5 tips for first-time digital nomads choosing a destination

Dec 15, 2022

When you think about having the freedom to travel the world while keeping at your 9-5, choosing a destination can be exciting and overwhelming!

Whether you’re a solo traveler or planning to travel as a couple or with family, the options seem endless when you’re starting to plan your work/travel journey. And your first experience is an important one- the one where you’ll learn the most. If you’re an experienced traveler, you’re probably already thinking about the weather, safety, culture, and visa situations in any destination you’re thinking about, but being a digital nomad requires a few special considerations.

Need help choosing your next home away from home? Here are the 5 most important things to think about when you’re weighing your options!

How to choose your first destination as a digital nomad

Cost of living

Depending on how long you plan to stay in one place at a time, the cost of living is a major factor. For example, you’re going to spend significantly less in a country in Central or Latin America than in Europe as a digital nomad. You can easily find a beautiful hostel in Mexico for 15 USD a night vs. 80 USD for a gross hostel in London. 

When it comes to housing, one of my best tips is that you can often find good deals for long term stays (several weeks/month +). Hostels, airbnbs, and other rentals will usually advertise this as an option because it helps them ensure a paying tenant for a more stable period of time. I recommend using Hostel World to find your housing. It has in-depth reviews and ratings from other digital nomads on their experiences and is a great way to compare your options. Pro tip: if you’re staying in a hostel and/or traveling long term, it’s especially important that you learn the best packing hacks to save space, travel light, and still have everything you need. There’s generally not much luggage space in hostels!

You also need to consider transportation and food when you’re selecting a destination. I’ve stayed in hostels that include free breakfast or offer it for as little as 2 USD a day. I’ve also stayed in hostels that offered a bike for 2 USD a day or were within walking distance to a train or public transit station. These are great perks that exist and can really lighten up your total travel costs long term. 

Wi-Fi

I’ve found that outside of the USA and Europe, many places don’t have a great internet connection, which is make or break for digital nomads. It’s good practice to check that the place you’re headed to has a connection between 40–100 Mbps that will allow you to upload and download large files. If it’s not advertised, send a message to find out. When you arrive, you can run a speed test for free using Speedtest.net.

I also recommend getting an e-sim and investing in an affordable portable wifi hotspot device to be absolutely sure that you never find yourself without the internet connection that you need to work. 

Time zone 

Do you work a job where you need to be online at specific times of the day? When you’re considering a destination, consider that you may have to work some late nights or early mornings. In my opinion, if you really want to work in a particular place it can be worth it to work a crazy schedule, but this is something to keep in mind. You want to enjoy your digital nomad experience and actually see the place you are in. You know yourself best- if you’re up all night working, can you still go enjoy yourself during your free time? 

Where exactly you’ll work in that city or country

A lot of digital nomads enjoy having a place to work that isn’t their Airbnb or hotel room. Self-discipline is critical for being a remote worker who travels, and having a workspace where you can interact with other nomads can help establish a sense of normalcy and keep you on task. Because I solo travel so often, it’s nice to find other solo travelers when I want company.

I hate throw around the word “always,” but with enough creativity, you will always be able to find a place to work that isn’t your hotel room. In big cities, coworking spaces are common and even in smaller ones, hostels and coffee shops are remote coworking hubs.

Language barriers

Just like I recommend with your first solo travel experience, it’s smart to kick off your digital nomad journey in a place where you can navigate a language barrier. I recommend starting with a place where a high percentage of the population speaks English. Your experience is typically simpler when you can communicate easily, and because so much about your experience will already be new or outside your comfort zone, it’s a great way to dip your toes in the pool.

Looking for more? Don’t miss the best-of-the-best!

Are you new here? Let’s be friends! I’m Sarah— a solo female traveler (& world’s okayest travel blogger) helping you travel the world, discover surprising destinations, & have a laugh getting off the beaten path. Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to stay in touch (I promise not to spam you- just to share the best travel hacks, guides, itineraries, embarrassing stories, and unmissable experiences)!

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