The 10 best cities in the world for freelancers

TransferWise content team
05.09.18
5 minute read

Dreaming of quitting your job and freelancing in a foreign country?

Or maybe you’re already working remotely and looking for a new place to work from. Either way, here are the 10 best locations for freelancers across the world.

By Alex Webb, founder of Take Risks Be Happy. Alex has written or contributed to books published by National Geographic, the Financial Times Press, and Skyhorse.

Thinking of moving? Getting paid as a freelancer? TransferWise is the smarter, cheaper way to send money or get paid internationally. And with the borderless account, you can send, spend and receive in over 40 currencies.


Bali: Affordable living in a beach paradise

Sure, Bali isn’t a city—it’s an Indonesian island—but that’s beside the point.

Whether you live in the middle of Denpasar or kick it in a remote seaside village, the benefits are the same: incredibly cheap living costs in a place which is essentially paradise. Although average rents in Denpasar are only $213, expect to pay a bit more for a modern apartment with fast internet.

By now Bali is well known as a spot for backpackers and freelancers who want to work on the beach. This means you’ll have to travel to the outskirts of the island to reach true solitude, but those looking to network—or party—will be in for a wild ride at even wilder prices.

Buenos Aires: Cuisine and culture at cut-rate prices

The capital of Argentina is known as the “Paris of South America” for a reason.

Beautiful architecture, fantastic restaurants, and cultural events make this city a big draw for digital nomads.

Spanish is the official language, but foreigners should be able to get by on English. Rent of $329 in the city center makes housing costs cheap by world standards. Mediocre safety and internet speeds are major drawbacks, and recent high inflation means you shouldn’t get paid in the local currency.

Tokyo: Safe living in the world’s largest city

Tokyo is not only the capital of Japan—it’s also the largest city on earth.

Remarkably, rent is a moderate $1,071 per month, violent crime is practically nonexistent, and Tokyo has perhaps the world’s most expansive public transit system.

Couple that with the world’s greatest number of Michelin-starred restaurants, and Tokyo becomes an attractive city to freelance from. Downsides? Restrictive immigration laws and low levels of English can make Tokyo a difficult adjustment for many freelancers.

Berlin: Culture, affordable rent, and a vibrant startup scene

With Brexit looming, Berlin is only looking more attractive for Europeans looking to start a business or freelance.

Rent of only $936 per month make Germany’s capital affordable by world standards, and, like most major cities in Europe, you can have breakfast in Berlin, hop on a plane, and be in another European capital by lunchtime.

English is so widely spoken that some have begun to complain the city is losing its German feel.

Hong Kong: Access to China without the drawbacks

Want access to China while still being able to use Google and Facebook? Look no further than Hong Kong.

Just across the border from the tech capital of Shenzhen manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, Hong Kong offers exposure to China without the drawbacks which can make life difficult for some international freelancers.

Cheap food and easy travel links are some of the many benefits of Hong Kong, while a pricy city center rent of $2,411 remains a major drawback for freelancers. English is an official language here, and with the possible exception of Singapore, Hong Kong is the easiest place to live in Asia if you don’t speak any other language.

Dubai: A metropolis with a 0% income tax

Famous as the Middle East’s world city, Dubai’s 0% income tax rate is a major draw for high-earning freelancers, especially those that need to travel between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Most residents in Dubai are foreign born, and it is easy to get by on English alone. Rent averages $1,507, so some of that tax money you saved will go to your landlord.

Scorching summer heat with average temperatures of over 100 (37.7 Celsius) and a desert climate can be tough to adjust to.

Melbourne: The world’s most livable city and fantastic coffee

Melbourne is frequently named the world’s most livable city, and it’s easy to see why.

With a vibrant arts scene and killer cafés—this is the home of the flat white, after all—Australia’s largest city is a fantastic place for freelancers.

The main drawbacks? Average rent of $1,297 isn't cheap and Melbourne is far away from pretty much everywhere, except other places in Australia… which is still far from everywhere.

Seoul: The world’s fastest internet speeds

South Korea is home to the fastest internet speeds in the world, moderate rent prices and affordable food.

A one-bedroom in the city center rents for $753 and a journey on the very modern subway is generally only a few dollars.

English is not especially widespread, but you can generally get by without speaking Korean. Food is affordable, although drinks at restaurants are inexplicably pricy by world standards--$5 sodas are the norm here. Fans of K-Pop, E-sports, or those in need of blazing fast internet should consider Seoul as an attractive location to freelance from.

The main drawback? Patchy English and very cold winters, with average January highs of 35F (1.6 Celsius) barely breaching freezing.

New York: The networking capital of the world

Hit the big time as a freelancer—or want to give it a shot? Then freelancing from New York could be the right choice for you.

Big cities like New York are costly to live in, but indispensable for meeting new clients and co-workers. You know that saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”?

Well, it’s true. New York has some of the world’s best museums and cultural activities, and is home to many of the world’s largest companies. New York isn’t cheap—rent averages $3,180— and its public transport has long been due an upgrade. Still, New York remains a global business hub, and is indispensable for many freelancers.

Wherever you are now: There’s no excuse to get started

If you’re reading this article at your day job, dreaming of going freelance, don’t think that you need to move halfway across the world to a major city to get started. In fact, to make such a move successful, you want to build a base you can rely on, which usually means slowly transitioning to freelance work. Once you’ve learned the ropes, you’ll have the freedom to move wherever your heart takes you.

Moving internationally? Get paid by overseas clients? Get started with TransferWise today to make managing your international finances easier than ever.

All rental figures obtained from Numbeo for a one bedroom apartment in the city center.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

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