#8: Abruzzo, Italy It's hard to think of a lovelier corner of Italy than the Abruzzo. The beaches are golden, and the sea rolls out like a giant bolt of turquoise silk. There are mountains, too, meaning that, living here, you'd have both skiing and beach-combing on your doorstep, depending on the season. This region is one of Italy's secret treasures. No overcrowding, no heavy industry, only castles, vineyards, and villages made of stone. Life in the Abruzzo hasn't changed much over the years, and exploring here is like wandering into a gentler, kinder yesterday. This region of Italy is also one of Europe's best bargains. A couple could retire here on as little as US$2,000 per month or less, including rent. #7: Medellin, Colombia Medellin is a city of parks and flowers, pretty, tidy, and, despite its checkered past, safe. It's also architecturally consistent and pleasing. Most every building is constructed of red brick and topped with red clay roof tiles. The overall effect is delightful. Medellin is both an industrial, economic, and financial center for this country and a literary and artistic one. Newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, an annual book fair, and, back in 1971, Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon, all have chosen Medellin as their base. Thanks to its mountain setting, Medellin is another of a handful of cities around the world that bills themselves as lands of eternal springtime. The cost of living is affordable, though not super-cheap. The medical care is excellent, with 5 of the 35 best hospitals in Latin America located here. The European undertones in Medellin are strong, from the way the women dress to the way people greet you in passing on the street. This is South America, not Central America, and the differences between the two regions can be striking. Medellin was named 2013's World's Most Innovative City and is finally beginning to shed its bad-boy image from Pablo Escobar days and to become appreciated for the romantic city it is, with good wines, great coffee, outdoor cafes, and open-air music venues. #6: Pau, France The city of Pau, also known as the "Green City" and the "Garden City," has one of the highest ratios of greenery per square meter per person of any European city. Further, Pau's greenery is tremendously diverse and includes trees and plants from Japan, the Caribbean, Mexico, Lebanon, the Mediterranean, Chile, and California, this huge variety in part thanks to the English settlers who came here after the Napoleonic wars and brought with them their love of gardening and parks. Pau's is a landscape of accessible woodlands, the steep slopes of Jurançon wine country, the history-packed Plaine de Nay and its main town of Nay, and the pretty rolling countryside and ancient towns of the Gaves de Béarn. Pau is a university town, with close to 12,000 university students living on and off campus, helping to keep it lively. The retiree who has dreamt of France but who can't afford Paris should consider Pau. A couple could retire here on as little as US$2,000 per month. #5: Dumaguete, Philippines In addition to its welcoming, friendly, English-speaking people, Dumaguete boasts a warm, tropical climate and lots of opportunity for outdoor adventures, including world-class diving and snorkeling and whale and dolphin watching. Dumaguete sits right along the ocean, with attractive beaches to the north and south of town. This is also a university city, meaning an abundance of inexpensive restaurants that cater to "starving" college students. Foreigners have the opportunity to make friends with educated professors and aspiring students, take classes, and enjoy cultural opportunities not typically found elsewhere in the Philippines, including theater, ballet, art shows, and libraries. Medical and dental care are good, with a new hospital under construction and international-standard health care available in nearby Cebu. More than 5,000 retirees, including many Americans, have decided to make Dumaguete their permanent home. The primary appeal for the would-be retiree is a super-low cost of living; a couple could retire here on as little as US$1,000 per month. #4: Chiang Mai, Thailand Chiang Mai has been luring expats from the West for many years with its low cost of living and great weather. The high-quality health care and health-related services are also big pluses for foreign retirees. Chiang Mai boasts modern infrastructure and an abundance of Western amenities. It's also a place where it can be possible for foreign retirees to find work if they're interested in supplementing their retirement nest eggs or simply looking to become involved in their new community; many Westerners are employed in Chiang Mai in language schools, universities, medical facilities, and tourist-related industries. #3: George Town, Malaysia George Town is a busy, thriving city with a large