I’m self-employed and I can pretty much do my work from anywhere in the world, so it’s common for me to jump around from country to country. For the last year, I’ve been living in Thailand but my time here is running out. As I explained in my guide to remote working Thailand, everything is pretty much perfect here except for one thing: visas. Unless you are tremendously wealthy (alas, I am not), getting a long-term visa in Thailand is a major hassle. It used to be easy… but that’s no longer the way of the world.
I have a loose plan set out for 2020, but beyond that I’m at a loss… You can view this as a good thing, and I mostly do, but I would like to have my options open, and that means getting information. Fortunately, I’m a citizen of the United Kingdom. You don’t get to preface that statement with “fortunately” much these days, but for now our passports are still among the most powerful in the world. Although we have dropped from 1st to 8th on that list in just five humiliating years, we can still travel to an impressive 184 countries visa-free or visa-on-arrival.
However, when I Googled something like “best countries for British expats” recently, I was disappointed by the clickbait-y bullshit that popped up on my screens. Derivative lists of typical destinations appeared, and none of them suited my requirements. In several of them, the United States popped up as #1. Have you tried to get a Green Card lately? Worse still, most of these articles just name countries that are popular with drunken British holidaymakers. I don’t want to live with that karma.
I decided to dig a little deeper and look into visa laws around the world, and I’ve picked up some countries that I think offer up a better opportunity. Of course, this is a bit up-in-the-air with Brexit, but what isn’t? All information is accurate at time of writing: 4th March, 2020, and will probably be true until at least the end of December, 2020.
First, before we jump into the list, let me tell you what made me choose the countries that follow. Essentially, I was annoyed by the lists I saw on these bullshit sites that ranked highly on Google. They said things like, “Canada – because Canada’s like totally awesome with bears and maple syrup and shit,” or “Go to Spain because you can still buy Tetley’s Tea and Heinz Baked Beans!”
No. Fuck that.
When I’m planning my next destination, there are two questions that rank above all else: Can I easily get a visa, and for how long will that visa last?
As such, I’ve picked out countries from around the world that offer the longest visa-free and visa-on-arrival stays to British people. If you are like me and you can work from anywhere, you can use these visas to bounce around the globe from place to place, staying three months here and six months there.
Georgia (365 days)
Your first question is probably, “Where the hell is Georgia?” That is, unless you are familiar with the American state of Georgia, in which case you are probably wondering when they started independently issuing visas. Well, don’t worry; the US is not yet involved in another civil war (at least, not until November).
I’m talking about the country located on the Black Sea. Y’know… that area that falls between maps of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It was where Jason and the Argonauts fought those freaky skeleton warriors… and honestly I can’t think of much else that’s happened since then. Georgia is – apparently – famous for its wine, and I’m reliably informed that one receives a complimentary bottle of wine at the airport upon arrival. Now that’s VIP treatment! As for cost of living… the average salary is less than $150, so if you’re able to pull in $1,500 per month working online, you can pretty much live like a king (or queen). You might worry that, being a poor country, it is dangerous, but in fact it is has the 4th lowest crime rate in the world.
Besides all that, Georgia included on this list pretty much because it gives you a one year visa-free stay. This is, quite frankly, incredible. I’m genuinely tempted to go there and live for a year purely for this reason (and maybe for the wine). Now, if only I could name a single Georgian city to type into Skyscanner…
Peru (183 days)
There are many reasons to go to Peru. Perhaps you wanted to go to Spain but were tired of the Brexit jokes. Maybe you’ve always looked at guinea pigs and thought, “That looks fucking delicious,” but didn’t know how to cook it. Perhaps you’ve heard of Lake Titicaca and wondered if it could ever live up to its name.
But seriously, Peru is a badass country filled with incredible scenery. It has a little something for everyone, but for people coming from the UK (or North America), they are kind enough to offer a 183 day stay in the country without you having to even ask for a visa. That is staggering, honestly, and as a person who works online it is almost too good to be true. For those of you who are even worse at maths than me, that works out to about six months. If you are determined to work and travel, but want to stay in one place for a long period of time, six months is an incredible offer. To put that into perspective, most Asian countries offer a one month visa and they can be a real hassle to renew. This is also double the length of time offered by most of its neighbours.
I mentioned above that Georgia was the 4th safest country in the world in terms of crime, so it’s only fair to mention that Peru is pretty much the opposite. It has the 8th highest crime rate on earth. It’s pretty much tied with Brazil, the kidnapping capital of the world… but thankfully far behind Venezuela, where the national pastime is murder. On the other hand, Peru is a pretty cheap place to live in. The cost of living is far below that of Europe and North America, and ranks about the same as Vietnam.
Mexico (180 days)
I know what you’re thinking: 180 days? That’s shit compared to Peru. Think of all the things you could’ve done with those three extra days… Yes, it’s true. 183 days is slightly longer, but what madman came up with such an arbitrary number? There are several other countries offering 180 day visas and only Peru and St. Helena (is that even a country?) have opted for the bizarrely specific 183 day limitation. Oh well.
