Articles Related to Retire to ambergris caye

Here are other reasons we like Belize as much as we do:
  • It's a quick flight away from North America. It takes 2.5 hours to fly to Belize City from Miami or Houston...
  • The climate is subtropical. Temperatures range from 60 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the region...
  • Belizeans mind their own business but are also warm and welcoming to travelers and expats. This is a friendly country where it's easy to feel at home...
  • Belize is an easy place to establish yourself. You can show up and settle in. Seriously, it can be that simple. Renew your tourist visa every time it expires for a year, and you're a legal resident...
  • Belize, though, also offers a more formal residency program, called the Qualified Retirement Person (QRP) visa, that comes with tax and other benefits of the kind typical of pensionado visas throughout the region...
  • As the language is English, Belize can be an easy place to do business. Folks here speak English and write contracts in English, too...
  • Belize is an easy place to set up a corporation in the form of this country's tax-free International Business Corporation, or IBC...
  • No restrictions are placed on foreign ownership of property, the property purchase process is straightforward, and there are no squatter's rights...
  • You don't have to worry about exchange risk. The Belize dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate of 2:1, and U.S. dollars are interchangeable in the country. If you arrive with U.S. dollars in your pocket, you don't ever have to change money if you don't want to...

My favorite part of Belize has always been its interior Cayo region of rivers, rainforest, and Mayan ruins. However, I do also appreciate the quintessential and affordable Caribbean lifestyle on offer out on Ambergris Caye. This little white sand-fringed island is home to an established and growing expat population in San Pedro Town and has long been my favorite place to kick it in the Caribbean, as they say.

Infrastructure isn't Belize's strong suit; however, this country has figured out a great air system for crisscrossing it. You can get from the Cayo to Ambergris, from Placencia to Corozal, and from Belize City to anywhere with the help of frequent, quick, and affordable in-country flights. I guess they thought they had to do something given the limited options for getting around down on the ground.

I've often shown up at the airport and bought tickets on the spot for flights leaving within the next 20 or 30 minutes for wherever it was I wanted to go. I've even had the experience, more than once, of the airline holding a flight for me when I called to say I was on my way to the airport...almost there...please can you wait? It's not that I'm special. They do it for anyone if they can.

Belize's super-easy approach to traveling around it by flying over it has given me an idea. We've bought a piece of land in Cayo where we're planting trees and gardens and building a farmhouse. What if we coupled that with a little beachfront condo out on Ambergris? We could hop a flight from Cayo to the beach anytime the inclination struck...and rent the place out when we weren't using it ourselves. The rental market in San Pedro is active and expanding, and I like Belize in general as a place to park capital long term.

Lief and I are returning to Belize later this month to scout current options.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Today we open registration for our 2015 Live and Invest in Belize Conference. In fact, our January 2015 conference will be two events—the same program offered back-to-back to allow us to accommodate more interested readers than ever. Our Belize conferences sell out every year.

We've doubled capacity this year; still, we expect the event (that is, both events) to sell out. For sure, by this time next week, all VIP places for both events will have been filled.

If you'd like to join us in Belize to see for yourself all that this unassuming little country has to offer, I urge you to reserve your place in the room now.

Full details of the program we're planning are here.

You can reach our conference team with your questions by phone, toll-free from the States at 1-888-627-8834...or internationally at +1-443-599-1221.

Continue Reading: Driving From The United States To Belize


On the other hand, life overseas 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.

If you decide you like the idea of retiring overseas among like-minded company, here would be nine good places to focus your search...

In The Americas

Ambergris Caye, Belize: Estimated Expat Population: 2,000+

In many ways, Ambergris is more gringo than Belizean. Few locals live and work on the island; those who do are in the hotel and resort industries. Many businesses on the island are owned and run by the foreigners who have moved there, meaning it's possible on this little island to find imported wines and cheeses and homemade artisan breads. No shortage of flip flops or floral shirts either, and Jimmy Buffett, Janis Joplin, and the Rolling Stones jam from most speakers.

