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

Lake Arenal

Replacing the Rat Race with Stunning Views and Good Healthcare

“In the U.S., you’re always going, going, going…it’s so easy to lose sight of where you’re headed. Life got too fast-moving for us”, explains Ray Granade. “We always needed to be somewhere, quickly, then somewhere else. It seemed like we were spending an extraordinary amount of time sitting in traffic. Now the longest we wait in the car is usually for a herd of cattle to cross the road,” he adds, saying he and his wife Kim, both 63, also wanted to escape the consumerism in the U.S.

Tamarindo

Costa Rica: Portable Incomes in a Land of Opportunity

Each morning, my boyfriend, Sean, and I sleep in until about 9 a.m.—we rarely set an alarm. More often than not, we wake up to the bustling of the coffee shop next door. We each order a cup of fresh-brewed coffee and a breakfast of fresh scrambled eggs and gallo pinto (typical Costa Rican rice and beans).

Panama Canal

An Adventure on the Panama Canal

Slowly the walls rise above us, hemming us in as our vessel sinks into the depths. Barn-sized doors of riveted steel loom above us as valves open and siphon the water away. With a clank, the doors crack open, widening to reveal another chamber. We sail in, feeling as though we’re in a gigantic bathtub…

Tamarindo

How We Escaped the Snow and Halved Our Costs in Costa Rica

Last December, my husband and I were bundled up in our tiny apartment in Chicago, mourning over the snow and sub-zero temperatures, when we came up with a crazy idea: Let’s sell all of our stuff and move somewhere tropical. When we sat down to talk about the things we truly wanted, it simply came down to creating a life where we control our time and spend it doing things we enjoy. Sometimes, it seems a bit surreal that we now live a five-minute walk to the Pacific Ocean, learning the pura vida way in Costa Rica.

Cuenca

Three Great Day Trips from Cuenca, Ecuador

You have probably heard of Cuenca. It’s Ecuador’s most popular retirement haven, home to thousands of contented expats, colonial architecture, verdant parks, galleries, museums, and plenty of bars and restaurants. But that’s just the city itself. Since arriving, my work with a local tour company has helped me uncover some of the best day trips:

San-Isidro

Birds, Stunning Views, and a Grow-Your-Own Life in Costa Rica

Rita Lucas could not be happier with her life in Costa Rica. “I love the climate…living outdoors most of the time…and my community,” she says. “Living rurally and having my office in my outdoor living room with the stunning view is the icing on my cake.” And what a view it is. Rita’s property is nestled in the mountain range that runs through southern Costa Rica to the southern Pacific coast.

Bocas-del-Toro

Every Day is a Vacation on This Affordable Caribbean Island

Lorelei Kusin lives on an island in Panama’s Bocas del Toro province, and in this part of the Caribbean, time seems to stand still. “Our small house is situated on a bay facing the ocean,” she says. After waking to the sound of chattering birds, Lorelei and her husband James enjoy a cup of freshly ground Panamanian coffee, followed by a smoothie using local fresh produce such as fresh coconut water, mango, pineapple, guanabana, and bananas. “Then I often swim or paddleboard before we head to town in our 22-foot boat.”

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Tattoos, Mooncakes, and Mama Negra

As fall arrives in the northern hemisphere, Nicaragua remains warm, with temperatures averaging 79 F. That makes it easy to enjoy the outdoor festivities that sweep the country. The San Jerónimo festival, in the city of Masaya, sees a statue of the country’s patron saint taken from its usual haunt, the church altar, and carried around the town, accompanied by traditional dancers. One of the procession’s highlights is the Mozote y Verga, in which dancers reenact great battles of Nicaragua’s past from the Filibuster War of 1856 to the ousting of the dictatorship in 1979. The event kicks off on September 30.

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A Korean Park to Avoid if Easily Offended

As I watch the sun setting on the little Korean fishing village of Sinnam, the cicadas singing and a cool breeze blowing in from the sea, I can just about make out the silhouette of a giant penis on the horizon. Which makes sense, of course. Sinnam, in Gangwon province, is home to Haesindang Park (known as Penis Park to visitors), a sculpture park dedicated to sometimes crude, often hilarious, effigies of the male genitalia.

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South African Giants, Eiffel’s Secret and more…

September is a special time in the South African town of Hermanus. The end of this month heralds the arrival of giants just offshore, as the southern right whales return to mate and reproduce. You can get amazing views of these 50-ton behemoths from your hotel room, or catch one of the many chartered boats for an even closer look. Right whales are famously friendly and will often approach boats…a trait that made them an attractive target for the whalers of old. The waters off Hermanus are home to another, more terrifying denizen of the deep: the great white shark. And this is one of the best places in the world to get up close and personal with this awesome predator…from the safety of a cage, of course. For around $110, you can even get a cameraman to film your dive for you.

