The safest places in Asia for digital nomads
If you want to travel to Asia but are worried about safety, you are not alone. For many digital nomads from the United States, Asia seems like a fantastic place to go but can also be a little intimidating, as it is so far from home. So if you are going to go that far, you want to ensure that you are safe when you get there. Our team at Citizen Remote put together a list of the safest countries and cities in Asia for digital nomads to visit.
How we made this list
To make sure we had as comprehensive a list as possible, we looked at several factors, including:
- The Global Peace Index: The GPI is produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace and measures each country relative to each other in terms of global peacefulness. Countries high on this list are generally considered safer for tourism and relocation than countries low on the list.
- The Gay Travel Index: The Gay Travel Index is similar to the Global Peace Index but measures the safety of LGBTQ travelers based on many factors. These include legislation, crime against members of the community, and different restrictions or laws put forth.
- Safest Cities Index: This index is a report from the Economic Intelligence Unit and ranks each major city in the world in terms of safety, updated annually.
- Research on the safest countries for solo women travelers and travelers of color.
We understand that minority groups have unique safety concerns, so we wanted to incorporate all the information we could find while compiling this list. For an added layer of protection, you should consider digital nomad insurance to protect you if an issue arises. These insurance plans can provide protection for trip cancellation or interruption, lost baggage, and medical coverage if you get hurt or sick while on the road.
Even in the safest countries, it is essential to have insurance to fall back on so you are not charged an arm and a leg just to get help when needed. As digital nomads, we have unique needs, so it is crucial to pick a plan tailored to our unique lifestyle.
- GPI Ranking: 30
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 10
Taiwan is generally considered a very safe country. You can walk alone at night without much worry, which is likely different from what many ex-pats have come to expect. In 2021, it was ranked as the best place for ex-pats to live and is popular among remote workers. The Gay Travel Index ranking is exceptionally high (the United States is ranked 31), and the GPI ranking is also great.
The capital city of Taiwan is one of the most common in Asia for ex-pats. It is known for its low cost of living and convenience in terms of public transport and walkability. You can find plenty of cafes, restaurants, and bars throughout the city. If you like the outdoors, you can play just about any outdoor sport you can think of: hiking, biking, surfing, and camping opportunities are endless. Public healthcare in Taiwan is excellent, which is a big relief for ex-pats that decide to move there.
Keep in mind that Taipei has a wet season from November through April. If you do not like rain, try and schedule your visit outside of these times so you can enjoy sunny weather. For families, you will want to enroll children in a private school rather than a public school to ensure high-quality education. Pollution can be frustrating in Taipei when winds bring smog and pollutants from China.
If bigger cities are not your thing, moving to Tainan can offer you a similar Taiwanese experience but with fewer crowds and a smaller city feel. Although you will need a scooter living here, you can get pretty much anywhere in the city via a scooter, so there is no need for a car. The rainy season in Tainan is much shorter than in Taipei and is generally a bit warmer. The cost of living is also cheaper than in Taiwan’s biggest city, with the cost of living being around one-half of what it is in Taipei. Although there are fewer ex-pats in Tainan, the community is said to feel more tight-knit, and there are plenty of opportunities to get together.
- GPI Ranking: 10
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 60
Japan has one of the lowest crime rates of all developed nations, so it is safe for digital nomads and ex-pats. You do not have to worry much about crime but keep an eye out for natural disasters like typhoons and tsunamis. For LGBTQ travelers, it is generally accepted in major cities, but there are not many protections put in law.
If you are looking for a slower pace of life than what you have in Europe or the United States, head over to Kyoto. Not only is the city one of the safest in Asia, but there are organized activities for foreigners to connect with locals and the Japanese culture. You can find many temples and shrines throughout the city as well as a beautiful river to take in the scenery. It is less expensive than Tokyo and has a crime level of 6.98, which is very low. Compare that to San Diego, which has a comparable population but has a crime level of 40.66.
Tokyo was ranked the fifth safest city in the world in 2021, falling from the first safest city in 2019. It is also one of the densest cities in the world, so you can expect a lot of people in a small area. It is not uncommon to hear stories of people leaving electronics, wallets, or purses in public and reuniting with them via a good samaritan or employee. Part of Japanese culture is a high level of respect for other people and others’ belongings, which is what makes Tokyo such a safe and wonderful place to live.
