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Digital Nomad Checklist

Updated: May 11

This is what digital nomads do to ensure they can still work and manage their lives while traveling. Maintain access to your bank accounts, pay your bills, live like a local, work remotely and receive calls and texts for cheap... all while traveling! I'll write another blog post with resources that cater to digital nomads and other things to prepare while traveling.

How digital nomads manage their money and bills from abroad

Roaming with your mobile carrier is ridiculously expensive and the e-sims that I've seen still charge a lot to use their services around the world. To ensure that you can still access and manage your accounts while traveling complete these four steps:

  1. Download an authenticator app. Websites and apps frequently ask you to verify your information using a code they send to your cell phone, right? Well, some websites and apps also allow you to use an authenticator app, which runs on your cell phone as long as you have internet access. An authenticator app simply displays the codes that those companies generate. How to set this up: 1. Download an authenticator app. I use Google Authenticator app. It's efficient. Here are the links for the Apple store and Google Play. 2. Look in the settings of whatever account you're trying to ensure you have access to. If it's a bank, for instance, look in the profile or security settings to see if it gives you an option instead of a phone number, to use an authenticator app for your identity verification. Set up as many of your accounts as possible using the authenticator app. Just don't lose your phone!

  2. Get a VOIP number. Think of a VOIP number like a web-based phone number. You don't have a SIM card per se, but some services, like Google Voice, will require you to have a US-based SIM card and connect your Google Voice number to that SIM. Once that's set up, you now have a phone number where you can make and receive phone calls and - importantly - text messages. Not all banks and companies have a policy that allows them to send verification codes to a VOIP number, however. Therefore, always try the authenticator app as your first choice and always test it before you are abroad!

  3. Set up a VPN. If you haven't already done it, just do it. A VPN connects you to a server in another country, basically masking your actual location. This means you'll have much better chances of accessing websites that are blocked in the country where you are in-situ. After researching various free VPNs, and considering I have few needs, ProtonVPN fits my needs. It's easy, reliable and connects to U.S. servers, which is where I often need to present myself from. If you like to stream media, VPN also allows you to access libraries from other countries. And, finally, from experience, even if your company hires you on a remote contract, sometimes the culture becomes clique-ish with high preference for employees who work in-house and maybe... you just don't want it to be too obvious that you're having a great time 😆

  4. Western Union. Western Union allows you to send and receive money almost anywhere in the world. There are other services like this but Western Union is by far the most pervasive, with offices around the world. And yes, you physically walk into a location to pick up the cash. How to set this up: 1. Open a Western Union account. Registering is free and you just have to verify your account with some from of government-issued ID. 2. Western Union will have a place for you to link your bank account, so just have your banking account and routing number handy. Access to your bank account is particularly important in countries who do not allow foreigners to withdraw cash from local ATMs, such as Cuba and Argentina, which I recently experienced for myself in my last Tango DanceVacay.

Are Mobile Hotspot Devices Worth It for a Digital Nomad?

The short answer depends on your use and needs.

Are you on a budget and will be mostly working in the city? Don't get a hotspot device for internet. Instead get a local SIM card for data with a generous plan. Most mobile carriers abroad are much cheaper than in the U.S.
Do you plan on working outside of the city, have an open budget and like gadgets? Go for the expensive but all-reaching mobile hotspot device by Solis.

My experience: I used to use mobile hotspot devices, but I gave up after buying three of them:

  • The first one I bought is by SimpleMobile. The device worked for a few days and then just ... stopped. I returned it to BestBuy electronics store, who reimbursed me because apparently everyone was returning the device with the same frustration.

  • Then I bought an unlocked Alcatel mobile hotspot in Europe for $70 and there it worked flawlessly. When I got to the states for the first year it also worked. But then all of the mobile companies in Miami decided they were no longer going to support the European network that my device uses. So the device probably won't work anywhere in the U.S.

  • Lastly, I bought the Solis mobile hotspot device for $200, which claims to have contracts and access to networks around the world. I got to test it a few times, and, yes, I had internet access, but their plans are too expensive for me. As a true digital nomad using data and working for eight hours daily, the Solis basic data plan ran out within days. The next plan up is $100 and even that plan wasn't going to cover the needs of a digital nomad. So you're looking at $150 and up.

Enjoy the #digitalnomad life! 🌎

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