By: Nick Callos
How can you afford to travel the world full-time?
If you’re already an experienced digital nomad, you’ve undoubtedly heard that question before from family and friends. If you’re new to the game, expect to hear it later.
So, how do digital nomads do it? Isn’t globetrotting for retired folks?
The fact is this: Savvy digital nomads understand the goal is to stay on the road. After all, there’s more food to eat, people to meet, scenery to see, and culture to experience. To ensure they don’t have to pack their bags and go home, they budget wisely and maintain positive cash flow through their business or job, whether that be travel writing or web design.
That brings us to the biggest expense for most digital nomads: Housing!
As data from Trivago shows, average hotel prices well exceed $100 per night in many destinations, such as Vancouver, Paris, and Tokyo. How do digital nomads pay for this?
The answer is by not paying average hotel rates!
In this digital nomad housing guide, we’ll explain how it’s done…
Digital Nomad Housing Options
Yes, I’ve slept in a train station when I had an early morning departure. It saved me precious cash.
But trust me: You don’t want to make a habit of sleeping in a train station. It only makes sense if you’re in transit and have less than 10 hours of downtime.
As a digital nomad, you must ensure you have reliable housing every day. It can take some effort, especially since you move more frequently than the average individual. Fortunately, digital nomad housing options abound. You can find places in any destination in minutes. The tricky part is finding the right place.
The “right place” depends on your preferences and budget. The good news is there’s something for everyone.
Below, we’ll highlight all the types of digital nomad housing. We’ll also provide four to five websites and companies where you can look for that sort of housing.
Short-Term Apartment and Villa Rentals for Digital Nomads
Why are short-term rentals a good choice for digital nomads?
Nearly one-third of vacation property owners choose to lease their homes as short-term rentals, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.
What does that mean for digital nomads?
Why you should choose a short-term rental
If you plan to stay in a destination for a few months or longer, a short-term rental makes sense. In some cases, prices can get almost as low as they would be for a year-long lease. On a per-night basis, that reduces your housing expenses tremendously.
Where to look for short-term rentals
- Airbnb (many hosts offer discounts for monthly stays)
- Local real estate agencies (like Perfect Homes if you’re staying in Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Vacation Rentals for Digital Nomads
Why are vacation rentals a good choice for digital nomads?
Landlords and property owners around the globe have increasingly marketed their homes as vacation rentals. As real estate experts at BiggerPockets state, vacation rentals offer great investment returns.
Because of this, digital nomads looking for housing will have no trouble finding a suitable vacation rental. Of course, you’ll want to book ahead to get the place you need at the right price.
Why you should choose a vacation rental
If you plan to stay in a location for under one month, a vacation rental may make the most sense. They’re usually more affordable than a hotel. And you can cook at home with local ingredients. That’s fun and saves you money!
Where to look for short-term rentals
Month-to-Month Apartments for Digital Nomads
Why are month-to-month apartments a good choice for digital nomads?
Month-to-month apartments have leases that are renewed each month. Landlords that offer month-to-month contracts do so because of the flexibility it provides over a fixed-term lease. Tenants seek such arrangements for flexibility too.
But beware! As a guide written by Zumper notes, prices and terms can change each month. Communicate with the landlord in advance to see if they’ll be rent increases or anything will change from month to month. You have to give notice before ending the contract, so ask how long in advance before signing (it varies with landlords and jurisdictions).
Why you should choose a month-to-month apartment
If you plan to stay in a destination at least one month but don’t know how long, a month-to-month apartment gives you flexibility. You can add an extra month or two, and leave once the road calls you again.
Where to look for month-to-month apartments
- HousingAnywhere (good selection for European cities)
- Apartments.com (good for U.S. cities)
- Local real estate agencies (like Bali Realty if you’re staying in Bali)
- Facebook Marketplace (makes it easy to quickly communicate with homeowners)
Co-living for Digital Nomads
Why is co-living a good choice for digital nomads?