City Beaches, Panama: Estimated Expat Population: 2,000+

The most developed, established, and fully appointed beach community in Panama is this "City Beaches" area, less than two hours from Panama City. This fast-growing coastal region offers a high quality beach lifestyle with all amenities and services you could want. Coronado town has developed into a busy commercial center that makes for a turn-key retirement choice, and, indeed, this is the direction this former weekend retreat is evolving...into a full-fledged retirement community with an established population of full-time foreign residents supported by a developed infrastructure, including good medical facilities.

Cuenca, Ecuador: Estimated Expat Population: 5,000+

Cuenca's large and growing expat community is one of Latin America's most established and integrated with the local community. Thanks to the big and growing expat community based here now, downtown Cuenca today boasts a large number of cafes, restaurants, bars, and bookshops alongside the traditional butchers, tailors, repair shops, clothing stores, and bakeries.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Estimated Expat Population: 40,000+

Until the 1950s, Puerto Vallarta was a small fishing village, modestly popular among Mexicans as a beach resort. In 1963, "The Night of the Iguana" was filmed just south of Puerto Vallarta. The film's star, Richard Burton, was involved with Elizabeth Taylor at the time. She followed him on location...and the paparazzi followed her. Suddenly Puerto Vallarta was all over the news—and on the map, as far as Americans were concerned—and it's remained there since.

At about this time, the Mexican government began to invest heavily in infrastructure making Puerto Vallarta more accessible and attractive as a destination. Luxury hotels began to spring up, and Americans began to flock here. It is also one of Mexico's most cosmopolitan beach resorts. Fully half the population works in the tourism business, so English is widely understood, a boon for those of us who speak little or no Spanish. A whole range of services has sprung up to cater to English-speakers, including everything from gourmet shops and restaurants to clothes design and medical care.

In Europe

Algarve, Portugal: Estimated Expat Population: 100,000+

Because it has Europe's best beaches, Europe's best golf courses, one of Europe's friendliest folk, Portugal's Algarve is the chosen retirement destination for more than 100,000 resident expatriates from around the world. You could join the many expats who gather for tennis at the Carvoeiro tennis club. Carvoeiro also has a well-stocked book exchange that allows expatriate residents and visitors alike to trade in books they have read for new titles. Many retired expatriates become involved in local community or charity work, there is no shortage of opportunities to contribute to society and make a real impact that will also help you integrate faster into local culture. Making friends is easy, both with the locals and the expatriates.

Barcelona, Spain: Estimated Expat Population: 35,000+

The expat community in Barcelona is huge and thriving, and almost every nationality in the world is represented. Some are here employed by multinationals like HP or self-employed with their own small businesses. Others are running local businesses like bars, playgroups, and real estate companies. Meeting expats and making friends is easy. A good way to connect with the English-speaking community is through the Metropolitan Magazine (print and online), which lists places and events where expats are likely to meet.

In Asia

Chiang Mai, Thailand: Estimated Expat Population: 20,000+

Chiang Mai has been luring expats from the West for years. The attraction is twofold—the low cost of living (and of housing) and the weather. The high-quality health care and health-related services are other big pluses for foreign retirees in this part of the world. The city boasts modern infrastructure and an abundance of Western amenities.

Dumaguete, Phillipines: Estimated Expat Population: 5,000+

There are many good reasons to consider retiring in Dumaguete. The city is protected against most of the typhoons that periodically batter many of the Philippines. The weather is tropical and balmy—rarely too hot. Dumaguete offers excellent medical care, too, care that has been getting even better since the city was named one of the five top retirement destinations in the Philippines.

George Town, Malaysia: Estimated Expat Population: 40,000+

George Town is home to a wide range of expat groups, so it's easy to make new friends. For example, the International Women's Association has a very active social life. Hill-trekking, yoga, and tennis...a photography, bridge, and canasta...a choir, a book club, and bowling. And a Hash Club isn't what you might think. If you're male, enjoy running, and want to follow a paper chase that ends with cold beers, could be your thing. Many expats work here, which adds to the cosmopolitan buzz.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Over the three days of last week's once-a-year Retire Overseas Conference, we looked at every topic and question of concern and importance for the would-be retiree overseas.

If you weren't able to join the more than 400 in attendance, don't worry. We recorded every one of the nearly 60 presentations. These audio recordings are being edited now to create our 2014 Retire Overseas Home Conference Kit.

Go here now to order your copy, pre-release, at a 65% discount.

