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Description: International Living has been helping people retire overseas for more than 30 years, so if you’re new to the idea of retiring overseas, you’ll find everything you need to know here. September 2011 Vol.31 No.5 INTERNATIONAL LIVING SP INSIDE THIS ISSUE The Best Place in the World to Retire Make Money with a Travel Blog Where to Pick Up a Bargain Beach Home on Ecuador s Coast How to Get an Irish Passport A Romantic Corner of France from 92 000 THE WORLDS BEST RETIREMENT HAVEN U EC IAL ISS E P. 18 2 P. 13 P. 16 P. 23 P. 24 Plus GLOBETROTTER LIFESTYLE PROFILES CALENDAR REAL ESTATE CLASSIFIEDS INTERNATIONAL LIVING Contents SEPTEMBER 2011 From the Editor International Dates Savvy Traveler Market Watch Retirement Lifestyle Living the Dream Travel for Free Travel for Free Fund Your Life Real Estate Real Estate Cover Story Investment Offshore Real Estate Entrepreneur Profile Calendar of Events Travel Property Picks Window on the World Classifieds The Last Word 2 3 5 6 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 18 22 23 24 26 27 28 30 32 33 36 All your IL extras Thai boat races and oysters in Ireland Where to find a miracle in Colombia The best beach deal in the Europe of South America Spain Medieval towns and sandy beaches IL readers enjoy the Old World pace How to land a house-sitting gig Make money with a travel blog Escape the snow and fund your overseas winter Tul m s Caribbean coast--not just for millionaires Where to pick up a beach bargain on Ecuador s coast The world s best retirement haven Three tips for profiting from passive paychecks How to get an Irish passport and citizenship A romantic corner of France from 92 000 From British rocker to Argentine farmer Explore the secrets of Costa Rica Italy s Maremma Savor the sweet life 90 minutes from Rome Homes near historic and protected sites Guatemala s giant kite festival Opportunities from around the world A victim of my own analysis International Living (ISSN 0277-2442) Copyright 2011 by International Living Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Protected by copyright laws of the United States and international treaties. This Magazine may only be used pursuant to the subscription agreement and any reproduction copying or redistribution (electronic or otherwise including on the world wide web) in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of International Living Publishing Ltd. Elysium House Waterford Ireland. International Living is published monthly. Subscriptions In the United States US 69 for one year in Canada C 89 for one year elsewhere US 89 for one year. Printed in the USA. Postmaster Send address changes to International Living International Living Publishing Ltd. Elysium House Ballytruckle Waterford Ireland. Copies of this magazine are not available on newsstands but are furnished directly to the public by mail subscriptions only. International Living presents information and research believed to be reliable but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. There are many dangers associated with international travel and investment and readers should investigate any opportunity fully before committing to it. How to contact us Customer service To place an order for a product subscription renew a subscription pay a maintenance fee change an address follow up on the status of an order or inquire about a missed issue etc. see about-il customer-service. Editorial offices Editors International Living International Living Publishing Ltd. fax (353)51-304-561. For our writers guidelines see about-il write-for-il. International Living is happy to receive manuscripts on speculation but the publisher cannot be responsible for unsolicited manuscripts received for review. All editorial requests will be reviewed and considered when we plan our issues. Not all requests however can be answered personally due to the volume of inquiries we receive. Media inquiries For all press and media enquiries and to discuss syndication contact Associate Editor Carol Barron tel. (772) 678 - 0287 email CBarron SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G 1 FROM THE EDITOR The World s Best Retirement Haven AND LOTS OF EXTRAS TOO Y OU RE HOLDING AN ISSUE FULL OF EXTRAS. FOR this year s Global Retirement Index we crunched hundreds of data points and spent weeks on the ground in the field. The extra effort proved worthwhile. Because starting on p. 18 you ll find a useful up-to-date stands-up-in-the-realworld listing of the best places to retire today. There s a handy chart for comparing the 23 countries we consider and an introduction to the five top havens. But that s just the beginning. Be sure to click through to our website on the links embedded throughout that story. They take you to sample budgets real estate listings and first-person stories from folks living well in our winning countries. And the extras don t end there. As an IL subscriber you gain access to special perks insights and resources designed to save you time money and frustration overseas. On p. 6 Ronan McMahon outlines an opportunity in the Europe of South America that ll put you ahead of the path of progress there. At the link you ll find details that can save you 5% off what is already a good deal on land poised to increase in value. In Glynna Prentice s coverage of Spain s medieval cities--outposts close to Madrid where you can rent for as little as 539 a month--don t miss the link. It s on p. 8 and takes you to details about the real estate there including listings and the contacts to follow up. Throughout the rest of the issue too you ll find links to videos that show you what our writers recommend--in Colombia Ecuador and Italy. If you re intrigued by the idea of a second passport don t miss the added details about your Irish option at the link on p. 23. And to find out if your portfolio is really maximizing the many profit opportunities overseas grab a copy of a new investment report (link on p. 22). It s free for you as an IL subscriber. Jennifer Stevens Executive Editor September 2011 Volume 31 Number 5 Founding Publisher William Bonner Publisher Jackie Flynn Executive Editor Jennifer Stevens Managing Editor Eoin Bassett Editorial Assistant Robert Carry Copy Editor Glynna Prentice Photo Editor Hugo Ghiara Web Master Ciaran McGrath Contributing Editors Bob Bauman Darius Fisher Lee Harrison Steenie Harvey Suzan Haskins Chris Hunter Paul Lewis Rob Marstrand Ronan McMahon Erika Nolan Glynna Prentice Dan Prescher Jessica Ramesch Margaret Summerfield Advertising Margaret O Dowd fax (353)51-304-561 email modowd 2 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 2 2 IN T E RNAT ION A L DATES Thai Boat Races and Oysters in Ireland By Darius Fisher T JAN KRANENDONK iSTOCK he Budapest Wine Festival kicks off September 7 in Buda Castle in the Hungarian capital. Try the specialty Tokaji a sweet white wine made from grapes affected by noble rot--a type of fungus. Nicer than it sounds. Celebrate the Saltaire Festival in the idyllic Victorian village of Saltaire England. Founded over 200 years ago this picturesque village is now a Unesco protected site. The art and music festival begins September 8. La Biennale di Venezia (The Venice Biennale) is an avant-garde cultural institution. From August 31 to September 10 film theater music contemporary art and architecture are celebrated all over the city. There s no better excuse to indulge in one of the world s most romantic cities. Style aficionados London Fashion Week kicks off September 13. Tom Ford House of Holland and other marquee designers will display their newest lines. If you fancy slinging a sausage head to Ramsbottom England this month for the World Black-Pudding Throwing Championship. The event takes place at the Royal Oak Public House and starts September 12. Black pudding is a type of blood sausage found from Europe to Asia. The mother of all beer festivals rolls into Germany this month. Although named Oktoberfest it begins September 17 in Munich. Once you ve claimed your seat in the beer tent don t expect to move much for the next two weeks. Five million people attend the festivities and only beer brewed within city limits is served. The International Swan Boat Races-- featuring 15 international teams--begin September 18 in Thailand. Started in 1986 this popular event is held on the Chao Phraya River at the Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre. Love oysters Then head to Galway Ireland for the 57th International Oyster & Seafood Festival September 23 to 25. Along with a fill of molluscs and traditional Irish music you can watch the World Oyster-Opening Championships. Belize celebrates Independence Day September 21. Formerly known as British Honduras the country officially broke free from the British crown and became Belize in 1973. Dine on Caribbean food and join residents dancing in the streets. Catalonians enjoy the Festes de La Merc September 22 to 24. Held every year in Barcelona Spain giant wooden figures are paraded through the streets and human towers are built in Pla a de Sant Jaume. Castellers ( tower-builders ) start with stocky men on the bottom followed by better-balanced men then women then children. The towers can reach up to 10 people high. Navaratri a major Hindu festival begins September 28 throughout India. The word translates to nine nights in Sanskrit. Each region of the country celebrates in a different way--from fasting to dancing. Running throughout September in Singapore is the Lantern Festival. The streets of the city light up with lanterns made by Zigong craftsmen vendors crowd the corners and shows are staged throughout the month. IL s Best 10 Cities Where You Can Eat Well By the staff of International Living Bangkok Thailand Bologna Italy Buenos Aires Argentina Madrid Spain Mexico City Mexico New Delhi India Panama City Panama Paris France Penang Malaysia Quito Ecuador You ll enjoy delicious food at affordable prices if you know where to look in Paris. en cities where you can an grab excellent meal in alphabetical order stroll down the Sukhumvit Road for the best of Bangkok s dining. Take your pick from exotic old noodle shops to up-market restaurants. Everywhere in Italy is mad for good food but Bologna takes it to a different level. So many of the classics of Italian cuisine come from the surrounding area--Parma ham parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar to name but a few. Buenos Aires is home to more than just steaks and tango. You ll find Italian Spanish Japanese French Nordic Mexican Chinese Arab Turkish and Armenian restaurants. Madrid is in the mix for its incredible variety from traditional tapas to restaurants dishing up regional cuisine. The same goes for Mexico T City which is fast becoming the culinary capital of North America. If you like Indian food the capital New Delhi is the place where the subcontinent s vast menu comes to you. Panama City has really come into it s own as a foodie destination with organic shops cheese farms and food festivals. While it s actually quite easy to eat poorly in Paris this city s neighborhood restaurants dish up excellent fare. Restaurants in Penang Malaysia dish up a fantastic mix of Malay Chinese and Indian food. And in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito pick any restaurant on Avenida Isabel le Cat lica and you won t be disappointed. For more details see eats. 3 SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G G LO BETR OT T E R News & Notes from Around the World On the Cover This Month... rashing down from high in the Ecuadorian Andes the Tomebamba River has been tumbling past the former Incan capital of Cuenca for centuries. It converges with three other mountain rivers here before passing through the historic center destined for the Amazon Basin. Alongside the Tomebamba you ll walk cobblestone streets and old stone bridges sit in the shade of stately churches and colonial mansions. Its banks are a hive of activity and a patchwork of color...the bustle of the fruit market the vibrant art museum and indigenous women drying their clothes in the Andean sun. And a new wave of residents has come to enjoy life within earshot of the tumbling waters. Expats attracted by the near-perfect climate and affordable cost of living. To find out more see page 18. DANITA DELIMONT GETTY IMAGES C The Tombebamba River flows through the heart of Cuenca one of Ecuador s highland gems. Into Panama Like a VIP No to Naked Scanners Many travelers were horrified when they found out that airport body scanners allowed airport staff to effectively see through the clothing of passengers as they pass through security... Happily the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it is going to change the system to make it less intrusive. Disgruntled passengers complained about how the system which takes fullbody X-ray images that show passengers genitals was invasive and demeaning. A number went as far as taking legal action. Now authorities have announced plans for a new system that eliminates passenger-specific images. Once altered the machines will auto-detect items that could pose a potential threat using a generic outline of a person the agency said. At the moment any passengers who refuse to brave the naked scanner can instead opt for a pat down by security staff. Unfinished Art in Florence Money Back on Lost Bag What is surely one of the greatest injustices in the world of travel has just been undone-- since August 23 new rules mean you re now entitled to a refund of your checked-baggage fee if an airline loses your bag. Checked-baggage fees which range from around 15 to 45 for the first bag have become a serious money spinner for airlines generating some 3.4 billion for U.S. carriers last year. Airlines which are already obliged to compensate you for luggage that goes astray say they are not expecting the new stipulation to cause any major issues as just four out of every 1 000 passengers report baggage lost delayed or damaged. But there are already concerns that the airlines will attempt to side-step the new rules. The rules don t force airlines to reimburse baggage fees for delayed luggage--and they leave it up to the airlines to determine when a bag has been lost rather than delayed. However the U.S. Transportation Department warns that it could impose fines on airlines which don t resolve lost baggage claims in a timely fashion. STEVEN MIRIC iSTOCK Next time you jet down to Panama City arrange in advance for a VIP reception. For a small fee officials will usher you through the airport like you re a diplomat. A multilingual executive will whisk you through immigration baggage collection and customs and give you access to the VIP waiting area where you can enjoy free drinks and snacks. And you can arrange for the same treatment on your way out too. VIP clients go straight to the head of the check-in line and are then escorted to the VIP waiting area. From there it s through immigration via the diplomatic lane and to the front of the boarding line. Booked separately the arrival service is 50 departure 40. But when you arrange the arrival service you can add the departure for just 30. Any passengers traveling with you pay only 30 either way. For more information see 4 Florentines are set to hit the polls in a vote to decide whether an ambitious work of the Italian master Michelangelo should now be finished. Lack of funds brought the project at the city s San Lorenzo Basilica to a halt 496 years ago. Plans drawn up by the artist called for a white marble fa ade for the church with columns and statues. But when Pope Leo X heard how much it would cost to transport the tons of white marble needed the project was called off. And so the fa ade of the church which houses the chapel of the city s great patrons the Medicis has never been completed. But now the mayor of Florence has called for a referendum to decide whether the job should be finished. I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 LILLISPHOTOGRAPHY iSTOCK The Savvy Traveler s Corner Find a Miracle Spot in Colombia bi Dan Prescher t s not hard to believe in miracles once you see the Sanctuario de las Lajas an incredible feat of faith and engineering in the municipality of Ipiales in southern Colombia. Legend has it that in 1754 a woman named Maria Mueces and her deaf and mute daughter Rosa sought shelter from a thunderstorm in a cave in the valley of the Gu itara River known for its flat rock formations that resemble lajas or floor tiles. A bolt of lightening caused Rosa who had never spoken before to say Mama the mestiza is calling me. The lightening had illuminated an image of the Virgin on the walls of the cave. The site s fame was assured when a chapel was built on the spot in the 1800s with funds solicited by a blind priest who walked throughout southern Colombia and northern Ecuador collecting donations. Between 1916 and 1949 a breathtaking Gothic Revival church was built on the spot with funds donated by local church members. Seeming to grow directly out of the cliff face the church spans the entire Gu itara gorge. Its fame as a pilgrimage site--and as architectural marvel--grew until in 1951 the Roman Catholic Church authorized the Nuestra Se ora de Las Lajas virgin and made the sanctuary a minor basilica. The Basilica is now a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims from around the world. And the Spanning the gorge the Lajas cliff face on the steep walk basilica is a major architectural feat. down to the church is covered with plaques dating back a hundred years offering thanks to Nuestra Se ora de Las Lajas for miracles performed there. Other features of the site include a magnificent waterfall that cascades into the river valley across from the church and a huge statue of Saint Michael atop a nearby ridge that looks down on the river gorge. Ipiales is between Pasto in southern Colombia and Tulcan in northern Ecuador. In fact Tulcan is the highest city in Ecuador at 9 678 feet and has a topiary cemetery that is a marvel all its own ( Topiary is the horticultural practice of clipping plants and