Expat-Advice

International Living’s expat network is your key to a new life in a new country. Get real, honest advice from people just like you. Discover the tips, tricks, shortcuts, and strategies you can use to cut through red tape and improve your life overseas right away.

Read about and learn from real-life experiences our expats have had in their new home countries, from health care to taxes, earning an income overseas to buying real estate…and much more.

 

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Archives

Malaga, Spain

The Best of Coastal Living in Málaga, Spain

Happily, the best of the “old” Málaga remains, as well. The sun still shines, there are miles of seaside, winter temperatures are balmy (days average 63 F in January), and sea breezes still blow off the Mediterranean, cooling the hot summer days. And Málaga is still cheerful and vibrant, oozing its trademark Andalusian charm. Best of all, it remains a very Spanish city, even in the prime tourist areas. So if you enjoy big-city life with laidback charm and a side of seashore, give Málaga a whirl. You can even get by in English.

boquete

Chiriquí: Low-Cost Living in Panama’s “Land of Plenty”

A tour of Chiriquí Province will take you from Panama’s highest point, 11,440 feet at the peak of Baru Volcano, to sea level and sandy beaches along the Gulf of Chiriquí. You’ll find 20,000-plus expats living throughout the province. Whether you prefer the beach or the mountains, living in town or out in the country, bright sunshine or cool cloud cover, Chiriquí offers you a choice… For instance,the near-perfect climate is one of the main reasons as many as 12,000 expats now call the town and district of Boquete home. Its elevation of 3,940 feet on the eastern slope of Baru Volcano means normally cool temperatures around 80 F in the daytime and 60 F at night, with frequent misty rain called bajareque.

Cotacachi

Enjoy an Easy Life in Cotacachi, Ecuador

While most people in Canada are bundling up against the cold right now…and preparing for or enduring heavy snowfall and treacherous ice…Canadians Brian and Janette Sullivan are enjoying the temperate, weather of Cotacachi, Ecuador. A little village located between two volcanoes in the Andes, Cotacachi has such a moderate climate that it enjoys year-round average daily temperatures of 70 F and 50 F at night. That’s just one of the ways that life is easier in Cotacachi…and Janette and Brian are taking advantage of all it has to offer.

Belize

Stories from Another World Most People Don’t Know Exists

Here at International Living, we tell stories about the world nobody else tells. When somebody asks me what we do, that’s what I say first. I say it because most folks carry around a worldview forged by the news they read. The headlines scream war and catastrophe…politics and disease. But calamity gets outsized attention. Our news comes to us through a mainstream media lens and it’s filtered by a measure of superiority. What you realize, though, once you pick up your passport and get on a plane, is that beyond our borders there exists a whole other world that the shock-seeking headlines ignore.

Nuremberg,-Germany

Festivals Around the World: Cherry-Pit Spitting, Lanterns and Piñatas

The enticing smell of bratwurst and gingerbread wafts through the city. Everywhere you’ll see stalls adorned with medieval regalia and in the old quarter you’ll find an old-fashioned carousel. Welcome to Nuremburg, home to Germany’s most famous Christmas market. It lasts until December 24. While northern Europe might be caked in snow throughout much of December, in the southern hemisphere summer is in full swing. Head Down Under to soak up some rays at Australia’s National Cherry Festival, which takes place from December 5 to 7 in the town of Young in New South Wales.

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Caribbean Belize, Feel Good in Panama, Tour Dublin with a Local and Much More…

Although world-renowned for its idyllic Caribbean beaches, Belize has a lot more to offer than just sun, sea, and sand. For a country smaller than most U.S. states, it harbors incredible diversity. Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker define the words “island paradise.” You can explore the exotic jungles of the Cayo District or relax in the thriving expat hub of Placencia. Plus, the country’s growing expat communities makes it easy to make new friends. Other factors play their part: The low cost of living ensures comfort on a budget, daily flights from North America make it easy to get back home, and Belize is English-speaking, meaning there’s no problem mixing with the welcoming locals.

Oil-graph

Capitalize on the Falling Price of Oil

Oil prices have fallen hard this year. The same thing happened in the first half of last year due to soaring production. The reasons for the decline in price are fourfold. Last year, U.S. production rose to its highest levels since the 1990s. Furthermore, OPEC saw its production leap to a nearly two-year high in September, averaging 30.96 million bpd (barrels per day). Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has cut its global oil growth forecasts for 2015 as a result of second quarter consumption sliding to a 2.5-year low.

