Tbilisi for Digital Nomad Girls: Destination of the Month

Tbilisi for Digital Nomad Girls: Destination of the Month

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, has come a long way since the Rose Revolution in 2003. Overthrowing the post-Soviet government, the country started to look up to its western neighbors. Ancient architecture, a modern cultural scene, and Georgian hospitality are what make this country unique.

Tbilisi’s old town is full of narrow cobblestone lanes, reflecting its complicated history of Persian and Russian rule. The impact of these invasions is still visible present today, with the city featuring ornate art nouveau buildings alongside soviet modernist structures.

The country is becoming a popular destination for budget and adventure travelers. You can enjoy mountains, lush nature, ski resorts, underdeveloped towns and remote villages with the highest altitude settlement in Europe.

Georgia has always been a cheap destination for travelers, but the decline of the Georgian Lari against stronger currencies means that it is becoming even cheaper. At the time of writing (Feb 2017), 1 USD=2.64 GEL and 1 Euro= 2.83 GEL.

The advantages of Tbilisi for digital nomads are the affordable cost of living, moderate weather (it almost never snows in the capital, and melts within a day when it does), hot summer and a beautiful old town. The borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan are very close to Tbilisi and, since WizzAir began offering Georgian flights, it has become extremely cheap to visit Europe from Kutaisi, the former capital and second largest city in Georgia.

My favorite thing to do in Tbilisi is watch over the city from Narikala fortress at sundown.

tbilisi-georgia

Cost of Living

Living in Tbilisi is relatively cheap in general, but you can save even more by staying outside of the city center and living like a local. The recent devaluation of the Lari slightly raised the price of groceries, petrol, and alcohol. Yet, compared with other European or overseas cities, it is still a budget destination.

Renting an entire apartment can cost from $200, depending on the district. Prices are often quoted in US dollars and tenants are asked to pay in dollars. However, you can still find owners who ask for Lari too.

According to Airbnb, Tbilisi is the cheapest city for renting an entire apartment. And some of them are even quite cute. Prices start from $28 per night.

The cost of food will depend on the venue and how often you eat out. However, there are relatively cheap places to eat traditional and Asian cuisine. On average a person needs around 20-25 Lari ($7-9) per meal, which might include a couple of dishes and a drink.

Transportation here includes minibuses, called Marshutka, which cost 80 Tetri (29 ¢) per ride, while bus and metro rides cost 50 Tetri (18 ¢). However, if you have a MetroMoney card, you can travel by bus and metro for free for 90 minutes after buying the ticket. Paying with the card on Marshutka reduces your subsequent trips each day to 65 Tetri (24 ¢) during the day.

tbilisi-georgia-old-town

Best Places to Work From

Tbilisi does not have many coworking spaces as the concept is new here. For more European style coworking spaces, check out Impact Hub and Vere Loft. Both offer monthly memberships in different price ranges and diverse infrastructure. They are open 24/7. For more budget option, Generator 9.8 offers FREE working space. However, the time is limited to 10am to 7pm Monday to Saturday. In the evening, Generator 9.8 becomes an overcrowded bar full of young locals.

Cafés and restaurants have good internet speeds most of the time. Try New Mziuri café or coffee shops like Entrée or Coffeesta.

Moreover, the city has its own free WiFi, called Tbilisi Loves You. It is available in most districts and areas. The connection is not always super-fast, but it lets you catch up with friends on Facebook and Instagram, reply to emails or search for a spot on the go.

tbilisi-georgia-Shardin-street

Must-see Landmarks in Tbilisi

One of the must-see sights in Tbilisi is its Old Town. Featuring Narikala fortress, sulfur baths and cobblestone narrow lanes leading to traditional brick houses with carved wooden balconies, the old town is a marvelous experience.

Narikala, located on the hill overlooking the city is an ancient symbol of Tbilisi. Constructed in the 4th century, it was once known as Invidious Fort. Locals believe that the name comes from a Persian word for the citadel, but another theory notes that in Mongolian it meant “little fortress”.

tbilisi-georgia-Narikala-fortress

Directly below Narikala hill lies Abanotubani, a district with public bathhouses of natural sulfurous water.

This is the area where, according to legend, King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s falcon fell. This was when he discovered hot springs and founded a new capital. Tbilisi is the combination of two words, and means “warm waters”.

tbilisi-georgia-Abanotubani

From here, you can stroll towards Shareni, Mambis Rigi or Rkinis Rigi streets. These pedestrian-only areas are full of cafés, bars and clubs.

Another absolute must-visit is Tbilisi’s new landmark, the Tower Clock. Every hour an angel rings the bell with a hammer, but if you’re there at noon or 7 pm, you’ll see a small puppet theater show “The Circle of Life”. Tower Clock also has a unique exterior that features hundreds of handmade tiles.

tbilisi-georgia-Tower-clock

Handpicked meals from Georgian cuisine

Generally, feasts are an important custom here. Each region has its own individual meals and culinary traditions. Therefore, the cuisine here is very diverse and authentic. You should know that Georgian meals are heavy in dough, meat, and walnuts. The cuisine suits both meat lovers and vegetarians.

It goes without saying that eating a meal in the region it was originally developed is better. But don’t worry! Some places in Tbilisi still offer these authentic meals.

The number one meal favored by locals and foreigners is Khinkali, a type of meat dumpling. Khinkali have to be eaten in the right way; it has a broth inside, so you should avoid spilling this on your plate while eating. This needs a bit of practice, but you’ll get there. Vegetarians can enjoy mushroom or potato Khinkali.

tbilisi-georgia-Khinkali

Foreigners visiting Georgia are keen on vegetables in walnut sauce, and especially eggplant. For locals, walnuts play a vital role in the cuisine and can be found in almost anything, even desserts.

Spinach, bell pepper, cabbage and eggplant seasoned with walnut sauce are an essential part of Georgian cuisine and feasts. It’s found on literally every dinner table. Usually, they are prepared and served separately, but some restaurants serve them as a mixture.