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However, I know that, for many, the best part about traveling to Belize City is leaving Belize City. We held this week's Live & Invest in Belize Conference here because it's the only place in the country with facilities big enough to accommodate us.

Finally, though, today, after two-and-a-half days in the meeting rooms of the Ft. George Hotel, our conference attendees are free to take off to see for themselves what we've been talking about. The readers in attendance at this week's event have, over the weekend, dispersed to Belize's four corners.

This is where the fun starts.

Where to Live in Belize

A large portion of these soon-to-be expats are taking a quick hop over to Ambergris Caye, home to the largest expat enclave in the country. These folks want Caribbean, and they're spending time on Ambergris now, Belize's most developed Caribbean island, trying to determine if this is the Caribbean outpost they seek. This is unadulterated, unpretentious Caribbean...the sea, sand, and sunshine of the Caymans or the Virgin Islands, but without the price tag.

Another group of attendees headed in the opposite direction...and for the hills, the Cayo, where the appeal isn't sand and sea but wide-open spaces, a back-to-basics lifestyle, and really cheap land. Phil Hahn, the developer behind the forward-thinking sustainable community on the banks of the Belize River known as Carmelita, is introducing this group to his favorite part of this country.

The Carmelita plan calls for solar power and community gardens and orchards. The intent is a place where you could live completely independently if you wanted, reliant on no public services or third-party infrastructure.

A third conference contingency has broken off now to head south to explore this country's mainland coast around Placencia. This is another version of the beachfront life on offer when you are considering where to live in Belize. Several master-planned communities are popping up here, catering to those with a higher budget. You'll find marinas and golf courses here alongside large homes within gated neighborhoods. That said, plenty of affordable and charming options exist outside of these higher-end options.

Finally, a fourth scouting party has headed north today, to see the northern mainland Belize coast, around Corozal. While Ambergris Caye is a fully fledged expat community with all the trappings...Placencia offers luxury...Carmelita and the Cayo are all about being off the grid and self-sustainable...Orchid Bay, the most developed of the handful of projects in this part of Belize, is about kickin' back and layin' low.

At Orchid Bay, you're minutes' walk away from the water in a low-density, low-impact setting where the biggest attraction for some is the uninterrupted peace and quiet. Meantime, Chetumal, Mexico, with its 17 hospitals and big-footprint shopping, is only 15 miles away.

Those attendees able to make the time are traveling among two or three or even all four of these spots, to get a better picture of the different lifestyle options Belize has to offer.

Each has its pluses and its minuses. Island living is always more expensive than life back on the mainland...meaning Ambergris is the most expensive lifestyle choice in the country. Most expensive and also most developed and turn-key.

Carmelita is being developed on a river. For some, river views don't substitute for ocean vistas. Others prefer them.

Corozal boasts easy access to Chetumal, which could be a big advantage in case of medical emergency. On the other hand, day-to-day, you'd likely feel secluded here. Maybe that's a plus for you...maybe a minus.

The northern coast around Corozal sees about 50 inches of rain a year. The southern coast, Placencia and south, can see three times that much rain or more each year. Maybe that bothers you...maybe it doesn't.

Big picture, of course, all four of these regions are in Belize...which means the people speak English, the government is typically nowhere to be noticed, and your annual tax bill can be highly controlled.

Kathleen Peddicord

Editor's Note: Now that the final speaker has left the stage, work has begun in earnest to edit the recordings from last week's Live & Invest in Belize Conference. As soon as the recordings (all 32 of them!) have been edited, we'll bundle them with our "Live & Invest in Belize" manual and other key Belize resources to create our new Live & Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit.

Meantime, this one-of-a-kind Belize resource in the making is available pre-release at a 50% discount. Details on the Live & Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit here.

  • Searching For The Best Place To Retire In Asia

Image credit: Serge Melki



"Belize is like Key West back in the day..."

--A Live and Invest in Belize Conference attendee who grew up in Key West

"Forget the golf course! Put in a garden instead..."

--Belize developer Phil Hahn on the vision behind his Carmelita community

"This isn't a consumer culture. This is a conservation culture..."

--Expat Amma Carey on the experience of living in Belize

"Belize is an entire country that feels like a small town..."

