Becoming a digital nomad is no longer only for travel bloggers, drop shippers, and the stray outlier as was the case before the pandemic (coming from a former digital nomad outlier myself).
So, if you got the okay from your boss to not only work from home but travel while working remotely, welcome to the club! Digital nomads are a diverse and friendly group.
The term “digital nomad” refers to anyone who travels while earning a living through technology (i.e. not stepping foot into an office). You don’t have to work in the technology field to wear the digital nomad badge—you just have to use technology to make an income.
That said, digital “nomading” looks different for every person. You might change destinations every week (me). Or you might hunker down for months before moving to a new city (also me).
The digital nomad housing strategies I’ll share with you here cover a range of travel styles. By the time you read through these options, all that’ll be left to do is pack that suitcase or backpack (don’t forget your laptop!).
Questions to Consider When Looking at Digital Nomad Housing
Before we jump into finding your new digs (and the one after that), the chart below will help guide you with key questions you should think about as you explore your digital nomad housing options.
|Is the WiFi fast and reliable?||A minimum download speed of 20 Mbps download is needed for most remote workers|
|How long do you plan to stay?||Longer term rentals are almost always cheaper than shorter term|
|Is there a lot of noise?||Traffic, construction work, etc. can make an important phone call appear unprofessional|
|What options are there if the internet goes out?||Choose housing near cafes, cowork facilities, etc. should the internet go out at your place|
|Is it furnished?||Spending money on furniture and kitchen appliances gets costly for digital nomads|
|Are there remote work-friendly resources?||A large table, comfortable chair, and good lighting can make or break a digital nomad housing experience|
Top Digital Nomad Housing Choices
Are you ready to find your new dream workspace…and then the next one and the next?
Read on to figure out the best option for you. If you’re like me, you might end up mixing and matching accommodation styles as you travel.
I put Selina as number one on this list because it’s my personal favorite go-to digital nomad housing choice. That said, it’s not for everyone—Selina is a digital nomad hostel with a boutique flare.
Founded in 2014, Selina was ahead of its time. The first Selina hostel opened in Venao, Panama, with the goal of bringing tourists and locals together for sustainable tourism. Since then, Selina has opened more than 130 hostels across the globe, many of which have on-site cowork spaces.
Although Selina is technically a hostel, it has the amenities that you’d expect from a 3-star or 4-star hotel. It draws in a wide range of interesting travelers, from backpackers staying in 20-bed dorm rooms to business owners enjoying expensive suites with built-in conference rooms.
What I love about Selina is the community they strive to build. Many of their cowork spaces host events to network with fellow coworkers. Couple that with the daily hostel-wide events they offer and you have yourself a near-endless supply of social events.
Of course, there are downsides to this—Selinas can get loud, and not all of the cowork spaces are well insulated to block the noise from non-digital nomads enjoying their vacations.
Furthermore, they’re pricey, especially if you include the cowork space, which is an additional cost. Luckily, they offer a Selina Colive package, which gives you a discount for booking a month or longer for accommodation and coworking.
If you’re interested in learning more about the pros and cons of this package, check out my guide on Selina Coliving.
2. Renting Private Apartments & Homes
My second favorite digital nomad housing option is to rent accommodation through private homeowners. My go-to is Airbnb, although there are several other choices out there such as:
Using these platforms isn’t as economical as it used to be—Airbnb led the way with getting in trouble for not charging their guests occupancy taxes. So, you can expect to see a “host” of extra fees from these sites, with some even tacking on a cleaning fee.
Nevertheless, you’ll get peace of mind knowing that if anything goes wrong, you’ll have 24/7 access to talking with someone from the platform.
I’ve stayed at over 50 Airbnbs as a digital nomad, and all but two were excellent.
What I’ve learned over the years is the importance of asking the owner about their WiFi strength and surrounding noise before you book with them. It’s one thing for them to include the WiFi icon in the “included amenities” section; it’s a whole different ballgame when it comes to the reliability and speed of that WiFi.
