A number of these tools are ideal for business travel, location independent entrepreneurs, freelancers, and digital nomads –however, there are plenty of options on this list that will make lives easier for people that work from home or work remotely for a company in another country.
Best Tools for Digital Nomads
If you have any digital nomad tools you’d like to add to this list, please let the world know in the comments –and bookmark this page so you can check in from time to time, we’re always updating it.
1. Travel Hacking & Other Tools
Yes, everything is a “hack” nowadays. The word is overused, but I didn’t want you to miss these. Saving money on travel when you’re always moving around is important for any digital nomad, so we’ll kick off this list with a few tools to make your travel cost-effective and safe. (More updates to follow in the coming weeks).
Borrow an Onward Flight Ticket
Many countries will require you to have an “onward ticket” in hand to show authorities to prove you won’t get stuck in their country or stick around longer than they’d like. What if you could borrow an onward flight ticket instead? Many nomads will use Photoshop and edit an older onward ticket, but if authorities check the manifest, that method will get you into hot water. It isn’t worth the risk.
FlyOnward.com allows you to purchase a real onward flight ticket for 24 hours for only $10. They purchase it on your behalf just like a regular travel agency would, and then they get a refund for it 24 hours later. It sounds a little shady, but they are completely legitimate.
From their website;
“By booking an onward ticket, you need to provide us with your title, full name, date of your desired onward flight, and of course your departure country. The arrival country is optional; leave it blank and we’ll select a random one for you (recommended).
After an order is made, our staff will process the booking with your provided information. An email with your e-ticket (a PDF file) will be sent to you immediately from the airline (not from us). You can print out this ticket. The ticket will come with a “Confirmed” status which means has been paid in full. After that, you can go to the website of the airline, select “Manage My Booking” menu, input your name and booking reference code to see details of your ticket. Sounds great, right? These tickets are the real deal.
Depending on your booking option, the ticket will last for exactly 24 hours or 48 hours, so all you need to do is make sure you’re arriving at your destination within 24 hours or 48 hours of booking your onward flight with us. The ticket will be automatically canceled after that period. Contact us for a quote if you need a ticket that lasts more than 48 hours.
World Nomads is an established “nomad-friendly” insurance company. They’re international, and you can renew your insurance or file a claim online from wherever you are.
They cover things like “adventure activities”, riding a motor bike, last minute hospital visits, and even trip cancellations –this is unique, most insurance companies won’t, or the deductible isn’t worth it.
I’ve personally had to make a claim for my first laptop death and they made it easy. (And so did the tattoo shop in Ao Nang, Krabi who let me borrow their computer –the whole process took about 5 minutes).
Set the date, and buy insurance online right after you pick up a plane ticket.
You can check out World Nomads here.
2. Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
Some websites in countries you will visit are censored, and regionalized content from around the world may not be viewable from your location. In any case, your internet traffic could be manipulated or recorded whenever you go online.
A VPN is a great security tool, and it will allow you to browse the internet from another location. Viewing content from another location virtually will quite often allow you to view regionalized content from another region. A VPN is just another layer of security when it comes to internet browsing, however it is not a complete security solution.
A VPN is also great for Digital Nomads that may or may not be informing their clients or employers that they are taking their home-based operation to the tropics! These are our top VPNs for digital nomads.
Top VPN Choice: Speedify
Speedify is a VPN and a network bridge that allows you to combine multiple internet connections and roll them into one. Yes, I nearly wet myself, too.
That means you get the fastest internet you can muster on all your devices at the same time –even faster than technically available on a single connection wherever you are.
And it’s a VPN that works on both your laptop and your phone. Best of all worlds, and roughly the same price as a regular VPN. It works great in places like the Philippines or rural areas in Thailand where the internet makes people cry.
ZenMate and other Popular VPN services
Before Speedify, Zenmate was my jam when it came to in-browser streaming media and email, etc. ZenMate is incredibly lightweight because it’s just a VPN browser plugin available for every popular web browser.
