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.
Rainfall is great in Medellin (66 inches versus 35 inches in Cuenca), but the average sunny day is just a bit higher in Medellin. The city with the "perfect weather" for you will be a matter of your own taste.Establishing residency is fairly easy in both Colombia and Ecuador, with low thresholds for visa qualification in both countries. In Colombia, the pensioner's visa requires an income of a little less than US$1,000 per month, while in Ecuador the level is even lower, at US$800 monthly. For an investor-type visa, Colombia's options start at around US$34,000 for a one-year temporary visa, while Ecuador requires US$25,000 for full, permanent residency.So Ecuador has lower thresholds for permanent residency, both for the investor and the retiree.Colombia's visa, however, is quicker and easier to obtain, with fewer required documents. Also, Ecuador imposes restrictions on being out of the country during your first two years of residency, while Colombia has no such restrictions. The cultural scene in Medellin is remarkably similar to that in Cuenca. This is surprising because Cuenca has around 600,000 people in its metro area, while Medellin has about 4 million. In both cities, you can enjoy orchestra, theater, art openings, museums, and a generally sophisticated cultural scene. You'll pay a fee for most of these in Medellin, while in Cuenca they're usually free. The infrastructure is good in both cities. You'll enjoy drinkable water, reliable broadband Internet, and dependable electricity, water, and phone service. Also, both cities are very walkable, and both have excellent and cheap public transit systems. If you decide to drive, you'll find traffic jams equally maddening in both cities. Real estate costs are cheap in both cities by Latin American standards. I prepared a survey recently that compared costs in Medellin, Montevideo (Uruguay), Fortaleza (Brazil), and Panama City. For comparable properties and areas, prices in Medellin's El Poblado are the lowest on a per-square-meter basis.But Cuenca's prices are lower. A nice, two-bedroom apartment in Cuenca might cost around US$80,000...while that same apartment in a comparable neighborhood of Medellin would cost more than US$120,000. You can find Cuenca-style pricing in Medellin but not in the best neighborhoods. For the lifestyle you'll enjoy in Medellin, the real estate is a tremendous bargain. And the same is true in Cuenca; for the lifestyle it offers, it, too, is a tremendous bargain.But the lifestyle in one is nothing like the lifestyle in the other, which brings us to the ways these cities differ. (As Medellin is such a large and diverse city, I'll focus on its El Poblado neighborhood for my comparisons.)Medellin's El Poblado offers a modern, upscale ambiance. It has elegant shopping, spotless infrastructure, glistening new buildings, and more fine-dining that you can imagine. New luxury brick high-rises look down from lush, wooded hillsides. Tall trees line the well-maintained streets. And El Poblado is only one of many desirable areas in this city.On the other hand, Cuenca is one of the Americas' premier Spanish-colonial cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old cathedral was built in 1557, the historic architecture is well preserved, and the streets are cobblestoned. You'll even see evidence of the Inca occupation from the early 1500s. Yet just outside the historic center, Cuenca also offers new, modern high-rises. So you could live in a modern home, yet have the historic center within walking distance. El Poblado is a First World environment; you'll be hard-pressed to find a U.S. city that can beat it. Cuenca is part of a developing country with some Third World characteristics like poor sidewalk and building maintenance. Access to the States is easier from Medellin than from Cuenca. Medellin has daily nonstops to Miami, while you'll need to connect (and possibly spend the night) in Guayaquil or Quito when traveling to and from Cuenca. This adds a day to the trip, as well as the cost of lodging and taxis. The expat community is far smaller in Medellin than in Cuenca. I can find expats in Medellin—at a local coffee shop or the Irish pub—if I look for them, and a couple of Americans are signed up at my gym. Otherwise, I don't see them around.In Cuenca, the expat community is big, estimated between 4,000 and 5,000 people. These folks are making a cultural imprint on the city. I'd say that impact is positive. Since the infusion of North Americans to this city, there's been an explosion in the number of nice cafes, restaurants, and book shops, as well as other expat-owned services and businesses. Today in Cuenca, you can find most anything you might be looking for and, normally, an English-speaker to deal with in the process.But whether an expat community of that size is a positive or a negative for you is a matter of choice. The cost of living is higher in El Poblado than in Cuenca, due in part to the exchange rates. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar, so dollar-holders don't feel the pinch of a weakening currency. Colombia has a strengthening Colombian peso. The basics in Medellin (food, entertainment, utilities, public transit, taxes, and HOA fees) cost me about US$1,850 per month. I believe in Cuenca the total cost would be about US$1,250 for the same lifestyle. Many people live for less than that in Cuenca, but I'm using an apples-to-apples comparison from my own experience.Bottom line, neither city is expensive, but Cuenca is definitely less expensive than Medellin. Which is the better retire-overseas choice?Impossible to say. Manhattan is not inherently better or worse than New Orleans, after all...but it's a lot different. And the same goes for Medellin and Cuenca.I see Ecuador as a cultural adventure where life is as different as you can get from the United States or Canada, short of moving to Asia. When I retired to Cuenca at age 49, I shunned places like Medellin, Chile, and Uruguay, because they were too much like the States. I wanted something as different, enriching, and exciting as I could get, and Cuenca fit the bill. Today, I think of Medellin as a way to reward myself. It's a treat to be here. Medellin is a way to enjoy perfect weather and an elegant lifestyle that I couldn't afford in the United States. When I bought my place in Medellin 10 years after I'd left the States, at the age of 59, it was exactly what I was looking for at that stage. I wanted an elegant, luxury lifestyle at an affordable price, and Medellin fit the bill. And that's the real reason that Medellin is now my "ideal retirement spot"...when it used to be Cuenca. You've heard a dozen times that the "perfect retirement location" is different for everyone. But there's more to it than that. Your "perfect spot" can also change with your taste, your age, and your experience living abroad. And that's really part of the fun.This living overseas thing is an adventure and a journey of discovery that need never stop.Lee HarrisonP.S. Could Cuenca, Ecuador, be your dream retirement destination? The only way to find out is to come see for yourself. We're preparing for the launch of our September Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference. Put your name on the list for VIP attendee perks and discounts here.
