The pandemic has magically transformed hordes of people into digital nomads. Some companies have even downsized offices in order to save on rent and told employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.
If you can no longer remember what your colleagues look like in real life and have become a permanent fixture at some hipster cafe or coworking space, you might be wondering whether it’s time to take the show on the road and travel as you work.
Working remotely from another country
Is it legal? That depends on the visa you use to enter and stay in the country.
If you just want to stay in the country for a few weeks or months, entering as a tourist will let you work and travel without being liable for income tax. The Singaporean passport lets you enter most countries visa-free, but be sure to check how much time you are allowed to stay.
But what if you want to stay for a longer time or even permanently? Some countries have a non-working or non-lucrative visa that enables you to stay without working there. You usually need to show that you have enough funds to stay for the duration of your visa. You will not be considered a tax resident, so you continue paying taxes in Singapore, which is great because we are practically a tax haven.
All that said, rules can vary from visa to visa, so be sure to check with the embassy when you apply to be sure you can work remotely and will be free from tax liabilities. Some countries will not let you work at all, while others are okay with it so long as your employer or clients are not located there.
Another option is to get a digital nomad visa or some other visa that lets you work remotely in the country. More countries, especially in Europe, now offer such visas, which might or might not be renewable after about a year.
The downside is that you will need to pay taxes in the country after spending a certain amount of time there, and if you’re not a freelancer, you’ll have to discuss the move with your employer, since CPF contributions may no longer be compulsory.
Which countries can I travel to and stay long term?
This is a very personal choice and depends on how long you want to stay and where you want to travel to.
For longer stays, choosing a place with a lower cost of living is obviously a smart move. Look outside of big, capital cities and you’ll find that the cost of living instantly plummets, even in so-called expensive countries in Western Europe. You can use Numbeo to compare the cost of living between cities.
If you’re staying long term, you might even want to consider purchasing a home if there are no restrictions on foreigners acquiring property. Just be aware that you’ll have to sell it if you later decide to buy an HDB flat in Singapore. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish and not within the scope of this article.
Here are some countries where you test drive the digital nomad lifestyle:
- Indonesia – 60 days (renewable up to 6 months) on Single Entry B211 Visit e-Visa
- Thailand – 90 days (can be renewed twice for 90 days each) on Long Stay/Special Tourist Visa
- Malaysia – 30 day visa-free entry
- Vietnam – 30 day visa-free entry
- Croatia – up to one year (not renewable) on Digital Nomad Visa, must have an income of at least 2,232 euro per month or 26,790 euro for 12 months.
- Estonia – up to one year on Digital Nomad Visa, must have a monthly income of at least 3,504 euro
- Germany – 3 months (renewable up to 3 years) on visa for freelancers and self-employed, must have a self-sustainable income
- Malta – up to one year (renewable) on Digital Nomad visa, must have income of 2,700 euro per month
- Romania – up to one year (renewable) on Digital Nomad Visa, must have income of 3,300 euro per month
Europe seems to be ahead of the game when it comes to offering digital nomad visas. If you’re more into tropical beaches, the proximity of Southeast Asian countries makes them viable even on a tourist visa.
Where to live as a digital nomad?
There are two types of digital nomad: the kind who can’t wait to hobnob with kindred spirits at co-working spaces and the kind who only works in pyjamas.
If you’re the former and the idea of “co-living” doesn’t sound like a nightmare, one idiot-proof option is to look for a co-working space with attached or nearby accommodation. This option is typically available in cities with swarms of digital nomads like Bali or Chiang Mai. Just be aware that co-living usually means you are renting a room in a shared space, so you’ll be likely to have to share amenities like bathroom and kitchen.
Co-living and co-working will cost more than if you just rented basic accommodation and worked in cafes, but everything is done for you from cleaning to setting up your workspace, and you get access to facilities like swimming pools. Plus, you get plugged into the expat bubble community, if that’s your thing.
Let’s take Bali as an example to see how much it’ll cost you to remote work as a digital nomad:
Hot desking price
From 49 USD (65.58 SGD) per month (up to 25 hours)
Yes, from 19 USD (26 USD) per night (up to 2 people)
Dojo Bali Canggu
From 70,000 IDR (6.59 SGD) per month (up to 30 hours)
Yes, from 1,140 USD per month (1,741 SGD)
Hub Bali Legian
1,000,000 IDR (94 SGD) per month
Yes, from 10,000,000 IDR (941 SGD) per month
1,600,000 IDR (151 SGD) per month
1,900,000 IDR (179 SGD) per month
Bali Bustle Kuta
1,500,000 IDR (141 SGD) per month
5,400,000 IDR per month (508 SGD) (studio)
But what if you can do without the fancy coworking space and on-site cocktail bar? If you’re only visiting for a month or two, honestly, your best bet would be to just check into an Airbnb or guesthouse with a good wifi connection.
For instance, at family-owned guesthouse Pariliana in Ubud, Bali, prices start from 20 euro (31 SGD) per night for a stay for up to two guests in a private room with private bathroom (none of that co-living nonsense). And you get to work in the common areas, use the kitchen and connect to their wifi without having to pay co-working fees.
Documents to prepare if you’re travelling (long stay)
If you are applying for a digital nomad or long stay visa, you will probably have to do this at your destination country’s embassy in Singapore. The embassy (or their website) will advise you on the documents you need to furnish. Some countries will also require that you first secure accommodation before they issue the visa.
Before departure, make sure you’ve gotten your proof of vaccination validated and converted to a vaccine pass, if applicable, in your destination country. For instance, if you’re going to the EU, you will need to obtain a vaccine pass online prior to departure, or else you might find yourself barred from entry to restaurants, museums and so on.
Finally, check Covid-19 testing requirements so you can stock up on ART tests and know what PCR tests you need to book before departure and upon arrival.
Do I need a long stay travel insurance with Covid-19 coverage?
Some but not all countries require you to have insurance with Covid-19 coverage. For instance, there are no insurance requirements when you visit Bali or the rest of Indonesia.
But for your own safety, you’ll want to make sure you have solid travel insurance (for stays of up to 90 days). You’ll congratulate yourself if you test positive for Covid-19 and aren’t allowed to board the plane, since your travel insurance will cover the cost of your ticket. Compare travel insurance plans and prices here.
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You should also make sure you’re covered by health insurance after the 90 days have passed and your travel insurance lapses, whether through an international health insurance plan or the country’s social security system.
Will you be travelling soon? Check out the 6 best travel insurance with Covid-19 included here.