Locations include the United States, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, China, and others. It’s a great, lightweight solution for watching regionalized online TV, banking, etc. Check out ZenMate here.
Some of the popular VPN services suggested to me by fellow nomads include:
3. International Banking
To keep track of expenses across multiple currencies, download Trip Wallet or Trail Wallet.
In order for freelancers and working nomads to send and receive money, pay bills, invoice customers, or sell digital goods and collect payments there are a number of great solutions available.
I strongly suggest setting up an account with these services prior to getting on a plane, as you may require proof of address back home –often hard to do when you’re living out of a suitcase on the other side of the earth!
Because everyone has different needs, I will list them in order of popularity, and you can take it from there.
Payoneer is a PayPal killer: Get a physical MasterCard prepaid debit card that you can have shipped to an alternative shipping address –great if you lose your wallet abroad, or if you’re a Canadian and can’t get (or don’t want) PayPal’s debit card. Lower fees in most cases, sometimes no fee at all.
Plus, they really help with geoarbitrage – receive local bank transfers from your international customers, as if you had a local bank account. We love them so much, we wrote a detailed post explaining how it works.
Transferwise gives you the actual exchange rate, has the lowest minimum transfer requirement, and fastest turnaround I’ve ever experienced. Your most ideal solution in case of emergencies, and you can send money via Facebook Messenger.
By far, Stripe is the most popular among developers and drop shippers due to its robust API/merchant integrations that are available. I personally don’t use it at this time, but I know it has a cult-like following.
With Currency Fair you can either send money instantly, or choose your exchange rate and wait for it. It’s a unique approach and a reliable alternative to Transferwise.
Everyone dislikes PayPal, and so do I. I’ve used them for years, and I’m still forced to more than I’d like –IMHO they like to randomly freeze accounts and bully their clients, but for many, they are a required evil.
Coins.ph is a little-known gem and ideal for quick hops to the Philippines; it’s got a great app, works with Bitcoin, extremely low fees, has a virtual Visa debit card for making purchases, can be used or signed-up for internationally, provides cash-back on most purchases or bill payments, can be topped up at 7-11 in the Philippines or by Bitcoin, allows card-less withdrawals at Philippines Security Bank ATM machines, and is recognized by major international ecommerce brands even though it’s a Philippines-based company.
Coins also has a Thai Bitcoin counterpart, although I’ve never used it before.
Gumroad is one of the best platforms to sell digital products online, such as ebooks, audio, video, and learning materials. It’s also great for recurring subscription you might bill customers for online courses. They have a sweet affiliate program, too –so you can build an army of affiliates for you products, courses, and services.
4. Internet Connection Hacks & Security
There are a few lesser-known internet connectivity hacks and security applications we suggest exploring –not all of them are white hat, so use them at your own discretion.
MAC Address Spoofer
Why would you need a MAC Address Spoofer you might ask? Well, if you’ve ever used free WiFi at a co-working space or a cafe, you’ll already know that many of them are only free for 2 hours or so. If you “spoof” your MAC address (your wireless card’s unique fingerprint) —then you can reset that free internet clock and can surf the interwebs foreverr.
Our friend Paul at Travel is Life explains this simply; you can view their blog post with instructions on how to install a MAC address spoofer for Mac and Windows here.
This “banhammer” for BitTorrent does what the name implies; it blocks other computers on your network from using BitTorrent protocol, so maybe you can get some work done. Disclaimer: This should be used for research purposes only, and I am not liable if it breaks any laws in the country you’re in.
It’s a little sneaky, but sometimes you’re under a deadline and need network priority. Most of the time I run Ubuntu, and it’s been some time since I’ve used this but it should work under Windows, Ubuntu, and Mac OS with a little tweaking. Works on most cafe hotspots.
In order to override it, all one needs is a VPN –another reason to use one. You can find BitHammer here.
