Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo by Paper Planes
Colombia, Location Independence, Thailand

Chiang Mai vs. Medellin: What Digital Nomads Are Saying

I feel rather fortunate to have called both Chiang Mai, Thailand and Medellín, Colombia my home in recent years.

Before I ever knew what a digital nomad was, I found my way to Chiang Mai looking to teach English.  Almost two years later, armed with a fresh new blogging career and the motivation to join the ranks of successful digital nomads, I found myself in Medellín rubbing elbows with other bloggers and online entrepreneurs.

Related: The Digital Nomad Packing List: Tech & Accessories I Can’t Travel Without

Brunching in Medellin, Colombia

Brunching in Medellin

Lately, it seems that hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an email from a reader who’s eager to make the move to one of these cities, sometimes even asking me to help them decide between the two.

Not all of them are interested in becoming location independent, necessarily, but it’s caused me to really think critically about what kind of lifestyle one can expect to find when they arrive in Chiang Mai or Medellin and whether one city really does stand out as a better choice for digital nomads.

Rather than just share my opinion, I thought I’d reach out to a few of my fellow entrepreneurs (did I just call myself an entrepreneur?!) to weigh in on the matter.  I looked for people who’d spent a significant chunk of time (ideally longer than one month) living and working in one city or the other (or both).

The specific question I wanted an answer to?

Aside from the obvious draws like a low cost of living and fast, reliable WiFi, what makes each city a good hub for digital nomads?

Here’s what they had to say…

Chiang Mai

“While Chiang Mai has blown up as a top destination for digital nomads, there’s so much more to this special city than free WiFi and coffee shops. A welcoming community of locals, expats and longtime travelers make it an easy place to sink into and feel like a part of the community quickly. You can find almost anything here — cheap street food to 5-star hotels and everything in between–but one of the greatest things is the sense of freedom and opportunity here. So many people come here working on their own projects and don’t judge others for choosing different lifestyles – it’s exhilarating!”

Alana Morgan is the founder of the travel blog Paper Planes and has been working as a freelancer in Thailand for the past four years.

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo by Nomad is Beautiful

Wat Chedi Luang. Photo courtesy of Nomad is Beautiful

“The open-minded people who have the same blood group PDN are what make Chiang Mai great. PDN as Passionate Digital Nomad.  We are always attracted and pumped by the willingness of other travel bloggers and digital nomads to share, to teach you, to encourage you or to help you to make a better decision in Chiang Mai. It’s that kind of feeling when you talk to someone about your ideas and their eyes sparkle and they nod to support your thoughts.”

Ivana & Gianni are full-time travelers who run the travel blog Nomad is Beautiful. They call the world their home.

“I’ve spent many lengthy stints in Chiang Mai, but what always brings me back time and again is the affordability, the good infrastructure, good education, and the cafe and work culture here. It’s fairly simple to find monthly accommodation under $300 US so it’s a great starter spot for a lot of people boot-strapping their first business, people are super friendly, helpful, and speak very solid English overall. The internet is pretty fast for this region, and it’s incredibly easy to find nice, welcoming cafes where you can work on nearly every corner, and with quality coffee too! For me, it is the perfect place to go anytime for an affordable, quiet retreat to get a project cranked out. And there is a growing network of fellow nomads and entrepreneurial types here. It’s a big city with pretty much everything you could need, but it doesn’t feel like a big Asian city. There is amazing food everywhere you look. Just plan to get out (or wear a mask) for the burning season around March/April.”

Cody McKibben is the blogger and entrepreneur behind Thrilling Heroics and the Digital Nomad Academy.  He is currently based in Thailand.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo by Paper Planes

Photo courtesy of Paper Planes


“Medellín is a great choice for digital nomads because it is a city on the rise, winning accolades for urban renewal projects, while at the same time celebrating the traditional culture through annual events like the Flower Festival and Christmas light displays. It also offers the chance to live in a big city, but still have easy access to the countryside within a 30-minute bus ride.”

David Lee is a travel blogger and entrepreneur based in Medellín, Colombia.