--Belize expat Macarena Rose

"The motto of Belize is: 'Under the shade of the mahogany tree we flourish.' In my now long experience doing business in Belize, I've learned that, if ever I can't find a local business partner, it's a good bet that he's under the shade of a mahogany tree somewhere...flourishing..."

--Phil Hahn

"Go slow. We have two cemeteries and no hospital."

--Sign on Caye Caulker, Belize

"There are more than 600 Mayan ruin sites in Belize. It's the greatest density of sites in all the Mundo Maya. In some caves in some parts of the country, you walk past Mayan pottery...actual pots made and used and left behind by the Mayans themselves...just laying around on the ground. There's the chance that the Department of Anthropology will close these caves, but, for now, they're open. You can visit them anytime..."

--Belize expat Jim Hardesty

"In September 1798, the Spaniards had been trying to push the Belizean settlers out. Local lore here in Belize has it that the Belizeans, a rag-tag band of pirates, slaves, and misfits, beat off the mighty Spanish Armada. That's not actually what happened. What actually happened is that the Belizeans annoyed the Spanish into leaving. Those pirates, slaves, and misfits swam out into the ocean and cut the lines of the Spanish ships...again and again. They moved the channel markers and generally irritated and confused the Spanish, who, eventually, gave up and went home.

"This Battle of St. George's Caye, as it's called, is a good lesson for life in Belize. Belize will do her best to annoy drive you away. Don't let her. Life here is worth all the struggles and all the frustrations..."

--Phil Hahn

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What else this week?

  • I recognized the feeling when it hit. I've had it every time I've returned to this little corner of the world--the sensation of escape.

Escape from the obligations of the office back in Panama City...escape from the deadlines...escape from the grind...escape from concern over what's going on in the rest of the world, whatever that might be...

As we continued along the Western Highway, speeding toward the district of Belize known as Cayo, I was less and less distracted by the to-do list I'm forever reviewing in my mind...and more and more distracted by the view outside the truck window...

Fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. Here and there a small house of concrete block or timber, in the distance the outline of the Maya Mountains. The land in Cayo is fertile. Farmers grow corn and sugarcane, watermelons and citrus.

We passed Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered, I'd bet, by sequesters, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register. Life here revolves around the land and values independence above all else.

To be truly independent in today's world, you need to be energy-independent. That's part of what Cayo offers, too--a chance to take yourself off the grid. This doesn't have to mean living a backward or burdened existence. Thanks to 21st-century technology, the self-sufficient life can also be comfortable, even fully appointed. This was what we made the trip out yesterday to see--progress at the riverfront development called "Carmelita," where developer Phil Hahn is building a community of like-minded folks interested in being, as he puts it, "independent together" and completely self-reliant...

  • "What in the world am I gonna' do with her?"

That was Mick Flemming's first impression of me, he admitted years later, as I climbed down from the four-wheel-drive jeep in my linen suit and beige pumps.

I was 23-years-old, a just-starting-out travel writer, in Belize for the first time...

  • "Many folks come to Belize for the beach life," explained full-time Belize expat Jim Hardesty to the crowd gathered with us in Belize City for this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference today. "That's why it's worth pointing out that the entire community of Orchid Bay, where I live, is directly on the water...right on the sand."

Belize is known for sandy beaches; however, those out on Ambergris Caye get most of the attention. The beaches on this country's mainland coast are less recognized but no less quintessentially Caribbean. Because they get so much less attention than the beaches out on the cayes, they can also be much more affordable. This is the case with Orchid Bay.

Another big advantage of Orchid Bay is that it's built. Buy (that is, pay for) what you see, we remind you often. At Orchid Bay, the infrastructure is in, amenities (a dock, a restaurant, a dockside bar, an equestrian center) have been built, and houses have full-time residents.

Now, don't misunderstand. Orchid Bay isn't about flash. When I say that the infrastructure is in, I'm not suggesting that these sandy shores are now backed by parking lots of asphalt, high-rise condo towers, or souvenir shops. The "clubhouse" has a thatched roof. No structure is higher than three stories. Residents get around most often using their own two feet or on horseback...

  • I heard last week for the first time of NORCs: Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities.

The example I heard about was a NORC in Fairfax County, Virginia. House prices in this area have skyrocketed over the past few decades (the downturn of housing markets across the country notwithstanding). The current average cost for a home in Fairfax County is US$700,000; few newcomers can afford to move in.

