The Digital Nomad life has really taken off in recent years. The COVID pandemic has shown people and companies alike that the days of old in an office are no longer necessary to get things done. The world is your office now and it awaits you. I’ve taken full advantage of this trend and have lived and worked in many different places since then.
For the purpose of this post, I will be focusing on the best places for digital nomads in Africa. I’ve written already about my favorite digital nomad hotspots in the world for 2022 so if you want choices outside of Africa, make sure to give that a read.
I haven’t done the digital nomad thing in all of these destinations but I have visited them all. Each of these cities are some of my all time favorite places to travel and for the ones that I have not worked from, I think they would all work incredibly well for the long term lifestyle. As a digital nomad, most of us want to visit beautiful, exotic, and cheap places so I’ve taken all of this into account for this list as well!
What makes a good city for digital nomads?
There are certain attributes that make a city suitable for a digital nomad. Essentially, it should offer a healthy work-life balance while offering plenty of excitement during your stay. Here are the main attributes that make a city an attractive option for digital nomads:
Cost of living & accommodation
A solid mix of housing or accommodation options as well as a low cost of living is one of the most important factors for digital nomads looking to spend time in a city. The availability of flexible short-term rentals is a big plus-point for any city as it presents more accommodations for those looking to adopt a digital nomad lifestyle.
Internet speed & infrastructure
Internet speed and infrastructure is probably the most important thing a digital nomad looks for. What makes it important is that it is entirely out of your control. Thankfully, most big cities have great wireless infrastructure in the modern times. I love traveling to places to discover that the internet and mobile connection is magnitudes better than “developed nations” and substantially cheaper.
Even if WIFI connections are bad, mobile 4G networks have become strong enough where hotspotting is also an option. This was an absolute must in Zanzibar where the WIFI was god awful.
From medical centers and tourist information hubs to parks, beaches, pubs, restaurants, cultural landmarks, and beyond, a city’s sights as well as its amenities are vital to its status as a digital nomad-friendly city (these are the things that make a city worth visiting, after all).
Digital nomads are independent but social creatures. The fact that you want to leave your home and just travel to unknown destinations speaks to your personality. However, we are all human and crave human interaction to some degree. Therefore, the community of the city is important as it will dictate how easy it is to make new friends.
Most digital nomad places nowadays have large groups and meetups that make it very easy to meet like minded individuals. This is not just for socializing either as a strong community means you can network and create ideas easier than ever before.
For the modern remote worker, your location is everything. One of the most important things to consider is your time zone. Are you working a job that is tied to US hours? Then living in Bali, Indonesia might be tough because you will be 12-13 hours ahead of the US east coast.
This means you will be burning the midnight oil which is fine if that’s what you’re into (and many of the coworking spaces in Bali are open 24/7) but this gets quite taxing after awhile. Your social life and ability to meet people might suffer as most people will enjoy the day time hours.
If your job is not time zone sensitive, aka you work for yourself or you work a job without many meetings at certain times, then the world is your oyster!
Your ability to enter a country and stay in that country for the amount of time you want is incredibly important to consider. Most countries on my list have easy visa requirements. Either they issue visas on arrival or there are no visa requirements at all. There’s nothing more annoying than applying for a visa beforehand.
The next thing to consider is the length of the visa. Most countries I’ve been to issue visas that are 90 days and below. Some countries will allow you to extend this for a fee while other countries will allow you to just leave and re-enter (also called a visa run). Other countries like Georgia issue you a visa for a year. Personally, 90 days are a decent amount of time for me to spend somewhere as I like to move around mix it up. However, if you value a slower pace of life, you’ll want to dig into the extended visa options of that country (if any).
Because of COVID, many countries around the world have acknowledged the digital nomad revolution and are making it easier for digital nomads to obtain longer stay visas. Many countries around the EU are issuing digital nomad visas which will allow you to stay beyond the 90 day limit currently imposed. However, the requirements for many of these visas might be out of reach for many.
For example, the Greece digital nomad visa requires you to show proof of earning at least 3,000 Euros a month which might be higher than many people.
Beach vs City?
Another very important criteria you should consider is whether you want a beach destination or a city. Many people have a fantasy of working from the beach with views of the ocean while sipping coconuts. This is definitely one of my favorite things to do so I am certainly not against it.
However, if you’re planning to stay many months or even a year in such a place, you might get bored after awhile. I’m not saying after a month, but potentially after 3 months you’ll crave city life and may be hard pressed to find it.
