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

Quito

My Favorite Things to Do in Quito, Ecuador’s Capital

Each time I visit Quito, I get to explore new and interesting areas, hear of fabulous events taking place, and meet more wonderful people. Among Quito’s 2-million-plus populace is a large community of international folks enjoying the affordable life and big-city buzz. You’ll find them pretty spread out, as there are neighborhoods and lifestyles to suit most tastes. But they’re all making the most of what Quito offers…which is a lot. Here’s some of my favorite things to do…

Dominican-republic

Stuck for a Business Idea? Here’s the Answer

For several years, former mortgage broker Michael Mack had a successful business flipping houses in Florida. When the bargains began disappearing, he decided to take a break and head to the Dominican Republic to figure out his next venture. He rented a place on the beach, and after soaking up the sun and the lifestyle for several weeks, decided he wanted to stay.

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The Truth About the Cost of Living in Costa Rica

My wife Gloria and I have lived in the university town of San Ramon in Costa Rica’s Central Valley for over six years. The climate here is so ideal that we don’t need heat or air conditioning (saving on utility bills). It’s close to the beach (about an hour) and just over 30 minutes to the capital San Jose and all its amenities, including the country’s best hospitals and medical care. San Jose is the country’s shopping Mecca, too, so we have access to everything from international big-box stores to upscale department stores.

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Returning to Old American Values in Costa Rica

Having lived in Costa Rica’s Orosi Valley for a year now, leaving our lives behind in Dallas was the best thing my partner and I could have done. I knew it would be years before I could afford to retire in the States but I was ready for an adventure. I didn’t want to wait. So I started searching… We visited Costa Rica numerous times in the three years before we moved here to find what we called our “Goldilocks Place.” The beaches were gorgeous, but too warm for our taste. The jungles were amazing, but too humid for us. The Central Valley was cooler and popular with expats, but just not quite what we were looking for. Then we found our place in the mountains of the Orosi Valley, about 20 miles south of the capital San Jose. It was “just right.”

Incomes Abroad

Work Smarter, Not Harder: The Secret of Digital Product “Royalties”

Making something once and selling it over and over again has to be one of the sweetest incomes imaginable. Authors and musicians have been doing it for years…one book, one song, lots of royalties. Now this field of passive income is easier to tap into than ever before. The internet has created a demand for digital products—e-books, videos, podcasts—and technology has put the means of producing them at your fingertips.

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Culture, Convenience, and Affordable Living in Sunny Malta

When I first stepped foot on the pink-brick promenades that line the coast here, I immediately understood their love for this place. It’s a little closer to nature than the capital, but it’s still lively and popular, with sunny seaside walkways, busy bay-view restaurants, and distant views of fortresses, churches, and islands. More central and to the west, the walled town of Mdina and the larger city of Rabat that surrounds it are another popular spot with tourists—though the expats don’t seem to have caught on yet. Mdina is quiet and tiny, with under 300 full-time inhabitants, and Rabat is busy and lively, colorful and lived-in, with about 7,000 full-time residents, mostly Maltese.

Mexico

Flight Simulators, Photography, and Other Freelancing Benefits

A decade after leaving the corporate world and moving to Mexico, the word that best sums up my move is “freedom.” These days I’m visiting five to seven countries a year. I have the freedom to set my own schedule…decide what days are workdays…enjoy lunch at the beach with my feet in the warm sand…or park myself in a coffee shop in an easy-going colonial city.

Monkey Road, Costa Rica

Traveling the Monkey Road in Costa Rica

The year was 1997, and my wife, Suzan, and I had just gotten married in a civil service at the Hotel Don Carlos in San Jose, Costa Rica. She remembers that it was my idea, and I remember that it was hers. But whoever thought of it turned out to be a genius, because it set the travel bar pretty high for the rest of our lives.

Costa Rica

Costa Ricans Have Life Figured Out

There’s something about Costa Rica that just makes you think they have the whole lifestyle thing figured out. While every other country in the Western Hemisphere is trying to come up with a snappy marketing slogan to draw investment and tourism, Costa Rica just says “Pura Vida” (“Pure Life”) as they’ve been doing for years. It isn’t even a marketing slogan per se…Costa Ricans actually say it all the time—and they mean it.

Koh-Samui

The 5 Best Places for Expats to live in Thailand

Thailand is one of the world’s most popular locales for good living abroad. And there are lots of reasons why. For pennies on the dollar you get a year-round tropical climate and access to modern comforts and conveniences, including affordable, high quality medical care. There’s something special about this corner of the world. It’s an exotic place—orange-robed monks collect alms at dawn—yet it’s easy to live a comfortable lifestyle, similar to that of the West, but without the headaches and extra expense.

