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

Loja, Ecuador

Finding Your Dream Retirement in Southern Ecuador

”I initially came to Loja for the business opportunities, but what I like about it is that you’re in one of the ten largest cities in Ecuador, but still close to nature with parks nearby,” Darnell Dunn says, after he quit his job at Putnam Investments and left Boston for the small city of Loja. ”Also being one only of a few foreigners, you get the chance to integrate into the culture. And I get to know people and families on a personal level because of the small size of the city.”

Dumaguete, Philipines

Adding Spice to Life in the Philippines

Dave’s slower-paced life in the Philippines these days revolves around golfing, snorkeling, spending time with his family, and socializing with both locals and expats from around the world. There is no shortage of crystal-clear water and beautiful beaches nearby, and Dave and his family take full advantage of that.

Ballentia,-Ecuador

Realizing the American Dream in Ballenita, Ecuador

For many, the American Dream of owning your own home is fast becoming more of a fantasy than a dream. But more and more North Americans are finding their dreams coming true in the quiet town of Ballenita on the southwest coast of Ecuador.

Languedoc-Rousillo, France

Discover a Far Better Quality of Life in the “Real” South of France

Although less in the public eye than its swanky neighbor, Provence, the Languedoc has just as much to crow about. Nestled between the Pyrenees and Cevennes mountain ranges and the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean, the Languedoc is a wonder to behold. The region offers some of the most diverse and intense landscapes you’ll see in France, ranging from violet-blue lavender fields to dramatic rocky gorges and waterfalls, to flat marshlands dotted with pink flamingoes.

Quito

Your Dream Getaway in Ecuador From Just $75,000

Where do you envision yourself when you think of retirement? If you’re like most folks, at some point you’ve probably daydreamed of spending your post-work years in a city full of culture, art, and history. A place where you could spend the morning strolling through carefully restored centuries-old buildings while gazing at their beauty. Every so often you’d stop to admire a grand cathedral or a stone-block church built in the Gothic style of architecture.

Dominican-republic

Discover Clever Strategies for Downshifting

After close to 25 years in public education, I took the plunge and retired two years ago at the age of 49. Since then, I have been enjoying a well-earned rest and some great overseas travel. I took a short-term contract in Vienna and spent six months living in the Austrian capital while taking trips to Slovakia, Italy, and Spain. My wife, Patti, and I enjoyed concerts at the Musikverein…touring the Hofburg Palace…visiting the local vineyards where wonderful Zweigelt red wine is produced…and of course sampling the world famous Sacher Torte chocolate cake at its birthplace, the Hotel Sacher.

Cuenca, Ecuador

A Tranquil Life and New Perspective Living in Cuenca

It’s been three-and-a-half years since my wife, Rita, and I moved to Cuenca, Ecuador…and in those years we’ve experienced things that would have taken a lifetime to accomplish living back in the U.S. In early 2012, we decided to retire early. Our life in New Mexico was similar to most: hectic, stressful, and costly, with little time for the things we wished we could do. After many discussions about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to do them, we signed up to International Living and began researching.

Cancun-Mexico

Winter in the Tropics With a Portable Income

My husband, Jeff, and I get up early to cycle—in our flip-flops—to the local juice bar about 25 minutes away…along a bike trail next to the turquoise shores of the Caribbean. We stop to snorkel around the pier for an hour before getting back to connect with our patients online in the early afternoon and evening.

The city of David, in the Chiriquí Province of western Panama, is Panama’s third largest city and most affordable. David has the infrastructure of a modern First World city but with a charming small-town atmosphere.

Healthcare In Panama: Excellent Medical At 50% Off U.S. Costs

I’ve been living in Panama full-time since 2005, and one of the best things about life here is the medical care. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. Over the years I’ve met dozens upon dozens of expats who were deeply impressed by Panama’s healthcare. International Living editor Dan Prescher was able to experience Panama’s modern, affordable healthcare for himself when he visited an eye doctor in Panama City. Dan liked the doctor and the modern facility, so he signed up for laser eye surgery. He estimates he saved up to 50% by having the procedure in Panama instead of back in the States.

