City ratings criteria

After visiting a few cities, we (the Normal Nomads!) realized that we needed a more quantitative approach to qualitatively rating cities if we were going to make recommendations.

(Also, this gives Monica the opportunity to make infographics.)

Each city will be judged on six different categories, from 1-5 (5 being the best). The extreme scores will only be used if neither of us can think of anything contrary at all (therefore, they should be pretty rare). At the end, we will add the individual categories up and present the total as compared to a perfect score of 30.

A stunning example

Caveat time! 
We are judging cities within the framework of living in them as a digital nomad and not visiting them on vacation. Many of the details that we will applaud or complain about in a particular city will be completely contrary to what you might think, if you'd only visited the city for a week and had a year's worth of savings ready to spend.


  • Length of stay is between 2 weeks and 3 months
  • Budget is strict (if you spend more one day, you spend less another), and small (no luxury resorts)
  • We work almost every day, so at least one meal each day is consumed at home, and tourist-friendly activities are kept to a minimum (or just weekends or special occasions)

In short: 
This is life (Monday through Friday, 40 hours of work, Netflix marathons, spaghetti Wednesdays and taco Tuesdays, a good night's rest) 
Not vacation (surf lessons, luxury resorts, 5 star dinners, three new t-shirts with the local beer brand displayed on the front, party party party)

The categories:


How easy is it to live in this city on a budget?

This needs to be strictly adhered to, and must include a reasonable level of emergency. If we are so close to our budget everyday that one trip to the doctor for treatment of a stomach virus puts us in the red, then we are too close.

We aim to spend less than 50 USD everyday, and that needs to include everything. Even emergencies.


Is it pleasant or is it oppressively hot? Is the weather good enough to enjoy some weekend outdoor fun?

Raining everyday is fine if that provides a helpful incentive to stay inside and work, especially if you can count on it clearing up later for a pleasant walk when work is finished. And we can take the heat, but don't mind a bit of a chill on a quiet morning with a hot cup of coffee.


How easy/pleasant is it to walk around the city?

So far, my feet provide me with free transportation. An hour walk (provided the city has a way for me to do it) is always preferable to a five minute taxi (even in the rain or in the heat). Plus, it is an easy way to accidentally get some exercise and meet your neighbors.

But, for us to walk, there needs to be two things:
Somewhere to walk to
Something to walk on (that isn't a busy road)

Free activities-

What is there to do on an evening or Saturday?

A pleasant park, a nice beach, a bench in front of a market with a fun view of haggling vendors would all count. We aren't picky here, but we need a fun and engaging activity to entertain ourselves so we don't just work and sleep. And if you are thinking to yourself, "Every city has this sort of stuff!" then congratulations on your good traveler's luck, because some cities just can't let a good thing go for free. Some places, everything that you want to do is going to cost you money.


How cheap and easy is it to get to the city in the first place?

We take into account:
How far the city is from the nearest airport or train station
How cheap/easy transportation is from that airport or train station
How long a visa allows us to stay
How expensive or difficult it is to acquire a proper visa

Many people want to get off the beaten path, and to an extent so do we... we just need to be able to get some work done too, and can't spend days getting to each new destination.

Tourism factor-

Does the tourism culture of the city prevent us from pleasantly living there?

This is the difference between New Orleans and Disney World. I wouldn't want to live in one of those places.

A city that bends over backwards for your every need might be want you want for a week vacation, but when you live in that city it usually means that everything now costs money that might have originally been free, most other things cost more money, and locals see a westerner only as a mark and not a dude just trying to shop at the market.

But, on the other hand, tourism can lead to better sidewalks, peanut butter (which is, on rare occasion, very desperately needed), western toilets, and high speed internet. These things are all great.

Some cities just wear tourism better than others.

If you have any questions about our rating system, please ask away in the comments.


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