We dine out on delicious Thai food, go to the cinema for an English-language original, or, at a moment’s notice, take off for a beach weekend. And the Thai people are some of the most welcoming in the world. As expat Godfree Roberts says: “Happiness is a priority. Thais live much more in the moment than we typically do. And it’s to everybody’s benefit. The country’s greatest accomplishment is its sophisticated culture.” And it’s beautiful. Think turquoise seas and white

The Loire Valley

In Pictures: The Loire Valley, France

A flower-bedecked cobbled street winding down to the river. A heron lazily flapping towards its nest at sunset. The reflection of yet another fairytale chateau shimmering on the water. Forming a geographical border between northern and southern France, the Loire river transports you on a journey through one of the country’s most fascinating regions.

Atenas

The Expert’s View: How Much to Budget to Live in Costa Rica

When considering a place to retire abroad, there are many factors to keep in mind. The availability of good health and dental care, safety, climate, the price of real estate, the “vibe”… Costa Rica ticks all those boxes (Stayed tuned for more on its dental care in your Daily Postcard tomorrow). It’s a naturally beautiful country to boot with an established expat community and a stable government.

Tamarindo

The Secret That Costa Rica’s Expats Share

Right now I live in Tamarindo. It’s a lively but manageable resort town on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Here I enjoy long days at the beach, fresh—and cheap—seafood dinners, sunset happy hours, and mingling with the vibrant expat community made up of Americans and Canadians in big numbers but also Argentinians, Italians, Israelis, French, and a dozen other nationalities. Everywhere I’ve gone in Costa Rica I’ve met a lot of expats who own and run businesses—surf schools, tour operators, B&Bs, beach bars, art galleries, petsitting, microbreweries, catering, food trucks…and more. But despite their varied niches, all these business owners have something in common.

Mexico

Four of the Best Beaches in Mexico

Narrowing down the best beaches in Mexico is no easy task. With nearly 6,000 miles of coastline, Mexico is home to many gorgeous beaches. But if you ask Mexicophiles which are the best beaches in Mexico, opinions will differ. Beauty, ambience, affordability, and wave quality are all taken into consideration when deciding which beaches in Mexico can be called the best. It all depends what you’re looking for… Here are four very personal choices, in no particular order, and why they make the grade.

Caye-Caulker

Five Places to Live in Belize; Two to Avoid

The English-speaking island of Belize has a lot going for it. For a tiny country, it packs a big wallop when it comes to charm and scenery. For the would-be expat—especially if you’re looking for real value—there are many areas deserving of your attention. Places where you can live the laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle of your dreams.

COSTA-RICA

Why I Keep a Surfboard in My Office

“We could be at the office,” my friend shouts from across the water. It’s 8.30 a.m. on a Tuesday and here we are out surfing on a glorious Costa Rican morning. The sun is shining and the turquoise blue water sparkles as it catches the rays of the morning sun. This is my paradise and also my home. In fact, I only have a 220-yard walk back to the house after my morning session.

roatan

Tropical Island Living From $1,800 a Month

Each morning I’m greeted with vibrant sunshine and the enchanting sounds of a jungle awakening. I often start my day watching the stunning sunrise while walking along the beach. Then, perhaps a late-morning swim in the warm, clear waters or snorkeling on one of the most incredible coral reefs in the world.

jaco

Jacó, Costa Rica: A Video Tour

Located on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, Jacó is a popular beach resort town that plays host to many international and local tourists throughout the year. It’s also home to a sizeable expat population. It’s known for great restaurants and vibrant nightlife, a wide beach perfect for long walks, and consistent surf. Sport fishing, kayaking, and hiking in the surrounding jungle are also popular. Local expats are active in community churches, volunteering in the community, and simply hanging out with friends.

Tulum

In Pictures: Tulúm, Mexico

On the southern end of Mexico’s Riviera Maya is the up-and-coming expat destination of Tulúm. This small but lively beach community offers a warm tropical climate year-round, as well as white-sand beaches and vibrant turquoise Caribbean waters. Good value condos and homes means retirees and other expats live by the beach for less. And an active expat community, great restaurants, and plenty of modern amenities and services make for a great lifestyle.

play-conchal

Enjoy Tropical Living in Balmy Costa Rica

As a 5-year-old Canadian spending Christmas holidays in Southern California, I had a lightbulb moment—there were countries that didn’t have snow! Ever since, I harbored a desire to live in one. So when my husband, Tim, and I came to Costa Rica on our honeymoon—and fell in love with it—we decided to move here. With such friendly people, a large expat community, and many English speakers in the area, we felt it would be an easy place for us to transition.

