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Comparing Retirement Life In Belize, Panama, Uruguay, And Colombia

“Kathleen, thank you so much for writing the 52 Day course, which my husband and I are following now.

“I first wanted to say though that I saw you on TV and was really impressed with your knowledge and confidence. I guess that comes from firsthand knowledge. I admit I’m a tad jealous of your worldliness.

Your new book came in the mail last week, but I haven’t yet had time to read it.

My husband and I are on day 48 of the course and the idea of leaving the United States has been on our mind for years. We moved from the Northwest (north of Seattle) to South Florida 13 years ago.

“Alone without family or friends we made the 3,000-mile trek toward the sun, heat, and humidity. So we have some sense of what it’s like to pack up and go, although it took newly a year to research, prepare, and do it!

“We are planning now to make this next move overseas as full timers. We won’t have a second home unless that comes later. After we decide where we want to try out, we’ll visit first, then eventually rent as you suggest for a couple months or longer before we decided to move full time. Based on the cost analysis of the countries listed in your 52 Days course, we have the freedom to live anywhere within reason.

“Our wants list: out of the city but close to amenities, lots of nature, privacy, modern rental, approximately an hour from an airport, organic foods, American TV, and good Internet access. This is my husband’s deal breaker.

“Here are our questions…

“We like the idea of Belize but think it’s too hot. Are there any cooler temperatures in the mountains or variations of climate in this country?

“We like Panama, attractive for foreigners, business opportunities, you give many reasons to like Panama. The area that appealed to us was Los Altos de Cerro Azul because we love the nature. But, Kathleen, we were scared off by some You Tube videos we’ve watched about needing bars on all your windows, protests at shopping malls, and an overall general attitude of ‘how to take advantage of the foreigners.’ We canceled a scheduled trip to Panama because this put us way out of our comfort zone. What’s up with that, do you know anything about this?

“The first choice right now is Uruguay. It sounds first world, has great amenities, personal freedoms, tolerance for others, and calm drivers! We especially like the diversity of the European cultures that Lee Harrison writes about.

“I’m wondering how does Medellin, Colombia, compare to cities in Uruguay?

“I think Lee Harrison wrote something to the effect that moving to Colombia was “moving up,” an improvement over Punte del Este, Uruguay. I took that to mean that Medellin was more sophisticated and upscale. Is that correct?

“I know the weather in Uruguay is cooler than Florida, does the weather vary much throughout the country?

“Based on all of this, what would you recommend for us? Does Uruguay make sense? Or somewhere else?

“Thank you for taking the time to read this, I really appreciate it. I hope you enjoy your time in your new home in Medellin.”

–Belinda L., United States, 52 Days Student

First, thank you for your kind words and support. It’s much appreciated.

Second, your questions…which I’ll try to take in order…

The Cayo region is cooler than the coast of Belize. Living alongside a river in Cayo could be very pleasant and could mean no need for air conditioning most of the time. Sometimes, you’d want it.

To get to Cerro Azul, you have to travel through some less-than-desirable neighborhoods. You can find the kind of nature it sounds like you’re looking for in other parts of Panama without having to subject yourself to this downside. I’d suggest El Valle.

Yes, many people in Panama (and many places) will try to take advantage of the gringo…including and, sometimes especially, other gringos. I wouldn’t let this be a reason not to move to Panama, though…or anywhere. You’ll find not-so-nice folks everywhere. You’ll also find great people. There are lots of them in Panama.

Bars on the windows, by the way, is low-tech ADT (the popular alarm company in the States). People in Third World countries can’t afford formal alarm systems…and, often, they don’t exist. So they put bars on their windows. Would you not move to a neighborhood where some of your neighbors had alarm systems? That’s a good way to think about this.

Uruguay is very First World and European. It’s also very slow moving…some might say so slow moving as to be kind of boring. High season in Punta del Este could be fun if you want the beach life. Or you could hop a flight or ferry over to Buenos Aires for weekends in the big city. But Montevideo (although it has about the same population as Panama City–1.5 million people–and therefore offers amenities enough to meet your basic standards) is not known for its lively lifestyle. It’s known for being safe, stable, and secure. It’s up to you how you interpret those things.

Medellin is a bigger city and the economic hub of Colombia. I find it more lively and engaging than Montevideo and even Panama City.

Uruguay has four mild seasons. Along this country’s coast, however, you’ll perceive little significant difference in weather throughout the year.

One other option you might consider would be Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca is an appealing city choice. That said, Ecuador has less sophisticated infrastructure (and, really, less sophisticated everything) compared with Colombia and Uruguay.

Continue Reading: A History Of Retiring Overseas

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