Our 5 Favourite Countries & Cities for Vegan Digital Nomads Travelling on a Budget in Southeast AsiaGet work done and enjoy life after hours in these digital nomad hotspots
The digital nomad dream
When you think about freedom and happiness, what do you imagine?
If you’re anything like us, one of the clearest images of just that is a beautiful beach with swaying palm trees and fresh coconuts.
Add some fast wifi and you’ve got a dream digital nomad destination.
Southeast Asia is fantastic for people who want to get work done while living a very comfortable life on a shoestring.
If you have earned your money in a Western economy, your dollars or euros simply take you farther here.
The food is also seriously amazing (whether you’re vegan or not).
In this article, we will share with you our 5 favourite spots in Southeast Asia for vegan digital nomads travelling on a budget – who want to get work done and enjoy life after hours.
Table of contents
Here are the main criteria we have used to rank these places:
- Cheap, comfortable accommodation
- Reliable wifi
- Great vegan food options
- Nice weather
- Closeness to a beach
- Easiness of obtaining long-term visa
- International connections
- Interesting stuff to see and do
Bali is where many people ”turn into” digital nomads and for good reason.
Canggu is jampacked with delicious vegan options, cheap accommodation, coworking spaces… And you have the beach just a short walk or scooter ride away – famous for great surfing.
Batu Bolong, Berawa and Echo Beach (all just the same long beach, really) aren’t Bali’s most beautiful beaches, but the sunsets are epic.
Ubud is located further from the ocean but it’s generally a bit cooler and you’re much closer to the beautiful rice fields and waterfalls. Ubud is particularly popular with a more spiritually oriented ”yoga crowd”, and the options for raw food are world-class.
There are lots of other places to stay in Bali where you can have a great time as a digital nomad depending on your interests. Consider Uluwatu and Amed as well.
Lombok, Java & Sumatra
With thousands of inhabited islands, Bali is far from the only option for a great place to hang out in Indonesia.
Nearby Lombok (and the area around Kuta in the south) is on the rise.
We haven’t been to Java, but the volcanoes and waterfalls there look otherworldly. From what we can tell, the big cities are incredible congested (especially Jakarta), but you might be able to find a great spot.
We loved our time on North Sumatra.
Living as a digital nomad on Samosir Island in Lake Toba is a very attractive option if you need some peace and quiet.
The gateway to North Sumatra is Medan, which is a big, modern city. We only passed through but accommodation should be cheap.
The visa situation in Indonesia isn’t optimal for most people, but if you do some research it’s definitely possible to stay legally for months on end in this wonderful country.
Malaysia doesn’t have the same interesting old history and culture as some of the other countries on this list, but it easily makes up for that by being super cheap, having great infrastructure and still offering many of the best sides of Southeast Asia.
South Indian restaurants are everywhere, and if you haven’t tried eating masala dosa yet… Let’s just say you might want to stay in Malaysia for that reason alone.
Kuala Lumpur is where you’ll first arrive and it’s a very convenient place as great food is everywhere, internet is supercharged and you can stay in a flat that would cost thousands in the west for a fraction of that.
The airport is also connected to the rest of the world and there are cheap flights to the rest of Asia with AirAsia.
Penang and Langkawi
George Town on the island of Penang is only a few hours away by bus or train and in our opinion much more attractive than Kuala Lumpur for digital nomads.
You still get great food and infrastructure from KL but it’s smaller, prettier, cosier – and you have the outdoors (and a few beaches) much closer.
The beaches are better in Langkawi, but it’s further away and there are fewer good accommodation options for longterm staying.
A great thing about Malaysia is the free 3 month visa on arrival offered to citizens of many countries.
Thailand is an incredibly pleasant country to base yourself in as a digital nomad.
You already know all about the wonderful food. The people are vibrant. The beaches are legendary.
Cities in Thailand
There’s a big community of expats and digital nomads in the north of Thailand in Chiang Mai and Pai. But unfortunately, we haven’t had the chance to visit yet.
Bangkok is the city of cities in Southeast Asia, but it’s BUSY. And also too far from the beach.
Thai islands for digital nomads
For amenities and saltwater in close vicinity, Phuket is probably a good bet. We haven’t explored the huge island much but it has good promise if you find the right spot. There’s also the big vegetarian festival that would be a blast to experience.
Koh Phangan is lots more than the infamous full moon party. Vegan food is ubiquitous in and around Sri Thanu on the west coast where yogis and the spiritually inclined will feel right at home.
