Live and Invest Overseas http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com Our Expertise Unlocks The World Fri, 24 Apr 2015 22:55:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.3 Investing In Cattle And Productive Land In Chaco, Paraguay http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/real-estate/investing-in-cattle-and-productive-land-in-chaco-paraguay.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/real-estate/investing-in-cattle-and-productive-land-in-chaco-paraguay.html#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:50:02 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9350 The Opportunity For The Small Investor In Paraguay Today Asunción, Paraguay Mid-19th century, Paraguay was a wealthy nation thanks to protectionist dictators who happily exported tea and wood to the outside world but taxed imports heavily, creating a self-sufficient, wealthy, and (unlike neighbors Brazil and Argentina) debt-free country. In fact, at the time, Paraguay was [...]

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The Opportunity For The Small Investor In Paraguay Today

Asunción, Paraguay

Mid-19th century, Paraguay was a wealthy nation thanks to protectionist dictators who happily exported tea and wood to the outside world but taxed imports heavily, creating a self-sufficient, wealthy, and (unlike neighbors Brazil and Argentina) debt-free country. In fact, at the time, Paraguay was flush enough to pay cash for technology that allowed it to own its railroad. Elsewhere in the region, it was the British who owned and profited from the railway operations.

According to locals, that healthy economy inspired an attempt to interfere with Britain’s tea monopoly in Europe, which led to the war of the Triple Alliance in 1864. Other stories about the start of this devastating conflict include that Paraguay was just trying to protect Uruguay’s independence and got tricked into a much larger-scale conflict. Still others say the dictator at the time, Francisco Solano Lopez, was delusional enough to attempt to take over South America.

Whatever the reasons for the war, the results were disastrous for Paraguay. By the end of fighting in 1870, the population was decimated and 25% of its territory was lost. Brazil occupied the country for six years.

A century-and-a-half later, Paraguay is back on the path to prosperity. The country has the second-lowest per capita GDP in South America, but its economy is growing (at an average rate of 7% per year for the last five years). Our impressions on the ground this week reinforce the point. Hotels and restaurants are full, shopping centers are busy.

Agriculture and cattle are major contributors to Paraguay’s economy and among the big opportunities for investors. One focus for anyone interested in Paraguay is productive land, specifically in the Chaco.

This region is attracting increasing attention among foreign investors, especially from Uruguay. Raw land in Chaco is much cheaper than land in Uruguay. Plus, little raw land remains available in Uruguay. A hectare of undeveloped land in Chaco costs about US$500. For another US$400 per hectare, you can develop the land for cattle. I’m personally interested in this idea and am speaking with local industry experts to pin down the numbers. I’ll have a detailed report for my Marketwatch members as soon as I’ve put all the pieces together.

Land in Chaco is cheap today, but it was far cheaper just a decade ago. Ten years ago, you could have bought a hectare of land in this region for US$30; 15 years ago, you could have bought for less than US$10 a hectare.

A French friend of Kathleen’s visited Paraguay as a 20-something young man, in the 1960s. He fell in love with the country. Land was cheap, so he bought some… at a cost of US$4 a hectare. When this Frenchman returned to Paraguay 20 years later, land was still cheap. In fact, the land he’d bought for US$4 a hectare was worth about US$4 a hectare. Best to cut and run, he figured, and sold it all. He was onto something but too far ahead of the curve. If only he’d held out.

Which leads to the obvious question today. If land values have appreciated so dramatically in the past decade-and-a-half, is it too late to buy? No. This country’s land is still a regional and a global bargain, with a lot of room for continued appreciation.

Of course, property values move down as well as up. One Argentine colleague I met with in Paraguay this week pointed out that productive land prices in Argentina are falling right now because farmers who need to sell can’t find buyers, thanks to the situation in the country overall (you know… Cristina). Still, prices are higher than in Paraguay.

That colleague is buying grass land in the Oriente to convert to farmland for soy and corn. Land in the Oriente is more expensive than raw land in Chaco, but adding value through farming should make the land more valuable still. Meantime, this colleague will earn annual returns from his crops.