Another all-time favorite is Khachapuri, a pizza-like meal full of mozzarella-like cheese. The variety changes from region to region, with one of the most distinguished from the Adjara region. Often called a “cheese boat” by visitors, the meal is unique in its shape and preparation method. After baking in a brick oven, a raw egg is cracked on top, together with a knob of butter. Like Khinkali, this meal also has its own eating method. The insides should be mixed together and bread should be dipped in the cheese.

tbilisi-georgia-Adjaruli-Khachapuri

Lastly, you should definitely try the candle-shaped Georgian snack/dessert, Churchkhela. Made of grape juice and nuts, it is a very common dessert served during Christmas in Georgia.

Important Resources you Might Need

If you plan on staying in Tbilisi for a while, you might want to get a SIM card to get a great mobile connection or call befriended locals. Magti GSM provides a great internet connection, while Geocell has better call and SMS packages.

Prospero’s Books & Caliban’s Coffeehouse and Biblus Gallery offer a wide selection of English books.

To see what events, exhibitions, and festivals are happening in the capital, check out Tbilisi Life.

Depending on the season, Tbilisi hosts a flea market in various locations. Here you can find used clothes, handmade accessories, paintings and much more. Another event to consider visiting is a Startup Market, which helps start-up businesses to attract visitors and customers.

Tbilisi is a great up and coming destination for Digital Nomads. Have you visited or are you planning to? Please share in the comments below!

tbilisi-georgia-Baia-Photo

Baia is a freelance writer, travel junkie, food lover and amateur photographer. She quit her editorial job at the newspaper with a passion for doing what she loves most – traveling and writing on her personal blog Red Fedora Diary. Learn more about her adventures by following her on Facebook and Instagram

5 Lessons I learned at the first Digital Nomad Girls Retreat

5 Lessons I learned at the first Digital Nomad Girls Retreat

Sometimes, when the right people get together at the right time and place, magical things can happen. This is probably an accurately cheesy, yet true, description of what I experienced last week at the first Digital Nomad Girls Retreat.

 

Fourteen girls from 10 different countries around the world met at Sun and Co., a unique coworking and coliving space in Javea, Spain for a week of mastermind sessions, skill shares, adventure, and coworking.

I am still completely high on the energy, inspiration, support, laughter and love us girls shared during the 7 days we spent together. In the short 48 hours since the retreat finished, one of the girls has already published an article about it on the Huffington Post, one girl has created a logo and name for her business and is about to quit her job, and another has successfully more than doubled her hourly pay on Upwork securing a new client already!

I can’t wait to see what the next weeks and months will bring and what these incredible ladies will come up with. But for all of you who couldn’t join us, here are a few lessons I learned during the first Digital Nomad Girls retreat.

 

Group photo of the first Digital Nomad Girls Retreat

Photo: @annasophielc

1. The DN community is incredibly supportive

 

Many of the girls who attended the retreat still had corporate jobs and often our friends and families don’t really understand the digital nomad lifestyle and why we would want to pursue it. This can be a huge obstacle, especially when you have to leave behind a stable, traditional career. Being surrounded by people who understand what drives you means you can skip the explanations and justifications and instead get support, advice and inspiration.

In just one week we saw at least 6 or 7 professional collaborations between the girls. Two girls are starting a business together, one was hired by another as a social media manager, the list goes on.  Sienna shared her experience at the retreat on the Huffington Post, describing how the digital nomad community can foster professional as well as personal growth.

 

A mastermind session in the courtyard

Photo: noll.media

2. We can all do with a little ego boost

 

Over the course of the week and many a mastermind session, we discovered that apart from our wanderlust, we had something else in common: most of us undersold ourselves or didn’t really believe in ourselves. Every single girl had one or multiple great business ideas, but each of us didn’t expect to be able to actually monetize these projects. On top of that, it’s a fact that self-employed women regularly set their rates much lower than their male counterparts, often by more than half the price.

We spent a lot of time talking about how to raise prices, find better paying clients and outsource work to make more time for creative work and passion projects. But more crucially, being surrounded by other girls who encourage you, share ideas, help with accountability and believe in you more than you do, can be a life-changing experience. The support of other women really can help you achieve your dreams.

 

Cooking together

Photo: noll.media

3. Coliving helps create strong bonds

 

The reason why digital nomads love retreats and coworking experiences are the relationships they form within the community. In my opinion, there is no better way to form these bonds than living with people for a while.

I had plenty of ice breakers prepared for our evening BBQ at the first day of the retreat, but after preparing a meal for 20 people together, the ice had clearly melted all by itself (the sangria might have helped a little, too). Living and working under one roof is an intense experience, but it also accelerates friendships and business connections. Even after this relatively short time we all trusted each other with our business ideas and were comfortable sharing personal and business challenges, which often doesn’t even happen with your best friends. Sun and Co. was the perfect location for our retreat and the support from the owners made all of us want to return as soon as possible.

 

On a photo walk

Photo: @annasophielc

4. Every single one of us has something to share

 

Before the retreat started we generated some ideas for potential skill shares and the girls came up with great suggestions. A few were unsure, however, if or what they could share with the others, some even wanted help identifying their strengths. Over the course of the retreat it crystalized that all the girls had valuable lessons to share, whether in life, business or travels. Initially shy girls were slowly opening up, literally blossoming, sharing their experiences, offering tons of insights and a great deal of compassion and support. Important skills that one of us might have taken for granted were invaluable lessons for others. What was holding most of us back was a lack of confidence and awareness of how useful certain skills (even if very niche) might be to others. In the end, we all overcame this and shared freely, I hope this will continue on after the retreat.

 

Planning session at the Digital Nomad Girls Retreat

Photo: @annasophielc

5. The support doesn’t end with the retreat

 

Which brings me to the 5th lesson I learned. One of my biggest goals for the retreat was forming lasting relationships, both professionally and personally, that would continue on after the retreat had ended. The idea was to form accountability groups or find partners to check up on, help each other out with technical or logistical work and generally support each other.

