, there are plenty of people who need nothing but a strong WIFI connection to do their work. With this sorted, they can do their office jobs from any café, hotel room or co-working space on the planet!
Psst… To get an idea of what kind of jobs you can do while you travel, check out this article on remote travel jobs!
With its cheap lifestyle, varied landscape and fantastic accommodation options, Southeast Asia is one of the major global magnets for digital nomads. Trendy co-working spaces are scattered in stunning places across the region, offering location-independent workers the opportunity to meet like-minded people and build a friendly community far from home.
In this article, we take a look at some of the most popular places to be a digital nomad across Southeast Asia. Personally, I’ve lived in several of them (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hoi An, Koh Phangan and Koh Lanta), so if you need any specific recommendations or have any questions, be sure to comment below and I’ll try my best to answer you!
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Top 10 Places for Digital Nomads in Southeast Asia
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is THE major digital nomad magnet in Thailand and possibly the whole of Southeast Asia. Its streets, especially in the old town and the area around Nimmanhaemin Road, abound with air-conditioned cafés offering nomadic workers fast WIFI and strong coffee!
The city has played host to several conferences in the realm of digital marketing, SEO and even has a sturdy cryptocurrency scene. For new digital nomads, it’s a great place to meet and mingle with lots of remote workers from all over the world.
The accommodation in Chiang Mai is also super cheap (you can rent an apartment for as little as $300 USD/month) and the restaurant scene is very varied and of great quality.
There are literally dozens of co-working spaces in the city, as well as hostels, cafés and restaurants where the staff are quite used to customers lingering with their Apple Macs. One of the most renowned coworking spaces in the city is Punspace, established in 2013, which has two locations in the city, one near Thapae Gate and one on Wiang Kaew Road in the Old City. Another newer option is C.A.M.P., located on the top floor of Maya Mall which attracts the student crowd from nearby Chiang Mai University.
If you want to check out the scene for a few days, hostels in Chiang Mai start at just $5 US per night.
2. Hoi An, Vietnam
The Central Vietnamese city of Hoi An has become something of a digital nomad hotspot in recent years. Many international travellers are drawn to the city on account of its cheap long-term accommodation (renting can be as cheap as $200 USD/month), beautiful surroundings of rivers and rice fields and great street food. There’s also Hub Hoi An, Hoi An’s only official co-working space, which holds regular events for digital nomads in the area.
While Hoi An old town itself is super busy and touristy (though unarguably beautiful), it’s very easy to get away from the crowds by bicycle or motorbike and find yourself in quiet lovely countryside in a matter of minutes. The nearby beach of An Bang is also a bonus!
As well as Hub Hoi An, several of the cafés and restaurants in town also double up as co-working spaces for nomads, such as Dingo Deli and Rosie’s Café. There are also plenty of fantastic restaurants, from cheap Vietnamese street food to great Mexican and Indian cuisine.
Note – The nearby city of Danang has also been touted as an upcoming digital nomad hub. This is a great place to be if you prefer the conveniences of a larger city. Danang also has a burgeoning live music scene, oh and a wide long sandy beach!
3. Koh Lanta, Thailand
One of the more chilled Thai islands, Koh Lanta, is one of my personal favourite digital nomad hotspots. In the north of the island, there is a large co-working space called KoHub which attracts remote online workers from all over the world. You’ll become part of a community as soon as you join KoHub and if you fancy it, you can join their pub quiz team that competes every week at the nearby Irish Bar!
The island itself is absolutely beautiful with gorgeous sandy beaches, waterfalls, caves, great restaurants, bars and plenty of adventure to be had. I’d recommend hiring a scooter to get around the island which will cost you around $100 US per month.
For those of you who like to party, there is nightlife to be found across the island, but the scene is much more relaxed than Koh Samui or Koh Phangan.
