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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central-valley

A Dentist Trip Gave Me More to Love About Costa Rica

Before we moved to Costa Rica, my family and I lived in Colorado. While Colorado is gorgeous, for three to six months of the year, we were covered in snow; we found ourselves snowed in more often than not at our house in the mountains. We were also spending nearly $600 each winter month just to stay warm. We had fires in the fireplace, heaters running, and we still had a tough time getting our home to climb over 65 degrees during the cold winter days.

Esterillos

A Laidback Community in the Heart of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific

On a quiet stretch of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific you’ll find a low-key beach community. It’s been a fishing village for decades—the fishermen still go out every morning. It’s called Esterillos and if you’re looking for laidback life with a rural feel, it could be your perfect spot.

Don’t Postpone Finding Freedom Overseas

For too many of us, daily life means paying mounting bills, commuting to work, staying there far longer than is healthy, and worrying about…well…everything. It’s what folks call the rat race. The futile grind. It’s stressful, it’s bad for your health, and it feels like it will never end. But freeing yourself from it is easier than you think. In this issue of International Living we hear from expats who have already escaped and taken advantage of low costs overseas to free themselves. They are living in beautiful locations around the world, enjoying lives that are a far cry from their experiences back in the States.

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Shamanic Rituals and Ancient Theater

Renowned for its beaches and culture, the Indonesian island of Bali plays host to the annual Bali Arts Festival from June 13. This celebration of traditional art and dance includes tribal dress—resplendent golden headgear, vibrantly-colored saris, and ornate tribal masks—and traditional dance unlikely to be seen anywhere outside the remote villages where it originated. A terrific way to immerse yourself in the unique traditions of the Eastern world while soaking up some glorious rays.

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Giants Beneath the Bridge

Looking at the lofty, snow-capped peaks, it’s not hard to see how tales of the huldufólk, the “hidden people” of ancient lore, came to be. This is Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsula, abounding with the kind of awe-inspiring mountain scenery that this island nation is renowned for.

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Rio for Free, Own Your Own Elephant & More…

Ever wonder what it would be like to work with elephants for a day in the jungles of northern Thailand? At the Patara Elephant Camp, you can. Not all elephant camps are created equal but this is one of the highest on the list when it comes to ethics and dedicated mahouts (elephant handlers).

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Explore Buenos Aires’ Vibrant Graffiti

Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan city chock-a-block with visual delights. From sultry tango dancers in the streets to impressive French architecture and monuments, stylish street cafés, and street ferias (fairs) enlivened by entertainers, arts and crafts.

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A Stress-free, Healthy Retirement in Friendly, Colonial Cuenca

My husband and I were happily living in Arizona in a retirement community when, in 2008, everything changed,” says Patty Grimm. The financial crisis dealt the couple a heavy blow, and they no longer felt they could live the same quality of life on their retirement income. “We knew that if we wanted to keep our nest egg, we’d have to look outside of the U.S. to live.”

Cuenca

Why Cuenca is Ecuador’s Most Popular Retirement Haven

Cuenca is a cultural hub, with no shortage of things to do. And as entertainment is modestly priced, you’ll have plenty of money in your pocket to afford it. A thriving expat community guarantees you’ll find plenty of like-minded people in the city and have no trouble making friends.

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“It’s So Easy to Meet People and Make Friends”

“Congestion, noise, and frenetic energy.” That’s how Maureen LoBue describes her former life in San Diego. Her new life in Panama couldn’t be more different. Here, her days consist of salsa dancing, swimming, and plenty of happy hours. “I rent a three-bedroom house with three porches and a huge yard—in the beach town of San Carlos—for just $800 a month,” says Maureen. Panama City is just over an hour away. She goes often, adding that a bus to the vast Albrook Mall and National Bus Terminal is just $2.50. And she’s about 10 minutes by car from a hub town bustling with supermarkets, shops, a clinic, and more.

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“I Have a Second Lease on Life”

Jennifer Blackstone’s newfound tropical lifestyle is a far cry from her childhood in Wisconsin. In fact, it’s a life she didn’t think she could ever have. “Several things fell into place and conspired to get me to Panama,” says Jennifer, who fell in love with the tropics several years ago. “I visited Costa Rica and I loved the tropical feel…the colorful flowers and the warm ocean,” she says. “But the thought of living there…it was a fantasy.

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How to Fly Your Pets to Ecuador

So you’ve decided to move to Ecuador. You’ve done your research and know just the town to begin your adventure. You’ve got your documents sorted for getting a residence visa. You’ve even gone through the house and decided what will go with you and what will stay or be sold. But what about your beloved family pet? Just how do you bring Fido or Kitty into Ecuador from the United States or Canada? This is a concern for many aspiring expats. As it turns out, it’s really not all that difficult.

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Brazil: Quality Healthcare, Half the cost

Although best known for samba, carnival, and success on the soccer field, these are not the only achievements Brazil has to its name. This country also has high-quality and highly affordable healthcare, as I have found over the course of my six-plus years living as an expat here.