Koh Samui is much bigger and where you ideally want to stock up on stuff that’s harder to get. It’s also a lot busier, although there definitely are quiet places on the island, too.
We liked Koh Lanta as there is a bit of a mix of everything down here.
Vegan Thai food
Veganising Thai dishes is not always easy as fish sauce and oyster sauce is added to many curries and stir-fries. But Thai people have a very good understanding of vegetarianism and there are usually local places catering to Buddhists that serve up delicious and cheap vegan fare.
Wifi in Thailand
Internet is easy to get by with free wifi offered almost everywhere. Get a local SIM card with unlimited data and you’re good to go.
Vietnam is a diverse and fascinating country.
Staying here as a vegan is perfect if you like local Southeast Asian food. Buffet-type places are everywhere, especially next to Buddhist temples, and the food is so delicious.
There are too many things to see and experience to list here, but you definitely won’t run out of things to do.
Cities in Vietnam for digital nomads
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is a bustling city with great coffee, food and wifi. It’s also a rather cheap place to stay comfortably. The traffic is mad, though.
For a much quieter city close to the beach, consider Hoi An. It’s touristic, yes, but also cosy.
We didn’t visit Da Nang but that might be an option, too.
Nha Trang has the potential to be a great place for digital nomads but we didn’t like staying there too much.
We stayed a month on the small island of Phu Quoc and loved our time there. The main tourist drag is not very charming but there are a few really amazing beaches on the island and on the smaller islands just south of it.
There are lots of great vegan food options, it’s cheap and it’s sunny.
5. The Philippines
Our first real destination as digital nomads was visiting The Philippines and first of all – wow. Images don’t lie; the water really is that saturated here.
If you’re a self-professed beach bum, you’ll love The Philippines. The diving here is also said to be spectacular.
Pinoys – or Filipinos – are a lovely bunch. They’re really happy, funny and many speak English close to fluently.
The prices are low and while the local fare is rarely vegan, cafés and restaurants with vegan options are popping up everywhere. This is a country where things are moving fast.
To get serious work done, consider Manila. We stayed in Makati. Super busy, but the cafés are amazing and you can stay in a great flat with fast wifi for cheap.
Islands in The Philippines for digital nomads
Palawan is one of the prettiest places on earth, but the internet was horribly slow when we visited back in 2017. It might be better now, but just know that Palawan is the most remote part of The Philippines when it comes to infrastructure.
Siargao is also rather remote but we actually got real work done on this amazing island. Surfers will love it, the smoothie bowls are crazy good and did we mention that water?
A great place to stay in The Philippines for digital nomads could very well be Bohol.
We spent a few nights in Panglao where the internet and food options were great. It was a little too touristic for our taste, but it should be doable to find places to stay nearby that are less busy. The rest of Bohol was also beautiful.
Cebu is a huge city and there are supposedly many great places to stay around the island.
Siquijor has some of the coolest waterfalls and swings we’ve ever seen and staying here as a digital nomad is definitely possible.
Bonus: Pokhara, Nepal
Not technically in Southeast Asia and not really close to any beaches… But we still thought we would include Pokhara, Nepal in this list.
We stayed in Pokhara between trekking trips in the Annapurna region of Nepal in late 2019 and we really grew to love the small town by the lake.
Pokhara is located either a short flight or a much cheaper but potentially long bus ride from Kathmandu.
Reasons you’ll love Pokhara
Nepal is probably the cheapest country we have ever been to in all regards and you get a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to accommodation, food and activities.
If you enjoy hiking in high mountains, you simply have to go to Nepal.
If you’re vegan, you’ll love the array of healthy food options in Pokhara.
You’ll also become familiar with dal bhat – the naturally vegan staple of rice, lentils and curry. Cheap, filling and much more addictive than it sounds.
The weather is pleasant year-round, Nepali people are simply the best and the view across the lake and having the Himalays towering in the distance adds a certain epic flair to staying in Pokhara.
If you’re a digital nomad considering staying in Pokhara, feel at ease knowing that the internet is sufficiently fast in town. Just don’t expect to upload Youtube videos at 3,000 metres above sea level if you’re out in the mountains trekking…
Where to stay as a digital nomad in Southeast Asia
Our above suggestions for where to stay in SEA as a digital nomad can be a starting point for your research about where you want to base yourself.
For more places, check out Nomadlist where cities are listed and rated on a long list of criteria that are important to digital nomads.
Which places have we missed?
We would love to hear about your favourite place in Southeast Asia as a vegan digital nomad.