As Americans and Canadians flock to their new “Promised Land,” in this case, the lovely town of Cuenca, there can be a downside to all that new attention. The ever informative “DiscoverCuencaecuador.com” has a perspective which is much talked about in expat communities — that hordes of expats, particularly Americans, just bring their own existing problems to their new homes. This article at http://www.discovercuencaecuador.com/2013/09/cuenca-ecuador-has-been-discovered.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LivingFrugalHappyAndFree+%28Discover+Cuenca+Ecuador%29 is a cautionary note about the old tried and true about economics. Ecuador reportedly is not the only Latin American country watching the fast growing “Gringolands” pricing new housing out of the range for the average local and causing some resentment from the locals. The one plea one reads over and over at different blog sites is, “Please don’t happily pay high prices for housing that raise the prices for everybody.” “It’s tempting when you read of three bedroom/two bath houses going for $600…but just remember that locals usually pay half that for that type of property! In fact, if you’re thinking about renting in Cuenca, you should subscribe to the wonderful www.http://300dollarcuencarentals.blogspot.com/ which lists proerties at the local rate. Amazing bargains!
As Americans and Canadians flock to their new “Promised Land,” in this case, the lovely town of Cuenca, there can be a downside to all that new attention. The ever informative “DiscoverCuencaecuador.com” has a perspective which is much talked about in expat communities — that hordes of expats, particularly Americans, just bring their own existing …View full post
I just found an interesting article in www.seniorplanet.org, an excellent Boomer-targeted site. “Boomer Travel Trend: Couchsurfing for Grown-Ups.” The writer says this is a great way to explore the world through a free, global network of willing hosts.” Just shows that when you think you got a subject down, up pops something new. According to …View full post
If you are considering immigrating to Ecuador, the highly informative www.gringotree.com has just posted a lengthy description of the immigration process. “Obtaining Ecuador Residency in Cuenca, August 2013,” by poster Dr. Alan Woods gives a very clear description, including names of officials and individuals to contact. While this is certainly just one person’s experience, it …View full post
A very good site, Cuenca High Life consists of articles about local goings on in Cuenca, Ecuador. Part of this website, Gringo Post contains blogging posts by those living in Ecuador, plus a number of really good articles for those still figuring how to shorten their list of possibilities. In the latest, travel writer Kathleen …View full post
I’ve been planning a few trips of my own to continue my expat. research. No matter what country you’re researching, it’s certainly an expensive research project…but, as mentioned in all of the really good expat sites, going to the country first is absolutely the best way to avoid the disappointment so many feel when they …View full post
I just found an interesting article in www.seniorplanet.org, an excellent Boomer-targeted site. “Boomer Travel Trend: Couchsurfing for Grown-Ups.” The writer says this is a great way to explore the world through a free, global network of willing hosts.” Just shows that when you think you got a subject down, up pops something new. According to the article, “Thanks to the phenomenon known as couchsurfing, you can get yourself connected to some 6 million people in 100,000 cities throughout the world who are happy to welcome you into their home for at least one night and take you out on the town. They are members of Couchsurfing.org, a social network of people interested in getting to know fellow travelers. Members are both host and traveler in a system that allows them to take advantage of free places to stay and/or local “friends” who’ll show them around. If you’re not quite ready to make a permanent jump outside of your country, maybe short term houseswapping is a potentially inexpensive travel option. You an see the whole article at http://seniorplanet.org/couchsurfing-for-grownups-much-more-than-a-place-to-stay/. Have fun!
If you are considering immigrating to Ecuador, the highly informative www.gringotree.com has just posted a lengthy description of the immigration process. “Obtaining Ecuador Residency in Cuenca, August 2013,” by poster Dr. Alan Woods gives a very clear description, including names of officials and individuals to contact. While this is certainly just one person’s experience, it does seem that the process is not nearly as onerous as some countries.
The post begins with, “It took only 20 working days to go from submission of immigration paperwork to the delivery of my Ecuador cédula, thanks to the efficiency and personal service of the Cuenca immigration office.” Let’s hope this is true for all expats. Just remember that, at best, the process is only as good as the quality of the paperwork preparation. Good luck!