Malware Bytes is an added level of protection against malware dished up from questionable websites. It will also protect your computer from ransomeware, such as those based on the “WannaCry” Windows vulnerability.
Nothing destroys productivity more than malware and computer viruses. I’ve been a longtime user of AVG’s free software, and AVG Ultimate for added protection. They’ve also got mobile antivirus, which is important when a new instance of Android malware is found in the wild every 10 seconds.
5. Browser Plugins
There are a number of browser plugins we use on a regular basis that help us stay on top of our work and email correspondence, no matter where in the world we happen to be.
Boomerang for Gmail
Boomerang allows you to configure Gmail to send emails at set times throughout the day in another time zone, creating the illusion that you’re working the same hours as everyone else. When dealing with businesses in my home country, I typically check email once per day, after I am finished my work for the day and before I head out.
Check out Boomerang here.
Discoverly for Gmail
Discoverly is a great tool for learning a little more about who you are corresponding with. It pulls together information from recipient social accounts and displays them as an easy-to-read baseball card style fact card on the right hand side of your browser.
Comes in real handy when sending cold emails to people with names that suit either gender like Chris or Taylor!
I used to love and endorse Rapportive for this type of service, however at this time Discoverly is a cut above. Discoverly also works on Angel List, Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, and Crunchbase, too.
Check out Discoverly here.
6. Selected Remote Job Boards
We created a giant remote job site directory to help aspiring freelancers and digital nomads find work online. We provide the option for users to upvote their favorites, and the following 3 remote jobs sites were clear winners.
When you browse the database, one thing is clear: The majority of remote online jobs belong to developers –however they don’t have the market entirely cornered. Take a look and see if there’s anything that matches your skills.
Outsourcely is a highly recommended remote work site, and it has a wide range of freelance and/or full time job opportunities for web development, web development, mobile application development, copywriting, design, administrative support (virtual assistants), sales, marketing, and other business services.
You can learn more about Outsourcely here.
FlexJobs is another highly recommended remote job site, and it also has a wide range of freelance and/or full time job opportunities. The most common jobs we found available for remote work included customer support and teaching remote jobs.
You can learn more about FlexJobs here.
Hubstaff serves the usual wide range of remote freelance jobs, with a larger concentration of programming jobs. Some of the remote development jobs that are available on Hubstaff include DevOps Engineer, Full Stack Engineer, TypeScript UX/UI Developer, Ruby on Rails Developer, PHP Front End Developer, and so on.
You can learn more about Hubstaff here.
7. PO Box and Mail Forwarding
Your life back home is far from over; credit card bills, client correspondence, incoming checks, and other mail will continue to come your way.
If you’ve got a trusted friend or relative who can pick up your mail, a post office box may be sufficient.
Mail-a-Letter (simple tool for outgoing mail)
Personally, I don’t feel comfortable mailing letters from Thailand to my home country. I’ve received mail no problem, although it took two months to arrive and it was just a couple photos (nothing with monetary value).
If you’d like to use a reliable mail service located in the US to mail out a letter to anywhere in the world starting at around $1.50 USD, try Mail a Letter.
Simply use their WYSIWYG editor or upload your letter digitally and they will mail it from their office within 1 business day. Your letter will arrive a lot faster and you’ll avoid the two months of nail biting while you wait to hear if your mail reached its recipient.
Check out Mail-a-Letter here.
PO Box Zone
PO Box Zone is like a PO Box on steroids. It has everything you’d expect from a PO Box, with additional services such as letter scanning and forward –all via a handy online interface. Scanned mails can also be easily updated to your Dropbox or any other cloud service.
Check out PO Box Zone here.
Earth Class Mail
If your correspondence is more sensitive in nature (i.e. financial information) or you’re might have a higher volume of incoming mail and need more support, I recommend creating an account with US-based Earth Class Mail.
Earth Class Mail is a mail forwarding service that can open and scan mail contents on request so you can access it from wherever you are.
They will also cash checks for you, allow unlimited registered users, ship items to wherever in the world you are, provide storage, and will securely shred items at request.