There are a few gems of digital nomad locations like Bali that perfectly blend both of these two things together.
Tax implications for digital nomads
If you’re planning to be a digital nomad, it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with the tax implications of such a remote working arrangement with your country of origin and your destination country.
As I am American, I must report worldwide income no matter where I earn it. This responsibility usually doesn’t apply to those in most other countries.
Some countries will require you to report taxable income if you’re a digital nomad but most countries will waive this responsibility if you are staying for under 6 months. Many other countries have also issued digital nomad visas where you will not have to worry about the tax implications. Make sure to research this ahead of time so you don’t get surprised!
Americans and the FEIE deduction
If you’re American and planning to work remotely around the world, consider yourself lucky as you are eligible for the FEIE deduction. This deduction essentially states that you can deduct up to $112k a year (this value is as of 2022 and will increase every year depending on inflation) from your taxes meaning if you make under $112k a year, you will pay $0 in taxes to the IRS.
Better still, if you are working a conventional salaried job in the US but are able to freely travel and work around the world, you can use this deduction to get a lot of money back. This is because a conventional salaried job means your taxes are automatically withheld with each paycheck. With this deduction, you essentially get back all those taxes you’ve paid throughout the year.
I go into great detail in my post about the FEIE deduction if you also want to save money (hint: just move abroad).
East Africa is not a cheap area of the world
Before I list out my favorite digital nomad spots in Africa, you should know that Africa is not a cheap destination. Africa is in fact, one of the most expensive parts of the world to travel. You might be thinking how is that possible considering how low the gdp per capita is of many of these countries.
That’s because East Africa’s infrastructure is much less developed than other parts of the world. If you are looking for “Western” style amenities and accommodations, you are paying up because there simply aren’t that many of these available compared to other countries.
South Africa is of course an exception and most of Northern Africa as well. East Africa, while beautiful, is one of the most expensive places to travel as a tourist and consequently, not a cheap place for digital nomads.
Dahab became a very popular destination for digital nomads during the Pandemic. As many other countries closed their borders, Egypt still made it relatively easy for people to visit without excessive quarantine measures.
I’ve been to Dahab numerous times for scuba diving and it’s one of my favorite places in the world. Located right on the Sinai peninsula, Dahab is located seaside to the beautiful Red Sea. The diving here is wonderful and incredibly cheap. The landscapes and natural beauty of the Sinai peninsula is something you must see to believe.
As for digital nomads, Dahab is fantastic as it ticks off everything someone could ask for. There are an abundance of cafes and shops for you to get work done as well as plenty of amazing restaurants in town. The cost of living is very cheap in Dahab so you can keep to a tight budget easily. There are also more and more digital nomads coming into Dahab every month making the community more vibrant than ever.
Let’s not forget that you can easily grab a tank at one of the many dive shops in town so you can dive whenever you want. If diving isn’t your thing, the lagoon nearby is perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing. If you need a break from Dahab, you can always take a quick flight to Cairo. Even better, you can take a bus into Israel or Jordan where you can visit the beautiful sights of Petra.
Dahab, Egypt Facts
- Avg. Cost of Living Per Month: $1,000-1,300
- Internet Speed: 50 mbps
- Visa Length + Price: $25 for a tourist visa
- Highlights: Beautiful landscapes, amazing diving, cheap COL
- Downsides: Dahab is a bit small so you might get bored after a few months without a big city vibe.
- Rating: 4.4/5
Morocco has always been a tourist favorite in Northern Africa. It’s one of the more welcoming countries for tourism in the region and offers a variety of incredible sights. I’ve been to Morocco twice: once as a visit to Marrakesh and another to go kitesurfing in Dakhla.
There are many other cities worth a visit in Morocco but I think Marrakesh offers the most from a digital nomad point of view. I think there is a fine blend between old and new ensuring there is always something interesting to discover as a digital nomad. While you might be tempted to live around the Medina (old town), the most popular residential neighborhoods in Marrakesh are La Palmeraie, Targa, Guéliz and Hivernage, as well as the northern and northeastern peripheries.
Morocco is a Muslim country and you will hear the prayers of the Mosque five times a day but I never thought Morocco to be overly strict with its rules. Alcohol is readily available at most cafes and bars in the city.