Placencia

The Retiree Program That Can Save You Thousands

Toward the southern end of Belize, you’ll find a 17-mile-long peninsula that has become a center of expat activity and tourism in recent years. Developments and homes can be found up and down its length, as can beautiful beaches and views of the blue Caribbean. But Placencia Village, the walkable community at the peninsula’s far southern tip, is where Paul Petit and his wife Gail decided to settle.

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Knights, Truffles, and Bolivar’s Birthday

With summer in full swing, many parts of the world can get hot at this time of year. The Philippines is one of them, with average temperatures pushing above 80 F. So July is a perfect month to get a refreshing splash of water, and the Bocaue River Festival is a perfect opportunity to do just that. Taking place in the municipality of Bocaue on the main island, Luzon, on the first Sunday in July, the festival commemorates the holy cross found in the river around 200 years ago. A pagoda—an ornately decorated barge—is set afloat in the river, accompanied by small boats. Attendees douse themselves with water to mark the occasion.

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Pilgrimage to Ireland’s Holiest Mountain

Every Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July, as many as 50,000 pilgrims clamber up Croagh Patrick’s stony slopes to a tiny oratory on the summit. Twenty years on, my feet still remember the day I joined them and reached the top of Ireland’s holiest mountain. Looming 2,507 feet over the coastal village of Murrisk in County Mayo, Croagh Patrick is affectionately known as “the Reek.” Legend tells that after fasting and praying on its summit for 40 days and nights, St. Patrick supposedly cast out Ireland’s snakes from this spot.

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Mystical Halong Bay, a Cliff-Hanger Hotel, & more…

Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular wonders. This 580-square-mile natural cove contains some 2,000 limestone islands—occupied only by trees, ferns, birds, and monkeys. Small floating villages and isolated sandy beaches also entice. The best—and perhaps the only—way to see Halong Bay in its entirety is by boat, or more specifically, by junk. A junk is an ancient Chinese sailing-ship design, and many junks still sail Halong Bay.

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Swim in a Cenote and Dine with the Maya in Mexico’s Yucatán

Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula has a lot more to offer visitors than just sun and sand. As well as miles of pristine beaches and Cancún’s modern conveniences, the region is dotted with cenotes (underground lakes formed from limestone sinkholes): portals into the mysterious Maya underworld. This part of Mexico is also home to some of the last remnants of Maya culture in the country. And with the Mayan Nature Experience Cenote Tour, from the Layla Guesthouse in the beach town of Puerto Morelos, you can now experience all of this. This intimate tour yielded memories worth far more than the 900 pesos (about $60 dollars) I paid for it.

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A Country Life With Easy Beach Access on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast

Lance and Mary Miller spend their time doing things they want to do…for the first time in their lives. Sometimes that’s something as simple as enjoying coffee and fresh-baked coffee cake and cookies on their porch with friends. They can afford everything they need to live a comfortable retirement. And when they want it, the beach is just down the road. “We came to Costa Rica with the attitude that it’s an adventure. It’s fun! We want to be part of the community. We always knew we wanted to retire overseas. We did a lot of research, and Costa Rica kept coming up,” says Mary, 60.

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Find Passion and Purpose in Punta Gorda

Before moving to Belize, Polly Alford lived a cushy life in southeastern England. She had a lucrative job with an IBM partner company, drove a convertible Volvo, owned a comfortable home, and vacationed several times a year. But she wasn’t content…Whenever Polly returned home from an exotic diving vacation, she wondered what it would be like to live a different lifestyle…in an exotic location…where she could indulge her favorite passion, scuba diving. So in October 2003 she gave in to that yearning.

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Laidback, Affordable Beach-Living in Beautiful Belize

In November 2011, Patrick Snyder made his first trip to Belize, to visit his brother. Planning to spend a month, he stayed for seven. He then returned home, took care of his personal affairs, packed his belongings, and returned to Belize in 2012. “I like the peace and quiet in Punta Gorda, and the slow pace of life. I enjoy being right on the bay. People here are friendly. I live simply and it’s been easy to make new friends. At this point in my life, I could not ask for more.”

