How to Be a Digital Nomad in Europe

How to Be a Digital Nomad in Europe

Posted: 1/29/24 | January 29th, 2024

For many people, being able to work and travel is the dream. Logging on to your laptop from a new destination, spending your days off admiring the Wonders of the World, feasting on delicious cuisines. It should come as no surprise that there’s been a rise in remote work over the past few years (especially after COVID).

One of the best — and most popular — regions in the world to work remotely from is Europe.

Offering a diverse array of countries and cultures, incredible food, reliable infrastructure, and plenty of overnight trains and airport hubs that make it easy to get around, Europe is arguably the best region in the world to work remotely.

And with a growing number of countries offering visas specifically to remote workers and digital nomads, being a digital nomad in Europe has never been easier.

I’ve been a digital nomad for over 15 years and have spent countless months working and traveling around Europe. In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know about being a digital nomad in Europe.

 

The Benefits of Being a Digital Nomad in Europe

There are a lot of reasons why Europe is one of the most popular and sought-after destinations for digital nomads. Here are a few:

Variety – The major selling point for being a digital nomad in Europe is the variety. Depending on what list you use, there are between 40-50 countries in Europe. That means 40-50 different cuisines, languages, and landscapes. There are sunny beaches and rugged mountains, charming villages and lively cities. No matter what you’re looking for, you can find it in Europe.

Ease of Transportation – Between Flixbus and Ryanair, it’s possible to travel Europe for essentially pennies. There’s also a massive, interconnected rail system with both high-speed and overnight trains. And if you’re in the Schengen Area, there are no border controls so it’s super easy to travel between countries.

On a smaller scale, European cities have amazing public transportation that is fast, safe, and affordable. You don’t need a car here and can get pretty much anywhere using public transportation.

Location – You can reach Europe from the USA in as little as a five-hour flight. From here, you can fly directly to every continent. It’s a super convenient hub for those looking to travel long term with plans to visit other continents.

Climate – Europe has bustling beaches and snowy ski towns. You can see the Northern Lights up in Lapland or skip the winter entirely in the Greek Islands. It’s an amazing year-round destination offering tons of flexibility to digital nomads.

Language – English is widely spoken in much of Europe. While it’s always a good idea to try and learn as much of the local language as possible, being able to fall back on English when you’ve just arrived can be super helpful.
 

Things to Consider When Picking a Destination in Europe

Internet and Data Connectivity
If you’re working online, reliable Wi-Fi is vital. When booking accommodation, always check the reviews for comments about the Wi-Fi. If there is nothing mentioned, email the hotel/hostel/Airbnb and ask them for specific Wi-Fi speeds. There’s nothing worse than having slow internet when you’re trying to work!

Additionally, check to see if there are co-working space (or at least cafes) nearby so you can get out of the house, network, and see some of your destination instead of just working inside your accommodation all day.

Since you won’t be spending all day in the apartment and want to make the most of the digital nomad experience in Europe, it’s essential to have a reliable data plan to stay connected. This will allow you to safely explore places, check for local recommendations, make reservations, and use social media on the go.

The easiest and most modern way to stay connected is by acquiring an international eSIM card. It provides digital data access throughout your entire trip, eliminating the need for physical SIM cards. By using the Holafly eSIM for Europe, you’ll enjoy coverage in over 30 countries with unlimited data and a local number. With just one payment, you can seamlessly travel from one country to another without hassle. This solution will automatically save you time and money while reducing stress, thanks to their easy installation process.

Cost of Living
Europe has cities that run the gamut from super cheap to super expensive. There’s a world of difference between the cost of living in, say, Reykjavik, Iceland versus the cost of living in Krakow, Poland. That’s not to say you have to stick to cheap, affordable cities but rather that you need to budget accordingly. Maybe that means staying a few weeks in an expensive destination and then a few months in a cheaper one to balance things out.

Everyone’s budget is going to be different, but just make sure that you factor in the cost of living when planning where to go. Rent/accommodation, food, activities, and transportation all add up. Make sure you don’t go broke by researching costs before you arrive.

Community
Working remotely as a digital nomad offers a lot of freedom. But it can also be lonely. Make sure that the destinations you pick allow you to get out and meet people from time to time. Whether that’s at coworking space or using apps like Meetup.com or Couchsurfing’s Hangouts, it’s important to get away from the laptop regularly.

Moreover, if you’re running a business from your laptop then it’s important to also network with people in your industry in person. Make sure you pick a destination where that’s possible.

