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Ask HN: How are Digital Nomads coping with travel restrictions?
96 points by mikhailfranco on Oct 23, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 67 comments
Many countries have effectively closed their borders, by not issuing tourist/visit visas, or requiring 14+ days' quarantine, often at the traveller's expense.

What happens when your short-term visit visa expires? ... Get an easy extension? Register for 'language school' or other dodges? Suffer a month of quarantine for a visa run? Return to your home country?




I arrived in Bali, Indonesia at the start of the pandemic with a 6 month visa. A few months in they started granting emergency extensions to anyone who wanted to stay (getting a flight home was tricky at that time, and still is).

Lots of people left but a core of nomads and expats have remained.

They have since slowly begun to dial back the giving out of emergency visa extensions but you can still get a new visa through the normal process. There are even people arriving in Bali recently, on newly-issued visas from overseas.

The scene is obviously quieter here now. There are no tourists, only nomads and retirees who live here.

Honestly it’s pretty nice and I’m glad I stayed.


> There are even people arriving in Bali recently, on newly-issued visas from overseas.

Visa for work? AFAIK Indonesia has closed its borders to tourism until the end of the year.


E-visa has made it very easy to get back in. You need a sponsor. It's simple. Message me if you need a connect.


I'm really glad they understand the value they get from nomads. Here (in Serbia, a non-digital-nomad country), it was the total opposite; foreigners got almost zero help and they were left on their own.


what value?


I'm currently in Vietnam. Having a land border with China, I expected the situation will get bad, but they handled it pretty well here. Anyone who arrived in March or later is getting automatic visa extension until end of this month. I'm here since December, so I had to keep extending visa (every 3 months) on my own, and they inflated the price quite heavily. Starting from the next month, the automatic extensions are gone, and so is the 3 month visa, so from the only option left is 1 month visa (~$80). My country (CZ) is in pretty bad shape right now, so I'm considering staying despite the price or maybe going to Thailand which provides longterm(-ish) visa.


There are multiple longer-term visa options in Vietnam open to you too. Talk to an agent or lawyer about investor or education visas.


You need $130,000 for a 12 month investor visa. I think I'll stick with paying $90 a month, thanks. For an education visa you need to be registered with a university. This being Vietnam, I'm sure there's someone you can pay to make that happen, but I've never heard of someone who's not a genuine student doing that. Most common beside tourist visas is a business visa, but in case you're thinking of buying a fake one, agents do check nearly everyone at some point and you can get fined and blacklisted. Also you technically have to leave the country to change visa type (although maybe they've waived that at the moment).


Investor visa cap depends on the locality you invest in. It can be done for $4k, and if it’s your own company you invest in, it’s not really an expense.

Education visa is available for enrolling in a part-time VN language course, which if you want to live here is not a terrible idea anyway.

You do not need to leave the country to change visa type, nor did you need to before the pandemic. This kind of thing is why getting good advice is important.


Is the border currently open between Vietnam and Thailand?


Not for tourists, but if you were able to get a visa issued for Thailand (education, expert, investor, etc) travel should be no problem.


Probably thinking of a visa run to reset the counter.


Visa runs are not really possible at present. No land borders in the region are open to foreigners (most aren’t even officially open to locals), no tourist visas or visas on arrival are being issued, and visa waivers are suspended.


Entered Russia 3/15 right before they closed the borders, with my tourist stay expiring on 9/15 (and visa expiring on 10/31). On 4/18 a presidential decree auto extended everything, and another extension every 3 months. So with auto visa situation, and the weekly flights back home to JFK just incase, it's been a perfect situation..

The weworks in Moscow are amazing, and everyone is following health guidelines very well. Definitely not in a rush to head home, or at least keep riding it out here

- http://kremlin.ru/acts/bank/45441 - https://gupkrd.ru/novosti/prodleno-dejstvie-norm-ukaza-prezi...


Are you flying to JFK from Moscow and back every week to be able to work remotely from Russia? That is at least $600 for a round-trip and about 20 hours sitting on a plane excluding time spent at the airports.


I think they're saying they're happy there is a weekly flight Moscow to JFK just incase they need to get out of dodge, rather then actually flying weekly


No, I simply meant that a regularly scheduled direct flight to get back home is comforting. Additionally, that wouldn't be possible at the moment as US tourists can't enter Russia


I know Indonesia introduced visa wavers back in March for anyone still in the country on short term visas.