The challenge is identifying opportunities for the small investor. You need to buy a few thousand hectares to realize the economies of scale that make a cattle land investment like this work. At today’s values, this means you need at least US$1 million to stake a worthwhile claim; US$2 million is better.

That’s why a focus this week in Asunción has been meeting with ranch managers who are putting together projects that allow smaller investors to take positions. Again, I’ll have more information on this for my Marketwatch members.

Lief Simon

Continue Reading: Real Estate And Property Listings In Panama

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Real Estate And Property Listings In Panama http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/real-estate-and-property-listings-in-panama.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/real-estate-and-property-listings-in-panama.html#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:00:50 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9351 “Kathleen, do you send out information on homes and land in Panama? The price of homes and land, their location, and how friendly the area is?” –John S., United States Yes, we publish a monthly e-zine that covers all things Panama, including the property markets in specific regions of greatest interest to the would-be retiree, [...]

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“Kathleen, do you send out information on homes and land in Panama? The price of homes and land, their location, and how friendly the area is?”

–John S., United States

Yes, we publish a monthly e-zine that covers all things Panama, including the property markets in specific regions of greatest interest to the would-be retiree, expat, investor, and entrepreneur. It’s called Panama Letter, is produced by my in-house team of Panama-based editors, and comes out the 1st of each month. Every issue includes specific current property listings, as well as budgets, expat stories and interviews, and lots of how-to pieces that provide everything you’d need to make your own way in this country.

More details are here.

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“Kathleen, ‘on the lam” not “on the lamb’ in your recent post ‘Who Would Want To Spend time In Paraguay?’

“What’s amazing to me is how rare are the errors that come out of your prolific output.

“Truly enjoy your newsletter simply for the writing.”

–George L., United States

Yikes. Thanks for catching my faux pas.
And thanks, too, for the kind feedback. It’s much appreciated.

Continue Reading: Investing In Cattle And Productive Land In Chaco, Paraguay

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Living And Investing In Paraguay http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/investing/living-and-investing-in-paraguay.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/investing/living-and-investing-in-paraguay.html#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:01:57 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9332 Who Would Want To Spend Time In Paraguay? Asunción, Paraguay It’s not easy to get to know any country. It takes time to peel away the top layers and glimpse the heart and soul of a place, to begin to understand what makes it and its people tick, how things work, what’s important, what’s valued. [...]

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Who Would Want To Spend Time In Paraguay?

Asunción, Paraguay

It’s not easy to get to know any country. It takes time to peel away the top layers and glimpse the heart and soul of a place, to begin to understand what makes it and its people tick, how things work, what’s important, what’s valued.

After five days in Asunción, I’d say that Paraguay is even tougher to know than most countries. So far I have been able to figure out but one thing for certain:

This is a place I’d like to know a whole lot better.

To that end, we’re spending this initial scouting visit meeting with those we’ve been able to connect with who have experience taking advantage of what Paraguay has to offer. We’re gathering insights, trying to fill in our image of Paraguay, with the help of charmingly contradictory and contrasting perspectives from people who know this country well but in different ways and for different reasons.

Who would want to spend time Paraguay?

Historically, Paraguay has been a place to disappear. Folks on the lam from far and wide have sought out this country because it has something people who don’t want to be found appreciate: Super low population density, at least in parts.

Paraguay is divided in two by the Rio Paraguay. To the east of the river is the Oriente; to the west is the Chaco. Paraguay today is home to 6.8 million people (as best as I can tell; it’s tough to find consensus in Paraguay on anything). About 6.6 million of those 6.8 live in the Oriente, leaving 200,000 for the Chaco, a region larger than the entire country of Uruguay. There is but one real road in the Chaco, the Ruta de Chaco, that travels from Asunción to the Mennonite town in the center of Chaco and then on to Bolivia.

Easy in a place like that to get lost and never to be found again if you didn’t want to be. That reality has contributed to Paraguay’s reputation as a kind of global hide-out. We’ve met with 30- and 40-year expats who probably were attracted to this country initially for reasons that fall into this category.

