Ecuador: The World's Top Retirement Haven

Looking for help finding your personal paradise? International Living has more than 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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france

Why “Cheap” Alone Is Not A Worthy Objective

“Cheap” alone is not a worthy objective. We don’t look for it here at International Living—and nor should you. Just because you can buy a coffee for a dime or stay in a hotel for $20 a night—that’s not reason enough to go. Plenty of “cheap” corners tenant this world—many, quite frankly, just plain undesirable. What we chase—and what you should be after, too—is good value.

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Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay by Sea Plane, Colombia’s Whales and Much More…

Affectionately nicknamed the “Rose of the North,” Chiang Mai is Thailand’s charmer; a laidback, yet vibrant, university city famous for its many Buddhist temples, culture and good food. The warm climate, low costs and excellent, modern infrastructure have attracted expats in big numbers, and that includes thousands of retirees from all over the world.

Four of Europe’s Most Romantic Train Journeys

Like so many from the U.S., when I daydream about traveling through Europe, I always imagine myself on a train: speeding quietly through the countryside, over the mountain passes, past charming, ancient towns, or along the shores of a massive glacial lake. Other forms of transportation—with their two-hour pre-flight check-ins, their bumpy, uncomfortable buses, and their too-close-for-comfort seating arrangements—always feel like a hassle.

Live in a Heritage City Behind the Old Iron Curtain

For decades the Iron Curtain divided Europe in two. Folks in the U.S. and Western Europe were afforded only glimpses of life in the Eastern Bloc. The political situation severely restricted travel. And half of Europe became an uncharted and unknown land. Then the Berlin Wall fell and a dozen or so nations opened up, embracing new freedoms. Visitors were welcomed and discovered a history going back thousands of years, regions of untouched natural beauty, and a seriously low cost of living.

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Fun for All Ages: The Top Five Watersports in Costa Rica

With 763 miles of coastline on the Pacific and Caribbean, Costa Rica is blessed with its share of beautiful beaches…not to mention pristine waters. And inland lakes and rivers provide more outstanding scenery. But these waterways are more than just pretty to look at. They’re the playgrounds of watersports enthusiasts of many different disciplines. Below […]

Enjoying an Idylic Life in Ireland

We live in the wild west of County Cork. It offers the natural beauty and the rugged remoteness we desired. Because I am a professional artist, I wanted to be in an area rich in painting sites. The laid back lifestyle is a pleasant change from the hurriedness we felt at home.

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Find Your Sea Legs with an Affordable Boating Retirement

You’ve just weighed anchor on another night of bliss, lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of your sailboat in the calm sea. Before you is a small cove lined by craggy cliffs. Clear blue waters end at a white-sand beach. You’ve had it all to yourself for the last week. It was supposed to be just an overnight stop. But it was so beautiful, you decided to stick around. After a quick dip, you’re enjoying a cup of coffee and a light breakfast on deck as you contemplate which island paradise you’ll go to next.

Mexico

We Spent a Year Exploring Latin America to Find Our Ideal Retirement Haven

During our months of preparation, we set about determining the criteria we needed to choose a location. The criteria we chose for ourselves initially were: a good health care system at a much lower cost; a stable government; not wanting a car, a walkable location with a good transportation system; good infrastructure; a Spanish-speaking country because Mike already spoke some but wanted to become proficient; a warm climate year round; and, of course, a lower cost of living.

Whether it's breathtaking coastlines or exotic jungles...Costa Rica has it all.

10 Reasons to Live in Costa Rica

International Living has been encouraging its readers to choose Costa Rica as an overseas destination since the 1980s. Some things have changed since then, but Costa Rica still remains a beautiful, great-value retirement destination. Long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches, on the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts…dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife…towering volcanoes, lush green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes, rivers, streams, and waterfalls…mesmerizing sunrises, sunsets, and star-filled evening skies…all these things…

Festivals Around the World: War Birds, King’s Day, and Witches Night

Sitting alongside the banks of the River Garonne in southwest France, the red-tile-roofed city of Toulouse hosts its annual Flamenco Festival from April 1 to 15, with local venues filled with music and dance throughout. Another marathon-length event to consider begins its 18-day run in Jaipur, India, on April 2.

Panama

Four Reasons to Visit Panama

What are your reasons for visiting Panama? Ask any tourist that question and you’ll get a different answer. Some come for the beaches and the sun, others to explore the jungles or cloudforests. There’s a lot to see, and if you’ve read anything about Panama, it’s likely you’ve felt tempted to hop on a plane. To help tantalize you just a bit more, here are my top four reasons to visit Panama.

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This is Why People are Moving to Ecuador

I can’t give you one good reason why Americans and Canadians are coming in droves to Ecuador…because there are dozens of very good reasons. There are so many that I can’t list them all here…but based on a recent trip there, I can tell you what some of the best reasons to live in Ecuador are.