Loire Valley, France

A Charmed Life in France’s Affordable Wine Region

Stuart and Elizabeth have been living in France since 2008. The Loire Valley, with its lush landscapes and chateau-dotted hills, captured their hearts. Stuart and Elizabeth bought their home in the town of Amboise in 2010. They spent 2011 renovating and improving the space, and then moved in permanently at the end of that year.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Enjoy Your Dream Retirement On Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast

The proverbial retirement…life in a beach home overlooking the ocean. Most of us experience this fleeting thought, but realize it’s never going to happen, so we settle on a more affordable, comfortable plan. And then a financial crisis hits, and it looks like we’ll just stay where we are and never move to that quaint town in the mountains that we had been dreaming about for the past 10 years. Unfortunately, retirement dreams just don’t look the same anymore.

Playa Bejuco, Central Pacific Coast, Costa Rica

Escaping Brutal Winters and Relishing a Tropical Beach Life

Weeks with the temperatures below zero. Snow, snow, and more snow. It was a particularly brutal winter two years ago that convinced Jim, 67, and Barb Kohlmetz, 62, that it was time for a change after living in Wisconsin all their lives. Now they jet down to Costa Rica after the Christmas holidays and stay in their home in a quiet beach community on the central Pacific coast until after the spring thaw. As retirees—they were in education for a combined 73 years—they have the flexible schedule perfect for part-time residents.

Apartment in Paris

The Pleasures of Getting Lost in Montmartre, Paris

There I was, sipping a lovely white wine from grapes grown within 100 yards of where I stood at a community wine festival. You might think I’d gone off the beaten track to some remote corner of France where timeless traditions still hold sway… but I was in fact, right bang in the middle of one of Paris’ popular tourist areas—the bohemian quarter of Montmartre.

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Dinosaurs and a Prized Wheel of Cheese

In 1862, a small Mexican militia soundly defeated a much larger French army at the Battle of Puebla. The victory would not end French attempts to control the country, but Puebla’s citizens still remember it with great pride.

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Asia’s Well-Endowed Landscapes

Throughout Asia, natural formations resembling female and male genitalia are a common fascination. I have visited two such sites during my travels over the last few years. My recent trip along the coast of Koh Samui, in southern Thailand, led me to a couple of fascinating rock formations known as Hin Ta and Hin Yai (grandfather and grandmother).

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Easy Travel to Cuba, Thailand’s Monster Catfish, and Much More

Conjure up images of Thailand and you probably think of white-sand beaches and golden temples. Buthead into the countryside surrounding the northern city of Chiang Mai and you will find lakes stocked with the Mekong giant catfish waiting for your line and bait. The largest catch recorded in Thailand in the wild weighed in at 646 pounds.

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Gamboa: Rainforest Retreat in the Shadow of Panama City

In central Panama, 30 miles west of the capital, at an abrupt crook in the Río Chagres where it slips into Lago Gatún, is the small town of Gamboa. Originally designed to house Canal Zone personnel and their families, today Gamboa is a town of natural beauty and understated charm. Although only a half-hour from Panama City, Gamboa has an atmosphere of remoteness and tranquility. Here you can wander through lush rainforest, surrounded by a menagerie of exotic animals.

Hong-Kong-Sales-chart

Africa’s Largest Retailer, Saudi Oil, and Much More

The property market drives the stock market in Hong Kong… When property booms, Hong Kong booms. This is important because Hong Kong residential sales just hit a 25-year low. And based on history, this could lead to a huge rally in Hong Kong’s stock market. Gains of 53% in two years are possible, starting now. Hong Kong residential property sales have been down…big.

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Finding Our Way to a Better Life in Good-Value Medellín

Don’t you just hate it when your kids are right? In January 2011 we were in the middle of “talking” about moving overseas during one of our daughter’s visits home from college. She sat quietly during dinner, listening to our conversation. During dessert she just couldn’t stay quiet anymore. She blurted out, “You guys are never going to do this, you know.”

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Genteel Living in Sicilian Wine Country

“We were tired of punching the clock, making other people rich, losing time,” says expat Benjamin North Spencer of his and his wife Nadine’s decision to relocate to Sicilian wine country. Here they enjoy a rural Mediterranean lifestyle for half the cost of living in California. “In Sicily, we really can measure and appreciate so many things that escaped our awareness when we were trapped in the cycles of American culture.”

