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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travel-in-Belize

Retire Early and Travel the World

Three years ago, my husband Michael and I were both on the corporate treadmill—Michael as a consulting engineer and me running my own business. We were working long hours just to maintain our lifestyles, leaving us overworked and miserable. When a dear friend died, we asked ourselves, “If we had six months to live would we continue doing what we’re doing?” The answer was a resounding no. We had to find the “off” switch for the treadmill.

Ecuador

Toss That Snow Shovel and Savor the Sun All Year

“I never want to shovel snow again.” When you ask somebody who is thinking about life overseas why they’re investigating their options, more often than not their response has at least something to do with escaping the cold. So it makes sense that when you ask expats what they most appreciate about their lives overseas—they almost always include an enthusiastic nod to the pleasant climate. It’s convenient then that so many places where your dollars stretch also happen to be spots where snow is unheard of.

munich

Pirate Invasions and German Glühwein

Start your November on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, where—from October 23 to November 9—you’ll find enormous and elaborate sand sculptures filling the beach as part of the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition. As many as 100 sculptures, by artists from around the world, are expected to turn the mile-plus coastal walk into an outdoor museum. In a far more formal setting, Cairo Opera House is home to the Arabic Music Festival from November 1 to 10, as some of the finest Arabic singers, instrumentalists, and ensembles in the world converge on the Egyptian capital.

A Royal Taste of Scotland, New Airport in Mexico, and Much More…

Cuenca is Ecuador’s most popular retirement haven, but it’s not the only one you’ll find in the Andean country. Thousands of expats have chosen from locations all over the country…Pacific coast beach towns, vibrant culture-filled cities, highland farm towns, and more. Ecuador harbors huge variety and whether you’re in search of adventure, planning to start a business, or just want to relax and watch the world go by, it’s got something to offer you.

Explore Bangkok’s Vast Weekend Market

Thai handicrafts, jewelry, handmade paper, ceramics, a plethora of textiles and handbags galore…you can find it all and more at Bangkok’s Weekend Market, known as Chatuchak or “JJ” for short. No trip to the Thai capital is complete without a visit to this massive 35-acre market located north of the city, where you can get your shopping fix as well as a big dose of Thai culture. Just don’t forget to bargain!

Bet on Population Growth and Live High on the Hog

The best estimate points to a world population several billion larger than today’s just a few decades from now—Earth may host 9.6 billion people in 2050, according to the United Nations. This population growth is all going to be a strain on Earth’s already stretched-thin resources. So how do you invest in a world like the future we seem to be hurtling toward? A world of rising population and increasingly scarce resources?

Our Surprising New Life in English-Speaking, Tropical Penang

“You are crazy! You can’t leave Chicago. You have two successful businesses here. What will you do for money? That’s so risky!” That was the “support” my husband Mark and I were offered when we announced that we were moving to Penang, Malaysia. It was true. We did have two successful businesses. Mark owned a commercial real estate company that sold gas stations nationally and I owned a women’s wholesale clothing showroom.

Choose Your Ideal Retreat in Good-Value Nicaragua

“The people in my new community are some of the best I have ever met in my entire life. They are like my family. I feel safe, protected, and loved,” says Dawn Noel, who made the move to Nicaragua in 2012. “And there is a rich flora and fauna here. I am enveloped in beauty!” After a busy career as a traveling nurse, Dawn was ready for a new adventure. She longed for a place where she could feel free, be herself, and “be able to live out my later years without working myself to death.”

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How to Make the Most of Southeast Asia’s New Low-Cost Airlines

The last decade has seen the rise of the low-cost carrier in Southeast Asia. Cheap, short-hop flights now criss-cross the region—much of it spread across the ocean in archipelagos like the Philippines and Indonesia. This boom in no-frills flights means cheap travel and it’s one of the reasons that my wife Lisa and I can travel so much. We live in Penang, Malaysia, but whatever Asian destination you chose for your home you’ll find it easy to explore the region.

Málaga: The Sleek, Urban Heart of Spain’s Costa del Sol

Twenty years ago, when I first visited Málaga, it was the ugly stepsister of Spain’s Costa del Sol: a little scruffy and down-at-heels (though with gloriously sunny weather and a seaside location). So it was pure pleasure to return last summer and find it transformed into a Cinderella: one of Spain’s most livable—and affordable—cities for coastal living. Today’s Málaga is clean and bright, with a pedestrian-only city center and a revamped harbor area that is a joy to stroll. The city is brimming with museums, great dining, and plenty of shopping to suit all tastes and budgets.

A Tranquil, Affordable Thai Island Life

When it comes to the ideal beach lifestyle abroad, many expats look to Koh Samui, in southern 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, Koh Samui offers something for everyone, whether you dream of a tranquil seaside retreat or prefer frequent nights out on the town.

The 5 Best Places to Retire in Ecuador

In Ecuador, you’ll not only be in the middle of the world, but you could be on top of it. That’s because thanks to its location on the equatorial “bulge,” the peak of the country’s 20,564-foot Mt. Chimborazo is the point on the Earth’s surface that’s the farthest from the Earth’s core and closest to the sun. There truly is something for everyone here. Mountains, beaches, rainforests, cities, and small towns…all with a price tag nearly anyone can afford. By the way, Ecuador’s currency is the U.S. dollar—no currency conversions necessary.

Putting Your Assets Offshore, “No Longer Just for the Super-Wealthy”

I walked into the main Credit Suisse branch in Chicago and told the doorman I wanted to open a Swiss bank account. I was led to a private office overlooking the Chicago skyline. Was asked for my minimum deposit. Being just 31 at the time, I played it conservative and started with just $2,000 (about $4,300 in today’s dollars).

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In Cusco, Peru, Where Maps Are the Treasure

For Olley Ollerenshaw, living in Cusco’s historic artisan district of San Blas has allowed a childhood fantasy to come true. “I’ve always been interested in maps of the world, maps of all kinds. Maps are symbols of adventure as well as functional tools, and for anyone like me who grew up daydreaming about visiting exotic places, maps hold a special allure,” says Olley.

Living in Florence, Earning from Anywhere

Before moving to Italy, Georgette Jupe had what many would consider a glamorous life: She was living in star-studded Los Angeles, working in public relations, and rubbing elbows with the B-list celebrities that her firm represented. She had a good, steady, lucrative job. And who doesn’t want to live in sunny, coveted southern California? To the untrained eye, Georgette had it all. But secretly, she was missing Italy— where she’d spent one beautiful year studying abroad in pretty Florence back in her college days.

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Costa Rica’s Wild and Thriving Pacific Coast

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 extremes. Empty beaches, wild Pacific waters, those tall mountains dropping to brief lowlands before turning to a strip of sand, and then blue ocean.

IL’s Calender of Events: Relocate and Earn Overseas

No matter how affordable the destinations we talk about are, the simple fact is: You can’t live anywhere for free… But what if you had an income that went with you? An income that could give you the freedom you need to just pick up and go? You could spend half the year in your own cottage on the beach…work in the mornings and snorkel and relax in the afternoons.

Adapting to Life as a New Expat in Ecuador

My wife and I have been living in Salinas on the Pacific shores of Ecuador for just over six months now. We feel fortunate. We both love it here, and every week that passes we feel more relaxed, and more like we belong. Your own experience with life overseas will vary based on where you came from and where you go; whether you have traveled before; how old you are, and whether you are retired; your personal and financial health; and the list goes on.

Boquete

The Best Places To Vacation In Panama

After eight years as Panama Editor for International Living, you’d think writing about the best places to vacation in Panama would be a cinch. But there are so many great places to vacation in Panama that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. In fact, I’m constantly adding new favorites to my list.

Salinas, Fund Your Life Overseas

A Warm, Sunny Beach Town Spells Profits in This Easy Enterprise

It was 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. I had just finished drinking a cappuccino with a friend at a local café. Now, I was going to meet a client and spend about an hour getting them set up in their vacation rental. Then I would go back to my home office to spend another 30 minutes or so answering emails.

Granada, Nicaragua

Discover a Roving Retirement Lifestyle

The couple explored Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua. As their trips were part of a search for a new home, it made sense to stay awhile and get beneath the surface of a place. Ellen explains, “Extended stays make sense financially, giving us time between trips to recoup the cost of moving about.” But after three years of having no permanent base, they realized that it was actually this roving retirement lifestyle that suited them.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Fun and Luxury in Ecuador With This Portable Income

I’d wanted to visit Ecuador for almost 12 years before I finally set foot there. At the time, I didn’t realize it was going to be my new home. I thought I was just visiting… But when you’ve got a portable income, vacations go on forever. Money wasn’t an issue and I could easily afford to stay in Ecuador. I picked up a new apartment…a weekly cleaning lady…and lots of new friends. I had both the funds and the flexibility to be as social as I wanted. And I settled into a new kind of life in the colonial city of Cuenca—one that I truly, truly love.

Belize

$7,000 a Month With This Online Income Opportunity

I discovered the potential of ecommerce 14 years ago when I started my online maternity store…from my kitchen table. At the time, I was searching for a business that offered me the freedom to work from anywhere and the flexibility I needed to care for my young children after my husband was diagnosed with cancer. I found it in ecommerce. In its first month, my first site brought in $7,000. I was ecstatic. And it grew from there. I turned my online business into a multi-million-dollar business in a short amount of time.

Brac, Croatia

Romantic Europe—One Town and Village at a Time

This morning, I awoke to bright blue skies, crisp autumn air, and the slow, muted clanking sounds of cows wearing big metal cowbells and moving down the street just outside my window. You see, today I am living in a small town in the Swiss Alps. It’s October, which means the farmers are bringing their cows down from the high altitudes and into the low fields and warm barns for the winter. The air smells faintly of fields and campfires. And aside from the bells, all is quiet.

Corozal, Belize

Retire in Corozal, Belize for $1,500 a Month

A relatively small town (about 10,000 people) set on a grid, Corozal is mostly a collection of small shops, restaurants, and simple homes. But this is a bustling burg, with walkways and parks lining the vast, turquoise Corozal Bay. The bay gives it that Caribbean feel. Locals lounge in the shade of the town square, and in the small farmers’ market you’ll find oranges, potatoes, carrots, and succulent mangoes. You can walk away with a week’s worth of fruit and vegetables, plus dry goods and any imported must-haves available at local grocery stores, for under $50.

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Warm Sand, Cold Beers, and Profits Rolling in

“My dream was always to live on the beach with palm trees,” says Peter Ottinger. “And here on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula the climate is an endless summer.” A far cry from snowy winters back home. “When I first moved here, to Santa Teresa, it was a very small community. In the beginning there were hardly any foreigners. But since 2004, it’s grown a lot,” says Peter. “Now we have a very international community.” It’s a booming haven of backpackers and even mainstream travelers in search of a laid-back and bohemian off-the-beaten path beach destination.

Ecuador

The Advantage of a Built-In Expat Community

One of the things my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I have come to value over the years that we’ve lived abroad are well-organized expat communities. We do know some expats who were determined to be pioneers and boldly go where no North Americans had gone before. But for us…and most other expats we know…there are undeniable advantages to having people around you in your chosen expat destination who have already blazed a trail, made the most common mistakes, and learned the ropes.

Earn Overseas

Get Paid to Spend Your Time With Fun People on the Beach

Everyone loves the beach…the feel of warm sand between your toes…the sound of waves lapping on the shore…happy people laughing, playing, and relaxing all around you. Some folks love the beach so much they can’t bear to leave. They want to head down there every morning and spend each day close to the ocean. All very well, you say, but you have to do something to pay the bills, right?

Water taxi, Belize

Video: Taking a Water Taxi in Belize

Water taxis, essentially small high-speed ferries, are a great way to travel from mainland Belize to the offshore islands, Ambergris Caye, the most visited spot in the country, and laid-back Caye Caulker to south. You can also travel to remote spots around Ambergris, between islands, and even as far as the town of Chetumal, in Mexico. Travelers often fly in to the international airport in Belize City, take a cab to the ferry landing of one of the two major companies Caye Caulker Water Taxi and San Pedro Belize Express, and then motor over to the islands.

Italy

Culture, Climate, Food: Three Great Reasons to Live in Italy

Have you taken the public ferry that calls into the flower-bedecked lakeside villages around Lake Como? Spent a day shopping for the perfect turquoise leather purse in Milan? Bathed in the thermal pools of Saturnia? Wandered pilgrim paths through the chestnut woods of northern Tuscany? Eaten pumpkin tortellini in Bologna or cuttlefish risotto in Genoa? Lolled under a shady ombrellone on Lido di Metaponto’s golden beach? Enjoyed opera under the stars at Verona? Seen glow-worms lighting the fields at night as you walk back from San Gimignano of the medieval towers?