As an article in Forbes details, millennials have inspired a co-living boom. All over the world, you can find communities of digital nomads living together. Co-living involves sharing living spaces and resources within a property. Imagine a college dormitory—but a much more creative environment and much cleaner bathrooms and kitchens.
So, why should you give up some privacy and go for a co-living space?
First, co-living makes life in world-class cities like New York City more affordable. Second, most co-living spaces are quite nice, giving you a creative work environment and the chance for quality fun and relaxation. Additionally, co-living enables you to meet people from around the world and form lifelong friendships and relationships. You’ll be a part of a community and build your network. That can benefit you professionally and personally!
Why you should choose a co-living space
If you plan to stay in a destination for at least a few weeks and want to meet people and save money, a co-living space is a great idea. You have to give up some privacy, as many co-living spaces have shared bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and recreational areas. If you want a little more privacy, search for a co-living space that has private bedrooms and bathrooms for residents.
Where to look for co-living spaces
- Outsite (locations include San Francisco, Davos, Lisbon, and others)
- WiFi Tribe (a subscription-based travel group for remote workers)
- Selina (locations include Panama, Greece, Brazil, and others)
Extended-Stay Hotels for Digital Nomads
Why are extended-stay hotels a good choice for digital nomads?
When extended-stay hotels have average occupancy rates of 77%, it’s clear they’ve become a popular form of travel housing. With people becoming increasingly nomadic, extended-stay hotels will become even more popular.
Extended-stay hotels are popular for digital nomads because of how much easier it makes traveling. You can enjoy everything from room cleanings and laundry services to free breakfasts and coffee. You may get access to a workout facility and pool. And you won’t have to fix a broken toilet! How great is that?
Why you should choose an extended-stay hotel
If you plan to stay anywhere from a week to a month, and want privacy, convenience, and a bit of luxury, search for extended-stay hotels in your destination. You’ll pay more for hotels than other forms of digital nomad housing, but it may be worth it for you.
Where to look for extended-stay hotels
Extended-Stay Hostels for Digital Nomads
Why are extended-stay hostels a good choice for digital nomads?
87% of hostel-goers believe travel is a very important part of their lifestyle, according to an industry survey. Without a doubt, hostels attract those who love traveling indefinitely, like yourself!
It’s actually quite clear: Hostels are affordable, well-located, convenient, and experience-driven.
Why you should choose an extended-stay hostel
If you plan to stay anywhere from a week to a month, and want low-cost accommodation with ample amenities, easy access to the city, and a social atmosphere, search for extended-stay hostels in your destination. You may have to sacrifice some privacy, but the other benefits can outweigh that.
Where to look for extended-stay hostels
House Sitting for Digital Nomads (or being a guest)
Why is house sitting or being a guest a good choice for digital nomads?
You can live like a local—for free. Well, you’ll have to pay for food and entertainment, but you won’t have rent due at the end of the month.
There are also a variety of ways house sitting can work for digital nomads. You can do the traditional house sitting thing, swap homes with a fellow traveler, and even sleep on the couch while the owner is home. If you do a house-sit, note most sites require you to apply for membership and make a profile.
Why you should choose a house sitting experience
If you plan to stay a night, week, or even more than a month, and need cheap lodging and want to live like a local, house sitting works. If you want to meet locals and learn about the local culture, being a guest in a home is a wonderful option. Just do your research and vet owners before booking.
Where to look for house sitting and guest experiences
- MindMyHouse (house-sits around the globe)
- HouseCarers (house-sits mainly in Europe, North America, and Australasia)
- HomeExchange (swap homes with folks from around the world)
- Couchsurfing (meet and stay with locals)
(Bonus: Check out Billy and Akaisha’s story about haunted house sitting in Antigua!)
What to Look for in Digital Nomad Accommodations
First, look in the right place. Search on reliable, quality websites that you know and trust. Though sites like Airbnb and Vrbo do take their cut, they ensure payments are processed smoothly and any misunderstandings are addressed efficiently. You can also examine a property to see if it meets your needs and standards.
