Latest Issue

Steven Zwernik

Top Destinations for Digital Nomads

By Jessica Lockhart

If you’re thinking about taking your job abroad, working remotely is now easier than ever before. Here's what you need to know to open your mobile office—and the top destinations for digital nomads in 2023.

Back in 2015, when I penned Verge’s very first article on digital nomadism, working remotely was still a fringe lifestyle. I was part of a measly four percent of Canadians that worked remotely, meaning I spent a lot of time explaining to people that no, I didn’t sit around and eat bon-bons all day, and yes, I could still hit deadlines in a different time zone.

Back then, becoming a digital nomad also wasn’t as easy as hopping on a plane and pecking away at my laptop while sipping poolside cocktails. (Although I did that, too.) It required navigating confusing and often antiquated bureaucracy, since most tax and immigration laws were written before the Internet was even a thing. Case in point: In some countries, the act of replying to business emails while abroad was illegal, unless you possessed a work visa for that country.

That all changed in 2020, when the pandemic shuttered offices. By March 2021, around 30 percent (or five million) Canadians were working remotely, according to Statista. Today, that figure is only projected to grow, with the emergence of hybrid work arrangements and an increasing number of companies going fully remote. As a result, governments are finally—finally!—starting to recognize that physical location isn't necessarily related to how and when we work.

Enter digital nomad visas. While Estonia’s digital nomad visa was discussed for years leading up to the pandemic, the legislation was finally pushed through in July 2020. A slew of countries has since followed suit, with dozens of other destinations vying to attract this new class of location-independent professionals.

If you’re thinking about taking your job abroad and making the leap to becoming a digital nomad, it’s easier than ever before. But that doesn’t mean the red tape has disappeared altogether. Here’s what you need to know before opening your mobile office—and the top destinations to set up shop.

Do I need a visa to work remotely?

Yes, if you plan on working remotely, it’s critical to ensure you’re applying for the right type of visa before you depart.

Of course, people will try to convince you otherwise. Online digital nomad forums are rife with advice (both good and bad) for evading taxes and operating within the grey zone of the law. (Hello, visa runs!) After all, it’s incredibly easy to enter a country on a tourist visa and start work immediately upon landing. And in some countries, that may be fine and totally legal.

But in most, you risk violating your visitor visa if you even so much as crack open your laptop for work-related purposes while you’re abroad. Even in popular digital nomad hubs, it’s not a sure thing that officials will turn a blind eye. In 2014, immigration officials raided a coworking space in Chiang Mai, Thailand and detained 18 foreigners. And in January 2021, after American influencer and digital nomad Kristen Gray tweeted about her lifestyle, she faced deportation from Bali, allegedly for violating her visa.

What is a digital nomad visa? What is a remote working visa?

Digital nomad visas—which are interchangeably referred to as “remote working visas”—allow you to work remotely while you’re in a foreign country. These may be used by self-employed individuals, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and employees whose workplaces have flexible work-from-anywhere arrangements. Other visa options for working and travelling include working holiday visas (such as those offered by Australia and New Zealand) and temporary residence or long-stay visas (such as that offered by Mexico).

However, “digital nomad visa” is usually a colloquial term—very few of the visas are called that. (Sure, there have been significant updates to immigration in the last few years, but did you really think border agencies would suddenly make applying for visas easy or clear? That much, unfortunately, hasn’t changed.) Instead, you’ve got "workcation permits," "entrepreneurship visas," and visas that only go by a number, rather than a name.

Regardless of what they’re called, though, they all do essentially the same thing: They permit you to legally work abroad.

Which countries offer digital nomad visas? Where can I work as a digital nomad?

As of publication, there are now around 30 countries that offer some form of digital nomad visa, all with different eligibility requirements, costs, lengths of stays and tax obligations.

Here are just a handful:

• The Seychelles’ Visitors Workcation Permit allows nomads to stay for up to one year.
• The Czech Republic's Entrepreneurship Visa is valid for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. 
• Croatia’s Temporary Stay of Digital Nomads visas is valid for up to 12 months. 
• Mauritius’ Premium Visa is available for those willing to stay a minimum of six months.
• Dubai’s Golden Visa is the golden ticket to work virtually from the UAE. 
• Iceland has a long-term visa for remote workers, which allows them to stay for between 90 and 180 days. 
• Malta’s Nomad Residency Permit is valid for those who earn more than €2,700 monthly. 
• Costa Rica’s Rentista program accepts those that have a guaranteed income of USD$2,500 per month and can remain in the country for up to four months per year. 
• Barbados’ Welcome Stamp program invites foreigners for a period of up to a year. 

