Becoming a digital nomad is a serious endeavour. While most people will tell you they decided on a whim, take it from me that you want to be as well prepared as you can before departing. So that's why I made this “Digital Nomad Check List” to help you along.
There will of course be things that will not apply to you, but most should be universal and you should do them prior to departing unless suggested by their respective section. Finishing the entire thing can take between 1-3 months so start at it immediately!
*Please note, some of the links in this list are affiliate links and offer us a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. I am very grateful if you do choose to use them!
Government, health and other bureaucracy
- Check passport validity and necessary visas. Renew if less than 1 year's validity (a lot easier now than doing it 6 months into your trip).
- If you are an EU don't forget to understand some EU travel laws which apply to you, which you might not already know.
- Change any necessary addresses
- Tax authorities
- Insurance (health, travel, equipment etc.)
- Driving Licence
- Give a family member or friend the Power of Attorney
- Get an International Driving Licence (if your country issues them)
- Get any necessary vaccinations (yellow fever, dengue fever, malaria etc)
- Buy health or travel insurance
- Get originals or authenticated copies of other important certificates. Notarised and/or Apostilled.
- Marriage Certificate, multi-language version if possible
- Birth Certificate if you plan on settling down somewhere which needs this! Check the country's requirements first.
- Decide whether you will rent out your existing accommodation. For short term rentals you can partner up with someone to host on Airbnb.
- Get a credit card, preferably one which gives insurances and sign up bonuses, e.g. American Express (UK version, Dutch Version, or email me if you need another country's version). Bank Rate have some US based cards too.
- Open app-based bank accounts. The more the better and most provide cards. They usually provide free or very cheap foreign exchange rates. I recommend all the below
- Bunq (EUR) – Good for opening several IBAN numbers for separating income/expenses. Good if you run multiple sites! Send me an email first and I can provide a referral link which gives you €10 free bonus when you first use your card.
- N26 (EUR) – Provides dedicated personal or business account.
- Monzo (GBP) – £10 free bonus if you open an account using my referral link
- Revolut (multi-currency)
- Transferwise (multi-currency) – Also provides dedicated personal or business account.
- Paypal (multi-currency) – Does not provide a card but still useful nonetheless.
- Monese (GBP and EUR) – £5/€5 free bonus. See link which explains it.
- Notify your existing bank so they know you will be travelling, and not block your card!
Computer and hardware
- Get a portable laptop if you don't have one already. Some suggested models below.
- Ultra lightweight, all-purpose: MacBook (12 inch), new MacBook Air, iPad Pro plus smart keyboard, Asus Zenbook, Microsoft Surface Pro.
- Lightweight, all-purpose: 13 inch MacBook Pro, Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre 13 inch
- Medium weight, high-powered: 15 inch MacBook Pro or many other Windows or Linux varieties.
- Protective laptop sleeve
- All in one adapter, with sufficient current rating. Most cheap models only allow 1 Amp but you should get at least 5A, preferably 8A. This applies especially if you are likely to use a hairdryer or hair straighteners or anything with a heating element which requires a lot of electrical current.
- Camera (if using a separate one to a mobile phone).
- Protective camera case
- Buy decent headphones or earphones. I personally recommend Sony WH-1000XM2 or Bose QC35 II noise-cancelling headphones.
- Unlocked mobile phone – if using iOS, iPhone 6s at a minimum and iPhone 7 recommended. iPhone 8 or iPhone X are certainly powerful and have really good in-built camera but are still quite expensive. Similar models from 2016 onwards for Android will be enough.
- Sign up for a free Amazon for Business account, which is useful if you want to buy your products with proper invoices and ex-VAT prices. Except Germany, they are all currently offering a 50% discount on your first purchase. But you need to remember you accept marketing emails otherwise they cannot send you the discount code to use! See this article on how to pay 0% VAT on Amazon Business.
- Keep a log of all serial numbers of your equipment and warranty expiry dates! Store them in your cloud service.
- Cloud storage.
- Password manager, e.g. Lastpass
- VPN (any one of the below is OK)
- Microsoft Office, sadly, is still very much required if you are dealing with more traditional businesses.
Setting up your business or finding work
- Decide your tax structure. (A couple of quick examples to set up are UK Limited Liability Company costing £15 plus £1 share capital, or an Estonian company using e-residency)
- Seek professional tax advice
- Use an invoicing system. Any of the below are OK, but if you use an accountant he/she may have preference to one.
- Learn or top up any skills you need
- And specifically for learners of programming,
- If looking for employee work, remote work job boards:
- If starting your own freelance business, contract boards. Note the pay can be awful though.
- Register your own domain name and host a website.
- Get someone to design a website for you or use one of the templates in the hosting providers above (or contact me if you want me to do it for you)
- Buy a Skype number
- Get some well-designed business cards
- If you anticipate a lot of logistical or admin work, or just wish to make your own life easier, hire a Virtual Assistant. I can recommend one or two if you need.
- Sign up for AwardWallet to track your loyalty programmes
- Sign up to the most popular frequent flyer programs and credit your flights to them.
- Find cheap flights
- Find cheap accommodation.
Social and Networking
- If you want to meet like-minded people, investigate popular digital nomad hubs.
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Bali, Indonesia
- Medellin, Colombia
- Porto, Portugal (Let me know if you are here, I spend most of my time there!)
- Berlin, Germany
- Attend a couple of networking events with other digital nomads near your area
- Meetup groups
- Facebook groups
- Other forums
- Dating websites
- Dating apps
While you're on the move
- Track frequent flyer or hotel promotions, and trip itineraries. Use Awardwallet as described above.
- Monitor your expenses. Most of the banking apps I described above do that.
- Learn a language.
- Find Wifi hotspots, e.g. Starbucks or McDonalds.
- Buy local SIM cards (but EU ones are free to roam between countries). You can probably find some on Amazon or eBay.
- Exchange your money – Transferwise, Revolut allow it at near mid-market prices and also allow you to withdraw at ATMs a few times per month. Otherwise Travelex in cash works too.
- Find co-work spaces, or use Regus.
If you think I have missed anything please feel free to email me: info [a] pointstobemade.com with your suggestion and I can consider including it.