Activities
Finding a work/life balance is tricky. But it’s also vital. Burn out is common for people who travel full-time, and it’s also common for remote workers since there is no hard end to your day. To avoid burning the candle at both ends, make sure you schedule lots of time to sightsee and actually explore the destination you’re in. That means you want to visit destinations with lots of things to see and do. Walking tours, food tours, pub crawls, museums. Whatever you’re into, make sure the places you visit have things you actually want to see and do outside of work. It will make finding that work/life balance all the easier.

Transportation
Working from some remote island may sound relaxing, but if you have to buy an expensive flight each and every time you want to travel or go home to visit family, you’re going to break the bank sooner rather than later. When deciding where to go, consider how easy (and affordable) it is to get there. While Europe has plenty of trains and cheap airlines, some regions are more expensive to visit than others. Plan ahead so you can avoid blowing your budget on pricey flights or trains.
 

How to Stay Connected in Europe

The Internet in Europe is fast and readily available. Free Wi-Fi is available all around the continent, though having your own mobile data is a must. I visit Europe every year and I always make sure I have mobile data. It’s a must for using Google Maps, Google Translate, calling Ubers, and booking activities on the go.

And while Europe is super safe, having mobile data and the ability to make calls can be super helpful in an emergency.

The best way to access mobile data in Europe, as mentioned earlier, is through an international eSIM. It’s faster, more cost-effective, and easier to use than purchasing physical SIM cards. The installation and activation process is also very straightforward, and I’ll share the steps with you.

How to Get an International eSIM

  1. Go to Holafly and search for the Europe plan.
  2. Specify the number of days you’ll be staying. You have the flexibility to choose from 5 to 90 days (which is perfect for long trips as it will cost less than $1 per day).
  3. If you have questions, contact support. Their support is available 24/7, which is super helpful in case something occurs before or during your trip.

How to Install your eSIM

  1. First, verify that your phone has eSIM compatibility.
  2. Next, buy the eSIM you want (as outlined above).
  3. Once you place your order, you’ll get an email with a QR code. Scan that with your phone to finish the process. If there is an issue with the QR code setup, manual instructions are also emailed with your purchase.

A screenshot from the Holafly eSIM website

Be sure to activate your eSIM on your phone before your next adventure. You’ll have data as soon as you land, ready to fully explore the beauty of Europe.
 

The Best Digital Nomad Cities in Europe

While you can pretty much work from anywhere in Europe, owing to the prevalence of reliable internet, some cities are better than others. Here’s a list of the best destinations in Europe for digital nomads:

1. Berlin, Germany – Berlin has been Europe’s primary digital nomad and freelancer hub for years. It’s a super cool, progressive city that provides easy access to the rest of
Europe. It’s safe, has efficient transportation, and has tons of things to see and do. If you want to live in a big city, this is likely your best choice.

2. Lisbon, Portugal – I fell in love with Lisbon the moment I arrived. While it’s become more popular with tourists in recent years, it’s the perfect choice for digital nomads who want to stay in Europe during the winter but don’t want to embrace the continent’s colder climates. You’ll find marvelous food, music, dance, lots of co-working spaces, and tons of creatives and entrepreneurs. If you love Portugal but want to stay somewhere smaller, try Lagos instead.

3. Budapest, Hungary – Budapest is one of the most underrated cities in Europe. It’s super affordable, there’s lots of cool museums, the food is hearty and delicious, and the nightlife is unrivaled. The ruin bars here are some of the coolest bars in the world. There are also plenty of spas that are actually very affordable. You get a lot of value here.

4. Tallinn, Estonia – Tallinn is like a more affordable version of Prague. It’s just as beautiful but costs way less and is way less crowded. They are very tech friendly here (it has the most tech start-ups per capita in Europe) and have a visa specifically designed for remote workers. It’s just a short ride from Helsinki, Finland and Riga, Latvia too, offering access to some of Europe’s most overlooked capitals.

5. Tbilisi, Georgia – Georgia is an up-and-coming backpacker and digital nomad hub. It doesn’t get a lot of visitors, but the people who do visit love it (myself included). Tbilisi has a young vibe and English is widely spoken, and the cost of living is low too. The food here is amazing and cheap, and there are plenty of coworking spaces here so it’s super easy to network and meet people. It’s a very friendly, welcoming country.

These are just a few of the best digital nomad hubs in Europe. There are tons of other amazing destinations all around the continent that offer affordability, reliable infrastructure, community, and more!
 

12 Budget Tips for Europe

A scenic view over the historic walled area of a city in sunny Spain during a summer day
While every country (and region) around Europe will be different, here are a few budget tips to help you keep you from breaking the bank:

1. Picnic – Europe is brimming with small shops where you can buy pre-made sandwiches or ingredients to make your own. Instead of eating out, grab some food and picnic. There are tons of greenspace and plenty of parks in every major city where you can picnic. It’s something you’ll see the locals do whenever the weather is nice.