Check out Earth Class Mail here.
Shipito is another great service that will allow you to shop in the USA and have your packages forwarded to wherever you are. Just beware of duty fees at the Thai border, they’re pretty random.
You can check out Shipito here.
8. Coworking Space Directories
Coworking spaces come and go on a regular basis. Either they’re ahead of their time, or important details like internet speeds, decent coffee, and a good location are ignored –causing them to open and close over night.
Here are a few coworking space directories to help you find a coworking space wherever you are. If you have any to add to this list, please let us know in the comments along with what countries you’ve used them in.
- Coworker.com – Very well-established coworking directory
- Regus – Covers 900+ cities, including Chiang Mai
- Office RD – A curated list of coworking space directories
- Find Workspaces – Discover nearby shared office and coworking spaces in the US
- Coworking Wiki – A directory of coworking spaces around the world
9. Voice Over IP Calling (VOIP)
It is possible in many cases to port existing phone numbers over to VOIP solutions, and offer a consistent experience with clients after you relocate.
Download Fongo onto your smartphone –as a Canadian, I get a free local number, free unlimited local incoming and outgoing calls, and customizable voicemail. I use this for all of my business-related stuff, and it’s the number I post on my website(s).
Check out Fongo here.
Get a Skype In number in your home country, voicemail, and call forwarding to your Thai cell phone number. I used to use Skype with a NYC number, but Fongo suits my needs much better because Skype doesn’t offer Canadian numbers.
Check out Skype here.
Grasshopper is favored by my friends in the drop shipping community because of its advanced features and ease of use. Port your existing number, get a vanity toll-free or local number, forward calls, add department/employee extensions, send texts, and have voicemails transcribed and sent to your email.
Grasshopper destroys Skype in terms of features; it’s per-minute cost is a bit higher, but the monthly fee is lower for what you’re getting. The lowest-priced package includes a toll-free number, unlimited extensions, voicemail, call forwarding, screening, etc. for $12/month, and 6 cents per minute.
You can learn more about Grasshopper here.
10. Website Creation
If you’re creating a website for the first time, we suggest you download our free guide here. Here are a few website and blogging tools we use today, or have used on client projects in the past.
GoDaddy is probably your cheapest option for buying a domain. You can usually buy a domain for under $10 for your first year. They make it easy to work with them; they have absolutely amazing customer support, and I’m a fan of their auto-renew option so I never lose a domain –even when I’m way off the grid and unable to check email.
You can learn more about GoDaddy here.
When it comes to hosting we have two suggestions.
For beginners we suggest Bluehost because they’re incredibly cheap (under $5 per month), offer great hosting for unlimited smaller sites, and they’re one of the most popular hosts in the world.
If you are a serious blogger or this isn’t your first rodeo or you’re interested in switching hosts, we suggest SiteGround (under $10 per month). They’re ideal for sites with heavier traffic and they’re easily scalable.
If you’re going to take the leap and make a WordPress website, don’t use a free theme. Free themes are often updated less frequently, posess shoddy or outdated code, and they’re prone to malware attacks. If you have multiple sites on one host, a single malware attack can potentially wipe out all of your websites and months or years of hard work –free themes can do more (costly) harm than good.
Our guides go into more detail here, but here are some foundational WordPress plugins we can’t do without.
- Ninja Popups: A kickass popup plugin (we don’t use SumoMe anymore, we hate monthly bills!)
- WordFence Security: Prevent malware and unauthorized access
- Yoast SEO: Make sure you index only the important parts, otherwise you cannibalize your own search results
- Monster Insights: For Google Analytics
11. Marketing Automation & Productivity
There’s a million productivity lists on the web already, so I’ll just chime in with a few that we use on a regular basis. And since everyone knows what Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Pocket, and Evernote are, I figure I’ll save the e-ink.