Meanwhile those who live there, mostly government employees with fat salaries or fat pensions, need or want to stay. Voila. With few people moving in, and few moving out, the community ages naturally. It becomes a NORC.

In my experience, you'll find nothing NORC-like in expat communities. In most cases around the world, you'll find nothing like traditional retirement communities, either. Instead, overseas retirement communities are mobile, young and vital.


PLUS--From resident global real estate investing expert Lief Simon:

In Belize this week for the Live and Invest in Belize Conference, Kathleen and I took a day to travel out to the Cayo District to visit some development projects that I'm involved in. One is Maya Spring Estates. The idea here is privacy and elbow room. The developer has allowed for just 20 lots, each one big enough to serve as a base for a fully self-sufficient lifestyle. Lot sizes range from two-and-a-half acres up to more than nine-and-a-half acres, meaning you have enough room to build a house and have a large garden or even a small farm. The land in Cayo is very fertile, and this is one of the best places on earth to grow things. That's the attraction for me.

Creating a destination where we could be fully self-sufficient has been a goal of mine for the last couple of years. Self-sufficiency is a growing agenda for many people, and Belize is one place you can easily organize a fully self-sufficient life using solar power to run your house, growing your own food, keeping some animals, and, if you have the inclination, even building your own furniture out of local hardwoods.

Belize is also a good place to be self-sufficient because Belizeans like to take care of themselves. They always have. Founded by pirates, the country prizes independence above everything else (despite having been independent from the U.K. for only about 30 years).

Carrying on in that tradition of independence, Maya Spring Estates will be a small community for self-sufficiency aficionados. The infrastructure will be basic, including roads and electricity (although I'm planning for my house to be off the grid). You could have your own well if you prefer, or you could go with a water catchment and storage system. Modern, efficient wastewater systems will be used for effluent.

Maya Spring Estates' location in the Cayo is near enough (15 minutes) to San Ignacio so that residents will be able to take advantage of the restaurants and shops there, but the property is very much out in the country, meaning privacy and quiet. The small village of Santa Familia is just a few minutes away and the Mennonite settlement of Spanish Lookout is only about 20 minutes away. Spanish Lookout is where you'd go for your farm supplies if farming is part of your plan.

Our plan is to build a house that we'll use for vacation and rental income in the short and medium term. However, as we're buying more than nine acres, we also intend to see if we can find a local farmer interested in leasing it from us to make it productive.

Even if we never grow a single tomato or ear of corn on the property, though, we'll have the foothold in Cayo that we've been wanting for some time. We like it here. Coming to Belize is a chance for escape. The rush of everyday life disappears as soon as you step off the plane. And at Maya Spring, we'll be able to sit on our porch and enjoy the peacefulness of both the location and of knowing that we could take care of ourselves if we had to. If the world were, in fact, to go completely haywire, as some think it will, we'd be fine.

For more information about Maya Spring Estates, you can inquire here. The first three lot buyers get a US$5,000 discount. We've already taken the first lot so that leaves two more available with the discount.

Editor's Note: Now that the final speaker has left the stage, work has begun in earnest to edit the recordings from this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference. As soon as the recordings (all 32 of them!) have been edited, we'll bundle them with our "Live and Invest in Belize" manual and other key Belize resources to create our new Live and Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit.

Meantime, this one-of-a-kind Belize resource in the making is available pre-release at a 50% discount. Details here.


Kathleen Peddicord's New Book "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas" Available Now Pre-Release!

Kathleen Peddicord's latest book, published by Wiley & Sons, hits bookstores April 8. Starting now, though, you can buy a copy pre-release and save 36% off the release price!

Go here now to place your order!


The winners are...

#1: Coronado, Panama

Where to Retire Overseas

Monthly budget: $1,800
Monthly rent: $600

Panama caters for foreign retirees like no other country in the world right now. Day-to-day living here is affordable, the approach to taxation is favorable (depending on your circumstances, it's possible to live and run a business here tax-free as a foreign resident), property prices remain reasonable, even a bargain outside the capital city, and the country boasts perhaps the world's most generous incentive program for retirees. It uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, meaning no exchange-rate risk for retirees whose retirement income is also denominated in greenbacks.

