As we come around the bend of 2016 and look ahead to the New Year, we here at Live and Invest Overseas ask ourselves:
Where are the best places in the world for you to live better, reinvent your life, and have a grand adventure in 2017?
[Read: The 10 Best Places To Live Overseas In 2018 for the most updated list of top destinations.]
Here’s how we answer that question…
Carvoeiro, Algarve, Portugal
Portugal is the best-kept secret of Old World Europe. For three years running, we have named its Algarve coast, specifically, as the world’s best place to retire overseas.
Coastal Carvoeiro, in particular, qualifies as perhaps the most appealing place on earth to call home if you want to live on the water in a real-world (as opposed to a developing-world) setting.
The take-your-breath-away views from Carvoeiro’s rocky coast, the constant sunshine, the near-perfect weather year round, the food, the wine, the history… it all adds up to top-shelf living for a very bargain price.
Thanks to the current down value of the euro, the enviable coastal Continental lifestyle on offer in Carvoeiro is further reduced… and the cost of a very rentable home or condo is irresistibly discounted.
El Poblado, Colombia
Escobar’s dead and the city he and his goons once terrorized is today at peace.
One corner of Medellín in particular offers a comfortable, tranquil, idyllic way of life for a super affordable cost. At the current exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Colombian peso, the luxury-level cosmopolitan lifestyle available in El Poblado is an even greater bargain.
Medellín is culture-rich and Euro chic, its people well-dressed, well-mannered, and welcoming. Medellín’s heart, El Poblado, is our #1 pick for city living on a budget.
Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
Las Terrenas is quintessential Caribbean with a French twist. The big and established community of French expats living in this white-sand beach town means fresh baguette, great restaurants, and kisses on both cheeks in greeting.
Infrastructure is improving, establishing residency is easy, and the cost of living is one of the great bargains of today’s Caribbean… making Las Terrenas our #1 pick for a new life with a Caribbean Sea view.
Santa Familia, Belize
If you want to leave the troubles and the worries of our age behind, little Santa Familia village in Cayo, Belize, is calling your name. Life in Cayo is back to basics, simple, and sweet. You know your neighbors, they know you, and you all look out for each other.
Belize’s Cayo is a region of wide-open spaces, fresh air, warm sun, and fertile land, making it our pick for the world’s best place to disconnect and unplug.
France is a country of superlatives. World’s best quality of life… best health care… best food… best art and fashion… most beautiful, most romantic city (more on this in a moment)…
To many, la vie française is the good life defined, and the charms and appeals of French Country Life are unrivaled. In this context, we suggest you consider Pau, also known as the “Green City” and the “Garden City,” thanks to its ratio of greenery per square meter per person, one of the highest of any European city.
Pau’s landscape is 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 also a university town, with close to 12,000 university students living on and off campus, helping to keep it lively.
Brits and other North Europeans have been seeking out this part of France for retirement for years. This is a really friendly bunch of people with a wide range of backgrounds and interests always ready to welcome newcomers.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Since the 1800s, the Thai city of Chiang Mai has been luring expats from the West with is über-low cost of living, great weather (especially compared with elsewhere in Thailand), rich history, and distinct culture.
The heart of Chiang Mai lies within its old city walls where ancient and modern Buddhist temples coexist with public and international schools, residential and commercial neighborhoods.
Modern Chiang Mai has grown beyond the ancient walls and offers mega malls, huge multinational grocery and department stores, and all other trappings of life in the 21st century.
The biggest advantage to life in Chiang Mai is its cost in general and of health care in particular. A couple can live here comfortably on as little as US$1,100 per month, and you can see an English-speaking doctor for US$20.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Playa del Carmen is a little beach town that sits about an hour south of Cancún on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Once a sleepy fishing town, the port was inadvertently put on the map by Jacques Cousteau in 1954 when he filmed an underwater documentary of the Great Mayan Reef just offshore.
Divers began seeking out these Caribbean waters for themselves, and in the 1970s a port was built to ferry the tourists from the mainland to Cozumel.
Today Playa is home to more than 10,000 foreigners, including Europeans, Americans, Canadians, Argentinians, Venezuelans, and many other nationals of all ages including 20- and 30-somethings, young families, and retired couples.
Playa is also a welcoming destination for the LGBT community.
Barcelona, in the northeast of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea, is a vibrant, colorful, proud city that combines the passion of the Spanish with the efficiency and organization of the Catalans.
This is a city with a strong energy that has not been dampened by Spain’s ongoing economic woes and the economic, cultural, and administrative capital of Catalonia.
Spain’s second-biggest city is easily and quickly explored thanks to its compact, well-laid-out design… and the opportunities for diversion, entertainment, and discovery are many. Art and architecture from pre-Roman to Modernista is around every corner. This is a city of galleries, museums, monuments, theaters, restaurants, and shopping… with the beach just right there.
Nicaragua is a beautiful country with a troubled history that appeals to the romantic, the poet, the eco-traveler, the surfer (the break off Nicaragua’s Pacific coast is world-class), and the bargain hunter. The cost of living, of real estate, and of everything else is a steal.
