Where are the nomad hot spots in Central and South America?

The last few years I’ve spent mostly in Asia (Thailand/Indonesia) and Europe (Spain/Italy), but I run a company in the US and need to coordinate with 10 US based employees and business partners. The time zone issues between EU/US and SEA/US are exhausting even if I love the locales.

I’d really like to try romping around the Americas for a while, but I’ve never been south of Baja California and really can’t find much positive having been said about remotely working from CA/SA as a DN.

I know some hippy, surfer, artist, musician, yoga teacher types calling various locals home, but no one making a living online… more than a few people have told me it’s fabulous down there until you go to Thailand/Bali and then you wonder why all those ExPats are suffering in CA/SA. Of course you only really know when you go yourself.

I’d love to see nomadlist.io get filled out with more details on Central and South American cities. It seems really sparse coverage at the moment, but maybe that’s simply because it’s not good and no one stays there for long.

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You are right. There are so many people that prefer SEA. Life as a Digital Nomad is a bit easier over there.

In Central America you do not really have “Digital Nomad Hotspots” where you easily meet others, in South America there are more like Medellin, Buenos Aires and Rio / Santiago.

In CA/SA it’s harder to get around (not so much scooter like in SEA / not so much low cost airlines…), some people feel more unsafe, don’t speak Spanish…and most of the people think that the food is much better in South East Asia :wink:

However I think it’s great to work remotely from here (I am right now in Medellin). I also loved Caye Caulker a small island of Belize (I love islands) to work or Antigua in Guatemala. Costa Rica is a nice country, too. Meanwhile there are a lot of expats.

@marcusmeurer and me always have a local SIM card with a data package to be independent of WiFi. The first time ever we had a problem to buy one was recently in Brasil. There, you need a local tax number to get it. In the other countries you have good providers like “Claro”.

Plus in CA/SA: Better music and temperament of the locals, learning Spanish…

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Nicaragua is cheap and beautiful. Definitely a good option. But I think the best kept secret in South America is Ecuador. Friendly, beautiful, cheap, safe, and they use the US dollar as their currency. The roads are better than California. Internet service is cheap and reliable. If you visit, you may never want to leave.

I like Costa Rica a lot, but it’s super expensive. You might as well be in the US for as high as your costs will be there. Sure, it’s like living in Hawaii for the price of somewhere north of California, but you can live in equally beautiful places for a lot less.

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That sounds great. I am looking for a good place to settle in South Amerca for next year.
The shortlist was Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.
Bolivia is dirt cheap, but the internet sucks. No I am looking at Ecuador. Guayaquil to be precise.

Have you been there yourself?

No, didn’t go to Guayaquil because of its reputation: a dirty and dangerous port city with hot, humid weather. Ecuadorians I know say it’s very different than the rest of Ecuador. Cuenca is very nice, well worth starting there unless you really want to be near the coast.

Aj, that sounds not positive.
Will look further into this.

Glad I asked this, hope this thread continues to grow.

One place I’ve long dreamed going to is Cuba/Havana, but all the reports I’ve seen are that Internet is crap…

Being an American I’m also not sure I could stay long enough to settle in there. Obviously most visitors seem to go for a week or two and have no concept of digital nomadism.

I imagine there must be good towns in Panama, Argentina, Chile… But hear almost nothing about those… maybe Brazil?

I did some reading and you mention it as a reputation. Isn’t it nowadays a lot better?
Medellin, Colombia, also had this reputation because of the drugs violence, but that is becoming better and better due the investing of the government.
There are also good stories about Guayaquil.

What do you think @TProphet?

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I’d suggest that if you’re attracted to Guayaquil, you visit and see for yourself before committing to a long term stay. After all, there is an airport there, you can fly in easily and Ecuador isn’t a big country. If it turns out Guayaquil isn’t to your liking, it’s easy to get on a bus and go somewhere else! :smile:

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Panama City is a banking hub. Not particularly cheap, hot and humid, but good prices for shopping since they have a good port and no value added tax. You can buy anything there. It’s relatively easy to get a residence permit in Panama, which is one key advantage. Internet service is fine.

