Three Alternative Digital Nomad Hubs for South America

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We rarely accept guest posts but we liked this useful guide from Sam of Indefinite Adventure as it highlights some lesser known potential digital nomad bases in South America. Of Sam’s picks Arequipa is the only one we’ve visited ourselves, a city we enjoyed but had an unsuccessful apartment search, so we’re glad to see it on the list.

Around the world there are certain cities that seem to pull in digital nomads, bloggers and location independent types. Chiang Mai and Playa del Carmen are perennial constants, but increasingly popular are Istanbul, Lisbon and Berlin, among others.

If a city has some combination of good weather, fast internet, affordable prices and a good selection of good food, it’s likely to become the next digital nomad hotspot. In South America, the three names I see thrown around are usually Buenos Aires in Argentina, Cusco in Peru and Medellín in Colombia.

Buenos Aires’ reputation as a good base for digital nomads is well deserved, with its many cafés and entrepreneurial vibe, and since it’s the only one of these three cities I managed to visit on my recent 10 month trip in South America, it’s also the only one I can comment on.

However, I’d like to propose three alternative South American cities that could be set to become the next hubs for digital nomads on the continent which seems like a more popular place to travel through than to stop and stay a while in (unlike Asia) among us location independent types.

Córdoba, Argentina

Cordoba canal

Cordoba canal

Argentina’s second city may not have the obviously cool edge compared to its big brother on the coast, but once you delve a bit deeper, this university town can be just as hip, and even more intimate.

Cool cafés line the streets in the area around the canal, and people come out to dance tango on the streets on Sunday evenings wherever the space allows. Being away from the capital, everything is cheaper, the many university students means a riotous nightlife if that’s your kind of thing and the surrounding countryside, even just an hour or two outside of the city, is beautiful and extremely varied.

Cordoba countryside

Cordoba countryside

Arequipa, Peru

Arequipa plaza

Arequipa plaza

This colonial city has all the makings of the perfect digital nomad hub for southern Peru, yet it seems no one has caught on yet. There are oodles of cool cafés, all with reliable wifi, cheap, varied and excellent food options, dry sunny days, gorgeous views from almost everywhere in the city of two dormant volcanoes and many options for day trips out into the surrounding countryside, especially towards the Colca Canyon, the world’s deepest. Plus, everything in the city is within walking distance.

View of Volcano Misti from Arequipa

View of Volcano Misti from Arequipa

For us, it was where we found one of our cheapest apartments in South America: a duplex, two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with fast wifi for just £330 ($540) per month.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca Riverside

Cuenca Riverside

Cuenca has the perfect combination of things that the other Ecuadorian cities we visited didn’t quite have balanced: nice weather, digital nomad friendly cafés, clean streets, a focus on art and cultural events and excellent food.

Like Arequipa, the entire city is walkable with many lovely outdoor spaces, the weather pleasant and predictable and there are strong wifi connections in the many nice places to sit and work over a cup of coffee. The surrounding countryside is lovely, and there are easy day trips out to El Cajas National Park for some light hiking or hardcore trekking, depending on your preferred style. The strong expat community also makes it an easy place to slip into comfortably for a short time.

About the Author: Sam is a sometimes-EFL teacher with a penchant for trains, napping, finding vegan food in unlikely places and podcasts. He recently spent 10 months travelling in South America with his partner, Zab, and is now back in his native Europe for a while. Follow Sam and Zab’s travels on their blog, Indefinite Adventure, through Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare.

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39 Comments (2 pingbacks)

  1. We are house sitting in Cuenca right now and the internet is awesome, walking the dogs by the river is beautiful, the Caja’s are magic and we are loving the food here too! Was only in Arequipa for a night in December before a 3 week house sit in the Sacred Valley so didn’t really get to enjoy all that’s on offer there… but sooooo looking forward to Argentina and will now make sure Cordoba is on the list! Thanks for the great post and love your photo’s!

    Reply

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Jodie. We really loved Cuenca and could easily have stayed longer than the three weeks we did. Housesitting there must be lovely!

      Reply

    • Hi Jody:

      I hope I don’t seem like a stalker for answering so many posts but, as previously stated, I’m researching my move from Barranquilla in July. You’re saying the internet was pretty decent in Cuenca? I’ve heard other good things about Cuenca (except that the Salsa dancing isn’t so great there). I read somewhere that it took a period of residency before one could sign up with an internet service provider in Cuenca. Do you know if that’s true or not?

      Regards,
      Art
      skype: atwill4

      Reply

  2. Nice tips, I’m from Brazil and I’m travelling next month to Ecuador,Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and finally Uruguay. I’m worried about Bolivia if has a good connection internet. These tips will be very useful. Thanks and congrats for the blog

    Reply

  3. I’ve just started thinking about possible places in Argentina to settle down for a month or so…Cordoba looks great! Another South American place I can recommend to stop and work for a while is Sucre, Bolivia. It truly is a beautiful city and the cheapest place by far I’ve ever lived! The weather is beautiful and sunny most days, loads of Spanish schools, a great range of local and international restaurants, and friendly people! Oh and wifi is so much better than I though it would be!