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The Easiest Way to Get a Colombian Visa

Applying for a Colombian visa used to be an ordeal. It was difficult to find correct visa information online—particularly on government websites—and even harder to find the needed forms. Today it’s easy, thanks to Colombia’s revamping of its visa and immigration system, complete with modern facilities and up-to-date online information—even in English.

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Matagalpa: Nicaragua’s Cool, Green, Mountain Retreat

You notice the difference the minute your vehicle starts lumbering up the excellent road that circles the city. You suddenly feel a cool breeze through the window; everything is green and fresh. You’ve left the hot lowlands behind. You feel like you are somewhere else as you pass acres of coffee beans drying out in the sun, trees that you’ve never seen before, mountain vistas at every turn, and horses and cattle on their ranches eyeing you curiously. Miles and miles of thick forest beckon you to explore.

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First-World Comforts in Cebu, the Philippines… “Queen City of the South”

“I’m living the life of a millionaire, even though I’m not earning a lot,” says British expat Johnny of his fantastic new life in the Philippine city of Cebu. “I have the freedom to do everything I want to, because life is so much cheaper here.” And he’s not alone. Johnny is just one of many expats, a growing number of them from the U.S., to find an ideal retirement in Cebu. This modern city boasts a First-World lifestyle at Asian prices—expats live comfortably here for $2,500 a month, all told, and often for much, much less. If I were to call any Philippine city home, this would be it.

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How to Travel the World with an Affordable Roving Retirement

You can travel in style and stay in amazing places (like Tuscany, pictured) when you have the secrets of the roving retirees. © Kre_geg-Istock Traveling the world in retirement was once the sole purview of the rich and famous…but no more. These days, the world is more accessible than ever to everyday people—if you know […]

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What You Need to know About Taxes When you Retire Abroad

For U.S. citizens looking to retire overseas, one of the main concerns is their tax obligations. How will the big move affect the taxes they have to pay? And will they still be able to access their retirement income overseas without difficulty? By and large, these issues are more straightforward than you might expect.

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A Windsurfer Finds His Dream Job

With its great windsurfing and stunning beaches, the town of Cabarete, on the Dominican Republic’s north coast, draws thousands of visitors each year. Its sand, sun, and surf were what first enticed expat Peter Orr to this part of the Caribbean. And today they bring a regular stream of customers to his business—a beachside hotel. “While working in Barbados in the early 80s, I got to experience the Caribbean lifestyle and windsurfing. I formed a dream of buying a little hotel on a Caribbean island when I was done working for someone else,” says Peter. More than 20 years later, Peter did exactly that.

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My Photos Pay for My Ecuadorian Adventure

They say the best way to make a living—if you can—is to monetize your hobby. Sometimes that can be easier said than done. But if you can do it, it can lead to a far more enjoyable and fulfilling vocation. This has been the case for me in the Ecuadorian mountain city of Cuenca. Its beautiful colonial architecture and friendly, colorful locals have enabled me to supplement my retirement income through photography.

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Hungry Ghosts, Water Fights and Fun—Southeast Asia’s Top 5 Festivals

I ’d never seen a festival like it in my life, and I’d been living in Southeast Asia for 16 years: the massive procession of people winding its way through the streets, bearing aloft colorful offerings of fruit, flowers, and food, following a glowing chariot to the temple where they unburden themselves. Many of them adorn their bodies with ornate but painful-looking piercings and shave their heads as a sign of devotion.

Costa-Rica_Arenal

Find Your Perfect Retirement Overseas

Mike and Alice Olson were born, raised, and married in Fargo, North Dakota. They raised their children there. But there came a time when they’d had enough and wanted to leave the harsh North Dakota winters behind. “We wanted to live in a place that was warm…and peaceful,” they say.

Ecuador---The-Last-Word

A Nomadic Retirement is Easier Than Ever

Back in 2001, my wife and I decided to leave the cold climate of Nebraska behind and embark on an epic adventure to find our perfect retirement destination. We traveled to several different countries in search of our dream home, creating incredible memories in the process and opening our eyes to the immense possibilities that living abroad has to offer. On our travels, we enjoyed new food, new locations, made new friends, and lived the kind of happy, healthy retirement few could dream of just a few short decades ago.

otavalo

Shopping for Profit in Ecuador

Ecuador is a land of rainforests, breathtaking river gorges, and volcanic hot springs, where you can be pampered by affordable spa treatments or simply enjoy the beautiful landscapes. My life has changed over the last 10 years since I discovered how to fund my travels and spend more time there. I feel so fortunate to have had the experiences I’ve logged on my trips.

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Your Chance to Retire Overseas Now

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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