On your hunt for the best digital nomad cities in South America, I encourage you to look beyond just coworking spaces and internet speeds.
Yes, they’re important, but they’re not the only factors to consider.
Compared to Western Europe or parts of Asia, internet speeds in South America can sometimes be slow. I’ve lived in multiple South American countries and there were always a few issues, but 90% of the time I didn’t think about connection speeds – when it works, it works.
If you have regular video meetings and you’re concerned about having a reliable internet connection, consider the following system requirements from Zoom:
For group video calling:
- For high-quality video: 1.0 Mbps/600kbps (up/down)
- For 720p HD video: 2.6Mbps/1.8Mbps (up/down)
- For 1080p HD video: 3.8Mbps/3.0Mbps (up/down)
Now compare that to Nomadlist’s ratings for internet speeds around the world submitted by actual digital nomads:
As you can see, South American countries tick the boxes for good internet speeds.
Within those countries, you’ll find tremendous variations, so the capital is usually the best starting point. More infrastructure, reliable internet connectivity, coworking spaces, and facilities to support the digital nomad lifestyle.
So what else should you consider when choosing your next digital nomad destination?
- Cost of living
- Networking opportunities
- Quality of life
The others are self-explanatory, but by ‘Quality of life’ I mean everything non-work-related. As digital nomads, we’re all guilty of spending too much time behind the laptop. The reason we chose this life was for the freedom it brings, the stunning locations, and experiencing other cultures.
Those should be considerations when choosing your next digital nomad city.
Argentina has it all. From the incredible multicultural capital, Buenos Aires, to the smaller yet equally enjoyable Mendoza and Córdoba. Head south through Bahia Blanca to reach Patagonia with its sprawling mountain ranges and endless lakes, leading to the ultimate southern-most destination – Ushuaia, the gateway to Antarctica.
You could spend years exploring the country, which I have, and never get bored.
Argentina are also embracing the nomadic revolution by introducing a Digital Nomad Visa. The Director of Inprotour, Hernán Vanoli, recently said, “we are putting together the entire package of benefits that will include internet connection, and probably discounts on lodging and internal flights.”
The established digital nomad scene would make Buenos Aires the first choice to settle down for work. The city never sleeps, which is perfect if you’re a night-owl. There are also many chill neighborhoods to choose from if you prefer a peaceful existence.
There’s a great cafe culture, coworking spaces are everywhere and internet speed is usually fast and reliable.
For entertainment, take your pick – museums, galleries, dancing, live music, sports, etc
The cost of living fluctuates because of the unstable economy, but you can budget for $800-$1200 per month, depending on your lifestyle.
The lower end would mean living in a hostel or home share, which isn’t ideal for concentration or focus but, if that’s your budget, it’s doable.
The upper end would mean living in the trendier, more eventful parts of town, like Palermo Soho or San Telmo.
Wherever you choose, you’re never far from a subway station, meaning getting around is a joy – except in rush hour. As with any of the major cities, avoid rush hour.
Alternative cities for digital nomads in Argentina
Smaller, flatter, yet much closer to nature. With a backdrop of Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, Mendoza has a much calmer vibe than other cities.
Mendoza’s also Argentina’s most famous wine region, being home to over 1200 wineries. If red wine’s your thing, you’ll be in heaven.
Regarding coworking spaces, there are a few, but you’ll likely get more enjoyment working in one of a thousand coffee shops around the city.
A middle ground between Buenos Aires and Mendoza, both geographically and figuratively. Smaller and cheaper than the capital city, it’s still packed with enough to keep you entertained. It’s also surrounded by nature, meaning you can escape the bustling city and be sitting by a river within 40 minutes.
With a monthly budget of around $800, it’s certainly a budget-friendly alternative to the capital.
This may be a surprise for some, but it’s worth serious consideration. If you love the outdoors, with access to mountains, lakes, and all-around stunning nature, Bariloche is the dream location.
You can find apartments on the outskirts of town for between $400-700 per month, with broadband speeds measuring up to 30Mbps.
If coworking spaces are your thing, there are a few scattered across town, with La Compañía Coworking Bariloche being one of the digital nomad hotspots.
If you want to get the most from Brazil, you need to practice your Portuguese.
While English is understood and spoken in most of the big cities, it’s the little things like getting a local bus, buying a SIM, or needing a CPF (a Brazilian Social Security number) to buy a flight that can cause headaches.
With that said, Brazil is amazing! Sao Paulo is a sprawling metropolis, Rio de Janeiro has the beaches and wild nightlife, and further north you have the incredible coastal cities of Salvador and Recife.
In between those, you have an untold number of smaller, equally exciting and diverse beach towns, inner cities and states.
It’s also the land of influencers. People are making insane amounts of money living the influencer life, and it’s an incredible opportunity to network and gain access to these circles.
Brazil was the first country in South America to announce a Digital Nomad Visa. You can read about the application requirements here, although it’s recommended to visit your nearest Brazilian embassy as information is subject to change.
Rio de Janeiro
My home for several years, Rio de Janeiro can be exhausting and rewarding in equal measure.
Find an apartment in Leblon or Botafogo and you may never want to leave. With the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain and Copacabana beach within walking distance, your choice of funky coworking spaces and decent weather all year round, Rio is a superb choice for those wanting to live the digital nomad life.
Security can be a concern in certain neighborhoods, so you’ll want to practice common sense travel rules – don’t advertise your belongings and ask the locals for dos and don’ts when getting around the city.
The cost of living varies depending on the area you live in and your recreational choices – hiking up the surrounding mountains and laying at the beach is cheap. Playing volleyball and practicing capoeira are cheap. Partying all night long and fine dining in the fanciest restaurants will require a bigger budget.
Rio is one of the more expensive cities in Brazil, so you’d need to budget between $800-$1200 per month to be safe.