A very good site, Cuenca High Life consists of articles about local goings on in Cuenca, Ecuador. Part of this website, Gringo Post contains blogging posts by those living in Ecuador, plus a number of really good articles for those still figuring how to shorten their list of possibilities. In the latest, travel writer Kathleen Peddicord, discuses two “hot” retirement places: Cuenca and Medillin, Colombia. What’s important re, is that it suggests quite a number of ways an Exoat-in-Training might judge a possible new home. I’m always amazed by the complaints of expats who have moved to Cuencs, but apparently are surprised that it rains a lot there. If rainy weather is a turn off to them, they could have very easily found out about the weather before investing time and money in an ill-conceived move. So much for my pest peeves! Back to this source. While Ms. Peddicord does write for “Live and Invest Overseas,” much of her writing rises above the usual “live like a king” silliness of most investment e-newsletters. Below is a taste of her article. You can see the rest at http://www.cuencahighlife.com/post/2013/06/22/Cuenca-and-Medellin-Colombia-vie-for-top-honors-as-South-American-expat-hotspots3b-how-do-the-two-compare.aspx
“Cuenca, Ecuador, and Medellin, Colombia, are two of the top retirement options in Latin America right now. Which is better? Which one might be the right place for you to think about retiring overseas? Trying to answer those questions requires drawing some comparisons.
Both of these cities enjoy great weather, with no bugs, all year. Living in either place, you wouldn’t need to use heat or air conditioning, a big help with monthly utility bills.
That said, the weather is not the same in these two cities. Medellin is warmer, with daily highs averaging around 81 degrees Fahrenheit, lows in the 60s, and minor seasonal variation. In Cuenca, monthly average highs vary from 65 to 71 degrees, depending on the time of year, and nightly lows are likewise correspondingly lower.
Medellin sees more rain (66 inches annually versus 29 inches in Cuenca). At the same time, Medellin sees more sunny days, on average, annually, than Cuenca.
Does either of those descriptions qualify as “perfect weather” for you? As with all retire overseas factors, it’s a matter of your own preferences.
Residency is fairly easy to establish in both Colombia and Ecuador, with low thresholds for visa qualification in both countries. In Colombia, the pensioner’s visa requires an income of just under $1,000 per year, while in Ecuador the level is even lower, at $800 per year. For an investor-type visa, Colombia’s options start at around $34,000, while Ecuador requires but $25,000.
Colombia’s visa, however, is quicker and easier to obtain, with fewer documents required. Also, Ecuador imposes some restrictions on your travel during your first two years of residency in that country, while Colombia imposes no such restrictions at any time.”
Check this out and have fun applying some of her points to a few of your own possible new homes.
I’ve been planning a few trips of my own to continue my expat. research. No matter what country you’re researching, it’s certainly an expensive research project…but, as mentioned in all of the really good expat sites, going to the country first is absolutely the best way to avoid the disappointment so many feel when they dash off to another country to live without doing due diligence. I ran across a really good article on one of my favorite sites: www.discovercuencaecuador.com. The excellent June 19th article, “How to Get Discounts on Flights to Ecuador and within Ecuador” focuses on Ecuador, but gives invaluable information for researching flights to many other countries. Take a look.
One of the best steps to your first expat research projects is blogging…but all blogs are NOT equal! Many exist simply as passive income for the blogger. I’ve got NO problem with bloggers making money from their sites, but their met needs may not be your own. If you notice that expat blogs regularly cite international investment newsletters, beware. Many of these so-called newsletters are merely ad platforms for other businesses, particularly real estate ventures. While researching Belize, we found an international investment newsletter which touted a one-week conference where customers could “LEARN ALL ABOUT BELIZE AND ITS OPPORTUNITIES.” We went as far as reserving a space. Then we realized that we could do just as well, traveling to the country, setting up appointments with banks, realtors and just plain folks. Since Belize is an English speaking country, once we did visit, we did not lack for interesting (and some NOT so interesting!) expats who shared their stories in local gathering places. Equally as important, these people had no financial interest in being friendly. Some of the packaged conferences put on by expat sites are often supported by kick-backs of the speakers to the site. Nothing wrong with this, but it usually means you’re getting one type of view. So, if you’re not quite sure where to begin, I’ll be listing online resources I’ve been following.
