Malta:Malta is another pick by globe-trotting Correspondent Rob Carry. Here's why he argued to include this on our 2015 calendar:"Malta," Rob wrote, "is a shining First World jewel in the middle of the Mediterranean. An EU member where English is almost universally spoken by the multilingual population, Malta is close to a complete package. Health care is superb, and all Europe is within an hour or two flying time. The Maltese people are warm and welcoming with an enthralling history, great food, and a culture all their own."Bangkok, Thailand:Bangkok is the pick of Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice, who explains, "Bangkok is overwhelming given the massive size of the city. There are certainly parts of it that I would not recommend, but there are a few neighborhoods that deserve our attention." Specifically, later this year, Wendy will introduce you to Sukhomvit, a neighborhood that is popular among expats and offers lots of Western-type amenities.Prague, Czech Republic:Prague was once the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, meaning plenty of historical and cultural interest. It is also centrally located in Europe, making it a great springboard for driving trips to nearby cities and countries. The city is no longer considered a super-cheap destination among European capitals, but the value is there. You can live well on a reasonable budget. With two-bedroom apartments available for less than US$900 a month in the city center, Prague is our pick for where to embrace city life on the Continent for less than US$2,000 a month.Vung Tau, Vietnam:Founded in the 14th century as a port town for European trading ships, Vung Tau means "anchorage." Nowadays a hub for the oil industry, the city plays a major part in Vietnam's economy and is a significant and relatively wealthy city that manages to feel sleepy and removed. For expats, the city offers a bargain cost of living, a good private hospital that caters to foreigners, clean, fresh sea breezes, exquisite seafood, and easy access to Ho Chi Minh City.Tulum, Mexico:Mexico Correspondent Mike Anderson will be reporting this year on Tulum, which, as he explains, "offers great beaches and a continuing opportunity for growth for the retiree-investor. Tulum has traction with expats who have created a small hub here in the Quintana Roo province of the Yucatan Peninsula. The area has been developing for the past two decades, and I think it will continue to evolve as a top expat haven in Mexico." Bali, Indonesia:Another pick from Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice's for 2015 is Bali:"Seminyak, Indonesia, on the island of Bali, offers residents a low cost of living, a large, well-established expat community, plus, of course, the stunning South Pacific beaches that Bali is so famous for. Indonesia even offers a retirement visa. I look forward to covering Seminyak... it's the perfect excuse for a return visit to Bali!" Spain:With property prices in Spain struggling to keep from falling further, this is the time to be looking at this part of the world. Specifically, we want to draw your attention to opportunities along the thousands of miles of coastline this country has to offer. The Costa del Sol is the best known of Spain's costas, but it's also the most developed. Other coastal spots offer more history and cultural diversity. Our Spanish scouts are looking for the best combination of current property values, cost of living, and culture. Stay tuned for our pick for Spain's best costa for 2015.Plus Two Special Expanded Issues:In addition, we're planning two special expanded issues for Overseas Retirement Letter subscribers this year. In June, we'll be publishing a round-up update on long-standing top retire-overseas choices in Ecuador, Belize, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, France, Italy, Spain, Thailand, and the Philippines. And, in August, we'll be producing our annual Retire Overseas Index, which will rate, rank, compare, and contrast the world's top 21 retirement destinations this year.Big year.Your year.Bon voyage.Kathleen Peddicord
