Low cost of living…stunning natural beauty…warm, friendly people…and the best retiree discount in the world. There are so many good reasons to live in Panama that it’s easy to see why Americans are choosing this country as their retirement haven. It’s a country that has something for everyone. Want to live by a white-sand beach, gazing out at miles of clear-blue Pacific Ocean or Caribbean Sea? You can here. More of a quiet mountain town kind of guy or gal? You’re in luck. Panama has a range of little mountain towns to choose from.
“Don’t worry, you won’t have a problem finding a place to stay,” said my friend as we drove into General Villamil Playas (commonly just called “Playas”), the closest beach town to Guayaquil. “The hotels here never fill up.” He should know. He owns a condo in Playas and drives there easily in just over an hour from his home in Guayaquil to spend weekends and holidays at this beach town on Ecuador’s southern coast, named by some as the “sunniest beach” in the country.
After doing some research online, which included International Living, I moved to Cuenca at age 54. I planned to travel throughout South America, but I just loved it here, feeling no need to go farther south. Then, six months later, at age 55, my teacher’s retirement kicked in, so I could qualify for a pensionado visa, living off my retirement income.
- Prosperity, Beauty and Beaches in Florianopolis, Brazil
Posted on December 6, 2013 by John Clites
Home to 420,000 people, Florianopolis is often referred to by its residents as “the other Brazil.” For one thing, there is the evident prosperity, from brand-name jeans to the latest-model cars. The streets and sidewalks are clean. Unemployment is low, as is the crime rate. There are parks and pedestrian plazas. And the city is large enough to offer most services that you might need, without the problems of a bigger metropolis.
Cut down coconut bunch with machete. Put one or two coconuts in the fridge to get cold. Cut a hole in the top of the coconut. Insert straw…This routine is part of my daily life on the north central coast of Ecuador. My husband Ron and I live in the small fishing village of El Matal near the town of Jama and drink fresh coconut water daily—from our very own coconut trees. El Matal happens to be the setting for the award-winning film Pescador by Sebastian Cordero, but to us it’s just home.
Have you found the saying, “life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect” to be true? My husband and I have definitely found that to be the case. We’ve also realized that when life takes you down different paths it isn’t necessarily a bad thing! As we contemplated the future we found that we had an undiscovered sense of adventure. Rather than looking to a “normal” retirement in Canada, we investigated the possibility…
I was asked again the other day what I love most about Ecuador, and as I answered it occurred to me how retired I sounded. I’m not retired, of course, but as I was going over my three big pluses for this country…the weather, the cost of living, and the variety…I realized that all three of these qualities appealed directly to my Inner Retiree.
There are a lot of practical advantages to living in Costa Rica that I’ve discovered during my two years here. A big one for my family is the savings on medical care. When my son was born in June of 2012, we paid just $3,000 for the birth at a private hospital, including all the doctors’ fees and an overnight hospital stay. That’s cash, no insurance. We would have paid $15,000 to $20,000 in the U.S. When, at six months, the baby developed some health issues, testing and treatment was cheap too.
The small, pretty town of Chantilly is less than 30 minutes from Paris by train, but when you arrive at the station and take a lungful of fresh air, the big city couldn’t feel farther away. Chantilly (pronounced shahn-tee-yee) lies in the Oise department of France, 24 miles north-northeast of Paris. It is both the name of a town of 11,000 people, and of a larger commune that comprises several other towns and villages, bringing the total population to 36,000.
If there were ever two towns that complement one another perfectly, they would be Montañita and Olòn on the coast of Ecuador. About an hour north along the coast from Salinas—one of Ecuador’s best-known and most popular beach destinations—these two beach towns each offer a very different vibe. Montañita is named for the “little hill” that sits at its north end and separates its picture-perfect golden-sand beach from Olòn’s picture-perfect golden-sand beach. It’s less than a five-minute drive from one to the other, and a taxi ride will cost you just $2.
“Sometimes we just shake our heads in disbelief that we actually own a home right on the beach in one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen,” Paula Irvin says. “It’s absolutely amazing!” Hummingbirds zip around the bright-red feeder hanging from the balcony. “They always come at this time—just as the sun begins to dip into the ocean and the other birds start calling to each other a goodnight song,” says Paula.
The very thought of moving abroad seems like such an adventure, doesn’t it? The world is full of so many intriguing locations. Which country would you choose? Which city? If you actually pull the trigger and relocate, then the adventure truly begins. Everything is new, exciting, interesting, frustrating, and exhausting all at once. You’re meeting new friends—maybe learning a different language—adapting to a foreign culture, and exploring surrounding areas.
There’s no other retirement destination quite like Panama. Whatever you’re looking for in a retirement, you’ll find it here. Do you prefer living by the ocean? In the mountains? In ranching country? Big city? Small town? Would you prefer the mainland or a nearby island paradise? Well, Panama has it all so the choice is yours.
