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An added bonus of the Languedoc region is that it's just three hours' drive to my joint-favorite European city, Barcelona!

Lief Simon: Medellin and Buenos Aires

I prefer cities over more rural areas. Two of the best cities in Latin America to spend time in, whether it's full- or part-time living, are Medellin, Colombia, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In Medellin, the weather is pleasant year-round—though some would argue that it isn't "spring-like" weather as it's generally referenced to be. Temperatures regularly break 80 degrees. Having grown up in Arizona, that's like winter weather for me. In other words, it's all relative.

It's pleasant enough to walk around Medellin, which is important to me, though I wouldn't call this a walking city.

Medellin has First World infrastructure and amenities (also important to me), and museums, festivals, gardens, and parks all add to the variety of activities available in this city of about 3.5 million people. And, to make the point, despite its history, Medellin is fairly calm these days unless you wander into the gang neighborhoods.

Bigger and livelier is Buenos Aires, which also has four seasons. I like change and contrast, so I like this part of the world a lot. Argentina rides an economic roller coaster that cycles harder and faster than economic cycles in any other country I could name, thanks to general and gross mismanagement by the government.

Argentina is right now close to another breaking point. I'm watching for the coming next crisis, which will be another good time to be considering an investment here.

From a lifestyle point of view, Buenos Aries offers all the activities that Medellin does and more. It's a city of about 15 million people (around one-third of the total population of the country). It has a tremendous variety and diversity of restaurants, shopping, museums, and parks and does qualify as a walking city—though it's too big to walk across in one go. For me, Buenos Aries' core neighborhoods of Recoleta and Retiro offer an ideal way of life.

Just be prepared for big ups and downs and lots of drama. For me that's all a big part of the charm of this place.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. The countdown is on. You have three days remaining to register for this year's Retire Overseas Conference in Nashville next month taking advantage of the Early Bird Discount.

More details here.

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Luis: The most efficient options are the Non Habitual Resident program (which allows retirees to become resident in Portugal and to receive pension income in the country tax-free) and the Golden Visa program (which requires the purchase of 500,000 euros of real estate).

Lucy: I believe there's a "sufficient income" requirement for the Non Habitual Resident program. How much is "sufficient"?

Luis: The legislation stipulates the minimum working wage (around 485 euros per month currently) for the principal visa holder, 50% of that value for a spouse, and 30% per child. These requirements can be reduced if the applicant can prove he already has lodging paid for or guaranteed.

Lucy: Resale apartments are good value (from 90,000 euros), but it seems to me that houses and villas are expensive, especially for a country that has suffered so much during the "crisis" and is presumably still recovering. Are there any "mega" deals to be had?

Luis: Yes, there are some very good deals, though they're less common than a year ago. One of the reasons is that Portugal did not have the level of overbuilding seen in Spain. Bottom line, it is still a buyer's market. Distressed private sellers and bank repossessions provide the best bargain deals.

Lucy: What about a renovation?

Luis: Silves is a good municipality for renovations for two reasons. In Silves' city center you have a range of wonderful old buildings, some of which have been abandoned. Outside the city are rural properties that have been left as owners moved to cities. A Silves city property could be a great project, especially if it's located near the river. It could even be eligible for a government grant.

Lucy: Luis, you've mentioned that it's easy to open a bank account in Portugal, even for U.S. citizens? Is this still the case?

Luis: Yes, it's true...even for Americans.

Lucy: I've lived in Latin America without health insurance. The costs for medical care were so low that it made more sense to pay-as-you-go rather than pay for expensive health insurance. Could that be an option in Portugal?

Luis: Yes, absolutely, once you have the right to use the public system. Before then, insurance is advisable. In fact, the Golden Visa program, for example, requires that you prove you have insurance for the first year at least. However, you have very reasonable insurance options, including for less than 20 euros per person per month in some instances.

Lucy: What type of retiree would you say would enjoy living in the Algarve?

Luis: Someone who likes to be active, who appreciates a tranquil location, who wants to be part of an expat community, but who also wants a chance to become part of a local community...

If you don't like great weather, stay away.

If you want a very good cost of living for the quality of life on offer, then this part of Portugal is a great option.

Kathleen Peddicord

Editor's Note: If you're an Overseas Retirement Circle member but missed yesterday's live teleconference with Luis, you can access it now on your members' website.

Forgot your password? Get in touch here.

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May 12, 2014

"Kathleen, my wife and I are seriously looking to retire overseas but do have an issue that we need your honest input. I have MS and use a scooter or wheelchair to move about. I can do some limited stand/walking but not long walks or stairs. Are we limited or totally restricted in finding a country or location where I could move about?

"Thank you for your time in this matter."

--Russell D., United States

Yes, your options for where you might retire overseas are limited, but you do have some good ones. Bottom line, you'll need to focus on cities—not towns and certainly not rural regions.