shrubs into shapes). Buses run to Ipiales from both Pasta and Tulcan and the border crossing between Ecuador and Colombia is easy and fast. You ll find video footage of both Ipiales and the topiary cemetery at videos. SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G I ENRIQUE GOMEZ DREAMSTIME.COM Thousands of visitors from Europe Asia and the Americas flock to the Cervantino Festival held every year in Guanajuato Mexico. A Feast of Open-Air Art in Colonial Mexico buzzing cultural hub at the best of times the immaculately preserved colonial city of Guanajuato in Mexico s Colonial Highlands takes things even further every October. For 18 days each year the city hosts one of the world s most exciting and enjoyable cultural festivals--the Cervantino. It feels as if the whole city is an open-air theater with street performers from all over the world taking to the cobblestone lanes and leafy plazas. This really is a global The sides of 400-yearevent with Europe Asia and the Americas well old churches become represented among the movie screens. acts and the visitors. Offerings cover the whole gambit of the arts and you don t have to like dance opera or theater to enjoy the festival. You ll find everything from mad poets to puppet shows amid what is Mexico s most spectacular cultural feast. There are exhibitions of art modern classic and avant garde... opera and theater in the magnificent Theatro Juarez and salsa and local folkloric music in the cantinas and bars. The sides of 400-yearold churches become movie screens bars heave with dancing revelers and a carnival atmosphere pervades well into the night. Guanajuato is a university town and the birthplace of artist Diego Riviera. This year s festival takes place from October 12 to 30. More details here 5 AMMIT DREAMSTIME.COM A MA RKET WATC H The Best Beach Deal in the Europe of South America By Ronan McMahon A DESERTED BEACH that feels remote...yet isn t... A beach where beyond the breaking waves white foam caps skim along the deep blue ocean. On land a steady breeze rustles through the dune grasses...white clouds drift by and flocks of birds swoosh down fishing along the coast. That s what you ll found in Rocha Uruguay. The beaches here are the finest in the country. And there s one wide sandy expanse which is the finest stretch in Rocha. The beach is yours to walk alone. But you re not too remote. Ten minutes away is the beach town of La Pedrera which has an upmarket feel with large weekend homes beside a sweeping curve of beach. You ll find surfers and tourists from Brazil and Argentina...but almost none from North America. Rocha is a special place to visit and spend time no question. But it s also a place where you can profit. And I ve arranged a special deal for IL subscribers here. Let me walk you through the opportunity... Stable peaceful and first-world Uruguay is on the upswing. The regional powerhouses of Argentina and Brazil are the country s only neighbors. It s a democratic country. It has no disputes of any consequence and is one of the Tranquil towns dot Uruguay s beach-lined coast. You ll find the best stretches of sand near Rocha. safest and least corrupt countries in Latin America. The economy is strong. It grew by 8.5% in 2010. Growth of 6% is forecast this year. 40% more tourists visited this January (the peak month of the year for visitors) than last year. The country is edging toward investment grade. Uruguay has good infrastructure--the tap water is drinkable roads are modern and paved your smart phone or laptop will pick up a free WiFi signal in many public places and even on some buses. Foreign investors are coming. Foreign direct investment pushed close to 1.6 billion last year. That s four times more than seven years ago. The soy dollar is big in is the beef dollar...and the Brazil effect is starting to take life. Brazil is one of the world s fastestgrowing and biggest economies. Brazil s president Dilma Rousseff was in Uruguay earlier this year to sign bilateral agreements and discuss potential infrastructure projects Make Money from the World s Real Estate Trends When Ronan McMahon isn t scouting for Pathfinder IL s preferred real estate advertising partner he s heading up the Real Estate Trend Alert. To follow real estate trends with the potential for profit and to access his recommendations and advice see Reta. As development moves up the coast from Punta del Este... real estate prices will rise. 6 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 SURICATO DREAMSTIME.COM that would encourage trade and economic links between their countries. Uruguay s farmers are profiting from high commodity prices. Uruguay doesn t have export tariffs and encourages foreign farmers and agri-business. Argentine farmers are coming to farm beef and soy. It s a much friendlier environment for them to do business in than they ve found at home. And Argentines who don t have business interests here invest and keep money in Uruguay. They don t trust their own banks...but they do trust Uruguay s. And there are opportunities for investment. The best of these are here in Rocha. Rocha is the department (province) that follows the coast east from Punta to the border with Brazil. White sands stretch for miles and miles. You can walk along here for hours undisturbed by another human being. Just inland is the protected Laguna de Rocha where 18 000 acres of pristine wilderness act as a bird-lover s and boater s paradise. It won t get spoiled with super yachts though. The use of engines is restricted. This is a place to fish and putter around under canvas. When you want to go out for a meal buy groceries or just sip a cold drink you ll make your way to one of the beach towns nearby. La Paloma is the area s biggest beach town. La Pedrera is quieter and more upmarket. Cabo Polonia is where the arty set hangs out. When most people think of Uruguay s beaches they think of Punta del Este. That s where the jet set hangs out. They shelled out 2.25 billion on luxury condos in the 12 months to April 2011. Condos have changed hands at prices north of 7 million. The pocket of opportunity I m talking about in Rocha is close to Punta del Este in a place where you can position yourself ahead of the Path of Progress. As development continues to move steadily up the coast from Punta I expect real estate prices will rise. Major Argentine developer Eduardo Costantini is planning a 350 million project here. And there s the possibility of infrastructure projects and improved economic ties with Brazil which borders the province of Rocha. I ve struck a special deal in Rocha exclusively for International Living magazine subscribers. One which gets you into the area s best opportunity at a bargain price. La Serena Golf is close to one of the best beaches in Rocha and the Laguna de Rocha. Residents can enjoy golf and tennis within the gates of their community. Around 55% of the total 225 acres of land will be preserved as green space. Seven lakes will dot the project adding to the relaxed country feel of the property. The developer of La Serena Golf Daniel Oks is a prominent former banker Why Uruguay Makes Sense T here are no hurricanes earthquakes or volcanoes. Uruguay has a European feel. The capital Montevideo s streets reveal an endless succession of French and Art Deco-style buildings a classical opera house tree-lined streets and shaded plazas. Restaurants and even supermarkets offer hand-made Italian pasta...and the delicate pastries in the caf s will remind you of Paris. Medical care is good quality and highly affordable. In major cities like Montevideo you have a choice of health care providers including the British Hospital. Residents can use the national health care system s free clinics too. Monthly fees for private medical coverage starts at 51. The climate is seasonal and mild. It doesn t get boiling hot or freezing cold. You won t see ice or snow. Temperatures average 61-82 F in Montevideo in summer and 43-59 F in winter. Remember that seasons in Uruguay are the opposite of those in North America. When it s winter in North America it s summer in Uruguay. Residency is easy. You can become a resident if you can prove income of 6 000 a year ( 500 a month). Rental income from a property that you own in Uruguay qualifies as income for residency. FLAVIA MORLACHETTI DREAMSTIME.COM from Buenos Aires. He is well connected. And his real estate development track record is on full view in glossy books on the coffee tables of Argentina s wealthy. His other project nearby includes some of the region s most photographed highend and architecturally unique homes. He has proven his capacity to attract the right clientele. That s crucial in a place like this where most buyers are wealthy Argentines. A half-acre lot here at La Serena Golf lists for 31 900. This is a great deal. Closer to Punta (but still outside town) prices range from 40 to 135 per square meter. That s 81 000 to over 250 000 for a lot of the same size. And these prices include projects without golf or tennis. Project with hardly any amenities in fact. Here you will get these amenities and pay much less. Subtract your 5% discount as an IL magazine subscriber and the deal is even stronger. The price for you for this lot is 30 305. This is a strong opportunity. The developer of this community has an excellent track record and the concept is right for the market here. Finally the pricing and the IL magazine subscriber deal is strong. To get your exclusive magazine subscriber discount or find out more see laserena. SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G 7 R E T IREM E NT L IF E ST Y L E The town of Cuenca Spain is only an hour from the capital Madrid. from Madrid are starting to buy homes in Cuenca for weekend escapes and holidays. A modern motorway makes the driving time less than two hours. And just last December a high-speed train was inaugurated putting Cuenca just 50 minutes from the capital. The city has always been popular with nature lovers. And no wonder... From where I sit in the plaza mayor I m just a few minutes walk--through a medieval archway and down a cobbled stone staircase--to the tranquil poplar-lined J car River. I go here almost every day joining the locals. In the long late afternoons women walk their dogs on the sandy path beside the J car while their husbands line the riverbank leisurely casting for trout. Their teenage children whizz past on mountain bikes heading into the hills or swim off the fresh-water beach at the riverside sports club. (A day s pass costs less than 6.) For shopping you can wander the stalls of the traditional market or go to several modern supermarkets. Fresh local fruit vegetables and bread cost no more than you d pay in the U.S. and often less. Meat is pricier--but offerings include mouth-watering local specialties like boar venison quail and Spain s famous cured hams. Spanish staples like olive oil and wine are cheap--a liter of good olive oil costs about 3 and a bottle of decent wine about the same amount. (I ve even found very quaffable five-liter wine boxes that worked out to about 1.40 a liter.) And the men del d a in many restaurants around town runs from about 14 for a two-course lunch with wine up to 21 for three courses at Los Arcos my personal favorite. Long-term apartment rentals in Cuenca start at about 500 a month. If you re looking to buy you can find a good selection under 200 000.Of course you must first lay aside your U.S. notions of space Spanish apartments average about 650 square feet. But to compensate the space is generally well laid out...and after all life in Spain is lived in the street. With Spain s current economic crisis many families have been forced to put properties in the casco viejo--which are generally second homes--on the market. If you ve been yearning for a place in Spain you ll have more to choose from now than you ve had in years. More details on property here Spain. Medieval Spain for 539 a Month By Glynna Prentice boasts a dramatic setting. The old city lies M SITTING IN THE PLAZA on the spur of a hill surrounded on three mayor with friends sipping a sides by gorges that drop hundreds of feet chilled beer and nibbling jam n to the valley floor. The cream- and dunserrano--slices of cured ham colored buildings--the same stone as the similar to prosciutto. Its 7 p.m. gorge walls--seem to grow right from the on a summer evening and the shadows are rock. So steep is the city that some medieval lengthening. The sun won t set until nearly houses which cling to the cliffsides are up 10 p.m. That gives me plenty of time to to 13 stories high. They have one entrance stroll the cobbled streets take a hike in the on one street and a second entrance on a hills near town...or just sit here in the plaza lower street perhaps a hundred watching the world go by. feet below. I m in Cuenca a I ve visited Cuenca off and provincial capital less than an on for over 20 years and lived hour by train from Madrid. A relaxed here for a while in the 1990s. For budding expats who For decades--including the dream of living in Spain inexpensive years I lived here--Cuenca provincial cities like Cuenca was an international artists are a great option. Easily a lifestyle. Mecca. About 15 years ago dozen sit within 90 minutes though Cuenca set its sights of Madrid. And in them you on the tourism industry. The authorities can enjoy a relaxed inexpensive lifestyle in built a performing arts center and several a scenic setting. When you want the bright museums. They repaired the medieval lights and big city just catch the train or streets of the old city and offered incentives bus to Madrid and spend the day in one of to home owners to renovate their Europe s most exciting capitals. crumbling homes. Cuenca lies east of Madrid in the vast Today the city looks clean wellregion known as Castilla-La Mancha. renovated and appealing. Professionals Founded by the Arabs this city of 56 000 I 8 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 ALAN CRAWFORD iSTOCK Late Nights and Sunshine in Alicante By Steenie Harvey E ven travel writers need escapes. One of my favorite getaways is Alicante a city on Spain s Costa Blanca. Yes I know I ve disparaged the Costas in the past. Spain-without-the-Spanish...paunchy northern Europeans overdosing on sun sex and cheap booze...hideous plastic donkeys...concrete jungles...acres of lookalike vacation homes. So why Alicante Well there s a big difference between seaside cities and purpose-built resorts. Alicante is lively sunny and inexpensive for sure. But it s also charming fairly sophisticated and its ambience is as Spanish as that of Madrid. A Mediterranean city of over 458 000 people is obviously no secret. But most visitors are Spaniards--the majority of foreigners only encounter Alicante s airport. There are flights from across Europe as it s the gateway to sprawling Benidorm and other Costa Blanca resorts. Yet Alicante also has splendid beaches--eight in total. San Juan beach alone stretches for over four miles. Below St Barbara s Castle an old Moorish fortress there s a marina parks shady plazas cinemas and a theater. Lined with palm trees and paved with 6.5 million marble tiles the Explanada is the promenade. It s perfect for the paseo the evening stroll when everyone is out-and-about eating ice cream and chatting outside caf -bars. For a cool-down non-alcoholic drink try iced horchata--made from tiger-nut milk. The city center is also partly pedestrianized so traffic isn t a nuisance. Flanked by the Explanada El Postiguet is Alicante s pristine town beach. Like all Spanish beaches it s free. If you haven t got your own paraphernalia you can rent an umbrella and two sunbeds for 17. Public transport is excellent and regular buses serve beaches farther from the center. As Alicante keeps traditional Spanish hours your body clock may need adjusting. If you want an early lunch think 2 p.m. Most stores and offices close for the three-hour afternoon siesta. They RESIDENCY A LA ESPA OLA Spain allows U.S. and Canadian citizens to stay as tourists for up to 90 days out of every six months. If you want to stay longer or live full-time in Spain you must apply for a residence visa. Madrid-based lawyer Margaret Hauschild Rey says that for residency you need to show a clean police record from the country where you live now submit copies of your passport and most importantly show that you have the funds to support yourself without working in Spain. At present that means about 3 000 a month for an individual. In addition you need about 760 for each dependent. For more details see Alicante is a truly Spanish city with fantastic beaches. don t reopen until 5 p.m. for the shopping work evening session. My favorite restaurant is Casa Ibarra cornering Plaza Santissima Faz and Calle Mayor on the old town s edge. With a choice of starters and mains the two-course men del d a at lunchtimes is a bargain 14--a bottle of house wine is included. At night I don t go out to eat until 9.30 p.m. or even 10 p.m. Lunch is so filling I usually opt for tapas instead of dinner. Cod or ham croquettes green peppers and patatas bravas (fried potatoes in spicy sauce) are staples but you ll also encounter unusual morsels such as squid stuffed with morcilla (blood pudding). Depending on choices and portion sizes a couple can feast well on a tapas selection for 28--sometimes less. In most bars and restaurants beers cost 1.40 to 2.10 and a bottle of Rioja wine is 11 to 14. There are numerous tapas bars in the modern quarter and Barrio Santa Cruz. With its little houses and flower-filled lanes huddled below the fortress this is the city s oldest neighborhood. But a tapas crawl is only the start of things. By midnight I m usually heading to Ruta 13 or El Tributo a couple of goth heavymetal bars behind the Mercado Central the covered food market. As for the weather the Costa Blanca climate is arguably the best in Europe. It averages 325 sunny days each year and humidity is low. Even on escapes I m drawn toward real estate agencies. Prices in Alicante have plummeted since the Spanish market went into free fall. Five years ago you