There is no doubt that the Middle East is becoming a popular destination for digital nomads. With Dubai now allowing digital nomads to live there with their families for a year, the numbers are only expected to grow. Many people are looking forward to the possibility to explore the “lost city” of Petra, float on the waters of the Dead Sea, visit the Great Pyramid of Giza, and be able to work while exploring.
However, for such a decision, you have to be prepared well, as in certain countries, things may not run as smoothly as you would like them to. Here’s how you can master the new art of working from the Middle East as a digital nomad.
Finding Accommodation in the Middle East
One of the essential things when planning for remote work in the Middle East is finding accommodation to fit your needs. The place needs to be comfortable and peaceful to focus on the job ahead of you. Before selecting your accommodation, it is good to consider your location seriously and prioritize what is important to you.
Despite their charm, hotels are often in old buildings. Not all accommodations in the Middle East have air conditioning, which is an absolute must if you’re traveling during the hotter times. You will probably need to pay much more for a room with AC, but it will be well worth it in many cases.
Egypt is one of the more affordable countries that offers every form of accommodation — from backpacker hostels to expensive resorts.
Iran and Syria
Iran and Syria are the cheapest countries, offering affordable hotel accommodation, but no hostels. UAE and Israel are two of the most expensive countries in the Middle East, and the prices are pretty high.
Coliving, a site specializing in long-term accommodation with other digital nomads for UAE, is coming soon. So, hopefully, more affordable accommodation options will be available.
Staying connected is crucial for digital nomads. They can only work when they have a reliable and fast internet connection. Fortunately, you can find decent internet connections in the Middle East now.
It’s always advisable not to depend on the Wi-Fi connections offered by accommodation and have your reliable option ready. For example, if you choose Jordan to work remotely, there is a great mobile internet package available that will fit your needs.
Virtual phone numbers can also come very handy — such as Skype or Google Voice.
To access the websites you want and for an extra level of privacy, it’s essential to have a good virtual private network (VPN) before you leave.
Working on Tourist Visas
Unless you acquire a digital nomad visa in Dubai, you will most likely need to travel on tourist visas. Unfortunately, digital nomads are not well recognized in other countries of the Middle East. This will put you in a legal grey area, as technically, you’re not supposed to work.
You may not be happy about the solution. Still, most digital nomads don’t go into complicated explanations regarding the nature of their stay. They just keep it simple, say they’re staying in the country for tourist reasons, on vacation, and avoid questioning and possibly denying entry if the immigration services don’t understand or like the honest answer.
Banking for Digital Nomads
Managing your money while working abroad can be a challenge. For example, cards can get canceled when used from foreign countries and paid while living abroad.
Opening a bank account can be an unpleasant experience. In Bahrain, for example, you will need a visa to open an account and a lot of paperwork. A sound travel credit card is quite handy, as it has no foreign transaction fees and offers many other benefits.
It’s also helpful to have digital accounts, such as PayPal or Payoneer.
A Little Dose of Reality
There are significant cultural and religious differences in attitudes to the woman you should be aware of when deciding to be a digital nomad in the Middle East.
For example, a female digital nomad from Europe, North America, or Australia can feel at home in Israel. Still, it’s recommended to dress modestly in religious Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. Jordan is also considerably more progressive than other countries in the Middle East.
On the other hand, in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive cars and are covered up most of the time. Women must also be covered completely in Iran, Yemen, and Kuwait.
The rights and freedoms of LGBT persons are also strongly influenced by the prevailing cultural and religious traditions. All same-sex activity is legal in Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Bahrain, West Bank, Cyprus, and Iraq. In 9 of 18 countries in the Middle East, sex between men is considered a crime, while in 6, it’s punishable by death sentence. If you belong to this community, you should be wary of such laws.
When considering working as a digital nomad in the Middle East, ensure you have an emergency fund set aside that you won’t be using while you’re there. So, grab your visa and safe travels!
Are you a digital nomad working in the Middle East? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published GREY Journal.