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Live Like Royalty in France’s “Valley of the Kings”

In the Loire Valley, the so-called “Valley of the Kings,” every day ends with a glass of affordable, delicious local wine. The mornings and afternoons are rich—full of leisurely cycle rides along the beautiful and famous Loire River, past verdant vineyards, visiting sprawling chateaux with their ancient towers and lush gardens, and strolling through historic, well-kept towns. The weather is mild and pleasant. And the cost of living is decidedly affordable.

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An Affordable European Lifestyle in Spanish Wine Country

I’d like to let you in on one of Spain’s best-kept secrets: Logroño. This small but bustling city in the heart of Spanish wine country is the perfect place to while away mornings sipping coffee and people-watching, and your afternoons with delicious wine from a nearby bodega.

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Travel Hacking: Get Free Flights Around the World

My wife and I have traveled around the world without paying for a long-haul flight. No, really. Since we started traveling full-time in January 2012, we’ve taken 84 free flights and saved $21,231.
You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute. Are these guys flight attendants? Stowaways? Out of their minds?” None of the above. We’re travel hackers. And you could be one, too.

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Roatán: Your Healthcare Options on a Caribbean Island Haven

I moved to Roatán for the warm Caribbean waters, white-sand beaches, lush jungles, and laidback island lifestyle. But despite all the island’s attractions and its low cost of living, many would-be expats are concerned about healthcare. What’s it like on an island off the coast of Honduras? Well, through my eight happy years here I’ve become well acquainted with all aspects of healthcare on Roatán. And I can tell you that your healthcare options are affordable…and about to get a whole lot better.

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Santa Catalina: Legendary Waters on Panama’s Pacific Coast

While sitting on a shaded terrace in Santa Catalina, you may hear a voice calling out over a loudspeaker. It’s a vendor selling fresh, organic produce—watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, onions, tomatoes—from the back of his truck. Nearby, young surfers carry their boards to the beach for a day on the waves. Fiberglass boats bob in the water, waiting to carry passengers to the nearby islands to snorkel, scuba dive among colorful corals and exotic fish, whale-watch…or catch the marlin and tuna this region is famous for. This little beach town knows how to chill.

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The Top Five Overseas Havens for Effortless Healthy Living: Part One

When people tell you why they want to retire abroad, a few big reasons crop up again and again: the lower cost of living…escaping the worst of the North American winter…finding a more adventurous life…access to excellent, affordable healthcare. But there are other benefits to embracing a life abroad—benefits most people don’t even think of. Many expats are pleasantly surprised to discover that you can also find a healthier lifestyle overseas—without even trying.

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The Top Five Overseas Havens for Effortless Healthy Living: Part Two

“We have dropped an incredible amount of weight,” says expat Armand Brodeur, who lives with his wife Joyclyn in Las Tablas, Panama. “And we’re not even eating as healthy as we ought to.” The Brodeur’s story is not unique. They’re just two of the many expats who come to Panama and lose weight without even trying. “I didn’t realize I was losing weight” is a constant refrain here. The outdoors beckon…there are produce stalls, fish markets, pristine beaches, and rainforest parks to visit. In much of the country, walking is the preferred method of transportation. So much so, that many expats here don’t even have cars. Imagine the effect on your waistline…

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Blue Zones Around the World

Some places around the world really stand out in terms of the healthy lifestyle they have to offer. So much so, that National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner has even discovered special spots—Blue Zones—renowned for the longevity of their populations. In these Blue Zones you’ll find plenty of people living past 100. What is their secret to long life?

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How to Buy Real Estate with Your IRA

Owning an investment property overseas can be a smart—and lucrative—way to truly diversify your portfolio. In the right markets, overseas real estate can generate excellent rental returns and increase handsomely in value over time, giving you a generous profit when you choose to sell. But you often need cash on hand to make this kind of purchase. And for many folks, that can prove a hurdle.

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Second Passport Scams— Six Ways to Spot Them

It was a spectacular bust. On February 10, police in Thailand arrested a kingpin of passport scams, Hamid Reza Jafary, a.k.a. “The Doctor,” and five of his accomplices. Nearly 200 forged or altered passports were found in his home, along with a laser-engraving machine, rolls of ribbon, and thin leather for passport covers, as well as fake metal plates and stamps from various countries.