Vicki and I enjoy Loi Krathong, perhaps in the same way Thais enjoy Christmas. We get into the spirit without fully relating to the tradition.Right after Loi Krathong here, Christmas started. Lights and even more decorations and signs popped up. We now hear Christmas carols in the malls, some sung in English, some in Thai. Everyone loves Christmas presents; you can bet Thai children want their parents to "Christmas" them. The way Thais look at it, "Christmas" is a verb.As far back as I can remember people around me have complained about the commercialization of Christmas. And as near as I can tell, commercialization has won, especially around here.Then again, here's a pleasant thought. Psychologist Steven Pinker has researched war and violence over the centuries. Pinker concludes that violence has declined in recent decades, in spite of a constant stream of violence in the news, on TV, in movies. He calls the period since the end of World War II the "Long Peace," arguably the most peaceful time in world history.So what caused the Long Peace? Pinker lists four pacifying forces, including an "expanding circle of empathy." As the world becomes more cosmopolitan, as we get to know each other better, we have more empathy and compassion for our neighbor. These days our neighbor could be a real neighbor next-door or a Costa Rican or Indian halfway around the world.In the spirit of the season, as we head into this Christmas week, I'd like to think we expats have helped expand the worldwide circle of empathy. Each of us does a small part, contributes just a little. But with more and more expats, over longer periods of time, we may be able to contribute to more understanding among cultures. Result: Less war, less hate. What a fine Christmas present. As the kids say: Awesome.Paul Terhorst
Recently Black Friday ceded its top retail spot to Singles Day in China. Singles Day started in the 1990s, rather than 400 years ago. China has a huge population, and Alibaba promotes Singles Day as a way for Chinese singles to buy something special for themselves. They do, to the tune of US$9 billion this year.I had another memorable Thanksgiving in London. In 1992 I came into a small amount of extra money and on a lark headed off to London to spend Thanksgiving with friends there. I stuck around into the Christmas season and went to hear the Messiah sung at St. Paul's Cathedral.In the old days in Chiang Mai, before huge numbers of Westerners moved here, Americans celebrated at least some holidays at the American consulate. But as more and more Westerners poured in, the consulate grounds became too small to handle the crowds. The last holiday fete celebrated there was Independence Day six years ago.These days Halloween and Christmas have caught on big time in Thailand. But Thanksgiving gets some play, too, and many restaurants offer traditional turkey dinners for US$10 or so. Although a handful of Thais celebrate Thanksgiving, for the most part Americans and other Westerners jam into these places on turkey day.We often skip the turkey specials but always choose to celebrate and give thanks for the good things that happened during the year. For our Thanksgiving in Penang we chose an Indian feast. In Argentina we usually had lavish asados, or barbecues, with five or six meat courses. One year we invited a young Argentine couple that was moving to Texas. Now, in Houston, they report that Thanksgiving has become their favorite American holiday. And they stick with the menu, a big asado with friends.This year in Chiang Mai Vicki and I will celebrate Thanksgiving at our favorite French restaurant, La Fourchette. We'll go with new friends, just the four of us. I'll have duck instead of turkey.Vicki and I tend to downplay holidays that merely mark the passage of time—birthdays, for example, or anniversaries or New Years. We prefer holidays organized around a theme, like Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, or Labor Day. In recent years we've gone a step further and for Thanksgiving try to celebrate with new friends. After all, on Thanksgiving we celebrate the good things that happened during the year. And one of the best things that happens to us, or anyone, ever, is to make new friends.So that's it: Our favorite French restaurant, new friends, and thanks. What a simple way to celebrate.Paul Terhorst
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"We know a single man, an American, who lives on US$200 a month, with half that going for rent. He gets around on a bicycle and eats at noodle stalls...or free when a temple offers lunch. He makes a sport of spending as little as possible. "We know a Thai-American woman who bought an apartment in a small town 15 kilometers from Chiang Mai. She manages on US$600 a month from Social Security and, as she is Thai and older than 60, enjoys free government health care. "Those are special cases, though. Exceptions. You should start with a bigger budget... "House and apartment rents can vary a great deal. We know a couple that rents a place in the countryside 12 kilometers from old town Chiang Mai. They pay US$135 a month for a small home and garden. You will pay more, of course, for a bigger, newer place in town. "Foreigners can own an apartment or a condo in Thailand, though, unless you go through hoops, not real property. Still, owning is an option. "Note that costs skyrocket if you want to live in Bangkok. Figure that, in the capital, you'll pay double for rent, transportation, eating out, and entertainment." How, exactly, would a budget for