Top budget-friendly European cities for digital nomad founders

Before 2020, having the freedom to choose when and where you wanted to work was a privilege afforded to a limited few. Now in 2021, working environments have of course changed, at least temporarily putting an end to that old debate between employers (mostly favouring a 9-to-5 office environment), and employees (many of whom craved more flexible, commute-free, location-independent jobs). Although these new circumstances were initially accepted out of necessity, it seems that a number of companies have already committed retaining remote work agreements with their employees, for a number of reasons.

One of these is affording all startup employees, from junior to founder, time to actually live the benefits of remote-working beyond the last year of confinement. If we add into the bargain the fact that business trips and in-person events seem to be a thing of the past, at least for some time, the odds are tipping in favour of the rise of the ‘Digital Nomad’. And, while the situation with the pandemic is still not bright and travelling is very limited, some of the most attractive European digital nomad hubs have already opened their doors wide to a growing number of freelancers and remote workers.  

With all this in mind, it’s likely that 2022 and beyond will indeed be the time for digital nomad startup team members. When it comes to best places to land as a future digital nomad, there are a few factors that put some of these places higher on the list of attractiveness. From how easy it is to get a visa and how safe it is, to cost of living, internet speed, weather, community, city culture and things to do, all potential nomads need to do their homework and decide what fits them best. 

To help you make that decision for the future, and when it is safe to do so, we have prepared a list of budget-friendly and attractive European hotspots for digital nomads worth considering. 

Tallinn – Estonia

Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, often tops the lists of most attractive European cities for digital nomads. With its wonderfully preserved medieval architecture, lively nightlife and value-priced entertainment activities, the city attracts a great number of tourists. In addition to this, Tallinn’s reputation among digital nomads is largely elevated by its strong startup and digital nomad communities that come with plenty of coworking hubs and excellent internet coverage. For those seeking a sunny location, Tallinn won’t be your best option; while summers are comfortable, the winters in Estonia are long and freezing. 

The cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around €500. The cost of the local transport ranges from €1.50 for a one-way ticket to €30 for a monthly pass. Tallinn’s taxi transportation is also quite affordable and several ridesharing and taxi-ordering apps operate in the city. Taxis charge around €2.50 and €0.50 for taxi start and 1km taxi fare, respectively.

Average cost of living: €2000 a month (Source: NomadList)

Visa requirements: Already famous among entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts for its e-residency programme and the country’s highly digitized procedures, Estonia recently introduced its Digital Nomad visa, allowing eligible location-independent workers to apply for the chance to live in the country for up to a year with peace of mind that they can legally work.

Travelling to Estonia: The most up-to-date information is available on the website of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Porto – Portugal

Renowned for its rich culture, outstanding architecture, and emblematic Port wine, Porto is an attractive touristic hub in Portugal. With friendly locals, artsy vibes and plenty of co-working spaces in town, the city is growing in popularity among digital nomads. Porto offers a fast internet connection and wi-fi availability in many places. Moving around is pretty easy as you can get anywhere you like very quickly, and, even more importantly, safely. Climate-wise, although Portugal is known for having good weather, winters get cold, wet, and partly cloudy.

Compared to the majority of Western Europe, Porto offers a much more affordable cost of living. It is estimated that Porto is 10% cheaper than Lisbon. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is €690. A monthly public transport ticket can be bought at a price of €35. And, while a cab fare from one side of Porto to another costs around €4, people often rely on taxi apps such as Uber, Kapten and Bolt that are available at low cost.

Average cost of living: €1664 a month (Source: NomadList)

Visa requirements: Portugal is another European country that grants visas for remote and freelance workers. Depending on the desired length of stay, the country offers a temporary stay visa for independent work and a residency visa for independent work purposes or entrepreneurs.

Travelling to Portugal: Up-to-date information on the latest measures during the outbreak of COVID-19 can be found on Visit Portugal.

