Is Las Palmas the Chiang Mai of Europe?
If you’re a digital nomad or interested in this lifestyle, chances are you’ve visited Chiang Mai, or at least considered it. The off-the-beaten-track mountain town in Northern Thailand has become the global hub for Digital Nomads over the last few years. Nomads love Chiang Mai for its affordability, year-long warm weather, and fast wifi. For the same reasons, Las Palmas is currently making a name for itself as a Nomad City.
Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria, is giving Chiang Mai a run for its money, with more and more digital nomads flocking there. So let’s compare the two cities head-to-head using a few key criteria:
In the mid-90s, a renowned climatologist announced that Las Palmas was, in fact, the city with the world’s best climate. The city is blessed with year-round warm weather, and even in winter you can spend time at the beach and take a swim in the ocean. However, for a few months in the summer there is consistent cloud cover over Las Palmas, referred to as the donkey belly. That’s not ideal, but compare it with Chiang Mai’s burning season, which covers the city in smog from the end of February until May and makes living in the city nearly unbearable, and we’ll take a few clouds any day.
Cost of Living
Affordability is a big factor in the decision-making process for many digital nomads. Unlike Chiang Mai, you won’t find delicious $1 meals or $150 rent in Las Palmas. However, the Canaries are very affordable, especially for Europe. Gran Canaria’s zero-duty status makes alcohol very cheap, so if you like to hit the bars you won’t have to take too big a hit to the wallet.
If you decide to stay for a few months you can find a studio apartment at the beach for around €500-600. A simple meal out at the famous Tapas Night will set you back around €5-10 including wine or beer. It is possible to live comfortably in Las Palmas for around €1000, and if you have a bit more to spare you’ll be able to get a really nice apartment, pay a monthly coworking membership and eat out at the best restaurants.
The quality of wifi in the city is good, and many restaurants and cafes offer free wifi. If you need to get some real work done you can go to a coworking space like CWC. Compared with Chiang Mai, there is much less of a café working culture, but you can still find great places along the beach and in the old town. The friendly locals usually won’t mind you using your laptop for a few hours.
This is one of the categories where Las Palmas wins over Chiang Mai, hands down. Europeans don’t have to worry about visas at all, as the Canary Islands are part of Spain and, therefore, the EU. So, if you’re an EU citizen, you can come to Las Palmas and basically stay as long as you like. This is a very nice change from spending time in South East Asia, where you have to worry about border runs, visa exemptions, extensions and fees.
US citizens can stay in the Shengen zone for 3 months out of every 6, so you’ll have to factor that into your travel plans.
If you’re planning to stay for over 6 months you can apply for Canarian residency, which allows you to get 50% off your airfare to mainland Spain.
The public transport system is really efficient and connects Las Palmas with the rest of the island. For example, a bus to the west side of Gran Canaria costs roughly €4, so it’s very easy to organise day trips. For a proper day of exploration, you can hire a car from just €30, including insurance.
Las Palmas is a walkable city, but if you do need to get across town (for tapas night maybe) you can easily grab a taxi for under €5. If there are a few of you to share, it quickly becomes cheaper to take a taxi than ride the bus. While the buses aren’t as much fun as Chiang Mai’s red trucks or tuk-tuks, they are almost as affordable and almost definitely safer.
As much as we love Chiang Mai, the biggest drawback for us, as it is for many other nomads, is the lack of a beach. Thailand is known for its stunning beaches, so many newbie visitors are disappointed when they find out just how far Chiang Mai is from the coast. Sure, you can take advantage of cheap airfares and jump on a plane if you need some ocean time, but it’s not the same as being able to go for a beach walk or morning swim every day. Gran Canaria has many beautiful beaches, including the famous Las Canteras beach in the heart of Las Palmas.
Food is one of Chiang Mai’s biggest draws, and, while Canarian and Spanish cuisines definitely have a lot to offer, it’s not as varied as Thai food. The markets in Las Palmas are a big advantage thought. You can buy fresh produce year-round, and much of it is grown locally.
Just like Chiang Mai, Las Palmas has a lively nomad scene and it is easy to meet people quickly. There are definitely more meetups going on in Chiang Mai, but more and more events are being organised in Las Palmas every month.
So, what’s the verdict? Is Las Palmas a real contender to become the Chiang Mai of Europe. We definitely think so. With its sunny weather, long beaches, low cost of living and bustling community, we think Las Palmas is definitely worth a visit for any digital nomad.
Are you planning to visit Las Palmas? Please share in the comments!
Jenny Lachs is a freelance writer, translator and website designer. She is also the founder of Digital Nomad Girls, the biggest online community for location independent women around the world. You can contact her via the DNG website, on Instagram or on Facebook.