Further, Panama is an international banking center and the best place in the world to start and run an international business. As the gateway to the Americas, Panama's geographic position makes it an important hub for both commerce and travel. This is part of the reason why, while other Latin American countries depend heavily on the U.S. economy, this is not the case with Panama. The country stands on its own legs, has a solid economy, and thrives as a major center for foreign business and investment, attracting investors from the region (especially Venezuela and Colombia) and around the world.

Panama City is unique in Central America, the only legitimate city in the region, being remade in real time right now thanks to myriad public works projects, including the expansion of the Panama Canal. Panama also offers some of the most advanced medical care facilities in the region, with many Panamanian doctors U.S.-trained. The more remote your location, the farther you'll be from the best facilities, but Panama City's hospitals are first-rate.

My top recommendation for where to retire overseas in Panama in 2013 is Coronado, a beach community on the country's Pacific coast about an hour outside the capital. Life here could be comfortable, convenient, and turn-key, as this area is home to one of this country's most established communities of foreign retirees.

#2: Languedoc, France

Where to Retire Overseas

Monthly budget: $2,000
Monthly rent: $800

Whenever readers ask for my recommendation for the best place in the world to retire, budget considerations notwithstanding, I recommend France. It's the world's best example, I believe, of getting what you pay for. There are reasons France sees more tourists than any other country in the world, almost 80 million of them annually. To accommodate all those tourists, the infrastructure of this country, from the airports to the train system, from the restaurants to the hotels, has to be top notch and it is.

France is not only perhaps the best place in the world to live, thanks to its food, wine, architecture, history, museums, parks, gardens, and cultural and recreational offerings, but it's also, thanks to its reliable tourist trade, one of the best places to think about parking some capital. A rental property in France, especially in Paris but elsewhere in the country, too, is about as recession-proof a real estate investment as you're going to find.

Specifically, for retirement in 2013, I'd recommend the "other" South of France. Not Provence (which, yes, is pricey), but west of there, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, between Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur to the east, the Midi-Pyrenees to the west, and the Auvergne to the north. Spain is a few hours' drive to the south. Not everyone is cut out for life in the Tropics or the developing world. If you prefer Old World living, this is perhaps your best option right now. This region is colorful, eclectic, always changing, never following a formula, and very open to retirees. This is wine country, with a long history and a lot of heart.

#3: Ambergris Caye, Belize

Where to Retire Overseas

Monthly budget: $2,000
Monthly rent: $800

Warm and welcoming, independent and private. Those four perhaps seemingly contradictory adjectives best describe both Belizeans and their country. Belize is also one of the safest countries in the world, despite what you may read about it. In some neighborhoods of Belize City, gang members and drug dealers do the things that gang members and drug dealers do, but those are small, contained areas. In most of the rest of the country outside Belize City, crime is nearly non-existent. Belize was a colony of Britain until 1981, meaning the people here speak English. They also value their freedom, as it's relatively new.

In the nearly 30 years that I've been spending time in this country, I've joked that "the good news from Belize is no news from Belize." This is a sleepy Caribbean nation with but 330,000 people and three highways. On the other hand, little Belize offers a whole lot of what many retirees are looking for -- a chance to start over on sandy, sunny shores. Prices for a bit of sand on Ambergris, the most developed of Belize's islands, are not cheap but cheaper than elsewhere in the Caribbean, and it is this island, home to the country's biggest expat community, with the services to cater to it, that I would recommend to any retiree dreaming of retirement on the Caribbean Sea this New Year.

Legal residency is easy to obtain in Belize, and foreign residents pay no tax in Belize on non-Belize income. I would not recommend Belize if you have a serious health concern or existing medical condition. Health care facilities and standards are improving but limited.

#4: Cuenca, Ecuador

Where to Retire Overseas

Monthly budget: $1,300
Monthly rent: $500

Lots of overseas retirement destinations tout the fact that they're just like the United States, that, retired there, you could settle into familiar surroundings. You won't hear that about Ecuador. Each day you spend in this country, you know you're in a different and wonderful part of the planet.

Ecuador is also one the world's best place to retire overseas on a budget and to live better for less. The cost of living is low, and the cost of real estate is near rock bottom for Latin America. The health care is high quality, honest and inexpensive.

