Have you ever wanted to live somewhere like Beverly Hills but just weren't rich enough or famous enough? Don't worry...we have you covered in Samborondon, Ecuador—about a 15-minute drive from Guayaquil airport. This exclusive area is filled with gated communities, shopping centers, theaters, trendy restaurants, and its own branch of the Kennedy Hospital.
My wife, Suzan, and I were in the U.S. for a conference when Ecuador was hit by its biggest earthquake in decades. We learned of it immediately from our friends and neighbors in our hometown of Cotacachi in the Andes Mountains in northern Ecuador, where the quake was felt but caused no extensive damage. The story was different on Ecuador's northern Pacific coast. Entire towns have been flattened. Hundreds... perhaps thousands... of people have died, and thousands more have been injured or left homeless.
I’m sitting on a bench, looking out at the deep blue waters of the Panama Bay. A row of tall palm trees lines the walkway in front of me. To my left is a small marina, and further off, the twinkling lights of the city’s impressive skyline. To my right, I can see the stately colonial facades of the historic district known as Casco Viejo.
We got as far as the town square in the small village of San Vicente on Ecuador’s northern coast when our car ran out of gas. I pulled to the side of the rutted, muddy road among a huge crush of writhing, smiling people as sultry Latin rhythms shook the windows of the car.
In the heart of Spain, nestled between mountains, sunburnt hills, and row after row of thriving olive trees, sits Madrid. Despite being the third largest city by population in the European Union, Madrid maintains the feeling of tranquility and neighborliness that is so often replaced by the rushed and stressed life of other big cities. That’s precisely why I, a fast-walking, fast-talking girl from New York, stepped off the plane and into the blaring July sun of Madrid, took a look around, and traded it all in for a slowed-down, low-stress life in Spain’s metropolis.
Life is a balancing act, but Dave and Sherry Johnson have found what they've been looking for in Cuenca, Ecuador. Before his first exploratory trip, Dave imagined a Third World country with old, worn-out buses, chickens and cargo hanging from every inch, and people riding on the roof. What he found instead when he arrived in Cuenca a year-and-a-half ago was a charming colonial city with cobblestone streets, wrought-iron balconies, majestic churches, and friendly people. And Dave's first bus ride wasn't at all like he had imagined; it was a Mercedes bus that he says was more lavish than most airplanes he has been on.
As a young man, Bill was in the Navy and afterward went to work for the airline industry. “Eventually I became a supervisor and thought I had it made—good job, great benefits, nice pension, the works.” But that all changed when the economy went bad, the airline downsized, Bill lost his job…and all his benefits and pension. “We had expected to live on Bill’s pension when we retired, and when that was gone, everything changed,” says Mitzi. “We had to find an affordable place to live.”
“The cost of living here is so low that my bills only total around $1,200 a month, without having to budget,” says Brett Dvoretz, who lives in one of the country’s most popular beach towns. “I eat out wherever and whenever I want; a drink runs you $2, and I can have a fresh-cooked meal at a restaurant for as little as $2.50.” Steven King has lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, since 2006, after being attracted by the country’s exotic charms as well as by its fantastically low cost of living.
Year after year Costa Rica, the land of Pura Vida (pure life), still proves to be an attractive destination where expats typically are able to find a high quality of living for less than they would in Canada or the U.S., for example. Costa Rica has been a popular destination for North American expats for decades.
When I talk to International Living readers, I usually focus on sharing how you can minimize your U.S. taxes and stay out of trouble with the IRS. But today, I’m going to do something a little different. I'm going to share with you what I do. I live part of the year in Jaco, Costa Rica. When I bought my condo, I kept the owning and renting of this foreign real estate simple: I bought it in my own name. That’s pretty unusual; Jaco is one of the few remaining areas that allow Americans to own beachfront property in their own name. This keeps my U.S. tax reporting of the rental income reportable—just like a U.S. property—and I do not have to make a foreign corporation disclosure.