Top Pick: Ninja Outreach
Not connected to Ninja Popus above, Ninja Outreach is by far our favorite top blog SEO tool. Your on-site SEO will only go so far, and everyone knows backlinks are everything. Ninja Outreach makes it easy to find and contact leading bloggers for guest posts.
With Ninja Outreach we got 5 50+ DA links to our site in 3 days from legends in the travel blog industry, in under 30 minutes per day. We used all the functionality of the platform, however we used our own outreach email templates. It was such a potent tool we had to hold off on fishing for more links as to not be penalized for having it look unnatural to Google.
Ninja Outreach Benefits:
- View and/or sort bloggers by niche, domain authority, page authority, Moz score, Alexa rank, visits per month, comments per post, influence, social media follower count, and more
- Create lists with scraped and indexed blog information
- Find emails for bloggers with their email finder –it’s never led us astray
- Connect to your email and send directly from the dashboard
- Mid-tier pricing also allows for full email automation
You can learn more about Ninja Outreach here.
Board Booster for Pinterest
When it comes to blog SEO for beginners, we say f*ck Google for the short term and focus on other search engines for immediate results. Google can take months for a new blog to be indexed and ranked, but sites like Pinterest can deliver results within a week or two.
Board Booster uses the native Pinterest user-interface to automate your pins and keep engagement (and click-throughs to your website) coming. Automate pins, re-pins, and set custom criteria with this simple tool.
You can learn more about Board Booster here.
Another “runner-up” to Board Booster worth checking out is called Tailwind, which also works for Instagram –you can learn more about here.
Back.ly is a URL shortener with value-added bonuses that help you piggyback your own content along side content you share. Simply put, shortening and sharing a URL with back.ly will allow you to place targeted messaging that points to your own blog somewhere on the screen.
You can learn more about Back.ly here.
Triberr is a content distribution platform that will automatically sync each new post you publish onto their service and make it available for its users to add to their social media queue with a single click. It’s clean and simple, and impeccably useful. We wrote a review about it here.
You can learn more about Triberr here.
Piktochart is like Canva, except they have a flat rate for unlimited use in addition to their free offering. No more paying $1 per image –either pay $29 per month, or $250 per year flat. I use it for most of our Pinterest images, and snazzy infographics like this one.
You can learn more about Piktochart here.
12. Email List Management Tools
The platform you use for email list management, email autoresponders, or email marketing automation is probably your most potent tool in your internet marketing toolbox. Your list is your most important asset, and nurturing it with the right tools means everything.
The video below explains exactly what I’m talking about.
Different solutions suit different needs, and over time you will likely use all three of the solutions below. I organized them by beginner, intermediate, and advanced –although don’t let “advanced” be interpreted as confusing. The latter is the best solution for those who have been around the block at least once.
MailChimp will suit any beginner-blogger’s needs beautifully. I used it for years before progressing through to the next two options for different client projects. Once I tried out more advanced solutions, I was hooked and lured away from MailChimp.
Mailchimp provides a robust suite of tools for beginners, at no charge, and that’s what makes them a great place to cut your teeth with email marketing –and in April 2017 they introduced free email automation tools we’d like to play with in the coming months. Mailchimp also integrates into most email list builder tools, like SumoMe and Ninja Popups.
You can sign up for MailChimp here, and if you use our link you’ll get a $30 credit.
We are currently using GetResponse for Hobo with a Laptop because our needs here aren’t as demanding as some of our other projects. We just have one central list, and a few email-for-downloads.
Before ConvertKit came along, GetResponse was the best email list management tool on the market (IMHO) –and it’s still a strong solution that comes standard with all the drag-and-drop autoresponder / email marketing automation goodness you’ll need to monetize your list. Its middle-of-the-road price point and ease of use makes it ideal for people under 100,000 or so email subscribers. (That’s just an arbitrary number, I’m sure it’s debatable).
You can learn more about GetResponse here.
ConvertKit is by every measure a more potent tool than MailChimp and GetResponse, but it also comes with a higher price tag and its robust features may be overwhelming to beginners.