Other expats we’ve met, from both elsewhere in the region and farther afield, came not to escape but to prosper. Paraguay has a whole lot of undeveloped land. More important to some than the lack of population living on the land is the quality of the land itself.

“I came to Paraguay from Uruguay 15 years ago because I recognized that land in Paraguay is an excellent investment because, bottom line, the land in Paraguay is excellent, period,” one very successful expat-entrepreneur told us.

The land in Paraguay is fertile and also cheap. That Uruguayan businessman told us that he bought hundreds of thousands of hectares of land when he arrived on the scene in Paraguay 15 years ago at a cost of US$4 per. That same kind of raw land today sells for US$450 per hectare. Our new Uruguayan friend has done OK for himself for sure. The point for those of us arriving on the scene today, though, is that US$450 per hectare is still a global bargain.

Where to buy, what to buy, what to grow, and how to manage the farm? Those are questions we’re now trying to find answers for.

And we’re finding the related research delightfully entangled.

Kathleen Peddicord

Continue Reading: Gay Lifestyles In Latin America

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Gay Lifestyles In Latin America http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/gay-lifestyles-in-latin-america.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/gay-lifestyles-in-latin-america.html#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:00:59 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9333 “Kathleen, we are a male couple looking in Central or South America to get away for at least a few years, if not permanently. We require good health care and a reasonable cost of living. “We’ve been to Ecuador but it’s probably not the right place for us. We’re planning on visiting Panama in June [...]

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“Kathleen, we are a male couple looking in Central or South America to get away for at least a few years, if not permanently. We require good health care and a reasonable cost of living.

“We’ve been to Ecuador but it’s probably not the right place for us. We’re planning on visiting Panama in June or July, and Colombia and Uruguay are on the list to visit, as well.

“My question is mostly about cultures. As a male couple we have some trepidation about finding a great spot and then finding out we aren’t exactly welcome. In your experience, which of the countries I’ve listed might be most welcoming for us? I imagine you don’t run in our circles, but your vast experience is immensely valuable. Really it’s more about the culture of acceptance in these places, rather than government policies.”

–David H., United States

Culturally, Latinos are macho and Catholic. That means that, on the surface, at least, the culture frowns on gay lifestyles. However, beneath the surface, I think you’ll find Panama, Uruguay, and Colombia tolerant, if not openly accepting. You’ll definitely find people who do run in your circles and who would welcome you.

Uruguay could be the most openly accepting country in Latin America on this score. It has a gay marriage law on the books.

I hope that helps.

Continue Reading: Living And Investing In Paraguay

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Food And Culture In Medellín, Colombia http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/retirement-living/food-and-culture-in-medellin-colombia.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/retirement-living/food-and-culture-in-medellin-colombia.html#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:01:51 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9322 Medellín Is Foodie Heaven Medellín, Colombia We’ve heard from Kathleen. She’s exploring in the Chaco, scouting agriculture and land investment opportunities in Paraguay’s most fertile regions. She promises a report soon. Meantime, we continue coverage today from another of Kathleen’s favorite South American towns, Medellín, Colombia. This year’s Live and Invest in Colombia Conference is [...]

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Medellín Is Foodie Heaven

Medellín, Colombia

We’ve heard from Kathleen. She’s exploring in the Chaco, scouting agriculture and land investment opportunities in Paraguay’s most fertile regions. She promises a report soon.

Meantime, we continue coverage today from another of Kathleen’s favorite South American towns, Medellín, Colombia.

This year’s Live and Invest in Colombia Conference is taking place May 11-13 in Medellín. The Early Bird Discount for our only Colombia event of 2015 expires this Friday, April 24, at midnight.

An audible gasp came from the group when the platter of food was placed on our table. The Bandeja Paisa (or, “local’s tray”) overflowed with an assortment of delectables, including chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), rice, beans, chicharrón (fried pork belly), eggs over easy, avocado, ground beef, potatoes, and plantains. Our guide Nicole explained that this breakfast dish is the typical fare a local eats to start his day.

In Colombia, many folks have only one substantial meal per day, and that meal must provide enough fuel for many hours of farming or other physical labor jobs.

This, however, was not the start of our day. This was our sixth stop on La Mesa’s Colombian Street Food Tour in Envigado.