“Medellín for me was the one place that had everything I was looking for in South America. It has that Latin ‘vibe’ I love: great music, warm people, beautiful ladies, buzzing nightlife, and always something fun/recreational/educational to do. It has a lot in common with Chiang Mai–good weather almost year-round, great views as it’s surrounded by beautiful mountains, lots of small neighborhoods and nature mixed in there even though you’re in the middle of a huge city… good infrastructure, a budding startup scene, it’s been cleaned up and transformed in a huge way since a decade or so ago and is generally very safe. I’ve also heard that Colombia was somehow awarded as having the “best Spanish” in South America, whoever decides that, but it was a great place to find one-on-one tutoring and start learning the language. There’s lots of cool pueblitos, or small towns nearby, landmarks like El Peñól de Guatapé, and even coffee farms within a few hours’ drive to explore the more traditional Colombian lifestyle.”

Cody McKibben, blogger at Thrilling Heroics, founder at Digital Nomad Academy

Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring

Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring

“The City of Eternal spring is a special place which feels like it’s on the cusp of greatness. Yes, nefarious elements still abound and it’s not the most pretty city but it is also a hub for creativity, entrepreneurship and a shining example of how Colombia is changing so rapidly.  For nomads, the permanent t-shirt weather, smattering of cool cafés and restaurants popping up every month, transport links and affordable short-term rental options will persuade you to stay. Aguardiente nights, a sense of community and the punchy paisa mentality will make you think twice about ever leaving what is one of our favourite cities in Latin America.”

Andrew and Emily left the UK with a one-way ticket to Mexico, two cameras and enough money to travel Latin America for two years. Follow their journey on their website, Along Dusty Roads.

Cafe culture in Medellin, Colombia

Café culture in Medellin

As for me?

My life in Chiang Mai was very easy.  I never had to look far for good company–the expats really did have a way of coming together and supporting one another.  The food was fabulous, getting around was a cinch, and there were always exciting things to do outside of the city whenever I needed a break from the hustle and bustle.  But I will say this–I could never see myself staying in Chiang Mai for the long run.  A year or two would be great, but I would’t want to build a life there.

Medellin, on the other hand, could very well have sucked me in for good.  The culture was easier for me to relate to, the climate was more tolerable, the language was easier to learn, and as an American, I was closer to home if I ever wanted to visit my friends and family.  It wasn’t as affordable as Thailand, but still affordable enough to allow me time to build up a freelance career and an online business.

The verdict…

At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and what you’re looking to get out of your life in a new city.  And as Cody summed it up nicely:

Chiang Mai and Medellín are both ideal headquarters for the nomadic entrepreneur.

Are you a digital nomad?  Have you ever lived in or considered moving to one of these cities?  What was the deciding factor for you?

Featured image: Paper Planes

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  • Reply Alana | Paper Planes September 22, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I’m so glad that when I first moved to Thailand I was completely oblivious to the digital nomad world and got to know the culture/community by working in it first before working more online. I’ve now met people who have been “living” in Chiang Mai for nearly a year who can’t say anything beyond “hello” or “thank you” and don’t know the names of basic Thai dishes…they’re in a major bubble I don’t think I would be happy with!
    Alana | Paper Planes recently posted…50 of the Best Cafes in Chiang MaiMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 24, 2015 at 12:18 am

      Hm, interesting point. It probably would have been more difficult assimilating/learning about the culture if I hadn’t worked as an English teacher in a Thai school and had so much exposure to it. I guess now that you mention it I’m grateful for that too! But at the same time, it’s just a matter of making the effort if you truly do care about the cultural experience. It’s a shame to hear that you know so many people who give it so little regard.