This is far from an exhaustive list, with new visas launching nearly monthly at the time of publication. 

What should I consider when choosing a country?

While it might be tempting to throw a dart at a map (or the comparable modern-day interpretation—getting a low-fare email alert), there’s much more to consider than just climate. 

Choosing a destination should be based on a range of factors that will ensure that your time abroad is as productive as it is culturally immersive.

Connectivity: Internet, cell phone reception and power

When Verge contributor Zanny Merullo started working as a freelance writer in 2021, becoming a digital nomad was the next natural step. So, she headed to Guatemala, which initially struck her as a “cheap and lovely place to settle down for a while.”

That remained true, but other realities quickly set in. Frequent power outages and slow WiFi made work difficult. She moved onwards to Belize, which had better Internet, but came with its own issues.

“It’s so hot that my computer often overheats, and I have to be careful to avoid getting sand in my keyboard,” she emailed me from Belize.

You could chalk this up to first-world problems, but the reality is that reliable Internet is the number-one concern of digital nomads, according to a 2021 Adventure Trade Trade Association (ATTA) report. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to conduct a Zoom meeting or even just a basic phone call when the connection is patchy. It can also come across as unprofessional.

However, knowing where connectivity will be strong requires research, not uninformed bias. Don’t just assume that nations in the Global South have poorer access than developed countries.

For example, I had no trouble logging-on from Honduras. But in mountainous New Zealand, it’s not unusual to lose cell phone reception (and thus, the ability to tether to your phone) or find yourself relying on satellite Internet, which is basically dial-up without the benefit of modem “music.” That’s not to say it’s not a stunning country to work from—it just means that you might have to stick closer to urban centres to make it work.

Time zones

Trust me when I say that I’m not a morning person. But since moving to Oceania in 2015, my alarm goes off as early as 4 a.m. on workdays. Thanks to the time difference with North America—where most of my clients are based—most of my meetings happen before the sun has even started to creep over the horizon.

To be honest, my entire workflow is disrupted by my location. As another example, I wake to a full inbox and often have to wait until the following morning before I receive replies.

However, I can make it work because I’m self-employed. Telecommuters like Keri Pfeiffer, who works for fully remote company WeTravel, have to ensure they’re online during North American business hours.

“It’s impossible for me to work remotely in Asia, because working in the middle of the night wouldn’t be sustainable for long,” she says. Instead, she sticks to places like Europe, where she can spend her mornings exploring, and her afternoons and evenings working.

Community and culture

According to ATTA’s research, loneliness is one of the top challenges faced by digital nomads. In other words, you can head to warmer climes, but that doesn’t mean that everyday life doesn’t follow you.

If you plan on staying in any destination for a length of time, finding friends will be key to your happiness and success as a digital nomad. Destinations should be assessed based on whether there are opportunities to meet both locals and other expats, such as through coworking spaces.

“Coworking is my number one thing that I look for in a destination,” says Diego Arelano, a digital nomad and performance marketing manager for the ATTA. “If there’s a coworking space, I know there’s enough infrastructure for digital nomads, and that I’ll find a community of people and won’t be alone.”

Working abroad in another country—even if it’s not for an in-country employer—is also significantly different from being a tourist. So, in addition to safety, it also pays to consider what values systems you want your dream destination to have, including how tolerant it is of other religions, races and sexual orientations.

Cost of living: Gentrification and your impact as a digital nomad

Bermuda and the Bahamas were amongst the first countries in the world to launch digital nomad visas—but they’re also two of the most expensive countries in the world to live in. And if you’re considering this lifestyle, we’re going to take a wild stab and guess it’s because you’re seeking a lower cost of living.

We don’t blame you. But while moving abroad can save you some major coin, it can cost your local counterpoints their jobs and homes, with gentrification becoming a pressing concern. In Indonesia, for example, digital nomads (who earn an average of $4,500 USD per month) are flocking to Bali, where locals earn closer to $500 USD per month.

“I’m trying to be very sensitive in using this term, but [digital nomadism] is a new kind of colonialism,” says Arelano. “People that are getting paid more and have a stronger currency are travelling to destinations that are cheaper. But we don’t we don’t see the opposite. We don’t see people from Latin America becoming digital nomads in New York.”