    Thanks for sharing this post, good to hear something other than Buenos Aires (though am looking forward to visiting!). Just for anyone planning a visit to Sucre, here’s some extra info we’ve put together on life in Sucre: http://www.sucrelife.com Cheers :)

    Reply

    • I considered including Sucre on this list for all the reasons you mention, Brigid, but we actually found the internet speeds a bit too slow for us to work comfortably. Yes, they were better than in other parts of Bolivia, but still rather frustrating. It was definitely a lovely place to hang out and relax in for a while, though!

      Reply

    • We loved Sucre too and really wanted to stay longer. It didn’t seem too easy to find a decent apartment though and as Sam said, like everywhere in Bolivia, the internet was quite slow. Gorgeous place though!

      Reply

    • Could you give me some details about the internet there in Sucre, Bolivia, i.e. how you went about getting it? I’m doing some research on where I might go next when I leave Colombia in mid July.

      Regards and thanks,
      Art Williams
      skype: atwill4

      Reply

  4. Glad to see Cuenca on the list! We originally planned on moving there and setting up shop for a while, but somehow ended up in Thailand. Oops…wrong continent :) We still have it in the plans and will hopefully make it there one day!

    Reply

  5. Can only agree and confirm that these three spots are great locations, would definitely feel happy in all three of them (although missed Cuenca somehow during our year on the continent back in 2012, but heard great things). There’s also Popayan and Salento in Colombia that I think have a great future ahead of them and could maybe recommend Montevideo too (but then again, I think I would rather pick BsAs on the other side of the Plata). Possibly Pucon in Chile, but some people might find it too small for a longer stay.

    Thanks for bringing back memories btw, feeling nostalgic now :-)

    Reply

    • That’s interesting you mention Montevideo. We didn’t enjoy Uruguay that much, but the capital is definitely somewhere I could see myself focusing and getting a good chunk of work done, at least in part because it’s where we found the fastest internet in all of South America – faster than what we’re used to in London, even!

      Reply

      • Since you were a traveler, and that’s what I would be if I went there, I’d like to ask if you used wifi in cafes or if you were able to find a place/abode that had internet. I have to leave Barranquilla, Colombia, by July 19th and I’m trying to figure out where to go. My priority is (1) decent internet [good enough for Skype] and (2) dancing [Salsa, Bachata, or Tango].

        I don’t know how to Tango but I would like to learn..and I heard that Tango is also taught and is popular in Montevideo. Is that correct?

        Regards,
        Art
        skype: ‘atwill4’

        Reply

  6. Cuenca is a good place to settle for a while.
    My husband and I are digital nomads and during our travels in South America we did stop in Cuenca for a couple of weeks to catch up with work. Affordable, very pleasant, fairly happening and decent internet – definitely a good option!

    Reply

    • I agree, Zara. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in Cuenca and if it really does become as popular as some other well establish digital nomad hubs as more people discover it.

      Reply

    • I’ll have to leave Barranquilla, Colombia in 9 weeks and am wondering where to go next. My primary concerns are decent internet and then Salsa dancing (or Bachata). One place I was just reading said that the internet in Cuenca wasn’t so hot but…you’re saying it was alright? I just need to be able to use Skype and send Google Documents.

      Arequipa, which I just read about for the first time, sounds decent too. Know anything about that..i.e. for internet and dancing?

      I have to leave Colombia around July 17th and I would’t might hooking up with somebody

      Regards and Thanks,
      Art
      Skype: atwill4

      Reply

      • Hey Art. We found internet in both Cuenca and Arequipa to be perfectly good and reliable, certainly good enough for Skyping and sending documents. And that was both in the apartments we rented and in cafes in town where we worked. With regards to dancing, I can’t really comment as that’s not something we look for. Good luck!

        Reply

  7. I remember being in Cordoba when it was over 40C and melting for three days. Yikes! So, didn’t get to see much of it, but did enjoy both Arequipa and Cuenca a lot!

    Reply

  8. This was really interesting to read; we’ve been in Asia for nearly 1.5 years at this point moving from place to place, so we’re gradually starting to consider moving on to another continent to slowly conquer. I admit I haven’t done much research into or thinking about South America so this is a great starting point. I think the key for us will be to find countries (or at least cities within countries) that are sufficiently affordable that we can not just break even but perhaps even put a little into savings… I would have ruled out Argentina as being way too expensive so it’s nice to know that outside of Buenos Aires there are more budget friendly options.

    Reply

    • Steph, Argentina is expensive if you pay for things using the official exchange rate. If you take foreign currency into the country and exchange it on the ‘blue market’ it becomes a lot more affordable, and especially so outside of Buenos Aires, so this is important to consider. Bolivia is really the cheapest country we went to, though we found it really hard to find affordable short-term apartment rentals – it seems the market really isn’t set up for that yet. Plus the internet is pretty crappy, so it didn’t make it easy to work!

      Reply

  9. I visited Arequipa not knowing much about it, and found the same thing — digital nomad heaven! There were so many cute cafes with nice outdoor spaces and all of them had reliable wi-fi, and the weather was perfect. I was very productive and Arequipa and certainly could have seen myself staying long term.

    Reply

    • Glad you enjoyed Arequipa so much, Britany! We really loved it there, and could’ve stayed longer if we hadn’t had such noisy neighbours! Thanks to Simon and Erin for posting my piece here; much appreciated!

      Reply

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