Top Retirement Havens From The Coast Of Uruguay To Spain

Top Retirement Havens From The Coast Of Uruguay To Sunny Spain

To the Mailbag…

“I’ve acquired property on the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica and plan to live there four to five months per year. Could you give me some information on that country?”

Peter B., United States

Costa Rica Correspondent David Stubbs replies:

“Costa Rica used to hold the clear #1 spot in Central America for prospective retirees from other countries. Prices were low, and there was a comprehensive set of programs and initiatives designed to attract new foreign residents. Now most people accept that the price of real estate has risen substantially; the infrastructure has not kept up; and the programs for new retirees have been revised and are far less attractive these days. Some cite these as reasons not to move to Costa Rica.

“I take an alternative point of view…”

Here’s why.


“Does your new publication include a medical insurance solution for France? How about Spain and Italy?”

Jeff C., Mexico

The short answer is no, not yet. However, our editorial team is preparing a supplement to the existing report that will detail the particulars of local health insurance options in our top destinations. Not only will we bundle this supplement as part of the fulfillment for this product going forward, but we intend also to send it, with our compliments, to every reader who has already purchased the report. If you’ve bought our Top Health Insurance Options for the Retiree Abroad, you need do nothing further. Simply watch your e-mailbox for the special supplement we’re preparing. As soon as it’s finalized, we’ll send it to you.

The question of health insurance for the expat is complicated and personal. First, you must decide if you want local coverage (this is the question our new special supplement will address in detail) or an international policy. Local coverage can be less expensive, but it typically covers you in that country only. You wouldn’t be covered when traveling, for example. Furthermore, even if you do have the option of paying extra for some out-of-country coverage, many country insurers specifically exclude coverage in the United States, because medical care in the States is too costly. These little local operations can’t bear the expense.

An international policy is typically more expensive than local coverage, but it can cover you anywhere in the world (though, again, even some BUPA and HTH policies, for example, exclude coverage in the United States).

Remember, though, that “expensive” is a relative idea. As an American, you may be paying hundreds of dollars a month for health insurance in the States…whereas a local policy to cover you in your chosen retirement haven might cost less than US$100 a month. And even an international policy through a big agency like BUPA could seem a bargain compared with what you’re paying in the U.S. Lief and I have a high-deductible BUPA policy that costs but US$100 a month apiece.


“Security was tight on Friday when Russian President and Mrs. Medvedev descended on the canals with their entourage to join Dutch Queen Beatrix for the official opening of the new Amsterdam Hermitage Museum,” writes friend Mike Lyonette from Amsterdam.

“Queen Beatrix was accompanied by Crown Prince Willem Alexander and his hugely popular Argentine wife, Princess Maxima, with almost the entire Dutch government and many other notables in tow. The Russian delegation supporting the president during his two-day visit was equally massive–apparently 80-strong. We hadn’t seen security like this in this city since the EU Summit Meeting for the Treaty of Amsterdam back in 1997.

“Anyway, L’Hermitage, based in St. Petersberg and one of the world’s greatest museums, has had a small, temporary dependence in Amsterdam for a while. However, at a cost of some 40 million euro, the museum now has a new showcase, 10 times its previous size and in a refurbished 17th-century nursing home in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic center. Its 10,000 square meters make it the third-largest museum in the city, after the Rijksmuseum (also recently reopened after major refurbishment) and the Van Gogh Museum.

“Through January 2010, the new Hermitage is featuring an 1,800-piece exhibition demonstrating the opulence of the courts of Russia’s 19th-century tsars. It’s one of the largest exhibitions ever staged in Amsterdam. Plus, a bonus for Rembrandt lovers. I read that the deal with the Russians is that now even more Rembrandts will be on view in Amsterdam. More information here:”


“My son, his family, and I are considering southern Spain, but we do not know enough about the area to make a decision. Any advice you could provide as to where best to consider would be greatly appreciated.”

Judi H., United States

Euro-Correspondent Lucy Culpepper replies:

“I have driven the entire coast of Spain from the Spanish/French border where the Costa Brava starts all the way down to southern Spain. I’ve stayed in Javea and Denia. The area is pretty, but there are so many Germans that it feels as if you’re not in Spain. I like Germans but not when I want to be living among Spanish-speaking people!

“I don’t care for the Costa Blanca region. It’s hot and dry, the beaches are long and featureless, and the inland area is an important horticulture region with huge tracts of plastic ‘greenhouses.’ There are some interesting towns, including Elche. We had planned to stay in Elche but ended up driving through, as it just didn’t ‘grab’ us.

“Towns to avoid would be Alicante, Torrevieja, and Benidorm. These are the worst of the tourist traps. Sad to say that the British really did destroy what were pretty villages back in the 60s and 70s, with massive over-development.

“On the other hand, if your agenda is simply a home in the sun looking out at the sea, then you could probably find a great deal along this part of this country’s coast at the moment.

“So much depends on what you want from life and where you are coming from. I understand why someone from North Dakota might find a home in this area (now called the Costa Calida; the tourist industry has come up with new costa names), by the sea, lots of sunshine, golf all day, very attractive. Whereas someone from say North Carolina would probably loathe it.

“Last year, I exchanged e-mails with Mercers, a property agency that covers this region and the Costa de la Luz ( If I were to buy property in Spain, this is where I would head, to the Costa de la Luz. The climate is less harsh, the towns smaller and prettier, the tourism less intense, and the coast greener and more rugged. But the property prices are not as low as on the Costa Calida.”


“I have been watching Sugar Loaf, too…for nearly four years, and it is at a standstill. So maybe if some real-world building takes place, you can boast about what great deals there are. I like Uruguay and just keep looking around. It seems to be a buyer’s market there right now.”

T.J., United States

I fear you’re confused, dear reader. Friend and developer David James only bought the land for his Sugar Loaf project two years ago. In the two years since, Sugar Loaf has made great advances. David has an approved master plan for the community, full architectural plans, and building permits. The road is in, and seven houses are under construction.

I like Uruguay, too, and, as we reported earlier in the week, you’re right. It’s a buyer’s market. Time to go shopping.

Kathleen Peddicord

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