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Anyone who knows me knows that if I am to feel comfortable in a city, the basic requirements are that there be inexpensive books or lots of libraries around, cafes must provide inexpensive coffee, there must be healthy and quick food in abundance, hostels must be numerous, and that the city must be inexpensive in terms of connecting to other cities. All of the cities I will mention here are able to meet these requirements, at least when the US dollar is strong – but none of them are in the US.
Probably the most beautiful large city in North America, or at least one that gives a flavor of Europe, Montreal is less expensive to an international visitor with the Canadian dollar down the last few years. You can enjoy some original bagels but also the view from Mont Royal is a huge inspiration. This is often a good place to visit going to or coming back from Europe with Air Transat. I lived here for a brief stint in 2012 and love its atmosphere.
The secret is out! I think that somehow this is the coolest city I have ever been to that is this nascent. It is very inexpensive if you’re coming from western Europe, Asia, or North America, and it has perhaps the most friendly and accessible people of any large city I know. It has a wonderful cafe scene. I wrote much more extensively about this beloved place in 2017, and I recommend to go to the cute Danube-side city Novi Sad. These two cities are becoming quite good locations and scenes for the digital nomad professional.
I think this is my favorite city at the moment and one of the few I have visited many times. It has this strong academic atmosphere and one which historically many student activists seemed to have held the line to hold the nation together. You can dine very inexpensively here and there is abundant inexpensive accommodation that is also often beautiful. I strongly recommend to visit nearby Zakopane in the mountains and if you want to try hostels, Top Hostel is super and in the center! At the moment, I live in Poland and I can say that it is one of the safest places in the world and you can have a very nice family vacation here with an authentic European experience and not spend so much money.
My knowledge of this city is a bit outdated now because I have not been there since 2012. Prices have gone up a bit while the city recovers from the catastrophic economic collapse that was well underway when I was last there. That said, there is an ambience to this city (it is a bit dangerous so do not attract a lot of attention to yourself) and you can feel the intensity of the mystery schools and ancient history there, as well as some connection to western civilization. Nearby Delphi was very intense for me and breathtakingly beautiful. Near Athens you can also go to the port and head out to the islands. I could not get books in English easily here but if you want to give some tourist knick knack gifts to people at home, this is probably the best place I have seen for that.
Many readers will not believe that I have included this city on the list, but I have many reasons and even thought about putting it at the top. This is not a city that needs some extra promotion, however. As the hub of the world, it is often the cheapest place to fly in or out of. With the pound having lost a lot of its exchange value over the last two years, it has not been this inexpensive for tourists in many years. At Pret a Manger, a ubiquitous coffee chain, you can get a very nice white coffee for 99p and there is seating! The numerous supermarket chains all have steep discounts on food near expiration at the end of each day, so I ate very nutritious food when I was astute or lucky – such as sushi rolls for less than 50p. The British Museum and some other locations are free to the public, as well as the extensive green spaces throughout the city. The charity shop network Oxfam stores throughout the UK have wonderful and often recent book titles for very cheap and the profits go toward alleviating poverty. Accommodation is expensive here but if you put London in context with what is free or cheap and how it connects with the rest of the world, I find it an extremely good value, if not the best value.
This city seems like a strange one to include because it really is not one of international attraction, but for reasons I have probably explained elsewhere, it was a lifesaver to me. I like it as a place to experience Europe very quietly and to dash off to either the Croatian Riviera in Opatija, or simply just soak in some beautiful architecture and views. I would like to see the country have some lower tax policies, but in this country and in this city, you could set up a business very, very quickly and cheaply and only have to walk a few blocks to do it. The cafe scene is quite nice although you have to watch out for so much smoking everywhere.
This is a post about cities, but if we are speaking about countries, the one country I always tell people that everyone absolutely must see at least once in their lifetime is Turkey. If you go there, you do need to see Istanbul and also Antalya is a wonderful base city to see places, but Olympos is the place to hide.
I have not been to a lot of Asia and have not made it to Africa or South America, so there may be some notable absences here. These cities are where I felt the most comfortable and like I could get my work done without a lot of hassle but still feel refreshed.