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HomeTravel ArticlesBali vs Lisbon: A Digital Nomads Dilemma

Bali vs Lisbon: A Digital Nomads Dilemma

As a digital nomad for many years, I’ve had the privilege of turning the world into my office. I’ve journeyed across continents, clocked in from mountain tops, and scheduled meetings from sun-kissed beaches. It’s a lifestyle that’s both liberating and challenging, forcing one to strike a balance between work and exploration. Two of the most popular destinations for digital nomads are Bali and Lisbon. Both have their unique allure, but choosing between them can be a daunting task. Having spent significant time in both places, I’d like to share my insights on the decision between Bali and Lisbon as a base for a digital nomad.
Bali: A Tropical Workers Paradise

Nestled in the heart of Indonesia, Bali is often dubbed as the digital nomad’s paradise. There’s a certain charm that this tropical island exudes, attracting remote workers from across the globe.

The Positives

1. Cost of Living: Bali is incredibly affordable. From accommodation to food and entertainment, your dollar goes a long way here. This is a big plus for digital nomads, especially for those just starting out or working on a budget.

2. Co-working Spaces: There’s an impressive array of co-working spaces in Bali, particularly in areas like Ubud and Canggu. These spaces are designed with the digital nomad in mind, offering high-speed internet, networking opportunities, and even cafes and accommodation.

3. Community: The digital nomad community in Bali is thriving. It’s easy to meet like-minded individuals, join networking events, and make friends. This sense of belonging can be crucial for those living the nomadic lifestyle.

4. Lifestyle and Wellness: Bali is a haven for wellness and personal development. Whether it’s yoga retreats, healthy organic cafes, or surf lessons, there are endless opportunities to maintain a balanced lifestyle. The markets are excellent.

The Negatives

1. Internet Speed: While coworking spaces offer reliable internet, the same can’t be said for all parts of the island. If your work requires heavy internet usage, this can be a challenge.

2. Visa Regulations: Indonesia’s visa regulations can be stringent and are subject to change. It’s essential to stay informed about the current rules and plan accordingly.

3. Distance from Home: Depending on where you’re originally from, Bali can be quite remote, making visits home or meeting with clients in person more challenging.

Local Sentiment

The Indonesian government has been making it easier for foreigners, including digital nomads, to work in Bali, with the hope of boosting the local economy. This includes offering long-stay visas to skilled workers and other wealthy non-nationals​.

However, some locals have expressed frustration over the growing party scene, which they attribute to the influx of digital nomads and other tourists. A petition signed by over 8,000 locals criticized the constant noise from bars near temples, public drunkenness, drug consumption, and other inappropriate behavior​.
Lisbon: A Blend of History and Modernity

On the other side of the globe lies Lisbon, Portugal’s coastal capital. It’s a city that beautifully marries its rich history with a budding modern scene, making it an appealing choice for digital nomads.

The Positives

1. Location: Lisbon’s location in Europe is ideal for travel enthusiasts. It’s a great base to explore the rest of Europe, with numerous budget airlines offering cheap flights to various destinations.

2. Digital Infrastructure: Portugal boasts one of the fastest internet speeds in Europe. This, coupled with a number of coworking spaces and digital-friendly cafes, makes Lisbon a great place for remote work.

3. Quality of Life: Lisbon is known for its high quality of life. The city is safe, clean, and boasts an excellent public transportation system. Moreover, the locals are friendly and most speak English, easing the transition for digital nomads.

4. Food and Culture: Lisbon is a city rich in culture and cuisine. From historic sites and museums to vibrant nightlife and world-class restaurants, there’s always something to explore.

The Negatives

1. Cost of Living: While cheaper than many Western European cities, Lisbon is more expensive than Bali. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center can range from €700 to €1,200 per month, depending on the location and amenities. Food and transportation are also relatively inexpensive, with a meal at a local restaurant costing around €10-15 and a monthly metro pass costing around €40.

2. Language Barrier: Although many Lisbon residents speak English, navigating certain situations like dealing with government bureaucracy or finding housing can be challenging without speaking Portuguese. It’s helpful to learn some basic phrases or consider taking a Portuguese language course.

3. Internet Connection: While most cafes and co-working spaces have Wi-Fi, the connection may not always be reliable. Investing in a portable Wi-Fi device or a SIM card with a data plan can ensure a consistent internet connection.

4. Limited Co-working Spaces: Compared to other European cities, Lisbon has a limited number of co-working spaces. It’s a rapidly growing city and the number of options is increasing, but you might have to search for a while to find a space that suits your needs and budget.

5. Crowded Tourist Seasons: Lisbon receives a large number of tourists during the summer months, which can make it difficult to find accommodations and can lead to long lines and crowded streets. It’s advisable to plan your visit during the shoulder season (spring or fall) when the city is less crowded.

Local Sentiments

The perspective of the local people in Lisbon towards digital nomads appears to be a complex issue, reflecting a mix of positive and negative sentiments. On the one hand, digital nomads contribute to the economy of the city and have helped in rejuvenating parts of the city, thereby contributing to the development of new urban identities​.

On the other hand, the increase in the digital nomad population in Lisbon has been linked to significant challenges. The influx of digital nomads and foreign investors has contributed to the rise in the cost of living, particularly housing. It’s reported that house prices in Portugal have doubled since 2015, leading to what many consider a housing crisis​. The local population has reportedly expressed unease due to the pressure of rising housing costs and gentrification.

Furthermore, while the inflow of digital nomads is beneficial to the economy, there are concerns about who is reaping these benefits. Large international companies seem to be monopolizing the benefits, which is causing discontent among the locals​.

In response to these challenges, the Portuguese government has taken steps such as ending the Golden Visa scheme and imposing restrictions on new Airbnb licenses, which is seen as an important step towards mitigating the housing crisis​.

 Here is a small chart comparing the two locations, with rough price estimates:

Lison vs Bali Cost of Living chart

Both Bali and Lisbon are fantastic choices for digital nomads. Bali, with its affordability, thriving community, and focus on wellness, is great for those on a budget or looking for a holistic lifestyle. Lisbon, on the other hand, with its rich culture, high quality of life, and perfect location for exploring Europe, is ideal for those seeking a blend of history and modernity in a European setting.

Ultimately, the choice between Bali and Lisbon should be based on your individual needs, preferences, and work style. But, no matter which you choose, you’re in for an experience that will enrich your digital nomad journey. Remember, the nomadic lifestyle is all about exploration and adaptation, so don’t be afraid to try out both and see which one feels like home to you.


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