  • Reply Dave September 22, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I agree it comes down to individual tastes and preferences. In reading this article, it sounds like Chiang Mai is ahead of Medellin when it comes to digital nomads coming together and supporting one another. Perhaps because it’s bigger, people seem more inclined to go their own way in Medellín. I don’t think anyone mentioned the safety issue, however, I’d have to give the edge to Chiang Mai in that regard. Having been pickpocketed and robbed within an 11-month period in Medellín, I’m much more cautious there than any Asian country I’ve visited.
    Dave recently posted…Bambu Glamping City Hostel: Glamping in PobladoMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 24, 2015 at 12:24 am

      I’m glad you brought up the topic of safety, Dave. I agree that I felt a higher sense of security while living in Chiang Mai than Medellin, but I don’t actually think it was warranted. I know many people who were assaulted and robbed in CM, but it isn’t something that gets talked about very openly. Perhaps there is less violent crime than Colombia because people generally don’t own guns, but the threat absolutely still exists. Probably do still agree with your assessment that CM has the edge, but safety in either city is something to take into consideration 🙂

  • Reply Lauren September 22, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Yay! I love this comparison and that you took into consideration a few perspectives. You’ve just sold me on visiting Medellin! I love a city that sucks you in and has you looking at apartments the day you arrive. And you are so right, it is definitely up to preference! Case in point, Chiang Mai did not charm me the same way it does for so many other travelers. I went back twice while in Thailand, hoping that I just needed to spend a little longer there and I’d fall in love like everyone else. I left wishing I would have spent longer in Pai or even Bangkok!

    • Reply Leah Davis September 24, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      I hear that about Chiang Mai more often than you might think! I definitely got lucky by making friends right off the bat and finding a job that I loved, but I can see it being tough to get into if you don’t know anyone or working solo in a cafe most of the time. I hope you do make it to Medellin! Maybe wait until the next Flower Festival, it’s supposed to be amazing! Then again, December is pretty awesome with the Christmas lights too 🙂

  • Reply Hannah @GettingStamped September 22, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Great article! We have based ourselves in Chiang Mai and love it BUT it does have it’s drawbacks…We are leaning towards Central America for the winter. Being closer to home and knowing Spanish make it that much easier.
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 24, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks Hannah! I’d love to hear what you think the drawbacks are to living in Chiang Mai as a digital nomad. Central America could be good as well, but at this point I’m personally leaning away from tropical climates as I’m a bit tired of being sweaty all the time!

  • Reply Justine September 22, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    Ah, there’s just something about Colombia. I really do have a feeling I will call it home one day…
    Justine recently posted…48 Hours in Bangkok: Food Poisoning and PhotographyMy Profile

  • Reply Chad Deckard September 23, 2015 at 1:32 am

    Awesome article. I’ll be jumping to Medellin in two weeks from today! Totally pumped and maybe we can meet up some time for coffee!
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 24, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      That’s awesome news, Chad! Unfortunately, I’m no longer in Medellin, but you’re gonna have a great time! Enjoy!

  • Reply James | The Globe Wanderers September 23, 2015 at 4:46 am

    This was a great read! I’ve never been to Columbia but have visited Chang Mai after making my way up the Mekong from Laos.
    Unfortunately I didn’t spend too long here but meet some of the great local faces. Really wish I could have stayed longer but can’t wait to return someday. Who knows, maybe we’ll spend more time than we think there…..
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 24, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      Chiang Mai is great! Hopefully you do get to return, there are so many little things to discover the longer you’re there (in and out of the city) 🙂

  • Reply Ian Ord - Where Sidewalks End September 23, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    I’ve been living in various parts of Thailand for the past 4 years. I have to say it’s incredibly easy to live here and I agree with what most people said… Bangkok is an equal contender as a base (if not more so, for the sheer volume of entrepreneurs that live there), though many do find it harder to get into the vibe of things.