Accommodation is a bit more expensive here in the South of Thailand than in the North, but you can still find some great deals on bungalows if you shop around. The cheapest accommodation can be found around Long Beach and Khlong Khong which are the backpacker areas. You can get a basic bungalow for around $200 USD / month, though you will have to pay around $500 USD for something really decent.
4. Canggu, Bali
The whole of Bali can be considered a digital nomad hotspot really, but if you had to pick just one place, it would be the town of Canggu. The small hipster town feels more like Byron Bay than Indonesia, with its expensive coffee shops, yoga studios and boutique stores!
Accommodation here, however, is still pretty cheap in comparison, especially if you’re renting monthly. Many long-term travellers and digital nomads shack up here for a while and use it as a base to explore the rest of the island and the surrounding treasures of Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and the Gili Islands. (For short-term accommodation options, check out these hostels in Canggu.)
There are several co-working spaces in Canggu, with the most popular being Outpost Canggu and Dojo, as well as Finn’s Recreation Club, which is a fitness club and water park with its own co-working space. Several regular digital nomad events are held at Dojo which are brilliant for meeting and mingling, as well as discovering more about the location-independent lifestyle.
5. Bangkok, Thailand
It may be a huge capital city with loads of other things going on, but we can’t mention digital nomad hotspots without adding Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, to the list. For those of you who prefer the buzz of a city to the sleepiness of Southeast Asia’s islands and villages, Bangkok is full of excitement and opportunity.
Accommodation, street food, Thai massage (and pretty much anything else you can imagine!) are cheap and readily available and there are tons of great networking events for digital nomads where you can meet with the right kind of people, whatever your field.
There are literally hundreds of co-working spaces and cool cafés where you can get productive with a good coffee and a great buzzing atmosphere. And, with Bangkok airport as a major hub for travel in Southeast Asia, you can use the city as a base to explore the rest of the region!
I paid $300 USD for an apartment here in 2016 with its own swimming pool, gymnasium and café. While prices have risen a little since then, you can still find cheap deals on flats. The area around Victory Monument and Din Daeng is a good place to look. For short-term accommodation options, check out our list of the best hostels in Bangkok here.
Looking to explore further afield? Check out these incredible cities for digital nomads in South America and remote work hotspots in Europe!
6. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Home to the world-famous archaeological site of Angkor, Siem Reap is the most popular place for digital nomads to hang out in Cambodia. The co-working space AngkorHUB provides accommodation and community for wandering workers. (Currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The small city (if we can call it that) is packed with cafés, bakeries, restaurants and backpacker hostels and there’s no shortage of places to hang out with good WIFI and great food. (See our list of the best hostels in Siem Reap here – some as cheap as $2 US a night!)
And when you’ve finished working, Siem Reap is a great place to explore by bicycle or motorbike. Despite the touristy centre, it’s really easy to get away from the crowds and get off the beaten track.
7. Koh Phangan, Thailand
Although it is perhaps best known for being one of the most pumping party destinations in Southeast Asia, the island of Koh Phangan is also a big hit with the new age crowd and there are many yoga and meditation retreats, massage centres, vegetarian and vegan cafés as well as a whole host of other hippie attractions on the island.
The digital nomad scene is not so developed here on Koh Phangan, but no one can deny that this island is a beautiful place to get productive!
There are a few co-working spaces that have become popular in recent years; Beachub and La Casa being the most popular. Overlooking a beautiful sandy beach while tapping away on your laptop is the digital nomad dream, right?
For long-term island dwellers, there are plenty of great accommodation options on Koh Phangan. Just hop on your motorbike and take a drive around the island stopping at all of the makeshift signs that say ‘HOUSE FOR RENT’. You can get yourself a great little bungalow for around $300 per month or cheaper if you don’t mind going basic. For short-term options, check out the best hostels in Koh Phangan here.
