Remote & Async Work 13 min

The best cities for remote working and cost of living

Written by Rachel Mantock
May 13, 2024
Rachel Mantock


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Whether you're fully embracing the remote worker lifestyle or just experimenting with it, you might be considering a move to a new city. Maybe you're a digital nomad enjoying the freedom to work from anywhere, at any time. Or you're simply exploring a more balanced approach to work and leisure, tired of the monotonous live-to-work routine. In any case, you'll find our Best Destinations for Remote Work tool incredibly useful, and the accompanying report is definitely worth a read.

We've tested a number of priorities with this tool, extracting valuable insights and compiling a list of top cities for remote workers. We've also included some personal stories from members of Remote who embody the remote, asynchronous, flexible work philosophy — providing you with firsthand accounts from those who know it best.

The top five cities for remote workers and cost of living

The cost of living is a driving force behind what’s possible for us in the near future, from where we live, to how we live, and everything in between. Cities that combine a low cost of essentials, with a rich offering of sightseeing, culture and nature, seemingly on your doorstep (for no or little additional cost), tend to come out on top here. 

With Colombia’s Bogotá, Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur, Nepal’s Kathmandu, and Egypt’s Cairo all  taking the top four spots for remote work and cost of living (in that order) — each of these cities boasts an unrivaled mix of cultural hubs, surrounded by cascading nature. ‌Kyrgyzstan’s Bishkek came in fifth place as a surprising top finisher. 

1. Bogotá, Colombia

The Financial Times (FT) ranked Colombia’s capital city seventh within its top 10 for human capacity and lifestyle for its 2021/22 Global Cities of the Future Index. Bogotá’s up-and-coming young population, alongside its being home to two of the best ranking universities in Latin America, landed it a spot in the FT top ten. In some ways, the city is able to compete with bigger, international cities without many of the associated costs of living in one. 

Bogotá stands out as one of the most affordable major cities to live, outpacing regional counterparts like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Quito, and Mexico City in terms of cost of living.

Housing, transport and essential costs

Depending on the neighborhood and type of housing, rent prices can vary by a wide margin in Bogotá. Though even at the higher end, these prices are likely to come in much lower than that of other major international cities. 

For context, let’s think in terms of USD (the local currency in Bogotá is the Colombian peso —  COP). On average, a one-bedroom apartment in a central location can cost around $400 USD per month. Water, electricity, and gas typically cost around $50 USD per month on top. Internet and cable TV packages can range from roughly $25 USD to $50 USD per month too.

Bogotá’s main mode of public transportation is the TransMilenio bus system, which consists of a network of dedicated bus lanes and stations. It’s affordable and convenient, with fares starting at around $0.65 USD for a single ride. The system is also integrated with other forms of public transportation, like independent, smaller buses and “colectivos” (shared taxis), making it easy to connect to different parts of the city.

Taxis can be hailed on the street or ordered through ride apps, starting at around $1.20 USD. The city also has an extensive network of bike lanes and bike-sharing programs, and it’s quite easy to explore on foot.

Wellbeing, play and discovering nature 

Say hello to high-quality, well priced coffee again, with local Bogotá cafes charging around $2 a cup (the dream). You’ve also got pockets of green spaces, which are free to explore, at your fingertips. Having completely shifted from its 90s outlook, Bogotá is now one of the world’s most sustainable cities (within the top 100, according to the Sustainable Cities Index). Up until 2024, “the greening of Bogotá” was a concept marked in the city’s District Development Plan to encourage urban green spaces among the city’s colorful buildings and sprawling street art. 

Bogotá’s club scene began to flourish in the 90s after it emerged from its underground setup due to restrictions that were in place during the 80s, because of political unrest. Now, its electronic music scene competes on the world stage, from the iconic Video Club and Club Theatron to the outdoor-indoor set up at El Coq.

Venturing out for cheap but mighty eats

Jose Alejandro Hoyos, an international tax analyst at Remote, located in Bogotá, raves about its food scene. 

“Bogotá has a world class gastronomic offer, ranging from world-class restaurants, serving international cuisine, to incredibly tasteful and diverse street food,” he says. 

“Around every corner, and in every market, there’s an immense variety of local food. You get to eat empanadas and arepas, plus a thousand types of fruits and other things for less than a dollar.”