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Stepping Out of the Rat Race into Old-World Spain

For years I dreamed of leaving the stressful rat race of working life behind and finding my own Eden where I could retire in peace. And in 2014 I finally did just that. I discovered a highly affordable, fun, and stress- free retirement in the seaside Spanish town of Altea. When I told people I was going to abandon my career as a forensic psychologist in California and leave the San Luis Obispo area to move to Spain, I got one of two reactions: They either thought I was nuts or they were envious.

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The Maltese Islands: Year-Round Sun and Affordable Living

When I think about my time on Malta, I think of bright blue skies, fields of richly green clover, the sound of the ocean smashing against the cliffs, all only steps away from the well-worn stone streets of ancient cities and the chatty and perpetually kind people. And all of it—cities, coastal walks—warmed and cheered by the seemingly endless sunshine, even at the height of winter.

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Plug into the Continent of a Billion Customers

Conventional Western views of Africa are of a poverty-stricken continent devoid of modern technology and economic opportunity. But over the past few years, indicators have emerged to challenge this dated and misplaced narrative. The combined GDP growth of Africa makes it the second-fastest-growing economy in the world. Clearly, there are investments on this continent worthy of anyone’s portfolio.

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Protect Your Privacy From the Snoops

The United States was founded on the principles of personal freedom and individual liberty. Unfortunately, we seem to have wandered far from these standards. In 2013, U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden told us just how far: The government can look into our personal lives via phone records, emails, and our internet histories. The NSA has the capacity to reach nearly 75% of all U.S. internet traffic. It can read the written content of emails and access the information of phone calls made via the internet.

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Southern Hospitality Comes to Small-Town Costa Rica

Coming from Tyler, Texas, Harold and Lisa Beasley brought more than clothes and household items when they moved to the village of Atenas, in Costa Rica’s Central Valley region. They also brought with them a touch of Southern hospitality. That and home-style cooking is on offer at Kay’s Gringo Postres, a restaurant with a long history in the expat community, which they bought from its original expat owners.

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“Margarita Business Plans” Pan Out On Roatán

The Honduran island of Roatán has a lot of things going for it: low cost of living, a laidback island lifestyle, sun, sand and, of course, sea. The island has over 95 miles of coastline fronting the rich, warm waters of the Caribbean making it a scuba diving Mecca. This is a fact that expat business partners Gary Carlson and John Hart have been able to take full advantage of with their diving shop, West End Divers.

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Savor World-Class Beaches and Fine Dining in Las Terrenas

The Dominican Republic, with its pristine tropical beaches, attracts more vacationers than any other Caribbean island. Most stay at all-inclusive resorts, where you can eat from the buffet and let the staff pamper you. But maybe you’re after a more authentic Caribbean experience…a chance to sample this region’s many delights away from the tourist throngs. If so, Las Terrenas is the perfect place for you. Famous for its 11 miles of world-class beaches, Las Terrenas is on the north shore of the lush and mountainous Samaná Peninsula.

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Paradise Within Your Reach…

When it comes to a perfect retirement haven close to home, the small Latin American country of Costa Rica ticks all the boxes. Less than three hours from Miami by plane, it’s easy to access, with numerous direct flights connecting Costa Rica to the U.S. and Canada. The weather is excellent throughout, and despite its small size, there’s a climate in Costa Rica for everyone. It’s the happiest place in the world, according to the Happy Planet Index, and also one of the healthiest, with plentiful clean water and fresh air. The World Healthcare Organization lavishes praise on Costa Rica’s healthcare system, which it ranks higher than that of the U.S.

Brazil

Play Your Retirement Wildcard…and Enjoy

My Grandpa Clites retired at 65 from U.S. Steel. Soon after, he took Grandma on the obligatory one-week packaged tour to Hawaii. After returning home, they moved to a retirement village. Grandpa took up painting by the numbers. He died at 69. Grandpa had a short and, if I’m blunt, pretty empty retirement. Unfortunately, his story was common for his generation. He did what everyone else did. He probably never even realized that other options were available.

fiji

Magical Ireland, Sunny Fiji…Your Camera Makes it Possible

As a travel photographer, I stayed for free in a vacation rental, a charming little authentic cottage tucked away in the lush green countryside. I photographed the cottage and interesting things one might see and do, both in the immediate area of County Limerick and as far away as Dublin, for the same publication.

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Retire to a Haven Made for Hammocks in Placencia, Belize

It’s ideal weather in Belize right now for lounging in a beach hammock, under a palm tree, as the emerald green and turquoise shaded waves gently lap up on the warm, golden sand beach… What could be better than sipping a frosty refreshment while gazing out at a tranquil seascape?

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Free Spirits Need an Income Like This

It’s been a long time now since I transitioned from a traditional job to a footloose and fancy-free photographer but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Location independent income has become a mandatory part of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Matagalpa

Retire 10 Years Early to Matagalpa, Nicaragua

There are a lot of people in the States today who think they’ll never have enough money to retire comfortably. But there are places overseas where you can still own your own property outright…where world-class healthcare won’t send you to the poorhouse…where the cost of living is much lower than back home. I was able to retire 11 years early by moving to Nicaragua.