Tbilisi – Georgia

Apart from becoming immensely popular among tourists in recent years, Tbilisi is also emerging as a trendy destination for people who want to embark on a digital nomad lifestyle. If you are interested in meeting new people and cultures, Georgia is the right choice for you. Locals here are well renowned for their hospitality and friendliness. Many Georgians believe that the guest is a gift from God and will certainly make you feel comfortable, if not fall in love with the country. Life in Tbilisi is safe and very affordable, and the city offers a great choice of coworking spaces. While the internet speed is generally good, one of the main drawbacks is the (for some) too cold/hot temperatures in winter/summer. 

Georgia has a quite low cost of living, similar to some South East Asian countries. A one-bedroom apartment in Tbilisi city centre stands at around €250. In Tbilisi it is also very easy to move around. Unless you are fond of discovering the city’s hidden corners on foot, there are several transportation options. Digital nomads often use taxi apps like Taxi Tbilisi, Maxim Taxi and Bolt but also rely on the affordable public transportation where the cost of one ticket is around 15 cents for a city bus or metro.

Cost of living: €940 a month (Source: NomadList)

Visa Requirements: Georgia has opened its borders to the residents of 98 countries to live and work remotely without a visa for up to 1 year if they prove to have a minimum income of $2,000. The easiest way for the citizens coming from a country that is not on a list to obtain a visa is to apply for an e-Visa. 

Travelling to Georgia: Official information about the country’s travel restrictions can be found on Georgia’s government website.

Vilnius – Lithuania

Vilnius is not as hectic as people usually expect. As one of the greenest cities in Europe, Lithuania’s capital is a perfect choice if you are looking for a relatively slow-paced lifestyle and a great coffee shop culture. Known as a rising hotspot for multiple-field tech startups, Vilnius offers a huge selection of co-working spaces with fast internet everywhere. Generally, Vilnius is a very safe city to live, with friendly locals if you pass the initial cultural barrier. The climate in winter may be a concern unless you find wonder in landscapes covered in snow.

Lithuania in general is quite affordable if you compare it to other Western European countries. You can rent a single bedroom apartment in the city for about €500. A single ticket for city transport stands at €1, while a monthly pass is at about €30. When you arrive in the city, make sure you download Trafi, an app that will help make your journeys a breeze.

Cost of living: €1850 a month (Source: NomadList)

Visa requirements: The Lithuanian government has passed a legal amendment allowing foreign nationals to obtain the status of e-resident starting January 2021. E-residents will receive a digital identity identification that will give them online access to a range of administrative, public, and commercial services.

Travelling to Lithuania: For the latest information on all COVID-related restrictions check the Corona Stop LT website.

Budapest – Hungary

Known as one of the most attractive touristic destinations with a fascinating history and stunning architecture, Budapest is also fast becoming one of the most appealing cities for digital nomads. Located in Eastern Europe, Hungary’s capital offers a combination of rich culture and low cost of living which is quite captivating for everyone who is keen on exploring. Budapest is home to a burgeoning digital nomad community, which although isn’t as large as those of Lisbon or Tallinn, offers a wide choice of co-working spaces, well-connected wifi cafes and libraries for everyone’s taste. Apart from big-city-standard pickpocketing in some districts, Budapest is a safe and fun city to live in. 

Budapest is a relatively cheap capital compared to other European cities. Accommodation is very reasonable; a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre stands at an average of €430 per month. Budapest is well-connected by a range of different public transport networks, with trams, buses and trolleybuses. A single bus ticket costs €1 and a monthly pass is around €25. Unlike in many other European countries, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are prohibited by the government, so, taxis in the centre can be pricey.

Cost of living: €1258 a month (Source: NomadList)

Visa requirements: Hungary is a part of the European Union as well as the Schengen Area. Therefore, for those already citizens of the European Union, you are free to travel without obtaining a Schengen Visa. For non-EU citizens, the process of getting a working visa is a bit harder, especially if you like to stay in areas for longer than three months for work.

Travelling to Hungary: For official up-to-date information about COVID-19 related restrictions and regulations, please check here

Split – Croatia

Croatia is garnering increasing attention among digital nomads. The strong tradition of tourism and hospitality in the country blends beautifully with its rich history, fantastic climate and in-country travelling opportunities – luring a growing number of remote workers and freelancers from around the world. If we add here the famous beaches and its mild climate throughout the year, it’s no wonder why Split, the country’s second-largest city, has become a very cool place to enjoy a digital nomad lifestyle. Co-working spaces have been emerging all around and the internet connection is decent. Split may not be the cheapest option, but it surely is the top choice if you want to mix business with pleasure.