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The Best of Tokyo, Japan’s City of a Thousand Faces

It’s easy to succumb to the stereotype that Tokyo is a cold, concrete skyline with a 24-hour lifestyle dedicated to hard work. But I know it as one of the friendliest cities I have ever visited, with overwhelming personality and too many hidden cultural gems to count. The Imperial Palace is definitely worth a visit, with its immaculate gardens and history stretching back centuries. The palace was first built in 1888 by Emperor Meiji the Great, who oversaw Japan’s transition from a feudal society to one of the world’s great powers.

Copper-Chart

Tarnished Copper, Shanghai Stocks and more…

Everyone likes to complain about inflation, right? But I have news for you: There are big changes afoot that are going to make many of the things you buy not more expensive, but less. Crude oil now threatens to test its price low of 2009. But oil isn’t the only commodity under pressure. Coffee is down more than 40% since its recent peak in October of last year. You know what’s doing nearly as badly as coffee? Copper. Copper has broken not one, but two important lines of support. In July, Goldman Sachs slashed its price target for copper in 2016 by 44%. In fact, all industrial metals are doing poorly. I’m talking copper, aluminum, tin, nickel, iron.

Isla-Iguana

From Fiesta to Full-Time Living in Panama’s Beachside Paradise

In 2012, Connie and Mikkel Moller planned a trip from their hometown of Auburn, California, to Panama without checking the local calendar. They flew into the busy hub of Panama City, and hopped on a bus to the fishing village of Pedasí. Little did they know it was Carnival season…one big, nationwide party, with the biggest concentrations of revelers just minutes from the town center.

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Own on Ireland’s Romantic West Coast From $50,000

Though the evenings come sooner and the cold is beginning to bite, there’s still enough sunlight in an Irish September to enjoy the splendor of the countryside. Summer leaves are fading to shades of brown, amber, and fiery orange. On the telegraph wires, swallows gather in preparation for their annual migration to southern Africa. I enjoy all four seasons in Ireland, from the first winter snowdrops to the summer strawberries. But it’s days like today, the last vestiges of fading summer warmth before winter arrives in earnest, that you really appreciate walks in the countryside.

Isla-Mujeres

Great Dining on a Tropical Mexican Island

“At the end of a long day, Daisy and I love to visit one of our favorite restaurants,” says Jim Silver of his new life on the Caribbean island of Isla Mujeres, just eight miles offshore from Cancún. “The hard part is selecting which one. Most folks don’t think of Isla Mujeres as a foodie paradise, but it is. Obviously, living on an island means great seafood, but that’s not all you’ll find.”

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Crazy About Food in the Green Hills of Umbria

Judith Greenwood has been dreaming about Italy for as long as she can remember. She studied Italian in college, traveled to Italy during her studies, and many years later—still enthralled with the language, culture, food, and lifestyle—moved to vineyard-rich Umbria, where she has been fully immersed in Italy’s legendary food culture ever since.

penang

Eating Out Five Days a Week and Still Saving Money

“We love Penang for a number of reasons,” says Carol Kildruff of her and her husband Hank’s decision to move to the Southeast Asian island in 2005. “It wasn’t purely for financial reasons, although that was a bonus. Winters in Canada are brutal, and we really wanted somewhere warm for seven months of the year. Of course, when we found out that Penang has the best food in the region, it clinched the deal and made the decision to move all the easier.”

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How to Find Your Perfect Organic Farm in Ecuador’s Andes

Your day starts with a cup of coffee brewed from beans grown right outside your window. Stepping onto the terrace, you look out over rows of hand-planted, organic avocado trees growing lush and tall in the equatorial sun. Beyond them is a patchwork of farms and forests overshadowed by the towering Andes Mountains. Breakfast is eggs from your free range hens, with slices of papaya and a juice prepared from freshly picked naranjillas (think lime mixed with rhubarb) grown on your own patch of land. You breathe in the fresh, clean mountain air and savor the sound of the nearby river and the birds singing on your own peaceful mountain retreat.

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Chic, Trendy, Easy-Going Tulúm

Time has slowed. I’m squinting from the midday sun. The low roar of gentle waves lapping the white-sand shores all along the three mile-long bay mixes with the calls of seabirds. On the horizon, breakers foam over the reef, contrasting with the vivid turquoise sea. It’s hypnotic…a nearly out-of-body experience. Tulúm, a community of around 30,000 people on the south end of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, tends to have that effect on people. It’s the type of place where vacationers fall in love and the next time they return it’s for good.

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Living Well on $1,000 a Month—The Good Life in Peru

You walk out of a gleaming new shopping mall, where you’ve just caught the latest Hollywood release in English and enjoyed a Starbuck’s coffee. You catch a taxi and head toward the edge of town. In less than 10 minutes your taxi stops, as a woman in traditional Andean dress—a skirt, short jacket, and multi-colored wool shawl—guides her small flock of hesitant sheep safely across the road.

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Four Overseas Options to Protect Your Money

The debt-ridden U.S. government is desperate to keep your money inside the country. That’s why the government will always be spreading misinformation…such as the lie that offshore asset protection is dead. The truth is that, for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the offshore option is alive and kicking. It’s never been a more necessary part of your personal wealth preservation plan than right now. It’s also never been easier.

A “New Chapter” in Coastal Panama

Where else can you wake up in the morning, put on shorts and a t-shirt, sit outside, and have breakfast from the fruit on your property with delicious, locally grown coffee? Our new lives are great,” says Sue Dickinson. Home for Sue and her husband Jim is the tiny fishing village of Boca Chica, on the coast of Panama’s Chiriquí province.

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Working the Latitudes for a Low-Stress Life

We’ve been everywhere, all over Costa Rica,” says Jessica Sueiro of her family’s travels through this Central American haven. “This week we’re going to Flamingo beach on the northern Pacific, Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula, and the mountain town of Monteverde, with the cloud forest.”

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The Many Delights of Hidden Amsterdam

Amsterdam is famed as a freewheeling city with a touch of the naughty. And it’s true that Amsterdam has its red-light district and cannabis coffee shops. But don’t let these distract you. Away from the shuffling crowds and overpriced tourist zones lies a quiet, charming city with a different—and more sophisticated—allure. The hidden Amsterdam is just waiting to be discovered.

Carribean-Beach-House

Make Your Dream Living Abroad

If you dream about a life where you have the freedom to “call the shots”…to pick up and head to a cottage on a sun-dappled beach and “retire” in the tropics…or rent a little getaway in a history-rich colonial town for the winter…or take an apartment for a few months a year in Paris or Buenos Aires…but you need the flexibility that would allow you to leave…and an income that could make it happen…

“Why I Started International Living”

We began International Living as a dream. Now it is a reality, not just for us but for thousands of people. I’ve met hundreds of them myself. And never have I met one who regretted it. But let’s back up. When I launched International Living in 1980, I really didn’t know much about living overseas…and barely anything about living at all. I was only 32 years old. What I thought I knew back then came mostly from reading…and from my junior year abroad, which was spent in Paris in 1969.

athenas

Living Rich in Costa Rica for Much Less Than the U.S.

When Riley Jesson first mentioned that he wanted to get out of the rat race, his wife Samantha was unsure. Both of them were advertising executives in San Francisco and she was making a name for herself climbing the corporate ladder. They were on great career paths…but they weren’t happy. So they decided to go in 2008. They had traveled to Costa Rica several times and—like many others—they fell in love with the people and the climate.

Tamarindo

The Pleasures of a Beach Business in Costa Rica

Stephanie Gough can hardly believe how quickly the five years has gone since she moved, with her family, to Costa Rica. “It’s kind of crazy that it’s been that long,” says Stephanie, who lives in the bustling beach town of Tamarindo, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast.

Arraiolos

Arraiolos: Portugal’s Medieval Gem

Vivid colors, countless sizes, the smell of clean wool and the sound of clacking needles…at every turn is another gallery or store where local ladies sit stitching their carpets and tapestries. Nestled in the rolling hills of the Alentejo region of Portugal, Arraiolos is a medieval gem where you can observe an ancient art carried on since before the reconquest of the Iberian peninsula from the Moors.

Ecuador

I’d Rather See a Doctor in Ecuador

Not long ago I found myself suffering a major sinus infection. My head was pounding and I had a cough that kept me (and my husband) awake all night…I was exhausted. Nothing I was taking over-the-counter was helping. I needed to see a doctor. Unfortunately, I was visiting the States. At the doctor’s office in Omaha, I got right in. I did the interview with the nurse about my prior health history and what my symptoms were.

Pet

Moving Overseas With Pets

Pets are a big concern for many potential expats. While the financial and personal advantages of retiring abroad are obvious, it’s not so obvious how to fit four-legged family members into the mix. The mechanics and paperwork for getting Fido or Fluffy from your old home to your new overseas location aren’t overwhelming, but they differ from country to country…and even from season to season.

bocas-del-toro

Earn with Opportunities in “Paradise on Earth”

In 2005, I decided to leave the U.S. for good and move to Panama. The tropical climate is perfect for me—especially the Caribbean isles of Bocas del Toro. Near Panama’s northern border, Bocas is what you picture when someone says “paradise on earth”—white sands, jewel-toned waters, swaying palms, and a slow pace of life. Bocas is just one of Panama’s many, many treasures. If I wanted to I could spend every single day of the year on a different isle or mainland beach.

Santa-Fe

Perfect Weather and Healthy Living on One Social Security Check

The road leading to the town of Santa Fe de Veraguas climbs gently and steadily up the slopes of the Continental Divide, winding past cattle ranches, jungled hillsides and gurgling rivers. The bright blue roof of the Catholic church in the middle of town is one of the first sights you see. This church marks the center of town. Around it you’ll find a soccer pitch, a shaded plaza with benches and a gazebo, and small stores and businesses along the main street.

Granada

Find Fulfillment by Starting a Business Abroad

On my first trip to Granada, Nicaragua several years ago, I stopped in a small bookshop in the historic colonial quarter, just a few blocks from the main square. It was evident the owner—an expat from California—was a lover of literature. Classics…science fiction…travelogues…histories…and more lined the shelves. As I chatted to him, it emerged that he got started when he was just passing through Granada and, looking to make a bit of extra travel money…he laid books out on a blanket on the street to sell.

Peurto Morelos Feat

Fulfilling a Dream on Mexico’s Riviera Maya

After a long career in the restaurant industry in New York and New Jersey, Anthony Chalas was ready for a change. He wanted his own place, where he could fulfill his vision of a seaside restaurant serving Greek food. And he found it on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, in the sleepy fishing village and expat haven of Puerto Morelos. His restaurant, La Sirena, sits on the town square, just across the street from a white-sand beach. Set on the second floor, it allows diners to see the vivid blue sea from the eatery’s open-air deck

Lake Arenal

A Growing Expat Community and Affordable Living in Lake-Side Costa Rica

As I came over the last hill on the road from Tilaran, a small town about 10 minutes from the shore of Lake Arenal, I could see what makes Arenal so special. The stunning lake vistas opened up before me… Most of the land here is forest, pasture, or farm—split by rivers, streams, and rocky waterfalls…natural and unspoiled. And it has that small-town feel, where strangers say “Buenas tardes” as you walk through town or wave if you drive by.

Boquete

Escaping the Emergency Room to Brew Beer in Panama

“I brew beer for a living. How bad can it be?” asks Dave O’Keeffe of the Boquete Brewing Company in Panama. Dave is originally from San Diego and previously worked as an ER nurse in Oregon. “When I decided I wanted to open my own business brewing beer I started looking overseas,” he says. “The market in Oregon is already saturated but here in Panama it’s just getting started. The annual Brew Fest celebration in Panama City gets bigger every year.”

ecuador

Get the Most From Your Dollar When You Move Overseas

There is no question that retiring to the right place can dramatically and automatically cut your overall cost of living. Just think about your own monthly budget without the costs of heating, air conditioning, and vehicle maintenance and insurance. Those costs come right off the top of your budget if you relocate to a place with a year-round temperate climate and a good mass-transit system. I know, because I live in just such a place. And it’s wonderful.

Colombia

Yoga, Fresh Coffee, and Champagne in Medellin, Colombia

The light streams through my window as the birds wake me with their joyful morning chorus. Last night I was lulled to sleep by chirping crickets and the sound of the nearby stream. I peek my head out the window to see fluffy clouds dispersing, revealing another beautiful day in paradise. After getting ready, I grab a notebook and pen and head out the door. The neighborhood fruit vendor senses my morning hunger as I approach his stand. He cracks open an enormous papaya and perfectly ripe mango, and serves me the most delicious fruit salad for just $1.75. “Enjoy,” he says smiling.

San-Juan-Del-Sur

$200 a Month to Rent and 22 Beaches to Play On

Monica Sedgwick and her husband, James, wandered into the laidback Nicaraguan beach town of San Juan del Sur about seven years ago. The pair were immediately hooked on its gorgeous beaches…quieter lifestyle…fun people…and the fact that it was cheap to live there.

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Sign up for our free daily Postcard e-letter and we'll immediately send you a FREE RESEARCH REPORT on the most desirable —and cheapest— retirement havens available to you today.

Each day you'll learn about the best places to retire, travel, buy real estate and enjoy life overseas.

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