Argentina: Not my favorite place. Internet service is OK in Buenos Aires, not great in many other parts of the country (total disaster in Ushuaia for example). Bureaucracy is thick, it’s a hassle to get a residence permit, and it’s basically a constant struggle with banking. You can’t easily get money in and out of the country due to exchange controls and high taxes on remittances and foreign bank wires. If you use an ATM you’re buying currency at a rate 30%-50% worse than the black market rate. Basically you end up dealing with a lot of overhead and as your reward, you’re in a place with high crime, where your money can lose 20% of its value in a week and consumer goods can suddenly become scarce. Overall I personally find Argentina a combination of annoying and depressing.

Chile: Beautiful and well run. They had a massive earthquake right after Haiti did, it was equally devastating and they just got to work and rebuilt. You’d barely know it happened now. Very civilized. Everything works. Great wine. You might think for a moment you’re in a better functioning version of Italy. Santiago does have relatively high crime. It’s a surprisingly expensive country, with–for the most part–costs higher than the US. This is why it’s not a very popular nomad destination. However, Startup Chile periodically offers a $40,000 no-strings-attached grant in a competition. So, if you enter and win this, it’s a no-brainer to go there.

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That is the best shot indeed.

I’m currently living in Boquete, Panamá. Been here just under a year. I don’t know if this would be considered a haven, but it ticks all the boxes for me. Low cost of living, decent internet speeds, 180 days on a tourist permit (at least for U.S. passports holders) and fantastic weather (never above 30, rarely below 15 degrees, lots of rain). Most of the expats who live here are retired so there aren’t a great deal of networking opportunities related to online work - there aren’t currently any meetups or anything like that. No co-working spaces.

I’ve lived in a small village in the north of Peru as well. That was a very pleasant experience, again with great weather and low cost of living. Internet speeds there and at the time were a bit lacking but perhaps that’s changed.

I’ve spent some time in Montevideo. The city itself is a bit drab (I was there in winter, perhaps summer is better?). Uruguay is probably worth some consideration if you’re thinking about being somewhere long term as their immigration/taxation policies are very favorable to people whose income is sourced from outside the country. Montevideo has inexpensive and fast internet, lots of networking opportunities - it’s surprisingly techie.

I like Lima. It has a pretty bad reputation but I found that Lima’s reputation was far different to my experience there. The city is generally very lively. Summers are beautiful, winters are grey and gloomy but not too cold. The costs are pretty low considering it is a major city.

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with great transportation, lots of open space and a very vibrant nightlife. The economy there has a history of instability so it can be difficult to gauge how much things cost.

Next stop for me is Tulum, Mexico. I’ll let you know how that goes :smile:

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SA/CA definitely has it perks. If you can get even basic Spanish, you’re opening a lot of doors for yourself.

I’ve got some timezone-sensitivty with my nomad life so South America has been my spot for the last 3 years (here for North American winters, NA for summer).

I’m in Quito right now. Great city. Cheap. My 1br/2ba AirBnb in the heart of town is $40/nt and even cheaper because I’m staying 2 weeks. I plan on checking out Cuenca, Montanita and Banos before I leave Ecuador, so I can give updates later on that.

Last year, I did Costa Rica & Colombia. @TProphet is absolutely right about Costa Rica. Same $$ of living as most places in anymore, more than some spots even.

Chile is good. Cost of living is a bit higher but it’s very, very stable. Great internet everyone. I found Santiago to be a bit boring, but Valpariso on the coast is one of the cooler places you’ll find.

Buenos Aires — yes, not the best internet. Definitely work-able though. But amazing, sprawling city. Lots to do. Lots to see. Beautiful people. Steak & wine for dinner. You NEED to bring American $$ down there for the exchange though, the black market is almost 2x the value. A little shady, but worth it no matter what.

Medellin — probably my top recommendation for any Nomad looking to get to SA. Beautiful, beautiful place right in teh mountains. The drive from the airport into the city alone is worth a trip down there. Yes, it has a violent past, and some problems, but there are nice neighborhoods that really don’t see that. You can always cab places and it’s super cheap. But the city is a renaissance, lots of nomads, coffee shops, juice bars, organic spots, etc… Absolutely recommended in my book.

