Most Bitcoin Friendly Places on Earth
For this article, we performed some comprehensive research to find out exactly where bitcoin tended to be the most popular on earth, going mainly by the number of businesses and trades per capita. Government friendliness towards cryptocurrency and blockchain tech was also a key factor in determining our decisions, as were the relative number of bitcoin ATMs in the area. A few of the top answers may surprise you, so if you’re loaded in bitcoin and looking for a travel destination where you’d likely be able to spend it, you’ll definitely want to consider visiting some of our top contenders for “most bitcoin friendly places on earth.”
Ten years into its existence, bitcoin is thriving now more than ever, with bitcoin-friendly merchants, vendors, exchanges and ATMs now on every continent across the globe (with the exception of Antarctica). There’s currently over 329,000 bitcoin transactions happening every day, and while many of them occur between two parties on the internet, an ever-increasing number are happening in the real world.
Thanks to a decreased transaction fee of about $0.04 – $0.08 on average, advancements in the Lightning Network, and the fact that bitcoin has now been around for a solid ten years, worldwide adoption is slowly creeping into being a reality. People are becoming more comfortable with the idea of using bitcoin, technology is making it easier to use, and demand is compelling businesses to offer it as a payment option.
Different parts of the world have different motivations for dealing in bitcoin. As is the case in Argentina, Venezuela and Turkey, people are motivated to use bitcoin as an alternative to their national fiat currency, which may be having inflationary problems. As with several tourist hotspots around the world, the motivation is that merchants and service providers can accept it from travelers who perhaps are not carrying the local currency. As with many technologically-advanced metropolitan hubs, the motivation could just be that it is cool, and possible.
Unsurprisingly, federal governments around the world tend to have an ever-shifting stance on how to regulate bitcoin and cryptocurrency, as it is an entirely new category of asset and difficult to define and categorize under pre-existing law. Some countries, like Korea and Switzerland, have adopted a “hands-off” approach to governing bitcoin, while some like Bangladesh and Bolivia have made its use strictly illegal. Other countries, such as China, have a more “mixed” approach when it comes to the regulation of bitcoin, allowing it to be used for payments but disallowing the operation of foreign exchanges within its border.
So, where exactly are the most bitcoin friendly places on the planet? There’s a few different metrics by which this can be measured:
- Friendliness to consumers
- Friendliness to businesses
- Friendliness to miners
- General popularity
We now present you a short list of some of the nations which have at least 3 of the above 4 going for it, concentrating on how easy it is for crypto operations to conduct business within the country and the government’s approach to dealing with cryptocurrency within its borders.
Malta. In July of 2018, the Mediterranean nation of Malta passed three laws permitting businesses to issue new cryptocurrencies without much regulatory hassle and trade existing ones. The first-of-their-kind rules cover how brokerages, exchanges, asset managers and traders operate, making the country’s regulations among the broadest for the industry. The island nation, a tourist hotspot and home to 460,000 residents, had suffered economic difficulty for a number of years and is vowing to become a crypto-friendly destination for blockchain-based startups, rebranding itself as the “Blockchain Island.”
Last October, the country hosted the Bitcoin and Blockchain Conference which drew crypto-minded business participants from over 24 countries, and in November, hosted the Malta Blockchain Summit which featured over 4000 delegates, 100 speakers and 150 sponsors and exhibitors. It is already home to a number of bitcoin-related companies and the crypto exchange giant Binance is expected to re-incorporate there sometime this year, following in the steps of another industry leader, OKEx.
An attractive destination for European tourists and meetup point for international business conferences, Malta is quickly gaining a reputation as a “hub of the cryptocurrency world.” An extremely modest tax rate of 5% on international companies is also likely to benefit the country’s chances of attracting more blockchain startups to its shores.
Cyprus. Another Mediterranean island, and the third largest, Cyprus, is no stranger to bitcoin. It was made popular there during a 2013 economic crisis in which the government froze the bank assets of many customers fearing there would be a mass exodus of wealth from the country. Since then, a number of bitcoin-related businesses has sprung up to give BTC holders something to do with their money, and a number of foreign-based businesses have set up shop there as well.
As Cyprus’ two major industries are banking and tourism, there exists significant potential for crypto startups to flourish there. Banks in Cyprus can legally help customers perform and insure cryptocurrency-related transactions, making it all the easier to conduct business in crypto. In July of 2018, Roger Ver and other Bitcoin Cash (BCH) proponents met with government officials about the possibility of implementing it in point-of-sale processors island-wide.
Cyprus is doing a lot to actively promote cryptocurrency on an educational level as well. The University of Nicosia in the nation’s capital is one of the initial collegiate institutions to accept cryptocurrencies from its students, and its Blockchain Initiative program offers a Master of Science degree in Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology.