The current darling of the expat community is Ecuador. Some of this is marketing…which leads to online “buzz…” which leads to scads of NorteAmericano expats visiting and moving there. The beautiful little city of Cuenca, currently gets th highest percentage of expats, with the large center of Quito a second favorite spot. If you want a wonderful first-person account of the plans and fledgling experiences of an expat in Ecuador, subscribe to http://www.ecuadorgeorge.com. George’s sometimes painfully account his move, from thought to actually living there is priceless — as both entertainment and expat research. His most recent blog, “So, you want to Retire in Cuenca Ecuador” demystifies many of the over-the-top claims existing on other sites, particularly the investment newsletter. But, it also pointedly explains the benefits of the place. Case in point:
- It will cost at least $1000 a month to live in Ecuador (You cannot live on $600 per month). When I say live, I mean more than just exist. Living means seeing a show now and then, eating out once in a while, living in a place that has walls and a roof. Having internet access and satellite TV. Maybe hot water for your morning shower would be nice. Rents and real estate prices are going up. Be aware of these things. Arriving with not enough money will turn your dream into a real nightmare.
- You really need to speak a little Spanish in order to relate to the locals. Learn how to order food and how to ask directions. Take a class for goodness sake.
- The residency Visa process is not a piece of cake. It will be tedious and frustrating. Get help if you need it.
- Learn about the local culture and respect the local culture. Don’t expect to find some little USA when you move here. This is Ecuador.
- Calm down, slow down, and quiet down….. Do not bring that ego and “better than everyone else attitude” with you. Arrogance is a very unattractive trait. You will be a guest in this country, so try to act that way.
- Rent for the first year. Ecuador is a big country. There are beautiful coastal towns like Manta (pictured below) and beautiful mountain communities like Quito or Cuenca Ecuador. Do not buy property right away. Slow down. Look at everything first. Get a feel for this place.
- If you think that those International Magazines you are reading are telling you the whole truth, think again. A lot of them are selling seminars, books, and real estate. Get your info from more than just one or two sources. Read local blogs and get in touch with some of the local groups on Facebook. Talk to people who are living in Ecuador. Be careful.
- You must visit before you move to Ecuador. If you cannot afford to visit Ecuador then you cannot afford to live in Ecuador.
- You have choices. Ecuador is not the be all end all place. There are a lot of great places in the world to live. Keep your mind open.
And remember, these observations come from a expat who has gone through the process, not an international investment counselor. Have fun with this one.
I ran across an interesting and very helpful blog expatting. Expat Daily News is a blog from www.escapefromamerica.com, one of the very few expat e-newsletters which I can stand reading. Yes, they do tend to list the financial reasons for moving, but, to be honest — isn’t that a large reason we are looking to make the move? On the other hand, they do try to profile expats who have made the move “warts and all.” Susan Beverley’s blog: www.expatdailynews.com is a wealth of considerations and observations. Her newest and somewhat humorous submission, “Why Expats Can’t Run and Hide” contains many of the considerations we’ve been discussing here. One extremely useful suggestion is that the expat-in-training review his/her reasons for escaping and make sure they’re not really tying to escape from themselves. In other words, one’s baggage at home will just become one’s baggage in the new home. You can read the whole thing at http://www.expatdailynews.com/2013/05/why-expatriates-cant-run-and-hide.html. You might also wan to check out www.escapefromamerica.com. As always, happy reading!
I’m sitting on the 45th floor of the Palazzo Casino Hotel in Las Vegas. I’m looking out over endless rush hour highway veins, parking lots and mega-hotels like Treasure Island busying themselves to delight the tourists with fake pirate sea battles, fake Venice canals, fake streets of Paris and real smog. Regardless what others are hoping for, this ain’t for me. While in my earlier posts I joked about being disappointed that I’m no pioneer woman, I’m no wealthy American dowager-in-training either. What’s that mean in terms of an potential expat environment? Well, of the large world cities, it does seem difficult to find where I’d be happy. There are so many countries which have celebrated their developing status by building a megaloposis. And in so many of those countries, the choice for a living environment seems to be either in a huge city or in a rural environment. Forget the suburbs where one might enjoy peace and quiet, but be able to enjoy the big city benefits after a short drive. That remains a Western, and mainly American, concept. Take Chile. According to Wikipedia, about 85 percent of the country’s 15.1 million population lives in urban areas, with 40%, or 5.6 million people living in Greater Santiago alone. The next largest cities are Concepcion with 861,000 and Greater Valparaiso with 824,000. This is not the profile of many American states like California, New York, Ohio or Florida which essentially are systems of large, medium and small cities separated by suburbs. The choice is huge in these areas: Large, congested areas like New York City or Dallas Texas where one can get anything, smaller and culturally rich towns like Santa Clara where the benefits of San Francisco, California are only one hour away. Check out some of the tiny cities in the U.S. and you’ll likely find a Walmarts, Krogers, or CVS Pharmacy there. Living in South America or Africa may require giving up such benefits of American life you’ve enjoyed for the peace of a small village where buying s dishwasher may be a big deal. Not understanding this is often at the seat of the unhappy return to the US for many expats. That’s why visiting the proposed new home before the big move is so important. Reading and blogging is no substitute.
