Ecuador: The World's Top Retirement Haven
Looking for help finding your personal paradise? International Living has 30 years of on-the-ground experience in the countries that we think are the best spots under the sun for retiring, investing, and reinventing yourself right now. We've done the research...you've done the dreaming. With IL correspondents around the globe, we'll help you make those dreams a reality.
We have some especially bright lights on the International Living horizon to tell you about. Some of the places where the good life is calling at rock-bottom rates are Yucatan, Mexico; Panama; coastal Ecuador; Brazil's north coast; Uruguay; and southern Italy. Watch your daily IL Postcards and monthly IL magazine for more information on these, and other hotspots.
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The devil masks worn for the Diablada de Pillaro (The Dance of the Devils) in Pillaro, Ecuador, have spawned a whole school of art. It’s well worth joining the thousands of onlookers to see the elaborate processions that take place each night from New Year’s Day to January 6. The feast of Edina Bronya, which essentially represents Christmas for the people of Ghana, in west Africa, falls this year on January 2.
Some people go on vacation to a new country and fall in love with the place, then go home, quit their jobs, and pack up all their worldly belongings to move there. Not me. I have been carefully planning my exit from Canada for the past year. I do it by scouting possible destinations, studying Spanish, and setting up my work as a clinical counselor and travel writer so that I will have an income to support me while I am living my dream.
Thai cuisine is known the world over for its delicious, distinctive flavors. In fact, the phrase “Have you eaten yet?” is a typical friendly greeting among Thais. It’s no surprise, then, that Thailand’s urban capital of Bangkok is known as a foodie paradise, especially when it comes to regional and national cuisine prepared and sold from stalls lining the city streets.
You’ll find Delftware in every Dutch home. The highly sought-after, blue-and-white porcelain is among the world’s finest earthenware, and it’s been the product of one small town in the south of the country since the 16th century. An hour by train from Amsterdam, Delft is the artistic heart of Holland.
“So why did you move to Cuenca, Ecuador?” Even after three and a half years I’m often asked this question, and there are many answers—the low cost of living, temperate climate, proximity of the U.S., excellent medical care, and the wonderful mix of historic architecture plus modern conveniences.
- Medical Tourism: 4 Countries Where You Can Get High-Quality, Low-Cost Health Care
Posted on December 12, 2013 by Barbara Ross
The cost of elective procedures such as dental and cosmetic surgery is cheaper in these four countries than in the U.S., even when you take the cost of travel into account.
Have you found the saying, “life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect” to be true? My husband and I have definitely found that to be the case. We’ve also realized that when life takes you down different paths it isn’t necessarily a bad thing! As we contemplated the future we found that we had an undiscovered sense of adventure. Rather than looking to a “normal” retirement in Canada, we investigated the possibility…
Are you sick of the rat race? You know the routine…get up, shower, have breakfast, leave the house, get stuck in traffic, put in long hours at the office. Get home, go to bed and do it all again tomorrow. Are you ready for retirement…but looking at your savings you know retirement is out of the question? Here’s how to survive a retirement crisis. You can live a richer lifestyle for less overseas. Many expat couples can live a very comfortable life on a budget of between $1,500 and $2,000 a month…
It’s a weekday morning in the early fall and I’m standing on a mountaintop in the Swiss Alps. I’ve been hiking all morning, passing through tiny villages with dark-roofed homes and small chapels whose bells sing out every hour to remind us of the precise time. I’ve walked through fields of wildflowers that overlook snow-capped peaks and past a dozen waterfalls both small and large. And for the past hour I’ve been navigating thin pathways that wind across a barren high-altitude landscape dotted with leftover snow.
In Nicaragua, you’ll find some of the most dramatically beautiful Pacific coastline…anywhere. And in one development I’ve visited, there are five beaches, 2,700 acres and more than two miles of coast.All of those beaches have their own unique character and appeal. Each has different colored sands: white, tan and even pink. Some have flat waters for swimming or waves for surfing.
The small, pretty town of Chantilly is less than 30 minutes from Paris by train, but when you arrive at the station and take a lungful of fresh air, the big city couldn’t feel farther away. Chantilly (pronounced shahn-tee-yee) lies in the Oise department of France, 24 miles north-northeast of Paris. It is both the name of a town of 11,000 people, and of a larger commune that comprises several other towns and villages, bringing the total population to 36,000.
- Five Places to Get Affordable Health Care Overseas
Posted on November 29, 2013 by Barbara Ross
In the following five countries you will pay less for health care than you do at home. And the quality is at least as good…in fact, many expats say it’s better. Affordable health care isn’t the only reason to move overseas—but it makes the move more attractive. You can get great quality health care for less abroad, lowering your monthly expenses. Panama offers excellent quality health care and modern hospitals in Panama City and other large towns or cities…
“Sometimes we just shake our heads in disbelief that we actually own a home right on the beach in one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen,” Paula Irvin says. “It’s absolutely amazing!” Hummingbirds zip around the bright-red feeder hanging from the balcony. “They always come at this time—just as the sun begins to dip into the ocean and the other birds start calling to each other a goodnight song,” says Paula.