    Medellin has been on my radar for a few years though, and I do feel that it’s got some gravity pulling me that way eventually… but I’ve got unfinished business in Thailand first getting the business fully off the ground, so I think it can wait a couple more years 🙂

    Seemingly more and more of these digital nomad hubs are popping up now too… Santiago in Chile, Berlin in Germany, Cochin in India… I think overall the world is becoming an easier place in general to work remotely…. it’s just a matter of time before we can set up pretty much anywhere and find other likeminded people about. That said… it all started with Chiang Mai and Medellin 🙂 Great write up, Leah!
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 24, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      I really hope to get up to Chiang Mai to visit you! Will be so interesting to go back and see what has changed, connect with old friends, etc. If and when you make it to Medellin let me know and I’ll give you my best tips! I almost mentioned all the other cities that are becoming popular digital nomad spots (Berlin in particular sprang to mind) but since I don’t have any experience in those ones I didn’t feel qualified to comment 😉

  • Reply Alexa September 24, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Great post! I’ve been based in Chiang Mai for a few months now and although I’m still loving it and feeling really connected to the community here… my feet are getting itchy. Been tossing the idea of Australia or South America back and forth and Medellin just won another point, would be so nice not to be dripping sweat at all times and be able to speak the language. Gracias for getting me psyched up about it!
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 24, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      Hey Alexa! I felt the same way living in CM. After awhile, I just felt like I needed to move on. I think Medellin would be an excellent choice as an alternative! You might still be dripping in sweat some of the time, but not always haha 😉

  • Reply Joella September 24, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I’m not sure which one I would choose. I’ve been to Colombia and Thailand but not to Medellin or Chiang Mai. If I had to base it on Bogota or Bangkok..I still don’t think I could choose haha- I loved both!
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 25, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      Oh man, if I had to choose between Bangkok and Bogota I’d probably have to choose neither! Ha, not my favorite cities (but Colombia would have the edge). I hope you get to visit these two someday, they are great! 🙂
      Leah Davis recently posted…Friday Snapshots: Scenes from Sairee BeachMy Profile

  • Reply Yulia September 25, 2015 at 2:51 am

    This is so cool, I have been searching for a similar comparison for a while! I have been living in Chiang mai for a while and in a couple of month going to relocate to Madellin too! 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis September 25, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      That’s awesome Yulia! I think you’ll adjust nicely to life in Medellin if you liked Chiang Mai. It’s a different vibe for sure, I hope you’re ready for a change! 🙂
      Leah Davis recently posted…Friday Snapshots: Scenes from Sairee BeachMy Profile

  • Reply Robert Stephen Browning September 27, 2015 at 1:09 am

    {CORRECTED VERSION} OK. We’re both from the Northwest. I just semi-retired and moved to Chiang Mai a month ago. I am starting my TEFL course in a week. I have rented a nice condo until March. AND…..I am seriously considering Medellin as my next destination. Interestingly, I am finding Chiang Mai all the things that others have said. However, for me, a person who has traveled widely and fairly independent, it may not have the lifestyle I’m looking for. The communication challenges are significant. There is no scheduled public transport which requires constant bartering with gentleman who have no idea what you’re saying, much less where you want to go. The weather is hot, humid and/or dry and smoggy most of the year. All that aside, I’m happy I’m here, as it’s challenging my set-in ways and opening my eyes to so many things. That being said, I’m thinking of either Medellin or Prague a my next move, with an emphasis on Medellin. It seems to have everything I’m looking for…..if you can overlook the fact that the men don’t wear shorts which is my base garment 90% of the time…ha! Anyway, I hope our paths will cross some day as we seem to have shared journeys. I am producing a series of video interviews called, “New Nations: The Expat Experience” and am shooting my first one this week. I’ll let you know how it goes. All best wishes.

    • Reply Leah Davis September 30, 2015 at 12:33 am

      Hey Robert! Wow, we certainly do have a lot in common! All the things that you seem to be less-than-pleased with about Chiang Mai are many of the things that drove me out in the end as well. I got past the communication barrier pretty well by studying Thai intensively in private lessons, but too many other things meant I wouldn’t be staying there long-term so I eventually gave that up too. You’re right about men in Medellin not wearing shorts…hopefully you’ll get used to the climate?! I’m curious to see how your journey progresses. Keep on keepin’ on and enjoying Chiang Mai in the meantime, and you’ll have to let me know when your video series comes out! Cheers and good luck!
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  • Reply Steph of Big World Small Pockets October 1, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Great, original article and nice to hear the opinions of others too. Got to be honest however, I really didn’t rate Medellin at all?! Waiting to see if Chiang Mai fares any better!
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    • Reply Leah Davis October 1, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      I don’t imagine there are many people out there like myself who could (or would even want to) live in both of these cities. They are very different in many ways! All about what you’re looking for, and for me, Medellin had it at the time. I hope you enjoy Chiang Mai!

