Medellin, led by the local utility, EPM, uses thousands of temporary workers over a period of months to decorate downtown with millions of lights in preparation for the grand lighting on Dec. 1. The event is called El Alumbrado, literally "the lighting."The celebration is a tremendous source of pride among the people of Medellin and enjoys broad public participation and support. Everybody gets out and enjoys the festivities. El Alumbrado started in 1955, sponsored by EPM and the local municipality. It was a modest celebration in the early years but has steadily progressed to become the extravaganza it is today, drawing visitors from around the world.El Alumbrado's traditional kickoff date was Dec. 7, a Colombian holiday called Día de las Velitas (Day of the Little Candles), held on the eve of the Immaculate Conception. But, since 2011, the "lighting" has gradually crept back to Dec. 1 to accommodate the large tourism influx into the city for the occasion. This year it crept back to Nov. 29 and will run until Jan. 12, drawing more than 4 million visitors. For this season, they've installed almost 500 miles of light strings with more than 30 million bulbs at a cost of around US$10 million. The effect is amazing. Have a look at these few random shots of Medellin's Christmas lights.The Alumbrado actually takes place in five major areas around the city, with a number of smaller, local displays here and there. My favorite of these areas is the walk along the river, which has the most impressive display, along with a carnival atmosphere including food stands and a handful of restaurants set up for the occasion. The display here runs between the bridges Puente Guayaquil and Puente San Juan for just over a mile.I'd say there's no better time to visit Medellin than right now. It's downright Christmassy, despite the invitingly warm weather. With the abundance of events and festive atmosphere, I can't think of a better place to celebrate the season. Lee Harrison
My favorite part of Salinas is Chipipe, close to the naval base. It draws a quieter crowd and, because it's at the end of the beach areas, sees less traffic than elsewhere in Salinas. The beaches are wider and nicer than anywhere else in town, and just a couple of blocks in from the beach is a pleasant downtown area with fine old homes and lower property prices.
Salinas is famous for sport fishing and holds a number of world records for sailfish, tuna, and black marlin. The year's best weather starts in November, with sunny skies and pleasant temperatures. February through April, this weather gives way to sunny mornings with showers in the afternoons, still quite pleasant. April through November, it's often cool, dry, and overcast. If you burn easily, you might like it; if you crave sunshine, you won't.But Salinas benefits from the school schedule in Cuenca. The kids are out of school in Cuenca in June and July, and that's when a lot of families go on vacation. So there's a demand for vacation rentals during the time of year with the least-pleasant weather.This is good news for North American investors, who can escape their winter to enjoy Salinas' best weather and also enjoy local rental demand during the off season.Bottom line, what makes Salinas such an appealing property-purchase location is the low cost. Here are examples of properties currently on the market:
I recommend Salinas as your best coastal choice in Ecuador if you're interested in a place where you could live part time and rent your place out when you're not there. You'd enjoy great weather during the North American winter and rental traffic during North America's summer.
And, again, you can position yourself here right now for as little as US$40,000.Lee HarrisonEditor's Note: Lee Harrison, our Overseas Property Alert editor, will be revealing all of his current top global property investing recommendations at our 2015 Global Property Summit.Registration for this once-a-year event will open within the next 24 hours.Go here now (this is your last chance) to get your name on the pre-registration list to enjoy VIP attendee status and perks.