Japan. The hi-tech nation of 126 million has a long-standing relationship with bitcoin, being home of the world’s first multi-national bitcoin exchange, MtGOX. Though the MtGOX story ended on a sour note, with thousands of customers fleeced out of millions of dollars’ worth of bitcoin that vanished from the exchange, Japan’s love affair with crypto has not. In 2017, the Japanese government moved to make bitcoin expressly legal for purchases and trade – a move most other first-world countries have been slow to make.
Over 10,000 stores around Tokyo already accept BTC as payment, with this figure expected to increase dramatically in the near future. Tokyo enjoys all the requirements necessary to foster a crypto-driven society: first-class internet speeds, an abundance of top-rated cell phones, a plethora of bitcoin ATMs dispersed around the city, and a technology-centric population that is ready to be among the first to adapt to a cashless society.
Some of the other companies headquartered in Japan include Bitcoin.com, Coincheck, and several new blockchain startup companies that are all attempting to revolutionize internet niches and backed with serious equity. Another factor helping Japan earn its spot in the list of most bitcoin-friendly countries is the fact that their financial regulatory body is currently considering the approval of a Bitcoin ETF, and is expected to do so well before the U.S. does (if it does so at all).
United Kingdom. London, Great Britain’s capital city, is already home to a number of long-standing, pre-eminent bitcoin businesses (such as CEX.IO, CloudHashing, Coinfloor, Wirex, and Luno), but we decided to extend the inclusion of England to the entire U.K. stewardship of territories, because a lot of them are advancing cryptocurrency in ways that Britain itself is not. British overseas territories have been using their semi-autonomous nature of governance to adopt crypto business-friendly regulations in an attempt to attract new sources of business and tax revenue.
For example, the U.K. territory of Gibraltar, located on the southernmost tip of Spain, enacted a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies in January 2018, and as a result, 5 new crypto exchanges have opened for business there. Gibraltar was already a hub for online businesses and gaming platforms; its government previously knowledgeable about how to attract such industries, and the adoption of bitcoin-friendly legislation was only the next logical move for the tech-savvy colony.
Contrary to other places where ICOs are actively being discouraged (and in the case of China, outright banned), the Isle of Man (located in the English Channel between England and France) is actively promoting an ICO-friendly atmosphere of governance, encouraging ICO startups to incorporate in the British territory to enjoy the perks of doing business there. Isle of Man businesses already enjoy a 0% capital gains tax, along with a 0% stamp duty and wealth taxes, making it an enticing place to operate a cryptocurrency-related enterprise.
United States. No crypto-friendly country risk would be complete without mentioning the U.S. Home of both Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the U.S. is a hotbed of blockchain- and bitcoin-related developments. Over 25% of all bitcoin transactions are performed within America’s borders, which also boasts the biggest number of bitcoin ATMs in the world.
America hosts several top rated players in the crypto industry, including software developers Blockstream and BitGo (both in San Francisco), wallet service providers Circle (Boston) and BTCS (Arlington, VA), exchanges Coinbase (S.F.), Kraken (S.F.), Bittrex (Seattle) and Poloniex (Wilmington, DE), as well as payment service providers BitPay (Atlanta) and coin.co (New York City).
Within the U.S. are several bitcoin metro hotspots, including Kansas City (thanks to its lightning fast average internet speeds of 50 mbps), San Francisco (with 29 bitcoin ATMs and 177 merchants currently accepting BTC), Tampa (with 13 bitcoin ATMs and 90+ merchants – not bad for a city with a population of less than 500,000) and, unsurprisingly, New York City.
Other countries to make the list of most bitcoin-friendly countries include:
Hong Kong (technically part of China) – home of mega crypto exchanges Binance, Bitfinex, BitMEX, Gatecoin and ANX.
Finland – home of the tremendously popular p2p bitcoin trading platform LocalBitcoins.
Luxembourg – home of one of the world’s oldest bitcoin exchanges still in operation, Bitstamp, as well as worldwide wallet providers and blockchain explorer Blockchain.com.
Switzerland – home of crypto conversion service ShapeShift, asset management and broker service Bitcoin Suisse AG, and wallet/debit card provider Xapo.
As a Google search term, the places where bitcoin is among the most searched-for phrases are a bit surprising. Relative to other countries in the world, more people in South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria search for the word “bitcoin” than any other, with the top 5 being rounded out by European nations Netherlands and Slovenia.
In terms of cities, the 5 cities performing the relative most searches for the term “bitcoin” include Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, Lagos and Vienna, in that order… Quite an interesting mix.
Where do people search for “bitcoin” the least? By country, the search term is least popular in Yemen, Tajikistan, Iraq, Syria, and most confoundingly, Japan. How did Japan make it in the top 5 lowest-ranking countries out of the 220 measured by Google, yet also make it in our list of most bitcoin friendly places on earth? Probably because people in Japan perform Google searches using Japanese kanji text, in which “bitcoin” is written: ビットコイン .