expat community that has managed to retain its colonial charm (it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The city is affordable, with a tropical climate, an intriguing culture, and gorgeous white-sand beaches. George Town's total population is about 740,000, small enough that it's easy to make friends and meet people, yet big enough to mean health care that meets international standards and easy availability to goods and services most retirees are looking for. Year-round sunshine, First World infrastructure, turn-key permanent residency, and English-speaking locals make the living here easy. This is a paradise for food lovers and, all things considered, one of the most livable cities in Southeast Asia. #2: Cuenca, Ecuador Cuenca is a charming, walkable colonial city in the highlands of Ecuador, meaning the climate year-round is spring-like. The cost of living is low (though rising) and the cost of real estate is near rock bottom for Latin America. The health care is high quality, honest, and inexpensive. Cuenca's large and growing expat community is one of Latin America's most established and well integrated with the local community. Ecuador offers user-friendly retiree residency options, and the country uses the U.S. dollar, meaning no exchange-rate risk for American retirees. Thanks to the big and growing expat community based here, downtown Cuenca boasts cafes, restaurants, bars, and bookshops alongside the traditional butchers, tailors, repair shops, and bakeries. Cuenca is also the country's center of art and literature; you can attend the orchestra or a play, enjoy a tango show or an art opening, all often free. #1: Algarve, Portugal Portugal's Algarve is the best place in the world to retire in 2014. This Atlantic coastal region is already home to more than 100,000 resident expat retirees and offers the best of the Old World, from medieval towns and fishing villages to open-air markets and local wine, plus some of Europe's best beaches. The Algarve also boasts great weather, enjoying 3,300 hours of sunshine per year, more than most anywhere else in Europe. Portugal ranks as the 17th safest country in the world. The infrastructure is good and improving, and the health care is international-standard. Medical tourism is a growing industry. The cost of living in Portugal is among the lowest in Western Europe. A retired couple could live here comfortably on a budget of as little as US$1,500 per month. And the country's new Non-Habitual Resident and Golden Visa programs mean it is easier than it's ever been for a foreign retiree to arrange legal residency. Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Our 2014 Retire Overseas Index, which rates and ranks the world's top 21 retirement havens, is featured in full in this month's issue of our Overseas Retirement Letter. If you're not yet an ORL subscriber, become one now to receive this bumper special annual edition, hot-off-the-virtual-presses. Or you can purchase a copy of the Index on its own here.
Aug. 26, 2
These days, scores of inviting restaurants, many owned by expats, serve food from around the world. You can enjoy casual or fine dining or spend the afternoon at a pleasant sidewalk cafe.Cuenca's downtown airport has again been improved and is now one of the most modern and convenient airports in the region. It's only a few minutes from the center of town, and flights around the country are cheap and efficient on new, modern aircraft.Cuenca's colonial historic district is clean, well-preserved, and well-maintained. On my most recent visit, I noticed that, even since my last visit last year, many of the sidewalks have been widened and resurfaced, making the downtown even more walkable.I also noted that most of the downtown crosswalks now have pedestrian signals, making things just a bit safer. Don't get me wrong, it's still fairly easy to get hit by a car in this city, but I'm sure the survival rate for pedestrians is higher than it was a few years ago.Meantime, while there are always new and interesting additions to Cuenca, it's good to see that the best of the town's old mainstays continue to thrive. For example, the Eucalyptus Café, Cuenca's first expat-owned restaurant, is still alive and well, serving great dishes from around the world. While almost all of downtown Cuenca's indigenous markets have been overhauled and modernized, you can still find one old-fashioned, run-down market where you can experience the feeling of years gone by.The real estate market in Cuenca continues to be a great value. Prices have appreciated about 8% per year on average during the past eight years or so, and the furnished rentals market is active. Progress and prosperity have their downsides, and one in Cuenca right now is the traffic. A pedestrian navigating the historic center will make better time than a car much of the day, which makes a good case for walking