As owners of a small business, my husband and I have found working remotely from exotic locations to be one of the things we love most about being entrepreneurs. Last year, I spent a wonderful day working on my laptop from the porch of our cabin in Costa Rica with the Arenal Volcano spewing smoke in the distance. A few years ago, my husband hung up from a conference call in Thailand and headed directly for an afternoon of snorkeling. And last month we spent the morning hiking in Alaska's Denali National Park and the afternoon composing e-mails to clients from our rented apartment overlooking a lake.
But over the years, we have learned not all locations are equal for working remotely and selecting the right destination can make or break the trip. One of the most important criteria is reliable Internet and cell phone service. While my husband fell in love with New Zealand, he found the lack of connectivity once he left Auckland to be a hurdle. If you can’t access the Internet, keeping your business running is almost impossible.
If you will be working remotely for an extended period, be sure to select a location that is relatively affordable. While the scenery and wildlife in Alaska was stunning, so was the cost of living there during the warm summer months. And while the wintertime is more affordable, the harsh temperatures and scant daylight make it a lot less inviting.
Here are three of our favorite exotic locations for an extended working vacation, a sabbatical or even a year abroad:
Volcanoes, rainforests, wildlife and beaches make for breathtaking scenery. We had good cell phone coverage and Internet accessibility, except in very rural locations. Since Costa Rica is in the Central time zone, we had no problem synching up with colleagues and clients. Getting there is easy, with three-hour direct flights available several times a day from Miami.
Costa Rica also has a sizable U.S. expatriate community in addition to U.S. citizens who have second homes in the country. Locals are very welcoming to Americans. The cost of living was affordable, especially during the off-season or rainy months from May to November. Our family of four enjoyed many meals at local sodas (small traditional restaurants) for under $20.
Challenges: Thefts do occur in Costa Rica and natives often warned us not to leave any valuables in our car. Although we felt safe even with small children in tow, crimes against U.S. citizens occasionally happen. The U.S. Department of State website advises travelers to exercise the same level of caution they would in urban areas of the United States.
In resort areas and big cities, most people speak at least some English, but in outlying areas you will need to know Spanish. Driving in Costa Rica was an adventure, with poorly marked roads, locals driving at high speeds and very bumpy road conditions.
Entry Requirements or Restrictions: With a valid U.S. Passport you can stay in Costa Rica for 90 days, but you must have a return plane ticket purchased upon entry to Costa Rica.
One of best parts of working remotely in Thailand is the unique culture, tasty food and eye-popping landscapes. You can visit Buddhist temples, snorkel on world class-reefs and even take an elephant ride.
My husband found cell phone and Internet connectivity to be strong in the Phuket and Bangkok areas, but weak when traveling into rural communities. Getting around was easy with public transportation and most signs were in multiple languages, including English. Accommodations and food were also very affordable throughout his stay.
There is a large population of expats in Thailand, especially from Europe, and locals are welcoming of visitors. Although pickpocketing is an issue in urban areas, my husband felt relatively safe in Thailand and there are no current travel advisories for U.S. citizens.
Challenges: From the east coast of the United States, it can take more than 24 hours to reach Thailand. The language difference proved to a moderate issue, although you can usually find someone who speaks English. Because of the 12-hour time difference with the U.S., my husband experienced a short delay responding to customer concerns and he often had to wake up in the wee hours of morning for conference calls. Be sure to also check with your doctor for any recommended immunizations before visiting Thailand.
Entry Requirements or Restrictions: According to the U.S. State Department, if you arrive by air you can stay in Thailand for 30 days with a valid U.S. passport without obtaining a visa. There is a 15-day limit without a visa for people arriving by land. Your passport must also be valid for at least the next six months. You can apply for a tourist visa through the Royal Thai Embassy. There are also restrictions on paid employment and volunteer work for U.S. citizens while in Thailand. Check with the Royal Thai Embassy for details.
During an extended working vacation before we met, my husband enjoyed Australia so much that he almost accepted a job in Sydney. Lucky for me, he declined due to the six-month quarantine required for pets. But he was sure tempted by the unique wildlife, world-famous beaches and Aussie hospitality. Not to mention seeing shows at the Sydney Opera House and snorkeling off the coast. He also found that Brisbane and the Gold Coast were relaxing beachside destinations with reliable cell and Internet service.
Language poses no barrier once you learn to decipher the Australian accent. Australia is also regarded as a safe destination for U.S. citizens. And my husband likes to say that he never met an Aussie in any of his four trips to the continent who didn't become a friend within 10 minutes.
Challenges: The long flight and the time difference can make it hard to stay connected with clients. Like Thailand, an extended trip is preferable to make the most of the journey and travel expense. Driving on the left side of the road may feel strange to some. The cost of living can be high in Australia compared to United States, especially in Sydney and Melbourne.
Entry Requirements or Restrictions: With a valid U.S. passport, you can apply online for a three-month Electronic Travel Authority visa before you head down under. You can also apply for a tourist visa that will allow you to stay up to 12 months in Australia.
Tell us about what exotic locations you have worked remotely from. Did you have any challenges? What was your favorite part of the trip?
Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs via Contently.com.
Photo credit: Courtesy Jennifer Gregory