Hope that helps!

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I’ll second (or third or fourth?) Medellin for you in SA. I’ve just come back from 6 months there and I’ve lived in Thailand twice, so have a pretty good base for comparison

Pros -

  • Amazing weather, especially if you come between June-Sept or Dec- March
  • Lots of coffee shops, with great internet speeds. Especially if you stay in the main bigger areas like poblado or laureles. I found the speeds in the cafes here even faster than back home in NYC/NJ.
  • A pretty sizable digital nomad scene. You can’t compare it to thailand or SEA, but they have several FB groups and meetups, and it’s growing more and more by the year
  • Prices are pretty good. You can get by here pretty easily on $1000 / month, for $1500 you can pretty much do whatever you want.
  • They don’t have scooters here, but the transportation options are good. Taxi’s are literally everywhere and pretty cheap, good metro station that takes you wherever you want (nice and clean), buses, etc.
  • The city itself is very clean, and especially in the richer areas everything is very modern. You forget sometimes you’re even in Colombia other than people speaking spanish.
  • If you’re a guy, then obviously the women here will be a factor for you.
  • Pretty fast internet overall in apartments, etc.

Cons

  • Spanish. If you don’t speak any spanish, things will be a bit harder. Unless all you do is stay in the main tourist area like Poblado - you’ll need at least some basic spanish to get around. There are many tourists in Medellin, but I wouldn’t call it a tourist “hub” like other places in CA/SA…so don’t expect menu’s to always have english translations, etc.
  • No beach. If you’re used to the beaches down in phuket, bali, etc…there’s no beaches for you in Medellin (but you do have mountains)

Honestly I’m having a hard time thinking of any other major cons to the place. If you’re looking for a good place to stay in SA that’s pretty stable, modern and on the upswing, learn some spanish, and not spend a ton (like say Brazil), then I think it’s a pretty good good option.

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+1 for Santiago, Chile. It is definitely a great city to live in. Fairly expensive though. To be honest, there’s no place like SEA for being a digital nomad. The prices vs. quality of life just make it so tempting!

Santiago has great internet, fabulous co-working spaces, and is a pretty cosmopolitan city. The local food isn’t all that great but because it’s a huge international city, there are decent foreign restaurants available.

I’ve spent more time in Latin America than Asia (largely because the time difference makes it easy to work with clients, plus my Spanish is better than my Thai). I’m in Buenos Aires right now and love it. Have also spent time in Mexico: Mexico City (not cheap) and San Miguel de Allende (awesome). Costa Rica is great but definitely not cheap as another poster mentioned. I loved Caye Caulker in Belize, the Bay Islands in Honduras, and everything outside of the capital in El Salvador, but can’t speak to the wifi situation. The Dominican Republic was ok for a little while, especially in the capital; wifi was challenging in some more rural spots. Hope this helps…

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@jessicasusan76 Thank you for ALL that! How was San Miguel de Allende to work from? I’ve know a few artists types to live there for a while and it’s long been on my financés radar for that reason. Just never been sure about cost of living and easy of working on wifi and cost of living.

I thought it was great. I had a place (thru Air Bnb) with wicked fast wifi. BUT I met someone who was in a place where the wifi didn’t reach her room (cement walls), and I also found it slow or non-existent every time I tried to work in a cafe. What’s your work?

@jessicasusan76 I am a web dev and I run a small web development agency http://9seeds.com

Side note for “wifi won’t reach” issues I’ve fallen in love with the HooToo Tripmate (battery powered wifi repeater). I talk about it here: http://wanderingjon.com/2014/06/11/finding-worklife-balance-remote-worker/

However… Chinese airport security confiscated the one I mention on that post for not having the battery capacity labeled on it (HooToo says they’ve since added that label). I replaced it with a newer smaller one HooToo TM-03 which I like just as much if not more. Blog posts about arguing with Chinese airport security and my new wifi repeater may be published someday…

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Thanks for that! I’ve heard good things about reach extenders and have definitely been in places where I could have used one!!!