rather than driving in this very walkable city. Another consequence of the tremendously expanded popularity of Cuenca is the presence here today of thousands of North American expats and retirees, most of whom have arrived on the scene in the past few years. This is in itself neither a good nor a bad thing. It depends on your perspective and the kind of retirement lifestyle you're looking for.If you want to feel like a pioneer out on your own in a place where you're one of just a few foreigners on the scene, then Cuenca is not going to be what you're looking for. On the other hand, if you're interested in a thriving, active expat community and the support and comradeship that it brings, then Cuenca will be a good choice for you—one of the best.Something else struck me on my most recent visit to Cuenca. It's not just this city that's improving, it's the entire country. As I traveled around Ecuador, I noticed great improvements to the infrastructure. Whether you're on the coast or driving at 13,000 feet along the continental divide, you'll now enjoy new bridges and solid, well-marked roads. Roads that were pot-holed nightmares just a few years ago.Markedly reduced corruption means that Ecuador's wealth is coming back to her, being invested in infrastructure rather than going into someone's pocket. If you thought Ecuador was a good choice for retirement before, you'll find it's an even better choice now. And if you thought it was too rough around the edges a few years ago, it's time for another look.Lee HarrisonEditor's Note: Ecuador is the top place in the world right now to retire well on a very limited budget...even to live the adventure of your lifetime on a Social Security check alone. If you're serious about this part of the world, don't miss our upcoming Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference. Registration is now open (with a limited-time easy payment plan)...
June 12, 2014
"Kathleen, I'm 56 years old and one of your new '52 Days' students and a very tired vet. "That is, I'm a retired disabled veteran, and I am longing to move to Belize. I've bothered family and friends with this notion for a couple of years now. They mostly approve. Mostly they love me to pieces and want me to be happy and safe. I so want to prove to them and myself that this can be done. "Therefore I am taking my 52 steps quite seriously. Because I'm a disabled veteran, I am assigned a Social Security Finance-Payee person. She's fantastic and is 100% encouraging me to do this. "It seems this may be really possible? Could this be really possible?" --Anita K., United States Yes, it's really possible. Follow along with the 52 Days program and let us know if we can do anything more to help.
June 10, 2014
"Kathleen, having just spent 12 days in Ecuador, I can definitely state that the U.S. dollar is used there. The only difference is that they don't really care for dollar bills and instead prefer the US$1 coin! Another peculiarity is that the ATMs give you bills of all denominations—US$5, US$10, and US$20, unlike most U.S. ATMs." --Steve P., United States
June 5, 2014
"Kathleen, I'm writing in response to the article you published recently on purchasing a lot in the Galapagos. "It compels me to point out that in Antigua and Barbuda there is a tax on the sales price of a purchase that can be 5% or more AND the attorney can also charges 5% on the transaction at resell. "This means the property needs to appreciate 10% before you approach breaking even, not including the other seller costs when you transact again being figured in—for example, current survey and seller tax. "I have transacted many real estate sales as a real estate agent in Antigua and Barbuda and this is the norm. "It takes strong analysis in each individual country to reach the whole picture for ROI and a careful selection of barrister or attorney. One does not take recommendations of taxi drivers for this! "With best regards for all the work you do to help inform purchasers." --Bonnie S., Antigua and Barbuda No question. It's important to analyze all the costs of both buying and selling a piece of property, especially if you're buying for investment. In fact, full round-trip costs of buying in Antigua and Barbuda run more than 20% of the sales price; that's definitely on the high side relative to the rest of the world. However, it sounds like your attorney is seriously overcharging, as attorney fees shouldn't be more than 2% of the transaction. I know attorneys in many countries who think they should make as much as real estate agents, but they don't understand the role a real estate agent plays. If your attorney is charging 5% of the transaction cost to process a real estate purchase, I'd find another attorney.
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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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