The world is huge with a lot of places I would like to visit but when it comes to a decision about where to live, it suddenly shrinks.
When you look closer, it turns out that taxes are equally high almost everywhere. Almost no one lets you apply for a residence permit on sight and finally, you realize that there is nowhere to relocate.
However, I took a map and a digital nomad visa countries list and started to dig into it.
Exploring The Globe
Thailand and Indonesia, as well as many Southeast Asia countries, are wonderful places for having fun on vacation and getting warm in winter. But frankly, I doubt that they are suitable for me for a long-term stay in the next several years.
Cultural barrier, timezone, climate, and pretty much everything there seems so unfamiliar to me. Once I've been to Vietnam. I ate a squirrel, and a snake and I also tried turtle soup. That's definitely not my cup of tea. Never again.
Setting up a legal entity, online banking, and so on feels cumbersome there. European online banks do not even ship their cards there. That's how far those countries are!
100% of my mates who have been to Japan say that it's another planet.
The same thing is true for Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, etc.
Would love to visit all of them one day, but I didn't consider any of them for relocation.
I didn't consider any from the Middle East except maybe UAE and Turkey.
As I've described in the Istanbul post, Turkey doesn't meet my requirements perfectly.
UAE is definitely an awesome location in many ways. Dubai is simply a city from science fiction movies. It's VERY tax-friendly and even not very aggressively sanctioning people with Russian passports.
However, the weather didn't look like something I was capable of surviving in the upcoming summer. Yes, taxes are low that's true, but the cost of living there seems to easily overcompensate it. The cultural barrier in an Islamic country with strong traditions is VERY high.
Sorry guys, but I sometimes like to go outside the bar with a glass of wine.
South Africa is probably the only possible candidate from Africa, but I didn't even think of it.
The safety level there is rather close to my hometown. That means that It can be affordable only if it's your hometown and you are the one who knocks. OR at least you were grown up with the guys who knock in your neighborhood, lol.
An awesome place to visit (I've never been to it).
However, it's too far from my hometown, which may bring trouble when I would like to meet with my fam or simply ship my things.
Furthermore, I'm not very confident in the political and economic situation there.
Even the most stable countries there often face economical turbulence and other crises.
Latin American countries' safety level often leaves a lot to be desired.
Australia and New Zealand
Expensive and too far from pretty much everything.
In Australia, every living creature except humans would want to kill me.
Didn't consider US and Canada for several reasons.
They are not even close to any kind of cost-efficiency which breaks any idea of geographical arbitrage which I try to follow. Not a thing I can afford with my pocket money right today.
TBH I didn't even research the exact visa requirements but I'm sure that they are not among the easiest ones. I didn't win a green card lottery or and I don't want to get imprisoned after digging through the border with Mexico.
Like many Russian IT emigrants, I also considered ex-USSR countries, such as Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
All of them are rather close to Russia culturally. And physically, which is not very good. People there speak Russian and it's very easy to move to and get a residence permit there.
Taxes and the cost of living in those countries are usually awesome.
However, all of them are rather shaky from a political and economical point of view. In that sense, they are all very similar to Russia. You never know what to expect in 5 years: all may be fine, but you can also expect a revolution, a war, or a 3-digit inflation.
Some things are very typical for many ex-USSR countries. Things that I would like to stop experiencing by moving elsewhere. That's why the fact that ex-USSR countries are very close culturally becomes a disadvantage.
There are so many Russian migrants in ex-USSR countries this year, that the rent prices sky-rocketed. Cost efficiency there is not even a thing anymore.
The UK is a very special place for me.
When I was a kid, the school where I was studying specialized in the English language with a kind of deep dive into the culture and traditions.
We studied not only the language, but also English literature, the political system, geography, and history, celebrated UK holidays at school, and so on. You know - fish, chips, a cup of tea, bad weather.
I think visiting UK one day was a dream of literally everyone in our school, including teachers. Including me.
I believe that if there is a place on Earth where I can integrate seamlessly it's the UK.
However, it's pricey and doesn't seem to be simple, and doesn't let to apply onsite.
Crossed out for now.
Europe and Nearby
Europe seems like a perfect location for me. I've been to many European countries and there wasn't even a single place I didn't like. It's just in the middle of everything. Not far from my home and the timezone is just optimal.
To me, European people's mindset is probably closer than anyone else on the globe.
There is a digital nomad visa opportunity in every second country, but
unfortunately, almost none of the countries allow on sight applications for residence permits.
The good news is that the European Union is almost borderless in its bounds, and it's awesome almost everywhere there. So getting any European country residence permit is already an awesome move.
My Shortlist of Countries For Relocation
Finally, I narrowed down my search to the countries that were feeling like a match for me and allowed me to apply for a long-term residence permit on sight.