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Florida Investigator to Caribbean Restaurateur

Before moving to Belize, 66-year-old Steve Gustat, from Tampa, Florida, hadn’t even considered opening a restaurant. “I had no experience in the restaurant business,” he says of his decision to open the Blue Iguana, the popular restaurant he now operates with his Belizean partner, Shantel, in Corozal, in northern Belize near the Mexican border. “But that has not been a problem. Business principles are the same in any business.”

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Living The Island Life on Koh Tao, Thailand

The small island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand is one of those places that people never want to leave. With azure bays, secluded coves, great restaurants, and a friendly community vibe, it’s no surprise that Australian Tim Severino stayed and made it home.

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Medieval Charms in the “Venice of the North”

Street lanterns flood narrow alleys with light, creating dramatic shadows against medieval bricks. Ancient buildings light up with a mysterious reddish glow, reflecting off the darkened and still canals. In the evening, the city is at its most enchanting. As the crowds disperse, the isolated streets take on a bewitching and fairytale-like quality.

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The Secrets of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula

Most people visit Cape Town, South Africa’s Mother City, for the breezy beaches, decadent vineyards, and picture-postcard views of Table Mountain. The appeal is easy to see. But if you focus your stay solely on Cape Town, you risk missing out on all the secret attractions along the scenic Cape Peninsula, stretching out to the south of the city.

Tropical-Laptop-Selleck-2

Work Less, Earn Big From Anywhere in the World

What if you had the freedom to enjoy the good life anywhere in the world you want to be… and get paid while you’re there? We’ll show you how—with 48 hours of hands-on guid-ance—you can gain the freedom and flexibility to be your own boss…play when you feel like it, work when you want…and turn a skill you already have into a portable income of $600, $1,000, even $5,000 a month…

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Laidback Living and Golden Sands on Nicaragua’s Pacific

It may well be the best little beach town in the world… With 22 beaches for you to enjoy and a surge in foreign residents and travelers, San Juan del Sur, on Nicaragua’s southern Pacific coast, is perfect for any lover of ocean views, warm waters, and fun in the sun. After eight years of living here full-time, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Even if I’m away for only a few days, I find myself missing it. Many people come here to visit and end up staying or going home to plan their permanent return.

Bogota, Colombia

Earning an Income from Colombian Street Art

Wandering through the busy streets of Bogota, Colombia, you’re bound to come across some colorful street art. From murals to graffiti, the city has become a hub for urban art, a testament to the artistic freedom that Bogota awards to its inhabitants. Expat Christian Petersen first visited in 2001 and moved here full-time in 2011. “Colombia is completely different now in terms of security, tourism, opportunities, economics, and its global perception,” he says.

Ecuador

What’s Happening in Ecuador?

My wife, Suzan, and I were in the U.S. for a conference when Ecuador was hit by its biggest earthquake in decades. We learned of it immediately from our friends and neighbors in our hometown of Cotacachi in the Andes Mountains in northern Ecuador, where the quake was felt but caused no extensive damage. The story was different on Ecuador’s northern Pacific coast. Entire towns have been flattened. Hundreds… perhaps thousands… of people have died, and thousands more have been injured or left homeless.

Barcelona, Spain

Forget the Starving Writer Cliché…I Earned $500 in an Hour

A few years back, I was working a full-time, regular 9-to-5 teaching job. My bosses were inflexible, I was stressed, and I couldn’t stand the work. When you’re a teacher, you can’t just take time off to travel. I’m also not a morning person, and waking up at 6 a.m. every day was tough. I was following the rules…and I don’t like following rules. Writing was always my passion, but I had no idea how I would go about actually earning a living writing. Writers don’t earn livings, everyone knows that. Right?

Jacó, which Jason Holland chose as the base of his scouting trip, is many people's first introduction to Costa Rica. Located around a 90-minute drive from Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela, it's one of the oldest and best-known vacation spots in the country.

There’s No Shame in Becoming an Expatriate

Certainly no expatriates I know have been forced to expatriate. They live somewhere besides their own country because they want to…because the weather is better, or the pace of life is slower, or the cost of living is cheaper, or they love the country and culture they’ve moved to, or they want to have an adventure. Or any combination of the above.

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