Best places in Asia for beach-loving digital nomads
Asia is one of the most popular regions of the world for digital nomads. South Korea and Taiwan offer some of the fastest Internet speeds in the world, but they both experience cold winters so may not appeal to those who are attracted to the prospect of working by a beach year-round.
Chiang Mai in Thailand, and Ubud and Canggu in Bali are hotspots for digital nomads because of their cheap accommodation options, access to value-for-money restaurants and coffee shops, and the fact that they are generally expat-friendly, but they are a long way from good beaches.
So where are the best locations in Asia for the beach-loving digital nomad to set up a base?
Thailand and the Philippines have dozens of beachfront locations that are suitable for working from all year round, but many worry about the security situation in those countries in terms of both terrorism and petty crime.
The first concern can be resolved simply by staying away from the southern provinces of Thailand and the southern region (Mindanao) of the Philippines. The security situation in other parts of both countries is no worse than most of the rest of Asia.
As far as petty crime is concerned, it’s no worse than most other developing countries. Take a security backpack to secure your laptop and other valuables, and simply exercise common sense when using your laptop in public areas. Check out this great blog post on choosing travel bags for a digital nomad.
Don’t leave your laptop unattended in a coffee shop whilst you use the restroom without making arrangements with someone you can trust to keep an eye on it for you, and don’t walk by the side of the road with your backpack slung over one shoulder. Bag snatchers on motorbikes don’t just target women with handbags.
Thailand or the Philippines?
So which country is best for the beach-loving digital nomad? Each has its pros and cons.
Probably the first consideration is internet access and speed. Here Thailand wins by a mile because the internet speed in many parts of the Philippines is as bad as it gets. But unless you are doing online work that involves a transfer of large files, it is still possible to find beach locations where the internet speed is reasonable.
Just don’t commit to staying too long in one place until you have had the opportunity to test the speed and the reliability of the local internet access. Pay attention to the data caps on data plans that you may purchase because these vary between operators in both countries.
Another consideration is the quality of infrastructure aside from internet access. Here we are talking about public transport, roads and traffic conditions, the reliability of power supplies, etc. Here again, Thailand wins hands down, although in more rural areas there may not be a lot of difference.
A further consideration is the cost and availability of food and beverages that are appealing to the expat palate. Another win for Thailand because Phillipino Food is generally high in fat and sugar content, whilst Thai dishes feature more fresh vegetables and fruits. Tasty vegetarian food is easy to find in Thailand, but not in the Philippines.
So given that Thailand is consistently winning on all these counts, doesn’t that make Thailand an obvious choice as the best destination for the digital nomad?
Not so fast! There are two other important factors that need to be taken into account.
The Filipino advantages
The first is language. Many more Filipinos speak English than Thais do. This is especially the case in provincial areas where some of the best beaches are located.
The average Filipino generally has a better grasp of the English language than even many more highly educated Thais. This not only makes interaction with locals on a day-to-day basis easier but provides a much bigger potential pool of support staff should you be doing work that needs local assistance.
The second is the attitude towards foreigners. Filipinos are generally far more gregarious and friendly towards expats. That’s not to say Thai are unfriendly, but they tend to be much more reserved and won’t engage in conversation with strangers as Filipinos are apt to do.
Another possible advantage for some might be the fact that the Philippines is the most Americanized country in Asia. Certainly, it is more western in its outlook than Thailand. Of course, some non-Americans may see that as a disadvantage, but it does mean there is less of a cultural adjustment to contend with in the Philippines compared to Thailand.
So does that mean those Filipino advantages offset the pros listed for Thailand? Not necessarily, but it does swing the needle back to near the center of the gauge.
Ultimately it will be some of these factors plus a multitude of other minor factors that will determine which country will be the better fit for any particular individual.
Probably the best way to decide whether to make Thailand or the Philippines your base, is to spend a few months in both, trying out at least two or three different locations, until you determine which country you feel most comfortable working out of.
If you can’t make up your mind, then split your time between the two. Eventually,y something will happen in either your work or personal life that will make the choice for you. Either way, you’ll have the experience of working out two of the countries with the best beaches in Asia.
If you ever need a break from the beaches (sand and laptops don’t always mix after all) then Chian Mai in Northern Thailand is a digital nomads paradise. It offers efficient Wi-Fi, cheap accommodation, western living standards and a thriving community of online start up’s to exchange ideas and advice with. There is also a lot of things to do in Chiang Mai so you wil never be bored.