wouldn t have got a poky beach studio for 127 589. Nowadays that buys a furnished one-bedroom (484 square feet) with sea views five minutes from central Alicante. Within the city a three-bedroom apartment (968 square feet) on Avenida Salamanca is 170 215. But prices are all over the place and much depends on a vendor s need to sell. 163 175 buys another 968-square-foot apartment at Virgen del Socorro just 300 yards or so from the beach. See Long-term rentals are plentiful. A two-bedroom furnished apartment (753 square feet) close to beaches in the El Altet suburb is 567 a month. A bijou one-bedroom bungalow (484 square feet) with a small garden and shared pool in a development near Muchavista beach is 539. See SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G TUPUNGATO DREAMSTIME.COM 9 LIV ING TH E DR E A M Enjoying the Slower Old World Pace Lifestyle like Florida in the 1940 s Names Chuck and Jamie Bilbe Ages Early 60 s From Wisconsin and Alabama Living in Corozal Belize In 2007 after years working as an electrical engineer all over the U.S. my wife and I decided we d like to move to a warmer climate and chose Florida. I was still working at the time and could continue over the Internet. Times were good until the economy began its downturn crashing the real estate market. We were concerned that our retirement savings wouldn t see us through so we began looking overseas for a place where our ever-shrinking nest egg might last longer. We had always been intrigued by the idea of living somewhere beachy and exotic. And with the kids all grown--the youngest is 23--it seemed a good time to make the leap. So in 2009 we took a trip to Nicaragua on a Chill Weekend to see Rancho Santana a beautiful area on the Pacific Coast. We purchased a condo there where we really enjoyed spending time but it didn t feel like the right place for us to retire. So we began looking at Belize as a possibility and took an exploratory trip in early 2010 to see Corozal Placencia and Ambergris Caye. Corozal is close to Chetumal a good-sized city in Mexico and it just seemed to feel right. So we purchased a lot at the Orchid Bay development there and contracted to build a house. Orchid Bay is set up to feel like a small town. Its growing fast and we expect to have plenty of neighbors before long. It s a planned gated community that will ultimately include stores a clinic riding stables and hopefully even an airstrip. Even as small as it is it has a community feeling already. Our home in Florida sold more quickly than we had expected and rather than wait in the U.S. for the Belize home to be finished we decided to make the move in 10 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G February of this year. We came with our two dogs and a half-container shipment of what remained of our pared-down household stuff. In Corozal we rented a one-bedroom apartment for 400 a month in the bottom floor of a house occupied by a couple we found through a local realtor. It was a great way to get involved with all the locals and the landlady kindly took us all over town showing us where to shop where to pay bills where to eat and how to go about renewing our tourist visa (every 30 days for a year then we can apply for permanent residency). Our stress level is down and satisfaction with life up. boxes of cereal cost almost double what they would in the U.S. but corn flakes rice and so forth made locally or in Mexico are much less. Our barbecue grill has been very busy since we moved in. The open-air market in Corozal is a wonderful way to stock up on fresh vegetables and fruits--far better than what we had been buying at the supermarket. We ve made a couple of trips to visit Chetumal though we haven t come to rely on the big city as much as we thought we would. We can get most of what we need in Corozal or nearby Orange Walk. For a better selection we have also gone to Belize City. We ve learned a great deal about the process of relocating overseas in these last few months. There are things we would do differently but we are happy here. What we like the most about our move to Belize is that we can now have a lifestyle like Florida in the 1940 s but at a price we can afford. Our stress level is down and our satisfaction with life is definitely up. We re eating better sleeping better and enjoying social activity much more now than we did before. Living next to the water is something we had always wanted to do but could never afford before now. We Love the Old World Feel Name Douglas Willis Age 46 From Georgia Living in Cuenca Ecuador Douglas Willis didn t come to Cuenca Ecuador with the intention of retiring. When he arrived in 2007 it was with his wife Lisa and their two children and they came as part of a volunteer program. We were only in our early forties and retiring was still some 25 years in the future says Douglas. Our original plan was to take a one-year sabbatical and then return to the U.S. to resume our normal nine-to-five life. Our children were 8 and 10 years of age when we arrived and we chose Ecuador because we had read it is a safe place to visit with children. Other than that we really knew little else of the country. After just a few months though Doug and Lisa knew they were falling in love with the country and its people. We suddenly found ourselves entertaining the unthinkable We wanted to make Ecuador our permanent home. Our children Our house was essentially finished in July and we moved in. The lot is about half an acre close to the water. We estimate our building costs at about 125 per square foot. We ve been in Corozal for a few months now learned our way around bought a vehicle and made a lot of friends. There s a happy hour every Friday a dart game every Saturday a potluck every month and various other women s and men s groups and special activities. We were surprised by how many people have come here from the U.S. Canada the U.K. and elsewhere. The time spent renting in town was invaluable in helping us form some real connections and friendships. The Belizeans have been good to us and friendly although it was up to us to take the first step. Once we got past some of their natural reticence we have found them to be delightful people. The cost of living here depends on whether you use what s made here or what s imported. For example brand-name SEPTEMBER 2011 The low cost of living in Cuenca Ecuador means the Willis family lives well on 1 000 a month. immediately felt at home here and we were much happier and united as a family. Figuring out a way to stay in Ecuador became the number one priority. We were fortunate to find exceptional people to take over our business and manage our property in the U.S. That has given us the financial freedom to settle in Ecuador. We call ourselves accidental expats because we did not come here to stay. We feel very fortunate to have discovered Ecuador and appreciate the opportunity we have to make this beautiful country our home says Douglas. Life in Cuenca is unique and interesting. We love the fact that Cuenca has preserved its old world feel. People here still take siestas at midday. Cuenca closes down after 10 p.m. and for the most part is quiet at night. Family life is very important for Ecuadorians and the many public parks in Cuenca are full on the weekends with families playing together. Cuenca has relatively little crime compared to the U.S. and we can easily engage in conversations with total strangers. We feel safe and comfortable living here. And the low cost of living in Cuenca means the Willis can live well on about 1 000 a month. That s a quarter of the budget we lived on in the U.S. We pay less than 300 in rent per month for a large four-bedroom house. Our food bill is about 400 per month. A bus ride to any part of As pensionados Karl and Liz are entitled to discounts in Panama on everything. the city is only 25 cents. An average taxi ride is 2.50. A hair cut is 1.50. A dozen roses cost 2.00. And a meal at a restaurant can be had for as little as 2.00 per person. Dena Haines The Government Stays Off Your Back Names Karl and Liz Parker Ages 72 and 62 From Montana and New York Living in Alto Boquete Panama In Boquete you want a really good camera. That s because the mountain views are lavish and rainbows appear nearly every day. Karl and Liz Parker fell for this landscape when they first arrived. Now they live in Panama part of the year spending the rest of their time traveling or back in the U.S. with family. As pensionados or pensioners Karl and Liz are entitled to discounts in Panama on everything from entertainment to airfare. They re entitled to 25% off their monthly power bill 50% off weekday hotel stays 15% off dental and eye exams and more. And the best part of Panama s pensionado program is that it grants pensioners or retirees like Karl and Liz residency in Panama...for as long as they like. But while the discounts are great they re not the reason Karl and Liz moved here. A lot of their favorite activities cost little to nothing. Liz enjoys hiking and walking tours. She even manages to make a little money. A former beauty-shop owner she has been doing professional hair coloring for years. When word got out in the expat community people began to seek her out. People get upset when they hear she s leaving for the States jokes Karl. Karl starts his day here with a few hours on his computer after which he makes his way along a winding mountain road to a cozy place called Sugar & Spice where he enjoys a breakfast of freshly made empanadas and a cup of some of best coffee in the world. Karl and Liz bought their home in Boquete four years ago. It s in a quiet mostly Panamanian sector called Alto Boquete. The gable roof vanilla ice-cream tone and decorative stonework fit right in among by pines. Homes like theirs will set you back as little as 100 000. Smaller homes can cost 20 000 less. Some U.S.-style homes in Boquete go for 200 000 to 300 000 but Karl says you really don t have to spend that much for a house in Boquete. There are many homes on the market right now. Karl s house is never quite finished. After his morning caf he often spends rainy afternoons working on it. He has installed new hot water heaters water storage tanks and painted it inside and out. It s a work in progress. Evenings he and his wife Liz enjoy an array of local events...there are plays courtesy of an active English-language theater concerts. Some of the presentations have been just excellent...better than back home Karl says. When I ask whether one day they ll choose to stay in one place full-time Karl hesitates. He has pet anyone... but most everything here to Karl is a plus. My wife really likes Panama he says. And it suits me. Panama has lots going for it. And the government stays off your back. Jessica Ramesch I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G HUGO GHIARA SEPTEMBER 2011 11 TR AVEL F OR FRE E Live Well No Charge How to Land a House-Sitting Gig By Darius Fisher ow the lawn and take a daily walk around the castle and you can stay for free near Thur France. Just feed the cats and you can have a two-month break in the mountains near Barcelona Spain. Or how about a few weeks in a cottage on the wild west coast of Ireland in return for keeping the vegetable plot tidy Enjoy the Caribbean as a house sitter and get free accommodation. These are just some of the genuine offers of free accommodation you can take advantage of when you housesit. Ever house-sat before If so ask that person to write a reference. From Singapore to Sydney Athens to Auckland hundreds of Other people vouching for you increases credibility and heightens opportunities exist for travel to exotic places without paying for the chances of landing a gig. accommodation. Just take care of the morning paper the pets or Police background check Along with a reference a police the garden and you can stay in homes when the owners are away... background check is a good way to convince homeowners you at no cost. can be trusted. This shows homeowners you re serious about 55-year-old Mike Hopkins is a veteran house-sitter who loves house-sitting and not just dreaming of a free vacation. Processing a the Caribbean. He says he saved 3 000 on accomodation on the background check takes about one week. Head to your local police Caribbean island of Antigua. He house-sat for a month in a home department for more information. that was on the market for 1.5 million. During another fourBuild a house-sitter website In addition to an ad an easy month sit on the eastern coast of the island Mike maintained a pool way to increase your credibility is to make a website. In about and in return saved around 8 000 in costs. 20 minutes and for 17 you can create a basic site with your To increase the chances you ll land a gig like that position own domain thanks to a blogging platform called yourself like a pro. Here s how WordPress. (See On your site describe Create an online ad A number of websites your qualifications and references and provide a picture have popped up where house sitters advertise their A month in a of yourself. availability and homeowners express their need Once you ve completed for sitters. The most popular are HouseCarers. 1.5-million- the Contact homeowners hunt for a house sit. A steps above begin the com and Basic registration on good place to start is by searching HouseCarers HouseCarers is free. But I suggest signing up for dollar home and MindMyHouse. Filter by the countries you re premium membership ( 50) which gives your ad interested in visiting. Some homeowners prefer to find more visibility and allows you to upload photos. An you so not every available job will be listed. That said ad on MindMyHouse costs 20. my quick search revealed houses available in Normandy Sydney Think about your ad as if it were a job interview. List your and Sicily. experience taking care of a home be it your own or someone Network with Facebook and email Have friends abroad else s. Outline your time availability. Mention what types of pets Send an email and post to your Facebook wall asking if anyone s you re comfortable taking care of. And most importantly be planning a trip in the foreseeable future. You might be pleasantly positive. Don t start your ad saying I don t have any house-sitting surprised that your friend in France has a three-week vacation experience... Instead focus on the benefits you bring to the table. coming up and is looking for someone to look after the cat. Homeowners are trusting you with their most valuable asset. Make Offer a security deposit More often than not homeowners sure you paint yourself as serious qualified and professional. will request a security deposit equivalent to one month s rent. Subscribe to Caretaker Gazette Published since 1983 this Instead of having the homeowner ask proactively offer a deposit. newsletter is the old daddy of the house-sitting scene. A yearly This will increase your trustworthiness in their eyes. subscription costs 29.95 which includes a bi-monthly newsletter Ask for referrals After completing an assignment ask for with house-sitting opportunities around the world. You also receive a referral a reference and that the owners contact you again in email listings of new opportunities when homeowners need a sitter the future for house-sitting assignments. People often take yearly quickly. See vacations and will build relationships with a house-sitter year after Provide references Get references together before you start year. your search. These can be from friends colleagues or landlords. M 12 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 MICHAEL UTECH iSTOCK How Blogging Funds Your Travels By Jasmine Stephenson I m sitting in a hotel room on the stunning island of someone (other than my mom) want to read this Providing value Tobago. I pull back the curtains and sunlight floods my is one of the best ways to attract attention to your blog. Do you room--it s a perfect day. From my window the ocean s know the best place to get Chinese food in Panama Are you an blue competes with the immaculately manicured gardens expert on dodging tourist scams Can you recommend the best offfor my attention. I ll spend my day taking a glass bottom the-beaten path places to surf This kind of knowledge is useful and boat tour over Buccoo Reef and splashing around in the Nylon visitors will appreciate it. You ll soon start to establish yourself as a Pool a shallow slice of water just a couple of feet deep in the trustworthy knowledgeable source which will keep readers loyal middle of the ocean. Later I ll eat a late lunch on my beach chair and bring more to your site. work on my tan and watch the sun set on the perfectly calm waters. Headlines can Make or Break your Article Which article Just a typical day at the office. would you click on Shopping in Guadalajara or 5 Secret Spots to It s hard to believe but the travel blog I first started in 2007 as Buy Cheap Souvenirs in Guadalajara Even if you re an amazing a way to keep my family friends and co-workers updated now nets writer and produce extremely helpful content no one will read it if me at least 1 000 a month allowing me to travel and spend time the headline doesn t grab their attention. Most Internet users spend in amazing places all over the world. Just in the last year I ve been mere seconds on each website they visit so there is little time to to Colombia Ecuador Trinidad and Tobago and my next stop make a good impression. may be Mexico or Argentina... I haven t decided yet. Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Oh My The vast majority I first started blogging four years ago. At first I treated my blog of popular bloggers in every field also dominate in social media. as a diary uploading the occasional photo and writing about my They have thousands of Twitter followers an active Facebook fan day-to-day life in New Zealand. After eight months there I went to page use StumbleUpon religiously and will conquer Google 1 Australia. Money was tight and when my domain and hosting plan before anyone else. It s a good idea to pick a few social networking came up for renewal at a cost of 70 I let the blog go. sites to focus on and read best-practice articles and case studies But after travelling around Southeast Asia and taking a quick before you get started. is an excellent source. trip to Italy I decided to start up a blog again. With a couple of Help Others to Help Yourself The great thing about the years of travel under my belt I felt I had a lot to offer the world. So blogosphere is that there is room for everyone. One of the most I started documenting my travels at important parts of blogging is getting to know people in your I never really considered monetizing my blog until the first industry both veterans and new bloggers alike. The easiest way to advertiser contacted me. I couldn t believe my good do this is to connect with them on Twitter. Though it fortune. I knew nothing about blog advertising and may sound counterintuitive promoting others in your accepted a sucker s rate that s four times less than field via social media is a great way to have your own what I charge now. I ve realized over time just how work promoted as well. Connecting with others in your lucrative blogging can be. By putting in the time and industry is a wise idea as you build a network you can My blog nets rely on for advice. effort it can more than pay for my travels. Here are some tips to getting started. Show me the Money There are tons of ways to me 1 000 Research I won t deny it--blogging is easiest monetize your blog some of which are more kosher for a web-savvy writer. However if you have your than others. Google Adsense is a system in which a month. computer-challenged heart set on making your website visitors click on ads placed on your site and mark (and money) in cyberspace it is possible. Start you receive a set fee for each click. You can also take by spending several hours familiarizing yourself with Google the affiliate route where you write a review of a product or place vocabulary and strategy. You ll want to find out about SEO (search banners on your site and receive a percentage of each sale that is engine optimization) link-building techniques Wordpress and made after a customer clicks on your link. There are also advertisers PR (that stands for page rank). Arguably the best overall resource who pay to place some form of advertising on your site for a set or for new bloggers is And is also a monthly fee. extremely helpful. Getting advertisers on your site in the beginning is a bit tricky. Find a Niche The travel-blogging community is saturated. You ll likely be contacted first though you could try to get in However all of us offer a little something special and cater to a touch with specific companies you d be interested in featuring certain audience. Are you travelling with a family Are you a retired or get contacts from a blogging buddy. Before accepting paid couple living off of social security or a pension Maybe you enjoy advertisement you should review Google s Webmaster Guidelines hiking local cuisine or birding Whatever your interests or travel on the subject to ensure you won t be violating any rules. style may be there s a niche for that. Choosing a smaller niche One of the leading resources for blog monetizing is Pat from will improve your chances of attracting a dedicated audience and is a useful source too. advertisers as well as establishing your voice on the Internet. Write Solid Evergreen Content When you sit down to write Editor s note For more on making money writing for the web articles (called posts) for your blog ask yourself Why would see websites. SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G 13 FUND YOU R LI FE How I Escape the Canadian Winter By Gerry Blackwell L iving in Valencia Spain for three months last winter was not just a welcome retreat from the cold Canadian year... but great fun too. Fallas a city-wide week-long party in March served as the fitting and noisy climax. Scores of neighborhood groups erect huge cartoon-like sculptures (the fallas) in the streets. Fantastically attired locals parade about and there are fireworks morning noon and night. Most people wait until they retire to fly away from the northern winters. But for the last three years my wife Karen and I have escaped to southern Italy or Spain for the worst months of the Canadian winter...and just worked from there. We return home tanned and invigorated just in time for spring. In Valencia this year it was a rare day the sun didn t shine and daytime highs mostly stayed above 60 F even in January. If you re one of the growing number of knowledge workers who telecommute to a job or work for themselves as I do becoming a working snowbird and living abroad for the winter is feasible. I can do my job as a freelance journalist writing articles about technology-related Spend your winters in sunny Sicily (above) Spain or the Caribbean as a working snowbird. 14 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 subjects for Canadian and U.S. online Need a Way to Fund and print publications anywhere I have Your Life Overseas an Internet connection good enough to support VoIP (voice over Internet There are all kinds of ways you can protocol) phone service. get paid that let you live anywhere travel Who else could do this Web designers anytime...and give you the funds to make programmers consultants commercial your overseas dream real. If you d like to artists...more and more people are working learn more about flexible work-anywhere in areas where telecommuting is possible. ways you can pay for your life overseas go Finding accommodation for the winter here FYL. has never been a problem. In most places we ve gone apartments and houses are available for tourists to rent by day or week usually fully equipped. Landlords will rent courses and one drink each cost about for longer in the off season and almost about 35 for two. always for less. (Don t be afraid to ask for a Our landlords in every case have been discount.) delightful going above and beyond to Not all properties have high-speed ensure we were happy and comfortable. Internet but if you re renting for several Last year the landlady s charming Englishmonths landlords may be willing to install it. speaking son dragged himself from bed No one can guarantee a good after an all-night party to let us into our experience renting online of course but apartment when we d locked ourselves out. Karen and I have been This is not to say doing it for over a decade everything will always be now for vacations and perfect or has been for us. longer trips. We ve almost European apartments are I can do my job always had excellent often chilly in winter by experiences. anywhere I have North American standards This year we paid for example. (Look for a little over 2 000 a properties that advertise an Internet month for a large fullycentral heating.) furnished two-bedroom connection. In Valencia this year we two-bathroom apartment on used the superb new subway the top floor of a six-floor building three system to get to and from the airport and blocks from the sea. Next year we ll be around town. It costs less than 1 a trip. paying less for a nicer flat in Valencia. We also used the low-cost city bikeBank-rolling our 13-week winter sharing system--less than 25 a year--and sojourn cost about 13 000 this year for Valencia s network of off-street bike paths. everything including airfare. But that s not The working snowbird experience a lot more than we ve paid in the past for goes beyond tourism. You get to live in the much shorter European touring vacations. culture. And of course that includes day-to-day And if you get lonely there are Englishexpenses we would have had at home. speaking expat communities you can Home is Ontario Canada where we connect with in many southern European were both born and have lived most of our countries. We kept busy with work lives. walking biking photography painting Food costs overall are slightly less at sightseeing hosting visitors...and there home although some things in Spain-- was plenty of opportunity to learn the local local produce alcohol and meals out for lingo. Karen took an intensive two-week instance--are much less. We paid about beginner s Spanish course last year. 120 a week for groceries including We found life enjoyable in Spain...and alcohol. A weekend lunch out with three blessedly free of snow. RICHARD GOODRICH iSTOCK REA L ESTATE Tul m s white sands are just 1.45 hours from Miami. eat organic veggie gourmet Italian or Thai food...treat yourself to a soothing spa massage or yoga session...or kick your body into shape at the bikini boot camp. The beautiful bodies you see on the beach go some way to explaining the popularity of the boot camp. Drive just 30 minutes north along the modern highway from Tul m and you find yourself in Playa del Carmen...a fun beach town that packs in gourmet food film festivals eclectic shopping and a buzzing nightlife. Playa was a tiny fishing village with sandy streets until the 1990s when tourism and development arrived. Over the last 15 years property prices there have soared. Today an oceanfront condo in the town can easily cost 500 000. That pattern is repeating itself in Tul m these days. Only we re right at the start of the cycle. Looking at a map of the region you ll see that developable land is scarce around Tul m. The Caribbean Sea forms one boundary and the Sian Ka an biosphere another. Tight regulations restrict height and density. There simply isn t much that s suitable for development. That means limited inventory...and buyers and renters chasing a limited supply of properties. Properties currently on the market include a movie-star house right on the beach for 2.7 million. This property (unusual because it s titled) has 328 feet of beachfront and backs onto a lagoon with a private dock. Solar and wind-powered the home has high-end marble and granite accents three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. Only 12 minutes from Tul m beach an eco-friendly development offers home-and-lot packages from 200 000. Each home site covers five forested acres. You know your neighbors are close by but you can t hear or see them. Instead nature surrounds you...birds butterflies deer and monkeys. Roads wind around endangered trees. Stone from the site is hand cut for curbing and used to decorate exterior walls. See arboles. If you want a property that offers resort facilities (golf course swimming pools restaurants caf s gym spa and beach) you can buy pre-construction condos at Tao in the Gran Bah a Pr ncipe resort from 167 000. See resort. That s a great price for a Caribbean resort home and a great price for this area. Just a short 20-minute drive from Tul m the condos should make good rentals. Generous developer financing means you can spread the cost and pay as little as 800 a month. This is the developer s second community in the resort. The first project sold out quickly and this one is selling fast too. With talk of a new international airport in the area now is the time to investigate opportunities in Tul m. We ve seen a similar development story unfold in Canc n and then Playa del Carmen. Now it s Tul m s turn. Tulum s Caribbean Coast--Not Just for Millionaires By Margaret Summerfield T he curious faces of a family of raccoon-like coatis emerge from the vegetation at the edge of the road. Ringed tails held high they watch passing traffic closely before disappearing into the thick forest. I m in Mexico s Yucat n only a short flight from many U.S. cities (1.45 hours from Miami two hours from Houston and four from New York). But I m a world away from Canc n s spring break crowds and wall-to-wall highrise hotels. Here in Tul m less than two hours from the international airport at Canc n is a destination with eco-chic style and a laidback attitude. Throw in Mexico s top beaches a smattering of ancient history a rainbow-colored coral reef and you ll start to see why this place is becoming popular. I ve visited Tul m five times for Pathfinder IL s preferred real estate advertising partner. The beaches are stunning. A carpet of soft silky sand curves around craggy outcrops and preserved jungle. Along the shoreline the sea is crystal clear. Scattered throughout the forest along this coast you ll find ruins from the ancient past and no visit here is complete without a trip to Mexico s only oceanfront Mayan temple El Castillo. The world s second-largest barrier reef is just offshore making Tul m a hot-spot for divers and snorkelers. Small marinas offer mooring spots for boating enthusiasts and the gorgeous coastline and inland lagoons make for good sailing. Golfers can take their pick from some of the finest courses in Mexico designed by Robert Trent Jones II Jack Nicklaus or P.B. Dye. You can swim and dive in a huge underground system of caves rivers and sinkholes... At first the pueblo of Tul m still looks dusty and jumbled-- same as when I saw it five years back--but a closer inspection reveals that much has changed. The town now has three banks two supermarkets five gas stations hardware stores more B&Bs and a nice bike path to the beach. On Tul m beach the rustic off-grid hotels spas and restaurants have moved up a notch or two since my first visit. Today you can YINYANG iSTOCK HOW TO COME AND SEE FOR YOURSELF If you really want to get a feel for Tul m and see the biosphere and spectacular beaches you can enjoy a fourday three-night all-inclusive stay in the five-star Gran Bahia Resort for only 180 on a Pathfinder Chill Weekend see ContactUs taoil. SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G 15 R EAL ESTAT E Where to Pick Up a Bargain Beach Home in Ecuador By Dan Prescher For more information email tom HEN SUZAN AND I BOUGHT OUR condo in the mountain town of Cotacachi If you prefer the idea of Ecuador we figured we were done shopping. building something larger yourself After all we had a modern apartment in then right next to Sol y Mar we a thriving little craft town with absolutely saw a 6 456-square-foot walled perfect weather year round. When we re there we spend less than beachfront lot selling for 50 000. 1 500 per month and we have all the benefits of an active and We re told construction costs growing expat community. are 65 per square foot for highThen we met Ron and Terresa Moore. end finishes. Labor costs from Not long ago Ron and Terresa were having a tough time general construction laborer to back in the U.S. They d both lost their jobs and were watching housekeepers to cooks average 20 their hefty nest egg evaporate before their eyes thanks to a global a day. And ocean-view land is still economic downturn. available high in the hills above the So they pulled up stakes and moved to Ecuador. bay for 1 per square meter (about Today Ron and Terresa are our neighbors in Cotacachi. They nine cents a square foot). live in a 1 100-square-foot two-bedroom two-bath condo they Prices are reasonable on existing homes as well. We saw some bought for less than 50 000. It has a balcony and big windows on the far northern edge of town. A huge four-bedroom four-bath with views of the majestic Andes. house with an expansive terrace on an acre of oceanfront land lists Not only that...they ve also just taken possession of a new twofor 175 000. To find out more email Jorge bedroom two-bath beachfront condo in Crucita. Their building is From Crucita we headed north for 30 minutes to the middirectly in front of the beach and their balcony looks right out over sized city of Bah a de Caraquez. At first glance Bah a seems the community swimming pool to the vast blue Pacific Ocean. unremarkable. The town covers the hillside and sandy peninsula that The cost for this condo Just 61 000. juts out from the mainland where the Chone River meets the ocean. You read that right. It means Ron and Terresa now have a snug It has a storied history as a former shipping and cultural center little mountain hideaway and a Pacific beachfront condo and they but is now so quiet in some neighborhoods that you could safely sit paid less than 120 000--for both of them in the middle of the street for 20 minutes without worrying about Though we d spent time in Crucita back in 2001 after talking traffic. with Ron and Terresa we decided to check things out there again. But after a few great meals down along the riverfront and a Thankfully Crucita hasn t changed much We found a few more stroll or two along the town s beachfront we began to appreciate homes and a couple new highrise buildings on the southernmost Bah a as one of the prettiest end of the long sandy crescent bay. safest and most progressive cities One of these highrises is the eightin Ecuador. story Sol y Mar where Ron and Terresa In fact we began to think bought. Only two condos remain in Cotaca i Cotacachi Cotacachi a of Bah a as the perfect place to this building--both on the fourth floor Ot valo Otaval Otavalo Otavalo Pe e ales Pedernales Pedernales e have our own base from which with oceanfront balconies and that to explore this entire section same Pacific Ocean view that Ron and Santo Domingo Santo Domingo anto Doming to ngo g E Matal El Matal ta a Pacif Pacific Pacific cifi J m Jama de lo Colorados Jama de los Colorados os olorado ad of coast with the shopping Terresa are now enjoying. The asking Ocean Ocea Ocean ean Quit Quito Quito t and entertainment advantages price for the one-bedroom two-bath C Canoa Canoa Sa Vicente San Vicente Vicen e Vicente of a good-sized town and 860-square-foot unit is 66 275. The B Ba Bahia de Caraquez Bahia e Caraquez Caraquez quez access to miles of stunning and larger 1 015-square-foot two-bedroom C n Chone Chone Cr i Crucita Crucita ru undeveloped Pacific-coast beach two-bath apartment can be had for Q vedo Quavedo Quavedo and farmland. 