Page-8-Chiang-Mai-Credit-Ke

From Canada to Chiang Mai—Low-Cost Life in Thailand’s “Rose of the North”

Each morning I wake to a symphony of songbirds and roosters. Somehow, my wife, Nancy, usually sleeps through this, but for me it’s the start of another relaxed day in retirement. We live in a 968-square-foot condominium in the center of Chiang Mai, the principal city in northern Thailand. We have two balconies overlooking a large wooded farm—an uncommon rural oasis in this growing city. Despite this, we’re close to everything—trendy cafés, glitzy malls, and craft beer pubs.

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Ecuador’s Coastal Sands and Andean Peaks

Bill Schuler spent a good 20 years working as a tech consultant in and around Minnesota’s twin cities. After devoting much of his life to his career and dealing with frigid Midwestern winters, Bill decided it was time for a change. In July 2012 he left his U.S. home and planted his feet in Ecuador. “I love mountains and was looking for that type of environment, and I was getting pretty tired of the cold winters,” says Bill. These days he doesn’t need a snow shovel, and his life of retirement in the northern Andes gives him just what he was looking for. He has daily views of majestic volcanoes, with a rocky river running through the gully below his house. Snow is nowhere to be found.

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Best Ways to Stay in Touch From Overseas

Moving abroad is a great—and usually rewarding—adventure. But many aspiring expats fret over losing touch with friends and family back home. Thanks to modern technology, though, staying in touch is no longer difficult or expensive. Today, with high-speed Internet more widely available every year, connecting with friends and family has become easy, fast, and cheap—often even free. “When my wife Suzan and I moved abroad 13 years ago, the Internet and cellular telephone technology were just beginning to develop,” says IL Editor Dan Prescher, who lives in Cotacachi, Ecuador.

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Small-Town USA in the Heart of Southern Brazil: Meet Serra Gaúcha

This valley reminds me of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Here, as there, ancient rolling hills are blanketed in a mix of pines and broadleaves. Then the bus I’m on passes a clutch of palm trees. Okay, not quite North Carolina. The Serra Gaúcha region, in southern Brazil, is practically unknown abroad, but it’s very popular with Brazilians. They flock here to enjoy the temperate, highland climate, so different from much of mostly-tropical Brazil. (Serra, in fact, means “highlands.”)

The Sophisticated Charms of Colombia’s “White City”

“Wow…wow, wow, wow!” I said, as I walked into Popayán’s main square, Parque Caldas, for the first time. Glistening white colonial buildings surrounded me on three sides and a majestic cathedral stood in front of me. “Okay,” I thought, “now I see why Popayán is known as the ‘White City.’” Though beautifully preserved, this city is not just another pretty face. Popayán exudes a sophisticated, intellectual atmosphere, kept lively by the nearly 13,000 university students among its 300,000 inhabitants. And did I mention the climate? Mild, with highs around 75 F and lows in the mid-50s F, thanks to the city’s altitude (nearly 6,000 feet).

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Affordable Caribbean Belize: A Land of Leisure and Opportunity

I’ve never seen such blue water as the Caribbean in Belize. I couldn’t keep my eyes off it, whether I was cruising around by boat, watching tiny islets fade into the distance… swinging in a hammock strung between two palms on the beach…or beating that tropical heat with a cold Belikin beer in the shade of a palm frond-roofed beach bar. Belize has a lot to offer those seeking a new life abroad. The low cost of living means a couple can live well on $2,000 to $3,000 or less a month.

Keeping Boquete Fit and Healthy

When you imagine how a retiree might spend her time in the highlands of Panama, you probably don’t imagine her opening a gym and fitness center. But at age 64, that’s exactly what Bonnie Jach did when she moved to Boquete in Chiriquí Province. Bonnie’s love of travel and adventure began at a young age. “I’m originally from Wisconsin,” she says. “When I was 20, I joined the Peace Corps. I’ve always loved new and exciting places. Even though I like the States very much, I knew I wanted to live overseas.”