Specifically, I would recommend Cuenca, Ecuador, a beautiful colonial city with a fresh, spring-like climate 12 months of the year and a large and growing expat community that is one of Latin America's most diverse and well-blended. Ecuador has other colonial cities, but Cuenca is the cultural heart of the country, with an orchestra and active art, theater, even tango traditions that you can often enjoy free.

Perhaps the biggest draw to Cuenca is its cost of living, which is low in an absolute sense. The falling dollar has caused prices to go up sharply for overseas Americans in many countries where goods are priced in the local currency. This won't happen in Ecuador as long as the country continues to use the U.S. dollar as its currency. Real estate, too, is an absolute bargain. You can buy a small condo for less than $40,000.

#5: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Where to Retire Overseas

Monthly budget: $1,100
Monthly rent: $400

Thailand is arguably the cheapest place on earth to live well. Expat friends in this part of the world have long tempted me with tales of $1 Pad Thai lunches and $11-a-night hotels (including breakfast and free WiFi).

My top recommendation for retirees considering Thailand in 2013 is Chiang Mai, about 435 miles north of Bangkok, in a fertile river valley surrounded by mountains. Chiang Mai, home to more than 17,000 foreign residents, enjoys a more temperate climate than other parts of Thailand and is an area rich in history with a culture distinctly different from that in central and southern Thailand.

Big pluses for Thailand include health care, which is both very good and very cheap international living options. Downsides include the distance from North America.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. The world's top retirement havens for 2013 numbers 6 through 10? I'll share glimpses of those best choices later in the week.

Meantime, today, we make our way from New York to Chicago, for leg three of our holiday travels Stateside this year. I’ll be in touch again tomorrow from the Windy City...

P.S. What else this week?

  • Our four Christmases in Paris were all about the lights. Each year, starting in November, Boulevard St. Germain, just a few blocks from our apartment in this city, is strung with tiny white lights. The trees, the building facades, they're covered with them. Each morning and again each evening as I'd walk Jackson, aged 4 through 8 at the time, to and from school, we'd linger at the intersection of rue du Bac and Boulevard St. Germain as long as possible, looking up and down, up and down, slowly, working to fix that magical view in our memories. "It's a fairy land," 4-year-old Jack declared it one morning. I see it still...


  • Ann Kuffner writes:


For those of us who grew up in snow country, it seems odd to be walking around in T-shirts and flip flops on Christmas Day. But, having lived here on Ambergris Caye for seven years now, I've come to appreciate that Belize offers a unique collection of blended Christmas traditions. More than 70% of Belizeans are Christian, so the majority of residents celebrate the birth of Christ. However, the country is also home to more than 10 different ethnic groups. The result is the most multicultural holiday celebrations I can imagine...

  • Lee Harrison writes:


The bang drew my attention; followed by a rattling engine noise that sounded like a 1960s-era lawnmower within five minutes of its mechanical death. Turning around, the vehicle making its way down the street was indeed a relic, but not a lawnmower. It was a reddish-brown 1971 Ford Pinto, headed straight for the park I was walking in.

The Pinto pulled up to the curb and stopped, its engine rattling to a halt. A man and a woman in their late-50s both squeezed out through the passenger-side door and opened the trunk to reveal a bushel or so of carrots and a few dozen large oranges. The lady removed the carrots and oranges from the trunk, while her husband lifted a large car battery onto the ground, which he proceeded to rig up to a pair of vegetable juicers mounted on a wooden stand.

Two minutes later, I was drinking a large, frothy glass of garden-fresh carrot juice...a great way to start the day.

And in this large, leafy park, the couple in the Pinto is not alone. An entire flotilla of fresh fruit and juice vendors has assembled on the south end, where a crowd of local residents has gathered to sample the day's offerings.

The temperature has just reached a comfortable 70 degrees at 7:30 a.m., and it's another typical sunny morning in Bucaramanga (pronounced boo-cah-rah-MAHN-ga), Colombia...

  • Expat Mike Sager is a former stockbroker and financial consultant who followed a launch a new life overseas. Today, Mike makes his home on the Ecuadorian coast, where he lives an enviable life on an enviable eight-mile stretch of Pacific beach.


