Your time has come to explore the world while working remotely? Or are you considering it, or simply dreaming about it? We’re sharing in this post what you can expect as a digital nomad in South America, which cities we recommend. Read on to discover the pros –and maybe some of the cons– of the best-rated digital nomad destinations in South America.
Digital nomad lifestyle in South America
South America is a vast continent with many interesting cultures to discover. It might not be as popular among digital nomads as, say, Southeast Asia. But there are many excellent spots that are comfortable to stay and work at and are a great base to discover the beauty of the continent.
South America not only has interesting cities that are well-suited for working online, it also offers a few added benefits as you’ll see in this post. Whether you’re looking for real digital nomad hubs or into experiencing life as a local, there are great choices.
No-hassle entry requirements to the countries
To all the below mentioned countries, USA and EU citizens don’t need to arrange a Visa beforehand. All countries allow a 3-month stay in the territory with a regular tourist passport, which can be extended afterward. At the border you simply get an entry stamp with the date of arrival; and in some countries (e.g. Chile, Ecuador) you also get a paper validating your entry that you need to show at the exit. Check the specific entry requirements on your embassy’s website.
Low cost of life
South America in general has a cheaper cost of living compared to the Western world – North America or Western Europe. This is good news, because your earnings will go a long way and you can really make the most out of your stay.
Some of the fastest internet connection is in South America
As a digital nomad, one of your most important requirements when it comes to choosing a location is internet speed. All of the cities we recommend have speedy internet, but one destination particularly stands out on this point. Uruguay is proud to have the fastest internet in Latin America with modern fibre technology.
Learn or practice Spanish or Portuguese easily like never before
Apart from Portuguese-speaking Brazil, the rest of South America speaks Spanish. Although in some cities you’ll find a substantial amount of English-speakers –mainly expats and fellow digital nomads–, most of the locals speak English at a very low level; which means a great learning opportunity for you! South Americans are patient and very friendly with visitors trying to grasp their language. So even if you are a complete beginner, don’t be afraid and dive in.
And of course, if you travel around the continent, it’s enough to learn a few sentences to be a bit more local.
A very interesting culture to dive into
South American countries are culturally and naturally rich so wherever you go, there will be so much to discover; from indigenous festivals to the carnival, the Inca heritage, the stunning nature, the flavourful cuisine and colourful fabrics. I would also add that a big part of the South American culture remains unknown to other parts of the world, so surely there’s plenty to awe at. This means that there’s a lot of things to explore on weekends and days off.
Is South America a good destination for first-time digital nomads?
Since the coronavirus pandemic, many companies have sped up the process of offering remote working positions and are open to hiring freelancers, while digital business is thriving around the world. Now is the best time to land in a job that’s perfect for experienced digital nomads, or those of us who want to go on their first digital nomad project.
South America is great for first-timer digital nomads, because it offers a great mix of interesting and authentic cultural experiences, coupled with a fairly easy organisation.
We’ve carefully chosen the destinations below based on our own experience while traveling in South America for a year and working on Green Mochila blog. Our most important criteria were: good internet connection, enough entertainment in the city and proximity to nature.
Best digital nomad destinations in South America
Buenos Aires, Argentina
If you are looking to stay in the most vibrant city in South America, Buenos Aires won’t disappoint you. It’s a digital nomad hub with so much going on that could keep you busy for many months (or maybe forever?). The city, which is dubbed the “Paris of the South” due to its neoclassical architecture style, boasts many (free) cultural events, including tango shows / concerts / classes, and has some of the best museums in South America.
Check out the many cool things to do in Buenos Aires
Argentinians are among the friendliest people on the continent, so making friends with them is easy.
Top reasons for choosing Buenos Aires as a digital nomad
- Argentinians are really friendly folks
- Buenos Aires is popular with expats and digital nomads in Argentina, there’s a sizable international community
- While it’s not so common to hear English on the street, young adults are happy to communicate in English
- Buenos Aires might be the best South American city to find plenty of vegetarian food
- There is a plethora of cultural events happening in the city, and many of them are free
- Buenos Aires has good infrastructure (eg. metro lines) which means it’s easy and fast to get around the city
Traveling near Buenos Aires
Although Buenos Aires would keep you busy and super entertained 24/7, there are great day- and weekend-trip options for a getaway, such as Colonia del Sacramento or Montevideo, both in Uruguay, just on the other side of the Río de la Plata. Other great options are Rosario and Córdoba, where you can get a taste of the Argentinian life outside the capital.
Discover why you should travel to Argentina and choose it as a digital nomad
2. Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca is probably our personal favourite digital nomad hotspot in this list. Although it’s getting popular with nomads, you can still find laid-back-but-not-over-hyped vibes coupled with comfortable living conditions: great internet, walkable distances, even cheaper rent prices. It’s a smaller city compared to other places in our list. But being a university city, there are many young people who speak English, hip cafes, and inexpensive events like concerts aplenty.
Top reasons for choosing Cuenca as a digital nomad
- Cuenca is geographically a great base to explore the country, which is not dauntingly huge anyway
- It’s a smaller city so it’s easy (and safe) to get around on foot
- We were blown away by the young and open-minded vibe this university city has
- Younger people speak reasonable English
- The currency in Ecuador is USD, so if that’s the currency of your income, you don’t even need to exchange it
Traveling near Cuenca
Ecuador is probably the easiest country to stay in as a digital nomad. Although it’s relatively small, it boasts almost all the types of landscapes that are to be found in South America. The capital Quito is a good option for more culture, Baños for the ultimate outdoorsy sports, and right at Cuenca’s doorstep is the Cajas National Park. Cuenca is situated in the south of Ecuador, so it’s also relatively near Peru if you’re thinking about venturing a bit further. And let’s not forget the Galapagos Islands, one of the biggest hits in South America, although for that you need more time and money.