Building a Bakery from Scratch

One of the things that Richard Meyer enjoys most about his bakery in Boquete, Panama, is that he gets to be his own boss. “I grew up in Denver and I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 12,” says Richard, now age 47. “As a chef, baker, and pastry chef, I create both sweet and savory dishes, and now I get to decide what’s on the menu.” Richard and his Panamanian wife, Yarina, found their premises for rent on Craigslist.

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Find Your Perfect Beach in Cambodia

I wasn’t asking for much when I went in search of the perfect place to live. All I wanted was white-sand beaches giving way to crystal-clear tropical seas. For variety, I wanted a choice between a beachfront café, with mellow music playing in the background, and an empty beach where the only sounds are birds chirping and waves lapping against the shore. Oh, and the beaches had to be within easy reach of each other, and I needed to be able to live well on a small budget.

Cuenca

IL’s Calendar of Events: Live a Life of Luxury in Ecuador

Ecuador offers sophisticated historical cities…miles of unspoiled, sun-kissed beaches…fertile farmland…and temperate mountain hideaways…and all of it for pennies on the dollar. You can live well for a fraction of the cost of living back in the U.S. And with Ecuador’s official currency the U.S. dollar, you needn’t worry about currency calculations or exchange risks. And real estate costs? They’re among the lowest we’ve found anywhere in the world.

The Simple Pleasures of a Stress-Free Life

I’ve just returned to Ecuador from a two week spell in the U.S. and I’m still processing the experience. It was fabulous to see family again and connect with co-workers, but my time there was not quite as I expected. This was my first time back in three years and prior to my trip I kept thinking to myself that I was “going home.” But as it turns out I wasn’t as at home back in my mother country as I had imagined.

Cuenca

Faster Visa Processing Makes Ecuador an Even Better Overseas Retirement Destination

Better weather and a low cost of living makes Ecuador a great option for retirement, and recent improvements to the immigration process now makes it even easier to gain residence in Ecuador. Ecuadorian lawyer Santiago Andrade says: “President Correa’s administration has improved many of the bureaucratic processes, and business and immigration is not the exemption to this change. I have seen an improvement in the timing of the residence visa process. In the past a visa took around 30 to 45 days to be approved; now it takes two to three weeks.”

Ometepe-Island

Live on a Lake in Nicaragua: Just $1,089 a Month

Ron and Debbie Goehring consider every single aspect of their lives better in Nicaragua than in their hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “We eat home-grown food, exercise, volunteer in our local community, and live a simple and fulfilling life immersed in the local culture. We have never regretted our decision to retire in Nicaragua.” Both teachers, they were travelers from the start. “Throughout our married life, we explored the U.S. and traveled abroad extensively. When it was time to retire, we wanted something quirky, inexpensive, and adventurous, with a simplified lifestyle—abroad. Nicaragua fit the bill.”

Costa Rica

The Secret to Fun and Profits in Costa Rica

After working in the U.S. for more than two decades, I love the freedom I now enjoy from making an income in one of the most beautiful parts of Costa Rica. I wake each morning, excited to see what the day will bring. That first cup of coffee on the patio—watching whatever may be in the jungle—is awesome. Monkeys and their antics…perhaps an exotic bird I’ve never seen before…a new bloom on an exotic plant…all these things give me great pleasure.

Cabo-Frio-Brazil

Beach Town Life in Cabo Frio, Brazil

With 4,655 miles of coastline, Brazil boasts scores of lovely beach towns. One of my favorites is the small city of Cabo Frio (pop. 200,000), which lies in the Região dos Lagos (Lakes Region) northeast of Rio de Janeiro. Cabo is a popular getaway for residents of Rio, which is quite a recommendation. Cabo is located two hours by good roads from Rio and Galeão International Airport. Sandwiched between the South Atlantic and Araruama Lagoon, Cabo offers a range of water activities, from laid-back to exhilarating. The principle beach is Praia do Forte, or Fort Beach, named for Fort São Mateus at its extreme eastern end, built between 1616 and 1620 to safeguard these waters from the French and other interlopers. Praia do Forte sprawls wide and unbroken for more than four miles.

