Our Peruvian Adventure: Living Well on $1,280 a Month

When my wife Nancy and I started scouting about for a new overseas spot to call home, we knew there were a few key things it had to offer. We wanted a country where we could easily become residents, buy property and work—if we wanted to—without a lot of hassles and paperwork. We didn’t want it to be too hot…or too cold…and, of course, low cost, good living was a must. We found all that and more in our vibrant and exotic new homeland of Peru.

We’ve been here a year-and-a-half now and we love it. Expat life has taught us that it’s not a bad thing to move around from country to country and city to city. In fact, it’s the best way to figure out what and where is a good fit for you.

We spent our first year in a bustling metropolis of Arequipa in the south of the country and it had a lot going for it. The food is amazing, the cost of living is very inexpensive (our living expenses were $2,100 a month including rent, utilities, food, phones, internet, TV and entertainment) and there are copious amounts of blue sky and sunshine, over 300 days a year to be exact. The breathtaking and world-famous trekking destination, Colca Canyon, is only a few hours’ drive away and the coast is close by too.

Like I say, Arequipa had a lot going for it…but after a year we realised that what we really wanted was to sample the beach life.

We had visited the north of the country and enjoyed exploring the coastline, from surfing hotspots to white powdery sand beaches, but it didn’t take us long to choose Huanchaco, a laidback fishing village as our next home. We’ve been here about six months now and it feels right. When you find a place that fits, you know it. I think we are probably here for the long-term.

For us, Huanchaco offers the best of both worlds. We are in a small, traditional village on the beach but only 20 minutes from a bustling city offering every amenity.

We’ve discovered that it’s a lot easier to meet people in a small town than in a large, bustling city. Within a few days of moving here, I was invited to share a beer with a group relaxing outside a small shop. And ‘share’ is the operative word. One beer (to start), one glass, many people…that’s how it works here. Pass the glass!

Another custom we notice here is the hand-shaking, pleasant greetings and introductions that occur in almost every situation. It doesn’t matter if it’s the water delivery guy, the immigration officer, the TV repairman or the next-door neighbour. Everybody shakes your hand on meeting and parting…for everything.

Respect for the elderly is high on the list here too. Banks, supermarkets and government offices all have separate lines for seniors, pregnant women and people with disabilities. On full buses, teens will jump out of their seats to provide seating for older passengers. Bus drivers will assist the elderly and women with children in getting off the buses, even carrying their bags. It’s nice to see.

We also love to eat and here you’ll find great food wherever you go. It’s inexpensive, delicious and typically based on diverse ingredients from the sea, mountains and jungles of the country.

The cost of living is one of the cheapest anywhere with rents starting as low as $192 per month and filling, three-course lunches starting at $3.20, including a drink. A monthly budget of $1,280 to $1,500 is plenty here, as well as in many parts of the country.

With a widespread temperate climate, most areas require no heating or air conditioning. Fresh fruits and vegies are available year-round at low cost. We pick up enough to last us a few days at the local market for around $6.50.

Expat Emily Daly sums up life here perfectly. “The town has a really good vibe,” says Emily. “I love the food. I find the people here very friendly. The minute I got here, I just felt that I could live here.”

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