a couple retired in Chiang Mai break down? Here you go... If you rent: Rent: US$400 (though, again, this can vary greatly) HOA Fees: US$0 Property Taxes: US$0 Transportation: US$100 (it costs 60 cents to ride the local bus; an average taxi ride is US$2.50) Gas: US$0 Electricity: US$50 (depending on air-conditioning use) Telephone: US$15 (for a cellphone, depending on use) Internet: US$40 Cable TV: US$50 (including English-language movies) Household Help: US$50 (once or twice a week) Food: US$100 Entertainment: US$250 (including meals out) Homeowner's Insurance: US$0 Total: US$1,055 per month If you own: Rent: US$0 HOA Fees: US$75 Property Taxes: US$0 Transportation: US$100 Gas: US$0 Electricity: US$50 Telephone: US$15 Internet: US$40 Cable TV: US$50 Household Help: US$50 Food: US$100 Entertainment: US$250 Homeowner's Insurance: US$35 Total: US$765 per month Thailand is one place where it can be affordable to keep a car. Here's how the monthly costs for car ownership would break down: Car Registration: US$20 Insurance: US$20 Maintenance: US$40 Fuel: US$100 Total: US$180 per month...only US$80 more a month than the budget for using local transportation Kathleen Peddicord P.S. These Chiang Mai, Thailand, budgets are excerpted from our hot-off-the-virtual-presses Discover Asia Kit. This collection of up-to-the-minute resources has been months in the making, researched, written, and produced by key Asia correspondents, including Paul and Vicki Terhorst and Wendy and David Justice, with, among them, many decades of experience living and traveling in the region. Our new Discover Asia Kit is 12 components in total, including audio recordings and illustrated country guides, as well as a 100+-page full-color guide to the region in general. For a very limited time, in celebration of the launch of this new title, our comprehensive "all-Asia" bundle is available for more than 75% off the regular price. Order your copy here now.
Prices in the better areas of Manila range from less than US$1,000 to more than US$2,000 per square meter. You need to do some ground work, as anywhere, to identify the particular neighborhoods that'd make most sense for you, depending on whether you're shopping for a place to live or for a rental investment. My favorite spots in the Philippines for pure investment are the resort towns of Cebu and Boracay. You can invest in a condo hotel in either of these beach locations for well under US$100,000 and expect good rental yields into the low double digits (question heavily anything projecting more than 12%). Thailand places similar restrictions to those in the Philippines on foreign ownership of property, except in this country foreigners can own up to 49% of a condo building. In this country, the resort areas can offer opportunity for rental yield; Pattaya is Thailand's biggest and best known beach destination. As in the Philippines, you can find one-bedroom apartments for less than US$60,000. Expect yields to be in the range of 6% for long-term rentals and a bit higher for short-term. Pattaya might be a place to consider a rental investment, but other parts of Thailand make more sense as places to live. A top lifestyle choice in this country is Chiang Mai, where you can find one-bedroom apartments on offer for less than US$45,000 in some new developments. That would be for a unit in a building with amenities like a swimming pool. On the other hand, that apartment wouldn't be much bigger than a large hotel room. Still, if you're a retiree with limited resources who wants to own your own place, you're not likely to find a property you'd actually want to live in anywhere else in the world for less than US$45,000. Malaysia's foreign ownership restriction is based on the price of the property. Foreigners have to spend at least 1 million ringgit (about US$300,000 right now) to own a piece of property in Malaysia. Note that it must be 1 million ringgit invested in a single property; can't be an aggregated amount among multiple properties. That limitation makes buying for rental yield difficult. The sweet spot in the Kuala Lumpur market is apartments in the 120-square-meter range, which go for US$150,000 to US$250,000. Push the purchase price over US$300,000 to meet the minimum ringgit criteria and your yield will drop. Still, Kuala Lumpur is a good, steady market. Also note that the U.S. dollar has seen a surge in value against the ringgit in the last few months. It's close to its high of 3.30 ringgits to US$1 reached back in February. Whatever the exchange rate in Malaysia, you could sell your parking space in Hong Kong and buy yourself a great apartment in the best neighborhood in KL. Lief Simon
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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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