It has only been a couple of days, but already we have formed a slack network with different sub categories and have used it to exchange ideas and hold each other accountable. Feedback has been solicited, people have hired each other and we are working on passion projects together. As we coined during the retreat “One week is good, forever is better.”

 

While these 5 points barely scrape the surface of what I learned this week, I hope they offer a glimpse into the learnings of our very first retreat. Only two weeks ago I was hesitant to think of organizing another one, despite many, many girls asking about possible next events, but now I simply can’t wait to get to know more of the lovely ladies in our little Digital Nomad Girls community at the next retreat.

 

If you’d like to join us at our next retreat, apply here to join us in Las Palmas in April! 

Meet Digital Nomad Girl Lani – founder of Gynopedia!

Meet Digital Nomad Girl Lani – founder of Gynopedia!

In our monthly Digital Nomad Girls interview series we will feature interviews with Digital Nomad Girls from around the world with interesting location independent jobs.

This week we talked to Lani, an English teacher and founder of Gynopedia.

Introduce yourself! Where are you from, how old are you (if we may ask 🙂 and where are you currently living?

My name is Lani Fried and I’m originally from San Francisco, CA. I’m currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam and I’m 31 years old.

What is your location independent job (or what are you working towards)?

At the moment, I have two part-time jobs, one of which is online. These jobs involve teaching English, SAT prep, etc. In the past, I have also worked as a writer/editor and software product manager.

You started a website called Gynopedia, tell us a bit about it!

Gynopedia is a free resource for sexual, reproductive and women’s health care. It’s a wiki, so anyone can contribute or edit information. Here’s how it works: You search for a city — for example, “Bangkok” or “New York City” — and Gynopedia provides information related to birth control, emergency contraception, STI tests, gynecologists, abortion clinics and more. Think of as like WikiTravel, but for your ladybits. This information comes from real people who have shared their experiences, or from careful research (after scouring the web!), also conducted by real people. Overall, the goal is to provide practical, non-judgmental information so that users can feel empowered and make informed decisions.

Screenshot of Gynopedia Digital Nomad Girls

How did you come up with this idea?

From 2010-13, I lived in Istanbul, Turkey. During those years, I constantly struggled to find high-quality and affordable women’s health care. For example, I was slut-shamed by a gynecologist for not being a virgin (and unmarried). I tried to get STI tests at two separate facilities, both of which didn’t conduct the tests that I asked for. I could only find tampons at select stores in my neighborhood. Then, I moved back to the States, where I supposedly had more health care resources. But I was unemployed and uninsured, so I dealt with the American type of difficulty that accompanies women’s health care. The same cycle kept on repeating itself: lack of information, lack of resources.

So, when I began planning a year-long trip through Asia, I realized: This was going to happen again. I wouldn’t know where to get birth control. I wouldn’t know what to do if I got pregnant. And I probably wouldn’t even know where to buy tampons in some places. This lead to an “aha” moment — and it just seemed so obvious: There should be a comprehensive resource for sexual, reproductive and women’s health care. That way, we could all share our recommendations (and warnings), and women could finally get the information they need.

What made you pursue a life as a Digital Nomad?

Personally, I don’t use the term “digital nomad” to describe myself. But I do feel a connection with other people who work online (which I have done on and off since my early 20s), people who love travel and people who have relocated often. As for my own story, I guess that moving around always seemed natural. Growing up, many of family members were immigrants, so I grew up around people who had lived in different countries. And, like many people, I wanted to see the world. Also, economics played a big role. The recession came after my college graduation — and, realizing that I had potentially bleak prospects for the next few years, I decided to look for opportunities outside the States, which brought me to Turkey. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

Founder of Gynopedia on Digital Nomad Girls

Did your friends/family/colleagues think you’ve gone crazy or were they supportive?

There are always supporters and there are always people who doubt you. There is something incredibly inspiring or threatening (depending on how you look at it!) about leaving your old life or old city behind. But I find that most people are supportive. Last year, I was living and working in New York. When I told my coworkers that I was planning to travel around Asia for an extended period of time, I got a really positive response.

Of course I get a lot of questions: How will you get medical care? How will you make money? How can you leave your apartment/career behind? There is a lot of privilege that is a part of travel, and that shouldn’t be ignored. Unfortunately, it is way too often. But there’s also a lot of practical, not so glamorous stuff that people don’t always consider like: You can find jobs in different towns. Medical care is usually cheaper when you leave the States. But, all in all, most people are rather supportive (just slightly baffled by the whole thing).

What is your favourite city/country/beach/mountain destination to work?

Oh man, I wish I could answer this question! I’m too indecisive for favorites — I always like way too many books and movies and everything to pick one favorite. But I guess some places that I have visited in the last few years and loved were Japan, Indonesia and Colombia.

Founder of Gynopedia on Digital Nomad GirlsFounder of Gynopedia on Digital Nomad Girls

What do you struggle with most when you travel and work?

Lately, bad Internet has been a huge pest.

How do you connect with and meet new people while travelling?

I love CouchSurfing. And awkward situations. When you’re cramped in a van with a lot of people, or when you find yourself sharing a table with strangers at a bar, you’re forced to interact, and that’s when you meet some of the greatest people.

What item should every Digital Nomad Girl pack?

This is just me (and I spend way too much time researching women’s health products online). But I wish I had menstrual underwear or a menstrual cup in my travels. So far, I have been in some jams when I really needed a tampon but couldn’t find it (like in the Philippines, where there are so many amazing beaches… and yet so few tampons). So, pack a backup for times and places when you need a tampon!

What advice would you give a girl friend who wanted to start out as a digital nomad?

