When you hear digital nomad, you might immediately think of an exotic location and a travel writer or blogger on the beach. But digital nomads can work in other industries and still fulfill their need to travel. They can work for themselves or for companies located in other parts of the world. A concern for some is how to get started as a digital nomad and what kind of insurance will you need for your globetrotting adventure.
If you have a passion for travel and find solace in exotic locations, this article can help.
Included are tips on:
- What is a Digital Nomad?
- Healthcare, Travel Insurance and Vaccinations
- Banking and Credit Card Safety
- Finding Housing and Safeguarding Your Belongings
- Managing Transportation Overseas
- Internet Safety and Phone Calls
What is a Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who uses communication technologies (internet, phone) to sustain their income abroad. They might work as a freelance blogger, marketer or writer. They might also work for an employer in a full-time job - but they’ll do it remotely. If you have a passion for travel and meeting new people, this can be a fun way to find a new niche in life.
Digital nomads find foreign places comforting. They can grab their laptop and work from anywhere they have internet access. And, what’s not to enjoy? You can embrace new cultures, try new foods and meet all kinds of people. And, with the right set up and plan in place, you can work and live anywhere in the world you want.
Considerations for Digital Nomads
The more prepared and organized you are, the greater your success abroad. And, you can avoid things like moving into an area that has experienced a natural disaster and power outage leaving you with no internet access--or income. You can also use tips to avoid losing your passport or becoming a victim of a cybercrime or tourist scam. But, you can also find your travel is rewarding as you find solace in new areas. Maybe you'll volunteer time to feed the elephants in Chiang Mai. Or, you'll work remotely from the beach in Moorea as you research your next exotic or remote destination.
Before you get started on your journey, there are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How will you supplement your income? Entrepreneur or working for others?
- Where will you live in the world? How will you find housing?
- How will you access the internet and phone service? Which VPN will you use to protect your identity online?
- What insurance will you need? What if you get sick overseas? Or, injured?
- What will you do in a weather emergency or if there’s a travel advisory? What about civil unrest?
Healthcare, Travel Insurance and Vaccinations
An important aspect of travelling overseas is setting up healthcare. You’ll have to set up travel insurance and then depending on where you stay, you might need vaccines.
Vaccinations and Immunizations
Certain parts of the world will require that you have special vaccinations and immunizations. In remote and exotic areas, food and hygiene standards may not be as strong as they are in Canada. Another concern is airborne viruses and pathogens. Hence, you need to research where you’re travelling to in advance. While certain vaccines are required, others might be optional.
Water sources are an additional concern. In a third-world country, a body of water might be shared by animals so it's not safe to drink. In other areas, the tap water might not be filtered. Mexico, China, Russia, the Bahamas and Brazil have had their fair share of water advisories. And, in parts of the U.S., the water is not safe to swim in. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have stated that some public pools contain high amounts of fecal matter.
Elsewhere, oceans and lakes are the concern. If you have a small cut on your skin it can quickly lead to an infection that in some cases have turned fatal. Warm, standing bodies of water can contain high levels of bacteria like Necrotizing fasciitis.
Having healthcare abroad through travel insurance is important enough on short trips. With extended travel, even if you're healthy, healthcare-related costs are a major concern. In the U.S., for example, healthcare is extremely expensive. And, what happens if you’re in an accident or need emergency medical care?
Other concerns might include how you will find a doctor that speaks English. Or, what if you have a dental emergency? Hence, travel insurance should be set up before you leave for your trip and you might want to include dental insurance with your coverage.
Healthcare Considerations Abroad
When you get ready to travel to an area, there are a few steps that can help you in the event of an emergency. While you might never need them, these are good points to keep in mind.
- Review your travel insurance policy and make note of how to contact your provider, if needed.
- Locate the nearest hospitals and emergency rooms in advance.
- Check to see where the nearest dentists and clinics are located.
- Find out if there are interpreters nearby in case of an emergency.
Banking and Credit Card Safety
Ready to visit a picturesque city like Marrakesh or take a tour of Italy’s Tuscany region to explore the rolling hills and vineyards? Strategic and savvy banking skills can help enhance your trip.
Banking, while convenient when you’re in Canada or the U.S., can be a traveller’s worst nightmare in an undeveloped country. They might not offer Apple Pay or Google Wallet. Hence, having the best travel credit cards that include a chequing account can help.
Banking and Credit Card Safety Tips
Travel with a major credit card or two. When you work online overseas, you can always upload money to your card from a site like Stripe or PayPal. If you don't have good credit, apply for a secured credit card which offers more security features than a debit card.
Avoid Skimming Attacks
Credit cards are better for travellers because most credit card companies offer 24/7 assistance. And, they'll include fraud protection to protect against hacking attacks while you’re overseas. Let’s look at an example.
Say you’re at a restaurant overseas and you’re the victim of skimming. Skimming is when identity thieves get cardholder information. Some attackers run large crime syndicates overseas. They might secretly work with the waitstaff to swipe your credit card in a skimmer before they put the actual charges on your card.
You later find out that your account has been compromised. Or, it can happen at an ATM. The attacker places a metal strip in an ATM terminal and it picks up the data on your ATM card. Attackers can also put a thin cover on top of the keyboard or a hidden camera at the ATM to steal your pin code.
