Throughout this post, I’ll cover the best products, software, and apps for digital nomads and expats. These tools will range from devices to making freelancers’ lives easier. To apps digital nomads and expats can use to find out visa requirements.
As an expat and freelancer, I’ve had issues finding the best software, apps, or whatever to make my life easier. So I want to make your life easier by compiling everything I’ve seen so far.
Types of tools for freelancers, digital nomads, and expats I’ll cover include:
- Mobile apps
- Bank accounts
- Website hosting
- Voice over internet protocol (VoIP)
- International SIM cards
Let’s find some freelancer tools.
Best Products for Digital Nomads and Expats
Here’s a list of every essential physical item for digital nomads (and expats, I guess):
- Internet: you can’t work without it
- Travel pillow: practical for riding on planes or busses
- External hard drive: backup your files; you won’t regret it
- An unlocked smartphone: an unlocked phone ensures you can use it in any country
- Action cameras (like a GoPro): they’re helpful in documenting evidence if anything happens to you
- A good pair of socks: they’ll keep you comfy
- Hardware security key: protect your online accounts
- Portable Wi-Fi: not essential,
All the links I have above either serve as buying guides for particular products or as a means to help you learn what a product is. I’ve found every product I mentioned super helpful.
But you should ensure you choose the right one. You may find yourself wasting money otherwise.
There’s a product that I want to dive into the details about.
1. Yubico YubiKey Hardware Security Key: Protect Your Accounts
I use a YubiKey every day. They all achieve the same goal, but different models support varying connectivity methods. These include:
|YubiKey 5 NFC||$45||USB-A and NFC|
|YubiKey 5Ci||$70||USB-C and Lightning|
|YubiKey 5C NFC||$55||USB-C and NFC|
|YubiKey Bio-FIDO Edition||$80||USB-A and biometrics|
What are YubiKeys?
They’re hardware security keys created by Yubico. You can use them as a means to log into accounts. Instead of randomly generated passwords from apps like Google Authenticator.
From my understanding, they’re unhackable at the moment. Thus, they offer the most robust security possible.
But you can use them on a limited number of websites.
2. Global Hotspot: Get Wi-Fi Anywhere
A global hotspot (or mobile hotspot router) are portable devices that use cellular signals to create a Wi-Fi network for many countries worldwide.
Some common global router providers you can try include:
|Netgear Nighthawk M1 4G||$429||1 Gbps|
|Skyroam Solis||$8-99||60 Mbps|
|Verizon Jetpack 8800L Prepaid||$199||867 Mbps (5 GHz band)|
* These prices can change at any time. They also don’t include sales tax or other fees.
Why not just use a SIM card to provide internet?
I don’t believe in using Mobile Wi-Fi (MiFi). Because I’ve never found myself in a scenario where I’ve needed it.
However, I included MiFi in this list as additional options for people to try while overseas or within the U.S. SIM cards and mobile hotspots (from smartphones) don’t always offer the best performance and reliability.
In that scenario, mobile routers may give you a better experience.
Best Apps for Digital Nomads and Expats
Here are some of the best mobile apps expats, travelers, and digital nomads will find:
- Currency conversion: best for international travel
- Trello: best for project management
- Google Translate: best for communicating in a different language
- Google Maps: best navigation app
- MAPS.me: best alternative to Google Maps
- Aegis: best randomly generated two-factor authentication app
I use these apps and feel they would provide the most value during your adventures. Check out their descriptions, features, and prices (if they have any). That way, you can determine whether they’re worth getting.
3. Currency App: Quickest Way To See Currency Conversions
The Currency mobile app converts various fiat and cryptocurrencies. Online and offline.
I chose this specific app because it’s the most lightweight option (file-size-wise). Despite the ads it shoves in my face. You can remove these ads, but for a one-time $2.49 purchase.
While that’s not much, I’m too cheap to pay for a currency conversion app.
Currency updates its currency amounts every minute. You can change the interval to 2, 15, or 30 minutes. Or to only one update per day.