Check out why visit Ecuador and choose it as your digital nomad base
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The most famous city in Brazil can keep you busy for months. There are so many cultural activities happening in the city that the real difficulty will be to choose where to go. Concerts are also in abundance, so are colourful markets with great street food to try.
Read about our favourite things to do in Rio de Janeiro
The locals are super laid-back, there are great beaches right in the city and forró and samba (the 2 most popular dances of Brazil) are neverending. However, the city has a high crime rate at certain areas, and it’s (always) necessary to take a taxi at night. Still, it’s a city with a special vibe that blew us away and we seriously considered staying here for a few months.
Top reasons for choosing Rio de Janeiro as your digital nomad destination
- Brazilians, in general, are super chill and incredibly friendly
- Many co-working spaces are available throughout the city
- There’s a big expat community in Rio
- Loads of great events, parties, and cultural activities going on
- The street food is just mouth-watering
- Great beaches are within the city
Traveling near Rio
Rio is huge and can keep you entertained for months. But if you want to venture out, there are a few places around that are worth exploring, such as the tropical forest of Tijuca Forest National Park, the historical city of Petrópolis, the paradisiac Ilha Grande or the small colonial town of Paraty.
Read more practical tips in our post about digital nomad lifestyle in Brazil
4. Medellin, Colombia
Medellín is the uncrowned digital nomad hotspot. Despite its violent past and somewhat still bad reputation of Colombia, the city has become a favourite South American destination for digital nomads. It’s not hard to see why: it’s a culturally rich and modern city, full of green areas. It’s no problem getting about on foot, although you need to keep some precautions when out after dark and avoid certain places.
There’s really plenty to enjoy in the city, check out our favourite things to do in Medellin
Top reasons for choosing Medellin, the top-rated digital nomad destination
- Medellín is a buzzing city with a lot of cultural activities
- The city boasts green areas all throughout the city
- It’s possible to get around on foot in downtown, and there’s a good and clean metro system to reach further areas
- Medellín is the safest city in Colombia
- There’s a sizable international community
- Warm weather all-year round: Medellin is also called the “city of the eternal spring” for a good reason
Traveling near Medellin
There are very interesting places already right at the doorstep of Medellín: Santa Fe de Antioquia and Santa Elena are both picturesque villages where you can discover the rural life. The Parque Arví is a great spot to relax in the nature and join kite runners in their hobby.
See our favourite destinations in Colombia to see during your stay
5. Montevideo, Uruguay
Uruguay is a small country, and Montevideo is perhaps the only capital city in South America where distances are perfectly possible to walk. We were completely charmed by its friendly locals, varied events and its overall atmosphere. It has modern, cool vibes with very welcoming people, and is among the best places to experience mate and tango. (Yes, tango is really big in Uruguay too!)
Check out why we fell in love with Montevideo
Furthermore, Uruguay has the fastest internet connection in South America, due to their optic fiber technology.
Top reasons for experiencing Montevideo as a digital nomad
- Locals are very friendly, they are happy to interact with you and share a mate
- It’s a great base to discover the whole country and even parts of Argentina
- Montevideo is a modern and safe city
- They have the fastest internet speed in South America
- Distances are walkable within the city
Traveling near Montevideo
One of the best things in Montevideo is that traveling through the whole country doesn’t seem daunting, because of its relatively small size. There are unique places within an hour of travel, like Colonia de Sacramento which feels like time-travel, or Cabo Polonia, the isolated coastal village. On the other hand, buzzing Buenos Aires (and Argentina) is a short ferry-ride away, which puts Montevideo on a strategic point on the Rio de la Plata bank.
Wondering what else is in the bank for you in the country? Check out our recommendations for Uruguay.
6. Valparaiso, Chile
If you like an alternative and colourful style, you’ll fall in love with seaside city Valparaíso (or Valpo, as locals call it). It’s a medium-sized city built on several hills, with lots of street art, cute cafes serving vegetarian/vegan food and great hidden lookouts. On warm weekends, downtown streets are filled with people as if there was carnival all summer! If you ask me, this charming city should probably become the next digital nomad mecca.
Find out why Valpo is just awesome
Top reasons to choose Valparaiso as a digital nomad
- The hip vibes and the buzzing atmosphere are just amazing
- There’s enough awesome street art to admire every single day
- Great vegetarian and vegan food culture
- Distances in downtown Valparaíso are walkable, and you’ll get sporty with walking up and down on the hills
- Good beaches in and near the city
Traveling near Valparaiso
Valpo is situated only 1 hour away from the capital Santiago with infinite cultural possibilities. It’s practically grown into neighbouring Viña del Mar which is quite a posh city. Apart from city visits, there are plenty of nature spots too, tucked as it is between the Andes mountains and the Pacific ocean.
Have a look at what else to see in Chile if you decide to be a digital nomad in Valparaíso
A few tips for being a digital nomad in South America
- Have a health insurance in case of emergencies or when you need to go to the doctor
- Keep an account in one of the digital nomad banks, which has no or low change for cash withdrawal in different currencies
- Bring sustainable travel essentials with you (eg. reusable water bottle, shopping bag) as they may not be as widely available as in your home country
- Consider investing in a water filter, as water quality is not suitable for drinking everywhere in South America
- It’s good to have a universal travel adapter for the socket
Are you planning to travel to South America as a digital nomad? Which of these destinations would you consider?
Tell us in the comments section below!
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