Focus on the basics. There is a wonderful online world of people who encourage you to move abroad, backpack around the world, work online, or be any sort of wandering type, and that’s great. But I think we sometimes forget the fundamentals because the inspirational stuff is so much more fun. But, if you plan to drastically change your life, you also need to focus on basics like: How will I work? For example, you may want to get a TEFL/CELTA if you plan to teach English, or you may want to build up your portfolio if you plan to do freelance work in translation, writing, design, etc. How will I get medical care? How will I find a home that works for me? There are many answers to these questions, and they vary from person to person. But take the time to really think through and take action on the basics. You’ll discover a lot along the way, and not all of your plans will work out like you expected, but think through what you can. It will help you in ways you don’t yet imagine.

Founder of Gynopedia on Digital Nomad Girls

What are you up to next travel and business wise?

Travel-wise, I am planning to visit Myanmar, Nepal and India next. Business-wise, I guess I’m still figuring things out!

What is your favourite business/travel/lifestyle book (or novel) you’d recommend to other digital nomad girls?

In terms of travel books, I love writers like Paul Theroux and Jan Morris. I think there’s also some great coverage being done by new publications like Roads & Kingdoms. Oh, and Migrationology is great.

And last: Do you have a favourite inspirational (cheesy optional) quote you’d like to share?

I guess I’ll share my favourite quote from my high school days, which I found through Anais Nin — but it’s originally from the Talmud:

“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

 

You can check out Gynopedia here and please contribute if you have experiences or information to share!

Did you ever have to visit a doctor abroad? Please share in the comments!

Founder of Gynopedia on Digital Nomad Girls

 

Chiang Mai for Digital Nomad Girls: The Ultimate Guide

Chiang Mai for Digital Nomad Girls: The Ultimate Guide

In our Digital Nomad Girls Ultimate Guide series, we introduce cities from around the world that are great places for location independent ladies. From Chiang Mai to Medellin, we’ve got you covered. The first edition is Chiang Mai for Digital Nomad Girls.

Chiang Mai for Digital Nomad Girls

 

It feels almost like a cliche to write about Chiang Mai as a nomad hotspot. After all, the Thai mountain town has become digital nomad central in recent years. But that’s for good reason. Affordability, warm weather year-round, delicious and varied food, friendly locals and a great community make Chiang Mai the perfect spot to settle down for a while and get some work done.

Whether you’re starting out or already a seasoned remote worker, Chiang Mai is not to be missed.

Where is it?

 

Chiang Mai is the capital city of a Northern Thai province of the same name. It’s located in the mountains, only a few hours from Laotian and Burmese borders.

Chiang Mai

Stats

Population: 400,000

Currency: Thai Baht (ca. 35 baht to $1, 50 baht to £1, 39 baht to €1)

What is it known for?

Known for its great and varied food, cheap living costs, friendly people and fast wifi. That’s why it’s become a nomad hotspot year-round.

When to go?

The most popular time to visit Chiang Mai is from around October to late January, when the weather is more mild and dry.

The worst time to go to Chiang Mai is during burning season, which lasts from February to April every year. Farmers around the city burn off their fields and the resulting air pollution becomes almost unbearable. Most expats, nomads and many locals leave during this period, moving to the Southern islands for a few months instead.

Climate

 

Although a little cooler than its bigger brother, Bangkok, Chiang Mai can still get very hot year round with its tropical wet and dry climate.

The coolest time is October to mid-February, although it never really feels cool unless you’re riding on a scooter at night. (lows around 15 C, highs around 30 C).

The hottest season, coinciding with burning season, is mid-February to June, when humidity is high and temperatures reach lows of 24 C and highs of 36 C.

June to October is wet season, when the old town has been known to flood.

Safety for women?

 

In general, safety is not a big issue in Chiang Mai, but travellers should always use common sense that you would at home. 

Many Thai women dress in a very modern style, often wearing shorts and summer dresses. However, make sure you dress respectfully, especially when visiting temples.

When driving on a scooter make sure you always wear a helmet, preferably a proper motorbike helmet. Random police checks of scooter drivers are quite common, with the policemen often giving out fines of 400-500 baht. In general, you should always go to the police station to pay the fine, but it’s usually less hassle to just pay the policeman there and then (albeit, not strictly legal).

Public drinking is not allowed in Thailand.

Health

 

For minor issues or check-ups, Chiang Mai’s hospitals are very well equipped. In case of emergency, you might have to be transferred to Bangkok, which has some of the best hospitals in South East Asia.

Chiang Mai Ram Hospital is located in the North-West of the old town, near Nimman and offers some of the best services. It is, however, a private hospital, and not all insurance will cover your treatment if you could have visited a public hospital instead. So, you should check with your insurance first to find out if they’ll cover your treatment there.

Dental care and other check-ups can be very affordable in Thailand, and many foreigners visit doctors there beacuse it’s cheaper than at home. You can find an overview of healthcare in Chiang Mai here.

The Bangkok hospital (in Chiang Mai) offers a Women’s Health Clinic.

Visa situation

 

Visas are one of the hottest topics when it comes to Chiang Mai. The paperwork you require absolutely depends on your nationality and how long you want to stay for. Please check your country’s visa regulations for Thailand before making any travel arrangements.

In general, most nationalities (with exceptions) can enter Thailand with a visa exemption. This is not technically the same as a visa-on-arrival, but works much the same way. The exemption allows you to stay for 30 days, after which many nationalities can apply for a 30-day extension. Last time we checked, the extension cost 1900 baht (around $53) and can be applied for at any immigration office in Thailand.

If you want to stay longer you can apply for a tourist visa in your home country or in a few other countries in Southeast Asia. The visa situation is constantly changing, that’s why we urge you to always contact your consulate or embassy for up-to-date information.

At the time of writing, there were two types of tourist visa available: the single-entry 90-day visa (which lasts 2 months but can be extended for an extra month, see above) and the 6-month multiple-entry visa, which you must apply for in your home country. While the 6-month multiple-entry visa sounds great in theory, you may have to prove that you have at least $7000 in your bank account, which may not be possible for every aspiring digital nomad.