  • Reply Armando October 6, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Sorry thai lovers , i hated chiang mai, found the people smile at you but keep you away with a 10 feet pole, extreme xenofobics, they dont know anything outside of chiang mai, extreme ignorace, they feel that you owe them for being there, they try to rip you off every day, some nice people but rare, they dont speak english at all, those that do the level is atrocious, you will never have a thai male friend you hang around with, people will try to deny this but the people that have lived long enough in thailand and actually got into thai culture not only hang with expats will agree with me, only the people that experienced the culture superficially will disagree with me, i say it like it is because i wish someone told me before, yes food is better than medellin , i think medellin is one trillion times better than thailand, i love medellin the city the people are amazing i will never go back to chiang mai

    • Reply Leah Davis October 7, 2015 at 9:31 am

      Interesting perspective. On the one hand, I understand your frustration with Thai people seemingly keeping a safe distance and not getting close to foreigners, but on the other hand I find it hard to blame them when so many westerners are constantly coming and going. I would probably keep people at arm’s length too if the situation were reversed. I also can’t fault all of Thailand for the “extreme ignorance” you site here–not all people are afforded equal opportunities and access to education and travel as many of us are.

    • Reply James October 27, 2015 at 8:24 am

      Wow, I respect your honesty. My experience in CM was much like yours.

      If you read thru the posts here you will also see that the language issue comes up over and over. I never met a westerner fluent in Thai while those who claim that many of the Thai people speak OK English are completely wrong, must be living in an expat bubble.

      Yet, I still think about CM almost every day and miss my expat friends there. It is an intiguing place. The best advice I ever got was to enjoy everything about CM but do not live there. Enjoy, leave and return again. Living there is extremely challenging for many reasons.

      • Reply Leah Davis October 27, 2015 at 10:34 am

        Being back in Chiang Mai after a few years, I actually have to disagree with you about Thais speaking English. I’ve encountered plenty of them who speak it perfectly well–I think perhaps the massive influx of foreigners (there seem to be many, many more than the last time I was here) has caused them to realize how important it is. You’re right, though, about foreigners not speaking Thai. But I DID happen to see a farang speaking fluent Thai just the other day, so they do exist. Anywho, I see many people doing just what you say–enjoy, leave, return. I could see myself falling into the same pattern.

  • Reply James Becker November 23, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I’m so glad I found this post. I’ve been on the fence between Medellin and Chiang Mai for a few months now.

    I’ve been to Chiang Mai twice, and I love Thailand. I’ve never been to South America. I have family in Bogota, though, and I’ve always imagined that I’d feel more comfortable in South American culture than Thai culture. Reading what you wrote about Medellin just verified that for me.

    Do you have any recommendations for certain neighborhoods that are good places live to meet other foreigners and network? If I move there it’s really important I get involved with the expat scene immediately.

    Also, is coming there with $10,000 in cash enough to live long enough to bootstrap a business… say, 6 months?

    • Reply Leah Davis November 23, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      Hey James! I’m so glad to hear this post was useful for you. I definitely felt more at “home” with Colombian culture than Thai, and it sounds to me like you might feel the same. The most popular expat area to live/work in is El Poblado. It’s more expensive than many other parts of the city, but it’s right where all the action is. A close second might be Envigado (not technically Medellin but it borders El Poblado to the south). $10,000 is plenty to live on for 6 months, but if some of that will be used for business expenses you might be cutting it close. Hope this is helpful, and best of luck to you!

  • Reply Eric Van Buskirk January 22, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    Living seems to be the focus of comments. I wonder about “working” CHALLENGES? I’ve worked location independant for 3 years in past 10 years, but all in the Philippines (
    Cebu and Makati). I’ve traveled quite a bit in Thailand, and for a week in Columbia on independent travel/vaca.

