One More Reason To Get Up And Get Going Right Now
“In the past few years,” writes Intrepid Correspondent Paul Terhorst from Buenos Aires, “visa (and reciprocity) fees around the world have shot up.
“In the old days, many visas were free, and and countries that charged hit you for US$15 or US$20 or so. Now visas cost hundreds of dollars, especially when you add in the costs of travel to the consulates, special delivery mail, pictures and copies, shots, interview time, and planning.
“Taxes have gone up, too. When traveling to or from Europe, Britain, and North America, taxes and airport charges account for 30% or more of what you pay for ‘airfare.’
“Meanwhile, airfares themselves have fallen since the Great Collapse of 2007. Fuel surcharges have largely disappeared. Air Asia, Ryan Air, and other discounters around the world keep fares low on short flights.
“You see where this is going. I predict that soon visa fees, taxes, security charges, and other state-imposed costs will exceed the cost of airfare. In 2008, Vicki and I crossed over. That is, we spent more that year on visas, taxes, and fees than on airfares.
“So what if countries start charging hundreds of dollars more for visas or adding hundreds of dollars of new taxes? How about thousands of dollars? I can see the U.S. leading the way on this one, as soon as some government study or other justifies it. Perhaps visa fees will go to US$300 or more as part of a larger plan to convince voters that the government is getting serious about deficits. Politicians have got to love a fee that only non-voters pay.
“We can only guess what travel will cost in the future, when state fees and taxes dwarf airfares. My advice: Get going now. Start with countries you can enter without a visa, without reciprocity fees: Uruguay, Ecuador, Belize (30 days), Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand (30 days), Singapore, and so on.”
P.S. Longtime friend and retire overseas expert Paul Terhorst (retired abroad for more than 25 years) contributes a regular column to my Overseas Retirement Letter. The next issue is in production this week. If you’re not yet an Overseas Retirement Letter subscriber, get on board here now.
“Be advised, the Spanish authorities have declared war on mainly foreign-owned properties.
“The victims of property scams have been notified that they are the criminals. In Andalucia, a government spokesperson is on record as saying, ‘100,000 properties must be demolished’ to restore law and order.
“The property market is in disarray. European politicians are seeking sanctions against Spain for blatantly trampling on its citizens’ rights related to property purchase and ownership.
“Eleven-thousand homes were constructed in one valley, and nobody saw or noticed. This and worse is the insanity of the Spanish property market right now.”
— Karl D., Spain
Euro-Correspondent Lucy Culpepper replies:
“This is obviously a dreadful time for all those who have properties that could be demolished, but the crisis is related to new builds and not the majority. As we all know, the press will jump on a story and paint everywhere and everyone with the same brush. None of my friends in Catalonia are having problems.
“Family in Valencia are also fine. Friends in Cantabria say there’s no problem, as do friends who live in the Alpujarras region of Andalucia. But none of them have new builds. They all bought property in settled, stable villages and towns.
“While all this is going on, the obvious advice is to keep away from new builds and to stay away from areas of Spain that are notoriously corrupt. This is certainly not the whole of Spain and not even the whole of Andalucia.
“Perhaps because of Spain’s massive unemployment problem, the corrupt face of this country is now showing itself again. Maybe the builders and minor politicians, etc., who have had an easy time of it over the past few years, are now suffering economically, and the only way they know how to deal with economic hardship is to return to corruption. Bulldozer the land, then re-sell it some months down the road. It wouldn’t surprise me if that happened.
“I don’t think that the blame can be laid squarely with the Spanish either. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that many expats were just as happy to circumvent building laws to get their perfect property built, as the builders were to receive the backhander.
“It is worth reading this blog from the London Times (Jan. 18, 2010) and the responses from people living in Spain. Note that the Times reporter got his basic history of the Spanish Civil War wrong! Can we trust him with all his other facts and figures? Still, take a look.
“I am sure we will see more about this in the press before the situation is resolved. Best to keep an open mind and not tar everyone with the same brush.”
“Kathleen, can you help us in learning more about people who would like to swap homes, for a month or two, with someone in another country? We’re interested in testing the waters of home exchanging in the UK, Ireland, or France. Any help will be greatly appreciated.”
— Sandra D, United States
I reported on the home-exchange idea before.
And, following that report, a friend in Paris wrote to say:
“We just finished the first half of our first home exchange, so we’re not exactly experts on the subject. But all went well. The exchange was for a place in Baltimore, Maryland, while I was in town for meetings. We didn’t arrange the swap through one of the exchange sites but through friends. It’s a non-simultaneous swap, so they’ll be coming to use our place in Paris sometime in the spring.
“Interesting sub-network of people doing this kind of thing. Digsville is one of the most popular and responsive sites. But there are plenty of others. And this site, for example, seems to offer some kind of third-party certification to help make sure the swap goes smoothly: www.chectravel.com.”