The 4 best European countries to work remotely from this summer
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This year has so far seen a solid three-plus months of lockdown in the United Kingdom. While some businesses are starting to carefully reopen, most traditional offices remain closed, with some major companies advising their staff to plan on working remotely for the rest of this year. When the U.K. is fully open, it’s a wonderful place to live especially in summer — lots of major events, festivals, nightlife, socialising and other things to do.
In lockdown? Not so much.
Now that the government has lifted its worldwide travel ban to allow travel to most of Europe, you might be thinking about squeezing in a summer holiday — if you’ve been locked down since March, you probably have annual leave accrued. Beyond holidays though, plenty of my friends living in the U.K. have been considering working remotely from mainland Europe. Why? Because for the first time in their working lives, they can.
The U.K. — especially London — has a high cost of living, high-density living conditions, dicey weather and heavily restricted movement. It is grappling with some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in Europe.
Suddenly spending the rest of this summer in the U.K. doesn’t seem so appealing.
So if you’re considering working abroad this summer, where should you choose?
Here are some key factors you’ll want to look for:
- Ease of entry into the country, as well as ease of returning to the U.K., should your personal situation or COVID-19 rules change. For this reason, I’ve chosen places on the mainland of Europe, given it’s easier to leave than an island;
- Low cost of living;
- Desirable climate;
- Reliable Wi-Fi; and
- Personal space, privacy and safety.
Related: 6 fabulously remote UK home rentals
KLM’s CEO Pieter Elbers told the recent Skift Europe Travel Forum his airline is seeing demand returning for short-haul travel this summer, not long-haul. He believes a primary reason for this is because travellers want to be able to easily and quickly return home amid so much uncertainty rather than risk being stuck on the other side of the world.
All of the countries in this list are part of the European Union, so you can use your included mobile data from back home as you work. All decent hotels and Airbnbs should have reliable, unlimited Wi-Fi available for you to use. Check with your accommodation provider before booking if stable Wi-Fi is essential to your remote working.
There are plenty of existing lists of the best destinations to be a digital nomad, as there are plenty of people who already live like this. For Europe, these lists tend to focus on the “best cities” during normal times. This summer, however, you might need the opposite. While you’ll value conveniences like supermarkets and probably head to the odd restaurant or bar after a long day of work (assuming they are open), personal space is now a valuable travel commodity, and a quiet, spacious sleepy town near the sea may be preferable this summer to a packed city.
As a popular summer tourist destination for British travellers, Turkey has plenty of destinations with nonstop flights from the U.K. as airlines ramp up their summer schedules. You can expect warm, sunny weather for many months of the year and the food is very accessible with its mild flavours. Turkey was listed as having the lowest cost of living of any European country by Nomad List, where, if you’re careful, you could live and work for around £600 per month. You could be paying more than that just in rent in the U.K. As it’s a reasonable distance from the U.K., you’ll need to fly there and back, but there should be plenty of flight options.
Where to go: Turkey is a big country with lots of options. To ensure social distancing, skip the heaving metropolis of Istanbul (IST). You might be interested in a nice sandy beach instead — you’ll find the best Turkish beaches in Fethiye, Antalya and Oludeniz, which you can easily reach by flying into Antalya (AYT) from the U.K. These are traditionally popular tourist destinations, so you may prefer to look for an Airbnb somewhere a little quieter nearby for a good balance of convenience and space. A car hire will give you the best of both worlds — you can make your own way to the beach or to local shops when needed, and retreat back to your own workspace to be remote.
It’s hard to go wrong with Spain — it’s the most popular destination for British tourists. Months and months of sunshine, a laidback lifestyle (post-lunch nap anyone?), fantastic food and wine as well as great beaches. There’s no shortage of nonstop flights to places all over the country — both the mainland and islands like the Balearics and Canaries. For complete peace of mind, you may want to stay on the mainland so its easier to leave if the need arises.
While your costs of living/remote working are likely to be slightly higher in Spain, you have a huge range of places to choose from. While British favourites like Marbella and Benidorm will have no shortage of hotel rooms at discounted prices as operators welcome tourists back with open arms, it’s a good idea to fly into a major destination airport but then find somewhere more remote to help you social distance easier. In general, if you like heat in summer, head to the south of the country, while if you prefer your sun a little less severe, try the north.
