Top Retirement Havens For 2011

“This Isn’t What We Expected At All”

On the opening afternoon of one of our Live & Invest in Panama Conferences last year, one of the attendees approached me, nervously, and said, “My wife and I don’t like it here. This isn’t for us. I think we’re going to leave and return to the States tomorrow. This just isn’t what we expected at all.”

“What did you expect?” I asked. “That is, what were you hoping for?”

“We like the beach,” the man replied. “For us, the idea of moving to Panama has been all about living at the beach.

“Plus, we’re on a very fixed income for our retirement. Already I can tell that we wouldn’t be able to afford living here in Panama City. We were hoping to find somewhere affordable on the ocean. I guess our expectations were unrealistic.”

“No,” I explained. “It’s not that your expectations were unrealistic. It’s that Panama City isn’t going to meet them. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find what you’re looking for in Panama.

“In fact, I think I know just where you should look. And here’s what I suggest:

“Stay on and finish out the conference. You’ll make many important and useful contacts and connections here. Then, when the conference is finished, travel out to the Azuero Peninsula, to the town of Las Tablas. I think that there you’ll find exactly what you came for…”

I forgot about this conversation until earlier this week, when we received an e-mail from that reader. Here’s what he wrote:

“Kathleen and crew, after attending your Live and Invest in Panama City seminar, my wife of 44 years and I decided to purchase a home and live now, full time, in Las Tablas, Panama! Just wanted to let you know how things turned out…”

My point isn’t that you should move to Las Tablas. My point is that you shouldn’t judge any country by the first city within it that you happen to visit.

Belize City, for example, is a wholly unappealing place, poor, dirty, and unsafe in parts. Belize, on the other hand, is a delight and one of my favorite places in the world. Don’t land in Belize City, wander around for a few days, and decide (as a friend did recently) that all Belize is a hell hole. You’re missing out.

Likewise, Managua. You’ve got to pass through it if you want to travel in Nicaragua, because that’s where the international airport is located. But you don’t want to stick around. The charms and attractions of this country are to be found inland in colonial Granada and along the Pacific coast.

The landscape, the climate, the cost of living, the level of safety, even the tax rates vary city by city, region by region anywhere. You know this to be true back home. Florida isn’t Texas…Manhattan isn’t Detroit. But, somehow, we can forget this once we cross international borders.

Buenos Aires isn’t Cafayate…Chiang Mai isn’t Bangkok…Paris isn’t Languedoc…etc.

Even I forgot this, I fear, when drafting my letter to you yesterday, in which I shortlisted our top havens for 2011. I recommended 11 countries that, as we move toward the New Year, should be dead center of your retire-overseas radar.

This does you no good, though, because you aren’t going to retire to any one of these countries. You might, though, choose to retire to a city or a town or a beach or a neighborhood in one of them.

Therefore, today, I’d like to revise my list of the World’s Top Overseas Havens for 2011, to thin-slice it, as we say, and therefore to make it more useful for you, as you continue your thinking and planning.

Super Cheap

#1: Leon (cheapest), Granada, or San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

#2: Cuenca, Ecuador

#3: Medellin, Colombia

#4: Chiang Mai, Thailand


#1: Las Tablas (cheapest), Panama City, or Boquete, Panama

#2: Montevideo, Uruguay

#3: Buenos Aires or Mendoza, Argentina

#4: Ambergris Caye or Cayo, Belize

#5: Kuala Lumpur or Penang, Malaysia

Luxury on a Budget

#1: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (This one I got right yesterday…)

#2: Southwestern France

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. These aren’t the only places on our radar as we move toward the New Year, and they certainly aren’t the only places in the world where you could live or retire well. All these places, though, provide particularly appealing lifestyle and cost of living options that we’ll continue to draw out for you over time.

In addition, in the New Year, our editors and correspondents will be scouting in the Philippines, Chile, Vietnam, Laos, Peru, Croatia, and beyond…