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 club...golf, 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.
Asia Correspondents Wendy and David Justice: Hanoi, Vietnam Of all the places we could pick from in our travels, Hanoi, Vietnam, is the city we have chosen to call home. The city is an energetic and chaotic jumble of ancient neighborhoods, tranquil parks and lakes, modern high-rises, and centuries-old pagodas. It is also home to one of the most healthy and varied cuisines in the world. In more than two years of living in Hanoi, we are still discovering delicious and exotic new foods. Even more important to us are the people. They are curious, polite, friendly, and generous to a fault. They really want to get to know you and to make friends. Friendships we've formed here have lasted many years. There are always other foreigners to socialize with if we want, and there is always something to do. And the cost of living is so affordable. Here in Hanoi—anywhere in Vietnam, for that matter—we don't have to worry about money. We know that Hanoi isn't the right place for everyone, but we can easily imagine living here for many more years. If we ever had to leave Vietnam, we would probably head over to Pai, Thailand. Its funky, mountain-town ambiance reminds us of the small towns we knew in the Colorado Rockies. If we developed ongoing health problems or became too elderly and frail to tolerate the stimulation of Hanoi, we would strongly consider moving to Hua Hin, Thailand. Asia Correspondents Vicki and Paul Terhorst: Lviv, Ukraine Vicki and I are perpetual travelers, which means we wander around the world without a fixed home base. By default, therefore, wherever we are at the moment becomes our favorite place. Otherwise, why would we be here? I'm writing this in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which makes Chiang Mai a favorite place. Recently, we chose to spend time in Lviv, Ukraine, because of its combination of European culture (historic buildings and churches, art museums, opera and ballet, convenient public transportation, cafe society, hearty food, robust wine) and low prices. Lviv also makes a useful base for exploration to the rest of Eastern Europe, with six international borders within 200 kilometers or so. Just jump on a train or bus and you can get to Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, or Belarus. The rest of Europe lies just a bit farther along. Ukraine's pro-Russia rebel insurgency remains far to the east of Lviv, more than 800 miles away. Your biggest day-to-day problem in Lviv will be the language. Ukraine uses a different alphabet, making it hard even to guess at street names or menu offerings. Along with Lviv and Chiang Mai, I'd choose Paris as our third favorite place. Having three favorite places makes it easy to avoid running into trouble with 90-day visa rules in any one of them. Asia Correspondent Robert Carry: Cambodia Cambodia might seem an unusual number-one pick, but it has some serious strikes in its favor. First up is cost of living. Put simply, this is the cheapest place I've ever been to. You can get a great apartment in a city center location for less than US$400 a month. A Cambodian-style meal in a local eatery will run you less than a dollar and some of my favorite watering holes charge 75 cents a beer (and as little as 25 cents during happy hour). Everything here is just unfathomably inexpensive. Then there's convenience. You can turn up at the airport unannounced and get a one-year visa, renewable at the end of the 12 months, on arrival. It's almost too easy. Plus, the U.S. dollar is the main currency here, English is widely spoken, and there's a sizable expat community in place. However, Cambodia's real draw is its people. After decades of war and continuing poverty, the Khmers have somehow managed to keep their smiles. They're warm, welcoming, and infectiously optimistic. Cambodia's enchanting culture and Buddhist ethos underpins its peoples' relaxed, live-and-let-live way of life. When I retire, Cambodia is where you'll find me. Tomorrow, top picks from key correspondents in Europe and the Americas... Kathleen Peddicord Editor's Note: Want to learn more about what Live and Invest Overseas correspondents really think about living and retiring overseas? Join us for three days of live discussions next month when we'll be convening with dozens of our normally far-flung experts and expat friends for this year's Retire Overseas Conference taking place in Nashville Aug. 29–31. You have four days remaining to register for what will be the biggest retire-overseas event of the year taking advantage of the Early Bird Discount. This discount, which can save you up to US$300 off the cost of registration, expires this Thursday, July 31, at midnight. Complete details of the event are here, and you can register online here.
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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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