I spent many months living and traveling through Zanzibar. I even wrote a blog post about the cost of living in Zanzibar which detailed my costs during my time there. Zanzibar is through and through a beach style Digital Nomad destination. You’re coming here to immerse yourself in some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Zanzibar does not have any city structure you would see in places like Nairobi or Kigali but you are greeted with the bluest waters and the whitest sand beaches. You really need to be a beach bum to fully enjoy Zanzibar. Stone Town is as close as it gets to a city in Zanzibar so many nomads base themselves in this city and take day trips to beaches nearby. Alternatively, you can stay in the popular area of Paje or Nungwi if you want to be next to the beaches. There are plenty of cafes and beach shack restaurants here to keep you occupied but you might get lonely if you don’t have a good community already.
Zanzibar is not cheap as it’s purely meant for tourists. There is not much infrastructure on the beaches for long term minded people as most lodging is geared towards vacationers. The stuff that is available is generally mediocre so you can’t expect to live as good as in places like Bali or Koh Phangan, Thailand.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is in my opinion the most naturally beautiful city in the world and yes those are fighting words. I lived in Johannesburg for a few years and visited Cape Town every month because I was just so in love with it.
Cape Town is the ultimate southern hemisphere digital nomad destination. It’s located in the same time zone as central Europe making it perfect for European nomads, and it is warm for the European winter months.
In addition to being so naturally beautiful, Cape Town is chalk full of amazing cafes, restaurants, bars, co-working spaces, gyms, and the like. Cape Town was a hidden gym for many years but nowadays, the secret is (mostly) out, and many others have discovered that Cape Town offers everything you need for a discount.
Cape Town and South Africa get a bad reputation for being a dangerous place. I’m not saying that there are not dangerous areas in South Africa, but it is largely overblown if you just stick to the central areas.
Cape Town is without a doubt my top choice of digital nomad locations in Africa and it’s not really that close. In fact, I would say Cape Town is one of my top destinations in the world without hesitation.
Cape Town, South Africa Facts
- Cost of Living Per Month (1 person): $1,500 – $2,000
- WIFI/Mobile: 7/10
- Visa Length + Price: 90 day visitor visa, Visa runs are possible
- Highlights: Most naturally beautiful city in the world, great infrastructure and facilities, vibrant nightlife and dining scene, close to the most beautiful wine country
- Downsides: Safety can be an issue but it’s not that bad, extreme income disparity (probably the worst in the world)
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya has quickly turned into one of the more cosmopolitan cities in Africa. In recent years, there’s been huge changes to the city. Once known as a stopover before a safari to the Masai Mara, Nairobi is becoming a city that you should spend more than a night in.
The best place to stay for digital nomads is the Westlands area which is modern filled with plenty of hipster cafes, trendy restaurants, coworking spaces, and fitness centers. Like the rest of Africa, Nairobi is not cheap however so you will need to look diligently for an apartment that doesn’t break the bank.
WIFI is readily available everywhere in Nairobi and speeds are fast.
Cairo is the biggest city in Egypt and its most vibrant. The Digital Nomad community in Egypt is not as big as other cities but it is steadily growing. An abundance of world class restaurants, cafes, and a great tech community has seen many digital nomads take their business to the Egyptian capital.
I very much enjoyed my time in Cairo when I visited many years back. Although I was only here as a tourist, I loved the energy, food, and history. While I’m sure a long term digital nomad won’t care about visiting the pyramids, the fact that its next door always available is amazing. I’ve seen the Pyramids twice and it never ceases to amaze me how something like that could have been built 5000 years ago.
The hottest neighborhoods for digital nomads is definitely the expat community in Zamalek. You’ll find all the trendy hotels, cafes, restaurants, and nightlife in this neighborhood. It’s also one of the priciest neighborhoods in the city but as with the rest of Cairo, the city is not that expensive.
Keep in mind the Wifi in and around Cairo is not great. I always made sure I had plenty of data on my phone to hotspot which thankfully was very cheap.
Rwanda is famous for its gorillas more than anything else. This beautiful country is small but packs a punch with some of the most stunning landscapes Africa has to offer. Kigali itself has come a long ways in the past few decades having recovered very strong from the genocide of the 1990s. Kigali is quickly becoming the Singapore of Africa with a fast modernizing city with plenty of restaurants, bars, and a vibrant expat community.
As with most African capitals, the city is hectic and full of people but it’s probably the most organized city in Africa I’ve seen outside of South Africa. It’s also one of the cleanest African capitals I’ve seen which goes to show just how much work has been done in recent years.
The world is your oyster
Hopefully this list will inspire you to take your digital nomad adventures to the next level! If you have other destinations great for digital nomads, please comment accordingly!
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