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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- In Pictures: Five Great Havens to Live in Costa Rica
Posted on June 18, 2013 by Jason Holland
Costa Rica…the name alone conjures up visions of lush tropical rain forests and crashing surf on long stretches of white sand beaches.
- Where to Live in Costa Rica: Five Top Expat Havens
Posted on June 18, 2013 by Jason Holland
It’s the friendly and welcoming people, the natural beauty, and the tropical lifestyle that will really steal your heart. “Costa Ricans are a gracious people,” says Rene Aoki, who has lived in the Arenal region for 19 years. “It’s an easy place to live where you can make close friends.” New expats find well-trodden ground and benefit from the experience of those who came before them.
- “Everyone Thought We Were Crazy to Move to Costa Rica…”
Posted on June 3, 2013 by Jason Holland
It was hard to tell over the phone. But I think my mother was in tears when I broke the news that we were moving to Costa Rica. Most of our friends were shocked.
Real estate values have fallen so far in Ireland…that today, $27,000 puts you in the game. (Spend that much and you get a traditional-style, semi-detached cottage in need of some modernization.) Spend a little over $45,000 and you won’t have the hassle of home improvements. That amount gets you a modern condo.
Nicaragua is one of the most beautiful countries in the Americas. It boasts a dramatic Pacific coastline; long, gentle Caribbean beaches; and volcanoes and freshwater lakes that dot the hilly inland. Colonial cities like Granada and León offer visitors a taste of days gone by. And Managua is rapidly becoming a real First-World city with top-notch theaters…
Blue becomes bluer, every shade from sapphire to cobalt. Sea merges with sky. The intensity of blueness is almost too much. It’s as if the Adriatic has fallen into the clutches of a Photoshop enthusiast with an uncontrolled passion for color saturation.
Few countries in the world can compete with Malaysia for natural beauty, the warmth of its people and diversity of cultures…not to mention the amazingly low cost of living (my live-in maid costs $400 a month). I feel blessed and wish that I had moved here years ago. Betty Cotton loves telling her friends about Malaysia, too—especially Penang.
You’ve probably heard the old joke that the best way to make $10 million in the wine industry is to start with $20 million. But these days in Argentina, nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike other winemaking nations, Argentina is now exporting almost all the wine it can produce. Brazil, the United States, Canada and England are favorite destinations…
At ages 67 and 72, we became senior nomads. We had taken stock of our lives and realized that we were happier on the road than anywhere else—and that becoming home-free would give us the flexibility we needed to experience life in other cultures. Since then, we’ve lived in nine countries, and we have no plans to stop until the wheels fall off!
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.
Panama is well known for its friendly people…and that includes both expats and locals. It’s easier than ever to find like-minded people who are willing to make friends, include you in their activities, or support you in starting something new.
- 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.
When Jack Stewart graduated from culinary school in Toronto, he didn’t anticipate living his dream life in the colonial city of León, Nicaragua. He left Canada in 2001 and started a restaurant in Costa Rica. “When I was in Costa Rica, tourism was dropping. But the Nicaraguan economy was growing and when residence laws changed making it easier to live here, I made the decision and fell in love with what I found here.”
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.
Michael and Amanda Cyphers retired early partly to give their 14-year-old son, Colin, a better way of life, away from the hustle-bustle of their Las Vegas suburban home. They find they have more quality family time now in Belize. “I have more time with my husband and son, because I’m away from the 101 things, the 3,800-square-foot house, the cars, everything we had.” We live a humble life here.
For many years Belize has attracted people from all over the world who want to live in the sun while taking advantage of the country’s real estate bargains, low cost of living, protection of assets and terrific fishing and diving.
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.
In Ecuador we found one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse countries in the world. And with a low cost of living, a government that leaves us alone, and some of the friendliest people you’re ever likely to meet, Ecuador more than exceeded our expectations.
- Affordable-Living by the Beach in Placencia, Belize
Posted on March 28, 2013 by Domini Hedderman
“In 2004 we’d looked at property in Belize and decided to let the euphoria settle down while we really thought it out. But then a day came when it took me two hours to go 60 miles on the Florida Turnpike and cost me $13 in tolls. That was the final straw. I had it. That was the turning point. I called Kim and told her to contact the real estate agent.”
“More places… more often… with more insiders as our guides.” This year, we’ve made a commitment to expand our reach…to cover the world more comprehensively…to open up for you new possibilities. People always talk about how the world is getting smaller. But as an IL reader, yours is about to expand. In an era when so many news organizations are calling their foreign correspondents home (further insulating an already myopic American public), we’re doing just the opposite.
- “We Drove 6,000 Miles to Find Paradise in Costa Rica…”
Posted on March 26, 2013 by Carmen Wise
My husband Mike and I loaded up the van with luggage and our two dogs, Dino and Sprite, and set off on our long road trip. One month and 6,000 miles later, we arrived in paradise. Yanina, the owner of the resort, has been our main guide and comforter as we trudge through the red tape of dealing with customs regarding our shipment of personal goods, setting up bank accounts…
Living on a hillside in San Ignacio, Belize, just a short car ride away from the Guatemalan border, Michael and Amanda Cyphers have finally found the simplicity they looked for so long. “I wake up every day and think, ‘What do I do with all this freedom?’” says Amanda. “At home, we had to do, we had to perform. We had bills to pay, places to go, schedules to keep. So much so that we were up at night worrying about how to get it all done.”
