When most people picture a digital nomad, they imagine them lounging in a hammock on a beach with a drink in one hand, laptop resting on a table next to them. What they probably don’t think about is the difficult stuff that lies behind the fun part. I’m not just talking about the hard work that goes into maintaining your business remotely, but also the hidden practicalities: getting the right visa or knowing how long you can spend in a certain country, getting wifi or 3G access wherever you are, being available to clients even if you’re in rural Thailand or halfway up a mountain, staying in touch with friends and family, and dealing with a dozen or so different currencies within the space of a few months.
Luckily, there are all sorts of handy tools and apps out there to help us make working and travelling a little easier.
The SIM card
Unfortunately there isn’t yet one single SIM card that you can use all around the globe. The good news for European citizens, at least, is that under EU law we can now use our phones in all EU countries. This recent development has made travel around Europe much more convenient. To add a few extra destinations on to that list, including the US, Australia and Singapore, I recommend getting yourself a Three SIM. Three’s ‘Feel At Home’ service allows you to use your regular credit in 60 destinations worldwide, which is a pretty good start for nomads. In addition to my Three card I also have a couple of other pay-and-go SIMs for my favourite countries, including my KievStar SIM for every time I go back and forth to Ukraine. Having 3G, texts and calls at your fingertips as soon as you arrive at a new destination is a must when you have to stay on top of emails and calls.
The portable wifi device
Sometimes you need more than just 3G on your phone to get you through, and sometimes you end up in a hostel with no/poor wifi, or an apartment without a router (what? In 2017? Yep – it still happens!) When projects are calling your name and you’re nowhere near a hotspot, what you need is an unlocked portable wifi router e.g. the Huawei E5577, which you can pick up for around $20. Unlocked is key here, because the magic happens when you insert a local SIM with data. Simply purchase a SIM in the country you’re in, charge it with as much data as you need, and switch it on. It will act as a mini personal hotspot, which you can connect your laptop or tablet to for instant wifi, anywhere that 3G reaches. This has been my best friend all around Europe, especially before the new roaming rules came in.
The VOIP app
Whilst you can make quite a few international calls with your Three SIM as mentioned above, what if you need to call your client or family member in a location that isn’t covered by your provider? This is where VOIP comes in. We all know about Skype, which is very useful for long chats with loved ones back home, for free. However, this only works if the other person has Skype installed and is ready and waiting for your call. If you need to make a more traditional call, try a VOIP mobile app such as Messagenet’s app Mtalk, which is what I use to make calls (over wifi) to more or less anyone or anywhere in the world, exactly as you would make a phone call. It’s incredibly cheap to use and works very well, so long as you have internet access. The person who receives the call will receive it just like a normal phone call, and doesn’t need to download the app themselves.
The nomad-friendly bank account
Banking can be one of the biggest nightmares as a nomad. Traditional banks just cannot handle the idea that you don’t have a permanent address, and you can’t move between currencies without paying through the nose. What you need is a non-traditional bank, set up for modern lifestyles. Digital nomad forums will recommend various accounts, and it depends on your home and away countries, but the bank that’s really making a noise in the digital nomad community, and which I’ve been using for a year now, is N26. This is a German-based bank, but you can open account in various European countries. My account was set up in Italy from an Italian address, but now I can use it all across Europe for all Euro countries, without any charges whatsoever. You can set everything up online and no one asks funny questions about why you’re in a different place every month.
The multi-currency debit card
As a primarily Europe-based nomad, I need to juggle income and outgoings in GBP, UAH, EUR and USD on a day to day basis. That gets complicated and expensive pretty quickly if you’re still using your home-country bank account and card. If you do the same, check out the Curve card. The Curve card was built for international business people, but it’s accidentally become an amazing tool for digital nomads. The proviso is that you need a bank account in each currency you wish to use. However, if like me you have a couple of accounts in a couple of currencies, this is the best way to keep them all at hand. You simply link up all your cards with the Curve card, and you can then use it just like a regular debit card, in as many currencies as you need. I use it to switch between euro and pounds without carrying around multiple cards and thinking about which one to use. You do need to download the app, which you need to use to switch the card to the desired currency (it takes a few seconds). I simply switch mine when I arrive in a particular place. But what if you don’t have internet access, you might ask. Curve have thought about this with a cool update that allows you to ‘go back in time’ and change the currency of a transaction up to 14 days later.
Order yours at imaginecurve.com/getcurve and use the code Z8JFX for $5 free credit.
The wifi-locating app
Of course, since you’re reading this on the Laptop Friendly website, you’re probably already aware of Laptop Friendly’s app. This handy app lists dozens of nomad worker-friendly cafes and other spots in cities all over the world. Each location must offer fast wifi, power sockets, good food and coffee, and comfy seats for you to pop in, grab a drink and work for a few hours. Download the app, and you can locate somewhere to work wherever you are in minutes.
I use all these tools on a regular basis and love all of them. However I’m sure there are loads more cool sites and tools out there. Recommend your favourite in the comments!
About the author
Alexandra is a translator and copywriter who has been nomadic since 2015. Her current home base is Kiev, Ukraine. You can check out her blog at wanderlustlanguages.com