And from my experience, this app hasn’t used much background data or battery. So it’s excellent for digital nomads, travelers, and expats on a day trip.
4. Trello: Best Project Management Tool
Trello is a kanban-style project management tool you can use to organize your projects, work for clients, and collaboration efforts. It has a free and paid version.
Kanban visually organizes cards to represent different stages or phases of a project.
Some of its features include:
- Butler: an automation feature to do smaller tasks for you (like deleting cards)
- Templates: speed up workflow
- Card features: customize due dates, attachments, subtasks, and more
- Drag-and-drop editing: no having to edit every project manually
- Power-ups: mostly free add-ons you can use to make using Trello easier (like calendars)
I’ve tried other project management applications like Asana and Notion. They just weren’t for me. Notion didn’t have two-factor authentication and required more technical knowledge.
And Asana has a messy user interface.
Trello comes with a host of problems. Like a glitchy calendar Power-up. But it has always acted as my go-to for project management.
5. Google Translate
The Google Translate mobile app can translate over 133 languages (and regions).
Regarding the Region setting, you can have more accurate results by selecting different countries for languages. Here’s an example. When choosing to translate to English, you can choose among:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- And way more
How accurate is Google Translate?
Other features you get with Google translate include:
- * Offline Translation: download a dictionary for your language so you can use it to translate offline
- Transcribe feature: allows you to listen to what someone’s saying and output it on your device.
- Conversation allows you and another speaker to speak into the phone; your AI regurgitates the translation.
- Camera: allows you to scan most text and instantly translate
* The feature only works with Camera and basic text translation features.
It has proven fairly reliable for me and the majority of my encounters in Taiwan. Has translated better than other translation mobile apps.
I recommend using a dictionary (or dictionary app) for the language you’re translating and pairing it with Google Translate. That way, you have the most accurate translation you can get.
The two best maps apps I’ve found include:
- Google maps: best overall
- MAPS.me: best backup app
I also love Waze. But that’s only useful in the United States. Because the app’s social crowdsourcing can serve as a godsend when avoiding road obstacles or construction.
6. Google Maps: Best Overall Maps App
The Google Maps mobile app makes it easy to find addresses, reviews, and more. It also makes it so you can download offline maps.
Downloading offline maps can help improve your app’s accuracy, prepare you for cellular data outages, and give you the means to navigate without mobile data. You’ll need to update your maps once in a while, though.
Because addresses change frequently.
7. MAPS.me: Best Offline Maps App
MAPSs.me is an excellent Google Maps alternative that allows you to download offline maps of the country you’re visiting.
I couldn’t use Google maps during my visit to Japan, so I downloaded MAPS.me. It saved me from getting lost. Until my phone died.
8. Aegis: Best 2FA App
The Aegis smartphone app is a two-factor authentication application that randomly generates time-based codes you can use to log into accounts.
I like it better than Authy. And way more than Google Authenticator.
They offer more security options for websites. Like HMAC-based one-time passwords and time-based one-time passwords.
You can also import your 2FA accounts into another device (or app). And you can import data from other authentication apps like:
- Microsoft Authenticator
Google’s authentication app can’t do this. And Authy has continually given me issues in this area. At least with importing your account to other devices.
Neither authenticator has an option to import from other apps.
9. Best Banks for Digital Nomads
I’ve seen a lot of banks for expats and digital nomads. Let’s see how they compare:
|Bank||Reimbursements for ATM Fees||Best For|
|Novo Bank||Yes; unlimited||Third-party integrations|
|Lili Bank||No fees on certain ATMs||Cashback rewards|
|Capital One 360||On Moneypass and Allpoint networks||Digital nomads in the US|
|Citibank||Yes; with ATMs labeled VISA/PLUS||Physical branch locations overseas|
|Charles Schwab||Yes; unlimited||Best overall for expats|
|Nearside Business Checking||Only on Allpoint network||Yields cashback|
|Ally Bank||On Allpoint network||Interest yields|
|nkbc Bank||On MoneyPass network||Small business funding|
I wrote a couple of pieces comparing these banks’ features, pros and cons, and more:
Everyone’s needs will differ, so I can’t recommend a specific bank for the most part. However, if you’re an expat or digital nomad needing a checking account, I recommend Charles Schwab.