Where to go: TPG’s resident expert on all things Spain, Lori Zaino, has put together a list of lesser-known Spanish destinations ideal for a socially distanced remote working environment. On the mainland she recommends:
- La Vera — A tiny region with a Mediterranean micro-climate sandwiched between a few National Parks in the rural region of Extremadura. While Extremadura is generally dry, La Vera is a small, green oasis that gets more rain and is therefore verdant and beautiful. It’s the perfect spot for travellers wanting a natural escape to hike, canoe, horse ride and dive into swimming holes — don’t expect major urban hubs or giant hotel brands here.
- Asturias –– For travellers who want the complete summer pack: mountains, beaches, gastronomic experiences, culture, villages, a rural escape and beyond.
- Andalusia — Skip crowded tourist hotspots this summer. Instead, Tarifa is a hip, boho-chic beach that gives off an Ibiza vibe mixed with that Andalusian charm. Surfers will love the wind conditions, which also keep beachcombers feeling fresh during the hot summer. The beach town is near to many other popular coastal areas for a variety of sun-and-sand options and the quaint town of Cádiz is also in close proximity if you need a bit of action or culture.
- Cantabria — Green thanks to its abundant vegetation and blue thanks to its crashing Cantabrian Sea waves. Those who hate intense heat will love a holiday in Cantabria, where the air and water temperatures are much cooler than many of its nearby Mediterranean neighbours like Valencia or Malaga.
As a landlocked country, you won’t find any proper beaches here. What you will find though is an extremely low cost of living — you may be shocked when you see a pint of beer for less than £1 (a cappuccino will cost around the same), and you can find Airbnbs for next to nothing — especially if you’re not fussy about style and modern conveniences beyond reliable Wi-Fi. Prague is a lovely city to visit in normal times, though for an isolated extended remote working situation, it’s not ideal.
Where to go: The much smaller town of Cesky Krumlov is like something out of a fairytale and could be a comfortable balance between convenience, facilities and personal space, though right in the heart of the town can become crowded with tourists. Alternatively, if you’re looking for somewhere with water, you could try one of the lakes in the Czech Republic like Lake Macha. It’s a huge 278 hectares with plenty of wilderness and remote hiking trails to get some exercise in between remote working.
If you like the idea of Eastern Europe but can’t find the right flight or accommodation in the Czech Republic, consider nearby Hungary instead, though skip busy Budapest. The cost of living in Hungary is also astonishingly low.
You might not know much about this northern country compared with nearby Estonia, whose capital Tallinn receives far more visitors. If you’re not a beach person and don’t desire the searing temperatures that can hit southern Europe over summer, consider heading north instead. Lithuania has a very low cost of living as well as several flight options from the U.K. thanks to Wizz Air’s rapid expansion.
Given just how affordable everything is in Lithuania, there’s not one place to focus on or avoid if you have a tight budget. The largest city, the capital of Vilnius, has just 500,000 inhabitants, while the second-largest city Kaunas, has less than 300,000. This means compared with megacities like London, you’re likely to find enough personal space to distance properly.
Where to go: For a good balance, try flying into Palanga — Wizz Air flies nonstop from London Luton and Ryanair flies nonstop from Stansted during July and August. Unlike Vilnius and Kaunas, the tiny resort town of Palanga is right on the coast and has a population of just 16,000 people, so don’t expect crowds and cramped conditions. Just keep in mind the waters of the Baltic Sea may be a little chilly for swimming, so perhaps aim for accommodation with a pool or spa.
For amazing value, both Bulgaria, Portugal and Ukraine would have made this list. However, the U.K. government has maintained a “Do Not Travel” warning for both these countries, and for that reason they have not been included here.
It’s a big decision to essentially live abroad right now with so much uncertainty. I have friends who in the last few days have made it down to Spain, and they haven’t regretted it for a second. While I barely go outside in the U.K., they’ve been popping down to the beach for a lunchtime swim and then visiting a sunset bar for a cheeky drink after work.
Featured photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images
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