#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
Here in Thailand, I've yet to hear of expats leaving because of the coup: we've had a lot of coups here, too. But curiously, tourism dropped off dramatically. I speak from personal observation here. I figure hotels in Chiang Mai, where Vicki and I stay, should be more than half full in early June (shoulder season). Yet, in my survey, occupancy rates came out closer to 10% or 20%. In June, Vicki and I played tourist here in Thailand. We took a week-long road trip with friends to Doi Ang Khang (a national park), went to Mae Sai (a border town snuggled up to the Myanmar border) and to Phayao (a popular lakeside town). We mostly shared the scenic sites with a handful of Thai tourists. We noted the almost complete absence of foreign tourists. I can think of a few reasons for the decline in tourism. The western world remains mired in no-or-slow growth with young tourists having less money to spend. Until recently, Bangkok and other nightlife venues were under curfew, discouraging those who come to party. The Chinese came in large numbers after a Chinese movie called Lost in Thailand became a hit a few years ago. The movie was filmed in Chiang Mai, giving Chinese a special reason to come to town. I figure the movie tourism may have run its course. Perhaps the major blow to tourism was the coup and street violence that preceded it. Beginning late last year, those thinking of coming to Thailand saw riots on TV. Middle-aged tourists crossed Thailand off their list as they planned ahead for their summer holidays. And I suspect Chinese, in particular, stayed away because of the coup. Young Chinese have only ever known a stable home government. They may never have heard of coups, much less understand them. Ditto the Japanese. In spite of apparent misgivings abroad, the coup here has had little impact on the tourist experience, in my opinion, for Chinese or Japanese or anyone else. Street life has pretty much returned to normal, and more tourists are showing up. Meanwhile, those of us who spend time here enjoy less crowded restaurants, better prices, lower airfares, a slower pace, and special deals. Paul Terhorst
We bought a small packet of kindling and incense. We slipped off our shoes and offered the packet at the temporary shrine. Behind the shrine, rested the ornamental funeral chariot holding the monk's coffin. Before I had time to take many photos, my friend whisked me to our next stop, the lunch tent. Villagers had prepared gallons of spicy curries, flavorful soups, fried meat, and rice (both sticky and steamed). An early lunch had been served a couple of hours before we arrived, but there was still plenty of food for us and other latecomers. After eating, we found a seat under a canopy, near my friend's mother and sister, to protect us from the sun or the rain. Women sat together in one area, men in another. During the next several hours, we listened to prayers, speeches, and more while watching the elaborate preparations for the burning. Children ran here, there, and everywhere. Between prayers, people chatted with their neighbors and attended to the children. Folks constantly came around to offer us cold water, sweet fruit drinks, coffee, and ice cream. I had the sense of being at a company picnic or large family reunion. At last, the momentous final act began. First came a short dance ceremony. Then, many monks—and even more lay people—made their final prayers and offerings. Designated helpers removed the temporary shrine and placed flammable items, not meant for burning, far from the funeral chariot. We all waited with quiet anticipation. Suddenly, firecrackers, skyrockets, and whistling bottle rockets exploded all around. Specially designed pyrotechnics ignited. Colored smoke and sparkling lights enveloped the chariot. We heard a mysterious low, moaning sound. Finally, the chariot with the coffin burst into flames. Firemen sprayed water to keep flames under control. Everyone snapped photos as the all-consuming flames burned hotter and hotter, higher and higher. It was over. We ate our soup (a final offering of comfort), said our goodbyes, and walked down the hill for home. Vicki Terhorst P.S. Thailand is just one of the countries we'll tell you about at the upcoming Retire Overseas Conference, coming up later this summer in Nashville, Tennessee. More details on this once-a-year event, here.
Kathleen Peddicord'sNew Book
An Expert Guide To The Advantages And The Challenges of Investing In Real Estate Overseas..." Learn More
Sign up to receive free dailydispatches from the "Guru of Overseas Retirement and Opportunities"
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.
Read more here.
Sign up for the Overseas Opportunity Letter
Receive our editor's latest research reports...absolutely FREE!
The Best Places For Living And Investing in the World for 2014
Receive a FREE copy of
The Six Cheapest Havens
To Retire In 2014
Discover the six best places in the world right now to live better and retire well...on as little as US$700 a month!
“We will not share or rent your email address to or with anyone else, period!”
Hey, I'm already a reader of Kathleen's e-letter. I don't need to see this popup ever again.