I returned to Australia just before that and flights got shut down during my quarantine period. So I've been living in my mother's caravan while having already paid rent on a large tropical island villa that lasted until last month ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I've been living in Malaysia since the 12th of March. My wife is studying here, so she has a 1 year student visa. I'm on a 90 day tourist visa, and the Malaysian government has kindly extended this until the 31st of December due to lockdowns and border closures. (It might be more accurate to say that there will be no penalties for overstaying.) I'm also working on an entrepreneurship visa that will hopefully allow me to stay in Malaysia a bit longer.

We're thinking about a trip to my home country of New Zealand, but it's a big decision. Our quality of life is very good in Malaysia, even though we spend most of our time in an apartment, and even though there's recently been a spike in coronavirus cases. It's nice to go back to New Zealand for a visit and a short holiday, but I don't really want to get stuck there until the end of 2021 (or even the middle of 2021.)


A bunch of digital nomads are currently camping out in my co-working space. Most of them are trying to get back to Thailand. If you're near KL, you should say hello. :-)

(Email in profile)


Our story is one of multiple instances of amazing timing and very good choices.

We very luckily got our Malaysia long term visa approved in December after 2 years of gathering the necessary documents and 6 months of processing time. We were in Vietnam until November 25th and due to my wife having disturbingly good intuition, we had pre-planned to be in KL for the last week of November "just in case" we happened to get approved sometime before then. Didn't hear anything from our visa agent until the 2nd day we were in KL. We woke up to a text that we were approved and we spent the next 2 days running around the city signing papers, opening bank accounts/health insurance plans, and getting our visa in our passports.

We then went from KL to Kota Kinabalu as we are always there around the end of the year and were there to slowly watch the chaos unfold that we had been pretty aware of since the very beginning since it was the major discussion in nomad circles. As things slowly escalated, CNY came and went right as travel restrictions started to be implemented - slowly a major city for tourism became a ghost town.

We were planning on going to Bali next around March but we were slowly coming to the realization that that was not a good choice. If we were going to be stuck somewhere, Bali was not where we wanted to be. As we were cancelling those plans, Malaysia was about to crack down on foreigners entering the country, providing only a few days notice about incoming restrictions (Sabah and the mainland are considered separate countries essentially in terms of Visas so we very likely would be stuck in KK). Knowing we only had a couple days to act, we cancelled everything (flights, airbnbs etc.) and booked a flight to Penang that we consider "home" in Malaysia and would be the place we could handle being stuck in.

First flight - got an email in the middle of the night that it had been cancelled. Booked another - also got cancelled. Booked a third on the last day before the restrictions went into place - didn’t get cancelled. Furiously packed and noped out of there.

Been in Penang since then (March 18th). We are usually here for about May-August. The local government has handled the pandemic response better than most of the world (including other parts of Malaysia - Penang started taking action before the federal gov). We could not have picked a more safe and comfortable place for us to ride this out and we are very grateful everything worked out amidst the chaos.


> We were planning on going to Bali next around March but we were slowly coming to the realization that that was not a good choice.

Would you please explain why Bali is not a good choice for you?

Why do you prefer Penang over Bali?


make no mistake - Bali is a very cool and magical place - but in terms of infrastructure and long term comfort, it's definitely lower on the list for us personally.

Most accommodations (especially in Ubud) are of the "open air villa" variety - they look pretty but aren't the most comfortable and are vulnerable to weather, insects and rats. Power outages and water pump issues are also fairly common. On top of that, if you were to catch COVID in Indonesia (but especially Bali), the hospitals are not really something you want to have to rely on. Lastly, as a "digital nomad" (cringey term, but descriptive) dealing with hardware issues on Bali is expensive and something like Apple Care has multi-month waiting times.

In comparison, Penang is much more modern. Newer apartment buildings with high vacancy rates and lower rent, better grocery stores, better product availability. It's also has some of the best medical care in the world (number 1 from 2019 retirement index). On top of that, you have easy access to lots of hiking, beaches, parks, and world-class food (including arguably the best durian in the world).

We have been going to both almost every year for the last 5 years, but Penang is definitely a better long-term option for us and Bali is more of a vacation.


If I compare how this year has turned out for me relative to my peers in a similar situation, I'd say generally not panicking has served me very well. I entered Vietnam a couple of days before they closed their borders. I ended up staying for four months, and then flew back to Europe in July.