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Point…Shoot…and Cash In

My friends thought I was crazy when I first started talking about selling my photos. I had no experience and I barely knew how to work my camera. But they have no idea how easy it was to put my travel photos online and start selling them as stock.

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We Can Afford Adventures Because We Retired to Panama

My husband Gary and I love to travel. Happily, since we retired to Panama, it’s easy and convenient to do. The proximity of Costa Rica, Colombia, Nicaragua, Brazil, Peru, and numerous additional Latin American countries, as well as many exotic Caribbean islands, gives us the opportunity to visit them all. Being retired we have the time…and, since our life in Panama is so economical, we can afford it.

Paris

Paris: One of the Easiest Places to Be an Expat

In November, I was in Paris—just the latest in a long line of visits. My first night of that trip, I was invited to an international Thanksgiving celebration. The hostess, an American expat who has been in that city for many years, had made turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and had invited her international friends to join her for a celebration of gratitude. The room was full of people from all over the world—Parisians, of course, but also Australians and Venezuelans and Italians and Portuguese. The hum of languages was beautiful and unusual. And the joy of the gathering was universal.

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Apulia: Where Italians Go To Enjoy the Dolce Vita

If you thought Italy was beyond your means, this part of the sun-drenched south will prove you wrong. Whether it’s a cone-shaped trullo house in the olive groves or a city apartment, there are properties for every budget: $120,000 delivers a lot of options.

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Healthcare So Good You Won’t Believe What It Costs

Most expats who have settled either part-time or full-time in this country will attest to the large number of readily available doctors, dentists, and opticians, combined with accessible, well-equipped, modern public and private hospitals. These institutions employ highly trained doctors and use cutting-edge technology and modern medical equipment that rival anything available in Western countries.

Vilcabamba

Rent in Ecuador’s Eden, Vilcabamba, For $600 or Less

Vilcabamba is a great prospect for anyone who loves the country. The properties are diverse enough so that there is something for everyone. There are farms, upscale homes in gated communities, and houses inspired by the green movement, with a low environmental impact. There is even a little domed house reminiscent of Tolkien’s hobbit holes just a few minutes from town. One Vilcabamba expat has compared the town to Ojai, California. The springtime temperatures of Ojai would be on a par with those of Vilcabamba, but even more similarities are found in the lifestyle. Ojai is known for its health-conscious, spiritually-minded, artistic atmosphere. Vilcabamba is much the same, though on a smaller scale.

Atenas

Loving Life in Atenas, Costa Rica’s Central Valley

The landscape is bucolic and peaceful, with tremendous views of forested river valleys, green-covered hills and mountains, with the red rooftops of villages in the distance. It’s not a bad place to retire…to reinvent yourself in a new country.

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7 Fun Activities for Tourists in Buenos Aires

The stunning architecture, broad boulevards and inviting sidewalk cafés you’ll find in Buenos Aires remind me of days spent wandering neighborhoods in Paris. Of course, the Italian influence is equally apparent–from the faces of the porteños (Buenos Aires natives), to their expressive hand signals, and abundant espresso, gelato, and pizza joints. In fact, two-thirds of Argentines are of Italian descent.

Mexico

A Travel Income that Pays While You Sleep

Tim Leffel and his family live among the cobblestone avenues, pastel-colored colonial buildings, and leafy plazas of Guanajuato, one of Mexico’s prettiest towns. “I really love the pace of life, the emphasis on family and fun rather than wearing ‘busy-ness’ as a badge of honor,” he says. “Since Mexican cities are geared to pedestrians and people are always out and about on foot, we don’t need a car and all the related expenses. Since healthcare costs are reasonable, there’s no fear of a doctor’s visit costing more than a car payment either.”

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Close the Laptop at Lunchtime and Head for the Beach

It’s almost lunchtime, which means it’s time for the work to end and play to begin. The beach awaits and the dive boat will be heading out soon, leaving just enough time to shut down the laptop and mosey into town. Such is a typical day in Roatan, Honduras, for expat Rika Purdy. Originally from Vancouver, Rika worked as a paralegal for years, obeying the clock, and working to make other people rich. But she came to realize there were new opportunities for earning online which could release her.

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Just Another Day in Paradise in Roatan, Honduras

I live in paradise—there’s no disputing it. My home on the island of Roatan is surrounded by gorgeous, lush jungle and faces out to the sea. The palm trees and flowers that fill my yard draw hummingbirds who zig and zag their way among the colorful blossoms.

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Freedom, Travel, and a Six-Figure Income

A decade ago, I had no idea this type of freedom was possible… I thought I’d spend the rest of my career working for an employer, getting 3% raises each year, hoping for a tiny holiday bonus. I thought I’d be chained to a single location, traveling only during my vacation days. But thanks to the power of the internet, which creates the opportunity to embrace location-independent jobs like blogging, I’m now able to go anywhere I want, anytime I want, for as long as I want.

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Langkawi: Tranquility and Wildlife Off the Coast of Malaysia

The vibe of Langkawi, also known as the Jewel of Kedah, is one of a laidback island. If it’s beaches and wildlife that you’re after, Langkawi is probably the Malaysian Island to head to—and Malaysia does have a few to choose from.

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