Geographically, Nicaragua is blessed, with two long coastlines and two big lakes, plus volcanoes, highlands, rain forest, and rivers. In this regard, it’s got everything Costa Rica’s got, all less discovered, less developed, and less expensive.
Architecturally, too, Nicaragua is notable. Colonial Granada is its architectural jewel. This city, one of the oldest in Latin America, is also busier and livelier today, I’d say, than at any time during its near five centuries of history, attracting tourists and expats in record numbers.
When you see it, you understand why. The setting for this colonial town is like out of a fairy tale—the lake, the volcano, the mountains… At night the backdrop is an ink-streaked sky that, just before the sun sets, illuminates the yellow and white cathedrals in ways that would have inspired Matisse to set up his easel.
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo
This laid-back and quiet city is one of the most pleasant places to live in Asia and is incredibly welcoming. Its biggest practical advantages are the low cost of living and the high standard (and low cost) of health care. A couple could live well here on US$1,200 a month or less.
The city is small and walkable, less than 3 kms from end to end. Life revolves around the water and is lived out-of-doors. At home here you’d fill your days snorkeling, diving, boating, and ferry hopping from the city center to neighboring islands.
This is a little-known, low-key, low-population destination offering a tranquil, serene, close-to-nature lifestyle at a cost that’s a global bargain.
I promised 10 best places to live in 2017, but I have a bonus choice to add.
I would argue that no list of world’s most appealing places to spend time is complete if it doesn’t include Paris. This is as true as we turn the corner into 2017 as it has been since people first compiled world’s best lists.
Life in Paris can be as good as life gets anywhere. I figure you know that.
What you may not realize is that the cost of living in Paris can be manageable.
About a month before our move from France to Panama, Lief presented me with a budget showing that our cost of living in Panama City would be more or less on par with what it had been in Paris.
I suggested that my husband, an accountant by training, double-check his figures.
But Lief was right. Our day-to-day costs have averaged out to be the same in the Hub of the Americas as they were in the City of Light.
Paris is a place where even a modest lifestyle can feel rich and where some of the greatest pleasures—strolls along the Seine, picnics in the Luxembourg Gardens—come free.
Paris is also a city where a car is an unnecessary liability. We lived four years in Paris happily auto-free. We walked everywhere. The butcher, the baker, the grocer, the wine shop, and our son’s school were all less than 15 minutes from our apartment, as were (are) the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, the Latin Quarter, six movie theaters, and at least a dozen cafés and restaurants.
When we wanted to venture beyond our quartier we took the metro. For just a euro and 90 cents, you can get from anywhere to anywhere in this city you might want to go.
Other things in Paris can be cheap, too, including necessaries of modern living like cable, telephone, and internet. You can get a phone plan in France that includes unlimited calls to anywhere in Europe, North America, and the Caribbean, plus internet and cable, for about 45 euros per month.
These thoughts are on my mind as we move into 2017 because, summer 2017, Lief and I will be repositioning our home base from Panama City back to Paris.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go?
For me the answer to that question has always been Paris.
Eight years ago, Lief and I came to Panama to start a business. We intended to base ourselves in Panama City full time for three years. Then, we figured, our enterprise established, we’d return to Paris and manage our going concern from there.
Ha, ha, ha.
At the three-years-in-Panama mark, Lief and I realized the business was nowhere near a stage where we could be away from it for more than a week or two at a time.
So we hunkered down and carried on… without a moment’s regret. We’ve worked hard these past eight years in Panama, but we’ve had a ton of fun, too.
Now that our time as full-time Panama residents is nearing its end, I’m feeling nostalgic about the experiences, adventures, and discoveries we’ve enjoyed these past eight years and, especially, the friendships and personal connections we’ve made.
Lief and I did not set out to raise our son in Panama, but Jack has spent half his life here and will graduate in June from Panama City’s French school.
Our business is based here, to great advantage. We’ve invested in an apartment on Avenida Balboa that we’ll keep (and occupy at regular intervals going forward)…
And the beach house we’re building at Los Islotes will be finished in March. We’re making plans already for holidays with our kids, our families, their friends, our friends, in the even-more-amazing-than-expected Spanish Colonial-style hacienda with killer views that our builder Alonso is delivering to us.
My point is that we’re not walking away from Panama. We’re connected here at every level and look forward to discovering where our Panama path leads from here.
Meantime, this summer, we’ll reconnect with our Paris path…
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve offered my best suggestions as we hurdle toward year-end 2016…
In addition, this month, in the special year-end bonus “Year In Review” issue of my Overseas Living Letter, our editors provide detailed and comprehensive updates on our perennially favorite destinations worldwide.
Where will 2017 take you?
This bumper report will help you discover your own answer to that burning question…
And we intend to make it available to you free as part of our 12 Days Of Christmas Event.
Not today… but soon!
This time of year secrets and surprises are a big part of the fun.
So watch this space and stay tuned. This special Christmas gift from us to you (no strings attached) is on its way.