Vietnam's government handled the situation rather well, so by pure luck I ended up being in one of the safest countries in the world through the Spring. When it came time to leave, a border guard tried to scam me into paying some fine or bribe by suggesting that my visa had expired. It didn't wash because I had done my homework and I had prepared to have on-hand the government's official website which explains in Vietnamese that all tourist visa are automatically extended for free.

Travel is still possible, but you need to be well-prepared, and you need a certain level of financial and temporal freedom.

If you are unsure (and asking questions here would suggest that) then do yourself (and everyone else) a favour and just stay home.


> which explains in Vietnamese that all tourist visa are automatically extended for free

Just to avoid the proliferation of misinformation about this: the government is not punishing overstayers upon exit if they entered the country after a certain date (March iirc). Visas are not being automatically extended.


According to every news outlet I have read which has reported on this topic, you are wrong.

Here is one source in English: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/748936/free-visa-waivers-exte...

Another source in English: https://vn.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/covid-19-infor...

Another source in English, this time from the official Vietnamese government website: https://xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/en/tin-tuc/notice-“automatic-sta...


Note the careful use of language. All of the sources you quote refer to your “stay permit” or your “stay” being automatically extended. Your permission to stay is indeed extended, since they are promising not to fine you for overstaying (which is what the law that was passed to enable this actually says). This is not the same thing as your visa being automatically extended. To understand why the distinction matters, see the reply I’m about to write to your sibling comment.


Effectively aren't both the same?


If you plan to leave Vietnam as soon as you are able to, then it’s the same.

If you don’t, it can be problematic to incorrectly believe that your visa has been extended. The law that was passed to enable the “automatic stay extension” refers to overstay fines being waived when the tourist subsequently leaves VN. If you instead don’t leave, you may face difficulties or costs to legalise your status. In the meantime, you can’t do many things like open a bank account or get a drivers license, since those things require valid visas and you don’t have one.

(I’m currently in VN, working closely with an immigration lawyer, and have seen first-hand the issues caused by people not understanding their status while they are on this “automatic stay extension”.)


Oh. Thanks


Hey there ;)


Hey there this is me. I'm in the US and we're just exploring the states, and especially more rural states to keep an easier social distance. It's been really fun actually splitting time between working and national parks etc. We've been in Vermont for the past 2 months where we did have to quarantine which was unpleasant but I was happy to do my part. It was also really heartening to read about how safe plane travel is recently too which helps. Our goal is to aim to be one of the first back into Japan when they reopen in April so we'll see.


I’m in Turkey and I decided to get the 1 year residency so that I have a home base I know I can be in if everywhere else closes their borders


You decided to stay for a pandemic in a dictatorship country with internet suppression and in open conflict with 3-4 neighbors? I can't fathom why


You watch the news too much


No, these are facts not subjective stuff.


A nomad friend of mine from Argentina moved in with me here in Turkey and she had a appointment from the immigration office on 10th November, applying for 1 year visa extension. Any tips that might be useful on the process?


Honestly I don’t think they’re too strict here. If you don’t have a criminal record I’d say just be pleasant and she’ll be fine. Hope it goes well though!


Thank you. 1 week left to the appointment. Are they checking the money you have very seriously? Min exact amount etc for 1 year residence, or they are not strict on that?


Is this appointment for a Residency Permit? I think it varies greatly by the location of the immigration office. In Fethiye, it was easy.


Anyone else here in Fethiye? :) It would be great to meet.


How does this work? 1 year visa?


It's called a Residency Permit - just google it. The length of time depends on your nationality, but it's 1 year for citizens of an OECD country.


Still moving from country to country every month. If you are in a "high-risk" country, you can access the Schengen Zone via Croatia, UK or Ireland. Turkey, Serbia, Mexico and Colombia are also open, for example.


Just curious: how do you do that with UK or Ireland since they are non-Schengen countries on islands?


Neither is Croatia. However, it is usually much easier / faster to enter Schengen from Croatia (which is part of European Union) or Ireland or UK then from, e.g., Ukraine. Also, in airports there is usually "more-relaxed" EEU line to get into any European union country (+ some other like UK and Switzerland), no matter is it in Schengen or not. Disclaimer: I'm living in Croatia.


I am from the EU too. I was just wondering what the advantages of the UK/Ireland are in getting from a non-Schengen island to the continent as opposed to some other non-Schengen countries with no land connection. There are separate airport gates for Schengen and non-Schengen destinations. Had no such doubts about Croatia but thanks for the comment!