Here's how Mike describes it:

"I get up in the morning, make a big mug of coffee, and head out to my deck overlooking Pacific Ocean. I call it my 'office.' I answer a few e-mails and then plan the day. Do I go boogie boarding...or for a ride on my motorcycle? Maybe I should call one of my fellow musicians to jam...or just sit there awhile, taking in the view and the sound of the waves below and breathing in that fresh ocean air...

"Almost all of us have a dream about how life could retirement could be. But far too often, our ideas collect dust until one day, far off in the future, we ask ourselves, 'What if I had done it?'

"'What if I had pursued that dream I had long ago?'

"I promised myself that I was not going to let that happen to me...

PLUS—From resident global real estate investing expert Lief Simon:

Last year, I bought an apartment in downtown Medellin, Colombia. The price was great (less than US$700 per meter), and, despite having spent much more than I intended on the renovation (friend Lee Harrison refers to this as the "Spousal Factor"), I could resell the unit today (18 months after the purchase) for a profit of at least 50%. And I could likely find a buyer quickly, as this is an active market. I bought the apartment partly as a rental and partly for personal use. One Medellin rental manager who has inspected the property now that it's been renovated and furnished projects rent and occupancy rates that would translate to a net yield of 11% or 12% per year based on the purchase price (and including the monthly HOA fee).

Not a bad return, especially as it doesn't include any potential appreciation. Of course, not everyone has the time or the inclination to manage a renovation or a rental property in another country, and not everyone wants to put as much money into Colombia as it takes to buy and furnish an entire apartment.

That's why I was excited when one of my real estate contacts in Medellin, Rich Holman, told me about a project he's put together. It amounts to a very reasonably priced first step into this market that comes with the added bonus of a Colombia residency visa.

One way to establish residency in Colombia is to invest 100 times the monthly minimum wage in a private company. At today's minimum wage and exchange rate that works out to about US$35,000. Of course, finding a private company looking for investors at that level isn't easy, so the reality is that gaining residency in Colombia this way isn't normally a realistic idea unless you're ready to invest a much greater amount.

Rich and his partner Joe Greco, however, have put together an offer using a building that one of their real estate investors bought and renovated in Medellin. The three-unit building is in the Zona Rosa in this city's tourist epicenter. Fully furnished, the units are being prepared for short-term rental.

The idea is simple. Investors can buy a share of the company that owns the building for, not coincidentally, US$35,000, thereby qualifying you for a residency visa in Colombia. The units then will be rented out, and owners will receive their shares of the net rental income after rental and property management fees have been covered.

Projected net yields are 4% to 6% after Colombian taxes (my projected net yields above for my rental scenario are before Colombian taxes, which can be as high as 33%). That's a decent yield especially when you consider that the main benefit of the investment is residency in Colombia. This is also an opportunity to get your feet wet as an investor in Colombia with a modest amount of capital.

If you were to buy an apartment in Medellin and furnish it, the minimum total amount of capital required would be around US$100,000. (One reader found a great apartment last year for US$75,000 and furnished it for another US$10,000, but that was last year.)

As an investor in the project, you enjoy a discount if you'd like to stay in one of the units. Further, the cost of your residency application is included in the investment amount, meaning this is a fully turn-key opportunity.

I think the yields Rich and Joe are projecting are probably conservative. These guys put together a similar project last year (for investment only; there was no residency component). The rental returns for that effort are beating their projections. As they own a real estate company with a rental management arm, they have a steady flow of rental inquiries from tourists, businessmen, and investors. They also have experience managing rental properties in this city.

Along with the yields, investors should see some capital appreciation of the underlying asset. While Medellin real estate prices have increased over the last few years by as much as 10% a year, prices are still very reasonable on a global scale. In addition, the local economy is growing nicely. Therefore, I expect property values to continue up.

The bottom line is that you won't find many real estate investments in this price range, and you won't find an easier residency option for Colombia. And you can reserve a unit with a fully refundable deposit of but US$500. For more details, on real estate in Medellin, Colombia, get in touch here.

  • What’s Your Pleasure? Read more about how Asia, Europe, and the Americas all offer very appealing but very different top option when it comes to deciding where to retire overseas.

    Image credit: Myukie, Keg1036, Asteiner, Francesco Bailo & Lester Mathias Andersson

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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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