As a personal checking account. And a Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP) IRA. The bank has stellar customer service, saves money on ATM fees, and has a decent travel notification user interface.
No having to call a bank every ‘X’ months to tell them I’m still overseas.
But you’ll need to set up an account in the US. Unless you have a way to forward your mail.
And bank Novo has given me a decent experience as a solopreneur (freelancer). It’s simple to use and doesn’t have many fees.
Websites for Digital Nomads
Some of the best software, web applications, and websites for digital nomads, expats, and travelers include:
- Glossika: best for learning languages at your own pace
- Italki: best for finding teachers (and teaching to make money)
- Virtual network providers (VPNs): access websites that usually block access to your IP address
- Visa List: find out all information about a country related to traveling
- Google Drive: best cloud storage
- Dropbox: best Google Drive alternative
- Cryptomator: best for encrypting cloud storage (coming soon)
- Every Time Zone: best for working with clients in different time zones
- Virtual addresses: best for receiving and forwarding mail
The following sections will detail each application, website, or piece of software. I’ll provide a description, the features, and who it’s best for.
10. Glossika: AI-based Language Learning
While its monthly plans are a little on the higher side, Glossika is by far one of my favorite language learning websites.
It uses spaced repetition learning to focus on a myriad of languages. A couple involves Taiwanese Mandarin Chinese and Japanese.
11. Italki: Online Language Learning
If spaced repetition isn’t your thing, or if you’d prefer supplementing it, hire a teacher to help you reach fluency.
Italki has either community teachers—who are usually just native speakers who help through informal tutoring—or certified teachers if you need something more intense.
If you’re looking for a means to make income overseas or to supplement your language-learning adventure, you can teach your mother tongue to others in need.
They don’t require any certificates or degrees to teach on their platform.
12. Best VPN Providers for Digital Nomads, Expats, and Remote Workers
I’ll cover the benefits of using a virtual network provider (VPN) in a second. I want to compare a list of some I’ve tried first:
|VPN Provider||Price||Number of Servers|
6 months: $9.99 /mo.
|Surfshark VPN||Monthly: $12.99/mo.|
|Proton VPN||$0 for 100 servers|
|1,745 (paid)100 (free)|
A virtual private network (VPN) isn’t only an excellent tool for hiding your IP address from curious hackers, but they’re also handy for working online.
So whether you’re doing SEO research and don’t want local results or don’t want a website to know what country you’re in, these are handy tools for self-employed people.
Keep in mind; I’m not condoning nor promoting criminal activity.
13. Visa List: Helps You Find Visa Requirements
Visalist.io is a website that lets you find travel-related information about any country, such as:
- Travel freedom, restrictions, visa exemptions, and details
- If your country’s citizens are allowed in theirs
- Visa expiration
- Max days you can stay
- Visa policies
- Visa document checklist and requirements
- How to apply
- LGBT+ laws and travel information
And if you’re going on a traveling spree, it’ll show you nearby countries and their information. They seem to keep their site updated. And it’s a great place to start figuring out how to get into a specific country.
Always check the country you’re visitings government website to verify the legitimacy of Visa List.
Best Cloud Storage Websites
Before anything else, you will need somewhere to store your files.
While your computer and flash drive—or spare external hard drive—is usually sufficient, it’s best practice to diversify your backups on cloud storage behind top-notch encryptions.
Keep reading to learn the best ways to back up your files.
14. Google Drive: Best Overall Cloud Storage
If you’re someone who’s embedded in the Google ecosystem or would instead start with 15GB of free storage instead of Dropbox’s 2GB, Drive is a great place to start.
Google also offers 100GB of storage for a little over a couple of bucks a month, which should be enough for most ordinary self-employed folks.