If you want comfortable, small town life, Europe is still the safest bet. Australia also has that system of suburbs that may please you, but the cost of living is actually higher there than in many American cities. If suburbs are what you want, start surfing the web and remember to include this word with whatever city name you’re eyeing. It’s also a good idea to sign up on blogs such as http://www.expat-blog.com and ask for comments from those living in the suburbs. Go ahead and look at those shakey YouTube videos of the places that interest you. Have fun and take your time with this most important planning component of expat life!
To help you select a few countries under consideration for moving to, I turned to the wonderful www.expatistan.com. This website compiled figures based on food, housing, clothing, transportation, personal care and transportation. These figures are both shown as an average and also broken down into these seven subheadings. What I really like about the site is that the figures are drawn from submissions emailed by real people living in the specific cities. If the site doesn’t have enough figures for, say, toothpaste in Sao Paolo, their folks ask people living in that city to tell them what they spend. This method screens out all the financial newsletters which draw their figures from governments or business sources. Anyway, here are a few comparisons between cities abroad and in the USA and Canada:
Cuenca, Ecuador is 43% cheaper than Reno, NV
San Jose, Costa Rica is 6% more expensive than Montreal, Canada
Sydney, Australia is 89% more expensive than Austin, Texas
Sydney, Australia is 9% more expensive than New York City!!
Rome, Italy is 28% cheaper than New York City
Belize City is 8% more expensive than Detroit, Michigan (surprise!)
Sao Paolo, Brazil is 36% more expensive than Kansas City.
Tokyo, Japan is 43% more expensive than Las Vegas, NV
Christchurch, New Zealand is 5% more expensive than Chicago, IL
Cape Town, S. Africa is 36% cheaper than Las Vegas, NV
Melbourne, Australia is 56% more expensive than Atlanta Georgia
Copenhagen, Denmark is 87% more expensive than Rochester, New York
Looking these up was so much fun and also surprising. The main reason for the high cost-of-living for some island countries, such as beautiful New Zealand, is because of their isolation from manufacturing sources. That lovely farm house you got for a song, may really cost to import the furnishings or farm machinery you need. Cuenca, Ecuador is currently the darling of the expat community; Cuenca is also 2,350 to 2,550 feet above sea level and the lovely mountain views may not agree with the lungs of an expat with emphysema. While these figures should not be the method of deciding where to move, they’re a good jumping-off point. Add to this, the degree of difficulty of legal residency, the weather, the tax issues for expats in that particular country, the ease of bringing in your beloved pets, work possibilities etc., etc., etc.
While this may read like a “stay-put” ad, it’s not. It’s just meant to stress the need for due diligence before you make the BIG MOVE. How to start??? Well, for me, I’m making a list of those attributes which are deal makers (or breakers). How about weather? If you must have hot weather, cute Cuenca in, yes SOUTH America, is not for you. A simple Wikipedia search shows that record high temperatures are about 80 degrees and that it rains about 189 days a year. A Big Hint here: Cuenca is actually SUB-tropical with high elevation. The closer you go to, yep, Antarctica, the cooler and wetter the climate may be. Start your Must Have lists and begin surfing the web. Happy hunting!
Thought I’d share the evolution of an almost expat today just to illustrate the good — and bad of expat planning. Two years ago, we both decided for different reasons that we did not want to continue living in the US. We’d been watching a whole series of HGTV’s House Hunters Int’l. and were intrigued by tiny Belize. Per Wikipedia:
Belize is located on the north eastern coast of Central America. It is the only country in the area where English is the official language, although Kriol and Spanish are more commonly spoken. Belize is bordered to the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Belize possesses the lowest population density in Central America. It’s population growth rate of 3.15% (2012 est.) is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the western hemisphere. Belize’s abundance of terrestrial and marine species, and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place within the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
What we liked was that:
1) English is commonly spoken, especially by most businesses an government offices,
2) The legal system is British Common Law,
3) the fiscal system LOVES the US Dollar,
4) it’s warm and moist,
5) the cost of living is low, with a stable economy, and our savings seemed safe.