Note: The other islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui and Koh Tao, are also becoming increasingly popular with digital nomads. All of them offer conveniences of Western and Thai restaurants, strong WIFI and varied accommodation options. (Check out the best hostels in Koh Tao here.) Koh Tao also has a well-established dive scene and a buzzing nightlife (that’s pre-pandemic!).
8. Penang, Malaysia
One of the lesser-known digital nomad hotspots is the large island of Penang at the northern end of Peninsular Malaysia. The island is world-famous for its amazing food scene and colonial architecture which draws travel bloggers and Instagrammers alike.
There are several co-working spaces in Penang, most of which are located in the colonial capital of Georgetown. You’ll find prices for workspaces, accommodation and food a little more expensive here in Malaysia than in other parts of Southeast Asia, but you can still find some great deals if you hunt around.
One thing that’s great about living in Malaysia as a digital nomad is the entrepreneurial spirit amongst the country’s youth. Many locals (who speak great English by the way) are interested in tech and design and so you’re sure to make local friends while hanging in Penang!
9. Ubud, Bali
We already mentioned Canggu on the island of Bali, but Ubud, located in Central Bali is almost equally as popular amongst the location independent crowd.
Originally made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert’s travel book, Eat Pray Love, Ubud is a picturesque little town that’s surrounded by pretty rice fields and volcanoes. The town has grown from a small local village to a hipster hotspot in recent years as more and more trendy cafés, art galleries, yoga schools and boutique shops are popping up.
When it comes to co-working spaces, the major players are Outpost and Hubud (although sadly, Hubud has been closed since the early days of the pandemic and with Indonesia’s strict travel restrictions, currently shows no sign of reopening).
Outpost has two locations in Ubud, the original Ubud branch and Outpost Penestanan which has the added advantage of a swimming pool to keep you cool in between making money! Both of these spaces offer reasonably priced accommodation for nomads taking the co-working/co-living one step further.
The upcoming digital nomad hotspot of Yogyakarta, on the island of Java in Indonesia, has a laid-back hippie vibe. If you want to avoid the influx of Instagrammers and influencers that flock to Bali, then Jogja (as it’s affectionately known) is a great alternative.
The small city is famous for its art scene, being the cultural capital of Java, and there are plenty of cheap accommodation options and cafés with good WIFI and strong Javanese coffee!
While the co-working scene here is nowhere near as developed as in Bali, several co-working spaces have cropped up in recent years including Ruang Tengah, which is a homely and friendly little place that was opened in 2017. And, when you’re not tapping away at your laptop, there are lots of yoga classes to enjoy, art galleries to peruse and massages to enjoy! Jogja is one to watch for digital nomads in 2022.
Do you know of an upcoming digital nomad hotspot that we haven’t mentioned? Tell us in the comments below!
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2 thoughts on “Top 10 Digital Nomad Hotspots in Southeast Asia”
I was wondering what you do about tax laws in relevant countries? From my understanding it’s unlikely I’d need to pay tax in my home country as I’ll be travelling for more than 6 months, but I can’t work out therefore where/how you do pay tax (or don’t?)…
It’s a very tricky question and one that you’ll find digital nomads discussing at length in forums and Facebook groups!
Tax laws are different in each country and it depends on how much time you spend in a country whether or not you need to register to pay tax there. Most countries say that if you spend less than 180 days there, you are not considered a tax resident.
HOWEVER, if you are receiving money, your business must be based ‘somewhere’ (you will need a bank account and an address to be able to invoice and receive payments from affiliate schemes etc.) and so many people just register their business in their home country and continue to pay tax there…
Countries like Estonia have set up e-residency systems for digital nomads who travel a lot to allow them a base for their business and banking, though it’s not a way to avoid tax. Technically, you should look into the tax laws of every country you travel to.
In addition, there is the issue of work permits as many countries legally require you to have a work permit in order to carry out work (even online) there and so in reality, many digital nomads work illegally… but again, this depends on how long you stay in each country.
Basically – it’s complicated! The world still needs to catch up with the digital nomads 😉