10th February 2023
With economies around the world engulfed in the cost-of-living crises, rising inflation and falling wages, being able to save money is a top priority for all workers who are struggling to make ends meet. The good news for contractors – and the recruitment agencies that place them – is that with the opening of borders and most travel restrictions lifted, the options to move abroad are plentiful, especially for those with the right skills. In this article, we look at some of the more appealing destinations both from a cost and quality of life perspective. Before we take off on our tour, a word of caution: contractors must remain tax compliant wherever they are placed.
In establishing its cost-of-living analysis, research portal Numbeo, looked at several key indicators including average rents, cost of shopping/basket of goods, restaurant prices, utility bills and entertainment. There are a myriad of other different considerations to factor in when making such an important decision, notably safety and crime rates, education and air quality/pollution not to mention lifestyle and climate benefits. And of course, internet, Wi-Fi speeds, connectivity and shared, coworking spaces are all key factors for contractors looking at their next role.
One of the countries that ticks all the boxes is Montenegro, which has a very appealing cost-of-living index of 39.9 (the figures were calculated as a percentage of New York, which represented the baseline of 100). You will immediately see that this compares favourably to Bermuda’s 141.8, the most expensive in the world, followed by Switzerland on 114.2. Rents are also fairly low in the Balkan country, which boasts rugged mountains, picturesque medieval villages as well as coastal towns and beaches. What also makes the small nation appealing is its two-year visa for digital nomads, which can be extended by a further two years if needed.
Next up is a firm favourite with contractors. Europe’s most westerly country Portugal has always been a top destination, renowned for its natural beauty, fantastic food, sandy beaches and thriving cities such as Lisbon and Porto. It’s also a hotbed for tech start-ups and with many global companies also having a base in the Iberian country, there are plenty of opportunities for contractors. Rents in the capital aren’t that cheap and to qualify for a digital nomad visa (valid for up to 12 months), you need to be earning at least €3,040 per month. But few would disagree – Portugal has ‘muito’ to offer.
Another country to consider, part of the former Yugoslavia, is Croatia. Blessed with stunning islands such as Hvar and the historic Roman cities of Split and Dubrovnik, which both have UNESCO World Heritage listed historic centres. Although slightly more expensive (46.7), city centre rents are significantly lower. It also enjoys an enviable strategic, geographic position at the heart of Europe, so within easy travel distance for many contractors. Interestingly, it began to offer special visas for non-EU workers from January 2021, exempting these workers from income tax for the up to one year duration of their stay.
Top destinations for contractors
From the Balkans we go to one of the three Baltics states (the closest to mainland Europe). With a population of under three million, Lithuania is also very popular with digital nomads. The capital Vilnius has a rich history, known for its baroque architecture and medieval Old Town. It has a lively digital nomad scene, with many coworking spaces, that come with gyms, sports facilities and cinemas so is perfect for those who want to keep fit. Contractors from the likes of Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and Japan can take advantage of fast-tracked visas, which may be obtained relatively quickly.
A country that slips under the radar is Hungary, yet it has a favourable cost of living (39.2) with very affordable rents. The central European country, with a population of just under 10 million, offers much in the way of quality of life, a thriving culture, and in Budapest, one of Europe’s prettiest capitals with stunning views of the River Danube. Many global companies have an established presence in the country so there are myriad jobs for global contractors. It also offers a digital nomad visa, which is called the ‘White Card’ though to qualify you need to be earning a minimum of €2,000 per month.
Fellow East European country, Poland is flourishing economically. With a population of almost 40 million, it’s the fifth biggest country in the EU. Its economy has also been one of the most resilient through the pandemic with many foreign companies investing in the country. Apart from the capital Warsaw, there are many cities to choose from, including Krakow, Lodz and Poznan as well as the Tri-city trio of Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot. Its cost of living (38.6) makes it an enticing proposition for contractors and although there is no digital nomad visa, you can apply for a D-Type long stay visa.
As we’ve discovered there are many options for global contractors with the travel bug looking to work in countries that offer that ideal mix of excellent working conditions, a thriving expat community and lots of options to pursue extra-curricular interests. Importantly, they are cheaper to live in, which means a higher quality of living, which many cannot find in their expensive home countries. We would urge all contractors and the agencies that place them to do their homework, make sure they have all the necessary legal documentation and ensure that they are tax compliant and don’t get into hot water with local authorities when working overseas, though.
If you have any questions or concerns, our 6CATS International specialists are here to help.
6CATS International is part of WorkwellTM Group
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