What’s not to like? We booked a flight, arranged some hotel stays, discussed an itinerary and put together a two-week visit. We drove through some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen — palm tree-dotted mountains, unbelievable green, wonderful Mayan ruins. I could go on forever…but won’t. The important thing is that we loved what we saw and were more than ever leaning towards making Belize our new home. We returned, all abuzz, and I began culling our furnishings so we could make the move easier. We had not yet decided where to live in this small (but extremely diverse) country, so we booked another trip to meet with realtors and people who could help us nail down an area. Though we spent some lovely time in the northern area, Corozal, and in the much publicized, GORGEOUS Barrier Reef area (this is the Belize shoreline with the beautiful swaying palm trees you see on HGTV), we’d decided that the internal Cayo District, where San Ignacio is the main city, seemed like our best area. We saw great houses for sale and were guided by a realtor who has been feature in House Hunters Int’l a lot.
I think I was the first to start being a little more critical. Some observations:
San Ignacio’s streets are hardly paved and very hilly. When it rains, as it does a lot in the Summer, the roads can become hard to navigate. Most people have 4-wheel-drives and/or trucks to get around. Consequently, I started imagining getting to and from a lovely hilltop home we’d just bought…in the rain…on a probably unpaved road…hmmm. We also visited a much-touted eco-development being built outside of San Ignacio. It sounded terrific on paper and we were really impressed with the developer. But, it was nowhere near completion. And as is very common with these developers, there was a huge discount for those optimistic enough to reserve their homes by giving developers money up front. We had NO problems with this practice. But we were not sure we wanted to part with our money at this stage. I do wish the developer well, though. As for culture – I don’t remember movies, or concert halls. I saw tiny, cute library. Shopping: Well…there are a few stores in San Ignacio. Most are touristy places with tee-shirts, tennis shoes, and — well…touristy stuff. There are no real supermarkets. There are a lot of small grocery stores which are like AM/PM’s. Milk comes in a box, there are few wines (bad for me!), the beer supply is controlled partially by the government, so Belkins is the main beer available with a smattering of Guinness stout which does not seem to resemble what we’re used to (bad for my husband!). The quality of meat is not great, the typical Belizean meal is either fried or stew-like…not bad, but nothing to write home about. There were a lot of interesting outside markets with a selection of produce, but we found the quality of this mostly organic produce not-so-great. On the good side, because San Ignacio is considered a main city, there is fairly good WiFy and a variety of ethnic restaurants, where we had the best food. Most people use cell phones, so this was easy. Again, the banking was quite easy because of the connection with the US Dollar. The people are friendly and I had no sense of crime — although I was told that the seaside Belize City is where most of the crime takes place. On the REAL bad side are the huge numbers of street dogs. They belong to nobody who care about them; they are often hungry, dirty and taking care of this season’s batch of puppies. Now, in truth, this attitude towards dogs is quite common throughout Mexico, Central and South America. I’m a huge dog fan, volunteering for shelters. I’m also a big softy and had great trouble with this.
Long rant, but here’s my revelation: I’d return to Belize in a second, but only as a tourist. I’m more of a City Gal than I thought I was! While I don’t want crowding, I want convenience. I want to be able to buy what I need fairly easily. This was a huge disappointment — that I wasn’t the pioneer woman I thought I was. But here’s the point — THIS WAS INVALUABLE EXPERIENCE. It’s helped me focus more on those places which supply these things I honestly find important. It doesn’t matter that I’m not a 25-year-old jungle explorer…or a diving fanatic (great place for that!). I am who I am. Now, as we look into other areas, we have a better, more honest list of living requirements. My strong advice is that, unless you’re being transferred for a really good job abroad, VISIT FIRST before you decide on your move. And imagine, not as a tourist, but as a homemaker, going about your daily tasks. Don’t be ashamed because you need something more upscale; just find what suits your needs. This approach may stem the tide of Yanks who naively dash off to the paradise-du-jour, only to become disenchanted, return home and bad-mouth the country their almost-new-home.