Salinas,-Ecuador

Save Money with a Sea-View in Ecuador

Although my wife and I have spent 13 weeks of 2013 in Ecuador, and this Sunday celebrated our tenth month as full-time residents of the beachfront town of Salinas, we still from time to time experience “pinch me” moments where we can’t believe this is our life. Take, for example, last evening when we took a stroll down the brick walkway along the beach. It was about 6 p.m., so the sun was not quite down yet and there was a red glow to the western skies. Although it is November and back on the eastern seaboard in the States it was windy and cold, here in Salinas it was just under 74 F with a cool ocean breeze.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Moving to Mexico? Where to Meet Other Expats

When you’re moving to Mexico, it helps to get the scoop on your new home city from expats who live there. They’ve already figured out which plumber is most reliable, which carpenter does the best work, and which market has the best produce and prices. They may also become your first friends in your new home. But where do you find the expats? There are lots of ways to seek them out. For instance, a useful first step is to search online before you ever leave for Mexico.

Costa Rica

Discover Your Deserted Beach in Costa Rica

I’ve never seen so much green…and in so many shades and variations. The tall, jungle-covered mountains of Costa Rica’s Southern Zone dominate the landscape. And many locals and long-time expats say they enjoy these mountain views even more than the ocean, thanks to the lush vegetation that covers them. This region, on the southern Pacific coast, is a land of empty beaches, wild Pacific waters, those tall mountains dropping to brief lowlands before turning to a strip of sand, and then blue ocean.

italy

Italy’s 4 Best Food Towns

Italy is home to the Cittaslow movement which combines “Slow Food” with the art of leisurely good living. As delectable dining is one of the great joys of Italy, make time to discover at least one or two of the network’s 70 small towns. Most Cittaslow communities come with historic treasures, but the big attraction is their strong sense of identity and spirit of place. To be accredited, they must have less than 50,000 inhabitants. With an emphasis on regional recipes, traditional agricultural practices and seasonal local produce, it’s an authentic taste of Italy guaranteed to make your tastebuds zing. Here are four inland and coastal gems to whet your appetite.

corozal

Pretty, Friendly, and Affordable: Corozal, Belize

In the middle of Corozal, Belize, you’ll find a lively square where people meet to eat and talk in the shade of coconut palms and almond trees, or on benches under the clock tower. I like to spend time there and Sundays is when Corozal is most alive with people. Many have the day off and the park is full of a diverse mix of people—a multitude of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds live in harmony. The people are friendly and outgoing. Most wave or say hello to you as you walk by.

David

Expats Enjoy Healthy, Low-Cost Living in Chiriquí—Panama’s Bread-Basket Province

“The first time I saw Chiriquí Province I was enchanted. It felt familiar and was just so green. Although I was born and raised in New Jersey, I’m a country girl at heart and Chiriquí felt like home,” says InternationalLiving.com’s Panama highlands correspondent Linda Card. Chiriquí is one of nine provinces in Panama, and borders Costa Rica to the west. Mostly rural, the landscape is among the most scenic in the country, with mountains defining the skyline. Acres of fruits and vegetables thrive in the rich volcanic soil, while cattle and horses laze in verdant pastures.

Koh Samui

Koh Samui, Thailand: An Island to Get Away from It All

When it comes to the ideal beach lifestyle abroad, many expats look to Koh Samui in Thailand where the palm-lined beaches, azure ocean, year-round tropical weather, and affordable costs make for ultra-easy living. Just an hour-and-a-half flight from the Thai capital of Bangkok, this popular spot offers something for everyone, whether you dream of a tranquil seaside retreat or prefer frequent nights out on the town. You can access quality health care, where a basic doctor’s visit costs as little as $20, and there’s plenty to keep you busy—from yoga and Pilates to salsa dancing and bridge club—when you’re not soaking up the sun on one of the island’s many beaches.

Cotacachi-Ecuador

The Best Retirement Havens in Ecuador

Ecuador offers the world’s best climate choices in its four distinct regions, from Amazonian rainforests in the east (El Oriente) to warm coastal lowlands (La Costa) in the west and the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles offshore. The Andes Mountains cut right down the middle of the country from north to south, and in this La Sierra region you’ll find the temperate weather patterns that give Ecuador its status as the “Land of Eternal Spring.”