78 277. You can see the ocean from Ma Manta Manta A new bridge now connects every room of these units. There s an Bah a to the town of San Vicente elevator (with backup generator) and across the broad Chone River. a large community area with a BBQ P Puerto Lopez Puerto Lopez o Lo z Before it opened the only way and swimming pool. HOA fees are across was by time-consuming expected to be about 25 a month. W ECUADOR ECUADOR 16 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 You ll find condos for just 61 000 in Crucita one of Ecuador s many Pacific beachfront towns. Canoa is a party town thanks to an immense white-sand beach and world-class surf breaks. (It s on Ecuador s Pacific surf route which also includes Monta ita to the south and Mompiche to the north.) But the only abundant services in Canoa are fairly rustic restaurants bars and hotels. Jama a small market center for the surrounding countryside offers a few more services and it also lends its name to a project with one of the best deals we saw on turnkey houses...a project called Jama Campay. You can get a lot and a four-bedroom four-bath home on the first row of beachfront for an incredible 135 000. One row back but still with a full ocean view you ll pay 115 000 for your home and lot. We ve never seen a better value for the price on new construction. These homes are large with huge rooms and terraces and the construction quality is good. For more information about Jama Campay see ContactUs jamacampayil. Also near Jama is another great value in construction...a residential community called Coco Beach Village where a growing number of foreign expats are now building beach homes. Lot prices start from 53 870. For more information see ContactUs cocobeach. We saw many other properties as we motored up and down the coast between Bah a and Pedernales...more than 15 acres with beachfront for 520 000...12.5 acres with 300 feet of beachfront at less than 50 cents per square foot... 15 acres with 410 feet of white-sand beachfront at 56 cents a square foot...even 346 acres of farmland with ocean view selling for 1 214 an acre. So did we follow Ron and Terresa s example and pick up a piece of Ecuador s Pacific coast to go with our own Ecuadorian mountain hideaway Not yet...because we re spoiled for choice. Make no mistake--today much of this coast will appeal to the pioneers...expats who still have some surfer or backpacker in their blood...those who don t mind being ahead of the curve and away from the population centers. However if you want more amenities and don t want to wait for the path of progress to catch up to you Bah a de Caraquez is the natural choice for full-time living With about 25 000 people it already has grocery stores and medical centers and we ve learned that a new shopping mall is in the works there to include a SuperMaxi Ecuador s largest supermarket chain. Editor s Note For details on how to get there and the best places to stay see Ecuadorcoast. SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G ferry. Now it s a simple matter of driving across to San Vicente and the beaches beyond. Combine this with a new highway from Quito to the market town of Pedernales to the north and it means that this entire stretch of coast is more accessible than ever...especially for folks from Quito looking for weekend and holiday homes. While it used to take them at least six hours to get here from Ecuador s bustling capital they can now do so in half the time. And it s rewarding once you get here. We drove along the coastal highway north of Bah a and San Vicente. This stretch of the Manab province coastline is basically looks like the most dramatic beach areas of Costa Rica and Mexico before people started settling and building resorts on them. We went all the way north to the border between Manab and Esmeraldas provinces and were struck by how undeveloped this entire coast is. You ll find small boutique resorts here and there and an occasional residential project but compared to countries with similar beaches and shoreline there is nothing much here. It s safe to say that in 10 years of writing about Latin American real estate we haven t seen such low prices or such great value for such attractive properties. We looked at a lot of raw land priced well. You can buy beachfront in some areas for as little as 2 per square meter and ocean view property up in the hills for as little as 30 cents per square meter or 3 000 per hectare. (A hectare is almost two-anda-half acres.) We walked a palm plantation on a flat stretch of coast north of the bustling commercial town of Pedernales--almost eight acres with a gorgeous 300 feet of beachfront--selling for 450 000. Of course depending on your needs this stretch of coast can be a challenge. Living here means being a long way from any kind of supermarket...and a long distance from anything but basic health care. Between Bah a and Pedernales the only largish towns are Canoa and Jama. ELENA KALISTRATOVA iSTOCK In 10 years of writing about Latin American real estate we haven t seen such low prices for such attractive properties. 17 THE WORLD S BEST Retirement Haven By the Staff of International Living F LOWERS BLOOM everywhere and not one but four rushing rivers bubble over rocks to feed the lush vegetation. In Ecuador-- the country that tops this year s Global Retirement Index--nature is ever-present. And you can enjoy it fully in the city of Cuenca where those rivers trail amid mountain surrounds. The colonial churches grand mansions shady parks and fountain-anchored plazas have earned Cuenca world-wide recognition for its beauty. A mild climate makes for comfortable living year-round. Average daily temperatures reach into the 70s F and the nights are cool and fresh. And Ecuador is one of the most affordable countries in the world. You can rent a furnished two-bed apartment in an historic center for 220 or buy a large condo for 66 000. You can live well for 600 a month...and like royalty for double that. To rank our winners this year we analyzed 37 critical data points for each of our top 23 retirement havens and for the third year running Ecuador won. (Turn to page 20 for details about the four top runners-up.) For retirees colonial Cuenca is Ecuador s most attractive city. The third largest in the country it offers the relaxed pace of a smaller town with the first-class amenities and health care of a bigger one. But Cuenca is by no means your only option in Ecuador. This is a country with something for everyone--beaches rural highlands jungle escapes and colonial cities. No matter where you choose to live in Ecuador there is no better place on earth to discover the simple abundance of health I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 Cotopaxi near Quito You can live well in Ecuador for as little as 600 a month. tranquillity adventure and beauty says expat Patricia Farmer. We chose Bah a de Caraquez on the coast to begin our Ecuador adventure. There are plenty of amenities including a hospital restaurants and frequent expat get-togethers. Patricia her husband Ron and their two nervous cats arrived at their new beachfront home in February of this year. We knew no one. And yet we immediately felt at home says Patricia. Living in Southern California we were spoiled by the warm climate and beautiful beaches. Retirement would--or should--have given us time to enjoy all that more fully. And yet we had no realistic chance of retiring anywhere near a beach in California. Looking back now we re glad we needed to look elsewhere to fulfil our retirement dreams. Otherwise the chance of living in one of the most beautiful and exotic retirement havens in the world might have passed us by. For Douglas Willis and his wife Lisa Cuenca became the haven of choice. We love the fact that Cuenca has preserved its Old-World feel. It has excellent medical facilities too and we can find just about anything we need here in the way of shopping says Douglas. Douglas and Lisa have been in Cuenca for four years (read their full story on page 10) and say that the city s extensive public transportation system makes it easy to live there without a car. Plus we ve been extremely pleased with the quality of the health care offered in Cuenca. In our experience it is superior in almost every way to the U.S. Doctors here are more accessible and hands-on than doctors in the U.S. They are very well-trained and qualified. There are a number of new medical facilities in Cuenca that rival anything available in the U.S. says Douglas. But there s more to Ecuador than affordable beach life and vibrant highland cities. After weighing their options Jack Moss and his wife Debbie opted for smalltown Cotacachi. We read about Cuenca but didn t want 18 JENNY37 DREAMSTIME.COM TO P CHOI Retiring 01 1 ECUADOR TOP CH OICE FOR 2011 E CU ADOR CHOICE 011 CUAD More Benefits of CE F OR 2to Ecuador OR Ecuador s senior-citizen discount program is intended to help its own citizens. But the country s constitution guarantees foreign residents the same rights as citizens--so as a retiree you ll enjoy the same benefits. These include 50% off public and private transportation within the country (including the Gal pagos) 50% off tickets for all cultural and sporting events including movies 50% off electric and water bills (below certain usage levels) and free domestic landline phone service (does not include long distance and other services). You ll also get 50% off international airfares on Taca Copa or AeroGal for round-trip flights originating in Ecuador. Best of all you never have to stand in line. If you re a senior citizen when you make a bank deposit or pay your utility bill it s the law that you go directly to the front of the line. When you re over 65 you pay lower income tax. And you get any money spent on VAT (value-added tax) refunded each month--up to about 250. The Ecuadorian government also guarantees senior citizens access to free health care and medication and exemption from notary and registration fees. All expats are able to participate in the Ecuador Social Security medical program explains Jack Moss who with his wife Debbie retired to Cotacachi two years ago. There are no exams necessary for those under age 60. Over 60 there are a series of medical tests but a pre-existing condition is not a reason to be denied coverage. The premium is about 57 a month and there is no co-pay or deductible for physician visits hospitalization medications or dental visits. Detai ls on Our Top F i ve 1. Ecuador 2. Mexico 3. Panama 4. Spain 5. New Zealand HUGO GHIARA In the right places overseas you can live well without burning through your retirement nest egg. Where This year s top five picks offer a perfect mix of culture climates and lifestyles. Apart from Ecuador (see main story) you ll find everything from colonial cities to white-sand beaches in Mexico. In Panama you can choose modern city-living Caribbean or Pacific coasts or highland mountain towns. Old World Europe comes in with really affordable prices today Spain makes the top five for the first time. And as one of the healthiest and most beautiful countries in the world New Zealand is no surprise at number five. For more details see RetirementIndex2011. Temperatures are spring-like in small-town Cotacachi year-round lingering in the 70s F. the larger city. And we didn t want the heat of the beach. We visited the mountain-valley village of Cotacachi three times. On the last visit we stayed for a month and decided that the tranquillity the weather the small expat community and the low cost of living were what we were looking for. Since Ecuador s official currency is the U.S. dollar you have no problems determining the cost of goods or services. Although imported goods are more expensive local products and labor are quite reasonable says Jack. (For Jack and Debbie s Cotacachi budget see Intliving. com EcuadorBudgets.) Patricia says that on the coast in Bah a the living costs for her and Ron average out to a fi fth of what they spent in California. We live in a nice highrise condo overlooking the ocean. Even with two spoiled cats in need of gourmet food and our love of eating out with friends we enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle--even more luxurious than we had in California. You can live on less no doubt but including everything except rent ( 500 a month) we are currently spending about 1 500 a month. (For a full breakdown of Patricia and Ron s beachside budget see EcuadorBudgets.) This value represents Ecuador s numberone retiree benefit. Costs are just plain low. In Cotacachi many expats say that they have trouble spending over 1 200 a month for all expenses per couple says Jack. And in Cuenca Douglas says he his wife and It s a quarter of the budget we lived on in the U.S. their children live on about 1 000 a month. That s a quarter of the budget we lived on in the U.S. (For a full breakdown of their colonial-city budget read their full story on page 10.) And health care in Ecuador is cheap too. An appointment with a doctor averages 25 (without insurance). I ve visited an English-speaking doctor here in Bah a and was very pleased says Patricia. For insurance we chose Cruz Blanca the least expensive with the most coverage. We pay 40 each per month (no exam needed under age 65) this jumps to 95 each at age 65 and remains there for life. Ecuador s low costs create options you just don t have in most other places. Like two homes for the cost of one. As Dan Prescher discovered (see page 16 for his full report) a total of just 120 000 can buy you both a beachfront condo and a mountain home...a rich man s retirement indeed... I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 19 2011 RETIREMENT INDEX Country 2nd Place - Mexico White sand beaches and turquoise-blue seas with hammocks swaying nearby... centuries-old Spanish-colonial cities with winding cobblestone streets and fountainfilled plazas...towering ruins left by ancient being strummed on warm moonlit evenings... Mexico is rich in romance as the one million-plus U.S. and Canadian expats who live there will tell you. But expats don t live by romance alone. Fortunately Mexico also provides solid modern-day comforts and conveniences. That secluded away-from-it-all beach on the deserted packed-sand road You can get within a few miles of it on a modern highway--one of the many that criss-crosses Mexico. Those centuries-old cities with their colonial homes Today their walls conceal telephone and high-speed Internet cables and their roofs sport satellite dishes and solar water heaters. Likewise health care is very much 21st century with first-rate hospitals clinics and medical staff. (Don t speak Spanish Many doctors especially in private clinics speak English.) And the bill will likely run you half or less of what you d pay at home. In fact life in Mexico can cost you up to 40% less than what you d pay in the U.S. for a similar lifestyle. It s also lived at a slower more gracious pace. And that is what finally many expats seek. As expat Jill Jackson who lives in Loreto Baja California Sur explains It lets me be the person I have always wanted to be. Real Special Cost of Safety Estate Benefits Living Culture Health Infra. Stability Climate Total Ecuador 100 Mexico 94 Panama 93 Spain 90 New Zealand 96 France 75 Uruguay 94 Costa Rica 95 Malta 79 Italy 85 Chile 95 Argentina 92 Portugal 72 Ireland 78 Colombia 98 Brazil 92 Malaysia 96 Australia 57 Belize 83 Nicaragua 98 Thailand 92 Dom. Republic 97 Honduras 97 95 90 100 65 55 60 76 76 72 65 87 60 74 80 67 74 62 69 78 60 45 60 50 80 71 69 62 69 58 67 73 60 54 68 72 65 51 72 73 77 55 75 82 77 76 76 83 93 73 97 92 100 75 81 94 97 75 83 71 84 72 75 72 83 63 51 78 61 61 74 69 70 92 91 100 77 76 83 90 75 76 86 85 75 57 67 82 63 62 72 50 45 26 50 71 70 65 80 52 29 61 62 45 57 59 65 44 44 53 61 11 14 32 28 13 2 82 78 93 100 100 100 100 96 93 100 79 100 100 100 69 89 86 100 74 75 79 79 79 Panama is a heavy hitter in our annual Global Retirement Index and it s easy to see why. For one thing Panama always takes the top spot in the retirement-benefits category due to its pensionado or pensioner s program. Conceived to secure discounts for Panama s senior citizens--savings on everything from surgery to movie tickets--the program is open to foreigners and even grants them residency. Eighty-two-year-old Al Fine moved from Florida to Panama City around six years ago. He says he enjoys the discounts more than anything but he also likes how 20 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 Baja is just one appealing locale for retirement in Mexico where you ll find everything from fertile farmland to colonial cities. Panama provides excellent overall value... If you re looking for convenient 21st-century living you ll find it here at a bargain. DARRYL LENIUK GETTY IMAGES 3rd Place - Panama 2 96 99 45 76 85 88 94 76 100 88 48 94 94 73 92 80 43 83 62 61 24 58 83 84 82 81 80 79 78 78 77 77 77 76 76 76 75 74 73 72 70 69 68 67 66 64 modern Panama is. His ocean-view condo is in what he calls the Beverly Hills of Panama where for 300 000 or less you can have the kind of property that would cost 1 million or more in Miami. But elsewhere in ultramodern Panama City you can buy a twobedroom apartment for as little as 85 000. Al is five minutes from Latin America s most advanced hospital the region s only Johns Hopkins affiliate. He is five minutes from several five-star hotels where he enjoys Sunday brunches. The area of downtown Panama City where he lives is home to the famed financial district and to an upscale restaurant district that is First World all the way. Most of all though Al appreciates the people here...he likes that Panamanians are friendly and family-oriented respectful of elders and always happy to lend a helping hand. Thanks to the Panama Canal this has long been a cosmopolitan international destination. Yet for all its modernity it s still affordable. You can live comfortably right in Panama City for as little as 1 500 a month including rent (or mortgage). Plus beyond the city you have easy access--for both visits and living--to coolweather highland communities like Boquete or to Pacific-beach retreats like Coronado. Panama provides excellent overall value. It s not the cheapest place on our Index but if you re looking for convenient 21stentury living you ll find it here at a bargain. In Spain you can get a three-course meal with a bottle of wine for 14. English-speaking services that cater to them. English isn t widely spoken in all of Spain s 17 regions--but you can manage with only a smattering of Spanish in many resort towns along the Costas. And these towns are a great jumping-off point for exploring the rest of the country one of Europe s largest and most diverse Madrid with its world-class museums the vast interior with its endless plains sunbaked villages and spirit of Don Quijote and northern Spain with its rolling green mountains and rocky coast. Spanish health care is good but North American retirees will need private insurance. Annual premiums with a Spanish provider are likely to be around 1 500 for 55-60 year olds depending on your age and medical history. The property market bubble burst around five years ago and prices along the coasts are now down at very tempting levels. In Costa Blanca seaside towns you can pick up a two-bedroom garden apartment for under 100 000. Many expatriates initially rent. Again there are lots of deals around. For example a one-bedroom penthouse in the center of Alicante on the southern coast is 640 monthly. But on the Costa Almer a even townhouses are advertised for around 400 monthly. (For more on Spain see page 8.) 