When the old man waved first, and offered the faintest of smiles, I knew we’d made progress in making Puerto Cayo, Ecuador our home. I begin almost every day with a one-hour walk from our home into town and back. And every day, without fail, I see the same local people, going to the same places in their own morning routine. In the beginning, the Puerto Cayans weren’t unfriendly at all. They just didn’t seem overly friendly.
- Video: Three Areas to Consider When You Move to Punta del Este, Uruguay
Posted on March 22, 2013 by David Hammond
Punta del Este’s identity is evolving. In addition to being the area’s most popular beach resort, it is becoming an education center. It currently has four bi-lingual schools and a new university is being constructed. There is also a new large conference center in the works. In addition to traditional resort businesses extending their seasons, there are new stores and businesses being set up.
Punta del Este is South America’s premier beach resort. It is often compared to the Hamptons of Long Island, New York, or Europe’s Saint-Tropez. For decades, it has been a prestigious vacation destination. Now, a growing number of people are living in Punta del Este, Uruguay, making their favorite summer resort their full-time home.
Cynthia Collett recently celebrated her first anniversary in Ecuador, although she admits she had been working on this idea of “retiring overseas” for nearly a year before she actually made the move. “A friend came to Ecuador for a work-related conference,” Cynthia says. “And she told me I would absolutely love Cotacachi. “That’s when I started the Internet research. The more I read, the more I fell in love with the culture.”
It was the first full day of our vacation in Canada, when my best friend, Sharri, and I got some news that put a different spin on our trip. The company we worked for was being acquired. We spent the next day of our vacation listening to conference calls. Each one basically said the same thing—nobody knew anything about what the future held.
Eating like a local is one of the best ways to keep your cost of living low in Costa Rica. And for dining out that means frequenting your local soda, the equivalent of a diner or neighborhood restaurant in the U.S. They serve simple, nutritious food, including the casado, the unofficial national dish, which runs $4 to $6.
If you move to a foreign country where the native language is different to your own, I’m not about to tell you, “No problem.” On the other hand, even if you’re thinking about moving to a country like Ecuador with Taco Bell-level Spanish skills, I offer myself as evidence that you will not perish.
Thailand is one of Asia’s most popular countries for expats. It’s safe, women can travel alone without problems, the cost of living is low, and getting a retirement visa is simple. But buying property is tricky. Which is why so many expats in Asia rent instead of buy. Renting is easy, affordable, and sometimes the only way to live in a country. Plus, if you want to move on and try out a new place, you just pack up and hit the road.
After a lifetime of cold weather in Alberta, Canada, retired couple Rick and Peggy Stewart were ready for a change. And they found a perfect climate—and many more benefits—in the rural community of Santa Eulalia about 20 minutes outside of the small town of Atenas, in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. From their new home in the tropics, they can’t help but rub it in with friends and family back home.
- The Problem With Retiring Overseas is Deciding Where to Live
Posted on March 5, 2013 by Edd Staton
When my now-grown son was a little boy I used to take him to Baskin Robbins for a cone. He would stare and stare at those 31 flavors. They were all so tempting, and I watched him grow physically agitated as he agonized over his decision. Inevitably he would always pick—chocolate chip. The same thing can happen now to folks scouring the Internet for possible retirement locations.
- Spend a Month in Granada, Nicaragua (All Expenses Paid)
Posted on March 3, 2013 by Len Galvin
We’re looking for someone to spend a month in one of our favorite retirement havens: Granada, Nicaragua. With new cafes, restaurants, boutique hotels and art galleries opening up all over the city, Granada has been transformed over the past five years. That’s why we want to send someone (plus a spouse, partner, or friend) there—on us. We’ll pay for the round-trip flights, accommodation and give generous living expenses.
- Granada, Nicaragua: Why Tourists and Expats Flock to This Colonial Gem
Posted on March 1, 2013 by Dan Prescher
Today Granada is one of Nicaragua’s most popular tourist destinations, even for Nicaraguans. People from Managua can drive down on a well-maintained four-lane highway to get away from the capital for the weekend and socialize along Calle la Calzada, the pedestrian street lined with bars, cafés, and restaurants just off the city’s main plaza.
My grandma, a legendary green thumb, once tried her hand at growing bananas. She was successful, producing exactly one banana… from a plant in a pot, in her living room, in Wisconsin, in the dead of winter. The bad news? I didn’t inherit my grandmother’s green thumb. The good news? Living in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, I don’t need it. And neither will you because the area has such ideal growing conditions that anybody can be successful, even with little or no experience. Here’s what you need to know to get started:
Nicaragua is on the cusp. It’s being gussied up. Yet it remains—for the moment—a place for in-the-know travelers and adventuresome expats. They’re drawn to the elegant colonial towns and the natural beauty of the Pacific. Then there’s the super-low cost of living, real estate for a fraction of what you’d pay in the U.S. for similar locations, and the opportunity for a new way of life.
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