Cuenca

Cuenca, Ecuador: A Low-Cost University Town Buzzing With Activity

Expats have flocked to Cuenca, Ecuador in recent years for its great weather, low cost of living, and excellent health care. But most people aren’t aware until they arrive here that my hometown boasts five universities. And because Cuencanos speak what is recognized as the purest Spanish outside of Spain, we also have many Spanish language schools attracting study abroad students from all over the world. Great university towns are known as cultural hubs and artistic centers with a fun, vibrant atmosphere, and Cuenca is no exception. No, you won’t find wild tailgating parties happening during the fall—they play that “other kind” of football here.

Costa Rica

Three Tips for Earning While Doing What You Love

For seven years, I commuted 90 miles a day to my job in a Fortune 200 company. It was a great company, with great co-workers, and a really great salary to boot. There was just one problem. I was miserable. But with a mortgage and a car payment…well, you know how it is. Then July 31, 1993 I got the worst news of my life. That’s the day my mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. She was only 61 and just five months shy of her much-awaited retirement.

Ambergris Caye

Say Goodbye to Stress…This is Ambergris Caye, Belize

It’s another languid, relaxing Sunday on Belize’s Caribbean coast. Settling in a at Estel’s Diner on the beach, we order our favorite breakfast—huevos rancheros with homemade salsa. Then it’s back to a blissful reverie, gazing out over the mesmerizing Caribbean Sea. Sitting here, I wiggle my toes into the diner’s soft, warm, sand floor—no shoes needed… The scene outside is idyllic. Rays of sunlight skitter off the sparkling surface of the calm sea…

Chiang Mai

13 Diversions for Expats and Tourists in Low-Cost Chiang Mai

Located in Northern Thailand, just 85 minutes by air from Bangkok, the city of Chiang Mai has become a major draw for thousands of expats who, today, call this community on the banks of the Ping River, home. Affectionately nicknamed the “Rose of the North,” Chiang Mai is a vibrant university city famous for its many Buddhist temples, rich cultural offerings, and good food. The warm climate, low costs and excellent, modern infrastructure have attracted expats in big numbers, and that includes thousands of retirees from all over the world.

Salinas, Ecuador

Expats Report Improved Health and Weight Loss When They Move Overseas

With good, fresh food, more exercise, and clean air, expats say they live a healthier lifestyle overseas and it’s easy to do so. Americans Denver Gray and his wife Ann moved to the beach town of Salinas, Ecuador in March of 2013. “After we bought our condo, we came to Salinas for five weeks to set things up,” says Gray. “Some interesting things happened during those five weeks. Without any deliberate attempts to change our diet or lifestyle, my wife and I each lost 10 pounds.”

Cuenca

Why I Never Left This Ecuadorian Colonial Town

The colonial city of Cuenca, Ecuador, draws vacationers from all over the world…and it has a tendency to turn visitors into permanent residents. That’s what happened to me four years ago. My three-month visit turned into a six-month stay…Then a year passed and I still hadn’t left. Cuenca has become home. I’ve been to some great places in the world and have loved them—places like Spain, Italy, or even Argentina. So why do I stay in Cuenca when there are so many other great places I could be living? Well, there are three big reasons I keep staying (and staying and staying).

Ecuador mountains

There Is Nowhere Like This in the U.S.

Like many other folks thinking about moving abroad, my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I thought we knew what we wanted. A tropical beach, of course. During our lives we’d spent incredible days of vacation swinging in hammocks on palm-studded beaches, basking in the sun, and listening to the waves breaking out on some reef.

Ecuador

How Much Does It Cost to Live in Ecuador?

“How much does it cost to live in Ecuador?” That’s a question I hear a lot from readers. From masses of anecdotal evidence and my own experience of living here, I can safely say that a typical couple will most likely spend somewhere between $1,600 and $2,400 a month to live in Ecuador. But what you will spend depends very much on your own needs and wants.

housesitting

How to Live Rent-Free as You Travel the Globe

It’s early, and the sun isn’t yet up. I walk outside, and look out across the expanse that stretches to the horizon. The water sparkles in the early morning light. The first rays of the sun are bursting forth. A new day has begun in Costa Rica, and the house we’re staying in, with this view, is absolutely free. The home is on a coffee farm, nestled at the top of a hill high above the small town of Hojancha on the Nicoya Peninsula, a large landmass that juts out into the Pacific. My husband, Fred, and I simply care for the two dogs while the owner takes a trip to Australia.

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