A Practical Digital Nomad Guide

An image of Aroumd in the high Atlas mountains

I typically work remotely from my home office in the UK but recently my partner and I have been working while travelling. You will find plenty of articles breathlessly extolling the virtues of the 'digital nomad' lifestyle online but they are often a bit light on practical details so I thought I'd share my experience.

Also it goes without saying there are many different ways to travel and that will deeply influence how you approach some of these topics. We have mostly chosen relatively long stays of 4 - 6 weeks at a time to give us a bit of stability, but if you're backpacking to a different hostel every couple of days then your preparation and tips likely look very different!


Unfortunately there's lots to figure out before you can pack your bag and jump on the plane! Lots of the details in this section will be pretty UK specific, but it should give you some ideas about what to look into regardless.

Employer policy

If you are a permanent employee of a company then this can get a bit tricky and could easily derail your plans, so try to get it sorted first.

The simplest path is that your employer already has a clear policy in place for what they allow with working abroad, which should give you some solid constraints to begin planning options around.

The unfortunate reality is that many employers (especially in the UK) haven't adapted to the new possibilities available for remote workers and may not have anything in place, or it may be very vague and work on a case-by-case basis (looking at you execs who the rules seemingly don't apply to…).

This is where you have a difficult decision to make: do you begin the process of finding out what they would allow you to do, thus making your intentions clear (and any repercussions for disobeying worse)? Or do you look to proceed somewhat stealthily in an 'ask for forgiveness not permission' fashion.

Personally I prefer the above-board approach since I'm a terrible liar and very risk averse. If you're going for the stealthy approach then a couple of things stand out to me:

  1. It can be surprisingly obvious that you've changed location on a video call, even if you have a virtual background set (e.g if it's November and you rock up to a zoom call with the sun shining on your face and salt-sprayed hair from a morning surf, people tend to notice!).
  2. You need to consider how sophisticated your employer's IT setup is, especially when it comes to alerting and firewalls. Consider using a VPN to mitigate these risks.


There seem to be broadly two approaches with digital nomads:

  1. Short-term hops on tourist visas
  2. Longer-term use of so called 'digital nomad visas'

For approach 1. remote work sits in a frustrating grey area when it comes to immigration law for most countries, which can lead to difficulties if your employer asks about 'right to work' when you discuss your plans. Reading the letter of the law any remote work on a tourist visa appears to be illegal (Note that I am not a lawyer, so do your own research!).

The problem with this interpretation is that every time someone goes on holiday and checks their work email or answers a call they should get thrown out of the country which clearly isn't practical. Additionally many of the most popular countries for working remotely actively encourage digital nomads by providing long term residence permits, however none of them offer an equivalent for a short term stay, which strongly suggests that they expect people to be using existing tourism allowances for this purpose.

There is a class of remote-first employers who take a very pragmatic approach here if you're lucky enough to land a role with one:

  • They will typically set out limits on the amount of time you can work from a particular country in a given year (often 2/3 months) in order to minimise the risk of your working space counting as a 'permanent establishment' for the company, as this would saddle them with various tax reporting/ social security obligations.
  • They will word their remote work policy something along the lines of 'we expect you to abide by all relevant immigration law when travelling' to cover themselves but otherwise just let you get on with it.

For long term visas you will find a number of articles listing countries with what are described as 'digital nomad visas'. When you actually investigate them however you will find that most are just normal residence permits, which digital nomads often match the requirements for. Unfortunately many of these visas are very onerous to apply for, involving reams of physically signed documents being taken to embassies (or 'VFS global' offices if you're really entering the 6th circle of hell) which may have completely booked up appointment slots for months at a time.

Of all the visas I've looked at around Europe the two which stood out to me were Estonia and Croatia for their ability to apply online and overall pretty reasonable requirements. However even these aren't perfect because of the aforementioned spectre of 'permanent establishment'. Let's take Croatia as an example (source):

  • The visa is for up to a year
  • You are exempt from tax in Croatia on remote earnings during that time
  • There is no social security obligation for your employer during that time

However it is specified as 'unclear' whether your stay would invoke permanent establishment for your employer and another source says a permanent establishment "could be created … if the travel lasts for more than 3 months in any 12-month period".