5th Place - New Zealand Wine festivals whale-watching and concerts in the park...mile after mile of coastal walks...geysers glaciers and the Southern Alps. For those who love uncrowded places and a temperate climate New Zealand is one of the world s most liveable countries. Home to around 4.4 million people it s one of its safest too. Divided into the North Island and South island it s known as Aotearoa ( the Land of the Long White Cloud ) to its Maori inhabitants. But there s no need to learn a new language. Generations of immigrants from the English-speaking world have long been drawn to a lifestyle that puts as much emphasis on play as on work. Kiwis see nothing odd about festooning Christmas trees in tinsel when it s rapidly approaching their Midsummer s Day. While the northern hemisphere is wrapped in winter they re enjoying long evenings at the beach or fishing from sailboats. Most towns are near the coast--you re never far from the sound of the ocean. Salaries can be low compared to North America but so are most living costs including health care. For residents accident and emergency care is free. It s estimated that 70% of Kiwis don t even bother with medical insurance. Although New Zealand s immigration department doesn t offer a permanent retirement visa you could spend part of the year here. If you have substantial funds another option is a renewable temporary retirement visa. And some people in their 50s obtain permanent residence as skilled workers with a view to working for a short time and then retiring. 4th Place - Spain From Andalusia s sleepy white villages to Gaud s Barcelona Spain is an ever-popular retirement destination for Europeans and this is the first time ever it s made our Index top five. Some come for the golf and Mediterranean beaches with their 320 days of sunshine. For others it s fiestas flamenco and dreamy Moorish architecture. The cost of living is another attraction. Even for those on fixed pensions eating out doesn t have to be an occasional treat. Not when you can get a three-course meal with a bottle of wine for 14. Most retirees flock to southern Spain s beach towns. The Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol have large expat communities--and Our Global Retirement Index How it Works We consider eight categories to produce our Annual Retirement Index and take data from as many sources as we can find. There s a whole lot of number crunching involved and we look at the official sources including the World Health Organization government websites the United Nations and more. But we re also particular about asking our in-country experts and roving reporters for their feedback on everything from costs to climate. Each category in the Index is given a different weight depending on importance for instance culture is only 10% whereas cost of living is 20%. For more on how our Annual Retirement Index is scored see RetirementIndex2011. SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G 21 INVESTM E N T DIVIDENDS Three Picks that Give You Passive Paychecks By Chris Hunter A chievers aristocrats champions...just some of the names given to companies disciplined and profitable enough to pay out a high dividend yield every year. Dividend champions are particularly attractive if you re nearing retirement or are already retired. That s because on top of capital growth (what happens when the stock price rises) they allow you to create a passive income stream in your account. Most investors don t stray beyond U.S. borders in their hunt for these dividend champions. But there are plenty of great dividend-paying stocks in the fast-growth economies of the emerging world. These offer the best of both worlds big potential for capital growth plus fat dividends. Something you should be aware of is that countries have different withholdingtax rates on dividend payouts. Some can be steep. Malaysia for instance has a withholding-tax rate of 25%. The rate for Turkey is 15%. But there are a number of great overseas investment destinations that don t have a withholding tax at all. These include Argentina Brazil Britain Hong Kong (Local Shares) India Mexico Singapore South Africa and Vietnam. Of course you don t have to stick to this list. If you find a dividend champion in another country you just need to be aware that a withholding tax will affect your payouts. I already recommended in your July issue that you consider buying shares of Brazilian brewer Companhia de Bebidas Das Americas (NYSE ABV). This stock is a great long-term play on Brazil s exploding middle class. And at writing it pays out a dividend yield of 4.5%. But a number of other dividend champions are worth your attention. Here are two more of my top recommendations First up is YPF S.A. (NYSE YPF) an oil and natural gas exploration and production company based in Argentina. Eight million consumers throughout Latin America and Spain buy natural gas from YPF. And the company has interests in proven reserves of over five billion barrels of oil and oil equivalent. At writing YPF has a dividend yield of 7.5% (compared to the S&P 500 average of 2.3%). And Argentina charges 0% withholding tax. If you re looking for a way to play higher oil prices while earning some passive income YPF is definitely worth closer attention. Another great overseas dividend champion is mobile communications company Vodafone Group Plc (NASDAQ VOD). Vodafone is based in Berkshire near London. But it is a truly global player. It has 371 million customers around the world. And it operates in over 30 countries and partners with networks in 40 more. It also has a 45% ownership stake in Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Vodafone gives you a tax-free dividend yield of 5.5% because it s based in Britain which doesn t charge a withholding tax. And management says it aims to raise the dividend by 7% a year through 2013. This means you get dividend growth too. Even better Vodafone has a rock-solid balance sheet. Cash flow per share is 5.05. This compares to the market average of just 1.25. This measures the operating cash flow of a company dividend by common shares outstanding. As I type this stock is selling at a priceto-earnings ratio (P E) of 10.7 relative to a growth rate of 25.7% based on the average three- and four-year historical earnings-pershare growth rates. This is a great way of working out if the company is selling at a fair price. All things being equal the P E ratio of any company that is fairly priced will equal its growth rate. Vodafone s P E ratio is less than half its growth rate--an indication that the market has dramatically underpriced the company s growth potential. This makes Vodafone a great bargain buy right now. Editor s Note Chris has put together a free report entitled 10 Rules to Remember for Overseas Investment Success. To download your copy free see 10rules. IL s Currency Corner By Gary Scott Seven Currencies to Beat Inflation KGHM Polska Miedz is a Polish mining company that mines copper and silver. I hold KGHM Polska Miedz shares in my portfolio because this is one of the largest silver miners in the world (a hedge against inflation) provides a multicurrency play and pays a good dividend. KGHM is the ninth-largest producer of copper and the third-largest producer of silver in the world. Shares of KGHM are backed by copper and silver but pay dividends so you gain income as well as capital appreciation. The KGHM dividend policy is liberal. If profits are over 700 million zloty 50% of profits above 700 million is paid as a dividend. If profits reach 1 700 million the percentage rises to 60% and over 3 700 million 100% of profit above this amount is paid as a dividend. This multi-currency investment gives me a play in the Polish zloty. Over the past five years the Polish zloty has been weak versus the U.S. dollar but the zloty has turned around and has moved upward against the dollar. The trend was clearly seen this last year when from July 2010 to June 2011 the zloty rose from 3.30 zloty per dollar to zloty 2.80 per U.S. dollar. Metals multicurrency investments and emerging markets are good places to invest and protect yourself against inflation. This investment has all three. Gary Scott s latest report on multi-currency investing Cash In Crash is available at 22 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 OF F SH ORE How to Get an Irish Passport and Citizenship By Bob Bauman W e are all Irish today. That s a ritual saying U.S. politicians repeat each St Patrick s Day. They re identifying with the nearly 40 million citizens of the United States nearly 12% of the total who trace their ancestry to Ireland. Indeed many millions of Irish have emigrated to the U.S. beginning well before America s Revolutionary War. Ireland values its foreign sons and daughters. To maintain its ties with them Irish law goes well beyond what Abraham Lincoln once eloquently referred to as bonds of affection and mystic chords of memory. And because of those laws an Irish passport is one of the most sought-after travel documents in the world. In 2006 when asked how many Irish passports were in circulation the Minister for Foreign Affairs told the Irish Parliament that he could not give an exact number but from 1996 to 2005 about 4.65 million were issued. Since adult passports expire in 10 years and children s in three it suggests that at least four million Irish passports are in circulation. In part the large number of passport-holders stems from the doctrine of jus sanguinis which is a principle of Irish nationality law. This doctrine holds that blood lines determine your birthright to citizenship--even when you ve never lived there. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts of 1956 and 1986 govern citizenship in Ireland. These laws confer Irish nationality in the following cases 1) you are born in Ireland 2) your parents or ancestors are Irish or 3) you are married to an Irish citizen. Automatically getting Irish citizenship due to being born there was limited in 2004 by a constitutional amendment. The amendment restricts citizenship to a child with at least one Irish citizen as a parent. Since January 1 2005 birth no longer confers citizenship automatically. Rather the citizenship and residency history of both parents and all grandparents is taken into account. If you were born outside of Ireland and either your mother or father (or both) was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth then you are entitled to Irish citizenship. If your grandparent was born in Ireland but both you and your parents were born outside of the island of Ireland the right to claim citizenship based on having one or more Irish grandparents is simple and direct just as it is when claiming based on a parent(s). There are two circumstances under which a great-grandchild is eligible to apply for Irish citizenship by descent 1) if the parent (the grandchild of the Irish-born person) was Where to Look for Your Irish Heritage It s easier than you think to reveal your Irish roots. Your research begins with your family. Ask questions collect stories check out old photos and search that attic chest or bottom drawer for any documents that might provide some clues. Try and narrow down where the certain length of time you registered before the greatare entitled to unemployment grandchild was born or 2) if compensation health care and the parent (the grandchild of pension rights. the Irish-born person) was Marriage to an Irish citizen registered before June 30 does entitle the foreign spouse 1986 and the great-grandchild to Irish citizenship. To claim was born after July 17 1956. citizenship by marriage you The Irish Consulate in New must 1) be married for at least York explains that the parent three years 2) have one year would need to be registered in of continuous residence in the Foreign Birth Register Ireland immediately which is held at before your the Consulate. application and 3) This is a list of Irish born You could live have been living in Ireland for at least abroad who work and two of the four are entitled years before the one to citizenship travel freely year of continuous because residence. their births in the EU. The most officially were difficult route to citizenship is registered. through permanent residence Aside from joining the in Ireland for a continuous five country of your ancestors there years. After the five years you is a good practical use of an may be entitled to naturalization Irish passport. It entitles the if you are over 18 years old and holder to live work and travel have no criminal record. freely in any of the 27 countries With three photographs in the European Union to proper proof of Irish ancestry which Ireland belongs. and proof of legal residence Other EU countries in the country where you are that issue passports based applying a 10-year renewable on ancestry are Italy Irish passport will be issued in Spain Poland Lithuania due course bearing the stamp Luxembourg and Greece. of Ireland and the European You don t need a work Community. permit and after you work Finding proof of Irish in an EU country for a ancestry can be a problem since many public records were destroyed during the Irish Civil War of the 1920s. family came from in Ireland and Obviously Ireland permits what religious denomination dual citizenship as does the it was. Then you ll know what U.S. It does not require an records to check. oath of exclusive allegiance For a breakdown of what nor does it notify the country records exist where you ll find of origin of its new passport holders. Contact the nearest them online and how to take Irish Consulate or Embassy your research further see for application forms and IrishAncestry. assistance. SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G 23 R EAL ESTAT E A Romantic Corner of France from 92 000 By Steenie Harvey N o not Pie Gut says the man proffering a free morsel of cheese. It s Pee-ay-goo. Well no surprise that my pronunciation of his town is wrong. Although I m here to see real estate what I really want to do is eat. Wednesday is market day in Pi gut-Pluviers a town in the north of Aquitaine s Dordogne d partement. A French country market is a gastronomic Garden of Eden so leaving these stalls of foie gras saucissons and cheeses feels like being cast into the wilderness. To compensate I buy some apricots bursting with the taste of summer. For the Dordogne s inhabitants good food and wine are normal pleasures--they aren t compelled to gluttonize an entire market s worth of produce in a few days. Such luxury could be yours too. Many homes in this tranquil corner of southwest France are downright cheap. Habitable village houses with small gardens start at around 92 000. The Dordogne has a distinct fairy-tale quality stoked with old tales of alchemists and man-eating wolves. Set in a landscape of vineyards and sunflower fields many of its castles have those weird witch s hat turrets that always remind me of Rapunzel. Its villages are of the Goose Girl variety and there are even stalactite caves made for Snow White and her dwarves. Drowsing behind pale blue shutters traditional village houses usually have beamed wooden ceilings. Farmhouses of honeycolored limestone come with steeply-pitched roofs of tawny tiles or Take a picnic and canoe down the Dordogne River past castles and medieval villages. lauze stone slabs. One property I viewed was a 16th-century fermette ( small farm ) with an ivy-covered tower. It s 198 000 but Daniel Benoit the owner of Pi gut Immobilier says an offer of 169 000 would probably be accepted. The house still requires some work--it currently only has three rooms--but it s habitable and should satisfy any romantic s dream. Land amounts to almost two acres. An artist currently owns it and seeing the garden you can tell. Creative dolmens homes for sprites...even a woodland space awaiting the arrival of Brigitte Bardot. The floweriness of the Dordogne s villages is astounding. Sometimes it s a giant splash of blue and pink hydrangea bushes that catches your eye. Cottages that aren t draped in wisteria or climbing rambler roses usually have at least a pot of geraniums. And lavender doesn t only grow in Provence. Near the town of Thiviers St Jean de C le village blooms all the way from its hump-backed stone bridge to its 15th-century chateau. The venue for flower festivals and classical concerts on summer evenings it s officially one of France s most beautiful villages. Quite a few houses here are half-timbered. The Herman de Graaf agency has a well-maintained three-bedroom townhouse with a small garden on the village square for 241 500. But St Jean de C le is something special--an anomaly. In less high-profile villages and rural areas similar properties with gardens go for between 125 000 and 213 000. For decades the Dordogne and its edge-of-a-dream landscapes was a hot location for British buyers. It still is for holidaymakers--I heard plenty of English accents. But times have changed. In some areas prices have fallen by around 25% since their 2005 to 2008 heyday. Here s part of the reason why. For some Britons mortgage payments for a second home in France are proving too hard a stretch in the current financial climate. And for those on fixed retirement pensions sterling s weakness against the euro means their spending power doesn t go as far as it used to. They re willing to bargain. Now the market may be reviving from its recent doldrums. Cate Carnduff of the Hermann de Graaf agency says they ve seen STEENIE S THREE TOP BARGAINS Near Thiviers is a restored village house with a small garden. Living space amounts to approximately 989 square feet. Plus there s a cellar some convertible attic space and an adjoining barn. Price 109 000. You ll find a restored farmhouse of approximately 1 397 square feet with outbuildings a courtyard and a small garden near Jumilhac Le Grand going for 167 000. Near Brant me a modern two-bedroom bungalow with covered patio garage and approximately half an acre of land costs 220 000. And some things to know Property taxes. Count on 1 130 to 1 400 annually The advertised price almost always includes agency fees If you re looking for an apartment T1 T2 T3 etc. refers to the total number of rooms excluding kitchens and bathrooms. A T2 is a one-bedroom. 