Amy Schumer said she’d move to Spain. Bryan Cranston said he’d move to Canada. Jon Stewart said he’ll move to another planet. At last count, 23 celebrities have claimed they’ll leave the country if their preferred candidate doesn’t win the presidential election....
Celebrities—and anybody else who’s found themselves saying, “I’m outta here”—take note: Many excellent-value, warm-weather, close-to-home options exist an easy hop from the States. These are places where you can spend less while you live better. (And it’s a lot easier to tune out the political noise when you’re in another country.)
Here are International Living’s editors’ picks for the top five places to escape to if politics has got you down...
There is only one place in the world where you can enjoy an affordable overseas retirement, live right on the beach at affordable prices, yet remain within minutes of the U.S. by car…
Plus, right now with the current exchange rate of the U.S. dollar against the deflated peso, Mexico is a huge bargain.
With its moon-lit fiestas, languid white-sand beaches, ancient colonial towns set in the rugged Sierras, and Mayan pyramids rising from the misty Yucatan jungle, it’s no wonder so many people are starting new lives in Mexico.
With rapidly rising fuel, healthcare, food, and travel costs back home, it’s nice to know that there are still places where you can live well without burning through your retirement nest-egg. Mexico is one such place.
A move to Mexico means you can still enjoy the amenities you were accustomed to north of the border, including cable TV, high-speed Internet, and modern home appliances. And if you prefer, you can even bring all of your favorite things with you without paying import taxes.
“I absolutely love my new life here in Puerto Vallarta,” says expat Jack Bramy who moved to the popular beach town last year. “In fact, I think it’s perfect.”
Jack lives in a nice two-bedroom apartment with a large balcony overlooking the pool. He’s half a block from the beach and only pays $575 a month, including cable and internet.
“A place like mine back in San Francisco would run about $3,000 a month or more,” says Jack. “My only utility bill is electricity, and it’s about $30 monthly without using the air conditioning.”
This eclectic coastal city has been popular with international travelers for years. Hollywood first discovered Puerto Vallarta in 1964, when Night of the Iguana, starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner, was filmed here. Tourists and expats have been flocking to the beaches, narrow cobblestone streets, and towering hills overlooking Banderas Bay ever since.
Puerto Vallarta is just one of the many expat havens on offer in Mexico. In towns and cities all over the country, you’ll enjoy easy living, glorious landscapes, extraordinary value on real estate, and an affordable cost of living… These are just some of the reasons why droves of Americans are moving south of the border.
Flight time from Atlanta to Cancún is two-and-a-half hours; from Los Angeles it’s four-and-a-half.
Tropical beaches, First-World infrastructure, high-quality healthcare, welcoming people…there are many things to love about Panama.
Retirees are drawn here by the Pensionado program, one of the best retiree benefits programs in the world. Younger adults…some with children in tow…are moving here in increasing numbers to take advantage of the ease of doing business and the hip, international vibe.
For many, the low cost of living is a major factor in choosing Panama, as is the fact that Panama uses the U.S. dollar. Expats living here have seen their costs drop substantially. At markets in Panama you can get a banana for 10 cents or bulging bags of fresh produce—enough for a couple weeks' worth of meals—for under $12. Getting out there and having fun is ultra-affordable, with movie tickets at around $6 ($3 for retiree residents). Take a taxi or Uber in the metropolitan area for $3 to $4. Catch an air-conditioned bus to verdant weekend destinations like El Valle for as little as $4. With such quick and easy transportation, you can avoid the fuss and expense of having a car.
No matter what lifestyle you plan to pursue in Panama, rest assured you can have it…most likely for less than it would cost back home.
Panama City is the most popular expat destination, but this country is so much more than just the city. The highland towns offer spring-like weather, nature trails, waterfalls, cloud forests and more. Take your pick of locations on the water…from the white sands of the Caribbean islands to the deep blues of the Pacific.
And if you’re more drawn to country living, there are rural locations where you can stretch your dollars further than you could have imagined.
Retirees Bill and Mitzi Martain have created their ideal life just south of the highland town of Santa Fe. They bought 10 acres alongside the Santa Maria River in 2006. Since then they’ve built a new home, planted fruit trees and vegetable gardens and started raising a herd of sheep. “We just fell in love with Santa Fe when we came here,” Mitzi says, “and we knew right away it’s the right place for us. Our Social Security income covers all our monthly expenses, and we live the lifestyle we want with an excellent quality of life.”
Flight time from Atlanta to Panama City is four hours. From Los Angeles it’s six-and-a-half hours.
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Costa Rica…the name alone conjures up visions of lush tropical rain forests and crashing surf on long stretches of white-sand beaches.
Costa Rica inspires these visions for two reasons. Number one, they’re true. Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse and beautiful spots on earth, with Pacific and Atlantic coastlines that are the stuff of legend.
The second reason that the idea of Costa Rica can instantly create pictures of tropical splendor is that it has been one of the most popular destinations for expats and second-home owners for decades. Costa Rica as a tropical haven is firmly established in the expat literature.
But the rain forest and beautiful beaches are just part of the story of this Central American country.
Costa Rica is very diverse as far landscapes and climates go, so expats have a choice of environments when thinking about life in this beautiful country.
One place that has been very popular over the years is Costa Rica’s Central Valley…a spot that cradles the country’s thriving capital of San José yet also offers rustic and rural pleasure in abundance, as well as a mild, spring-like climate year-round. The Arenal region, with its centrepiece 33-square-mile lake, is also increasingly popular. It is three hours northwest of San José…a region of farmland, pasture, virgin forest, and unspoiled lake views.