    First time I had my own company with office and employees doing web design and dev. I HAD TO work until 2AM and start work day in afternoon because HAD TO be available by phone for clients.

    I’m about to pull trigger on plans for a 3 month work stay in Saigon. The only thing killing me is can I realistically handle “client services” as someone that does data and SEO services? My clients are not just “casual” small biz. They expect a level of professionalism. If you do client work on Internet Marketing, web data analytics, Website conversion, what’s your experience? My plan is flex work hours, w/ some days having to be available from 9-midnight just for client calls. And then there’s the questionable Voip in Medellin BUT, it doesn’t have the time zone problem. I think Bangkok is Thailand is safer because of better internet, but it still has the time zone issue!
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    • Reply Leah Davis January 23, 2016 at 2:47 am

      You bring up a good point, Eric, there certainly are logistical challenges when working in Thailand if your client base is on the other side of the world. Many digital nomads probably don’t deal with customer service in the same way though, so perhaps that’s why it hasn’t been discussed here. But I experienced the same myself, scheduling Skype calls was a big hassle when I was in Thailand because my clients are all in the US and the time difference (and often poor internet connection) often interfered. I guess it varies for everyone, though so it’s hard to make generalizations.

  • Reply Shari February 19, 2016 at 6:56 am

    I just came back from 3 months in Colombia and Medellin was the place I kept coming back to. So much so that I plan to move there. It truly is a beautiful city. However, my other entrepreneur friends all went to Bali/Thailand. I’ve never travelled to South East Asia (yet) but I always wondered what the hype was. This was a nice balanced perspective on the both of them. Although, highlighting what someone commented earlier, my time in Medellin, I avoided Poblado because that was nomad bubble. I stayed in Los Colores instead and had a fantastic time.
    Thanks for posting this.

    • Reply Leah Davis February 19, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      That’s great Shari! I always like to hear other people who’ve enjoyed Medellin. I don’t think Southeast Asia is for everybody, but it does have its draws, particularly if you’re into beaches 🙂

  • Reply Carla March 1, 2016 at 7:03 am

    I had read this blogpost in September at a time where I was thinking a lot about travelling to South America for a few months, but I wasn’t sure if I would go through with it. After having had read the post, Medellin hasn’t left my mind for the following five months – and now I’m really happy to tell you that I just booked my flight to South America, first stop Medellin! And I’m soooo looking forward to this incredible city!!
    (Just had to come back to this post to share this with you, thank you so much for the inspiration!)

    • Reply Leah Davis March 1, 2016 at 10:57 am

      Wow, that’s so amazing to hear Carla! I’m so glad I could play a role in convincing you to visit Medellin. I hope you love it as much as I did! Happy travels! 🙂

  • Reply Fabrizio March 2, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Me again! Fabrizio.
    Interesting since I actually spent aat least 6 months permanently in Chiang Mai and about 9 around Thailand and I also chose it for a great quality of life at affordable costs, great spot for Digital Nomads and alsoa lot of beautiful things to do.

    VEry interesting that you make this comparison. Of course to me Medellin is still an incognito, therefore I cannot contribute in terms of confirming what you say but what I may find preferable in Medellin, after years of Asia, is a more latin culture and the fact that I am fluent in Spanish whereas not being able to speak Thai, my communication was half as good as I’d like to be (i love languages too and pretty good at it)
    Should you need any infos on Europe (not sweden, I don’t know much about the far north), don’t hesitate to ask.

    Good luck again

    • Reply Leah Davis March 2, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      I made the comparison, really, because I had lived in both and knew they were both quickly becoming hot spots for digital nomads. With more and more people choosing this lifestyle nowadays there are so many more cities people are choosing as a base! But I agree with you, I found Latin culture easier to identify with and of course had less trouble communicating as well 🙂

  • Reply Jane@wickedwalkabout August 13, 2016 at 6:29 am

    I’ve not been to Medellin, though would love to. Chiang Mai though I love and really enjoyed a stay there years ago – though before Wi-fi existed! I’ll be taking my daughters there in the next 12-18 months and do an overland trip with them… it will be great to settle in Chiang Mai for a few weeks at least and catch up… not quite as long as I’d love to be there though! Thanks for the added inspiration.
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    • Reply Leah Davis August 13, 2016 at 8:05 am

      Oh that’s amazing that you’ll get to revisit Chiang Mai with your daughters! It will always be one of my favorite cities, I have so many good memories there 🙂 Happy travels Jane!