The town of Envigado lies just south of Medellín, the second-largest city in Colombia. While Medellín is a city of three-and-a-half-million people, Envigado has maintained her traditional atmosphere with a much smaller population of around 200,000. Her friendly residents provided an outstanding sampling of traditional Colombian food on a warm February afternoon.

To appreciate the culture of a different country, one should experience its food, prepared and served by those who know them best. In this area of Colombia, the natives are known as paisas, and they are a proud, friendly, welcoming people. A great way to experience the food culture in Medellín is to join one of the food tours offered by La Mesa, conveniently located in El Poblado, Medellín.

La Mesa (“The Table”) is the brain child of Nicole Furnace and Jeremy Hand, two Americans who have made Medellin their overseas home. Teaming up with Colombian chef Juan Felipe, these self-proclaimed foodies are bringing the gastronomic world of Antioquia to all who want to learn more about this unique part of South America.

At the start of our tour, our group standing in front of the white marble church in Parque Envigado, Nicole explained, “La Mesa’s goal is to allow you to experience the local culture through food, and we do more than just scratch the surface…” Throughout the afternoon, Nicole explained the history of each dish we sampled. She discussed how life in Medellin has evolved, as reflected in its food and day-to-day paisa life.

The tour was geared specifically to our group so we could experience the places that most interested us. For example, the exotic assortment of fruits at the crowded indoor market can be overwhelming. Nicole arranged for us to taste everything that caught our eye and explained how each fruit is traditionally used.

We made seven stops in all. We tasted churros, arepas de chocolo, and empañadas, drank exotic fruit juices prepared fresh with water or milk, sampled Colombian beers, and, of course, feasted on the Bandeja Paisa.

To end our tour on a sweet note, we were treated to typical Colombian ice cream creations that were as pretty to look at as they were delicious to eat. Needless to say, we were all pleasantly full by the end of the four-hour tour.

I have lived in Colombia for four months, so I had already tried several of the dishes we sampled. However, La Mesa’s choices for these Colombian specialties surpassed my prior tastes. Maybe it was the fresh air, the company, or the experience of walking from vendor to vendor, but the food on La Mesa’s tour was just better than anything I had tried before or elsewhere.

I had such a great time that I have already booked four spots for the Medellin Foodie Dream Tour at the end of March when friends from the States will be visiting. I can’t wait for the white tablecloth dining experience that tour promises.

La Mesa offers four specific tours (Colombian Street Food Tour, Market & Exotic Fruits Tour, Medellin Foodie Dream Tour, and Bites & Boutiques Tour) and can also arrange private events, including for larger groups.

Tours are typically intimate, with four to six people per group. Prices range from US$25 to US$125 per person. Tours do not run on Sundays. For more information, take a look at the group’s website here or contact La Mesa by email here.

All guides are fully bilingual (Spanish and English), and no two tours are alike.

Wendy Howarter

Continue Reading: Fast, Easy Residency In Paraguay

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Fast, Easy Residency In Paraguay http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/fast-easy-residency-in-paraguay.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/fast-easy-residency-in-paraguay.html#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9323 “Kathleen, I agree with you on Paraguay. I am Italian national. I traveled the world. I am here in Asunción now. I just got my residency in less than 40 days…” –Danila M., Paraguay Continue Reading: Food And Culture In Medellín, Colombia

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“Kathleen, I agree with you on Paraguay. I am Italian national. I traveled the world. I am here in Asunción now. I just got my residency in less than 40 days…”

–Danila M., Paraguay

Continue Reading: Food And Culture In Medellín, Colombia

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The Attractions Of Expat Life In Medellín, Colombia http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/countries/colombia-countries/the-attractions-of-expat-life-in-medellin-colombia.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/countries/colombia-countries/the-attractions-of-expat-life-in-medellin-colombia.html#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:01:36 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9266 Six Reasons I Chose To Make This City Of Springtime And Flowers My Home Medellín, Colombia Kathleen is incommunicado today, somewhere in Asunción. She’ll be back in touch with her next report from the road in Paraguay soon. Meantime, she has arranged for correspondents in another of her favorite South American towns, Medellín, Colombia, to [...]