If you’re on a site you’re not familiar with, read reviews on sites like TrustPilot and Tripadvisor. If you don’t know where to find good digital nomad housing, ask friends that have visited the destination. Travel groups on Facebook and Subreddits for your destination can also answer questions you have about housing.
The lesson is simple. When looking for housing, do the following:
- Search on reputable platforms like FlipKey.
- Use your network and leverage the power of social media.
Communication is a valuable tool here. If you’re planning on staying a few weeks or longer, actively communicate with the owners. This will help you see which host and place are best. Additionally, join digital nomad groups like ours at Frayed Passport and Nomad List. Other digital nomads may have recommendations you haven’t seen or considered.
Furthermore, since you work remotely, you have to make certain your lodging provides the resources you need. That mainly means good WiFi! But it could also mean having the right aesthetics and layout.
Again, read reviews, look at pictures, and contact the owner. Whether you’re an artist or a software engineer, you need an atmosphere that’s conducive to work. Take time to inspect the place. You can even ask the host to run an internet speed test! Also, most websites have solid search filters so you can quickly find places that have the amenities you need, such as a workspace, washer/dryer, fully-equipped kitchen, television, balcony, and air conditioning.
If you plan to stay longer, you may want to do more than read reviews and message the owner. It may be wise to book a hotel first and then physically tour a few apartments to see if they’re a good fit.
Lastly, location matters. Do you want to be close to shops, cafes, restaurants, and cultural sites? If so, search accordingly. Read neighborhood guides of the city to figure out where to live.
Tips for a successful stay as a digital nomad
Before you head off to one of the world’s best digital nomad cities, organize any necessary documents. You’ll need your passport, of course. Depending on your citizenship and the rules of the destination country, you may need a visa. And if you plan to rent a month or longer, you may need:
- Money to pay a deposit and/or a month or two of rent
- Proof of income or funds
- Landlord references
So that you clear on expectations, communicate with the owner before booking. You want to ensure their home satisfies your needs and that you can comply with any rules they have. You also want to make certain the landlord is reasonable. You don’t want to get stuck with a strict landlord who unfairly causes you trouble.
Know that longer stays are almost always cheaper on a per night basis. If you plan to stay awhile, see if the owner is open to a long-term deal. In my experience, if a home costs $60 per night, you can probably get the place for at least as low as $1,440 per month (which is a 20% discount). Some owners offer more of a monthly discount than others. Negotiate if possible!
Furthermore, flexibility is key—both from you and the owner. Communicate beforehand if your length of stay is not set in stone. You can do a month-to-month contract or something similar with the landlord. That way, if you need to cut your stay short, you can do so without losing money. And if you need to stay longer, all you have to do is renew the monthly agreement.
If you do run into a situation where you’d like to stay longer but have to leave the property, don’t panic. Your best option is to simply book a hostel for a few nights and look for a short-term rental (or stay in the hostel). As long as you’re flexible and budget effectively, you should have no problem finding quality housing for the duration of your stay.
To protect yourself from financial losses and other issues, purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance providers like Allianz and World Nomads cover trip interruption. For instance, if you have to return home to deal with a personal emergency, trip interruption coverage will reimburse you (even if your landlord won’t refund you). If your trip gets postponed due to a natural disaster in your departure or arrival city, trip cancellation or trip delay coverage will reimburse you as well.
Finally, learn some of the local language. For example, knowing Spanish as you look for housing in Chile can prevent misunderstandings, especially when it comes to things like price and duration of stay. Knowing some of the local language will also make your stay easier and more enjoyable. You’ll be able to better connect with locals!
Your Thoughts on Digital Nomad Housing?
That concludes our digital nomad housing guide. As you can see, you have a lot of accommodation options. Budget properly and continue to earn income through your remote job, and you’ll always have the lodging you desire.
Have any other tips for digital nomad housing? Join our community and start the conversation!
About the Author
Nick Callos has always had a passion for reading, writing, and discovering the new and unknown. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Nick holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Boston College. He currently splits his time between his hometown, Chengdu, China, and the open road. A full-time travel writer, Nick hopes his work can inspire others to explore the world more deeply and enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle.