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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bruges

Get Paid $30,500 for a Summer Trip to Europe

I love traveling around Europe…and being able to earn as I travel is a real bonus. Last summer I visited eight European destinations and got paid four times from my travels. In total, my trip to Europe earned me $30,500. I had wanted to visit Belgium for some time, particularly the medieval city of Bruges, with its cobbled streets, canals, and perfectly preserved old buildings, so I organized some assignments there. I finally got to climb the 366 steps of the famous Belfry of Bruges and enjoyed a wonderful view over this historic town…I took a canal tour and heard stories about the rich heritage of this prosperous place…I had a wonderful dinner in one of the many canal-side restaurants.

Canary Islands

Get Paid to Tour the World—Up to $4,000 a Trip

I live an idyllic life on a Spanish island, named Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa. Here, the temperatures are between 70 F and 85 F all year round, with 350 days of sun. I am surrounded by beautiful, white-sand beaches and I get to surf the waves every day. This is the ideal base for me. And in just four hours I can be back in Central Europe, where I do a lot of my “work.” As a travel videographer being on the road is just like being a tourist with a list of attractions to visit, the only difference being that I am getting paid for it. In fact, I can get paid up to $4,000 or more per trip by making short videos for tourist boards, hotels, tour companies, spas, and anyone looking to promote a tourist attraction on a website.

istabul

Travel With Your Camera For This Easy Extra Income

I’ve spent my life living overseas, teaching in international schools, and now that I’m retired, I want to travel even farther. I just need a little extra income to do it…and now I’ve found it. As I neared retirement age, I realized that I would have to find a way of making some extra money if I wanted to continue traveling and maintain my lifestyle. My pension, although adequate for a sedentary life, wasn’t going to allow me much freedom. So I began looking for ways where I could earn a little extra money here or there, as I continued to travel. That research paid off when I discovered that I could take travel videos with my regular camera and sell them.

Central Valley

Picking the Perfect Retirement Destination

In 2008, when my husband Paul and I first started talking about the possibility of retiring overseas, we really only considered two countries: Mexico and Costa Rica. I often wonder why we didn’t consider more countries at the time; there are so many great options. At the time, though, we only thought of countries where we’d had some personal experience. First up was Mexico. Paul lived and went to college there in the ’70s and has always had a love for both the country and its culture, so it was natural that Mexico was on our short list. I had visited Costa Rica on a business trip in the ’90s and remembered it as a beautiful country that I always wanted to visit again.

Ecuador

Create the Life You Want

There’s an old joke about the tourist who gets lost on the back roads of Maine. He comes across an old farmer and asks, “Do you know how to get to Portland?” After a long pause, the farmer replies, “E-yup. But you can’t get there from here. The farmer’s nonsensical response offers an important lesson to those who wish to live life on purpose…work at what they love…and follow their own road. I spent seven years commuting 90 miles a day to a management job in a large corporation.

Paris

Discovering a Niche in the Paris Food Scene

Back in the 1980s, Terresa Murphy arrived in the City of Lights. “I came with my guitar,” she says. “I played for money in the metro to begin with, then in cafes. Then in the ’90s, after much back-and-forth between Paris and the States, I got a job at the city’s International Cinematography Festival through a friend.” But it was food that really drew Terresa’s attention. “I fell in love with French food culture, particularly the artisan approach to both ingredients and cooking. It wasn’t considered artisan at the time,” she says. “It was just the norm.”

Making Million-Dollar Profits From e-Books

This week I’ve tried to give you some insights into how a simple-to-execute e-book strategy can fund your life overseas. Since I started producing e-books more than 14 years ago, they’ve created an income that has allowed me to live some of the very biggest dreams of my life. That income has taken me to Laurenzana, a small village in the ankle of the boot of Italy, where my mother’s family comes from.

Ecuador

Paradise in Ecuador for Pennies on the Dollar

“I feel like it’s a real gift to be here,” says Vilcabamba expat Jeff Hutner. It’s a sentiment I have heard echoed time and again from expats in this part of Ecuador. What’s so enthralling about this little highland town just north of the Peruvian border? Well, for Jeff and his wife Jamie, it’s the ability to afford a quality life surrounded by beauty. Nestled into a warm valley ringed by high Andean peaks, the town of Vilcabamba leaves little to be desired. The warm (but not steamy) year-round weather is perfect for plant life. Trees with surfboard-sized fronds stand watch over neon flowers and creeping vines. Crystalline rivers tumble through the valley and there are plenty of hiking trails crisscrossing the slopes.

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An Array of Affordable Healthcare Options Overseas

Some things are the same no matter where you go. And whether you stay home or go overseas, healthcare is an important concern. The main difference—as you’ll discover on page 18—is the affordable array of healthcare options available to you when you leave North America. This month, we take a look at the five best retirement havens for healthcare. While you’ll find good healthcare available in many of the places we talk about, the five we have selected really stand out for affordability and quality of service. In all of these countries you’ll find world-class hospitals, English-speaking doctors, and all the medications you’ll need…and at a fraction of the price in the U.S. Turn to page 18 to find out more.

Solar-stocks-chart

Solar Stocks, Tax Credits and Street Cred…

At the beginning of 2015, the crazy market barber was chasing down every solar stock in town with a pair of shears. But against all odds (and the charts) solar stocks are quickly re-growing these days—and setting up a hell of a trading opportunity for you, too. And you’re looking at a 20% gain in just a few months if you have the stones to pull the trigger today. I backed off solar at the beginning of 2015 because every finance article that wasn’t about the oil crash was about solar power. But in February, solar started looking a little less awful. It started slinking higher, while the major averages had a brownout. That was our clue that something big was brewing. The Guggenheim Solar ETF (NYSE:TAN) is now up 20% since bottoming out in January. That’s a new bull market, baby!

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Tarija: Bolivia’s Andean Paradise for $1,200 a Month

Nestled in an Andean valley at 6,000 feet, the Bolivian city of Tarija is truly one of South America’s great undiscovered gems. You’ll find colonial architecture, a near-perfect Mediterranean climate, and vineyards outside town stretching to the horizon. It’s also one of the most affordable cities in the Americas: you can live a comfortable retirement in a centrally-located apartment for $1,200 a month, including rent, enjoy a delicious three-course meal for as little as $4, or visit one of its many medical facilities from $20. Tarija is home to 235,000 people, among them a small community of around 250 expats— mostly from Europe, North America, and New Zealand.

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Lisbon: Western Europe’s Most Affordable Capital

Lisbon’s faded grace is utterly enchanting. In the old city’s steep, narrow streets, once-grand buildings display worn facades, battered shutters, and laundry hanging from the balcony. Tailors and cobblers ply their services from tiny, bedraggled shops, while the baked-sugar smell of custard and caramel wafts out the doors of ancient pastelarias. And up every steeply sloping street in this hilly city, it seems, labors a groaning trolley car, while far below glitters the River Tejo. Portugal’s capital—home to half a million people—is a gracious city, yet also one with an odd, pensive gravity: a world-weariness born perhaps of great age and of empires gained and lost.

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The Five Best Retirement Havens for Quality Healthcare Overseas

Spiraling healthcare and insurance costs are a thing of the past for thousands of North Americans who have found their dream retirement haven abroad. If you’re still mulling your overseas options, then the availability of quality and affordable healthcare is likely a primary concern. Over the next few pages, we explore five countries hand-picked by our expat experts for the exceptionally high quality of their healthcare. All five destinations have become expat hubs, and the North Americans who now call them home—including our correspondents—can attest to the high level of care they’ve received there.

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The Best Way to Legally Preserve Your Wealth Overseas

Back in November 2013, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) floated the idea of a “one-off wealth tax” to help pay off the debts of heavily-indebted developed countries, like the U.S., Japan, and much of Europe. Such a tax had been used earlier that year in Cyprus. It wasn’t just the IMF, either: The European Union, the German Bundesbank, and the Bank of England had all been dropping hints that a wealth tax could be coming soon. Ideally (for government, anyway), a “wealth tax” would be imposed on households’ net worth —including their shareholdings and fixed assets such as real estate—but this would pose difficult logistical and enforcement problems. So the most likely scenario is a levy on bank balances, as in Cyprus. Banks would simply be instructed to deduct a certain percentage of the balance—say, 10%—of each savings, checking, or deposit account and transfer it to the government or central bank.

Artisan Soaps Support a New Life in Mexico

Mexico’s chic beach resort of Puerto Vallarta has been attracting expats for decades, thanks to its warm climate and sophisticated but affordable First-World living. But while many come to lounge by the sea or stroll the cobblestone streets of the city’s Romantic Zone, Canadian Pat Light has found in Puerto Vallarta a moneymaking opportunity. The former hospital administrator has turned her love for exotic handmade soaps into a thriving business. In addition to colorful soaps, Pat also sells shampoos and body creams scented with the coconut, lime, and mango of her new home. Like many businesses, hers grew out of a hobby. A longtime admirer of handmade soap, Pat ran out of supplies after moving to Mexico in 2007. This led her to try to create her own.

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Following My Passions to Teach in Cusco

Martine Rheaume was 52 years old when she left everything behind in Boston to start a new life in Cusco, Peru, as an English teacher with no prior experience. Three years later, she has more friends than ever before, a dream job with more work than she can handle, and a renewed passion for life that only living in Latin America can give you. “I landed in Peru with only ‘mañana’ and ‘gracias,’ but six months later I was speaking Spanish and had an active social life,” she says. Originally from Montreal, Martine has traveled extensively all her life, fueled by her strong interest in ancient history. It was this that ultimately led her to Peru.

Myth and Majesty in Spain’s Sierra Nevada

As I savor coffee on a honeysuckle-scented terrace, it strikes me that Lanjarón doesn’t look at all weird. South of Granada, on the edge of Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains, this beguiling little spa town overlooks the ruins of an old Moorish castle. Its spring-fed fountains are tiled with snippets of Federico García Lorca’s poetry. Its whitewashed houses have saintly wall shrines and balconies hung with geraniums. Its long main street is a sun-splashed jumble of florists, tapas bars, and old-fashioned stores stocked with locally produced hams and honey.

The-Last-Word

Kiss Your Healthcare Worries Goodbye

Recently I spent a month in the U.S. visiting family and friends. It was my longest continuous stint “back home” since I moved to Mexico eight years ago. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and enjoy the U.S., and I did. There’s a lot that I love about my home country, including its beauty, the sheer convenience of life there, and, of course, its familiarity. I don’t include the high—indeed, exorbitant—cost of U.S. healthcare on that list of things I love. Those who live in the U.S. don’t have any choice—that expensive healthcare is all they have. But in moving abroad I gained a choice in the matter, and it’s been one of the best things about my move.

gozo

Live Well on a Small Budget on the Mediterranean Island of Gozo

It was the middle of January and I was on a beautiful coastal walk with the sun warming my skin and a gentle breeze cooling my face. To my left, fields of bright green clover, patches of fresh thyme and chamomile, and small stone goat sheds made from pinkish-white stones stretched up a hill. To my right, sheer cliffs dropped into the ocean, which stretched into the horizon. Behind me, a small ancient fort stood watch over the coastline. And ahead, a dusty, but well-kept path led over rocky beaches, deserted swimming areas, and clay mudslides, now dried in the sunshine. When I describe this January scene, where do you picture me? In South America, where January is summertime? In Ecuador or Hawaii, with their year-round mild climates?

Ecuador

Experience Ecuador’s Best Local Traditions

Every year, more than a million visitors travel to Ecuador for a taste of what this small South American country offers. The Galapagos Islands are undoubtedly Ecuador’s biggest attraction, but those who choose to explore the mainland itself are in for a cultural treat. This equatorial country is soaked in tradition—some of which originated in the times of the Incas, or even earlier. I’ve lived in Ecuador for three years and the longer I’m here, the more I learn and experience. And because the locals are so friendly and welcoming, I’m often included in their traditions—if you spend more than a few days in one place here, you will be too.

Roatan-Honduras

5 of the Best Affordable Tropical Islands for Retirees

In this article, we outline the best five tropical island paradises for retirees. These places meet all the criteria needed to make them perfect retirement havens. As well as looking the part, all five of these islands—spread throughout the world—are becoming easier to get to as more and more flights open up to and from North America. Many tropical getaways have been consumed by commercialism, leaving them beyond every reasonable budget. But the islands on our list remain affordable, as attested by our expat experts on the ground. On some, it’s possible to live for as little as $1,500 a month including rent.

Earn From e-Books…While Someone Else Does the Writing

Like many people, I grew up believing the expression that “if you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” These days I make big money from e-books—sometimes as much as $5,000 a day—but I don’t do it all myself. I let someone else do the writing…while I enjoy traveling to countries I never thought I’d visit…touring around Tuscany in Italy…or going on safari in Africa.

tuscany

A Six-Figure Income in Tuscany – Thanks to e-Books

It was a lovely fall day as we strolled through Radda in Chianti, a beautiful walled medieval town in Tuscany. Seeing an ATM across the road, I decided to top up my supply of euros. Now, millions of people every day who are living or traveling abroad use a debit card from their native country to withdraw cash. But my card is truly international.

The Best-Kept Secret About Making Money From e-Books

I didn’t have a passport until I was almost 50 years old. Of course, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have one, because I didn’t have a reliable source of income that would allow me to use it very often anyway. In fact, for almost 10 years, not only did I not have a reliable source of income…sometimes I didn’t even have an income. That partly explains why my family and I were evicted from our home and the following year lost our last automobile to repossession.

boquete

Is This the Most Fun You Can Have Making Money in Panama?

“I wasn’t really looking to make a move at all,” says Deborah Gershon. “I came to visit Boquete in Panama’s Chiriqui Highlands a few times in order to decide whether it might be my ultimate retirement spot.” “Somewhere along the way on my last visit, it occurred to me that there really wasn’t any reason to wait, since I could telecommute nearly as well from Panama as I was doing from California.” Born and raised in Los Angeles, 59-year-old Deborah is an attorney.

Nicaragua

The Secrets of a Permanent Vacation in Nicaragua

I love living in Nicaragua. You might think it’s because I was able to buy a wonderful ocean-view home that I could never afford in the States. My house, on nearly an acre of land, would cost 10 times more in my home town of San Diego than the $132,000 I paid for it here. Or, you might assume that I love it so much because I was able to retire 11 years early…or because the sunny warm weather puts a smile on my face every morning. You could point to the more fulfilling life I have now, complete with fabulous friendships I’ve made with local people and other expats, and ask if that’s the reason.

Panama

Whales, Villages, and Big City Living

Anne Gordon de Barrigón didn’t want to come to Panama the first time she was invited. “But it was a period of transition in my life and I was restless,” she recalls. “So my friend convinced me and I just fell in love with the country and the people. I knew it was the right place for me and I’ve been here ever since.” That was in 2004. Today Anne, age 57, lives in the leafy and tranquil Ancon neighborhood of Panama City with her husband and together they own and operate whale-watching and indigenous village tours.

Panama

“Why I Chose Panama”

Crackle! Pop! Fizz! It isn’t my morning cereal talking to me. It’s midnight on February 14, and the sound of fireworks has us all running to the balcony. Over Panama Bay, we watch flower and star-shaped formations explode into the night sky, then cascade into the Pacific. Back in the States, Valentine’s Day would hardly be cause for such jubilation, but in Panama it is Carnival season. The dates change every year, so festivities can take place during the four days preceding Catholic Lent. One might say that Panamanians mark their calendars religiously, but Carnival is not about being good or saintly. Quite the opposite, in fact.

David

We Don’t Worry About Healthcare Costs in Panama

Ah yes, another warm, sunny day in Panama is drawing to a close. It’s been just one of many afternoons spent reclining lazily on our terrace watching the iguanas, birds, and squirrels cavorting in our yard. Unfortunately the day did not start out that way. My poor husband suffers periodically from allergies and, after completing some vigorous yard work he had irritated, sore eyes and itchy skin. But after a quick trip to our local farmacia (pharmacy) he was symptom-free.

Costa Rica

A Simpler Life with a Colorful Income

Colette Holmes and her husband, Nick, weren’t planning a permanent move from Los Angeles to the Pacific beach town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica. “We came because Nick was a baseball coach,” Colette explains. “It was just a seasonal job. But after spending a little time here, we decided that we wanted to make a life in Costa Rica. We wanted a different life—a bit slower, a bit simpler.” And that’s what the couple got.

Panama

Tropical Living Where Your Money Goes Further

Since we moved to Panama in 2010, we spend most of our time outside…breathing the fresh air and looking at nature. We eat out on the patio, play games there, listen to music, draw, read, or play darts. In the mornings, my wife and I go to the patio and drink our coffee and look at the garden we have made. We’re keen gardeners and the Panamanian climate is perfect for growing things—all year around. The garden has palms and many other tropical plants. I make bonsai trees and am working on growing more plants to sell to the nurseries. I also have an orchid collection. It’s my first venture into making money from a hobby and I’m looking at a potential $1,000 a month. That goes a long way in Panama.

Granada-Nicaragua

Five Top Retirement Havens with the Lowest Cost of Living

In International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2015, we ranked and rated the 25 best retirement havens in the world. You can stretch your dollars in any of them and live better than you can back home—for less. But the five below offer the lowest cost of living and come out on top in the Cost of Living category in the Index.

Cotacachi

The U.S. Versus Ecuador

My husband Dan Prescher and I were in the States for the Christmas holidays last year—the most frenetic and stressful time to visit. There’s so much pressure, so much to do, so much to spend money on…and it’s icy cold! Temperatures for a few days running while we were visiting in Omaha hovered at about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. I hate to admit this, but there were a few days when I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. I’m no longer used to (or very tolerant of) those kinds of bone-chilling, life-threatening temperatures. And that’s not to mention that the sun depressingly slips away at 4:30 p.m. on a winter afternoon.

Santa-Fe-Panama

A Warm Climate, Stunning Views, and Gaps in the Market

“I came to Panama 10 years ago on vacation and never left,” says Carl Conway. “I was drawn in by the sunshine and blue skies…the warm water and sandy beaches…the palm trees and bright flowers…it was a tropical paradise.” Now age 43, Carl enjoys a rich and laidback life in the rural town of Santa Fe in Veraguas Province of central Panama.

Boquete

The Pleasures of Part-Time Life in Panama

When my husband, Gary, and I retired part-time to Panama it was to escape bleak Canadian winters. We spend the summer months in Canada and when the first snows come, we fly south. Panama, with its magnificent beaches and warm climate offers daily sunshine…inexpensive living…and leisurely hours just sitting on our terrace watching the iguanas and the birds. If we want to venture forth we can hop in our car and tour the countryside, walk near the village of Cerro Punta in the high country, browse the marvellous and modern library in Boquete, or attend the delightful flea market near Dolega.

caso

From New York to Panama: Glamorous Living For Less

Film editor and producer Sarah Tyler was living in New York when she decided she was ready to say goodbye to grueling winters. “I also wanted the experience of traveling abroad and practicing Spanish,” she says. Sarah now lives in Panama City’s Casco Viejo sector, where she feels at home among the cobbled streets and colonial plazas that she loves. “It’s a neighborhood known for its beauty and historical value,” says Sarah. “There’s a great bohemian vibe thanks to the people that live and visit here—artists, wayfaring travelers, investors, and entrepreneurs from all over the world.”

5 Countries with the Best Healthcare in the World

Residents of the country pay into La Caja. The fee is 7% to 11% of the person’s monthly income, which provides coverage for a spouse as well as a dependent. “After you pay your monthly fee, you receive free care,” says InternationalLiving.com Costa Rica editor Jason Holland. “Anything you need is available through a nationwide network of clinics and hospitals: doctor’s visits, medical testing, prescriptions, major surgeries, and hospitalization,” Holland says.

Ecuador

Have Business, Will Travel

After years of trying to find a way to travel and getting nowhere but frustrated, I was struck by inspiration. Maybe, just maybe, I could create a business that paid me to travel. The more I played with that idea (which seemed outrageous at the beginning), the more determined I became. Gradually, it started to happen. I wrote motivational articles and, after a while, invitations to speak at seminars began to come in. That, of course, meant traveling.

spain

An Easy Earner That Fits Your Travels

White-sand beaches…ancient wonderlands…and cities full of flamenco music and orange trees. Thanks to my ability to teach English, I have seen them all. And it doesn’t matter what age you are when you start. I’ve had colleagues in their 70s. My path as an English teacher has taken me across four continents over the past 15 years. It has allowed me the opportunity to travel extensively—never being tied to one place for longer than the term of a teaching contract—unless I wanted to extend.

Panama-city

The Glitter and Pageantry of Retirement in Panama

If you love boisterous, colorful celebrations, folklore, and pageantry you will love retirement in Panama. Panamanians work hard and play hard; they have music in their souls. They’re happy, gregarious folks who love to set aside their cares and woes and “party hearty.” You’ll find arguably more formal opportunities to celebrate in Latin America than anywhere else on earth.

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