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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Cotacachi-Ecuador

8 Straight Answers About Living Overseas

Expat life, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways that one move to the right place changed my life… No snow. Ever. I think back on all the times my wife and I sat huddled in our house in the U.S. listening to the sub-zero winds rattling the windowpanes and the furnace burning money just to keep us from turning into human popsicles. We’d look at each other and say, “You know, there are places on the earth where this kind of weather doesn’t exist.” Now we live in one. It’s called Ecuador.

cuenca-weather

The Climate in Cuenca

Our daughter in New Jersey hasn’t seen her yard for months because it’s covered with snow. Our son in North Carolina finished raking leaves a while back just in time to get out the overcoats in preparation for the frigid weather ahead. My wife Cynthia and I, we’re weather junkies, who like the climate to be perfect…not too hot and not too cold… The thermometer was already getting close to 100 degrees when we left Las Vegas for Cuenca, Ecuador almost five years ago. We’d had enough of that scorching heat—as well as the humidity and chilly winters in the southeast where we previously lived…

How to Use Your Fears to Progress

If you’ve made up your mind to live the international lifestyle—and even done your homework—but you’re still afraid to actually take the leap, I have good news for you. The fact that you’re scared means that somewhere inside of you, you believe it’s actually possible to do the thing you want to do. That alone is huge. Think about it. If you didn’t think it was possible you’d never even get to fear. When you allow yourself to get to the fear stage, you’re one step closer to achieving your dream.

Mexico

900 Feet of Enchiladas in Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato, Mexico, loves its food. And as Mexico considers its homegrown cuisine part of its cultural heritage, what better way to celebrate it than a public feast? The three-day Enchilada Festival culminated this year in an enchilada cookout that filled three long tables—over 900 feet—with enchiladas. It’s thought to be the longest enchilada in the world!

Exploring Ecuador with a Travel Secret

Ecuador has it all: stunning beaches, dense jungles, snow-capped mountains, and lush plains. And when you spend them here you are among some of the friendliest people on the planet. My husband, Warren, and I spent three months exploring the country…and we found a way to make huge savings, leaving most of our budget for enjoying the food, destinations, and culture. The mountains in the Otavalo area were our favorite. Soaring peaks and dormant volcanoes surrounded green valleys, where llamas and horses grazed under blue skies.

Lisbon-Portugal

Europe’s Best-Value Capital City

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. It’s also an amazingly inexpensive place: arguably the most affordable capital in Western Europe. A couple could live comfortably here for as little as $2,100 a month. If you’re budget-conscious, take heart. Lisbon is a place where you can enjoy a European lifestyle at Latin American prices, with history, romance, astonishing hospitality, and a seaside location to boot.

granada

Enjoy a Life of Limitless Adventure

Wandering is our specialty. Since my husband, Chris, and I left the States at the start of 2013 with not much of a plan and a whole load of ambition, we have resided in seven homes and explored countless destinations in the two countries—Costa Rica and Nicaragua. During our travels we have rescued hatchling sea turtles from hungry birds…observed the most achingly beautiful sunset from a Pacific beach…and encouraged a sloth as he crept between trees…

tuscany

Cut Your Travel Expenses in Romantic Europe

I confess I am a travel addict as is my husband Michael. We’ve seen much of the world and we want to see more. One highlight I will never forget is our four-month long trip to Europe. Long after the azure twinkle of the Mediterranean disappeared beneath the clouds, and our plane soared toward the Americas, the views still sprang fresh to mind: the canyon that cleaves the Spanish town of Rhonda in two, washed by the setting sun…the rolling hills of Tuscany…the white villages of Andalucia, stacked like brilliant sugar cubes.

italy

Answer This Question to Start Your New Life

Here’s a novel idea: What if parents, guidance counselors, and college career advisors had focused less on what you wanted to be when you grew up and spent more time helping you decide how you wanted to feel when you grow up? I call it the Life First – Work Second approach to career planning. It’s why I begin every business idea generation session with the same simple question: What do you want your life to look like?

cancun

The City Our Dreams Were Made Of…

Financial struggles weren’t the only thing motivating our retirement abroad, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that’s what got us looking for an out-of-the-box solution to begin with. Like a lot of people during the financial crisis, my husband, Donald, and I took a big hit. Here we were nearing the end of our working years, and our financial security had evaporated in a seeming instant. My husband had his second heart attack in three years, and then lost his job—along with his medical insurance. We were tired, vulnerable, and drowning in stress. I remember my husband declaring that he felt as if he’d, “been running a marathon for 60 years.” We both worked regular jobs, and even started a couple of small businesses on the side to claw our way back. But it would be years before we could hope to retire, and we were spending all our time and energy just to hold on.

