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Thriving as a Digital Nomad in Dali, China: An Ultimate Guide

Thriving as a Digital Nomad in Dali, China: An Ultimate Guide

In an era where technology allows us to work remotely and live independently, the digital nomad lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular. China, with its rich culture and diverse landscapes, has attracted many such digital nomads. One location stands out in particular: the city of Dali. This guide will help you navigate the ins and outs of being a digital nomad in Dali, China.

Why Choose Dali, China?

Dali, a city of 774,000 nestled in southwestern China, has been attracting an increasing number of digital nomads and those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of major urban centers over the past few years. This charming city, often compared to California due to its relaxed atmosphere, is situated between mountains and lakes in the Yunnan province, an area rich in natural beauty and cultural significance.

Dali, a former capital of an independent kingdom, boasts a rich cultural heritage dating back to the 8th century. It's home to a preserved ancient city known as Old Town, along with a myriad of pagodas and temples. The city is framed by the Cangshan Mountain to the west and Erhai Lake to the east, making it a magnet for both nature lovers and history enthusiasts.

Thriving as a Digital Nomad in Dali, China: An Ultimate Guide

Moreover, Dali's natural landscapes and architectural history have made it a popular destination for backpackers and tourists since the 1980s. Contributing to its 'anything-goes' reputation, Dali's early popularity among international visitors and the local marijuana market, which thrived until authorities initiated a crackdown in the 2000s, have created a unique cultural milieu.

In recent years, the city has also become a hub for the tech community, thanks to its mild climate and the growing desire among workers to escape the societal pressures of major cities. This shift is part of a broader cultural movement in China, where many are turning away from traditional career paths and seeking a more balanced way of life. This trend has been further fueled by the pandemic, making Dali, or "Dalifornia" as it's fondly referred to by locals, a haven for those seeking a new way of living.

The city's charm is not lost on those who move here. The laid-back atmosphere and a lifestyle that prioritizes enjoyment over relentless work are key attractions for newcomers. In contrast to the constant striving often encountered in places like Beijing, Dali offers a space for individuals to 'lie flat', a popular Chinese concept that represents a break from the relentless pursuit of success.

A popular Chinese TV drama, "Meet Yourself," has further ignited interest in Dali. The series, which tells the story of a woman leaving her high-stress job in Beijing to move to Dali, garnered billions of views in its first few months, inspiring a new wave of visitors and potential settlers. After the pandemic restrictions were lifted, the city experienced a surge in visitors, with Chinese New Year visitors reaching 4.24 million, marking a 219% increase from the previous year.

The interest in Dali has also sparked a surge in real estate inquiries. According to a local real estate agency, inquiries to rent or buy a place doubled after pandemic restrictions were lifted, with many of these inquiries coming from young individuals looking to experience the "lying flat" lifestyle.

Choosing Dali, therefore, is not just about picking a location; it's about embracing a new way of life that prioritizes balance, relaxation, and personal fulfillment over the relentless pursuit of material success

Embracing the "Lie Flat" Philosophy

A cultural shift has occurred in China, with many young people choosing to reject the societal pressures of major cities. This has resulted in a trend known as "lying flat", which promotes a more relaxed, less work-oriented lifestyle. Embracing this philosophy can help you fully immerse yourself in the Dali digital nomad experience.

Thriving as a Digital Nomad in Dali, China: An Ultimate Guide

Personal Experiences/Case Studies

There are numerous stories of digital nomads finding their haven in China, with Dali in Yunnan province being a popular destination. John Wang, a 40-year-old Chinese tech entrepreneur, refers to Dali as "Dalifornia," a tribute to the relaxed atmosphere of the city that offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of big-city life​.

Dali's appeal lies in its rich history and natural beauty, with preserved ancient structures dating back to the 8th century, and stunning views of Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake​​. The city also has a burgeoning tech community, attracting many digital nomads seeking a slower pace of life and a sense of freedom​.

The move to cities like Dali reflects a broader cultural shift in China, with many choosing to reject the financial and societal pressures of major cities. Joyce Zhao, a 33-year-old jewelry designer, moved from Beijing to Dali and found a community of young people embracing a more relaxed, less work-oriented lifestyle.

Popular media has further fueled interest in the city. The Chinese TV drama "Meet Yourself," which tells the story of a burned-out career woman moving to Dali, has attracted billions of views, inspiring even more people to consider a similar move​​.

As a result, demand for real estate in Dali has surged, with many young people choosing to "lie flat" - a popular term in China for stepping out of the rat race - and enjoy a slower pace of life​​.

Tips About Being A Digital Nomad in China

Understanding Visa Requirements

Before setting off for Dali, it's vital to understand the visa requirements for China. The most common visas for digital nomads are the business (M) visa or the tourist (L) visa. Be sure to check for the latest updates from the Chinese embassy or consulate in your home country.

Accommodation and Living Costs

Living costs in Dali can vary, but are generally more affordable than in larger Chinese cities. Accommodation ranges from shared spaces to private apartments, with several options available for short-term and long-term stays.

Connectivity, Workspace, and VPN

Internet connectivity is crucial for digital nomads. Dali offers high-speed internet and a variety of workspaces, including co-working spaces and cafes. Given China's internet restrictions, it's also important to invest in a reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access blocked websites. There are some good VPNs for China that you can choose from. You can also search for recommendations online (VPN排行) for recommendations.

Language and Culture

While English proficiency is on the rise in China, learning basic Mandarin phrases can be very helpful. Embrace the local culture and be aware of norms, such as exchanging business cards with both hands and waiting to open gifts until the giver has left.

Health and Safety

Ensure you have adequate health insurance that covers you internationally. China, and Dali in particular, is generally safe with relatively low crime rates. However, always stay vigilant and follow local advice.


Being a digital nomad in China is not without its challenges, but with preparation and an open mind, it can be an enriching and rewarding experience. Whether you're attracted to the vibrant cities, the serene countryside, or the rich history and culture, China offers a unique blend of opportunities for digital nomads.

Cities like Dali have become sanctuaries for those seeking a different pace of life, with a blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and a burgeoning tech community. As the stories of digital nomads like John Wang and Joyce Zhao reveal, the digital nomad lifestyle in China can offer a meaningful escape from the pressures of traditional work environments and a chance to embrace a more relaxed, fulfilling way of life​.

However, remember that successful digital nomadism requires careful planning and thoughtful consideration, particularly when it comes to understanding visa requirements, assessing living costs, ensuring reliable connectivity, and navigating cultural nuances. As you set out on your digital nomad journey in China, keep these factors in mind, be adaptable, and most importantly, enjoy the unique experiences and adventures that await you.