15. Dropbox: Best Alternative to Google Drive
If you want to steer clear of Google products, if it ever collapses, or their services change, Dropbox is a fantastic alternative.
Instead of only offering up to 200GB per month, Dropbox gives you 2TB of storage for as low as $9.99 per month.
Having cloud storage is ideal for anyone who stores or edits images and videos.
Trust me. You’ll need the extra space accommodation.
16. Every Time Zone: Stop Guessing Time Zones
Every Time Zone’s a time zone converter web application that takes the headache out of figuring out what time it is in someone else’s timezone.
Time zones are a critical factor to keep track of when a client or employer is awake and active to avoid confusion.
17. Virtual Mailboxes and Mail Forwarding
Virtual mailboxes give you a means to have an address you can forward your mail to in the United States. These addresses are usually at secure facilities or commercial mail receiving agencies (CRMA).
Explore this guide to learn more about how virtual addresses work. Otherwise, check out some of my mailbox provider recommendations:
|Virtual Mailbox||Price||CRMA vs. Facility||Free Mailing Items (Per mo.)|
|Post Scan Mail||$15-30/mo.||CRMA||30-120|
|VirtualPostMail||$20-90/mo.||CRMA||25 and Unlimited|
|Earth Class Mail||$19-$229/mo.||Facility||50|
In a different piece, I dive further into each provider’s features, pros and cons, and pricing plans.
These services are helpful for mail items that deliver solely snail mail such as:
- Bank cards
- IRS notices
- Driver’s license
- Jury duty notices
- Paperwork related to social security
Virtual mailing services also offer mail shredding, junk mail filtering, and the ability to view your mailing items’ contents online.
Video Conferencing Tools for Location Independent Workers
While there are plenty of video conferencing apps available, the two most trusted ones available as follows:
While Skype has some horrendous user experience (UX), it gives us better video and audio than you’ll find on programs such as Zoom.
Furthermore, you can purchase a Skype Number and have a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to contact individuals and businesses in your home country.
Zoom seems like a household name these days. Here are several good reasons why Zoom’s excellent:
- You can host up to 100 participants in Zoom for free.
- Connect integrations such as Zapier or Slack.
- Use Zoom’s recording features to save your conversations for future reference.
You might want to keep in mind that Zoom has had its fair share of privacy concerns and violations . However, the U.S. company has stated that they fixed their issues.
Voice Over Internet Protocol, otherwise VoIP allows us to make calls online using only WiFi and a phone number provided by a service. A couple of websites that offer VoIPs are Google Voice an Nextiva.
VoIP allows you to contact people and companies anywhere worldwide, as long as your connection’s good, or to have a form of SMS verification.
Keep in mind that many websites will not allow VoIP phone numbers for verification, so they will likely prevent the use of these numbers. So stick to calling people.
If You Want To Build a Website
If you’re en route to constructing your own site, or a client’s, you should consider these tools and assets to give users the best experience imaginable!
For people to find your website:
You’ll need a service to host it. So, don’t blow your money on a hosting provider just because it’s fast. Instead, do your research—make sure the company has what you need for your website.
If you use the content management system (CMS), WordPress, you should consider using hosting dedicated to this CMS. That way, the host can optimize your website to fit WordPress’s best security and speed practices.
You have to use some technical knowledge when setting up or migrating a WordPress setup.
However, Cloudways has significantly sped up my website over my past hosting provider, EasyWP. I also have way more control over my website.
Cloudways uses a pay-as-you-go plan that starts at $10 a month, which is still affordable for web hosting considering the benefits you get.
I recommend at least trying Cloudways WP hosting. They offer a free trial.
Are There More Freelance Tools?
When it comes to digital nomads, we all have our own unique set of needs and preferences.
Some of you need more than just a VPN for your work abroad, while others prioritize language learning or editing skills.
Still, there are plenty of tools that will suit the demands of any type of traveler without breaking your budget! Here’s a list with some great choices from freelancers themselves who know what they want.
I hope you find something useful here! Which tool on this list would be best for me?