Fun fact: The Port Zone has seen substantial investment and renovations over the last few years, focusing heavily on coliving and coworking spaces. This could be the next great digital nomad hub in Rio. You read it here first.
Sao Paulo is a different beast. It takes itself a little more seriously than Rio, so swap your flip-flops for a sensible shoe and get networking.
You’ll find no shortage of coworking spaces, from funky hipster cafes to traditional office blocks. Sao Paulo is also home to hundreds of startups every year. Many are birthed in these coworking spaces, with collaborations and ideation happening daily.
As it’s the financial hub of the country, the cost of living is obviously higher. Budget between $1000-$1400, and be prepared for long journeys – it’s a huge city! Like London, getting from A to B on the Underground takes a considerable amount of time.
Sao Paulo isn’t just a concrete jungle. Parque Ibirapuera is a vast park in the city, perfect for jogging, cycling and forgetting about work. There are also plenty of options for weekend trips to escape the city life, with stunning beaches in Guarujá and the breathtaking Ilhabela (Beautiful Island) to name a few.
Alternative cities for digital nomads in Brazil
The Northeast of Brazil
If you want to get away from the Brazilian cliches, head to the northeast of Brazil.
You have so many options.
- Natal ($800-$1000 per month)
- Recife ($900-$1100)
- Porto de Galinhas ($700-$900)
Natal and Recife are the capitals of their respective states, while Porto de Galinhas is a much smaller, cooler beach town south of Recife.
Each contains its fair share of beautiful beaches, and each has plenty of coworking spaces. They differ from the more populous southern states with less international tourism and fewer English speakers, yet an abundance of rich culture.
Your average monthly cost in the northeast will be cheaper, meaning your USD per month buys more amazing food, more weekend trips, and more cultural experiences. It’s a trade-off though, as you’ll enjoy the low-cost life in exchange for fewer networking opportunities.
You’d be crazy to visit South America and not visit Colombia. I know it sounds a bit fantastical and magical (a nod to the movie Encanto), but it really is that special.
It’s one of the most up-and-coming digital nomad hubs in all of Latin America, and rightfully so.
With the cost of living ranging from $700-$1100, it’s certainly a budget-friendly country. It’s also jam-packed with history, culture, music, delicious food, plus warm and welcoming people.
Coworking spaces are everywhere, internet speeds are solid and reliable and the climate is dreamy. English is understood and spoken in all the bigger cities, and transportation is easy to navigate.
Medellin is certainly one of the best digital nomad cities in South America. It has the infrastructure in place to enable smooth working, plus accommodation is easy to secure. Whereas some cities require endless paperwork, 6-month leases or expensive Airbnbs, it’s simple to find monthly rentals in Medellin.
Add to that a thriving digital nomad community, thousands of affordable coworking spaces, cafes, and libraries, and you’ve got the prime circumstances to thrive and flourish.
Should you need more help or guidance upon arrival, Medellin is home to a large expat community. They can help navigate the finer cultural details and bureaucracy.
Where Medellin is smaller and more intimate, Bogota is brash and packed full of entertainment.
With the Andes mountains as your backdrop, you’ll never tire of the scenery in this beautiful city. It’s a stunning mix of the old and new, meshing century-old plazas and churches beside shiny glass skyscrapers and conceptual architecture.
As it’s the capital city, Bogota’s on the expensive side, so budget for the higher end of $900-$1100.
Many of the coworking spaces are old houses, renovated and super-charged. The atmosphere this creates is inspirational. Would you feel more inspired working in a chilled-out, comfortable, funky front room or in a cold, lifeless office space?
When you’re not working, you have many options. Dance the night away, expand your mind in the multitude of museums or galleries, or go full-on tribal debating with the locals which team is better – Atlético Nacional or Millonarios.
Alternative cities for digital nomads in Colombia
With a much cheaper cost of living, coming in between $700-$900, you get to enjoy the rich culture, access to fast internet in the various coworking spaces, and you’re close to beautiful beaches.
While it sometimes gets bad press, Barranquilla is a hidden gem in Colombia. It’s the fourth largest city in Colombia, yet still feels like it’s off the beaten track. It doesn’t have the tourist vibe of other beach cities, yet there’s no sacrifice on culture.
With a history dating back to 1533, Barranquilla played a pivotal role in the shaping of the country. Nicknamed Colombia’s Golden Gate, this Caribbean port town was the gateway for major cultural and technological advancements – trains, aviation, and even football.
You won’t have the same networking opportunities as you would in Bogota or Medellin, but not everyone wants that. If you just want to hang up your hammock in an affordable city and work in peace, there are much worse places you could choose than Barranquilla.
A large part of digital nomadism is networking, hence why I included the best cities with the best networking opportunities.
They’re all rich with entrepreneurism, startups, and influencers. You’re only one great connection away from landing your next dream project, so why not surround yourself with like-minded, talented, creative people who are hungry for success too?
South America is a digital nomad hotspot full of remote workers, and for good reason:
- Stunning surroundings
- Diverse cultures
- Low cost of living
- Rapidly growing infrastructure
- Growing adoption of Digital Nomad Visas
- Excellent networking opportunities
If networking isn’t a priority for you, get off the beaten track. I lived and worked in Paraguay for a few years and loved every second. Ecuador has great remote working opportunities and Bolivia has an up-and-coming nomad scene.
Whatever your priorities, find the balance that works for you. A strong internet connection is great, but pointless if you’re miserable from being in a boring city. Low cost is the dream, but not if it means compromising your ability to work remotely.
South America is a dream location for digital nomads, so what are you waiting for? Brush up on your Spanish/Portuguese, shake those hips and go create some magic.
Want up-to-date information and resources about the digital nomad lifestyle? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.