A metropolis like Panama City or Paris or Montevideo has its advantages. In large, cosmopolitan communities, you have a wealth of choice in restaurants, museums, and parks. The hospitals tend to be better, the cultural offerings more varied. But a big city has its downsides, too. It can be loud, frenetic, disorganized. You may gain a measure of anonymity you enjoy, but it can be difficult to meet your neighbors and make friends.
Wally and Hazel Mountz thought they had their retirement all figured out. They were building a lakefront home in Georgia when the real estate crash of 2008 shattered their plans. Unwilling to continue working and unable to afford their new mortgage, they started looking abroad. Italy was their first choice, but what they could purchase there would leave them in a rural village without expat companions.
The very thought of moving abroad seems like such an adventure, doesn’t it? The world is full of so many intriguing locations. Which country would you choose? Which city? If you actually pull the trigger and relocate, then the adventure truly begins. Everything is new, exciting, interesting, frustrating, and exhausting all at once. You’re meeting new friends—maybe learning a different language—adapting to a foreign culture, and exploring surrounding areas.
The unique animals that live in Costa Rica are world-famous. There are poison dart frogs (not dangerous to people), three-toed and two-toed sloths, monkeys of several species, more than 800 species of birds (including the elusive quetzal and iconic scarlet macaw)…the list goes on and on. The variety of climates and landscape, and its location in Central America – the crossroads of two continents, means Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.
There’s no other retirement destination quite like Panama. Whatever you’re looking for in a retirement, you’ll find it here. Do you prefer living by the ocean? In the mountains? In ranching country? Big city? Small town? Would you prefer the mainland or a nearby island paradise? Well, Panama has it all so the choice is yours.
- Expats Reveal Their Five Favorite Restaurants in Ecuador
Posted on November 26, 2013 by Barbara Ross
Ecuador has an abundance of restaurants offering cuisine from around the world. Here, our guys on the ground give you their friendly recommendations of five of the best places to eat in Ecuador.
Talk to anyone who has relocated to Ecuador and you will find that each person’s story, motivation, and experience is unique. Some are here for economic reasons, others for the climate, others still for the adventure and excitement of living in another country…and many for all of the above. I came to Ecuador at the age of 24. My assignment with the Peace Corps brought me here, so Ecuador was not my own choice…but I’ve come to realize what a stroke of luck it was to land in this amazing country.
“We chose Guanacaste [the name of the province] because of the proximity to the beach, the warm water, and the weather,” says Becky, who, thanks to a Costa Rican mother, was familiar with a lot of the country. “You don’t get as much rainfall as other areas of Costa Rica. And the weather is very predictable. From December to April there is no rain, and the rest of the year it mostly rains in the afternoon. You can do things outdoors year-round.”
When you move overseas, most things cost less. Health care is cheaper, beachfront property is cheaper and flights are cheaper when you qualify for a retiree program. You can even enjoy a symphony performance for far less than in the U.S., and have a better quality of life for less. Here is a list of five items that are cheaper overseas.
- We Said Goodbye to Our Old Life…and Hello to Costa Rica
Posted on November 25, 2013 by Emily Shea
Sometimes all it takes to make your dream come true is to take that first step toward it. My husband and I wanted to change our reality from your average suburban life in the States—mortgages, car payments, and credit card debt included—to a fresh life in a place where coconuts grow and the sun always shines.
Tucked away 150 miles east of Puerto Rico, you’ll find one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful jurisdictions—St. Kitts and Nevis. St. Kitts is the larger and more populous island, but I prefer the less hectic pace of life in Nevis. With densely forested mountains, brilliant tropical flowers and crystal-clear waters, there’s plenty of reasons you’d want to own a home on Nevis.
- Free Skiing and Easy Money in the Jewel of the Andes
Posted on November 25, 2013 by Nick Daniel
A train ticket and a TEFL certificate were all I had when I traveled the 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires to San Carlos de Bariloche. As we rode through the endless flatness of Patagonia—past broken railway sheds and the silhouettes of wind-bent trees on the horizon—I wondered what I was getting into. I had no job. I’d never been this far south. I knew no-one.
Cuenca, Ecuador’s third-largest city and the economic center of the southern sierra, is well known for its colonial-style architecture, beautiful surroundings and low cost lifestyle. Popular with tourist and expats alike, it is no wonder that Cuenca has made appearances on the best places to retire list. It offers the best city living in Ecuador.