Similarly, a construction project could mean ear-piercing noise while you work. It took me several cringe-worthy moments of being on the phone with clients as someone was drilling into concrete before learning to ask about current noise levels at the accommodation.
3. Direct Private Rentals
If you plan on staying in a destination for at least a couple of months, put your local language skills to the test and hit the streets—private rentals are one of the best ways to get more bang for your buck.
To start, book a hostel or hotel room for a couple of nights. While you can try to use local online apartment rental websites to book a place before you arrive, it’s best to book it in person for the following reasons:
- You won’t have the reassurance of reviews to know that the place is what the owner says it is.
- You’ll be able to test the WiFi speed in person (use a free WiFi tester like this one).
- You can get a feel for noise levels, safety of the area, proximity to stores, etc.
Of course, there are some downsides to private rentals. You’re not a local, so owners might try to charge you more.
It’s also common to have to put a downpayment on a rental. So, if you’re renting your place for only a couple of months, you may end up making a downpayment equal to the total rent you pay (in other words, paying double upfront).
You’ll then have to keep your fingers crossed that you’ll get your downpayment back at the end of your stay, assuming you leave the place how you found it.
I’ve had success with direct private rentals in the past. However, it’s not a digital nomad housing option that I personally consider unless I plan on spending a minimum of three months in a destination.
4. Long-term Digital Nomad Travel Programs
Whether you’re a new digital nomad nervous about traveling on your own or solo work leaves you craving to be around people, joining a travel program designed for digital nomads is an excellent choice.
There are several advantages to signing up for digital nomad travel programs, including:
- Professional networking opportunities
- Tours, transportation, and housing arranged for you
- Guaranteed accomodation and work spaces with excellent WiFi
- On-site coordinator and 24/7 emergency support
It’s not all sunshine and roses, though.
Because everything is set up for you, these programs are expensive—expect to drop several thousands of dollars per month for something that you could do for less than half that amount on your own.
Furthermore, the most sought-after digital nomad travel programs require a non-refundable application fee. In either case, there will be some kind of application process since the programs have limited space.
The digital nomad housing these programs offer also varies. In some cases, you might have the option to room with someone to help lower the cost. In other cases, you might have to fork over more money than others if the only remaining availability is suite rooms.
5. Short-term Digital Nomad Retreats
If the thought of making a 6-month or longer commitment to a digital nomad travel program gives you visions of being strapped back in the office, a digital nomad retreat might be more up your alley.
You can even book a volunteer-based digital nomad retreat through companies like Venture with Impact. In the case of Venture with Impact, you’d choose a single country to work remotely in and they’ll connect you with a local NGO to volunteer at during your free time.
As with longer-term digital nomad programs, short-term retreats are among the most expensive forms of digital nomad housing.
However, the opportunity to make friends and meet business partners is what draws so many remote workers to these programs.
What’s the Best Digital Nomad Bank?
Picking your digital nomad housing near a bank is smart, but it might get you wondering—what’s the best bank to use for people who travel around a lot?
Banks with strong online fundamentals are a great place to look as they often offer low fees and debit cards compatible with ATMs across the globe. Examples of excellent online banks for digital nomads include Wise and Payoneer.
Personally, I use Charles Schwab (and, no, Schwab isn’t giving me anything to write this). What I love about them is that they reimburse 100% of ATM fees in all countries as long as you use a Schwab-approved ATM (which is almost any ATM you’ll come across). The downside is that Schwab is only available to U.S. residents.
Choices, Oh My!
One of the best parts about looking for digital nomad housing is that you won’t be locked into a mortgage or long-term rental contract.
So, you’re free to test-run the options on this list, changing up your accommodation style every time you move destinations. Before long, you’ll get the hang of what works best for you.
Do you have questions about finding accommodations as a digital nomad? Or are you already a digital nomad and would like to add to the conversation?
Leave a comment below and let’s get chatting.
P.S.- Would you like some tips to get your digital nomad journey started off on the right foot? Check out my guide on 11 Bulletproof Remote Work Practices.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She's an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she's befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on solo female travel and wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister.