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

Nicaragua

Visit Nicaragua: 5 Must-See Attractions

With Nicaragua just arriving on the scene as a top tourist destination, many people don’t know what this little country has to offer. Like Costa Rica about 30 years ago, Nicaragua gives you the same untamed beauty, exotic living locale, great business opportunities and the lowest prices around. Here are just a few attractions that you should not miss when you. Float on your back or swim lengths in this crystal clear turquoise natural pool in the middle of the forest. Ometepe Island itself should not be missed. A one-of-a-kind destination, you can hike up an active volcano, go kayaking in the 19th largest lake in the world, or relax in this stunning pool of water for the entire day. Cost of the day (approx.): Round-trip ferry ride—$6; hotel—$45 to $75 a night; scooter rental—$15 a day; food: breakfast, lunch and dinner—$50 for two.

Central Valley

A Luxury Villa and a Maid…For Free

My husband Michael and I have come to realize that we are not really city folks, even though we lived for years in the suburbs of one of Canada’s biggest cities. But when we found a luxurious home in the hills above the Costa Rican capital San José, where we could stay for free we were happy to make an exception. We were house-sitting a villa perched high in Costa Rica’s Central Valley, near enough to admire San José and access all its amenities, but also far enough away from the busy center. We were in Escazú, home to foreign embassies, diplomats, and wealthy business owners and one of San José’s more upmarket neighborhoods.

Punta Gorda

Basking in Retirement on Belize’s Southern Coast

Eighteen years ago Penny Sue Leonard visited Belize for the first time, on an assignment to teach nursing practices at hospitals. She was so impressed that a year later she left Orlando, Florida, and permanently moved to Punta Gorda in the south of Belize. “Something drew me in. The fact that it is so far off the beaten path. I fell for this part of Belize. I already loved the whole country, but Punta Gorda just pulled at me.” While she was initially attracted by Belize’s beauty and the warm waters of the Caribbean, another big draw for Penny was that English is the primary language. And the lifestyle in Punta Gorda is affordable. “It is so much less expensive to live here than in the U.S.,” she says.

Vilca---Editors-note

Tapping a Deep Well of Intelligence All Around the World

The world’s top retirement havens for 2015 may dot the landscape from Asia to Latin America to Europe, but they share certain assets. they’re safe, offer good value, and are places you can settle with relative ease. They’re all locales where you can create a full life: live comfortably, make friends, stay busy, give back. each is unique, and some will surely appeal to you more than others. After all, you come to the question, “which spot is right?” toting your own priorities and preferences. You may dream of a beach. But the next guy can’t stand the heat. Our index is a tool for you to compare and contrast your best choices. The 25 countries we feature are those most worth your attention today. In this age of fly-by journalism, where the sensational tends to trump the truth, we take pride in our deep network of contributors. our reporting—and the recommendations it yields—springs from extended, real-world, on-the-ground experience.

costa-rica-ezine

Flowers, Sausages and Snow Sculptures

Brazil may be the spiritual home of carnival, but neighboring Argentina proves that it’s got what it takes when the Gualeguaychú Festival comes to the town of Gualeguaychú. Kicking off on January 10, the festivities draw thousands of enthusiasts to savor the festive atmosphere and enjoy the ornate costumes, flawless choreography, and magnificent floats. Costa Ricans also get into a party mood each January as the Fiesta Palmares descends on Palmares de Alajuela, just north of the capital, San José. More than 500,000 people are drawn to the festival, which focuses on Tico-style bull fighting (the bull isn’t killed) and a horse parade in which cowboys abound. That’s not counting music, dance, and copious beer consumption. All told, it’s a great two weeks, kicking off on January 9.

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Ireland By Luxury Train, Inca Biker Tours and Much More…

It’s that time of year again, when International Living calls on its extensive and ever-growing network of correspondents the world over to help us assemble our Annual Global Retirement Index. This is the most comprehensive list of retirement havens around the world. These are places where the weather’s good, the costs are low, and the life you’ll have is comfortable and full of adventure. Each year we require more and more information from our editors and contributors in order to put together these rankings. We draw on data from across the world, we plunder the stats of international organizations, and we bring it all together to crunch and mull over in-house.

Chinese-Composite-Index

The Best Market for 100% Gains

“Chinese stocks have the potential to deliver triple-digit returns within 24 months,” I explained in a recent CNBC interview. That was a bold thing to say on camera… but I believe it’s absolutely possible… In fact, twice in the last decade, Chinese stocks have soared by triple digits within two years. When China goes up, it can soar… In China’s 2006-2007 bull market, Chinese stocks soared by 500%. It soared by more than 100% in its 2009 bull market as well. Importantly, Chinese stocks today are just as cheap as they were when they started their last two triple-digit runs in 2006 and 2009. They are hated, too… Investors have been avoiding them for the last year. Meanwhile, Chinese stocks are now in a definite uptrend. This is the ideal setup for big gains… So how can you trade it?

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Play Europe’s Tourist Visa Loophole

Do you dream of spending time in the Old World? If you’re not ready for a full-time commitment to Europe but would like to give its medieval market towns and historic cities a try than I have a hop-in/hop-out solution. Maybe you don’t want to give up ties in North America and prefer to live abroad only part-time. Some folks don’t want to take on the tax burden that can come with residence in some European countries like France and Spain. Still others just don’t want to fill out the paperwork. But part-time living in Europe, on a simple tourist visa, is pretty much obligation-free for North Americans. The only trick: You can’t overstay your welcome. So like other North Americans who spend part of the year in Europe, I’ve learned to count how many days I can legally stay, and I plan out my trips like a battle marshal.

Chiriqi-Panama

High-Quality and Affordable Health Care in Chiriquí, Panama

I’ve lived in David, in western Panama, for five years. My husband Al and I came for the great climate, the easy living and affordable costs, and the rich variety of things to keep us busy. But as we get older that’s not enough…we also need access to good health care. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can find the best of care at a fraction of what you’ll pay back in the U.S. Your doctors will often speak English, and they are far easier to access than back home, too.

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Tarija, A Hidden Haven in Bolivia’s Wine Country

Latin America is home to many scenic colonial towns with a low cost of living. But every once in a while, a location crosses our radar that truly stands out. Bolivia’s southernmost city, Tarija, is just such a place. Tucked away in a mountain valley, with vineyards stretching to the south, Tarija is one of the continent’s hidden treasures. For a start, there’s the cost of living. A couple can live in Tarija, including rent, for $1,000 a month. For $1,200 to $1,500 a month, you can live in a centrally-located apartment, dine out, buy wine, join a gym, go to the movies, and get manicures. You’ll find places where you can enjoy a delicious and filling three-course meal for less than $4.

dreamstime_m_30696275-(1)

The World’s Best Retirement Destinations for 2015

With spiraling costs compelling more and more North Americans to retire overseas, retiring abroad has never been more attractive. But finding the right location among the myriad options available can be daunting. That’s what our Annual Global Retirement Index does. Using input from our team of correspondents on the ground all over the world, we combine real-world insights about climate, health care, cost of living, and much more to draw up a comprehensive list of the best bang-for-your buck retirement destinations on the planet. Keep in mind that, even though only 25 countries feature on our list, all of them are worth your attention. We selected them from among all the countries in the world for their qualities as retirement hot-spots, so even the lowest-ranked nation on our index is still very much an option worth considering.

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How to Buy Foreign Real Estate with Your IRA Funds

Contrary to what your broker, banker, or financial advisor has probably told you, you can own just about anything in your retirement account—not just the products they choose to pitch at you (generally stocks and bonds). You can own all sorts of investments within your Individual Retirement Account (IRA)—and 401(k), too, for that matter—including foreign real estate. Most IRA custodians have a list of approved investments that they won’t deviate from. I do understand why they keep options so limited: They must endure grueling audits. If they do anything wrong, they can be fined or shut down by regulators. It’s just easier to say “no” to anything even slightly off the beaten track.

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A Canadian-Themed Bar in the Andes

At 7,300 feet and home to cobbled streets and majestic colonial buildings the small Ecuadorian city of Ibarra is not a big expat haven. But along with a year-round moderate climate it harbors opportunities nonetheless…as Canadian Enderick Spurette has found. Bordered by the majestic Andes Mountains the bustle of city life is balanced by that of surrounding farms and historic hillside haciendas. Ibarra is a place where the banking district sits opposite small craft stores and mom and pop setups, and where those with a bit of motivation and desire can still find a business niche—just like Enderick’s Caribou Bar and Grill.

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Making Inroads with Cuenca Car Share

Not everyone who comes to Cuenca, Ecuador, has an idea to start a business. Sometimes new surroundings, a change of pace, and a fresh perspective align to bring long-held passions to light. That was the case for expats Juan Carlos Morales and David Korkoian, who together discovered a niche market and filled it. Juan was convinced that Cuenca was the ideal spot to escape the rat race in the States. “The moment I stepped foot in Cuenca, I knew I wanted to live here,” he says. “It reminded me of when I backpacked through southern Europe in the 1980s.”

How to Eat Locally—and Well—in Italy

As North Americans, we have a few myths about Italy. We think of Italian men as Casanovas: handsome, suave, and maybe a little dangerous. We think that every Italian woman is sexy, self-assured, and passionate. We imagine that all Italians are loud, passionate people with hot tempers and strong opinions… And we believe that all Italian food tastes amazing. So when we arrive for that first time in Italy and stumble into a random osteria in Rome or a little café in Florence, we expect the best of the best. We expect to be transported in ecstasy through a taste experience unlike any we’ve had before.

costa-rica-jason

Why I Feel Safe and Secure Living Abroad

When I first started planning my move to Costa Rica years ago, I got some interesting feedback from more than one acquaintance. “Aren’t you worried about safety? They love to rob gringos there, you know.” I guess they pictured “banditos” crouched in the bushes ready for ambush around every bend in the road. It’s worth mentioning this seemed to be their view of all of Latin America, Asia, and most of Europe.

Import export

This is an Internet Goldmine…

Finding reliable income opportunities is not easy. But I have one for you today. It’s a legitimate business that requires little or no startup capital. I’ve dedicated more than 30 years to researching, dissecting, testing, and teaching people about legitimate business and income opportunities. And this “work-from-anywhere” income opportunity might be a good fit for people like you who like to travel or live overseas.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Escaping the Rat Race for Cultured Cuenca

While most New Yorkers are busy trying to make a living and not a life, Diane and Jim Shanley are enjoying the fun life in sunny Cuenca, Ecuador. There was a lot to draw the couple to this city. Cuenca, the “pearl” of Ecuador nestled high in the Andes Mountains at 8,314 feet, boasts spring-like temperatures in the 50s to high 70s all year long. It’s the cultural capital of Ecuador with free concerts, an international film festival, and plentiful gourmet restaurants. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site with stunning colonial architecture, which attracts tourists from around the world.

Find Out How This Couple Made $1 Million Online

Today, starting a business on a shoestring from the kitchen table is much easier than it was 30 years ago (and even as little as five years ago). If you’re looking for a way to make a healthy side income or completely replace your current income stream, I can’t imagine anything that carries such low risk and such little investment as an online business. And, once you get up and running, you can even manage things from your smartphone without being tied to the office—or kitchen table—at all.

Petropolis, Brazil

The 3 Best Towns Near Rio, Brazil

“Rio de Janeiro.” The name alone conjures up images of broad beaches populated by impossibly beautiful people. But while everyone has heard of Rio, far fewer know that “The Marvelous City” lies in a state of the same name. Rio de Janeiro state, though small in size, is geographically quite diverse. Mountains parallel the coastline, sometimes veering down into the sea. Broad swaths of the original mata Atlântica (Atlantic forest)—one of the most biodiverse areas in the world—still blanket the hillsides. Scores of lakes and lagoons lie within sight of the shimmering South Atlantic. Majestic beaches stretch literally for miles; others lie sheltered in secluded coves, accessible only by boat. Tantalizing palm-studded islands, most uninhabited, await the more adventurous.

cash

Even My Kid Can Make Money This Way

My youngest son is 13 years old and he did it. He imported computer cases and sold them to a retail computer business. Now he’s selling the cases on Amazon too. The coolest thing about it is the mischievous smile on his face. He’s proud of himself. His business is super small but it’s profitable. He imports some cases for as low as $45 each, and resells them for $75-$195.

Tena, Ecuador

The Secret Hideaway in Ecuador That’s Surprisingly Affordable

My stomach is happily full after a delicious rice dish stuffed full of clams and chopped vegetables. As I sit sipping the last of my fresh lemonade under the umbrella-shaded outdoor table, a cool breeze whispers past. Families amble by, politely wishing me “buen provecho” (“enjoy your meal”) while kayakers across the street load their gear into a shiny new pickup. All the while wild birds mingle their notes with the Latin rhythms spilling from the restaurant. Where am I? I’m in the Ecuadorean jungle town of Tena…and to be honest this is not at all how I had imagined the Amazon to be.

Portable careers

Start This Easy, Profitable Business From Your Kitchen Table

If you’re looking for the easiest way to…Fund your travels… Flesh out your nest egg… Pay for the overseas retirement you truly deserve… Then, I have the solution for you that doesn’t involve years of business building or training. I’m talking about starting your own online business…buying overseas from sellers in other parts of the world and selling for a profit. All you need is your computer and the time it takes to locate and buy a pair of socks on Amazon. Thanks to new megasites that connect buyers with sellers around the world, this is very easy and it’s a great way to make extra money from home…no matter where in the world your new home may be.

Nicaragua

Enjoy a Stress-Free and Healthier Lifestyle in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

First, there’s the food… The supermarket produce sections in the U.S. are picture perfect: intensely orange oranges; big, shiny red apples; greens without a bit of brown. But, Nicaragua doesn’t paint, wax, and shine its produce, so I eat wonderfully sweet oranges with no beautifying chemicals added (for a fraction of what they cost in the U.S). I also eat fresh-caught (not frozen or farm-raised) fish twice or three times a week and real free-range chicken (that has been allowed to run free and is not injected with growth hormones.) The rest of my diet includes tropical fruits and vegetables fresh from the farm.

germany

Start Making Money With $18 and the Internet

Imagine earning extra income in your spare time, or “on the road,” or even while you work from your kitchen table. Well, I have discovered a fun and lucrative business almost anyone can do…from just about anywhere. The idea is to acquire products at deep discounts from more than a hundred countries around the world…and then sell the products online at profitable markups. And I am amazed how people are leveraging this business and making money.

Cotacachi

Discover the Hidden Treasure of Living in Ecuador

Could there be a more perfect country for ecotourism than Ecuador? With four distinct regions in an area the size of Colorado, Ecuador offers endless possibilities for adventure travel. You’ll find the Galapagos, Pacific coast, Andean highlands, and the Amazon… Ecuador is, per square mile, the most biodiverse country on the planet and numerous expats have moved there to become part of the ecotourism industry. Back in the 1980s, Richard Parsons was based in Quito and one day, while enjoying a leisurely drive through the Tandayapa Valley, he and his wife Gloria stopped and struck up a random conversation with a man cutting up a tree.

cotacahci

Retired in an Ecuadorian Mountain Town

In their 30 years of marriage, John and Vickie Kendall had often talked of living abroad. But their work as nurses in the Pacific Northwest kept them occupied and tied to the U.S. They began formulating a plan to retire and then move overseas in the summer of 2013. “We had been to Thailand and were looking at that as a possibility. And we were looking at Panama, Uruguay, and then Ecuador came up, so we were considering all different places,” says John. “But when we got down to it, we realized we wanted to be in the Western Hemisphere so that we weren’t too far away from home.”

Craft Village Ecuador

Explore the Craft Towns of Ecuador

If you’re planning a trip to Ecuador, my advice is simple: Bring the biggest suitcase you can find…two if your airline will allow it. Get on the Andean Craft Trail in the Sierra region along the Avenue of the Volcanoes that cuts north to south through Ecuador. It is full of artisan treasures that you won’t be able to resist. Cotacachi, the village where I live, has a main street lined with leather shops selling jackets, boots, and shoes as well as beautiful handbags and luggage. You can even have things custom-made in a few days. And everything is so much cheaper than you would pay for it in a high-end store—either in the U.S. or in Ecuador. You’ll adore Cotacachi.

Tena, Ecuador

Enjoy Freedom, Nature, and a Great Community in Ecuador

Michelle Klein and her husband, Gary Garces, live in the idyllic environment of a small Ecuadorian community. They awake to the call of wild birds and the scent of orchids on the breeze…a quick walk to the mom-and-pop store on the corner rewards them with fresh bread rolls for breakfast from the friendly proprietors…and access to the many rivers that roll through town is just a quick car ride or a leisurely stroll away. They run the Casa Blanca jungle hostel in Tena where they are raising three daughters.

Seville

Spanish Tapas, Flamenco Dancing…and an Easy Income

Stomping my feet as hard as I could, I twirled around in a frenzy, flailing my arms and yelling before coming to a standstill next to the dark haired woman in front of me. “Bien.” She clapped her hands once and then left the room. I smiled as the guitar player and other students picked up water bottles and wiped down their foreheads with small towels. I was in Seville, Spain, and having the time of my life learning to dance flamenco.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Every Day is a Vacation Day in Ecuador

Every morning, my husband, Mark, and I wake up to a view of Cuenca’s Old-World charm…majestic cathedral spires rising before us. Then we take our morning walk along the Yununcay River where cultured gardens line the bike and walking trails. Ecuador reminds me of Italy. We spent time in Europe as a young couple and planned to retire to Italy…until we discovered Ecuador. We fell in love with the cobblestone streets, terracotta-roofed brick buildings, colonial churches, plazas, outdoor cafés, and wrought-iron balconies draped in bougainvillea. Mark and I retired to Cuenca, Ecuador, four years ago on a pensioner’s visa which we live on. Our monthly budget is $1,317 a month—my husband’s pension from UPS—but we earn that much or more on our new incomes.

France

Get Paid to Travel Like a VIP

This summer, I got an email from a stranger offering me a free stay in a gorgeous French countryside cottage. I was welcome anytime, the kind and excited woman told me, and so was my world-traveling dog, Luna. Her cottage, which was spacious and beautifully appointed, was in the Loire Valley—a part of France known for its castles and sweeping landscapes. A well-traveled friend of mine told me it was the perfect place for leisurely bike rides and warm croissants. Similarly, a month or so later, a restaurant in Italy reached out. They would love to have me come for dinner and they wanted to know if I was planning a trip to Bolzano—the intriguing Italian-German part of northern Italy—anytime soon. A few weeks after that, another restaurant, this time in my favorite European capital—Paris—sent me a fancy invitation to a VIP tasting event.

Lake-Arenal

A Perfect Spot in Costa Rica – No Matter Your Taste

Costa Rica is a small country, about the size of West Virginia. Overall, you’ll find a low cost of living (many retired expat couples I meet live well on around $2,000 a month)…top-notch, low-cost medical care…friendly people—the national motto is Pura Vida, which translates to “life is good”…and bargain real estate—you can rent from $300 a month and up and find North America-style homes for $150,000 or less. But tiny Costa Rica has a tremendous variety of climates, lifestyles, and landscapes within its borders: bustling beach resorts, quiet fishing villages, high mountain towns, vast farmlands, looming volcanoes, lush rainforests, isolated rural areas…

Boquete

Where’s the Best Place to Live in Panama’s Highland Province?

Recently, I was talking to some IL readers. They’d heard about Panama’s mountainous Chiriquí Province and had a lot of great questions for me. One, in particular, gave me pause. “If you had to pick the one best place to live in all of Chiriquí, where would it be?” asked a retired gentleman from Saskatchewan. “Well,” I mused, “for me it would be about halfway between David and Boquete, because it’s just right.” Take the climate: Boquete, an area that is particularly popular with expats, rests on the slope of the Baru Volcano at about 4,000 feet elevation.

Ambergris-Caye

Why We Changed Our Retirement Plans to Move to Belize

Scott and Michelle Lyons planned to move to Mexico when their kids went to college. But when Michelle went on a cruise that stopped in Belize…their plans changed. “When I discovered that English was the language in Belize, I knew I had found something that would work for us,” says Michelle. The impossibly blue waters, soft sandy beaches, and wonderfully warm climate of beautiful Belize also helped win the couple over. From the sparkling sea filled with palm-lined islands to the verdant jungles teeming with wildlife, Belize beckoned with an enticing blend of relaxation and adventure…a tropical paradise.

Placencia

A Live Report from Caribbean Belize

This postcard is a special delivery, direct from Belize’s Placencia Peninsula. I’m on an editorial assignment in the Stann Creek District and I have to admit, life seldom is sweeter than this! After spending the better part of Monday flying and driving, I arrived at my destination—near Maya Beach—anxious to settle in and check out our friends’ beach home. Also prominent in my mind was which of the many recommended restaurants we’d pick for that night’s meal. But we’ll return to that topic later… The next day, after a solid night’s sleep, I walked out onto our bedroom veranda to behold a cloudless, brillian t blue sky, the sun’s rays reflecting off a sea surface as smooth as glass. In other words, the perfect day to explore the beach…

grecia

Spectacular Views, Great Health Care, and All for $1,700 a Month in Grecia, Costa Rica

When Harry and Barbara Jones were planning their retirement abroad, they had several countries in mind based on their research: Panama, Costa Rica, Belize, and Ecuador. They scouted Costa Rica first because they had been years ago on a cruise and were impressed with the country. After that first trip, they never made it anywhere else. The warm and friendly people, the low cost of living, and the natural beauty sold them. The couple, from Charlotte, North Carolina, at first looked at property on the beach but weren’t fans of the heat and humidity. So they headed inland and up into the mountains of the Central Valley, specifically the town of Grecia.

Cuenca

Escape the Economic Storm Clouds with Life in Ecuador

2008 was a very tough year for my wife and me. At the time, we were living the good life in Las Vegas—big home, high-paying jobs, investments that were propelling us toward our retirement goals. Then what I refer to as the “Economic Tsunami” hit, and we were among the many casualties of that global financial meltdown. When we both found ourselves downsized, we naively thought, “No problem. With our skillsets we’ll have no trouble finding another great job.”

Plac

Belize’s Beautiful Placencia Peninsula

Belize’s Placencia Peninsula is 17 miles of white sands, blue Caribbean waters, and gently swaying palms. The paving of the road the length of the peninsula has opened it up for development, with homes and condos ranging from luxury to affordable.

Expats are drawn to Placencia by the laid-back lifestyle and tropical climate. If you’re into listening to reggae at a beach bar—you can do that. Boating? With several marinas and anchorages, it’s a center for sailors and other boaters. You can fish, snorkel, and scuba in the surrounding waters. And the small village at the tip is a walkable community of cafés, restaurants, boutiques, and more. And you can always just relax on the beach— without the crowds.

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.

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