May 26, 2014
"Kathleen, excellent piece on the elections under way in Colombia. Having lived in Colombia in various cities as a Peace Corps volunteer and staff...married a beautiful Colombian and our son was born there...Colombia is my "patria chica" (homeland), as they say. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance in this beautiful country with the best Spanish spoken in the interior...the best in Latin America!"--Bob A., ColombiaNo presidential candidate received the required 50% or more of the vote in yesterday's elections in Colombia, meaning the two candidates who received the most votes (Zuluaga and Santos) will now compete in a runoff election to take place June 15. We'll keep you posted.
May 21, 2014
"Kathleen, really enjoyed your writing 'Confessions Of A Developing-World Developer' and applaud both you and Lief for having the vision to develop Los Islotes. "We purchased property there sight-unseen last year, and I visited with the group in January. During that visit, not only was I taken by the beauty of the area but connected with several other land owners. We have kept in touch, and I enjoy hearing of their plans and progress as we exchange emails and phone calls. "You spoke of the community you envision. I want to tell you that community is already happening as we land owners share our dreams and progress with each other. "We will be back out in January next year and hopefully have our timeline in place so we can begin a new phase in our life within Los Islotes. "Post more pictures as they are available so we can see all the exciting progress!" --Amy T., United States
--Lief Simon, Medellin investor "Colombia is enjoying record-level foreign direct investment and steady economic growth year on year. Inflation is among the lowest in Latin America. Six of the best universities in the region are here and five of the best hospitals..." --Daniel Gutierrez, Colombian attorney "My worst day in 8 years in Medellin has been better than my best day in 14 years living in Naples, Florida—and Naples is a pretty nice place..." --Rich Holman, Medellin expat and businessman "This isn't some backwater basket case struggling to recover from its most recent crisis. This is a country with a strong, solid economy that is getting steadily stronger. Current growth rate is 5%, and growth rates are projected to average better than 4% per year through 2018 at least. Further, Colombia enjoys an energy surplus. This country is not energy-dependent on anyone..." --Lee Harrison, Medellin expat and investor "Pablo's dead. Go back, tell your people..." --Rich Holman, Medellin expat and businessman "The property purchase process in Colombia is transparent and secure. The cost of buying is about 1% of the purchase price. This is among the lowest in the world..." --Lee Harrison, Medellin expat and investor "Colombia offers a number of good visa options. Currently you need US$972 per month to qualify for a pensioner visa. And you can receive your visa in three days once you have all your documents in order..." --Juan Dario Gutierrez, Colombian attorney "Congratulations on taking the bold step to come here. I firmly believe you will be very happy you ignored all the friends and family who told you you were crazy to travel to Colombia. You're going to be awfully glad you mustered the courage and opened your mind to give this place a chance..." --Rich Holman, Medellin expat and businessman Kathleen Peddicord Editor's Note: If you're not in Medellin with us for this week's Live and Invest in Colombia event, you are missed... And, frankly, you are missing out. Colombia is emerging as one of the world's top retirement and investment havens. Medellin, especially, offers a perfect-storm opportunity right now to reinvent your life, rescue your retirement, and diversify your portfolio into one of the world's most promising marketplaces. "This experience so far exceeds my expectations," one attendee at this week's conference told me yesterday, "that I'm just shaking my head. This city...this conference...this is all really something special..." We're getting the whole thing on tape. The collection of audio recordings will be bundled to create our all-new Live & Invest in Colombia Home Conference Kit. You can reserve your copy of this Total Colombia Package now, taking advantage of a better than 50% pre-release discount. Do that 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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