Given that it is such a large city, you can find many comforts from home if you get homesick. You can also get the opportunity to try many new things. For example, Tokyo is an extremely friendly and welcoming city to foreigners, so you do not have to worry about feeling out of place. If big cities are not your thing, Tokyo might initially feel a bit overwhelming.
- GPI Ranking: 9
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 96
Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world, but it should be noted that it is not particularly excellent for LGBTQ people. There are complicated legal matters put in place that likely will not impact travelers but could come into play for those that decide to relocate there. Overall, Singapore is relatively safe for ex-pats and provides opportunities to set up a good life there.
Singapore is a sovereign island country and city-state that was ranked the third safest city in the world for 2021, just behind Copenhagen and Toronto. The population was just over 5.5 million in 2020 in an area of 281 square miles. For reference, this is a smaller land area than New York City. The country is a bit more expensive than other places in Asia but provides a lot for the value. The residents are very diverse, and the country is quite efficient. It is also regarded as one of the most accessible cities for ex-pats to move to in Asia. Singapore might be a great jumping-off point as your first country on the continent to visit.
- GPI Ranking: 44
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 66
Vietnam continues to work on its infrastructure to provide excellent opportunities for remote workers to enjoy the beautiful weather and fantastic culture. Locals are welcoming and generous, and crime rates are quite low. You do not have to worry much about natural disasters as in some other Asian countries, and the worst you will potentially experience is petty theft. As long as you practice normal precautions, you can thrive in Vietnam.
Hoi An has white, sandy beaches and lots of history. Although it is one of the most visited cities in Vietnam, you do not have to worry about it being too touristy. It has one of the largest ex-pat communities in the country, so you have a built-in network to help you through the transition. Make sure to visit An Bang Beach, one of the prettiest beaches in the area. You can find many traditional Chinese and Japanese architecture throughout the city. Hoi An is just outside of Da Nang, which is much larger.
If you are on a limited budget, you must check out Dalat. Living here is exceptionally cheap but packs a lot in terms of value. It has fantastic weather, a thriving ex-pat community, and friendly and welcoming locals. Even though the climate is tropical, the city is located at a higher altitude, so the weather is much cooler here than in other parts of Vietnam. So you can visit plenty of waterfalls and other hikes to connect with the nature of this part of the country.
- GPI Ranking: 103
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 46
Thailand is arguably one of the most common destinations for backpackers and nomads alike, so things like petty theft are more common, but violent crime is almost nonexistent. As a result, it frequently gets voted as the least dangerous country in Southeast Asia for travelers. Since the community here is so strong, you can quickly make friends and set up safety nets in your community.
Chiang Mai is one of the best destinations for ex-pats as the community is significant. The city is very safe and perfect for solo travelers and couples alike. The city is surrounded by mountains and temples and has plenty of markets and cafes to keep you busy throughout your time there. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of large cities, you might want to head to Bangkok. However, if you enjoy cities with a lot to offer but feel smaller and slower, then Chiang Mai was built for you. It was also voted as one of the best places in the world for ex-pats to retire.
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island in the Gulf of Thailand. Not only can you find some of the most picturesque beaches in the world, but also a rainforest. Living in Koh Samui is characterized by simplicity and ease. You can find plenty of bars, restaurants, relaxed beaches, and affordable housing. Many people on the island can speak conversational English, which is excellent news for those ex-pats that do not know Thai. Those who want to retire in paradise can budget around $2000 a month and have a very high quality of life. Crime is nonexistent on the island, so all you need to do is relax.
As long as you do your research and keep an eye out for scams and petty theft, cities throughout Asia are incredibly safe and worth a visit. These options are especially great for digital nomads that work asynchronously with their teams or are self-employed, as the time difference between Asia and North America can make it difficult for live meetings.
You can spend years traveling around the continent and never get bored. There are so many countries worth exploring, and as you travel more, you will get better at spotting which cities are safer than others. Make sure you have digital nomad insurance that you can rely on just in case anything goes wrong during your travels. Most importantly, ensure you have a good time and soak in as much of the culture as possible.