Pfeiffer tells me that in Mexico City, another digital nomad hub, she’s seen apartment complexes that advertise exclusively to expats. It doesn’t just price out locals—it eliminates some of their housing options altogether.

“Locals aren’t able to afford it anymore,” says Pfeiffer. “It funnels down into everything else—local taco shops are being replaced by, like, avocado toast restaurants. It changes the entire cultural vibe of the destination. People are also staying in their [expat] bubbles and not really expanding to interact with locals in any way, which can be harmful.”

Pfeiffer has since designed a course for the RISE Travel Institute on travelling ethically as a digital nomad. But even she doesn’t have a clear solution for the problem. (“You almost have to stay in the gentrified areas, because if you are going to go off-the-beaten path, you risk starting to gentrify another neighbourhood,” she says.) However, she does suggest seeking out rentals owned by locals (rather than foreign property groups), shopping at locally-owned businesses, and seeking out opportunities to get involved with the local community, rather than just the expat bubbles.

What are the best countries for working remotely?

We’ve scoured the rankings to identify five of the best countries in the world for location-independent work.


In Estonia, access to the Internet is enshrined as a basic human right. As a result, WiFi is as easy to access as clean drinking water.

“Estonia is great—they have really good WiFi everywhere you go,” says Pfeiffer, who ranks it amongst her favourite countries to work abroad.

With its thriving start-up culture, there are plenty of coworking hubs to choose from, making it easy to meet both expats and locals.

Digital nomads can enter through the Estonian digital nomad visa, which is not to be confused with its e-residency program (the latter of which permits foreigners to start an EU-based company from anywhere). 

Costa Rica

First, Costa Rica led the way in becoming the world’s greenest country. Now, it’s leading the way in the teleworking space. In August 2021, Costa Rica’s president, Carlos Alvarado, signed the Digital Nomads Law, with the goal of attracting remote workers and their families. By July 2022, the country was accepting applications for remote workers.

Already, approximately 2.5 percent of the population is made up of expats, meaning that infrastructure that will suit the needs and demands of expats already exists. It was also voted as one of the best destinations for solo travellers in Hostelworld’s 2022 Solo Travel survey.


Indonesia was the only country to be ranked on the ATTA report by survey respondents as a top destination for short stays of less than a month, medium stays of one to three months, and long stays of over three months.

“Indonesia always ranks highly because of Bali,” explains Arelano.

A thriving digital nomad hub, Bali has become one of the most sought-after destinations, where property development and management companies are designing new rental properties and coworking spaces to cater to this class of workers.

But is it legal? As of 2022, yes! Recently, the Indonesian government announced its intentions to launch its own digital nomad visa. Until then, remote workers are now allowed to stay without paying tax by using an existing B211A visa.


Offering what’s arguably the lowest cost of living in Western Europe, Portugal has long been a destination for digital nomads, thanks to its start-up culture, coworking spaces and D7 visa, which makes it possible to live and work in the country provided that you’re committed to remaining there for most of the year.

If a year sounds too long, the country will soon launch its own digital nomad visa. As of press time, specifics have yet to be announced, but it will be geared to non-EU or non-EEA residents who are only looking to live in the country temporarily.


The top destination for remote workers is a lot closer than you think. In fact, Remote, a global HR solution for location-independent workers, recently ranked Toronto as the number one location for digital nomads.

Dubious rankings aside, more than one nomad I spoke with cited the joys of exploring their own backyard: If you’re Canadian, you don’t have to worry about applying for a special visa and trying to wrestle with filing foreign taxes. Your healthcare is covered. Coworking spaces are widespread, and failing that, working in coffee shops is socially acceptable. Sure, the cost of living varies from one place to the next, but it’s unlikely your presence is going to contribute to gentrification on the same scale it would abroad. And although cell phone reception can be less than ideal in northern locations, WiFi is found across the country.

From Toronto’s skyscrapers to the mountains of Alberta, there’s a lot to explore here—all without leaving home.

Add this article to your reading list


Travel with purpose; travel for good. Articles, resources and events for ethical and meaningful travel, volunteering, working and studying abroad.

Verge believes in travel for change. International experience creates global citizens, who can change our planet for the better. This belief is at the core of everything we do.

Like what you see?

Follow us on social media