Belize

If You’re Going to Dream…Dream Big

As my nephew Jason prepared to begin his first year of college, his thoughts naturally turned to potential careers. “What would you really love to do?” I asked. Jason thought for a moment before replying, “I’d just like to get a job I don’t hate too much.” After a little auntie-to-nephew pep talk about the importance of shooting higher than “one notch above misery,” we talked about his love of baseball.

Mexico

A Common Theme Among Expats in Mexico

One of my absolute favorite destinations in the world is Guanajuato, a city in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands. It’s a place where every interest is catered for: Every time I return I throw myself into the wealth of cultural activities it offers: concerts, exhibitions, theater, food festivals, book fairs… Even Guanajuato’s street scene is lively. Walk down to the Jardin (Garden) area any given night, and you’ll see strolling locals and expats, bustling outdoor cafes, student troubadours, and mariachi groups making music, and more.

roatan

Watch the Dolphins, Walk the Dog, and Roll in Late

No one worries about what day it is in a gorgeous tropical location like Roatan. Every day is just like a Saturday and it’s always a good time for fun in the sun. It’s a great place to earn a living because you actually feel like you’re living, not just working to survive and simply pay the bills. And one of the best ways to earn a living in a tropical location is to socialize with the crowds.

Costa Rica

Is this the Best Job in the World?

You roll out of a bed at…well, whenever. No alarm clocks here. Just bird song and the sunlight filtering through your windows. Now it’s time for a bit of coffee and a walk on the beach. Back home, you check some email, update some Facebook pages, scan your accounting software…maybe message your web guy to update your site for the weekend. You do all this from home, or that little café down the street on your laptop as you greet friends who come in for their morning cup of Joe. It takes an hour or so.

penang

Low Costs, Sunshine, and Great Healthcare in the “Pearl of the Orient”

One of the oldest outposts of the former British Empire, Penang delivers 110 square miles of tropical treasures. A lush, mountainous island oozing history and heritage, Victorians christened it “the Pearl of the Orient.” It lies anchored on the Spice Route, just off Malaysia’s west coast, a mere two-hour drive from the borders of southern Thailand. For these reasons and more, many foreign retirees opt for a new life on Penang, only a 50-minute flight from Kuala Lumpur. It’s also accessible by an eight-mile long road bridge and a ferry from the mainland that runs 24 hours a day. A second bridge was completed mid-2014 and a tunnel is planned for 2034.

Caye Caulker

No Cars, No Hassles, Just White-Sand Beaches

“I’m just a beach person,” says Debbie Cooper, 63. With that attitude, it’s no wonder that she and her husband, Bruce, 66, have called the tiny Caribbean isle of Caye Caulker 12 miles off the coast of Belize home for the past 13 years. There are no cars on the island, and it receives a fraction of the tourists that Ambergris Caye, 11 miles to the north, does. Homes and restaurants on the beach face an impossibly blue sea framed by windswept palms. Lobster is a specialty when it’s in season.

Ireland

Poetry, Wineries, and Other Passion-Driven Incomes

A couple of years ago, I visited Cassis—a harbour town on the French Riviera’s lesser-known western end. Fishing boats and the crystal-blue Mediterranean, yes. Langoustines and palest pink rose wine, yes. But the last thing I expected to find was a poetry shop. Handwritten on marbled paper, the poet had hundreds of musings on love, life, and friendship to choose from. And his little shop was busy. Maybe the French have a deeper romantic streak than other nationalities, but I think he was tapping into nostalgia. In an age of computers, anything handwritten now has rarity value.

placencia

“I Hibernated in Winter for 50 Years…Not Any More”

Dick Walton, 53, and his wife, Dawn, 47, have always loved to travel. And they knew for a long time that they wanted to retire to English-speaking Belize…the tiny Central American country on the Caribbean sea. But when Dawn had an aneurysm in 2009, the couple pushed up that timetable to escape the stress and fast pace of life in their hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Over time they visited a few places in the country: the island of Ambergris Caye and the low-cost retiree haven of Corozal. But nothing struck them.

Mexico

Stay For Free in the World’s Beautiful Vacation Spots

Bella Sirena is a secluded oasis on a strip of land that joins the peninsula of Baja California with the rest of Mexico. It’s right where the sand meets crystal blue waters and the beach goes on for miles. The 20-foot tidal changes uncover delicate creatures like starfish, tiny crabs, and other sea urchins that hide in all the nooks and crannies. Beyond the gates of this upscale resort, lush tropical foliage surrounds the infinity pools and you step into Old-World architecture inspired by Mexican and Tuscan villas.

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.

Page-4---Bogota-Colombia---

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!

Page-8---Tarija-Bolivia--Cr

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.

Page-14-15-Lisbon-Portugal-

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.

Page-18---Montevideo-Urugua

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.

Page-26-27--Singapore--Cred

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.

Page-33--Cuzco-Peru-Credit-

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.

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