Law enforcement officials suggest:
- Check on top of the keyboard at the ATM for a thin film that's added on top of the keyboard.
- Look around the sides of the ATM vestibule for a hidden camera. Make sure you cover the keyboard with your hand while you type your pin code in.
- Check in the mouth of the card reader (where you insert your card) to see if there’s a skimmer attached.
To safeguard your money abroad, it’s helpful to set up home insurance or tenant insurance. Speak with an insurance professional to get advice on what coverage will be available for you when you are away. Do this before your trip and look at one that includes identity theft protection.
Take Caution with Debit Cards
Another concern with world travel is with debit cards. You never want to travel internationally with only a debit card. It can take longer to get your money back. A bank might not reverse the money back to you right away if there’s a breach. And, you could lose all the money on your card if a hacker gets your account information. Some banks will charge you a fee up to $500 if you delay reporting a debit card fraud incident.
What if you have to use an ATM? You’ll want to avoid using ATMs in dark alleys or inside small stores as they might have skimmers or thieves nearby. Use large, brightly lit banks if available. You might incur a fee but you’re on camera and there's a lower risk of skimmers on the ATM terminals.
How to Get Better Exchange Rates
If you use cash, a concern is how will you exchange your currency and where? You might find that the best rates are at ATMs. Airports might not have the best rates but you can probably find good rates elsewhere. Refer to a site like Travel Money or XE to help with conversions.
Finding Housing and Safeguarding Your Belongings
Hammock in the Costa Rica rain forest? Sleeping on a sailboat charter to the Azores? Housing is an important aspect of your digital nomad adventure and living situations can vary from one person to the next. You might prefer the affordability of a hostel or the amenities of an apartment rental or apartment share.
Taking Caution with Online Rentals
Carefully select your living quarters. You can find cheap deals on Airbnb, FlipKey or VRBO. Craigslist and CouchSurfing are other sites to try. Always read the rental or room rate reviews and try to negotiate cheaper rates than what’s offered (it never hurts to ask).
And, there are a few hidden dangers to avoid.
Travellers have spotted cameras in their rentals and some have experienced break-ins. In some areas, bed bugs, roaches, lice or mites might be a problem (did they advertise pets?). Hence, you need to read the reviews first.
Researching an Area
Before you pick an area based on the cheap price of housing, confirm it’s safe and that you’ll be comfortable there if you stay long-term. Some digital nomads will change locations even in the same area to spice things up. They might stay on the beach midweek when rates are cheaper and then off the beach when rates go up. And importantly, never lock in rates long-term until you’ve had time to explore the neighbourhood.
It’s better to book something short-term at a hotel or room rental site and then explore where you want to stay. You might find better deals in the area by talking to locals or other digital nomads who can share their experiences. You can even ask nearby hotel concierge for help. They always have tips (and like receiving tips, too!).
Managing Transportation Overseas
A ferry ride in the Pacific Northwest or mule ride in Kalaupapa? Rental car or spitting camel trekking through your desert oasis? As a digital nomad, you should consider how you will get around. Public transportation might be accessible. But, in remote areas it might unreliable, unsafe or inaccessible. Or, you might get tired of buses and trains that breakdown.
A few questions can help you when it comes to finding transportation.
Questions to ask yourself include:
- Will the area have easy access to public transportation?
- If you stay for an extended period of time, how will you get around?
- Should you rent a car? What about a scooter or motorcycle to run errands and shop for groceries?
- If you’re in a warmer climate, will you be standing for long periods of time in the heat?
- Are Ubers or cabs optional? What is the cost per ride? Are rideshares safe? How will you handle language barriers?
- Are the driving rules different and will you be required to take an additional driver’s education course?
- What are the auto insurance costs and will you be required to get special insurance? Will you need an international driver’s license?
Take some time in mapping out how you’ll navigate your new home. If it’s a short period of time that you’re in an area, public transportation might suffice. But, if you’re staying for six months or longer, you might want the most cost-efficient means of transportation. And, you'll want to avoid taxi scams.
Avoiding Taxi/Language Barrier Scams
One story about a group of travellers in South America had to do with a common language barrier scam. A taxi driver picked up several girls from their hotel taking them to the airport. Halfway through the ride, he quoted them a price that was hundreds of dollars when the ride should only cost a few dollars. After several minutes of trying to renegotiate unsuccessfully, he finally turned around and drove them back to the hotel.
Internet Safety and Phone Calls
With phone service, you might want to invest in a VoIP phone or softphone. This lets you make calls remotely on your computer. The costs for calls overseas are usually free or low-cost. And, you might have advanced features like call forwarding, remote calling and video calls.
When you work online remotely, protecting your identity is imperative. Some people use free wifi from their hotels or hostels but a concern is avoiding man-in-the-middle attacks. This is when a third party infiltrates your connection. They can monitor your activity on the unsecured and unencrypted network and steal your personal information.
Are You Ready to Start Your Digital Nomad Adventure?
World travel can be so exciting especially if you enjoy visiting far-away destinations. To safeguard your trip, have the right insurance before you leave.
Travel insurance can can help if you have a medical emergency and home insurance will protect your belongings while you’re away, but it often includes coverage for identity theft as well, which can be especially handy when you’re overseas.