This feels like another grey area where the letter of the law says it could be an issue but the ground truth is that it's not, after all how does Croatia expect any employer to allow their employees to make use of the digital nomad residence permit if it will invoke permanent establishment for them?

Ultimately permanent establishment is mostly going to be a concern for your employer, but it's frustrating that regulations haven't adapted very well to remote work yet.

Tax status

The UK has a pretty clear Statutory Residence Test for whether you will be counted as a UK tax payer still. The long and short of it is that unless you spend the majority of a tax year out of the UK you're most likely still on the hook for UK income tax. This does have certain advantages if you're applying for visas though, since the UK has double taxation treaties with many countries which will prevent you being taxed twice on the same income and can sometimes prevent you needing to register as a taxpayer there.

It also keeps things simple for your employer, since if you're currently a PAYE employee nothing has to change with payroll.


First you need to consider what you will do with your current accommodation. If you're currently renting then timing travels to coincide with your contract ending is the obvious approach. Alternatively for shorter trips you can look into sub-letting, but you will need to check what your tenancy agreement allows.

If you own your residence then you can either look to rent it out short term on an informal basis or longer term more formally. Airbnb looks very tempting at first glance due to how easy it is to get started and this is probably most suitable if you're doing short term trips. The downsides are:

  • you will need to have someone come in to clean, change sheets and do laundry between bookings which can eat into your earnings
  • it entails a lot more ongoing admin for you to deal with whilst away
  • the income isn't guaranteed since you will likely have some periods of vacancy

We decided to take a more long term approach and rent our house out for a year. This does entail some admin to deal with though:

  • You need to check with your mortgage provider whether you can rent the house out. For us this was actually fairly painless as the bank has a simple webform to submit and it was approved for up to a year without any change in interest rate, but YMMV.
  • Check whether your house falls under any landlord licensing schemes within your local council. For us this involved a fairly hefty payment to apply for.
  • Make sure your house matches the government requirements for being let out. The main things here are getting an EPC, gas & electrical safety certificates and ensuring you have smoke & carbon monoxide alarms fitted.

We used a managed service with an estate agent. I probably wouldn't opt for that if we were to do it again since it's fairly expensive for what they provide and there's not much they can actually do without asking you first, but as a first time landlord I think it was a reasonable decision in order to have some guard rails and a source of advice.

An important and seemingly little mentioned thing to note here is that your rental income will be liable for income tax! Worse still is that there is no way to offset the amount you will be paying in rent while away as a cost against that revenue. If you're fortunate enough to be a higher or even further rate tax payer then this can leave a pretty significant budget deficit between what you rent your place out for and what you can actually afford to stay in whilst travelling. This is another area where I suspect many people doing this are just quietly ignoring the law…

Now onto the fun part, choosing somewhere to stay! Airbnb is once again the obvious choice here (no, this isn't sponsored!) and they have introduced a number of features which make things better for long term rentals. Specifically there are often hefty discounts for staying in the same property for a month or more, we often see 20/30% discounts once you hit the 4 week threshold. Sometimes it can even end up being cheaper to extend a booking past your departure date just to hit that threshold!

A big consideration for me in picking a stay has been my working setup. Personally I can't stand working from a sofa or bed for very long so a decent table and some chairs has been a must. The other obvious thing you need is a decent internet connection. Some listings have started including a screenshot of an internet speed test which is very handy, but you can also try messaging the host before booking to see if they could provide one for you.

Having backup connection options is always sensible and a phone with eSIM capabilities gives you a lot more flexibility to get reasonably priced local data plans instead of the crap that most UK providers offer post-Brexit.