If you’re not fussed about those additional three days, perhaps you’d prefer a jaunt through sunny Mexico. Famous for its incredible food, humongous hats, and cheap booze, Mexico is a tourist dream. It’s not bad for living and working in, either. If you can hablo a little español, it’s a hell of a place. Just stay away from the vast tracts of land run by cartels… unless you have incredibly good life insurance.
That said, the crime rate in Mexico is quite a bit lower than in Peru and so is the cost of living. That cost of living, in fact, attracts digital nomads from over the border, with many young Americans flocking to Mexico City. But don’t let that put you off… Mexico is a great place to live if you earn your living online.
Japan (90-180 days)
This may seem like a strange choice as it is a notoriously expensive country and, if you have read anything by me on this website, you may have noticed that I advocate the frugal life. Japan is, in fact, the 4th most expensive place on Earth, and the most expensive outside of Europe. Yeah… That said, Japan gets much less expensive when you travel outside of Tokyo, and if you are willing to settle in the countryside for a while, you can get by on a modest budget.
In any case, I have picked Japan because it gives British people a visa-free 90 day stay in the country that is extendable quite easily for another 90 days. This means you can basically stay in Japan for half a year. Japan is also incredibly progressive in terms of working and educational visas in comparison to other countries in the region. If you were looking for a country to actually settle in for a longer period, and not just live the digital nomad life, Japan would be a great one to choose.
Beyond that, Japan is just fantastic. I’ve been there a half dozen times in my life and I’ve loved every minute of it. The people are just brilliant, the food is incredible, and you are pretty much living in the future. Seriously, the things you see in Japan won’t be found “back home” for years. As you might have guessed, then, Japan also has lightning fast internet – which is about as important to a remote worker as water and oxygen.
Nepal (90-150 days)
There is probably no point in me selling the virtues of living in Nepal. It is one of those countries that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list – a mysterious land way up in the sky, home to Mount Everest as well as jungles filled with rhino and tigers.
Sure, Nepal is a great place to get lost on a long backpacking trail… but what about its viability as a destination for working remotely? For a start, it is the 11th cheapest place in the world, so that’s good. On the other hand, their broadband is slower than the glaciers up in the mountains, and power cuts are a daily occurrence. That said, mobile internet there is quite fast and will probably cost you about $4 per month for 5GB of data, so as long as the battery on your laptop holds out, you can just tether it to your phone and work from there.
As for the visas, all Brits are entitled to 90 days visa-on-arrival, and this can be extended quite easily for another 30 days, bringing the total to 120 days. According to their embassy in London, “An additional 30 days visa may be granted on reasonable grounds from the Department.” Knowing Asia as I do, that more than likely means a small bribe is required. Perhaps don’t count on being there for more than 120 days…
Cambodia (30-? days)
Cambodia is still one of the best places for digital nomads. It’s an easy-going country with a very low cost of living, where the government is still pretty much happy to have any old foreigner come in and contribute to the economy. Things have become slightly stricter since I lived there in 2013, but it’s not too bad, and in fact I will be living there again a few weeks.
Currently, there are various options for visas and these are confusingly named. This list is pretty much for visa-free and visa-on-arrival options, so I’ll cover that first. You can arrive in Cambodia without anything more than your passport and $30 (yes, that’s US dollars) for the visa. This gets you into the country and allows you to stay for 30 days. This can easily be extended by another 30 days at any time. Beyond that, you would need to leave the country and come back, requiring an arduous bus trip to one of the borders and, quite possibly, a small bribe to the immigration officials there.
The other option is just to get a longer-term visa. These cost money but are cheap and you can stay in Cambodia indefinitely. If you have an employer, they should write you a letter of invitation… but if you are self-employed you can just write yourself a letter. Seriously. It’s stuff like this that makes me love Cambodia.
Nope, just kidding. Although Britons had the right to live and work in Europe as freely as though could in the United Kingdom, we apparently choose to give all of that up. Right now, the future is uncertain, but we still have those rights until December, 31st, 2020. Enjoy it while it lasts, folks. It’s back to old Blighty and miserable winters after that.
I picked the above countries from my research into visas for British people because of the lengths of time you can stay in the country and also what I considered factors that made them appropriate for remote work. However, that is fairly subjective. Below, I will list some other countries that offer long-stay visa-free or visa-on-arrival options for Brits. I’ll leave the witty remarks to you.
- Armenia (180 days)
- Jamaica (180 days)
- Hong Kong (180 days)
- Panama (180 days)
- Albania (90 days)
- Argentina (90 days)
- Australia (90 days)
- Brazil (90 days)
- Chile (90 days)
- Malawi (90 days)
- Morocco (90 days)
- Singapore (90 days)
- South Africa (90 days)
- Taiwan (90 days)
- Kyrgyzstan (60 days)
- Samoa (60 days)
There are obviously many more options, but I’ll let you figure those out. Also, remember that these places are essentially offering tourist visas. As you will be working from your laptop and earning money via PayPal, this should not be a problem… but don’t be an idiot and tell the immigration officials that you are going there to work. That would be incredibly dumb.