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Five Things to Do Before You Move to Ecuador

It’s great to have step-by-step guides, especially for big and potentially complicated tasks. Moving yourself out of your home country to a completely new and different culture…and language…certainly qualifies as a big and complicated task. It involves many more steps than just five, but considering only the preparatory phase—the phase before the actual move—here are five essential steps to take before you move to Ecuador.

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Find the Perfect Place to Live…and Put Some Money in Your Pocket

Figuring out how to make some extra money doing something you love is a wonderful thing. And many of my fellow expats are doing exactly that. If you’re looking for inspiration, I’d like to share some of those stories with you. In fact, we know of so many such stories that my husband Dan and I devoted an entire chapter of a new book we’ve written to this exact topic. (More about that in a moment.)

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A Literary Drinking Den, Romantic Spain, Tea with Cats and Much More…

Its parks are filled with roses, myrtle and the sound of nightingales. Water still splashes and trickles over marble fountains in the courtyards of its kings… “A pearl among emeralds” was how Moorish poets once described the royal palace of the Alhambra. It was from here that Spain’s last Muslim kingdom, Granada, was ruled and it’s just one of the gems you’ll find in Andalusia, Spain’s huge southern province.

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“We’ve Made Our Lives Longer by Living this Way”

When Melissa Adams stepped out of the airport and into Amsterdam for the first time, it felt like coming home. “The minute my feet hit Damrak—the street leading from Central Station to Dam Square—I said ‘I’m moving here.’ Everything—from the city’s physical beauty to its tolerant vibe and rich history— entranced me.” But while Melissa’s experience of Amsterdam was love at first sight, she also wanted to be practical and make sure her passion had some staying power.

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The Undiscovered Intag Valley: Ecuador’s Hidden Eden

Tucked into the western slopes of the Andes, 40 miles north of the capital Quito, the Intag Valley possesses that rare kind of climate in which nearly any plant will thrive. Farmers haul in harvests of everything from papayas and passion fruit to carrots and corn. Surrounding their scattered tracts of farmland is a dense jungle of towering palms, broad-leafed ferns and twisting vines. You’ll find more species of orchids than you can count, and a huge variety of bromeliads.

IL’s Calender of Events: Join us in Paradise

Panama’s a place of sunshine, 365 days a year. You have hundreds of miles of beach…highland retreats with green valleys where the weather is spring-like, even in January and August…and a genuinely cosmopolitan capital city, too, with one of the world’s largest financial districts. And Panama offers the world’s most generous retiree benefits.

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What Do Retirees Overseas Do All Day?

But nature abhors a vacuum, and I know of no one here simply staring out the window wondering how to spend their time. During four years of living in Cuenca I have been amazed to observe the many creative outlets foreign residents dream up to be active and productive. Free from the yoke of employment (although many expat-run businesses have sprung up) folks are starting foundations and volunteering, learning Spanish and teaching English, tending animals and growing food, traveling in Ecuador and far beyond its borders.

France

Where to Go for the Best Health Care in the World

InternationalLiving.com’s annual Global Retirement Index reports that France, Uruguay and Malaysia provide the best and most affordable health care in the world. The Health Care category in the Index considers the cost of care and the quality. Also considered are the number of people per doctor, the number of hospital beds per 1,000 people, the percentage of the population with access to safe water, the infant mortality rate, life expectancy, and public-health expenditure as a percentage of a country’s GDP.

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It’s Time to Swap Your Snow Shovel for a Hammock

Some years ago a man I know visited Florida and asked a retiree why he moved there. “You don’t have to shovel the humidity,” the retiree merrily responded. This month my friend’s mother is in Florida…wrapped up in sweaters. Times are changing. Even down south, the climate isn’t what it used to be. East coast cities are like freezers. And the Mid-West is more tightly in the grip of Jack Frost’s icy fingers than it used to be.

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The Secret to Making Good Money from Almost Any Country You Choose

Imagine living in Europe, Africa, or Australia and earning a living while traveling around and discovering the continent. Sounds too good to be true? Well this is exactly what I have been doing for about six years now. I started off in Africa because I had always wanted to go on a safari but could never afford it.

In Pictures: Life in Asia

Exhilarating, comfortable, and affordable are just some of the ways expats describe their life in Asia. For those looking to relocate in Asia, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia are among the best places to live. The low cost of living, excellent health care and stunning scenery are some of the reasons why many expats choose to start a new life in Asia.

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Now Hiring for the Coolest Job in the World

One advantage of living in Europe is that cheap airfares make the rest of it so accessible. I’ve just got back home to Ireland after an unofficial three-day jaunt to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This tiny country holds the title for the highest per capita consumption of wine in the world, so there was a good reason to go bar-hopping.