How much does it cost?

 

Chiang Mai’s affordability is one of the main reasons it has become the most popular nomad destination in the world.

Depending on your standards, you will be able to live comfortably for around $600 a month. This would include a simple studio apartment, access to a coworking space, scooter rental, eating mainly cheap street food or in food courts, and the occasional night out.

A street food or local market meal will set you back 30-50 baht, local meals in little cafes or shacks will cost 40-100 baht. Western meals can have Western prices, with a nice brunch costing around 120-300 baht.

In general, food is fresh, delicious, and very cheap, and if you’re on a strict budget you can easily eat well for 100 baht a day.

Room and apartment prices are changing rapidly, but a basic studio apartment with aircon, pool access and a balcony can be found for as little as $150 per month (without bills).

Some of the flashier, luxury condos can go for almost Western prices, that’s why we’d suggest talking to people when you arrive to find out where to get a good deal. Most places make you sign a one-month contract and pay a 1-month deposit that you get back at the end.

Getting there

Many Asian budget airlines like Air Asia fly directly to Chiang Mai airport, which is located only 3 km south west of the city.

Most people arrive in Bangkok and either take a short 1-hour flight or the cheaper overnight train to Chiang Mai.

Getting around

When you arrive at the airport you can either take a taxi, songtheaw or tuk-tuk. Taxis are surprisingly affordable and usually cheaper than tuk-tuks. A taxi to the Nimman area will cost anywhere from 100 to 200 baht, depending on your haggling skills.

Songtheaws (or red trucks) are the cheapest option to get around town and usually cost 20 baht per ride within the city. From the airport they might charge around 40-50 baht, which is still a steal.

The trick to riding in red trucks without being ripped off is not to ask about the price when you get in. As soon as you ask how much the ride costs, the driver knows you’re new to Chiang Mai and might try to charge you an inflated price. If you just get in, they will know that you’ve taken a truck before and know that the standard price for a ride in the city is 20 baht. Obviously, this price doesn’t apply late at night, when fares often double, or if taking a longer trip.

Renting a scooter is also very popular and gives you total flexibility. Scooters can be rented for around $60-100 per month. You will need to pay a deposit, but avoid leaving your passport as a deposit, even if they insist on it, a cash deposit is always best. ALWAYS wear a helmet (a proper helmet is best, unlike the little “soup bowls” most people in Thailand seem to wear) and we wouldn’t recommend driving a scooter if you don’t have any experience.

Renting a bicycle can also be a great way to explore Chiang Mai, but be sure to ride carefully on the main roads. Most guesthouses and many other shops rent out bicycles per day, week or month. You can try to haggle, but most pay around 60-100 baht per day, or around 300-500 baht per week for a simple push bike. Bicycle helmets are virtually impossible to find to rent, but you can buy a cheap helmet at one of the many helmet shops along the moat.

Where to stay?

 

Chiang Mai has a whole range of options for digital nomad girls who’d like to stay for a while. The easiest and most flexible way to find a place is to just show up. Book 3 nights in a hostel, hotel or AirBnB (or couch surf) and then walk around different neighbourhoods to get a feel for the town. You can walk into any of the apartment building and ask if they have availability. It’s always worth haggling, especially in low season.

 

The Old Town

Chiang Mai’s old town is basically a mile-wide square surrounded by a moat and some partially intact old town walls. Mountains lie to the west and the trendy Nimmanhaemin (or Nimman) area lies to the northwest of town. Each side of the square has a gate, which provide popular meeting places and host food markets in the evenings.

Most tourists stay inside the old town, but most of the apartment buildings for longer stays lie in the outer areas, mainly along Nimmanhaemin Road or East of the old town.

 

Around Nimmanhaemin Road

Nimman is by far the most popular area for digital nomads. Many coworking spaces and cafes can be found here, making it a popular area with local students as well. Staying in Nimman can be a lot of fun as there’s always something going on. There’s an incredible selection of restaurants and street food, and even two full-sized shopping malls with food courts, cinemas and shops.

If you’re looking for a place to base yourself in the Nimman area for a few days while looking for an apartment, Sakulchai Place is a nice, clean and affordable option (it even has a pool!)

If you’re planning on staying more than 6 months you can also find long-term homes through perfect homes.

Find more Chiang Mai hotels here.

The rent will completely depend on how much you are willing or able to spend. A nice 1-bedroom AirBnB apartment can cost $500 a month. A cheap local studio without aircon can be found for $100 a month. Most expats stay in condos and studios. Baan Thai is very popular and costs around $150 per month, although wifi and electricity bills are extra, which can easily double the price per month.

Many places also rent scooters and often provide competitive deals if you’re staying there.

 

Are there any coliving places yet?

Many nomads share houses as it’s affordable and a fun way to meet people. The first coliving space in Chiang Mai, Power Coliving, has just opened. For $999 per month you get a room, scooter, cleaner, snacks, events and more. Although definitely not the cheapest option, its an easy way to settle in if money is not an issue.

Where to work?

 

Chiang Mai certainly doesn’t have a shortage of coworking spaces and cafes.

Cafes:

Most cafes are equipped with wifi and don’t usually mind you working there for hours on end as long as you buy at least a drink. Students often work in cafes, so it is not unusual to see whole groups of young students revising until late at night.

There are so many cafes with wifi in Chiang Mai, you could work at a different one every day and not repeat yourself for months. You can find a great overview at Chiang Mai Coffee Culture.

Wawee Coffee is a chain with many branches in Chiang Mai. Their iced chocolate is great and costs around 75 baht. Their wifi is fast and AIS Super wifi is available. Socket availability depends on the branch, but is not usually a problem.

Into the Woods is a fairytale themed cafe near the North Gate that’s surprisingly affordable and definitely worth a visit. Wifi can be a little hit and miss sometimes.