Continue reading: Funding Your Retirement With Cash Flow From Rental Property Investments Overseas
"Rule #4: Acknowledge your bad Spanish. "I've found that this gets you a lot of points. Unless your Spanish is legitimately fluent, begin any conversation with, 'Excuse me, my Spanish is not very good, but...' First, this makes the Spanish-speaker more attentive to what you're saying, but it does something else, too. It lets the person on the other end of the conversation know that you're not a cocky American who's going to barge in and belligerently demand what he wants. It signals instead that you're asking for help. That really puts someone in a different state of mind. "Rule #5: Pedestrians do not have the right of way, ever. "Lots of people get run over. One trick when crossing a street with a stop sign is to cross behind the lead car. Locals don't ever cross in front because that car is watching the traffic. When there is an opening to go, they will go whether there is someone in front of the car or not. The pedestrians are just expected to scatter. It takes some getting used to, but you can't expect crosswalks to be honored or for pedestrians ever to have the right of way. "Rule #6: You've got to drive aggressively. "If you're a yield-to-the-right-of-way person, you're going to be sitting at the first intersection you come up to until doomsday. Ecuadoreans are very aggressive behind the wheel. They don't let people in and they don't show courtesy, neither to pedestrians nor to other drivers. If you can't drive like them, you're better off not driving. I found it fun, so much more fun than driving in the States, when I got used to it. "Rule #7: Forget your ideas about personal space. "We tend to treasure a little space around us and don't touch or rub up against each other in public. Once in this country I was taking the bus and sitting next to a 12-year-old girl on her way home from school. As we were riding along, she fell asleep on my shoulder. When we got to her stop, she woke up and got off. That's a kind of closeness we're not prepared for. "Rule #8: Don't get in a taxi without agreeing the fare in advance. "I just read that Cuenca now has metered taxi. Guess what? Cuenca had metered taxis in 2002 when I was living in that city. They became law, but the taxistas refused to use them. They still do. They get away with it because customers don't complain. The taxista just puts a rag over the meter so you can't see it. So you want to get an idea of what the fare should be before getting in. "About a year ago, I arrived at the Cuenca airport and asked a driver, 'How much to downtown?' He said, 'Six dollars.' I said, 'I don't think so. I live here!' He said, 'Two dollars.' "Rule #9: Don't wait to be seated and other restaurant etiquette. "In the United States we wait to be seated, but here you seat yourself. Also, in our culture, a waiter is designated to certain tables, and you only ask your waiter for more water, etc. That doesn't happen here. All the waiters are happy to help. If you need something, don't worry about who took your order, just grab the next guy you see. "Also, you need to ask for the check. I can't tell you how many times I've seen folks angrily waiting for their checks while the restaurant has wanted to close 20 minutes ago. All the waiters stand shoulder-to-shoulder by the kitchen wishing the people would just ask for the check so they can go home. It's a standoff that happens all the time. It would be rude for a waiter to bring the check before you ask for it. By asking for it, they know you're done. You can say, 'La cuenta, por favor.' "Restaurant bills here include a 10% tip. If you want to leave something extra, that is fine but not expected. If I know the restaurant owner doesn't distribute tips to the wait staff, I leave cash on the table. "Rule #10: Bring patience with you. "Know that nothing will be as efficient as where you're from. Be patient. You're gonna' love it here if you learn to appreciate the differences." Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Lee Harrison was master of ceremonies for last week's event in Ecuador. His presentation on Ecuador etiquette was recorded, along with every other presentation. These audio recordings are being edited now to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit, which will be available for fulfillment two weeks from today. Meantime, you can purchase your copy pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.
"Dear Team Live and Invest Overseas, I thought this might interest you... "According to my Weather Pro App (widely used by Irish farmers) we can see that our trip to Dubrovnik next week will be somewhat of a disappointment weather-wise compared with Portugal. I never expected that. Just goes to show your weather reports in your recent Retire Overseas Index report were spot on." --Bea D., Ireland
Granada is built around a large, shady, and bustling town square, anchored by a stately, neoclassical cathedral at one end. The streets are narrow (built prior to the automobile) and lined with rows of those cheerful, well-kept Spanish-colonial homes. Granada usually has a good inventory of colonials in a good state of restoration. Granted, colonials can be found in plenty of places around the Americas...but there are a few things that set Granada apart:
The rental market is good in Granada, especially if you have a pool. One home I looked at recently had an asking price of US$150,000 and rents for US$600 per week. Another cost US$389,000 and rents for US$1,500 per week. Occupancies can run between 65% and 75%. The least expensive houses I saw were priced at US$35,000, and they needed a good bit of work. But for just a bit more, you can buy something that's fit for living, as is. One such property is listed for just US$37,000. With one bedroom and one bath, this corner property is ready to move into with practically no work. The best buy I found is a larger, two-story home with three bedrooms, four baths, a garage, air conditioning, and a swimming pool located just four blocks from the central square. The second-story bedroom has a good view of the city rooftops, as well as the extinct Mombacho Volcano in the distance. The asking price is US$145,000, but I understand that this one will go out the door for around US$125,000. If there's a downside to Granada it's that it can be hot. I didn't really find it unpleasant, but I did sleep with the air conditioner on, as will most people. Also, if you want to be a pioneer—one of the first few expats to discover a city—this isn't the place to do it. There are definitely a fair number of English-speakers already in residence. If you'd like to invest in Spanish colonial property, or would enjoy the Spanish-American lifestyle, then Granada should be high on your list. Located less than two hours from Miami, the cost of living is low, the properties are inexpensive, and the inventory of colonial-style homes is unparalleled, especially at these prices. Lee Harrison Editor's Note: Today's essay on the property market in our favorite Spanish-colonial city, Granada, is excerpted from Lee's Overseas Property Alert. If you aren't on the list to receive this once-a-week dispatch on the world's top property markets direct from Lee's laptop to your inbox, sign up here now. It's free.
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Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.
Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.
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