Ecuador

Ecuador, Uruguay and Malta Boast Best Climates in the World

InternationalLiving.com’s annual Global Retirement Index names Ecuador, Uruguay and Malta as the best three countries in the world when it comes to climate. Their temperate weather throughout the year, moderate rainfall and little risk of natural disaster saw them rise to the top of the Climate category, one of eight categories in the Index, which details the top countries in the world for retirement in 2014.

colombia

The Day My Spanish Shortcut Failed…

When I arrived in South America over five years ago, my Spanish vocabulary was limited to just a few words. Learning and remembering nouns seemed particularly challenging, but I was delighted to discover that many Spanish words sound very similar to their English equivalent. For example, an office is an oficina and a bank is a banco.

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“But You Can’t Speak Spanish…”

“Wait, what? Don’t move to Argentina, you can’t speak any Spanish!” Everyone reacted the same way when I announced I was moving. My Spanish education consisted of one class I took for a few months when I was 11 years old.

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Flamenco, Opera and Warrior Dancers

In northwest Africa the village of Kartong, Gambia, hosts the Kartong Festival February 7 to 9. Traditional dance, music, and street performances, as well as local arts and crafts, are part of the event, which includes cook-offs and feasts. From February 7 to March 1, the Perth International Arts Festival in Western Australia will sate your appetite for the art.

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Breakfast in Paris, Lunch in Barcelona…and much more

Colombians have been visiting the colonial town of Salento in the heart of the country’s Coffee Triangle for decades. Its colorful bahareque architecture and the proximity of the vast and magnificent Cocora National Park are just two attractions. Trout is a specialty dish. And costs of living are low. For example, expats who have settled in the region report renting for just $200 a month.

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Living on Less than $1,500 a Month Overseas

Most mornings Chuck and Kathy Baumgarten can be found leisurely sipping coffee and enjoying the sunrise from their porch. It’s easy to see why if you visit their home. They have one of the most scenic vistas in all of Ecuador. Mount Imbabura seems to rise from their backyard. A 180-degree turn showcases Mount Cotacachi’s golden-hour glow.

The cloud forest of Monteverde is a high-altitude rain forest where the clouds sweep through the trees, leaving a lush, moisture-rich environment.

Video: The Cloud Forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica

Just three and a half hours or so northwest of San José, Costa Rica’s capital and site of the main international airport, is a unique mountain community. Monteverde, with its main town Santa Elena, is the site of a large protected swath of land, including the cloud forest the area is best known for. This is a type of high-altitude rain forest where the clouds sweep through the trees, leaving a lush, moisture-rich environment. Trees are covered in orchids, moss, and bromeliads.

English-speaking Malta is an easy place to integrate into the community.

Best Places to Retire Overseas Where it’s Easy to Integrate

Integration into your new community is very important. When you move overseas, you want to know that you will be accepted into the community and make new friends quickly, which will in turn make the transition between countries and cultures easier.

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Best Places to Retire Overseas and Get Retiree Discounts

From special discounts to front-of-line privileges, the respect for elderly citizens and residents shines through in these three countries, ranked best in the world for retiree benefits in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2014.

You can get a 25% discount on airline tickets in Panama as part of  the Pensionado program.

The Best Places to Retire Overseas and Get Discounted Airfare

When moving overseas you may be worried about seeing your family back home or saving your money to get to the U.S. when you need to. However some countries offer discounted airfare to retirees—which will lower your travel costs.

In Pictures: The World’s Best Retirement Havens in 2014

For more than 30 years, International Living has been researching the best retirement havens in the world…and every January the Annual Global Retirement Index is released—highlighting the best places for you to retire. This Index ranks the top 24 countries in the world for retirement in 8 categories. The top 10 countries that feature on the list this year each bring spectacular benefits for retirees living overseas—from great health care and ideal climates to a low cost of living and financial perks for retirees. Starting with number 10, here are our top retirement havens for 2014.

Uruguay enjoys four distinct seasons including a warm summer.

Best Places to Retire Overseas and Escape to a Better Climate

Tired of shoveling snow, braving the torrential rain or wrapping up against the bitter cold? If so, check out these top three places to retire for a better climate as ranked in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2014. With a perfect score of 100 and for the second year in a row, Ecuador comes out top in the Climate category and is the overall runner up in this year’s Global Retirement Index. Lying directly on the equator, it enjoys 12 hours of direct equatorial daylight 365 days a year.

For the fifth year in a row, Ecuador has ranked number one for great value property.

The Best Places to Buy Real Estate When You Retire Overseas

Whether you are looking for a home on the coast, on an island or in a colonial city, these three countries have the best value real estate. If your dream home includes a pool, a big back yard in which to swing from a hammock in the sun, a place close to the beach where you can snorkel, relax with a good book or watch the sunset…rest assured, you can have it—because your real estate dollar stretches further overseas. You can buy a superior property in a better location for the same amount or less than you would spend on a home in the U.S.

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Panama: The World’s Best Retirement Haven in 2014

I’ve lived in Panama for the past eight years and the country has always been a winner in my book. International Living ranked Panama the best retirement destination in the world well before the mainstream press caught on. In fact, it took the number one spot in IL’s Annual Global Retirement Index not once or even twice, but seven times in a row. This year, it takes the top spot again in the Index as the best place in the world to retire.

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