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 consider a country like Ecuador. It lies directly on the equator, so the entire country enjoys 12 hours of direct equatorial sunlight, 365 days a year. However, since Ecuador also has three distinct geographical areas—the Sierras (mountains), the Oriente (eastern rainforests), and the Costa (Paciﬁc coastal plains), the climate depends largely on where you are in relation to the mountains.
For example, Ecuador’s capital, Quito, lies in the Central Valley between the Andean Mountain’s eastern and western ridges. At an altitude of 9,350 feet, Quito’s climate is spring-like throughout the year. On the coast, the weather is warmer, of course, but not as hot and humid as a Florida beach during the summer.
If you like distinct seasons then you should consider Europe. Italy is a land of contrasts when it comes to weather. In winter, the Italian Alps are likely to be cold, with crisp blue skies and enough snow to keep skiers satisﬁed. On the other hand, winter fog can be a problem throughout the whole of central and northern Italy. For the best winter weather, look to the Italian Riviera, the Amalﬁ Coast, and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. All enjoy a mild winter climate and rainfall isn’t too heavy either. Obviously the farther south you go during the summertime, the hotter it will get…and the deep south can be very warm indeed. In Apulia, the heel of Italy, even the sea temperature averages 82º F in August.
If you like a tropical climate consider Nicaragua. Its climate alternates between two seasons: rainy and dry (winter and summer). This is the result of its geographic location and the humidity from both the Atlantic and Paciﬁc Oceans, which give it fairly stable seasons. In the Central Region, the rainy season lasts from May to October. The dry season occurs from November through April. During December the weather is more temperate. The warmest months are March, April, and May. The climate of the Atlantic Coast has been classiﬁed as having the highest temperature and humidity. The temperature in this region corresponds to that in tropical jungles and ranges above 89° F.
2. How much will it cost to live better overseas?
For a retired worker, the average U.S. Social Security check is $1,230 a month. And the average Social Security check for a couple is $2,014. On this much you can live a good quality of life in many countries such as Ecuador, Malaysia and Mexico. Overseas your Social Security payment will stretch further.
In Cuenca, Ecuador a couple can live comfortably on $1,555 a month. This includes rent of a luxury three-bedroom apartment: $450; hiring a maid once a week: $60; and entertainment: $200 (based on two people dining out six times a month with drinks, dessert and tips).
Connie Pombo and her husband Mark retired to Cuenca over three years ago and are living comfortably on $1,317 a month. Connie says, “Cuenca is now home to us where we enjoy leisurely walks along the river, take a 25-cent bus ride to El Centro for a $2.50 almuerzo (set lunch); and experience the excitement of free concerts and art exhibits throughout the week.”
A couple can live on $1,604 a month in Penang, Malaysia. This includes rent of a 2,100 square foot condo: $950; a maid for four hours a week: $60; and entertainment: $300.
Janet and John Nisted’s family of three live very comfortable on $2,000 a month in Penang. “Hiring a cleaner isn’t a luxury. A super-efficient Cambodian maid cleans our house here for less than $5 an hour. Plus eating out in Penang isn’t the rare treat it is in the west. For $25 our family of three enjoys a two-course meal at our favorite restaurant.”
For $2,200 a month, a couple can retire to Mexico. This includes rent of a two-bedroom house: $900; hiring a maid three times a week: $200; and entertainment: $250.
Jonathan Look lives in the highland city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico with his wife Vonda for $1,800 a month. They pay $800 a month for a sun-filled, one-bedroom house which is centrally located. All their utilities, daily housekeeping and laundry service are included.
John says, “You could live here for less of course, but when a bag of fresh fruit and veg costs less than $2, and a dinner for two with drinks costs less than $18, then you’ll be hard put to spend more than we do.”
3. Will you get bored overseas?
When you retire overseas you can be as busy as you choose to be. Many expats find that their social lives are busier than ever through hobbies, volunteering and making new friends. You will never run out of things to do overseas.
If you like to explore nature then consider Belize. The country’s interior hides tall waterfalls, rainforests and rivers. Near Sittee Point, there is a jaguar preserve where you can venture into the jungle in search of the big cats. Bird watching is also popular here–you’ll be able to spot parrots, toucans, flycatchers and herons in the area. There is a 176-mile barrier reef just off the coast for skilled divers, snorkelers and fishermen.
If you like to keep active then consider Costa Rica. The Central Valley has the perfect climate for tennis, golf, cycling, baseball, jogging, softball, cricket, hiking, soccer, horseback riding and polo. Spas and gyms are easy to find here along the Pacific Coast. Water sports such as swimming, fishing, sailing, diving, water-skiing, snorkeling, surfing, canoeing, white-water rafting and kayaking are also popular in Costa Rica.
If you like culture then consider Italy. Here there are more than 3,500 museums, art galleries and archeological sites. Numerous festivals also take place throughout the year such as opera festivals, saint’s days, medieval pageantry and food festivals.
Louise Orr retired early to Boquete, Panama and she finds it hard to stay in. She is not tied down to a job or a business but there are so many fun and worthwhile things to do, she finds that she doesn’t have much free time.
She has thrown herself into the community, she volunteers and is involved with the theater group. She says, “Ma’am, if you are bored here, that is your fault.”
4. Is it easy to make friends overseas?
It will be easier to make new friends in places where there are large English-speaking expat communities. After all, you and your new friends will have the shared experience of being expats in your host country. And remember, a little Spanish goes a long way when making friends with locals, too.
If you would like to spend time with other expats then consider The Central Valley, in Costa Rica where there is a large expat community. Due to the fact that expats have been flocking to this area for decades, there’s a built-in expat “infrastructure” that includes social clubs, theater groups, and poker and bridge nights.
IL’s Costa Rica editor Jason Holland says, “You can get along just fine without hardly any knowledge of Spanish at all. But the thing is, a little goes a long way. Costa Ricans really do appreciate the effort. It’s a sign of respect, plain and simple, for the people of your new home.”
In Boquete, Panama the locals are accepting and inclusive. People from all over the world live here, and if you want to make friends, you will find it’s very easy. “Family values” is a way of life in this area and some expats say it’s a lot like the U.S. back in the 1950s.
Cuenca, Ecuador has ranked as the number one place for expats to live and has attracted more expats than any other location in the country. Here, you will find online English-language newspapers and e-mail services that keep expats up-to-date on community events and national news.
5. How long will it take you to get home?
Flying from Los Angeles to New York takes five hours, and many flights from North America to Central America take a similar length of time or even less. For example, a flight from Miami to Quito, Ecuador takes just 4 hours and 5 minutes.
IL expats find that once they retire overseas they have lots of visitors from back in the States. It is true that it’s a small world and it’s only getting smaller with numerous direct flights from the U.S. to Central America and Europe.
And you cannot get closer to the U.S. than Mexico. Flights to and from Mexico are inexpensive and most take less time than a coast-to-coast U.S. flight. It takes three hours to fly from Mexico City to Miami.
Europe is closer than you might think, too and there are more regular flights to Europe than ever before. It takes only six and a half hours to fly from Dublin, Ireland to New York and it takes 8 hours to get from Paris to New York.
Once you make the move, enjoy settling into your new life overseas. There are many new experiences waiting to be discovered. One of the aspects that IL France Correspondent Barbara Diggs cherishes most about the expat life in France is “how even the most ordinary events can be extraordinary.”
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