Central America is out. Sidewalks don't exist in this part of the world. Curbs, where they exist, are high. Public buildings do not have ramps. Access in general is restricted.

You might be OK with a biggish city in South America. Medellin has decent sidewalks and disabled access in public buildings and could be worth a look, understanding that, while this city boasts top-notch and handicapped-accessible infrastructure, it's also a city of hills.
Europe is complicated. This part of the world tries to make everywhere accessible, but old towns and medieval villages present special challenges. Still, many cities in Europe likely would work for you.

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It can be easier, frankly, to seek out a place like Ajijic, Mexico, or Boquete, Panama, where your neighbors would be fellow North Americans, where you'd hear more English on the street than Spanish, and where you'd have like-minded compatriots to commiserate with over the trials and tribulations of daily life in a foreign country. Ajijic, for example, could as easily sit north of the Rio Grande as south. It can seem like a transplanted U.S. suburb.

This can make a terrific first step, a chance to dip your toe in the retire-overseas waters rather than diving in headfirst. In Ajijic, you're living overseas and enjoying many of the benefits (great weather, affordable cost of living), but the surroundings and the neighbors are familiar in many ways. You can shop at Wal-Mart, meet up with fellow Americanos for bridge on Thursday evenings, and never have to travel far to find English-language conversation.

On the other hand, life in Mexico would be a very different experience residing in a little fishing village or a small colonial city in the mountains where you're the only foreigner in town. Settling among the locals means you must learn to live like a local.

Is the thought of that appealing, exciting, and invigorating? Or terrifying? Be honest with yourself as you consider your response.

There is no right or wrong reply, and there are pluses and minuses either way.

During our 15-plus years living outside the States, we've gone local, first in Waterford, Ireland (where we had no choice; there's no established expat settlement in these parts), then in Paris, now in Panama City.

Here in Panama, we settled first in one of the most "local" neighborhoods in the city, Casco Viejo. Life in the Casco is about as far from life in a private gated development community as you can get. This is a neighborhood in transition that is home to some of Panama City's poorest residents. English is spoken almost nowhere, Latin music blares from open windows, and children run barefoot in the square. The Catholic church on our block was full every Sunday morning with the local faithful, who, after Mass, congregated on the corner to share gossip and pass the time.

Living in a gated community, we would have missed all that.

Living in a gated community, the streets would be kept clean, the landscaping manicured. You could expect access to a swimming pool, a clubhouse, maybe riding stables and a tennis court. Security at the gate would keep out anyone without permission to pass, roving guards would keep watchful eyes over your property, and your neighbors likely would all speak English just like you.

That could be great.

Great, but different.

I was reminded of this important retire-overseas decision by Overseas Retirement Letter Managing Editor Lucy Culpepper, who wrote this today to describe the content of this month's ORL issue:

"This month's feature is Loja, Ecuador (written by Latin America Correspondent Lee Harrison), a place that's really off the gringo trail. However, the Property Picks section is about immersing oneself in all that is gringo--i.e. living in a gated community. I'm trying to represent the two extremes of living/retiring overseas, because each option appeals to a very different kind of person..."

Lucy is finalizing the issue now, which is expected to be in subscribers' e-mailboxes by Monday.

Kathleen Peddicord

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April 18, 2013:

Getting A Tourist Visa For Travel To Ecuador

"Kathleen, I'm planning a trip to Ecuador soon. If I were to stay in Cuenca for three to six weeks, would I need any type of visa?"

--Nancy M., United States, Overseas Retirement Circle Member

Ecuador will give you a visa good for up to 90 days when you enter the country, but you have to tell them you'll be staying that long. Generally, immigration in this country grants you entry into the country for just a little longer than however long you say you're planning on staying (again, up to 90 days maximum). For example, if you say you're staying for a week, they might stamp a visa for 14 days in your passport.

An attorney in Ireland once told us a story (this was years ago but probably still valid) about how he had traveled to the Galapagos with his wife and daughter. The daughter was older than 18, so she went through immigration on her own. The immigration officer asked her how long she would be in Ecuador. She said three days, thinking that the Galapagos was another country. The immigration officer gave her a visa for three days.

When the girl mentioned this to her father (before they were away from the immigration area), he sent his daughter back to tell the guy she had misspoken. The immigration officer told her it would be okay. It wasn't. When they went to leave the country, immigration told the girl she had overstayed her visa and had to pay a fine.

When arriving in Ecuador, I recommend telling immigration that you intend to stay longer than you do, just in case of any emergency or change of plan.

Ecuador isn't the only country where immigration operates this way. Many countries automatically grant you the maximum allowable days when you enter--30 days in Belize or 180 days in Panama, for example. But not all. Some countries, including Ecuador, indicate some other, fewer number of days based on how long you say you'll be in the country.

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Kathleen Peddicord

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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