“Also, Bogotá is a very well connected transportation hub with competitive airfares, which makes it easy and cheap to explore the cultural and natural diversity of Colombia and neighboring Latin American and Caribbean countries.”

2. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Another capital city that topped the list for remote work and  cost of living, Kuala Lumpur is considerably cheaper across accommodation, food, transport, and entertainment than other major international cities, especially in the West. It’s also well connected both locally and internationally, with Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) serving as a central hub for business and leisure travel. 

Eating out everyday, as standard

Local enthusiast Adriana Azhar, a SaaS procurement specialist at Remote, says she likes working remotely in Kuala Lumpur, because “you can live comfortably and eat out everyday without breaking the bank.”

“Dining out can be quite affordable, a meal at a local restaurant typically costs around RM10 to RM25 — that’s $5 a meal,” she adds. “You can also rent a one bedroom apartment in the city center, with prices ranging from RM1800 (just under $400 USD) to RM3000 (just under $700 USD) per month.”

“Plus, I’d say transportation is quite reasonably priced too. A standard, one way ticket by train costs around RM2-RM6 (from less than a dollar, to just over), depending on the distance.”

Healthcare, wellbeing, and exploring

According to a 2023 survey, Malaysians have the most faith in their healthcare system compared to the rest of the world. The study (by Ipsos, looking into healthcare systems globally) found the country ranked third, after only Switzerland and Singapore, for reliability of their healthcare service. It’s also affordable, with a subsidized system and low-cost coverage options for residents and expats. 

Known for its intricately designed temples and biodiversity outside of its thriving city scene, there are world-famous landmarks, tropical jungles, mountain tops, and pristine beaches within easy reach in Kuala Lumpur too, making it an almost free vacation all year round. 

3. Nepal, Kathmandu

Nestled in the heart of Nepal, Kathmandu emerges as a charming option for remote workers — another capital city, coming in third place for cost of living when using our Best Destinations for Remote Work tool. Remote workers, who are drawn to flexible ways of balancing life with work, should have this city on their radar primarily for its cost-effective living conditions. But it comes with a heap of whimsical beauty too. 

Higher-end living for less

The city's housing spectrum for professionals ranges from economical apartments to more refined residences, all priced considerably lower than in other international capitals.

This affordability extends beyond just housing too, folding in daily essentials like groceries, dining out, transport, and the activities you do just for fun. A low general cost across all these essentials makes enjoying a comfortable lifestyle, without a hefty price tag, the standard for remote workers in Kathmandu.

Lower healthcare costs 

Kathmandu also offers healthcare services at a fraction of the cost, compared to capital cities in the West. Expats, visitors, and some locals will likely opt for health insurance that provides broader coverage, but routine medical care in the city is accessible and affordable without this too, even if you’re simply “paying as you go.” 

Easy cultural exploration 

Nepal’s capital city is captivating to look at, with its vibrant culture and elaborate, rich history. Kathmandu is a treasure trove of historical sites, temples, and busy street life, offering a deeply immersive experience that's both enlightening and economical.

The colorful beauty of Nepal, with the majestic Himalayas in close proximity, presents remote workers with ample opportunities for outdoor adventures, like hiking and trekking, all without straining finances. 

Trade offs with digital tools

That said, you will be trading off in some areas. Infrastructure in the city can be inconsistent. Power outages, though infrequent, aren’t a thing of the past yet either. Plus, internet connections aren’t consistent and reliable — perhaps the biggest tradeoff for remote workers in the region. But those with asynchronous work setups will be able to mitigate this. 

4. Cairo, Egypt

Egypt's famous capital is becoming increasingly popular among remote workers for its affordability and unique cultural scene. This country is home to some of ancient history’s most magnificent architectural greats. Egypt’s cost of living is quite low compared to that of other major cities worldwide. This makes taking care of the essentials across housing, transport, and groceries, while still making room for fun, no matter your budget, an easier feat for remote workers. 

Combining low costs with reliable wi-fi

Unlike some others on the list, Cairo is also well-equipped for most of the tech intricacies that come with remote working. The city is served by consistent wi-fi and an expanding hub of co-working spaces. Plus, its strategic position offers great connectivity to Europe and the Middle East, making it an ideal choice as a base for digital nomads and remote professionals who love exploring.