- We Said Goodbye to Our Old Life…and Hello to Costa Rica
Posted on November 25, 2013 by Emily Shea
Sometimes all it takes to make your dream come true is to take that first step toward it. My husband and I wanted to change our reality from your average suburban life in the States—mortgages, car payments, and credit card debt included—to a fresh life in a place where coconuts grow and the sun always shines.
- The More I Got to Know Cuenca, Ecuador, the More I Fell in Love
Posted on November 24, 2013 by James Mola
It was Christmas vacation 2009. I turned on my computer and clicked on Yahoo where a headline caught my attention: “The Top 10 Places in the World to Retire.” I had never heard of the number one city listed, Cuenca, Ecuador. But as I perused the other nine cities, I found something wrong with each of them. They were too hot or too cold, or hot in the summer and cold in the winter, which was just what I wanted to leave behind in Chicago; or they were too far from the U.S.
The two best things about mornings in Volcancito are the coffee and the view. I’m at the heart of Panama’s coffee-growing highlands—there’s even a bush of red “cherries” in my garden. (They’re surprisingly sweet when you suck one.) And for $600 a month, including all utilities you get a stunning view of the town of Boquete, Panama.
- Costa Rica Versus Panama: Which Country is Best for You?
Posted on November 21, 2013 by Dan Prescher
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I were married in Costa Rica 14 years ago and have been back for business and pleasure almost every year since. We also lived in Panama in 2006 and, like Costa Rica, have returned nearly every year for International Living events, editorial trips, and vacations. So it is inevitable that…
- A Pied-à-Terre in the South of France: $676 a Month
Posted on November 20, 2013 by Barbara Diggs
Think you can’t afford to retire in the South of France? Think again. While it’s true that unless you’re fairly wealthy, you should cross places like Cannes, St. Tropez, and most of the pretty medieval villages of Provence off your list, there are still a number of south of France towns, villages and cities, particularly in the Languedoc-Rousillon region (my favorite), that offer a highly enjoyable lifestyle for a reasonable price.
- We Found Nirvana in Ecuador—For Less than $1,500 a Month
Posted on November 18, 2013 by Donald Murray
With the divisive and toxic nature of U.S. politics these days and the associated economic impact, I understand those who might wonder about our motivation for packing a few suitcases and moving to Ecuador’s coast nearly 18 months ago. While politics and the economy had definitely impacted our lives, our reasons for seeking a life outside the United States had nothing to do with political disagreement.
You have the full sweep of the city’s coastline below you, from the high-rises of Punta Paitilla to the church steeples and colonial mansions of the historic Casco Viejo district. Walk back downhill a little and you’ll find a viewing platform from where you can see the goings on in the port of Balboa on the Panama Canal.
In Ecuador, there’s something for everyone…from the die-hard adventurer who wants to follow the path of British mountaineer Edward Whymper up the slopes of 20,702-foot Mount Chimborazo to those who want to learn firsthand why Charles Darwin’s 1835 voyage to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands is called “the most famous few weeks in the history of science.”
“There was a hole there. There was no place to get good bacon and eggs,” says Andrew, who explains that there are many other opportunities in León for quick-thinking entrepreneurs. “There’s still very little here. So anybody who has a big idea— it’ll work.” His investment of $5,000 got things off the ground. And although there were some struggles in the beginning—he had no previous restaurant experience and the local bureaucracy proved tough to navigate until he hired a local accountant—his business has taken off.
- Irish Passports – One to Buy; One You May Be Entitled To
Posted on November 13, 2013 by Bob Bauman
Ireland is the land of literary giants James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. It is the land of U2 and the Undertones, of Dublin, Cork and Belfast, of top-notch restaurants, party-on pubs and a foot-stomping live music scene. It is a land of powerful politics and astonishing history—from countless medieval castles and early Christian monasteries to the largest concentrations of prehistoric monuments in Europe. It is also a land of real beauty—lakes, mountains, sea, sky, and its lonely, windlashed wilderness coastline—and, of course, the marvelous Irish people themselves.
If you are working an average job in the U.S., you might be just like I was a few years ago. I was working a 9-to-5 desk job at a bank, spending what little daylight hours I had running errands, cooking and cleaning up, and preparing for it all to start over again. Like most people, I had a yearning for adventure deep in the pit of my stomach, and didn’t know how to “fix” it.
My profession has taken me all across the world, experiencing unique journeys…attending world famous events…and meeting fascinating people. And I got paid to do it. I have rung in the New Year at Hogmanay in Edinburgh, danced up a storm at Seville’s April Fair, and was awed by the beauty of Buddha’s birthday celebrations in South Korea. I have ridden camels through the Sahara desert, liberated baby sea turtles in Mexico and swam with sharks in Belize.
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