Working Remotely Abroad – Lessons Learned in Barcelona

Last month I spent a couple of weeks in Barce­lona. The initial reason was to have a holiday there, but I decided to go there for longer and work a full week there remo­tely. With easy access to strong Internet connec­tions, web-based services for my work via my laptop, and online colla­bo­ra­tion tools such as Mikogo at my disposal, I decided it would not be a problem to work there. And as it signi­fi­cantly incre­ased the time I got to spend in Barce­lona, why not do it?

I wrote about my prepa­ra­tion for setting myself up to work remo­tely in Barce­lona last month. Now I have a few lear­nings to share which should hope­fully assist anyone who plans to do the same in any city abroad.

1. Co-working spaces are the way to go

As I wrote previously, I arranged my stay in Barce­lona over Airbnb which worked out very well. However I was very surprised by how easy it would have been for me to use a local co-working space. I visited two co-working spaces during my stay in Barce­lona (021 Studio and RavalCo), at first out of curio­sity to see what such spaces are like in Barce­lona. It was a great expe­ri­ence meeting local busi­ness owners and hearing about their free­lan­cing, busi­ness start ups, and remote working expe­ri­ences. In fact I went back and worked from one of the spaces for a day. I will post a sepa­rate blog post soon about my expe­ri­ence with co-working spaces, inclu­ding opinions and expe­ri­ences from the workers I met there.

Of course ever­ything went smoothly with my Airbnb place, however if you’re looking to work remo­tely abroad and don’t want to work from a flat or hotel room, I strongly recom­mend a co-working space. The places I visited in Barce­lona both offered options to rent desk space for a month, week, or even just a day.

Barceloneta Beach

2. Don’t work on your first day

If you can, try to arrive a day or so before you intend to offi­cially start working from your remote desti­na­tion. This gives you time to settle in. For example, when I first arrived in Barce­lona I got the laptop set up, made sure ever­ything was working, and bought house supplies. I went to local super­mar­kets and bought the usual: coffee, food, drink, etc. That way when the day came to start work I had ever­ything ready. If you arrive in your desti­na­tion city and intend to start working immedia­tely, it will be a rush and you might even encounter unex­pected hurdles along the way (e.g. travel delays).

3. Ensure you have a good Internet connection

If you can work remo­tely abroad then you’re probably like me and glued to tasks requi­ring the Internet. On one of first days in Barce­lona before my week of work I popped into a cafe with my laptop. The cafe offered a free wifi service but it was far from decent. Also the people around, small tables, distrac­tions, etc would not have worked for me. I know some people use Star­bucks as places to do a bit of work from but I wouldn’t rely on it. Luckily I had my Airbnb place with a good connec­tion and privacy.

Be sure to check with where you plan to stay in advance that they have a solid Internet connec­tion. You could even ask them to send you details of their Internet speed via

4. Get out of the house!

You’re working remo­tely in a foreign land so you want to make sure you don’t only stare at your screen but rather expe­ri­ence the local scene. Of course you have work dead­lines to meet during your time there so ensure you cover those first. But having break­fast before work in a cafe is a nice way to get out, try some­thing diffe­rent, and prac­tice your foreign language skills before work.
Another sugges­tion is to pick a diffe­rent neigh­bour­hood for each night to visit and have dinner in – but it will help if you do your home­work in advance. (More details in the next point.)

A further benefit of working remo­tely abroad in a co-working space is that you get out each day, meet others, and learn about the city from locals.

Barceloneta Skyline

5. Do your homework before you get there

Following on from the previous point, this is a mistake I made and learned from. I didn’t know enough about each of the Barce­lona barrios and where to eat (or not), so after finis­hing work I wasn’t so sure where to go. I’d spent all day working and then for the first couple of evenings, I was either looking online for where to go out or walking aimlessly around the streets hoping to find some­where nice to eat or inte­res­ting to see. Walking aimlessly is great on holiday but not after a full day’s work when you have just a couple of hours and want to make the most of it.

I ended up disco­vering a list of hidden gems in Barce­lona which ended up guiding me for places to eat quality local cuisine for my last few days. I highly recom­mend Blai Tonight!

But the lesson learned is do your home­work before you work abroad remo­tely.

Discus­sion: If you have also worked remo­tely in a new desti­na­tion, please share your tips and expe­ri­ences in a comment. Would be inte­res­ting to hear what others learned.

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