Wake-Up Cafe on Nimman is open 24 hours and has great coffee and cocoa. The also have cute seating pods and swing chairs.

Coworking Spaces:

 

Punspace Nimman is one of the most popular spaces and can get quite busy at times. Their wifi is great, and they are open 24 hour, offering free coffee, water and biscuits.

Punspace Tha Pae Gate is a second Punspace location providing much the same service at a bigger location east of town.

CAMP is a huge working space/cafe on top of Maya Mall in Nimman. It is very popular with students and remote workers, so make sure you get there early to get a spot. The wifi is very fast if you have access to the AIS super wifi (free when buying a compatible AIS sim card and topping up with a few dollars).

Addicted to Work is located near Maya mall and is a cosy space with flexible payment options.

Mana is tucked away on a little side street in Nimman and has reasonable daily and weekly passes that include drinks.

Starwork is relatively new and is located in the Northeast of the city, near Central Festival Mall.

If you want more in-depth info, here’s a great guide.

What and where to eat in Chiang Mai

 

Chiang Mai is every foodie’s dream. Local markets, cheap street food, Western restaurants, hipster cafes – there’s something for everyone.

The South Gate and North Gate markets are open daily from around 4 pm and have a great selection of food and drinks. Fresh fruit shakes start at 25 baht – they are so good you sometimes need two. The best shakes in town can be found at Ms, Pa’s stand at the South Gate market, she is almost a celebrity in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai offers many excellent vegetarian and vegan options including Morning Glory, Anchan, Taste from Heaven, Imm Aim and Free Bird Cafe.

 

Signature Dishes

The most famous Northern Thai dish is Khao Soi, a thick, yellow curry noodle soup with fried egg noodles on top. It usually contains chicken, but most places also have a veggie version. It’s always served with lime, onions and pickles, and can be pretty hot, but it is so verrrrrrry tasty. 

For fruit lovers, Chiang Mai is like heaven. You can find an array of tropical fruits for just a few dollars per kilo. Try mangosteen, rambutan, lychee, mangoes, papayas, snake fruit and, well, everything else really.

Also, don’t forget to try mango sticky rice! You’ll know why once you’ve tried it.

 

Thai Food

Thai food is diverse, flavourful and fresh. You can find excellent food on literally every corner. Don’t be afraid to try the street food, just make sure you order from a popular place. The markets are perfect for trying out different dishes, but many of the street shacks dotted around town are worth a look.

Here are just a few of our favourite restaurants:

The Burmese Place located near Anchan is very popular, incredibly cheap and offers Thai food as well as Burmese fare.

The food court in the basement of Maya mall has a great selection of different food stands.

Ongtong Noodle: located just down the road from Punspace Nimman, this is a great lunch option. Their Khao Soi is amazing, as is the butterfly pea flower juice.

Western Food

There is a huge amount of excellent western food to be found in Chiang Mai. Some of our favourite places are:

Dukes: a proper American restaurant with a huge menu and huge portions. It can be a fun place to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving. They have multiple branches around town.

Butter is Better: a diner in the south of the city, known for its delicious breakfasts and great mac and cheese.

Rustic and Blue: cute hipster cafe in Nimman that has lovely breakfasts and lunches. Their coffees are also excellent.

Smoothie Blues: great western breakfasts and lovely smoothies. The bagel is a very affordable option.

Salad Concept: a popular place that offers (yes, you guessed right) salads and wraps. You can build your own or pick from the menu.

Croco Pizza: weird name, great pizza.

 

Other Asian Food:

Ninja Ramen: out of this world butter salt ramen and other Japanese dishes.

Taiwan Restaurant: a simple little place that makes incredible Chinese dumplings.

Hong Kong Lucky Cafe: excellent noodle and soup dishes.

Kabab House Indian Food: delicious Indian food and great lassis in the old town. Doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s friendly, tasty and affordable.

What not to miss

 

Chiang Mai is home to over 300 temples! They vary in size and style, but are all free to visit. Please dress appropriately by covering your legs and shoulder.

Traditional Thai massages are a definite must-try during any visit to Chiang Mai, you can find information on different types of spas here. The most famous massage can be found at Lila’s, and is performed by former female prisoners. It’s a great experience and you support a great cause.

One of our favourite things to do is watch a real Muay Thai fight in the Tha Phae Gate arena. Tickets start around 400 baht, and you get to see around 6 fights in different weight classes. It might sound weird, but it’s a really fun way to spend an evening with friends.

 

Trips

A visit to Doi Suthep temple on top of the mountain is a must. Please wear a helmet if you’re driving there on a scooter.

Sticky Waterfalls is a popular destination about one hour outside the city by Songtheaw. The rocks on the waterfall are very porous and so algae don’t stick to them, resulting in a very rough surface that isn’t slippery at all, meaning you can climb all the way to the top.

The Grand Canyon is another popular day trip and a great option if you want to go for a swim. Around half an hour from the city by red truck and entry is only around 30 baht.

 

Special Events

 

The world famous Loi Krathong and Ye Ping festivals are celebrated on the last night of the twelfth full moon every year, usually in November. If you like colourful lanterns and fireworks you should make sure to visit before or during the festival.

Song Kran is the Thai New Year which is celebrated on the 13th-15th April. Prepare to get soaked as locals and tourist alike will pour buckets of water over each other and shoot you with water guns. A good way to cool off in the midst of hot season.

Exercise

Chiang Mai has a whole bunch of exercise options, with gyms, Muay Thai schools and yoga schools proving very popular.

Yoga Tree, on the west side of the moat, is the most popular school, offering different types of yoga, meditation and dance classes. Follow them on Facebook to find out about their open days and events.

Wild Rose Yoga and NAMO are also very popular yoga schools.

Many expats and travellers enjoy taking Muay Thai classes and some even dare to take part in fights. Find out more about Muay Thai schools and gyms is Chiang Mai here.