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Six Reasons I Chose To Make This City Of Springtime And Flowers My Home

Medellín, Colombia

Kathleen is incommunicado today, somewhere in Asunción. She’ll be back in touch with her next report from the road in Paraguay soon. Meantime, she has arranged for correspondents in another of her favorite South American towns, Medellín, Colombia, to share tales from that corner of the world…

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

If anyone had told me a year ago that today I would be living in Colombia, I would have laughed.

Back then, I knew little of the country, except where it was in the world and what it had once been famous for. I had no expectations when I planned my first visit. At the time, I thought I would be just passing through on my way to find where I wanted to settle in Latin America.

“You’re going where?” people would ask, surprised at my choice of relocating to the other side of the world. For me, it was a simple matter of wanting a better quality of life than I could expect living in England. I believe that’s what Latin America offers, every lifestyle element I was looking for—salsa dancing, a great climate, and, most important, a chance to remove myself from the nine-to-five rat race that I no longer wanted to be part of. I took off to find out if I was right. I left England on a one-way ticket, unsure where, or even if, I would find the place I wanted to call home.

But as the plane flew into Colombia, I felt an overwhelming and complete certainty that this was where I wanted to be.

Once one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Medellín is now a global success story. As recently as two decades ago, parents were afraid to send their children to school for fear they might never see them again. Fast forward to 2013 and Colombia’s second-largest city is awarded the World’s Most Innovative City Award, beating out Tel Aviv and New York.

So why do I love living in Medellín?

It’s not called the city of eternal spring for nothing. The pleasant 27 degrees Celsius year-round is definitely a bonus. Yes, it rains, and there are storms, but, because the city is situated in a valley, those storms are amazing to watch from the windows of an apartment with a view.

Which leads to another thing I love about Medellín—the views. Each morning I feel so lucky to be able to stare out at the mountains and the city skyline in the distance. I have been to 84 countries, and I’ll take this city for views any day… and also at night, when Medellín lights up.

Like many Brits, I love football, and the Colombians do, too. Being here for the World Cup and supporting both England and Colombia was a great experience. Football games are constantly being shown across the city, in shopping malls, bars, and restaurants, and I love that I can get the Premiership here. I just need to find a man who doesn’t mind me watching footie as we dine.

A night out here is so much cheaper than in the UK, and I’ve adapted to the paisa customs—like the bottle of aguardiente, you drink in shots throughout the evening. One of my passions is dancing, and Colombians love to dance—salsa, bachata, reggaeton, and, my favorite, electronic, which I find in some clubs.

Taxis are economical and everywhere, so it’s so easy to get around. Not having been able to afford taxis in the UK, I now take them everywhere.

Which leads to another important thing I like about Medellín—the cost of living here. In London, I lived in a little box. Here in Medellín, I’ve lived in a penthouse, something I never thought I’d be able to afford. But living in that penthouse cost half as much as my tiny apartment in London.

However, the real reason this city has blown me away is its energy. The energy of the mountains surrounding the valley and the energy of the people who live here. The people of Medellín are really proud of their city, and that pride is contagious. Locals say hello, and the security guards are beyond friendly. Policeman wave as they pass in their trucks, and you see hardly any litter. Even the poorest residents are made to feel part of the city with regeneration projects such as the cable car and outdoor escalators that provide public transport for those in the pueblos on the mountains.

Medellín has come so far in the last two decades, and I am so proud to call this city home today. This is a place of people who only look ahead, not behind.

I came to Latin America with the hope that I would find a new home, and I didn’t get any farther than the first country I visited. They say that home is where the heart is, and Medellín definitely has my heart.

Though I admit there are days when I find myself dreaming of marmite on toast and a cup of English tea, I know that I am where I am meant to be.

Lisa Eldridge

Editor’s Note: At our upcoming Live and Invest in Colombia Conference, you’ll meet many expats who, like Lisa, have decided to make this country their home and are delighted with the new life Colombia has afforded them.

The Early Bird Discount for this year’s Colombia event expires this Friday, April 24, at midnight. Reserve your place now to save up to US$500. Details are here.