They’re not a fit for everyone, but I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t satisfied with them. It has a bunch of features that others don’t currently, like resending email blasts to unopens or automagically segmenting your lists.
You can learn more about ConvertKit here.
- 5 Reasons You Should NOT Switch from MailChimp to ConvertKit
- ConvertKit’s Free Email Marketing Bible
13. Mobile Applications
There are a number of apps which are popular in Asia among locals and/or nomads. Feel free to explore each, as you’ll likely wind up meeting someone who suggests connecting on Line or Viber. And Tinder is popular in Asia, too. Who knew?
Most importantly, your central asset while on the road is your data. Make sure everything is backed up in the cloud, on an external hard drive in your pack, and consider leaving an external hard drive back home for those memories that date back to before you made your exit. I also suggest diversifying your data across cloud solutions.
No links provided for the following mobile applications because they span different platforms; instead you can search for them in your app store of choice for more information.
- Evernote: Store everything
- Google Translate: Translate everything
- Google Maps: Find everything
- Open Street Maps OSM: Find everything, offline
- Google Adsense: Track ad revenue
- PayPal: Makes a ding! sound when you get paid
- Coins.ph: Neato app, works with Bitcoin
- YouTube: Cat videos!
- Duolingo: Learn most languages
- Air Bnb: Find a place to crash, get $20 free at signup with this link
- Box: Marketing-strength, edit proprietary file formats in the cloud
- Dropbox: What most “normals” use
- iCloud: What Apple fanboys and girls use
- Google Drive: What we use
- MEGA Cloud Storage: 50 GB free cloud storage, yes please!
- Sherpa: Quick visa information
- Skyscanner: Compare flights
- FlightAware: Live tracking of flights
- QuakeFeed: Earthquake monitoring, you never know
- Grab: Asia’s Uber competitor
- Dog Whistle: Makes stray street dogs/cats shut up!
- Fongo: Cheap/free VOIP, great for Canadians
- Skype: The classic
- Line: Asia’s version of What’s App
- Viber: It’s purple!
Chat, Community, and Messaging:
- Slack: Chat for you and your team
- Line: Asia’s version of What’s App
- Viber: It’s purple!
- WhatsApp: Because it’s popular
- BoOola: Chat just for travelers
14. General Suggestions
Before you pack your life into a suitcase, some to-do list items are universal for digital nomads:
- Settle your debts
- Unlock your smart phone
- Back up important data to the cloud
- Make copies of all IDs, flight details, doctor’s notes, etc
- Set up your international banking in advance
Stuff You Normally Wouldn’t Plan For
I also suggest long-term digital nomads travel with a utility bill that’s in your name, and a bank statement that have been mailed to your home, back in your home country. You never know when you’ll need “proof of address” to sign up for something.
Second Card Holder on a Joint Bank Account
If you’re not going to use Earth Class Mail, you might want to empower a trusted friend or relative with the ability to cash checks and deposit money into an account you share.
This is great for business purposes, and even better in emergencies. You can do this by either giving someone Power of Attorney or making them a second card holder on an account before you go.
Business License in Your Home Country
So, what’s the plan? Coming home to tie up loose ends is expensive, so if you think you’re going to want to have a business license in the future, pick one up now.
If you don’t use your business license, you typically don’t need to file taxes for it. And if you’re looking at getting into drop shipping, you’ll need one.
Otherwise, most of us make money as sole proprietors under a certain amount and that doesn’t require a license. Some opportunities do. Plan ahead!
Have a better idea?
If there’s any must-have tool or precaution for remote-working nomads you would like to recommend, let everyone know in the comments.
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Other helpful links:
Free Nomad Travel Guide for Hobo ReadersIf you're planning to become a travel blogger or digital nomad in the near future, we invite you to take a look at Digital Nomad Escape Plan; a full-fledged ebook to help you get started on your nomad travels in Chiang Mai, Thailand (and it's completely free).
You can download your free copy here.