“Part of the reason my wife and I chose to begin our Costa Rican adventure in the Central Valley town of Grecia was its proximity to San José and the airport, as well as the beautiful scenery and temperate climate,” says International Living correspondent Greg Seymour. “That was over three years ago, and we still haven’t left, and not just because of the reasons above. We stayed because of the great community, the low cost of living, and the excellent healthcare available directly in town.”
If you prefer the beach, Costa Rica offers 800 miles of Caribbean and Pacific coastline. Lying on the country’s north Pacific coast, Tamarindo is a popular expat town.
Expat Graham Cooper ventured to Costa Rica on his own and says there are plenty of ways to live on a budget here. He says the biggest draw to Tamarindo for him, though, was the beautiful beaches in the area and the abundant wildlife.
But there was something else that truly sealed the deal. “I’ve traveled a great deal, and I’ve never felt welcomed anywhere the way I feel in Tamarindo,” he says. “The locals were immediately friendly and helpful and the sense of community here makes it very easy to meet people and build a network.”
Flight time from Atlanta to San José is four hours. From Los Angeles it’s five hours and 40 minutes.
Unless you’ve traveled to Ecuador, you may not understand how very diverse this country is. It really does have everything...from the Galapagos Islands to the Amazon basin and the Andes Mountains, from big, modern cities to small, quaint villages. And up until now, one particular area of Ecuador has been overlooked—and that’s its 937 miles of Pacific coastline and its beautiful mainland beaches.
Ecuador draws a wide range of foreigners: entrepreneurs, travelers, humanitarian workers, foreign officials, diplomats, businesspeople of all stripes, and retirees looking to stretch their budget and experience a different way of life. Many expats are attracted by the country’s less-intrusive government and the tranquility of being removed from the terrorist and antiterrorist campaigns that make headlines in other parts of the world.
Generally speaking, the expats who have settled in Ecuador are those who tend to blend into society rather than live together in expat-oriented communities. Nonetheless, a bit of time in any town of significant size in Ecuador is all it takes to find the gringo haunts and watering holes.
The expat community is mainly made up of a mix of retirees and those involved in some sort of business. However, more young families are increasingly making Ecuador their home.
International Living Ecuador Highlands correspondent, Wendy DeChambeau, moved to the small town of Cotacachi with her family in 2011. She says: “My husband and I own a spacious three-bedroom home just outside of a pretty mountain town. We also have a 75-acre farm with a small house and five horses. We don’t owe anyone a penny and I support all of our family’s needs by working just part-time. I never shovel snow, never turn on an air conditioner, and never ever worry about tornadoes, hurricanes, or blizzards.”
Flight time from Atlanta to Quito is five hours and 20 minutes. From Los Angeles it’s 10 hours.
Colombia is no longer just a place for adventurers, speculators and risk-takers. It’s a country that’s hitting its full stride as an expat destination this year as the numbers of expat couples, younger people with portable careers, and single men and women who’ve found the ideal place to live or retire increase.
Mention that you’re going to Colombia, and people think you’re crazy. But they haven’t been there, and chances are their impression of Colombia is at least a decade out of date.
Located at the northern tip of South America, Colombia is where the Pacific and the Caribbean collide with the Andes and the Amazon. It’s a country that is more beautiful, dramatic, and diverse than nearly any other. It offers sparkling colonial cities and world-famous resorts along the Caribbean.
Just three hours from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Colombia welcomes nonstop flights into Bogotá, Medellín, Armenia, Barranquilla, and Cali.
It’s easy to make your way here these days. The property-purchase process is fairly simple, the rules for bringing money into the country have been streamlined, and it’s not hard to obtain a visa and set up residence. Colombia is ripe for investing. The tarnished image of Colombia’s past has kept prices down, so ground floor opportunities abound. This is the perfect time to invest in a great lifestyle that’s sure to climb in value when the mainstream arrives.
Colombia offers something that will appeal to just about everyone. And you’ll find that Colombia is a more-developed country than most in Latin America, with the infrastructure, modern products, and services you’d expect in a country on the move.
The country’s second largest city, Medellín, is blessed with perfect year-round spring-like weather and First World infrastructure and is attracting more and more expats who want to have a great quality of life.
In 2015, after years of working in a stressful job back in the States, Eric Myers finally decided to call Medellín home. “I fell in love with the city,” he says. “After living in the Florida heat all of my life, I really welcomed the perfect spring-like climate and the mountains in Medellín.”
Even though Eric was ready to slow down, he knew he still wanted to continue practicing law. “After researching the Florida rules, I found out I could do almost everything from a distance over the internet,” he says. So he opened a law practice.
“My cost of living in Medellín is less than half of what it was in Florida,” says Eric. “Which allows me to work a much less stressful schedule. I usually spend the morning doing work. Then I walk to meet friends for lunch. My afternoons are free to run errands.”
In cities and towns in Colombia, you’ll enjoy a perfect climate that’s neither too hot nor too cool (60 F to 80 F all year); amazing natural surroundings; plenty of cultural events; history-filled cities; superb healthcare; friendly people; and a welcoming country…all with a fantastically low cost of living—figure $1,500 a month for a couple, all in.
Flight time from Atlanta to Medellín is seven hours. From Los Angeles it’s eight hours and 20 minutes.