24 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 visitors is overwhelming and villages like Beynac and Domme (the Acropolis of P rigord) are so architecturally perfect they don t seem quite real. However Black P rigord is quite pricey for buyers seeking country cottages with gardens especially around Sarlat-la-Can da. That said scout around and you may find some village cheapies. Many real estate agencies have offices on and around Sarlat s Av nue Thiers. Immobilier du Futur has a bijou one-bedroom stone house in Domme for 155 500--but there s no garden. One-bedroom apartments in Sarlat start at around 86 500 but price depends on living space. 115 000 is more realistic for one of 580 square feet. Long-term rentals start at 450 per month. Look under louer ( rentals ) on the agency s website P rigord Blanc ( White ) centers around P rigueux and the limestone plain. P rigueux is a historic city with Roman remains but traffic is frustrating. Plus it s ringed by some ugly agglomerations of mega-shopping centers and light industry. Obviously people have to work somewhere but it wouldn t be my choice as a place to relocate or buy a second home. Named for the purple of the grapes P rigord Pourpre ( Purple ) is far more tranquil. I started off my trip in Bergerac-- both a charming medieval town and a wine classification. Its western neighbor is the better-known vineyard country of Bordeaux but wines here can be just as good. Purple P rigord has numerous bastide towns and villages. One an increased interest from Belgian and Dutch buyers over the is Eymet a charmer of stone cottages half-timbered houses the past year. They re buying up both inexpensive village houses with remains of a feudal castle and a traditional Thursday market. In this gardens and luxury properties with substantial tracts of land. part of P rigord few restored village houses with gardens go for much less than 184 000. Eymet is only 16 miles from Bergerac The Lay of the Land airport served by budget carriers from northern Europe. Local The Dordogne is still known locally by its pre-Revolution English-speaking agencies include and Eymetname of P rigord. The province neatly divides into four quarters. They re color-coded black white purple and green. Green P rigord has the best bargains. A land of hills oak From Bergerac s vineyards to the prehistoric sites around Les woods and rivers wrapped around the main town of Nontron it s Eyzies and Montignac few places aren t attractive. Almost every as verdant as its name. It doesn t loop and bend of its web of rivers receive the same weight of visitors as reveals a perched village a medieval the other three colors but it isn t town or the turrets of a chateau. Limo Limoge Limoge lacking in attractions. moge The French and the English I mentioned Pi gut-Pluviers once battled over Aquitaine. The FRANCE FRANCE FRANCE Saint Jean de C le and Thiviers entire region is full of tales of the Pi gut-Pluviers Pi Pi gut-Pl iers Pi gut-Pluviers i gut P r rs P rigord s foie gras capital. But Hundred Years War of the 14th Dordog Dordogne Dordogne og g there s also Brant me a stunner of and 15th centuries. Many towns are Ju Ju ilhac -Gra Jumilhac-le-Grand Jumilhac le- Grand Jumilhac-le-Grand c Gran Ga a small riverbank town. Jumilhacbastide towns--the new fortified N21 N21 T Th viers Thiviers Thiviers r le-Grand has a castle steeped in settlements of the Middle Ages. Brant Brant me Brant me nt me tales of alchemy and gold-panning Laid out in a grid pattern they St Jean de C le t Jean de C le e in its rivers. Excideuil is another usually have an arcaded square with Dronne Dronne nn market town with a castle and links a market at the center. to the Knights Templar. PiegutP rigord Noir ( Black ) is P igueu P rigueux P rigueux N89 9 and Herman de Graaf linked to oak woods and truffles. at are my It takes in important prehistoric Isle Isle Montignac Montigna Montignac ti a recommended contacts here. sites including the Lascaux Caves DORDOGNE DO DOGNE DORDOGNE My initial contact with the Pi gutand some incredibly photogenic N89 Les Eyzies-de-Tayac s Eyzies-de-Tayac Eyzies-de-Taya zies-d Tay Pluviers agency was through Sextantstretches of the Dordogne River. This U.K. agency links Then there s the art city of SarlatB Be gerac Bergerac Bergerac buyers with a network of registered la-Can da with its massive Saturday D dogne Dordogne Dordogne English-speaking estate agents in the market and more heritage buildings Domme Domme o m Dordogne the rest of Aquitaine and than anywhere else in France. Eymet Eymet ym other French regions. The number of castles open to STEPHEN SCHWARTZ iSTOCK SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G 25 E NTREP R E NE U R PRO F IL E provincial town of Tapalque about 180 miles from Buenos Aires. When I got there I fell in love with the place. It needed work but there was a beauty in the surroundings and I saw potential. After what seemed like months of negotiations I finally purchased it and opened the estancia to tourism. Nowadays we run Estancia La Margarita as a traditional working estate and have refurbished it in sympathy with its 19th-century origins (see Estancialamargarita. com). After a few years running the estancia I decided to explore the possibility of growing crops. I had zero experience. But luckily I had made friends in the nearby gaucho town of Tapalque. One of them Mario is an Argentine with years of experience growing wheat and soybeans. We chatted one day over a mate (the Argentine national drink) and we agreed to rent 500 hectares between us with the aim of planting soybeans and wheat. He would supply the know-how and I would provide the investment. That first year taught me a lot. For a start I now know what soy looks like and how it grows. I learned about its enemies such as the insects that like nothing better than to snack on our cash crop. I learned when we needed rain and when we didn t. Our first harvest was a huge success. Many would say it was beginner s luck--we had great rain and plentiful sunshine and even better the price of soy was starting to rise. The day we sold our first crop I opened a bottle of champagne. Argentina offers great opportunities to invest in agriculture. We rented the land for two years and Mario contracted a team to plant and harvest the crops. It s great in the sense that once the crops are in the silos that s it. Argentina is one of the largest producers of soybeans in the world--it has a climate perfect for the crop. As the demand grows so will the profits and I for one will stay involved in soybeans with Mario for the foreseeable future at least. As I write this we have now planted barley on the land we rented and we have already sold the crop to Quilmes a beer company. In November we will plant soybeans again. It s not difficult to find land. Most towns even small ones like Tapalque have landspecialist offices that have clients who want to rent their land. The offices also have contacts with teams who do the work. In fact many of their clients don t even see the crop they just invest with the land specialist and wait for the check. For me it was different in that I wanted to be more involved and see the crops growing and see the harvest but it wasn t necessary. As we stand at the moment we have our investment back and we have our profits in the ground. If all goes well we ll have a payday in December and enough from the barley crop to pay for the planting of the next soy crop. It s a tense time between planting and harvesting and as we know farmers always moan...but it s never dull and can be very profitable. We are also almost certainly going to rent land and plant in Uruguay too. I have a small house in Uruguay which I purchased last year and rent out when I am not using it--it rents well. So we will be doing business in two countries. For more on my Argentine life check out my blog at The author (second from left) takes to the saddle with his gauchos. From British Rocker to Argentine Farmer By David Cummings T S BEEN SEVEN YEARS SINCE I HUNG UP MY trusty Telecaster guitar and left my life in Europe for the blue skies of the Argentine Pampas. It wasn t because my life was bad--it was pretty good. I was a musician and in between my gigs with bands I renovated houses and made a good profit doing it. It s something I still do in Argentina today. I m 58 and originally from London England. But I have lived in Spain France Sweden and the U.S. Seven years ago I decided to try something totally different. I arrived in Argentina just after the country had defaulted on the biggest debt in the world. Although the country was on its knees the spirit of its people wasn t. I remember taking a taxi down Avenida de Santa Fe in Buenos Aires and being amazed. The country was supposed to be in the grip of serious economic crises yet there were hundreds of people in the caf s at 3 a.m. chatting and enjoying themselves. That spirit was one thing that attracted me to the country. The other was the low cost of living. If you want to do some serious sightseeing you can t do much better than Argentina. It s home to some of the finest sights in the world and I spent my first year there exploring them from the stunning Iguaz waterfalls in the north to whale-watching in Patagonia in the south. It was all so cheap In fact I was so impressed by the possibilities (and the values) that I wrote a report about them concentrating mostly on property in Buenos Aires and land in the famous pampas that surrounds it. One day one of the contacts I d made in the region rang me and asked me if I wanted to see an estancia (an estate) for sale in the 26 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G AUGUST 2011 SEPTEMBER 2011 I DAVID CUMMINGS The day we sold our first crop I opened a bottle of champagne. IL s Calendar of Events Ecuador... A Retirement Haven That Has it All... Quito Ecuador November 9 12 2011 W inner of the 2011 Global Retirement Index Ecuador offers sophisticated historical cities...miles of unspoiled sun-kissed beaches...fertile farmland...and temperate mountain hideaways...and all of it for pennies on the dollar. You can live well for a fraction of the cost of living back in the U.S.--your budget here will be reduced to as little as a fifth of what it was. And with Ecuador s official currency the U.S. dollar you needn t worry about complicated currency calculations or exchange risks. And real estate costs They re among the lowest we ve found anywhere in the world. For example you can get a brand-new home one row off the beach with a gorgeous ocean view for just 115 000. And Ecuador is just a four-hour flight from the U.S.--less time than it takes to fly from New York to Los Angeles. If you re intrigued by the benefits our number one retirement haven in the world offers then join us in Ecuador this November for our Live and Invest in Ecuador Seminar. We ll show you the best-value destinations walk you through all the how-to secrets you need to save time money and effort and introduce you to our best contacts on the ground. For more information go to events. Visit Costa Rica Ojochal Costa Rica November 17 20 In Costa Rica s Southern Zone knife-edge mountain ridges curve like a dragon s spine dropping sharply to the coast s long sandy beaches. Rich pristine forests teeming with wildlife cloak the mountain slopes. Yet here you re only three hours from an international airport. It might sound like a pricey fantasy but in fact you can own a lot here for only 40 000. And it s in a place poised to boom. With a new road making access much easier than ever before this region is well positioned to see an influx of tourists and transplants. Prices are likely to rise just as they did along Costa Rica s northern coast. But right now the values remain excellent. You can see the place for yourself on a Pathfinder Chill Weekend. For only 250 you ll get four days here...meals accommodation and transport included. For more information see Southern. This Time Next Year You Could Be Living Your Dream Las Vegas NV October 6 8 VICTOR HUGO VILLAMIL iSTOCK Thailand Through a Lens December 10 16 From the magnificent glittering temples and bustling street markets of busy Bangkok to the vast verdant rice fields elephant farms and enchanting rainforests of Chiang Mai... Thailand is truly a photographer s dream. How better to capture heart-stopping beauty of The Land of Smiles than alongside professional photographers on AWAI s Thailand Photography Expedition. As well as being introduced to the locations to get the best possible shots you ll also get the chance to attend a Thai cooking class and tour the jungle on the back of an elephant. Travel to Thailand this winter on what promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip and you ll be sure to walk away with some breath-taking photos as well as a new appreciation for this beautiful country and culture. For more details and pricing visit phw thailand il. I f money were no object what would your dream retirement look like This fall we ll show you where you can easily make that dream your reality...for 697 (or less) a month. Your own cottage on a quiet apartment in a city vibrant with concerts and caf s...a mountain villa where the air is crisp... Whatever you dream about come with that in mind. And dream big. Because at our Live and Invest Overseas Conference in Las Vegas we ll pinpoint for you on a map the places where you can turn your dream into reality...for a small fraction of what you d pay at home. You ll find about the best-value communities and our favorite finds in destinations like Belize Panama Ecuador Nicaragua Uruguay Costa Rica Argentina Mexico Spain France Ireland and beyond. We ll introduce you to the folks you need to know. You ll hear from our editors flying in from around the world... experts in real estate finance...and from readers like you who are already doing it living better for less in their new homes abroad. You ll have plenty of time to pick their brains about everything from renovating a home to shopping for groceries from wealthprotection strategies to finding good medical care from funding your life overseas to renting or buying that ideal escape. This is our only U.S. event of the year. There s no more efficient enjoyable or cost-effective way to put yourself on the path to the place that s right for you. For more information see LIOSMag. SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G 27 TRAVEL Homes for Under 70 000-- and Other Glittering Prizes of Uncharted Italy By Steenie Harvey I T S THE SCENT OF THE MEDITERRANEAN. THE scent of Italian summer. On a road linking Tuscany to Lazio I gave into temptation and lay in a meadow to revel in the fragrance of earth herbs and flowers. And the colors Acres of corn poppies--a scarlet coverlet embroidered with purple white and gold bouquets. The urge to find some paints and splash the scene onto canvas was overwhelming. The Latin phrase festina lente (make haste slowly) suits the Maremma. It s as if the air compels you to slow down and really savor Italy s sweet life. But why savor it only on vacation A moveinto village house could be yours for 63 000. And consider this You d only be a 90-minute drive from Rome. The Maremma is an old name for southern Tuscany and northern Lazio. Borders aren t definitive but its center is Grosseto province. Although the city of Grosseto itself isn t overburdened with charm everywhere else makes up for it. Drowsing under low hills the Maremma s hinterland is every bit as dreamy as central Tuscany. Threaded with wine routes this is also a realm of stone farmhouses and cypress trees of castles and medieval villages on a blue horizon. Yet relatively few foreign travelers come to explore. Maybe they think nothing exists south of Siena. Much of the coast comes under the Maremma National Park s protection. Veined with spaghetti-thin roads the park is full of birds. I d never glimpsed a bee-eater before but here were flocks of them. With their turquoise breasts and amber wings it was like watching jewels in flight. C Ce n Cecina Cecina Siena Siena San Vincenzo San Vincenzo San Vincenzo nz Populonia Populonia Populonia op Suver to Suvereto uvereto ere r M s sa Massa Massa Mar tt ma Marittima m Marittima Grosseto Gr ss o Grosseto s Isola Isola ol D E ba D Elba D Elba E C Castiglio i Castiglioni Castiglioni ioni de la saia della Pesaia e della Pesaia Saturnia Saturnia turnia ia o se e Pitigl a Pitigliano Bolseno Pitigliano Bolseno glian gl Mancia Manciano Manciano ia a Isola Iso Isola sola de Gigli del Gigl o del Giglio el gli gli Canin Canino Canino no Monte Mo Monte onte Argentario Ar entari Argentario e ar r Ta q nia Tarquinia Tarquinia nia Only a scattering of seaside towns punctuate the undeveloped beaches that stretch for miles between Cecina and Tarquinia in Lazio. San Vincenzo and castle-topped Castiglione della Pescaia were