2. Eat cheap – If you do want to eat out, stick to sandwich shops, pizza, kebab stalls, and outdoor street vendors. These places are cheap no matter where you go. You can usually find cheap eats for as little as 2-5 EUR.

3. Stay with a local – Hostels/Hotels/Airbnbs add up quickly. If you’re on a budget, stay with a local via Couchsurfing. It’s a great way to connect with a local who can share their insider tips and advice.

4. Take the bus – If you’re traveling around the continent, use Flixbus. They have routes all around Europe with prices starting at just 5 EUR. It’s not fancy, but they can get you pretty much anywhere in Europe!

5. Get a Rail Pass – If you’re going to be bouncing around Europe, consider getting a Eurail Pass. If you are traveling far distances and through many countries, they can save you a fortune.

6. Take the free city tours – Free walking tours can be found in pretty much every major city in Europe. They’re the perfect way to see the main sights of a city while connecting with a local guide that can share their tips and suggestions.

7. Fly cheap – Wizz and Ryanair are two of the cheapest airlines in Europe. If you’re flexible and book early, you can find flights around Europe for as little as 10 EUR!

8. Pack light – Budget airlines charge extra for luggage. If you’re going to be flying around Europe during your trip, travel carry-on only. You’ll not only save money on luggage fees but you’ll save time since you won’t have to wait for your baggage when you arrive. You’ll avoid getting your bag lost too!

9. Hitchhike – If you’re an intrepid digital nomad, hitchhiking around Europe is definitely an option. In many countries, hitchhiking is perfectly safe. It might take you a while to find a ride, but if you’re patient and flexible it’s an amazing way to meet people as you travel. Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Romania are all countries where it’s easy (and common) to hitchhike. Check out Hitchwiki for more info.

10. Avoid popular cities in the summer – Summers in European cities are energetic and beautiful but they’re also crowded and expensive. If you’re here in the summer, avoid the big tourist hubs (London, Paris, Barcelona, etc.) and head to smaller cities. You’ll find things less crowded and less expensive.

11. Head east – Eastern Europe has everything you’ll find in Western Europe but for a fraction of the price. Poland, Albania and the Balkans, Romania, and Georgia all have everything you’ll need as a digital nomad and are much cheaper than countries in Western Europe.

12. Bring a water bottle – The tap water is safe to drink in most of Europe, so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
 

Do You Need a Visa to Visit Europe as a Digital Nomad?

While many tourists can visit Europe visa-free, if you’re going to be working during your stay, you need to apply for a visa in advance.

Often digital nomads will enter Europe on a tourist visa and then work without informing immigration. This is illegal and can lead to you being deported and banned from entering Europe in the future. For that reason, you’re going to want to apply for the proper visa if you’re going to be visiting Europe long-term and working as a digital nomad.

Fortunately, more and more countries are creating visas specifically for digital nomads and freelancers. Schengen countries that offer freelancer or remote worker visas include:

  • Croatia
  • Czechia
  • Estonia
  • Germany (the most popular destination)
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Malta
  • Portugal

You’ll need, among many other things, to prove that you have an income to get this visa. The exact amount varies between countries, but it’s at least 2,000 EUR per month (some destinations require you to have savings instead, upwards of 10,000 EUR).

There are also some non-Schengen countries that have visas. They include:

  • Georgia
  • Iceland
  • Romania

Most of these visas follow a similar format: apply, pay a fee, submit proof that your business can stay afloat, then wait to be accepted. However, some have more stringent requirements. You’ll need to check with each country’s embassy for complete details.

***

Europe is an amazing destination for digital nomads. I visit every year and never get tired of its charm. With incredible sights, stunning landscapes, and a massive variety of cuisines and cultures, it’s impossible to get bored here. Just make sure to plan ahead when it comes to staying connected.

By doing your research and getting an international eSIM, you can ensure you stay productive, keep in touch with friend and family back home, and have the tools you need to make the most out of your experience!

Get Your In-Depth Budget Guide to Europe!

Get Your In-Depth Budget Guide to Europe!

My detailed 200+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel while in Europe. It has suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips, and much more! Click here to learn more and get your copy today.

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Book Your Trip to Europe: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

For suggestions on where to stay during your trip, here is a list of my favorite hostels in Europe.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want More Information on Europe?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Europe for even more planning tips!

The post How to Be a Digital Nomad in Europe appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.


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