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- All You Need on Your Doorstep: Costa Rica’s Central Valley
Posted on May 19, 2013 by Jason Holland
Expats have been flocking to the Central Valley for decades. Despite the name, it is actually a high-altitude plateau—above 3,000 feet—that is surrounded by tall mountains. In the middle you have Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose.
Their vacations in tropical places left Denice and Robert Key wishing for more out of life and thinking, “What if…?” The couple had traveled throughout the Caribbean and Mexico when they were younger, and they could never quite escape the itch to retire early and move to a warm, exotic destination—something completely different from their Colorado home.
Our new friends paused over their meatloaf and mashed potatoes (an expat favorite served by one of the enterprising restaurateurs in our little Ecuadorian town). They had invited my wife, Suzan, and me out to lunch to seek some advice now that they’d been in town for a while. “We found the perfect house,” they said. “We have the utilities and Internet hooked up… we opened a bank account…
The market opens daily, but Sunday is when it’s at its busiest with buses bringing tourists to check out the bargains on offer. But after the last vacationer leaves at 5 p.m., the town returns to its usual state: quiet, easy and relaxed.
- Health Care Survey: The Best Havens for Quality Care Overseas
Posted on April 22, 2013 by International Living
You’ll find excellent, affordable care in many locations overseas. But where? For our 2013 Health Care Survey, we asked our experts to reveal what’s on offer in seven of the world’s best havens today. These are the most popular countries with expats: places that score high on quality of life in general.
A few years ago, I spied some classified advertisements in the late International Herald Tribune and The Economist, promising to provide a “European-Union passport, fully registered and renewable” for only $19,500. A contact telephone number in Ireland was listed. So I rang it.
Nobody likes to think about taxes, and, if you’re like most people, you probably try to ignore them altogether until tax season rolls around each year. That strategy can cost you big time, especially if you’re living overseas or planning to move overseas this year, full- or part-time.
Our plane approaches the city just before sunset. Through wispy clouds, the sea below takes on a silvery shimmer… the sun strikes the sparkling water so that it appears to be a sea of white. We could be flying over Antarctica. Except for one thing I know to be true: it never, ever snows in Panama.
A tamales vendor rides through town blasting his sales pitch over a bullhorn, zipping past rings of children playing marbles on the sidewalk. An old woman sits in a doorway enjoying the cool breeze, as smitten teenagers walk hand in hand to an ice-cream parlor.
I’ve hosted a lot of International Living conferences and seminars, but this is the first time I’ve heard one of our events rated in this particular way. An attendee at our Fast-Track Panama Conference came up to me after the final presentation. “You know how I can tell if I’m getting something out of a conference?”
Last night we had cocktails overlooking the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. For various (perhaps obvious) reasons, I can’t remember exactly how many ships passed through the canal, traveling in both directions. But there were a lot. Non-stop. I’m sure you know that the Canal is currently undergoing a massive expansion.
- The One Thing Everyone Should Know Before Moving Overseas
Posted on April 9, 2013 by Dan Prescher
Over the last 11 years of living throughout Latin America, my wife, Suzan, and I have missed lots of things we had back in the States. The first one for me was roasted red peppers. Eight brands in the supermarket back home… none in the first two countries we lived in. (For Suzan, it was Triscuits.)
The Internet is a wonderful thing. From a small condo high in the Ecuadorian Andes Mountains, my wife, Suzan, and I can view properties for sale in Omaha, Nebraska. (Which, by the way, is the perfect way to see properties in Omaha at this time of year if you no longer own a parka and mukluks…)
If you’re ever in the Arenal region of Costa Rica there is one activity you have to make time for: a dip in one of the natural hot springs. Known locally as “aguas termales,” the 90 to 110 degree Fahrenheit waters are naturally heated by volcanic activity. In fact, most of the hot springs have a great view of the Arenal volcano from the pools.
There are several categories of residency for those seeking to live and/or retire in Costa Rica. Although it can be quite bureaucratic, the process to obtain your cedula (the Costa Rican “green card”) is actually pretty straightforward. Most expats who retire to Costa Rica and live here full time choose pensionado status.
Before you leave, work with the shipping company to make sure your car meets emissions standards. The test is done in the U.S. You should also consider whether your car will make a good match for Costa Rica. Although auto shops are common and labor inexpensive, the most common parts available are for Asian vehicles and every mechanic can fix them. It can be more difficult to repair an American or European vehicle.
When moving to Costa Rica, many expats wonder whether they should bring their car from home or buy something when they get down there. Well… it depends. As covered in this article, “Bringing a Car to Costa Rica,” importing a car from the U.S., while relatively easy, can be quite expensive. In fact, you could pay close to the value of the car in import duties and fees.
“Pase al frente”… “Go to the front.” That’s the phrase I hear most when I’m with my Dad, who is 75 years young. When I was a kid in Oregon, I don’t remember there being a particular emphasis on respect or special courtesies for our elders. Now we live in Panama, where I’ve discovered that locals have very specific notions about how to treat mature citizens.
Alajuela, just 13 miles or so from Costa Rica’s capital, San José, is in many ways the country’s second city. It is second in size, with a population of 50,000. And it is also the home to La Liga, one half a bitter soccer (here known as futbol) rivalry with San José’s team, Saprissa. The country’s main international airport is in Alajuela. And it’s the birthplace of national hero Juan Santamaria.
For prospective expats in search of a more active overseas life, there is plenty of opportunity, especially in the field of volunteering in Costa Rica. There are several organizations that facilitate many different types of community work throughout the country. You can teach English, rescue wildlife, champion environmental or social causes, preserve habitat, help needy families, and much more.
I didn’t know where I was. Well, that’s not totally accurate. I had decided to walk home through a neighborhood I’d never visited before. I was aware of my general location and direction, and I had a sense of how long it would take to be sitting at the dining-room table… so I didn’t need to know my exact coordinates to enjoy my spontaneous exploration.
- My Friend in Ecuador Couldn’t Believe it When I Told Him This…
Posted on March 28, 2013 by Edd Staton
A friend and I were enjoying a few adult beverages together recently. He lives in Paute, a small village about a 45-minute commute from Cuenca that is growing increasingly popular with expats.During our conversation he asked me if I would ever consider moving there. I told him that I enjoy walking around the city for another reason. Being out and about keeps me connected.
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