Often there are unofficial meetups in the park where people bring their juggling equipment, slack lines, hula hoops etc. Ask around as dates change or just show up regularly and see what’s going on.

You can find a list of gyms here, and many apartment buildings have their own gyms for residents.

Classes to take

 

Many long-term travellers and expats in Chiang Mai like to take language classes. There is a whole range of Thai schools and courses available.

Cooking courses are also very popular, with a huge choice available. Many cater to vegetarian and vegan travellers.

Meeting People

 

Meeting people in Chiang Mai is really easy, and you can quickly build up a circle of good friends. Here are some meet-ups, events and Facebook groups to help you along.

 

Meet-ups & Events

Chiang Mai’s nomad and expat community is very active. If you want to, you can have a busy social life every single day. Find a list of the many meet-ups here.

Johnny FD organises a weekly Nomad Coffee meet-up on Fridays, which also has an active Facebook group.

Chiang Mai’s Couchsurfing scene is pretty large, and they hold regular meet-ups. Join their Facebook group for updates.

The Meridien Hotel in southeast Chiang Mai throws monthly pool parties, which are really popular and great fun.

 

Facebook Groups

The Chiang Mai Digital Nomads Facebook group is the biggest DN Facebook group out there, with over 10,000 members to date. Founder, Dan O’Donnell, also runs a group called Bored Breaker where you can find and share events around town.

There are a few groups specific to women, including the Chiang Mai Nomad Girls Group, the Chiang Mai Expat Women’s Group, and the Women’s Entrepreneur’s Group.

Blogs to follow

 

Many travel bloggers and expats call Chiang Mai their home, so there is no shortage of information about Chiang Mai available.

A good starting point, especially if you’re not a frequent traveller, is 1 Stop Chiang Mai.

Johnny FD wrote a comprehensive guide on Chiang Mai and often writes about activities in the area.

Tieland to Thailand are an American couple who left their corporate lives behind and moved to Thailand.

Paperplanes is a great resource for Chiang Mai.

 

We really hope the Ultimate Chiang Mai for Digital Nomad Girls Guide will help you plan your trip and enjoy your time in Chiang Mai. We plan to update it regularly, so please leave any tips you have in the comments. If you enjoyed the guide then please feel free to share on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Istanbul for Digital Nomad Girls: Destination of the Month

Istanbul for Digital Nomad Girls: Destination of the Month

In this series, we will discover new destinations for digital nomad girls every month. We’ll feature our favourite nomad destinations as well as upcoming new hotspots.

This month the lovely Fana from Istanbul Startup Girl shares her favourite places in Istanbul. If you’re planning a trip to the Turkish capital soon you can also contact our local Digital Nomad Girl expert there.

Istanbul for Digital Nomad Girls

 

Istanbul, Turkey, the only city that sits on two continents, has been my home for 2 years. My current work involves consulting for startups and other companies in the areas of marketing and content. I originally moved here for a job, and my employer allowed me to work remotely, enabling it to be my nomadic base to travel to a number of destinations in Europe and further afield. The lira’s decline against stronger currencies means the city is even more affordable now, so it’s a great time to come visit! At time of writing, 1 dollar = 2.90 Turkish lira and 1 euro = 3.30 liras.

The lira’s decline against stronger currencies means the city is even more affordable now, so it’s a great time to come visit! At time of writing, 1 dollar = 2.90 Turkish lira and 1 euro = 3.30 liras.

Istanbul bazaar colourful shoes

Source: Pixabay

The advantages for digital nomads include the cost of living, moderate weather, historical and architectural value, and accessibility. Few people know that Turkish Airlines is the largest carrier in the world, and the Middle East, Europe, and Asia are easily reachable from the city’s two airports.

My favorite thing to do here has to be to sit anywhere with a view of the Bosporus. The perspective you enjoy here can get lost in a city as crowded and hectic as Istanbul, and the water is a great place to recharge.

Istanbul view over bosporus Digital Nomad Girls

Source image: https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2015/05/20/18/16/istanbul-775927_960_720.jpg

Things I dislike: I do wish it were easier to do business here. Dodgy practices and arbitrarily enforced laws make it difficult to be sure that your investments or deals with local companies are protected. The lack of general English knowledge is also a shock when trying to do business. Compared to the rest of Europe, decisionmaking moves at a slower speed and the cultural differences affect how negotiation is done.

“Is it safe?”

 

I hear this question a lot, and it would be silly to pretend the city is without its safety issues. A number of terror incidents in Turkey’s largest metropolis over the past few months means you should be careful, although not any more so than other large cities. Stay alert and check in with local and international news for any current problems.

After living in Istanbul for a while, a spontaneous street protest seems as normal to me as the call to prayer five times a day. Street harassment is also an issue – especially for women who are visibly non-Turkish – and visitors are seen as easy targets for scams and overcharging. The tourist police can be a great help, as can being assertive in the face of any unwanted advances.

Cost of living

 

General costs in the city can be kept down by staying outside the center and living like a local. Remember on nights out that alcohol is highly taxed. However, compared to other cities in Europe Istanbul is still on the lower end of the scale.

Rent can range from 750 lira ($260) for a room in a shared flat or 1,500 lira ($520) for an entire apartment. Private flats in popular central areas are the most expensive, often being quoted in euros and dollars, and average around 3,000 liras ($1000) including utilities. Short term accommodation is plentiful but not always great quality. My area, Galata, has a number of Airbnb options. For those on a budget, I’d recommend the hostel Stay Inn Taksim.


If you want to work at a coworking space, as an example Workinton charges 549 lira ($190) per month for unlimited use and 320 lira ($110) for a 40 hour package.


The cost of food can vary widely, but a good average is 500-700 liras ($170-240) needed depending on how much you eat out.
Transport can be approximately 100 lira ($35) a month, but if you live centrally this will be reduced. Each trip is 2.30 lira ($0.8), with reduced price transfers within 2 hours of your first trip.