The point is that those countries are not “high-risk”, and also have easy/cheap/fast access to Schengen, so they make a good “entry point”. Fly from your “high-risk” country to Croatia/UK/Ireland, then enter Schengen from there.


I'm in Taiwan since March on the 90 days visa exemption. It's already extended to 300 days by now. Completely normal, corona-free life here so I'll definitely stay for now.


I'm living in Brazil currently, and even if the situation is bad, I can afford a good quality of life for a fair price.

Most importantly, I can get access to nature and place to do sports everyday, it helps a lot.


Isn't it a dangerous place now? In all possible meanings


Well, it depends where you are. I'm grateful I'm living in the in the South of Rio de Janeiro, which is rich and receiving lots of attention from government and the security (far from perfect but it's okay), so overall it's okay during the day and at night if I need to go someplace far from home I just take a Uber/99 since it's cheap.

And overall during the day, I just pay attention not hanging outside with my cellphone in my hand or stuff like that (even if it's okay and everybody do it).

On the other hand, If you go/live in the north of Rio de Janeiro, it feels like theses places haven't seen public money for a lots of time. And lots of robbery at gun point happen, and there are various places controlled by factions/militia, so that's particular.

But on my day to day life, It's totally okay, I can enjoy life easily.


Many Digital Nomads have settled down, from what I've seen.

Many countries in Asia developed short-term extensions to keep people already in country there. A huge population skirting rules and spreading coronavirus, that they couldn't track, would be a bigger issue than one they could track.

Some returned home when the US sent out a barrage of emails and press warning that "overseas countries could become unlivable and you could get trapped". Most travel insurance schemes threatened to cancel policies if you didn't return home between February and March.

Many people I know figured out legitimate visa solutions that were compatible with their existing goals, like continuing to freelance, run a business, or get a job.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia & Indonesia seem to have been accommodating, at least for those already living semi-permanently before March. Other countries wanted to give those staying long-term a gentle nudge to go home.


My wife and I arrived in Vietnam in early March and were supposed to only stay 2 month. We are still here. Had a few thoughts of bouncing to EU in the summer, but decided against it.

Planning to be in VN until the next spring.


Sounds nice. Don't forget about Da Lat if you get sick of the tropical weather.


I arrived in Singapore on the last non-stop flight from Berlin back in mid-March. They have been quite generous with visit pass extensions, however I didn't want to outstay my welcome, so at the end of August I moved to Dubai and I'm actually getting a residence visa here.

Preferably I would like to fly to Mainland China soon for business and also personal reasons and would be willing to stay in 14 days' quarantine for that, but it's still proving difficult due to visa paperwork (a so-called "PU letter" is needed) issues.


Staying put where I am for a while, tho I may go back home for Xmas. The answers to your questions are very very location dependent. Some places have visa waivers or extensions readily available and some don't. Whether someone goes home or stays put will depend largely on their location and situation.


I'm staying put for now but I'm looking to travel thru Europe next year.

I'll enter thru Croatia or Slovenia which allows travelers from the US. I'm hoping I'll find my way to Western Europe crossing by land.


FYI Slovenia is in the Schengen are, Croatia is not (yet). Meaning there's a border between them, but not between Slovenia and everyone else.


I set in a location where I can legally be for a longer stay. Building local projects from here and converting my individual travel needs into local collective non-profit project.


Can anyone speak to how the EU is enforcing the travel restriction?

I can go online and buy a flight right now. Let’s say my airline let’s me board without a business visa (which they likely won’t). When I arrive in the EU are they saying, “No you must book the first return flight home” or is it similar to the deportation process? I’m curious because I haven’t actually seen any information about what is happening to people upon arrival without the right visa.


I would imagine it becomes the airline which you flew’s responsibility to put you on a plane to return you if they failed to verify you had valid entry documents for the EU.

I do not know this for certain but I believe this is the process followed if someone (somehow) manages to board an international flight without a valid passport


Air France at least explicitly warn you that it's to you to check entry requirements and you're on your own if you don't fit them.


Plenty of countries have been more lenient granting extensions but that will fade out.

Language schools are not operating, or not in person, so depending on the government rules they might reject an application based on that.

I returned to my 'home country' in August, got scared after meeting several people who got COVID while abroad and had to deal with it alone.


I just came from HK when the lockdown started so now we're (EU citizens) just nomad'ing in EU which is, at least by car, not yet an issue.


I was thinking of moving to Chile, but it's now closed. So still stuck in the US and pursuing my other options.


Moved to mexico, then getting an e-visa to head back to bali.




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