Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

Digital Nomad Asia

Asia is a popular destination for digital nomads, but what is it about Asia that attracts so many looking to escape the rat race?

With mega fast Wi-Fi becoming more and more available, starting out as digital nomad has become an increasingly popular way to travel for extended periods and earn the money to keep doing so.

For those looking to take then next step, the cash flow will more than likely be tight.

Most people looking to make a career out of working remotely won’t have a 10K marketing budget to throw into their product or service just yet.

That’s ok.

At the start, there may only be one or two regular clients and a few contacts. Possibly a half finished – or not even started a website.

That’s ok too.

There’s still time to grow.

The beginning is the time to be fresh and hungry to build your business. It’s also the time to see the world. This early stage of becoming self-employed for the first time can be the most memorable for many.

For others used to the safety of a salary, the lack of regular payments coming through the door can be a nightmare.

I’ve been there, launching various websites, freelancing, working abroad, and starting a blog all while travelling.

It’s not easy, and no one said it would be.

“remote work has opened the door to a new era of freedom and luxury. A brave new world beyond the industrial-age belief in The Office.”
Jason Fried, Remote: Office Not Required

Whatever your plans and passion are, a light-weight laptop, a secure Wi-Fi connection, late nights and early mornings will consume your new life. It’s not going to become the 4 Hour Workweek just yet!

Sure money may be tight, but the trade off is the location advantage. There aren’t many careers that allow you to work remotely from the best beach in the world, or see the sunrise from world heritage sites such as Angkor Wat. I have done both.

I’ve spent most of last two years in Asia and here’s my opinion on why Asia is the perfect place to start out as a Digital Nomad.

Budget Flights

Budget airlines have taken the travel industry by storm and none more so than in Asia.

Brands such as Air Asia, Tigerair, Scoot, and Jetstar all go head to head by offering low-cost flights around the region. Designed give those travelling on the cheap a bargain, they offer just a seat and well, not much more.

Like most I love a little luxury now and again, yet when I handed over just $10 USD for a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, I knew there and then it was possible to travel around Asia unrestricted for a long time.

Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

Even the budget airlines have a ‘Digital Nomad’ tech feel in Asia

Budget Accommodation

Every time I log into my favourite accommodation booking websites Agoda and Airbnb it appears that there are endless accommodation choices available to be snapped up.

I’m not just talking about bunking up with twenty other sweaty backpackers who are maxing out the free Wi-Fi for $3 a night either.

For less than a pub lunch back home I secured an unexpectedly decent private room to set up my mobile office in Da Nang, Vietnam. This digital nomad pad included a powerful hot shower (something not to taken for granted in SE Asia), fresh towels, cleaners, international cable TV, fast Wi-Fi, and a belly busting all you can eat buffet breakfast.

Being situated just one street back from Non Nouc Beach was a bonus.

Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

My mobile office in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Budget Food

I’m sure you will agree that Asian food can be some of the best around

If you remove the middleman and travel straight to the source and it can be ridiculously cheap too. That Pad Thai you’re paying top coin for in the local restaurant back home, only costs 45THB ($1.26) from a side street in Bangkok, Thailand.

How about taste you ask?

Well, it tastes much better. It does – really!

I’ve been unofficially testing Pad Thai from around the world since 2011 and not one, yes even those that cost twenty times more, tasted as good as some of the street Pad Thai’s I’ve eaten in Bangkok.

Street food is cheap, tasty and filling.

Undeniably it does get a bad name due to the hygiene standards being somewhat lower than what most of us would consider acceptable in the Western world. But until now though my iron stomach is yet to disagree.

Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

The food in Asia is cheap, tasty and filling.

Budget Transport

It took me a while to build up the confidence, but now my preferred way to get around is by scooter.

Just a few dollars will fill the tank and provide a weeks’ worth of transport. To put this in perspective, my old Turbocharged V6 Honda car in Australia used a few dollars’ worth of fuel just to get to the shops!

Asia is the perfect place to start out as a Digital Nomad because anyone can have the freedom ride to cafes, night markets, sites of interest and even to the gym, all for less than the cost of a beer a week.

Admittedly for someone who has only owned a push bike, riding a scooter in Asia can be a daunting task at first.

Accidents are commonplace, and hardly anyone has insurance. If I were to describe most of the riding I have come across it would be to that similar of a snake moving across the grass. Nearly no one rides in a straight line.

However, over time, like me, your confidence will grow and soon be standing toe to toe with the big boys.

Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

My scooter outside a 7/11 in Tainan, Taiwan

Budget Experiences

Now it’s time to make sure that budget flight was worth it.

Well, it was.

In Asia, it’s possible to experience world famous attractions on the snuggest of budgets. The National War Museum in South Korea is one of the most well-presented and informative museums I’ve had the chance to visit.

But the fee to enter this enormous museum, like most others I visited in Seoul, is zero.

Even world famous sites such as Angkor Wat, Mỹ Sơn, and the National Palace are relatively inexpensive when compared to those I have seen in Europe.

Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

On a three days temple tour at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Budget Internet

A spiritual meditation retreat may sound appealing to those who are looking to disconnect from it all, but for those who struggle to be offline for more than a few hours – free Wi-Fi is virtually everywhere.