Living in Split is not as cheap as in many of the other Balkan cities, but it is much more affordable than most of Western Europe. You can rent a one-bedroom apartment in the central area at an average price of €420 per month, although it may be more during the high season. In terms of transportation, much of the centre in Split is pedestrian with many one-way streets. If you live or fancy exploring further afield, Split has a well-established bus system, costing €1.45 for a single ticket and €38 for a monthly pass. Alternatively, you use Uber, taxi or rent a bike.

Cost of living: €2525 a month (Source: NomadList)

Visa requirements: Effective January 1, 2021, Croatia is officially offering temporary residence to digital nomads. The digital nomad residence permit allows you to stay as a short-term resident in Croatia for a maximum of 12 months. Eligible for this type of visa are third-country nationals who work for or own a company that is not registered in Croatia and has no Croatian employees. The amount required on a monthly basis is a minimum of HRK 16907 (€2235) and if you intend to stay for 12 months, you need to prove that you have at least HRK 202890 (€26826) in the bank.

Travelling to Croatia: For more information regarding the conditions of entry into Croatia considering temporary restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, check the following website

Belgrade – Serbia

Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is worth considering if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, welcoming, and energetic city in Europe. Apart from the historical sites and rich culture, plenty of coworking spaces are popping up which makes this Balkan city a rising digital nomad destination. In Belgrade, you will find excellent internet coverage, low-cost food, and welcoming locals. Belgrade is a safe city, although pick-pocketing does happen, so foreigners should keep an eye on their belongings. And, again, if you are looking for a sunny destination, avoid Belgrade in autumn and winter.

If cost of living is one of your deciding factors in choosing your next destination as a digital nomad, then Belgrade should be among your top choices. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre will take around €350 of your monthly budget. Belgrade city public transport is provided through a network of bus, trolleybus and tram routes. While the rate of a single ticket comes at as low as €0.77, a monthly pass costs €27. 

Cost of living: €1381 a month (Source: NomadList)

Visa requirements: To stay in Serbia longer than 90 days, a foreigner needs to apply for a residence permit through the Ministry of Interior. You can acquire a temporary residence visa or a sole proprietorship visa if you are interested in remaining in the country past the 90 days on a tourist visa. Serbia has also announced tax incentives and work permits for digital nomads but no official information is available yet.

Travelling to Serbia: Information about the COVID-19 conditions for entry in Serbia are available on the Serbian Ministry for Foreign Affair website as well as on the following link.

Skopje – N. Macedonia

If you are looking for an unusual experience as a digital nomad, although often overlooked, Skopje is a real playground for foreigners. This unique Balkan capital is a city of contrasts that continuously seeks to reinvigorate its image, with a mix of different architectural styles and distinctive city centre. Moreover, in recent years the city is emerging as a lively IT and startup hub with a nice choice of co-working places. There are also plenty of laptop-friendly cafes with free internet as well as delicious and pleasant trips not too far afield from the city. On the downside, Skopje is not so good for staying during winter due to the high air pollution. 

Skopje takes second place on this list in terms of affordability. Renting an apartment in the city centre comes at a price of around €250. In regards to how easy it is to move around, Skopje is very pedestrian and bike-friendly. The city also operates a bus system which costs €0.65 for one ticket and €23 for a monthly pass, although it is often crowded. A taxi ride around the central areas of the city costs from €1.15 to €2.10.

Cost of living: €1044 a month (Source: NomadList)

Visa requirements: N. Macedonia is not part of the Schengen, but it has its own visa policy that allows most countries to enter Macedonia visa free and stay for up to 90 days. More information on the types of visas and the application procedure can be found on the website of the Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affair. The Government of North Macedonia is currently in the process of developing a brand new visa programme aimed at attracting global digital nomads and will soon join the ranks of Estonia, Georgia, Croatia and more. 

Travelling to N. Macedonia: Information about conditions for entry in North Macedonia are available on the following link.

Did you enjoy reading this list? Let us know where you would work when travel restrictions are lifted, and you can also read more about remote working here.