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When you think of the best places for digital nomads to live, you probably picture Bali, Vietnam, Mexico, maybe even Colombia. After all, many nomads rave about the low cost of living, friendly locals, good food, and good weather in these locations. But what if I told you there are more options, and some of them are a lot cheaper and safer!
Say hello to Eastern Europe. Comprised of Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Belarus, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Moldova, Eastern Europe offers many opportunities for low cost lifestyles, good food, and friendly locals. And if you are a nomad from the western world, Eastern Europe comes without the major culture shocks and language barriers you might experience in Asia or Latin America.
Most regions in Eastern Europe have a mild temperate climate with four seasons. The majority of locals, especially in urban centres speak English. There is a lively, youthful culture and very little crime. Still not convinced? Here are more amazing reasons for nomads to consider going to Eastern Europe:
Eastern European countries offer some of the cheapest and speediest internet rates in the world. And if you work remotely, internet is probably one of your most important necessities. Depending on the country, you can expect to spend around 20 USD per month. There are numerous internet providers creating stringent competition, resulting in good quality and low prices for consumers. With the emerging startup scene in many Eastern European countries, internet quality will continue to be great.
I hear of many people going to Asian countries to save money on their living expenses and I find it quite shocking when they reveal they spend 800-1,000 USD per month in rent! Sure, it’s a lot less expensive compared to living in a large North American city, but it is still a lot of money. Especially when you consider the low wages of the locals.
Asian cities are actually significantly more expensive than Eastern European ones. You can live very well in most Eastern European cities on 1,000 USD per month. But if you skip the capitals and go to smaller cities, you can live comfortably on 500 USD per month! That includes rent, utilities, food, and entertainment. You still get the benefit of city life, but you also enjoy the safety of living in a good neighbourhood with little noise or traffic.
You can also save money on food by cooking at home. Those of you who are coming from North America will find that almost everywhere in the world food is a lot less expensive, including in Western Europe. But in Eastern Europe food is even cheaper that in Western Europe. If you shop at local farmers’ markets and buy directly from small producers, you can get by on less than 100 USD per month! Food at the grocery stores will be more expensive, and dining out will cost almost the same as in Central and Western Europe. So do check out the farmers’ markets and eat what is in season.
While the cost of living is low, transportation may be even lower. As most Eastern European cities are old, they were not built with cars in mind (unlike North America). Most streets are compact and all the necessities are within waling distance. It’s actually a major nuisance to own a vehicle, and you don’t really need a one; unless you choose to live in a rural area. But even the rural areas are likely to be serviced by train or some sort of bus/ minibus. Not needing a car will further contribute to lowering your cost of living.
If you ever need to take the public transit, prices will be very affordable. And since most people rely on public transit, you don’t need to wait too long for the next bus, tram, or metro to arrive. Taking a taxi is also affordable (even by the local salaries). There are many taxi companies, including luxury/ limousine services. But I’d recommend you avoid those ones.
And if you’re looking to travel, there are plenty of international airports so you can easily visit other countries. In addition, it is quick and inexpensive to fly to other European countries. There are also discount flights to some Asian and African countries, so you have plenty of vacation options. And if you don’t like flying (I personally hate it), there are many trains you could take both nationally and internationally.
In my opinion, one of the most important elements of a good standard of living is health. In Eastern European countries healthcare is quite inexpensive, and there are many private clinics you can visit where the staff speak English. You can get a consultation and blood test done for as low as 50 USD (and that’s without insurance!). However, I would still recommend you travel with an international health insurance at all times. Just in case.
Housing options are quite good. As many Eastern Europeans move to western countries in search for higher incomes, there are plenty of apartments to rent. Most of them have been newly renovated and have all the necessities you need. However, be aware they are located in old buildings, many of them built during communist times. Please don’t expect to find swimming pools or gyms in those buildings. And for a low rent, you can find an apartment in a prestigious neighbourhood with plenty of parks, museums, and cafés close by. On that note, there are also many little (and some large) grocery stores scattered around cities and towns, so you don’t need to travel too much to get your necessities. There are also plenty of pharmacies, most of them open 24 hours. And if it’s too late to see a doctor, and you are very unwell, the pharmacist can consult you and write you a prescription. In addition there are plenty of farmers’ markets open everyday from morning until night, where you can get inexpensive and delicious, produce.