  • Reply Steve Epstein September 3, 2016 at 10:19 am


    Your CM vs Medellin commentary is great.

    I am a committed Chiamg Maitian and find the ease of life and deep kindness of the Thai people the reason for renewing my vows (and visa). I am heading to Medellin in our burning season (you know what I mean!) and am wondering if there is a Buddhist community there?


    • Reply Leah Davis September 4, 2016 at 1:52 am

      Hey Steve! That’s something I’m not really sure of. The predominant faith in much of South America is Catholicism, I believe, but there may be some pockets of Buddhists around. You might just have to do some digging once you arrive. Sorry I can’t be more helpful! I hope you enjoy, though!

  • Reply Taiss September 13, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    My husband I have been “living” in Chiang Mai on and off for over a year now and love it! We plan on learning Thai so we could communicate better and be a part of the culture. It has not been an issue at all not knowing the language, though. Also, We agree that there is a really good community here and it’s very motivating to be around these people. That part has been most inspirational for us! Additionally, we LOVE the food SO MUCH!!!!! The safety factor is also huge. But in a year or so we will want to move on and this article is great for helping us choose where to next. Thanks!

    • Reply Leah Davis September 14, 2016 at 8:27 am

      Oh man, I miss Thai food SO much! That’s why I learned to cook it haha. Medellin is different in a lot of way, but if different is what you’re looking for it’ll be PERFECT for you!

  • Reply Frugal Frequency Holder November 16, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    I love Chiang Mai for the high availability of quality/inexpensive massage shops (non-sexual). Is this common in Medellin?

    Thank you for this article!

    • Reply Leah Davis November 16, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      Hmm, no, I don’t think massage is quite as common in South America and it probably won’t be anywhere near as cheap!

  • Reply Allison Sherman August 31, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Interesting article, especially as I live in Chiang Mai and will move to Medellin in a few months! The one big thing you did not mention is the visas. We find the visas in Thailand a lot more cumbersome and expensive to obtain. Visa runs, extensions, etc have to be managed almost monthly. Whereas Colombia can give you a long one as soon as you arrive. So that’s a big issue for us.

    • Reply Leah Davis September 5, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      Hey Allison! You’re right about that, visas in Thailand are definitely more complicated. When I lived there myself, I was not actually a digital nomad but an English teacher and my school provided me with a work visa, so, to be honest, it’s not something I personally ever had to worry about, but I know friends of mine were always making runs to the border, which I’m sure is no fun if you plan to be there long-term.

  • Reply Honest John October 1, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I enjoyed your article… and look forward to visiting Thailand. You mentioned the “burning season” in CM and how it affects air quality; an important fact. I am very familiar with Medellin. In my 6 months of living in MDE, I concur that it’s a great small city. However, the one BIG issue with Medellin is the HORRIBLE air quality. If one chooses to “live” in the “City of Eternal Spring” their will be negative consequences to the respiratory system, similar to the negative possibility (if not outright probability) of smoking cigarettes. On some rare days the air is relatively clean and MDE is truly delightful despite all the culinary deficits, drugs, prostitution, sex tourism and poverty; people are generally happy. Travelers & new residents will find what they seek. I am currently looking for land to build on just outside the valley where Medellin is nestled because the air-pollution is Medellin is consistently awful and IMO dangerous.

    • Reply Leah Davis October 2, 2017 at 6:16 pm

      Hey John! Interesting, I never really noticed that air quality in Medellin was poor. I suppose because, unlike the smoke mentioned during CM’s burning season, I never noticed poor visibility in Medellin. The problem is much more obvious when you can see it! Anyway, a good thing for people to be aware of, thanks for bringing it up!

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