Boquete-Panama

Enjoy a Healthy Lifestyle in Chiriquí—Panama’s Bread Basket

Chiriquí is one of nine provinces in Panama and it 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. The capital city of David is a bustling commercial hub undergoing a serious growth spurt. 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.

Boquete, Panama

The Perfect Retirement in Panama

My husband Will and I have traveled to a number of countries over the years searching for the perfect place to retire—including Mexico, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. Finally one of our trips brought us to the country of Panama…

Call it instinct, call it intuition…whatever it was, from the moment we stepped off the plane, we knew it felt right. We toured several parts of the country in the years that followed as we tried to pin down our retirement plan. The highland town of Boquete was always on the list to visit. There was something about the mountains and the lush vegetation that reminded us of British Columbia and called to us.

Belize, Fund Your Life Overseas

A Six-Figure Income in 45 Days

It was thanks to a health scare in 2009 that I finally took the big step to becoming my own boss. For 25 years, I had worked as a magazine publishing executive for companies like Forbes, Times Mirror Magazine, and Crain’s New York Business. Even though I loved my career, even though it was fulfilling and I was successful, it was still a job, and I still didn’t control my own time.

Bocas del Toro

Panama Is So Affordable for Us

Whenever my husband Gary and I need a break from sitting on our terrace watching the iguanas, or doing a myriad of other activities in and around our neighborhood, in Panama, we love to hop in our car and go exploring. That’s not to say we don’t love where we live in Panama’s highlands. We decided a few years back to spend part of the year in the province of Chiriquí, in Panama’s southwest corner—we’re snowbirds, escaping cold winters back home in Canada. We chose Panama as our half-time home because it has the greatest program in the world for retirees, the pensionado.

Freelance copywriting

If Only They Knew How Great This Income Is

Strange things happen when I tell people at a dinner party that I “write” for a living. At first, they’re excited…thinking they’ve just met a famous author, journalist, or screenwriter. “What have you written? Anything I might have seen or read?” I answer, “Maybe, but probably not. I’m not ‘that’ kind of writer…” I can see disappointment sweep across their faces.

Panama City

“This Part of Panama City Is Perfect”

“We spent about five years researching good retirement destinations before actually moving to Panama,” says Bill Hamilton who moved with his wife Mieke to the country’s capital city. “I’m the type of person to look up every single thing…crime rates, politics, cost of living, real estate, health care…and Panama City kept popping up in my research as the best option across the board.” Though in their 60s and already retired from previous careers, the Hamiltons made the decision to move in order to take a stab at running the Balboa Inn, a nine-room B&B in Panama City.

Coronado, Panama

The Best Beach Community in Panama

“We were frustrated with extremely long, cold winters, high Canadian taxes, and we were weary of the rat race.” So says Denise Patrick, who—along with her husband Neil—moved to the beach community of Coronado—just 90 minutes from Panama City. The couple first fell in love with Coronado when they spent a vacation there in November 2010—so much so, in fact, that they decided on the flight home to sell their house and belongings.

Koh Samui, Thailand

The Secret to the Ultimate “Earn-From-Anywhere” Opportunity

The other day, my friend Rony asked me if I wanted to go to the neighboring island of Koh Samui for a little R&R. It sounded tempting, but I wasn’t feeling like making the trip. So I politely declined and told her that I had to get some work done here on Koh Phangan. Then, she completely busted my objection.

Costa Rican towns

Top 5 Costa Rican Towns Not on the Beach

The classic vision of Costa Rica that you find on postcards and tourism board posters is of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The white sand beaches…blue ocean…and the wildlife-filled rain forest as a backdrop.

Costa Rica

Here’s How You Can Ditch the Cubicle and Earn Big Overseas

Our balcony in Costa Rica looks out at the tops of the trees, giving us a perfect view of the forest. Toucans, tanagers, and tropical birds I’ve never seen before gather there every morning. Three-toed sloths graze in nearby branches, while the Pacific Ocean laps in the distance. As my husband and I sip coffee and watch the show each morning, I can’t help but be thankful for my good fortune.

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