Thailand rated as number one destination for digital nomads... I disagree
Don't get the wrong idea here. Thailand is a wonderful country and I am very happy with my decision to move here a few years back. If i had more viable employment opportunities outside of teaching ESL, which I am not in love with, I would probably try to find a way to stay here permanently.
There seems to be 3 major groups of expats here in Chiang Mai and I have to presume the rest of the country as well. There are retired folks, teachers, and digital nomads. When I speak to the digital nomads they are actually not at all disappointed about the Covid visa changes because prior to the pandemic, they were always worried about how they were going to extend their visas, if they were going to be able to at all.
According to an article made by some website called ClubMed (which I thought was a string of hotels) Thailand is the number one place in the world for digital nomads. Their criteria was based on cost of living, stability of the government (what a laugh... Thailand has a coup every 7 years or so,) internet speed and infrastructure, and quality of life - which I am not sure how one would quantify that last one.
Whenever you see these articles about digital nomads in Thailand or really anywhere else, they always feature some photo like the one above but I can tell you from experience that the reality behind digital nomadism is a very different thing. Not everyone has some amazing view in a quiet experience. The reality of most digital nomads is probably a small house or condo with insane traffic surrounding it.
This is much closer to the reality
Thailand is a great place to live and the internet speed is very good by my standards here and it is kept that way by their being many ISP's that are always competing with one another. There are also co-working spaces all over the place that have extremely strong internet connections and you can even book private rooms for people that do things like online teaching. These places serve food and coffee and it is a pretty great business idea for anyone that works online.
All of this sounds pretty great so far so why is Jack saying that he disagrees with this being a great place for nomads?
It all boils down to one very major factor that the article seems to have completely skipped in their assessment of how a place can be digital nomad friendly: Visas.
Thailand has become increasingly stingy over the years as far as who they will give visas to and for how long these visas are.
I work for a school as my primary job mainly just to have the work-permit and this entitles me to never-ending visas provided I continue to work at the school. The pay is shit at the job, so the work-permit is really the only reason why I keep that job. I make much more money by teaching online than I do for the state school and if there was some other way for me to have a long-term visa here, I would resign from my position at the school (giving them the necessary amount of time to find a replacement of course) and just teach online.
A majority of digital nomads will actually come here on a tourist visa, which can be up to 6 months in duration, but getting another one of these after the initial one has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible. Other people have utilized the education visa where you enroll at some sort of school, attend classes (mostly to learn Thai) and this will get you a one-year visa as well. The problem arises when you want to get another one. From what I have heard almost all of these visas are denied and you are expected to leave the country within 30 days.
Thailand does have a "Smart Visa" which is otherwise known as the "Digital Nomad Visa" but in order to get one of these you have to provide a mountain of paperwork including an employment contract from a singular employer that extends for the duration of the visa you are applying for. There are also income thresholds of something absurd like $70,000 a year.
So basically this visa is applicable to almost zero actual digital nomads. The nomads that I know don't work for a singular employer, they are freelance programmers, writers, educators, or something else that is done on a case-by-case basis. Other people I know work as consultants and their clients change from month-to-month. I don't know anyone that has even bothered to apply for the smart visa, because they know that they will be rejected.
What this all equates to is that while Thailand has the potential to be the best digital nomad location on Earth, the fact that you almost certainly will experience difficulty getting and maintaining a long-term visa disqualifies it as a digital nomad location altogether.
I am hopeful that the fact that Covid has basically ravaged this country in an economic sense that they will be a little bit nicer with visas once this is all behind us. I predict that they will be for a little while but then in a few years' time they will revert to their old ways of not wanting to let anyone except the rich into their country at all.
In the meantime I'm gonna go ahead and disagree with this being the number one digital nomad location in the world because the criteria that a person has to qualify for in order to simply be allowed to live here is something that a vast majority of actual digital nomads will never qualify for.