Continue Reading: At Home In Paraguay

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At Home In Paraguay http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/at-home-in-paraguay.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/at-home-in-paraguay.html#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 11:59:45 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9267 “Kathleen, so glad to read about your visit to Paraguay, a place I love. In Asunción, the women at the tourist office are most helpful. You really should go visit with them. They are on Palma, one block east of Alberdi.” –Walt J., United States *** “Kathleen, just read in your newsletter about your visit [...]

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“Kathleen, so glad to read about your visit to Paraguay, a place I love. In Asunción, the women at the tourist office are most helpful. You really should go visit with them. They are on Palma, one block east of Alberdi.”

–Walt J., United States

***

“Kathleen, just read in your newsletter about your visit this week to Paraguay. Definitely Paraguay is not like any other country. You cannot judge it the way you judge other places. But in its rustic scene it seems to be still blessed with a bit of the ‘original truth.’

“It is a colorful land you have to enjoy just as it is, in its simple, innocent way, with its warm weather, sudden violent storms, and generous people. Everything has a reason to be as it is here, and you cannot push without breaking the coherence that maintains things.

“I am happy to live here, though I travel often. Back at home for the moment, where crickets, frogs, and the breeze on the pine trees are the murmur in the night. A relaxed beer on the veranda is so appreciated…”
–Isabel A., Paraguay

Continue Reading: The Attractions Of Expat Life In Medellín, Colombia

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Travel And Investment In Asunción, Paraguay http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/retirement-living/travel-and-investment-in-asuncion-paraguay.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/retirement-living/travel-and-investment-in-asuncion-paraguay.html#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 20:39:34 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9207 First Impressions Of Asunción Panama City, Panama “Is it working for you?” “No, it’s not. Is there a trick to it?” “I don’t know. I’ve only just landed in the country. If you need some guaraní, I could try my card… see if I have better luck?” “Ah, that’s awfully nice of you to offer. [...]

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First Impressions Of Asunción

Panama City, Panama

“Is it working for you?”

“No, it’s not. Is there a trick to it?”

“I don’t know. I’ve only just landed in the country. If you need some guaraní, I could try my card… see if I have better luck?”

“Ah, that’s awfully nice of you to offer. But we’ll be ok. We’ll see if they’ll take our credit card at the counter…”

One of my favorite things about traveling to a place where you’ve never been before is that you don’t know what to expect. Everything’s new and therefore unpredictable… even the ATM machines. Trying to use our Schwab debit cards at the grocery shop down the street from our hotel in Asunción, we were stymied. Both of our cards were refused on first try. Could they have been deactivated already, even though we’d yet to use them for even a single purchase? How could we have triggered a card usage red flag in Schwab’s systems already? We had back up debit cards with us but couldn’t remember the pin codes!

Lucky for us, our credit card worked at the counter, and we were able to buy our water, wine, and snacks.

Arriving in Asunción this weekend we embraced the chance to let this city wash over us, just to take it all in on its own terms as it came to us. Lief and I are traveling here this week with our Managing Editor (and daughter) Kaitlin and our Associate Publisher Harry. None of us has ever been to Paraguay before, though Lief and I have wanted to visit for years. Finally we’ve identified a compelling reason to make the trip asap—the global boom in agriculture.

Paraguay is generally overlooked by the tourist and the retiree, who, if they think of the place at all, think it offers little of interest. Paraguay is a country of farmers. Agriculture represents about 28% of the country’s economy, while nearly half the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood. We’ve arrived on the scene to try to identify agricultural opportunities appropriate for the small individual investor. We have meetings with friends of friends already doing business in Paraguay and other local experts starting this afternoon and continuing throughout the week.

First, though, we needed to get our bearings—some local currency in our pockets and some initial feel for how people do things in this part of the world.

The friendly American who offered to procure some guaraní on our behalf from the grocery ATM is the only of our fellows we’ve seen. Other guests in the hotel where we’re staying, the Granados Park, in the heart of the old colonial section of the city, are German and French.