The countries that I considered seriously:
The weirdest thing about my shortlist is that I've never been to any of the countries from the list except Spain, and had to choose blindly.
I'm a big fan of it and Barcelona, to be more exact.
I've been there maybe 4 times and I want to return there again and again.
- Awesome food, wine, etc.
- Stunning architecture
- Seaside (I don't usually swim TBH, but why not)
- Mekka for rollerbladers
- Warm in winter
- Calm lifestyle
- Have a couple of mates there
- No straightforward way to get a residence permit onsite. Only workarounds like student's visa or other shaky ways
- Very hot in summer
- Rent prices in Barcelona are high
- A LOT of tourists in the summer
- A digital nomad's residence permit (pink slip) is easy to get
- Warm in winter
- HUGE Russian IT community
- Very crypto-friendly and is full of opportunities on the bleeding edge of the crypto world
- Have several mates there
- Island. Everything is a bit more expensive than it could be
- Very hot in summer
- The seaside makes life there to be too much dependent on the tourist season. Overcrowded in summer, and empty in winter.
- A residence permit does not allow one to travel to Europe visa-free
- Not very convenient without a car
- Northern Cyprus brings anxiety, but the risk is low
- Taxes are just as high as anywhere in Europe
I didn't manage to research much about Poland. Except for the fact that they've got a business harbor program allowing freelancers and self-employed guys to receive residence permits relatively easily by using their business accelerators as a middleman and a kind of artificial employer. And it's 100% legal there.
Unfortunately, they put this program on hold for Russians this year. That's why I stopped considering Poland.
I don't know much about Croatia except it has incredible landscapes and is rather cost-efficient.
The main downside for me was the fact that they only allow getting a residence permit for digital nomads for one year. After that, I would have to leave for 6 months before I would be able to apply again.
By all means, I didn't want to settle down for a year and then have to return to my countries list and start from the beginning.
From what I can see from google photos the nature there is awesome. Making it a perfect place for a vacation. But it seems like there aren't a lot of things to do other than chilling, sunbathing, and swimming in the sea.
I don't know much about it apart from the fact that it was a part of Yugoslavia and there was a huge war breakout 30 years ago.
However, it's rather cost-efficient, taxes are mild as well. The residence permit is easy to get onsite. It looks very nice and is perfectly located just in the middle of Europe. There is simply no reason not to consider that country for relocation.
There are still sources of anxiety near Kosovo, but I don't think that the risk is high.
I've had an old obsession to visit Portugal during the big wave surfing season on my birthday in March. I don't surf but I would love to watch somebody breaks some world record.
On paper, Portugal was a perfect combination of everything which makes it probably one of the best places on Earth. Even if considered out of the context of my shortlist, relocation criteria, etc.
- Awesome food, wine, etc.
- Stunning architecture
- Stunning and accessible nature
- Not just seaside, but a real goddamn OCEAN
- Mild weather all year long
- Calm lifestyle
- Friendly people
- Is at the top of life expectancy and safety lists
- Lisbon is at the top of any list of the best countries for digital nomads
- 99% of people speak English
- Comparably cost efficient
- Taxes are not worse than in the rest of Europe
- Among the most crypto-friendly countries in Europe
- Friendly for freelancers
- Has all chances to become a Mekka for IT remote workers of the world
- Getting a residence permit onsite is not easy, but pretty much doable
- 5 years to get a passport
- Newborn kids can get a passport almost out-of-the-box
- Annoying flies in autumn
We decided to Go to Portugal
Long story short, we decided to go to Portugal as it was reasonably the best candidate on my list. And probably ANY list I could imagine.
I remember how we were still staying in Istanbul, 3 weeks after we escaped from our hometown. We were literally refugees with a single piece of luggage, moving from one hotel/Airbnb to another every week.
Then suddenly we pick probably one of the best countries in the world to live in and go there.
At first, it was very scary and challenging and even seemed too good to be true. I could not believe that was really happening and now, after 7 months in Portugal, I'm still in the stage of adoption.
Long Way to Portugal
We couldn't simply go to Portugal because it was still closed for entry due to anti-COVID measures. The only way to get there was to get to some other European country that was already open for entry and only then go to Portugal within the Schengen area.
Unfortunately, we only had Russian anti-COVID vaccines made. Since it's not accepted in many countries, we had to find one from the Schengen area that does.
That's why we took a flight from Istanbul to Athens, Greece, stayed several days there, made COVID tests, and then flew to Lisbon, Portugal, with a short stop in Germany.
By contrast, after cold and snowy Istanbul, Athens was something opposite. Such a warm, hospitable, and cozy place it felt like a beginning of a great new chapter in life.
And it really was.
At the end of March 2022, we arrived in Lisbon and it beat all our expectations.
The only question now is why we didn't move here years ago.