I am currently in Montenegro and I’m starting a Montenegrin company to own a few beach properties. It’s going cost me more money to hire an attorney in Montenegro to manage three beach properties in terms of tax compliance than it will to hire a U.S. tax attorney every year because there’s not a whole lot of competition among Montenegrin accountants.
If I were you, I would look into either finding out how to turn your industry on its ear somewhere new or I would just focus on how to get high paying freelance gigs. In all honesty, that might be the easier thing to do if you’re just looking into being an expat and living somewhere for lifestyle purposes.
If you are looking into going somewhere to start a business, I would not go to Asia. It’s mostly too late to start a business in a place like Singapore or Hong Kong. They’re not looking for you to get into their affairs anymore. Latin America can be quite bureaucratic, quite frankly; but if f you’re looking for a good lifestyle location in the region, Medellin, Colombia is a good place and Panama City is pretty decent as well. However, those countries are just too bureaucratic for business purposes and aren’t as advanced as Asian countries.
If you’re a white collar, focus on Eastern Europe. Estonia for example would be a good place to go. Everyone speaks English, it’s easier to fit in, there are a lot of opportunities and it is easy to operate. Beyond that I revert to the Balkans.
Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, Romania, Latvia and Estonia are great countries for freelancers because the internet is lightning fast, with some of the fastest connections in Europe. Also if you’re a freelancer and traveling throughout the world, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is dramatically underrated in the shadow of over exaggerated Thailand. KL has a great balance of affordability and lifestyle. There are a lot of interesting things to do there and there’s great connectivity.
Other good locations include Belgrade and Bucharest for freelancers and, if you insist on being closer to America, I’d suggest Medellin and Mexico City. If you are doing the white collar routine where you are used to certain luxuries, those would be my top choices.
If you are looking to start a new business and want to be in an efficient tax-free, well-managed, lots-of-going-on kind of place and you’re not fond of Europe, I would recommend looking at the Gulf region. The UAE is probably still the easiest way to go, although Oman has great potential and is still developing.
The rise of digital nomadism
Digital Nomadism is on the rise. What are your top five picks for expat destinations for people who want to make a living off their laptops? If they are starting totally from scratch, what resources would you suggest for them to get started on learning how to make a living online?
Here is where I go back to Kuala Lumpur, Budapest, Belgrade, Medellin, and Mexico City. I follow a base city + nomad philosophy. I own properties in other countries but I have homes in two, soon to be three, countries and then I travel from there. I also have what I call a focus cities strategy. This involves having cities where you know you’re way around. For me, that is Belgrade, where I don’t have an actual base but I know exactly where to go and how to manage my affairs when I go there. I don’t have to waste time settling in.
You should have your personal best on each continent. I only spend one month a year in the Americas; it’s just not that appealing to me, not developed enough and too bureaucratic. However, if you are just living from a laptop and want to be in the Americas, I would recommend Mexico. In Europe you have so many choices. I avoid Spain and Italy because of my aversion to cultures that are so laid back they border on extreme laziness. I tend to look into emerging markets where I like to base myself as a tourist.
For English speaking cities I love Dublin, Amsterdam and London (if you don’t mind their visa regulations). In Asia, KL is a hidden gem, Singapore can be too expensive, Hong Kong too, especially in terms of rent. I find Thailand a bit overrated, Vietnam can be interesting, Cambodia is great in terms of investment opportunities.
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