Another important element to consider is the work-life balance. Eastern Europeans, although hard working, have less of a hustle culture compared to the western world. People take breaks, talk to each other, and outside of work they enjoy their time off. If you work from home you may not be impacted too much by this difference in work culture while you are working. However, you will see it when you’re out in town. People are less rushed, more relaxed, and they constantly stop to chat with the friends and acquaintances they run into. Regardless of the time of the day or day of the week, you will always see people out and about.
Eastern European nature is wild and mostly unspoilt, and Eastern Europeans love to take advantage of that. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails to enjoy. Many people will go on picnics or eat at outdoors restaurants in the parks. Most Eastern European countries have very diverse geographies despite being quite small in size. Therefore don’t have to travel too long to get to the beach or the mountains. You could travel and see/ experience something new every weekend.
Eastern European countries are very safe. There have been no major terrorist incidents, mass shootings, or assaults. There is little petty crime and burglaries, and little to no homelessness.
Food is very safe. Eastern European countries have adapted the use of pesticides and herbicides only recently. In fact, they are mostly used on produce for sale at grocery stores. If you buy from small producers at the farmers’ markets, almost everything is organic (and very inexpensive as mentioned above). That might be one of the reasons why Eastern Europeans have lower rates of illnesses such as obesity, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.
Despite what you may have heard, tap water is safe for drinking in Eastern Europe. I did it for many years without any health issues. So does everyone else. If you’re hiking and come across a spring, fill your bottle as it’s safe for drinking. Some spring water is even naturally carbonated.
If you’re worried about language barriers, don’t be. Most people in Eastern European countries speak a good level of English. This is especially true in urban areas. Even the old taxi drivers speak some English and will be able to help you. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, most Eastern European counties grasp the language at a high level. In general, I find that people are taking steps towards learning English either through apps or free lessons offered by volunteers.
You probably weren’t expecting this one but it’s true. Eastern European countries have been influenced by Greek, Russian, Byzantine, Eastern Orthodox, and Ottoman cultures. As a result of all these influences and multiple centuries of history, Eastern European countries feature a large variety of architecture, cuisine, and traditions.
Speaking of culture, you will find little culture shock in Eastern Europe if you come from the western world. You won’t have too many (if any) difficulties integrating into an Easter European society. This is due to the fact that Eastern Europeans consume all forms of entertainment (movies, shows, music) and news from western countries. They purchase the same/ similar clothes from the same/ similar brand name stores.
And as an added bonus, since most of the Eastern European countries used to be communist (where everyone is equal), you may even observe less sexism than in the west.
This heavily depends on how sociable you are, but in general it is quite easy to make friends in Eastern Europe. Most Eastern Europeans are very curious and sociable, and will gladly bring you into their social circle. Eastern European countries are more community-oriented than individual-oriented cultures. This means if you ever need help, people will gladly assist you.
Eastern Europeans hold a high regard for other cultures, particularly western cultures. So if you’re coming from a western country, you can expect lots of questions (because Eastern Europeans are so curious), but also a lot of admiration. Sadly, most Eastern Europeans don’t feel so positively about their countries. As a result, you can expect some confusion as to why you’d choose to live there.
If you are looking to party, Eastern Europe is the place for you. I previously mentioned that Eastern Europeans are very sociable. They also like to party frequently. There are nightclubs everywhere. Even the smallest villages will have some kind of bar/ club where the locals get together, drink, and dance.
And if you are not a party animal, there are plenty of restaurants and bars open until very late. There are frequent concerts and festivals year round. If you’re not used to being outside at night, don’t worry. You’re safe! In Eastern Europe, there are always be people out at night, especially in the summer time. Sometimes people will just meet for a midnight game of badminton (because days are too hot during summer), or to sit and talk. So even if you don’t like partying or nightclubs, you too can enjoy the night life.