Get clear about your necessities
In addition to the usual concerns travelers have regarding location, there are a few DN-specific factors. You need:
- A desk & (somewhat comfortable) chair
- High speed Internet access
- Kitchen (optional)
If you can't find work-friendly accommodations you’ll end up paying for a coworking space. Experiment with coworking spaces and see if it’s worth it for your working style. Many people find it beneficial and motivational to be surrounded by other busy people. Coworking spaces also tend to form mini DN communities which may result in some fun social events. Personally, they don’t work for me because I only work a handful of hours each day and am a misanthrope.
Unfortunately, air conditioning increases the price of your accommodation significantly. However, working without it sucks more energy and focus out of you than you'd think. Sleeping in the intense heat also decreases the quality of your sleep. This is less of an issue if you're using coworking spaces or cafes to do your work.
For obvious reasons, you will need internet access. Some very cautious DNs communicate with the establishment about this prior to making their booking. A good way to ensure your high-speed internet is to ask them to send a screenshot of the results from http://speedtest.net. But be prepared to set up your own internet by using a 3G/4G Wifi hotspot device.
It's important to pay close attention to the reviews you read when it comes to noise. You’re going to be spending much more time in your room than a tourist, so if there is construction going on or a mosque nearby don’t even consider it - the cheap price will cost you in lost productivity. In general, Asia is much noisier than the west.
Eating out all the time is unhealthy and gets very expensive. For longer stays you'll usually want some sort of kitchen. Airbnb places are more likely to have kitchens as they tend to be proper homes instead of hotels.
How to find it
Short stays: up to 7 days
The tourist hotel booking services have an excellent selection and are very convenient. Expedia.com, Agoda.com, Hotels.com and TripAdvisor all work great. If a place only has a few reviews, it's a good idea to compare reviews between different booking web sites. If I’m arriving in an unfamiliar place I usually grab a hotel for a few nights before committing to a long term arrangement.
Medium term: (a week or more)
Airbnb rooms have discounted rates for weekly stays and even greater discounts for monthly stays. You’re going to be there for a while, so somewhere cheaper and less glamorous is what you should look for. You can cook, have a decent workspace and get to know the neighborhood a little better. Tick the “Laptop friendly workspace” checkbox to find good candidates. If cooking is a big part of your lifestyle then there's a checkbox labelled "kitchen" for that too.
If there is anything that you are unsure about when you are doing an airbnb booking, ask. The most common examples are: insects, wifi and noise. If any of the answers are untrue, you can ask for a partial refund. Negotiate a better refund by saying you won’t post a review or contact Airbnb resolution centre if they agree. Often places with few or no reviews are much cheaper than normal. Also, if you've asked the right questions beforehand some of the risk is negated.
Most cities or regions have Facebook groups for finding furnished apartments for digital nomads or expats. A few are listed below, but use the Facebook search function to find more. Search for <town name> rent or <town name> buy or <town name> market. People name the groups all sorts of different things, however I suggest joining the groups with at least a few thousand members.
Real estate Chiang Mai, Bangkok - take over my lease, Phnom Penh Housing, Bali house for rent, Ubud, Bali - Housing and Rental are good places to start. If your town doesn’t have a housing group, look or ask in the digital nomad group or the expats group for that city.
Each country has web sites with rentals on it, although sometimes the language barrier will create an obstacle. Look to local friends or Facebook groups for help with the translation.
Philippines - https://www.olx.ph/
In Chiang Mai
If you're just starting your DN journey, chances are high you are looking into going to Chiang Mai. Here are a few tips particular to that city.
Perfect Homes is a Chiang Mai specialist and highly recommended by DNs. Filter by ‘Nimman’ to find places in the north-western part of the city where DNs like to live. YourNewBase also has many options. Their map also shows the location of coworking spaces as well as apartments so you can optimize your commute.
The really cheap prices can be found by going into the apartment complex's office in person and talking to them. You might need to set aside a day or two for this and hire a bike - the distances involved are not big but walking in the heat is no joke. Luckily someone nice has made a map of apartment complexes and even suggested some routes to take!