Tourists of any description are uncommon in this little-visited outpost, and worthwhile tourist information is hard to come by. Here’s what I can recommend based on our limited experience so far: In Asunción, start with the train museum.

This city’s Museo Ferroviario is a chance to step back in time inside the oldest railway station in South America. Standing out front, we debated whether or not to invest in tickets to gain entrance inside. Turned out to be the best US$2 I’ve spent in a long time. You can wander at will among the waiting rooms and offices of the old station. Employee records, train schedules, and handwritten passenger logs from as many as 150 years ago are displayed on original wooden shelves, desks, and counters.

Outside on the platform, you can climb up into the old dining car. Inside is all wood paneling and leather seats. There’s a wraparound wooden bar and a wood stove for cooking.

“Why is this so much fun?” I asked my daughter, wandering up and down the aisle with me.

“Because you can explore at will. Nothing is restricted or roped off. No one tells you not to touch or not to sit. You can imagine a barman behind the bar, waitstaff, and passengers. We could be on our way to Argentina…”

We had the place mostly to ourselves. As we were leaving, a young Spanish-speaking couple was taking selfies trainside. Otherwise, it was us and the museum’s curator, a friendly Paraguayan who, when he noticed Lief looking up at the massive bell on the platform encouraged him to pull the rope to ring it. “Mas fuerte!” our new Paraguayan friend yelled out so Lief could hear him over the clanging.

After our train adventure, we continued walking in the direction of a hotel that friends had recommended as a good place for Sunday lunch. Our friends were right. On Sundays, the Grand Hotel de Paraguay lays out quite a spread. It’s a traditional parrilla. Beef, pork, and chorizo are cooked over open flames then hand carved for your plate according to your directions. You enjoy it all in a big dining room with an elaborately hand-painted wooden ceiling and murals on all the walls. A harpist serenades, while children run in and out between the dining room and the courtyard. We were the only non-Paraguayans in the place as far as I could tell. All-we-could-eat parrilla, salad, and dessert was US$12 a person.

We spent the remainder of our Sunday walking through parks and haggling at a weekly market. Kaitlin bought a pair of boots and a cowgirl hat, and Lief negotiated for the purchase of a pair of steer horns that will be a nice addition to the great room of the Founder’s Lodge we’re building at Los Islotes. Quite a find for US$40.

As I said, this country is largely overlooked by tourists and retirees, who don’t imagine it has much to offer. We’re just beginning to skim the surface, but here’s what I’d tell you now about Paraguay: Don’t write it off. This is a country with a past, a place with a romantic’s soul.

If that doesn’t get your attention, this might: This place is also a bargain. Everything is cheap. Right now, everything is especially cheap for anyone with U.S. dollars in his wallet. The dollar is at a five-year high against the guaraní.

Best news for us is that we’ve finally got a way to access some of the local dinero. We’ve remembered the pin codes for our back up debit cards.

Kathleen Peddicord

Continue Reading: Fitness, Gyms, And Working Out In Panama City, Panama

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Fitness, Gyms, And Working Out In Panama City, Panama http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/fitness-gyms-and-working-out-in-panama-city-panama.html http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/mailbag/fitness-gyms-and-working-out-in-panama-city-panama.html#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:00:41 +0000 http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/?p=9208 “Kathleen, thanks for your recent reports on Panama City, where I have been visiting. After being here for just one day but doing plenty of exploring around the center city parts, I can confirm that gyms do not seem to be popular here. I did however find the route along the water (Avenida Balboa) to [...]

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“Kathleen, thanks for your recent reports on Panama City, where I have been visiting. After being here for just one day but doing plenty of exploring around the center city parts, I can confirm that gyms do not seem to be popular here. I did however find the route along the water (Avenida Balboa) to be really good for fitness. It even has a few outdoor gyms and fitness groups here and there doing all kinds of stuff you can probably jump in on.”

–Paul R., United States

In fact, you’ll find many gyms in Panama City. Popular are PowerClub, with many locations, Xtreme Fitness, Fit Time Gym, and Steps Gym. Crossfit is a big current trend in this city.

Continue Reading: Travel And Investment In Asunción, Paraguay

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