Currency trade offs with affordability 

The Egyptian pound isn't as strong as the US dollar. So, if you're a remote worker based in Cairo, earning in dollars —  when you convert your earnings to Egyptian pounds, you get a favorable exchange rate, allowing your money to stretch further.

The city’s your open-air office in Cairo

For Moaz Hossam, a scale customer success manager at Remote, the best part about remote working while living in Cairo is the number of places you can set up shop for the day — for a nominal amount, while eating out across your work week too (relatively cheaply). 

“What I really enjoy about remote working in Cairo is how easy it is to find affordable places to work, right in the middle of the city,” says Moaz.

“Cairo is a major city with beautiful architecture from different eras, and the weather is warm and sunny most of the year. The culinary scene is affordable and diverse, and the overall cost of living is low.

“I love The Greek Campus in downtown Cairo, a co-working place aimed at startups, built in a very old but renovated building. Plus Abou El Sid Restaurant for authentic Egyptian cuisine.”

5. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Less well known than the other capital cities in the top five here, Bishkek nestles against the gorgeous backdrop of Central Asia's Tian Shan range. It serves as a starting point for adventures into the Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountains and the winding Ala Archa National Park, known for its icy glaciers and panoramic wildlife trails. 

The city is also a cultural hub, boasting the impressive State Museum of Fine Arts and the elegant, colonnaded Opera and Ballet Theater. At the heart of Bishkek, the expansive Ala-Too Square proudly displays the Manas monument, a tribute to the legendary hero of the Kyrgyz Epic of Manas.

Getting around and co-working for less

Navigating Bishkek on a budget is more than doable. Whether you hop on a bus, share a ride in a marshrutka (those nifty shared taxis), or use a ridesharing app, getting around won’t break the bank. This makes it easy for remote workers to roam the city and check out the sights without stressing over the cost of travel.

The city is also home to a number of co-working spaces and cafes, equipped with the modern conveniences you need for setting up a remote office for the day (or week). Most of these spaces offer flexible and low-cost memberships or pay-per-use options too.

Local meets global cuisine on a budget

Bishkek boasts a vibrant culture across historical sites; busy, colorful bazaars; and a welcoming local population. Immerse yourself in Kyrgyz culture, explore the city's neighborhoods, and get stuck in with cultural activities, all without spending a small fortune. Based in the capital city, Kairat Kaipov, a frontend engineer at Remote, is all about the affordable eats in Bishkek.

“In Bishkek, one can savor delectable cuisine, encompassing both traditional Kyrgyzstan dishes and international fare, all at exceptionally reasonable prices,” he explains, with Beshbarmak being his favorite local dish. Plus, he highlights the city’s low-cost co-working options and transportation system as a big plus.

Honorable city mention for best cost of living

Istanbul, Turkey

Speaking of affordable cities with enviable foodscapes for eating your way through each street, Istanbul is forever worth a mention, coming in at number 11 as a top city for remote workers and low cost of living. Remote’s Hakan Kose, a customer care billing specialist, says remote working in the city helps him avoid traffic jams and make time for taking in beautiful views while enjoying a classic Turkish breakfast. 

“Istanbul is a huge city where there’s also traffic jams, especially during rush hours,” says Hakan. “So, I love the fact that I can avoid those hours when I’m traveling within the city, thanks to remote working.”

“I also love that I can have breakfast while watching the beautiful Bosphorus with my laptop beside me, working and enjoying the scenery. We Turks love breakfast with a well brewed glass of tea.”

Methodology and the best cities for remote work

The dataset used for Remote’s global destination rankings pulled from a 25 series of information, across countries globally and from individual U.S states, using eight categories. When measuring for “quality of life”, data was analyzed for key objectives like the happiness of residents, relying on self-reporting. These results were then combined with data from a closely linked topic (like pollution) to give more all-rounded final results on quality of life and remote worker cities.

Discover more best destinations for remote work

Use our Best Destinations for Remote Work tool to find the cities that meet your top priorities. You can choose from openness, attractiveness, quality of life, internet, safety, cost of living, inflation and incentives. It’s easy to use with a toggle feature to set the level of importance for each element. Once you’ve done this part, the tool will auto generate a list of 100 cities that are great for remote working, ranked in consecutive order for the priorities you’ve selected.

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