Cafes, coffee shops, shopping malls, museums, train stations, and airports are just some of the places free internet can be accessed.

It’s crazy fast too.

South Korea is the only spot in the world I’ve had the chance to experienced 5G internet on a regular basis.

For those digital nomads who want the added backup of connectivity on their smartphone, local telcos can be located at most airports selling SIM cards. Meaning it’s no hassle to pick up a local number (and local calling rates) as you hop from country to country.

Budget Fashion

I’m the first to admit function has priority over fashion when it comes to my travel style.

On occasion I have been known to push my t-shirt lifespan boundaries to their far limits and beyond.

Having to wear the same few pairs of travel gear for weeks on end means they will wear and tear faster than usual. One thing I like about Asia, it’s so easy to locate most of the brands from back home and bargains can be snapped up for a fraction of the price.

Shopping centres in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore is on par, if not some of the best I’ve come across. It’s just about time to take my advice and realised there’s no need to look like a homeless traveller anymore.

Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

Shopping street in Seoul, South Korea.

Budget Fitness

One of the downsides of travelling can be picking up some unwanted baggage, and I’m not just talking about what’s in the backpack either.

That greasy chicken bucket from down the road can make a convent fix during a busy day of working remotely, yet no one said your workout has to go out of the window too.

The good news is it’s possible to lift rusting dumbbells in a local ‘jungle’ gym for as little as a dollar.

Some gyms easily are found by a quick search on mytravelgym.com, for other you might need to get on the street and start asking some locals.

For those who don’t like gyms, my other personal favourites are sprinting along the beach, or performing chin ups and dips at the park.

Budget Healthcare

While in Asia why not treat your body to some much-needed TLC?

From visiting dentists in Thailand to hour long $5 sports massages in Cambodia. The prices hardly make an impact on the strictest of digital nomad’s budgets

Even visiting the ‘god doctor’ in Taiwan to fix my bad back (probably cause by too much sitting behind a laptop) and injured elbow only cost me the ‘foreigner price’ of 250NTD ($7.70 USD).

Shockingly locals only have to pay the equivalent of $3.08, with local university students paying much a lower $1.54 for the service.

Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

Visiting the ‘god doctor’ in Taiwan to fix my bad back.

Finally

Paying budget prices doesn’t always translate to receiving a lesser experience in return.

Yes, there will be crazy rain downpours, pollution, stray dogs, beggars and the odd dodgy character.

However, while working remotely in Asia, the locals I met are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve had the chance to encounter while travelling.

Strangers have randomly invited me inside their homes. Sitting down to eat with their family, all they asked for in return was for me to spread the word about how beautiful their town is and how welcoming their country is.

Budget or not, friendly people, great food, cheap living costs and a disregard anything to do with health and safety – this is why Asia is the perfect place to start out as a Digital Nomad.

Barry Sproston
Barry is a traveller and expat who spends most of his time between Asia and Australia. He has spent 12 months training at a Gung Fu school learning Wing Chun. Explored the island of Taiwan by scooter more than once. Been tricked into eating raw horse meat sushi in Japan. Even tried to overcome the fear of heights by bungee jumping in Thailand. One day he plans to open a guesthouse.
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10 thoughts on “Why Asia Is the Perfect Place to Start out as a Digital Nomad

  1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

    Japan sounds great I visited in December once, and it was relatively cold at that time of year. I’m sure you guys would enjoy Hoi An, but it\’s not the biggest place in the world. Travellers only usually stop for a few days before moving on to the next place. I stayed at the Blue Clouds Homestay with the nicest Vietnamese family for two weeks, and they said it was the longest anyone had stayed with them.
    I don’t mind checking places that are a bit out of the way, so Nong Khai sounds perfect for me. Being inexpensive is a bonus – it means I can stay longer! I’ve had more stopover trip in Bangkok than I can remember and people I meet seem to love or hate the place. For a few days it ok for me.

  2. Frank

    We’re ‘sort’ of digital nomads, we don’t freelance but instead have our 9-5 jobs which we can do from anywhere in the world (and have done for 2 years).
    We spent 6 months our first year in SEAsia; a month in Bangkok, a month in Hua Hin, 4 months in Nong Khai which was perfectly suited to us.
    Wondering: do you have any recommended longer term spots in Malaysia or Vietnam? A place that makes a good base for a month?

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Sounds like the perfect life Frank, plus you don’t have all the stresses that come from being a freelancer – looking for new projects, chasing the money etc… Never been to Nong Khai but would love to check it out one day. I spent a while in Hoi An Vietnam working remotely and like it. I guess it was a bit touristy, however, the food is spot on and there’s heaps of cafes Wi-Fi to work from so you never get bored. I spent a lot of time in Malaysia last year and would love to return to Georgetown and Kota Kinabalu.

      1. Frank

        Thanks Barry.
        Have heard good things about Hoi An and will look more into that. We’re planning to be in Japan in November and since we’ll be in the region will probably move south when as the weather gets colder (and to save a bit of money).
        Nong Khai is very pretty and inexpensive, with just enough of an expat community. Its right on the Mekong and has a really long promenade to walk along…really nice. I’ve got lots on the blog about it. We didn’t enjoy either Bangkok or Hua Hin as bases – one thing to visit, another to stay a long time in.
        Anyway, thanks again.
        Frank

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