It was New Year’s Eve 2012 and the view outside my window was perfect. In the darkness, I could just make out the rolling Italian hills, dotted with brick houses with terracotta rooftops. A lone bell tower rose from a small, ancient church into the sky. And as the bell tolled midnight, the sky lit up with fireworks from three different directions.
The two best things about mornings in Volcancito are the coffee and the view. I’m at the heart of Panama’s coffee-growing highlands—there’s even a bush of red “cherries” in my garden. (They’re surprisingly sweet when you suck one.) And for $600 a month, including all utilities you get a stunning view of the town of Boquete, Panama.
- This Nurse from Nebraska Adores Panama’s Health Care
Posted on November 22, 2013 by Erica Mills
Back in her home state of Nebraska, Judy Eaton worked as a registered nurse (R.N.) for 40 years. So when she told me how impressed she was with Panama’s health care system, I made sure to pay attention. I met Judy for lunch in the small mountain town of El Valle on a visit to Panama earlier this year. I was there to speak to expats about what they loved about this small, stunning country.
- Costa Rica Versus Panama: Which Country is Best for You?
Posted on November 21, 2013 by Dan Prescher
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I were married in Costa Rica 14 years ago and have been back for business and pleasure almost every year since. We also lived in Panama in 2006 and, like Costa Rica, have returned nearly every year for International Living events, editorial trips, and vacations. So it is inevitable that…
- A Tour-Guide-Free Waterfall Adventure—Thanks to Spanish
Posted on November 21, 2013 by David Hammond
When I first moved from the U.S. to Uruguay, I didn’t speak Spanish. And while some English-speaking expats get by without learning any Spanish, my experience is, the more Spanish I learn the richer my expat experience becomes.It took just a little study to learn to greet people and show respect. Now, after a little more study and practice I can express my needs and wants and I’m starting to build rapport with my Uruguayan neighbors. More and more, it feels like I’m getting ready to take off my Spanish “training wheels” and learning to communicate like a local.
The thought of my hot shower every morning—as I cross the Spanish style courtyard on my way to the bathroom—is a delight. It has to be a quick one though, because my housemates need their hot water too. Then, I hear the church bells begin to ring in the tower of the old colonial church in front of our house…it’s time to go. I grab my backpack and head for the door. I like to walk to work. The others share a taxi, which affords them an extra 20 minutes of sleep in the morning.
- Five Expat Havens in Thailand Offer Low Costs and a High Quality of Life
Posted on November 20, 2013 by Laura Doyle
“Thailand is one of the world’s most popular locales for good living abroad,” says InternationalLiving.com writer Heather Van Deest, who has lived there with her family for the past eight years. “For pennies on the dollar expats gain a year-round tropical climate and access to modern comforts and conveniences, including affordable, high-quality medical care.”
- A Pied-à-Terre in the South of France: $676 a Month
Posted on November 20, 2013 by Barbara Diggs
Think you can’t afford to retire in the South of France? Think again. While it’s true that unless you’re fairly wealthy, you should cross places like Cannes, St. Tropez, and most of the pretty medieval villages of Provence off your list, there are still a number of south of France towns, villages and cities, particularly in the Languedoc-Rousillon region (my favorite), that offer a highly enjoyable lifestyle for a reasonable price.
- 3 Beach Buys on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast—$100,000 or Less
Posted on November 20, 2013 by Margaret Summerfield
A pound of fresh shrimp—$2.50. Someone to cook and clean for you—$20 per day. Property tax of $200-$250 a year on the beach homes below… It’s easy to see why Ecuador tops International Living’s Retirement Index. It’s a top spot for those looking for a comfortable lifestyle that won’t break the bank. And Ecuador rates as one of the best-value destinations on my beat, too. On the country’s unspoiled Pacific coast, in particular, you get a whole lot more for your dollar. And that applies to real estate as well as your cost of living.
- 5 Quick Questions Everyone Should Answer Before Moving Overseas
Posted on November 20, 2013 by Barbara Ross
There are many benefits to moving overseas: the weather is better, your quality of life will improve and you will always have something to do. Here are a few quick questions that you should ask yourself before moving overseas. 1. What type of weather do you like? If you don’t like the snow then you should…
Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city, has a culture that many North American expats find comfortable. It’s a place where the traditional and the modern weave together. For example, Montevideo has a prosperous economy, but people still take time for one another. It has new gleaming malls, but it is also teeming with small family-owned shops. Each child in the country receives a free laptop computer, but time with family is still cherished above all else.
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We loved the speakers. They were all approachable and glad to share their knowledge between sessions. We were already in the process of moving to Panama, and it worked out well that we could meet the attorney, Rainelda Mata-Kelly, right there to discuss our visa options! We were also glad to be able to arrange […]