my two favorites. Escaping history is impossible in Italy but I never want to. Maremma was the heartland of the mysterious Etruscans. The echoes of these people are everywhere. Around 6 000 years ago way before Ancient Rome s glory days they were building cities here and necropolises even roadways hollowed from tufa rock. A Sampler of Treasure Towns Famed for its hot springs Saturnia was named to honor the pagan god Saturn. There s a luxurious spa outside the town but I joined locals at a spot called Gorello. There s no charge to use the natural thermal pools here. You ll emerge feeling great and reeking of sulfur but the waterscapes of stepped cascades are surreal. Easy to see why the site was sacred to Romans and Etruscans. (See my video here Saturnia.) Suvereto is a drop-dead-gorgeous walled town where you can discover first-hand--and neck--how miscreants felt when sentenced to punishment by pillory. Along with a dilemma of enticing restaurants gastronomy shops sell wine olive oil and specialties like lentils beans and farra--a grain that goes into winter broths. On via Matteoti Antica Osteria dei Tre Briganti ( Inn of the How to Find the Maremma ITALY ITALY Lago d Lago dii o Bolsena Bols n Bolsena l One reason the Maremma escapes notice is the lack of international flights. There s talk of budget carrier Ryanair commencing flights from other European cities to Grosseto but it hasn t happened yet. For North Americans flying into Rome makes the most sense. Although the Autostrada from Florence to Rome bypasses the Maremma better links to this north-south artery are underway. Depending on the approach route many towns are already within a 90-minute to two-hour drive of Rome Pisa or Florence. During May many people were enjoying the beaches and eating outside was a pleasure. But summer and fall are lovely too--the grape harvest is in September. October brings chestnut festivals mushroom hunts and truffle fairs. Tyrrheni n ea Tyrrhenian Sea Tyrrhenian Sea rrhen Rome Rome 28 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 A rooftop view over the village of Masa Marittima heartland of a hidden Tuscany. You can literally eat history at Trattoria del Moro in Bolsena (Piazza Dante Alighieri). The house specialty is Anguilla alla Vernaccia eel cooked in white wine. In his Divine Comedy Dante sends one Pope to Purgatory for his gluttonous appetite for eels. Buy a Piece of La Dolce Vita Daniele Pettinari of Castrum Tuscany took me to view properties on both sides of the regional border. The agency s seven Maremma offices cover different areas of Tuscany and Lazio. Daniele manages the Manciano branch. (See In general Lazio properties are around 30% less than comparable homes in the Tuscan Maremma. One stop was Cellere a 15-minute drive from Lake Bolsena and approximately 90 minutes from Rome. With only 1 400 inhabitants it has a villagelike tranquillity. The bar on the square holds my record for Italy s cheapest espresso 83 cents. I saw a 484-square-foot house here for 77 000. It s trattabile which means offers are acceptable. Daniele and his Cellere office colleague reckoned the vendor would take 63 000. Houses at this price are usually small but fit the bill as vacation homes. In the town of Canino the owners are seeking 68 000 for a 646-squarefoot house but it requires an additional 17 000 spent on new electrics and flooring. Properties around Lake Bolsena seem very reasonably priced. A 538-square-foot villino similar to a maisonette and with a small garden is 110 000. You could probably shave this down to 103 000--there s little that isn t trattabile. In the Tuscan Maremma prices depend on proximity to the coast. The Mediterranean is still a glittering prize. Manciano s square-foot price averages is 185 but on the coast and Argentario peninsula it s 389 to 519 per square foot. Abitare is an Englishspeaking agency in San Vincenzo a seaside town near Populonia. 321 000 for a 753-square-foot apartment is typical (See Thanks to its thermal springs Saturnia is also a hotspot. So too is lovely Suvereto. Properties here generally fetch 325 to 390 per square foot. Three Brigands ) looked worth investigating. Seeing the menu I had a craving for cinghiale a wild boar stew simmered with olives and served with polenta. With a small carafe of house red my lunch cost 22. Despite the maritime tag Massa Marittima is around 15 miles from the sea. Graced with palaces and gargoyled churches it s the Maremma s art town. Oddities include a medieval mural of a tree hung with phalluses. Annoyingly it was under restoration during my visit but I saw a copy. If such things intrigue you the mural should be on display again by summer s end. The tree s 25 strange fruits dangle from branches snuggle inside birds nests and two women even fight over one implausibly-sized specimen. An Italian academic claims it depicts witchcraft practices. Belief in spellcraft was rife during the Middle Ages. Manciano was another cauldron of activity. It has a curious saying that translates as Manciano the home of witches they re wherever you look. With its houses teetering above a gorge the first glimpse of Pitigliano is like a forgotten fragment of legend. Along with Sovana and Surano it s one of the three tufa towns. It was once known as Little Jerusalem because in the 15th and 16th centuries almost a quarter of Pitigliano s population was Jewish. Reminders of those days still exist in the old ghetto. Take hiking boots if you aim to meander Pitigliano s Vie Cave Etruscan roads hollowed from the rock. Cavern-like in places some were still in use up until 50 years ago by farmers and their donkeys. Populonia is a tiny but perfectly-preserved fortress settlement. The fortress was built with stones from the old Etruscan city (there s an archaeology park here) to defend the coast from Barbary pirates. The drive up to the village gives giddying views over the Gulf of Baratti and its half-moon beach. So allow time for a dip. Across the border in Lazio the Maremma Laziale includes placid Lago di Bolsena. The lake is girdled with medieval villages and stretches of beach for summer bathing. I was with a real estate agent on this day so had little time for poking into the past. But Bolsena village has catacombs under St Cristina s Basilica and a chapel of miracles where it s claimed the communion wafers once dripped blood. VM iSTOCK COUNTRYSIDE COTTAGES I rented one of Agriturismo Peretti s self-catering cottages. Priced at 98 a night it could have slept three. It s handily located for forays throughout Grosseto province. The small towns of Fonteblanda and Magliano-in-Toscana are only a 10-minute drive. Sylvia and Andrea also provide bed and breakfast in their farmhouse-- 91 for doubles. See For me the dolce vita was lolling on the patio at sundown with a glass of Morellino di Scansano the local red wine. Doves cooed in trees the odd lizard scurried across warm tiles. I didn t cook but concocting simple suppers was easy. Even I can t do much damage to salami studded with fennel seeds pecorino sheep s cheese and a tomato and basil salad dressed with pale green olive oil. For more see 29 SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G PR OP ERT Y PI C KS HERITAGE SITE HOMES 230 000 C A SC O VI E J O Panama Casco Viejo is Panama s best known World Heritage site where renovated colonials and mansiones still sit beside dilapidated buildings just waiting to be restored. It s only natural that Panama s vibrant art community would make this area chic-central. For those who live here there is a sense of being here before the masses discover the allure of the tree-lined plazas and Spanish balconies complete with curly-cue grilles. In the heart of Casco Viejo a one-bedroom fully restored colonial condo is for sale. The light-filled apartment is located in Casa Mendez on Fourth Street just steps from Cathedral Plaza and Plaza Bolivar and surrounded by boutiques and caf s. The unit is just over 1 200 square feet and features calicanto stone walls and colorful tile in original colonial patterns. A small garden connects the living room and the bedroom. The elegant building also houses on the ground level Galer a Vida a gallery featuring high-end Latin American handcrafts from Mexico Guatemala and more. For more information email Patrizia 167 000 AKU M AL Riviera Maya Mexico With the powdered-sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Caribbean within reach this two-bed two-bath condo s location is pretty special. But what really makes it stand out is that it is just an hour s drive from Sian Ka an biosphere. The Sian Ka an spans 75 miles from north to south so you could happily spend days on end exploring the pristine beaches and dunes. The range of flora and fauna in the area is one of its key s not unusual for visitors to catch sight of pink flamingos manatees sea turtles ocelots and tapirs. The 969-square-foot property itself is in a five-star resort setting. Those who buy into the development will have free access to lap pools while also having reduced-rate access to the broader resort s pools gym restaurants caf s and other all-inclusive facilities. It s a great way to get the best of both worlds Luxury Caribbean living with nature on your doorstep. For more information see September. RAMIRO BOTELLO 30 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 SUNDOWN001 iSTOCK For information on property for sale from around the world visit ARCO PROPERTIES ANDREA SANCHEZ From 31 900 L A P ED RER A RO C H A Uruguay The jaw-droppingly beautiful Laguna de Rocha makes up part of a 500 000-acre biosphere. Admitted to Unesco s Man and the Biosphere program in 1976 the reserve is home to giant otters and capybara as well as numerous species of wetland birds. The setting is gorgeous with thick pine forests lake views and towering sand dunes. Meanwhile only a sandbar separates the lagoon from the deep-blue ocean. The beaches in the area are the finest in Uruguay. Overlooking the ocean is a private community in-the-making and it s just a third of a mile from the lagoon. The community offers spacious lots (the smallest is a half-acre in size). There are also plans for a nine-hole golf course tennis courts and a series of lakes which will be dotted around the development area. The development area itself is some 225 acres 55% of which is set to remain as green space. For more information see roch. LISA GREENE LEGGETT IMMOBILIER 449 000 MANCHE Baie du Mont Saint Michel France The towering Mont St Michel is a world heritage site and one of the most recognizable landmarks in France. Located on the Normandy side of the Brittany Normandy border this fortified tidal island has been used as a defensive outpost since ancient times. It now draws visitors by the million and has a huge influence on property values around it. This particular property is a 20-minute drive from the Mont itself. The well-presented four-bed detached house is in the name-sake Baie du Mont Saint Michel with three acres of surrounding land. For more information see SEPTEMBER 2011 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G DAVID ILIFF VIA WIKICOMMONS 31 WINDOW ON THE WORLD November in the town cemetery of Santiago Sacatep quez in Guatemala where locals launch giant homemade kites into the sky. Guatemala s Giant Kite Festival By Lucy Brown R 32 I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G SEPTEMBER 2011 LUCY BROWN ED BLUE GREEN yellow...kites wrap around the clouds whispering to the spirits high in the sky. Below earthbound kites of fantasy tower above the crowds and guard the gravestones. In Guatemala--as in Mexico-- people celebrate All Saints Day on November 1 by traveling to cemeteries to honor the dead. They repaint family tombs adorn them with yellow flowers and picnic by the graves. Santiago Sacatep quez about 12 miles north of Antigua in the central highlands is one of the few places that celebrates with a giant kite festival. More than 45 feet across the kites are made of tissue paper stretched over a bamboo framework and bound together with rope and wire. Thousands of people swarm the cemetery many dressed in native Mayan garb. They perch on top of tombs cheering the raising of the giant kites. Locals believe these kites reach up to the souls of loved ones carrying messages from the living. These expensive monster works of art take months to dream up and create. The teams involved compete for cash prizes. Judged on size creativity and originality they depict religious cultural social and political themes. Some enjoy short moments of glory before crashing to the ground amongst the gravestones causing chaos as hordes flee the toppling giants. Others fly victoriously on the wind wing to wing with each other. You can see the spectacle for yourself by booking through a travel agency or Spanish school in Antigua. Or go it alone by taking a bus headed to Guatemala City. In San Lucas (about 20 minutes drive) change for another bus to Santiago Sacatep quez (about 10 minutes). Then just follow the crowds Editor s Note Like Lucy you too can get paid for your travel photos. Find out how at signup workshops. 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E-mail Linda at belizelandoffice EARN DOLLARS SPEND PESOS Looking for leaders who want the DREAM LIFE. 310.961.2749 bradkish2002 35 THE L AST W OR D By Lee Harrison A Victim of My Own Analysis I nternational Living s Retirement Index always brings back fond memories of my own analysis that preceded my first move abroad. My means of choosing a country back then was simple. I only studied the categories on the Index that were important to me and threw out the countries that didn t score well in those areas. Cost of living was high on my list... as were climate and real estate. I didn t particularly care about the ratings for political stability or the ability to get halfprice movie tickets. So I really picked my finalists based on just three or four criteria. Then I visited the prospective winners... and when I got to Ecuador I loved it. So that s where we went. There was no study of macroeconomics no worries about the president s politics no deep analysis of the property market. All I used was a basic checklist of my likes and dislikes and my reaction to the city and its weather. Choosing a house was the same. After a few days of looking we picked one we liked in a pleasant neighborhood...with no real analysis other than the fact that we liked it. And I had no regrets. We loved the country and made a great home there. In retrospect I was fairly ignorant compared to what I know today about choosing a country or a property. And that simplicity of thinking was a blessing. Now let s wind the clock ahead a decade. Since that first trip to Ecuador I ve accumulated a huge body of knowledge experience and statistics that I can use I N T E R N AT I O N A L L I V I N G Moving and living abroad is an adventure not a math problem. to choose a country and a home abroad. I ve gained a far-better understanding of property markets macroeconomics and currencies. So it should be easy for me to pick a home abroad right It s not. In fact having that much information to analyze makes choosing a country city and home almost impossible. Our new place in Medell n is a case in point. Picking the city itself was easy. Once I saw it Medell n was such an overwhelmingly good choice for us that no amount of over-analysis could cloud the issue. But picking a property was another matter. I studied the market extensively and came to the city four times to scout properties. All told I looked at more than 60 condos there--many more than once-- and kept detailed records on about 50 of them. For each one I knew its price and what it cost per square I could accurately compare the value of one to another. I also could statistically compare any apartment to others like it in the same neighborhood...not to mention all of their projected rates of return and rentability quotients. I thought that having all these facts at my fingertips would make the choice a mathematical equation. But it actually made it harder. With so many facts to juggle I couldn t make a clear case for anything. For every potential property there was always some fact out there that argued against it...some flaw that showed itself among the data. For months I was deadlocked by too much information. In the end I cast all the analysis aside. For a place to live I picked the homiest. For a rental property I picked one with a great view in a convenient sought-after location. I finally got back to the basics. I threw out those that didn t meet my basic criteria and then simply picked the ones I liked. Frankly I should know better than to over-analyze. I preach against it all the time when talking to readers but failed to practice it myself. I have a good friend in San Diego who was evaluating overseas locations back when I started in the 1990s. He was having a hard time deciding which country to go to so he sought more information. Newsletters and subscriptions began to pile up in his inbox and on his doorstep as mountains of information poured in. Today he s an unquestionable expert on the subject of living abroad...yet he s further from making his decision than he ever was. He s paralyzed by information overload. No matter which country comes to the forefront some newsletter brings another fact to bear casting doubt on his selection. Now after 14 years it s likely that he (and his accumulated data) will remain in San Diego forever. A good logical analysis of the pros cons and options is an essential step to moving or buying a property abroad. But that same analysis can also be your biggest impediment. And the time spent analyzing is time taken from your new life overseas... time that s gone forever. We all need to remember that moving and living abroad is an adventure not a math problem. So don t be discouraged if no clear winner emerges from your analysis...that s normal and expected. The trick is to take a rough cut and visit your finalists...but then go with your heart. That s the most important criteria of all and it doesn t appear on anyone s index. 36 SEPTEMBER 2011