If you haven't tried travelling and working remotely before I'd strongly suggesting doing a test-run of your working setup for a few days before leaving to iron out any kinks and make sure you will be comfortable. I'll probably do a more detailed post in future around my exact travel setup, but I'd highly recommend doing some research into laptop stands if you value your ergonomics.

Lifestyle tips

Decision fatigue

As you might have gathered from all the boring stuff I've written above there's a lot of planning involved in being a nomad. One key thing to realise is that it doesn't stop once you hit the road! Part of the joy and attraction of this lifestyle is novel experiences and opportunities, but that necessarily involves leaving behind all of your existing routine. Having no routine means you constantly have to decide how to spend your time and that can get really exhausting!

When you only have limited time in a particular destination that exhaustion can be compounded by a feeling of urgency that you need to maximise the use of your available time to avoid missing out on things.

Admittedly that urgency to seize the moment and live your life can be very beneficial (see e.g Four Thousand Weeks or the Stoic exercises around the contemplation of death), however running round in a frenzy is not a viable way to live.

I don't necessarily have the solution to this issue but I think being aware of it is beneficial. A few things I have found helpful are:

  1. Try not to be a completionist about destinations. Although there are lots of amazing places to visit in the world it can be really helpful to have places available which you know are great and you'd be happy to come back to, as it's much easier to plan a trip when you know what to expect from somewhere. So just think of that thing you missed as something to look forward to for next time!

  2. Be kind to yourself and respect your energy limits. Sadly it's a reality that most of us do not have endless amounts of energy and sometimes you need some downtime, that's ok! Even if you have lots of exciting options for how to spend your time, it can still be the right choice to go full goblin mode for a little while.

Cooking is hard!

Whilst I'm sure you imagine sampling delicious local delicacies when you picture working abroad, eating out for every meal is impractical and depending on your budget can be prohibitively expensive so you may be cooking meals still. This raises a couple of issues:

  1. Even 'fully equipped' kitchens in Airbnb's and guesthouses can be frustratingly lacking in essential utensils and it's not really practical to ask for a full inventory before booking. (Admittedly I've never tried asking, but given the random assortment of mismatched pans and lids you normally find I doubt they would be able to give you one!)
  2. You don't know what food, seasoning, etc will be available in the local shops before you arrive and it can often be impractical/wasteful to buy e.g a whole bottle of condiment if you're there for a relatively short stay

As such we often pack a few key kitchen essentials in our travel bags such as

  • A wooden spoon
  • Oven gloves (the amount of kitchens with an oven but no tea towel/ oven gloves is ridiculous!)
  • Some essential spices decanted into travel sized packs
  • Tupperware containers (great for leftovers and packed lunches and they take up very little extra space in your bag if you fill them with stuff you were already taking)


International flights tend to have pretty standard luggage allowances to work around, but remember that these can vary significantly for small national airlines if you're going to fly within a country, so try to account for that ahead of time.

I've found it helpful to carry a portable luggage scale, they don't take up much weight or space but can give good peace of mind for return journeys where you may have accumulated extra things!

We typically work with one ~20kg checked bag and a carry on laptop bag each which comfortably lasts us for a couple of months without having to make many sacrifices (including gear for whatever activity we're focussed on in that location). That does make carrying your luggage round a pain, but since we tend to do longer stays it's not a bad trade-off.

There are some amazing examples of people with super lightweight long term travel setups on the internet which are great if you want to destination hop more. Typically the main trade-off there is how often you need to wash your clothes, or just accept being stinky!


If you're still working to roughly UK hours it can actually be really nice to adjust your daily schedule a bit and lean into the time difference. For instance when we were staying in Kalymnos (a popular climbing destination in Greece) it's 2 hours ahead of the UK so we would get out early and aim to get back for 12 local time, for a prompt 10am UK start time at work. This felt really great and we noticed it significantly reduced how much we were 'living for the weekend' compared to our normal lives.


This article may have sounded negative in parts, but working from abroad has been absolutely amazing and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity. Whilst it does present some logistical challenges, it's nothing the average person can't figure out with a bit of research and hopefully this post has given you a useful base to start from!