 

Istanbul coworking

Source image: Journey Lounge

Best Places to Work From

 

Free libraries Ataturk Library in Taksim and SALT Galata both have amazing architecture without the noise of most cafes in the city. If you choose to work from these, you’ll be mostly surrounded by college students, and for night owls and early risers Ataturk is open 24 hours a day.

SALT Galata has the added advantage of being full of English language books you can check out when you’re not working, a rare find in Istanbul. The laid back atmosphere of bar/restaurants Journey Lounge in Cihangir and The Allis at Soho House make these my favorite for work, meetings, and drinks in the evening (sometimes all three in one day!).

For a more official space, I like coworking chain Workinton’s Sishane and Galata branches, with the former offering an unbeatable view of the Golden Horn. Day passes can be had for 40 lira ($14).

One thing about Turkey though, you can sit in any cafe for hours with a cup of tea and won’t be harassed – I’ve seen work sessions stretch into midnight and beyond.

Five neighborhoods that shouldn’t be missed

 

Super trendy hipster areas Karakoy and Cihangir, the pastel Ottoman wooden mansions of Arnavutkoy and the Asian side neighborhoods of Kadikoy and Caddebostan.

Source images: 1. http://websta.me/p/1259966920905058600_198714729 2. https://websta.me/p/1260890075443044251_1761206606 3. http://websta.me/p/1260863716350392021_2260268996

My favorite cheap street foods

 

Turkey is an interesting place to be a vegetarian, and while it can be hard, some of the best street food here is vegetarian or vegan. Of course you can stick to the doner kebab Turkey is known for the world over, but why not live a little? Take çiğ köfte, a spicy vegan wrap made of bulgur and walnuts, best accompanied by the salty yogurt drink Ayran.

Lokma, a super sweet dessert, is another. Turkish kumpir are loaded baked potatoes as big as your head, and of course, the humble and ubiquitous borek is a good breakfast and all-day meal.

4140012740_e30a4313ab_b

Source image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/qilin/4140012740  

Resources you’ll need

 

My partner always jokes WiFi is the first thing I look for anywhere I go. In a pinch, find your nearest Starbucks. Most places are happy to give you their wifi code, so you’ll always be connected. If you’ll be on the go, mobile WiFi is a hassle from the local telecommunications companies, but for shorter trips, Rent N Connect may be worth a try.

For transport an Istanbulkart, the reloadable transport card for the city, is worth the 10 lira ($0.35) deposit. To avoid taxi scams, download the BiTaksi app.

How to be Turkish

 

Make friends with the street cats! I’m no expert, but from the looks of the streets and cafes there must be at least one cat or dog per person, so take advantage of that. Turkish people’s love for the street animals is exceeded only by their love for small children.

Go further and spend a weekend among the fairytale, air balloon cave region of Cappadocia, or Izmir, the modern, laid back but forward looking second city of Turkey.

If you’ll be staying a while, learning even a small amount of the language helps a lot, try Duolingo to start. Don’t bother with Google Translate, Tureng works much better but only does one word at a time. Visit your neighborhood’s weekly market (pazar) for fresh fruit and vegetables and a taste of local life.

Fana writes about her adopted city and startups over on her blog Istanbul Startup girl. You can also find her on Twitter @iststarupgirl, on Instagram @fanreina and on Facebook.

 

Have you been to Istanbul? What is your favourite nomad destination? Please let us know in the comments below!

Digital Nomad Girls join Coboat

Digital Nomad Girls join Coboat

Digital Nomad Girls go Sailing!

A lot has been happening behind the scenes at Digital Nomad Girls recently and we’re very excited to announce many new projects over the next few weeks and months, including our very first Digital Nomad Girls Retreat.

The community is steadily growing and to celebrate our 3000th member in the Digital Nomad Girls Facebook group we have teamed up with Coboat on their inaugural trip! Digital Nomad Girls get €100 off your week’s sailing trip with Coboat!

If you haven’t been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably heard of the world’s first coworking catamaran, Coboat. While their own boat is being refitted in Thailand, they went into Pirate Beta mode.

Pirate, you say? Yep, they simply chartered a beautiful 50 feet catamaran (a Lagoon 500 called Maranthounta) and turned it into another co-working boat, as you do!

The catamaran is equipped with fast WiFi and will be sailing around the Mediterranean Sea from June to November. Can you imagine a more idyllic place to wake up every day than the turquoise coves and picturesque ports of Greece, Spain or Portugal? No, we didn’t think so.

And to celebrate with us, the lovely sailing nomads have created an exclusive offer for all Digital Nomad Girl members. When booking a full price week on Coboat, (from calendar week 27 onward) you can use our exclusive code to get €100 off. Simply join our Facebook group or sign up here to receive the code:

You will need to fill in the application form on their website and once you’ve been approved as a worthy co-pirate, you will be able to add your discount code.

greece coboat zakynthos island sailing with digital nomad girls

So where will they sail? In June and July Coboat will be exploring the turquoise seas of Greece, from Lemnos to Paros and beyond. After that, the sky (uh, sea) is the limit, but rumour has it the trip will lead to Italy, Croatia and Spain.

The days at sea will be spent co-working on your projects, networking, snorkelling, swimming, practicing yoga, scuba diving, kayaking, playing board games and more, you definitely won’t get bored. And you’ll be sharing this incredible experience with other digital nomads from around the world.

Worried you’ll get seasick or anything else you’d like to find out? Then check out their detailed FAQs here.

Now, what are you waiting for? Grab your discount code and sunscreen and sail away!

Please share in the comments if you’d love to become a digital pirate!

Copy of Digital Nomad Girl Featured Image Social Size (3)

Please note that the code is only valid from calendar week 27 onwards until the end of 2016 (might be extended).

Terms and conditions apply and can be found on Coboat’s website.

Digital Nomad Girls cannot assume any liability, please refer to Coboat’s Terms and Conditions and Liability Waiver.

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