August 9, 2011

Top 7 Cheap, Easy Foreign Cities to Retire

International Living compiled seven Central and South American countries that are easy to travel to and live in for retirees

With the recent turmoil over the debt ceiling debacle, U.S. debt downgrade and soul-sapping market drops, the idea of finding a cheap and easy country to retire, some might say hide, is a somewhat comforting notion.

(Find out what the Top 7 Foreign Cities are.)

International Living magazine has chosen seven “easy” and affordable foreign cities that make for great retirement destinations. The list, revealed in July, favors Central and South America, and outlines some of the costs retirees can expect to pay should they decide to make the move.

To determine which locales were easy to move to, International Living considered how far a city was from the United States, how easy it was to get many of the same goods and services retirees are used to, and whether it already had an established expat community.

The following slides show seven cheap and easy places for retirees to move to, either full- or part-time, with some sample expenses provided by International Living. Expanded sample budgets are available here.

granada, nicaragua7)  Granada, Nicaragua
Monthly Total:  $2,385

Housing in Granada, the country’s top tourist destination according to International Living, runs between $300 and $500 or a room for suite with a kitchenette. Furthermore, the magazine notes that while the national currency is the cordoba, U.S. dollars are accepted in most places.

Additionally, it’s not hard in Granada to find a doctor who speaks English, and medical care is cheap.

Some sample costs:

  • Renting a luxury two-bedroom apartment): $700
  • Entertainment (dining out eight times a month plus other activities): $275
  • Health care (four $30 visits to a doctor per year for two people): $20

roatan, honduras6)  Roatan, Honduras
Monthly Total:  $2,260

Roatan has over 5,000 foreign residents who spend at least part of the year in Honduras, International Living writes, and the past decade has been one of great growth for the country.

“Honduras has all the makings of an attractive retirement haven—lush countryside with beaches and mountains, a tropical climate, a developing economy, a stable government, international airports, safe cities, friendly people, and, most important of all, a very low cost of living,” according to the magazine.

Some sample costs:

  • Rent on a two-bedroom, 1,076-square-foot house: $1,200
  • Utilities (Electricity with air conditioner, gas and water): $300
  • Health insurance for a couple age 55: $250

lake chapala, mexico5)  Lake Chapala, Mexico
Monthly Total: $2,164

International Living argues that Lake Chapala may be “the easiest place in the world to adjust to life as an expat.” It is less than an hour away from Guadalajara, the country’s second-largest city, and only half an hour from Guadalajara’s international airport. As a result, about 15,000 foreign residents from the United States and Canada live there at least part of the year.

There’s a large rental market, so retirees who aren’t ready to buy a home outside the United States will have plenty of options. There are several health clinics that can cater to day-to-day health needs, but for major treatments, retirees would have to travel to Guadalajara.

Some sample costs:

  • Rent on a two-bedroom home: $800
  • Utilities (Electricity, gas, water, phone, cable TV, Internet): $200
  • Health care (Two people on IMSS insurance, plus $70 per month for incidentals):  $112

old pananma city, panama4)  Panama City, Panama
Monthly Total (based on more expensive housing option): $2,100

Foreigners in Panama can qualify for the country’s Pensionado program, which entitles retirees to discounts on just about everything, according to International Living. They can also get half off closing costs for home loans and are exempted from paying duties on importing or purchasing a car every two years.

With First World “infrastructure, diversity and sophistication,” the move is an easy one to make.

Some sample costs:

  • Rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Panama City: $1,100
  • Utilities (Electricity, gas, water, phone, Internet, cable TV): $350
  • Entertainment for two (Movies twice a month and dinner four times a month): $150

san galapagos, ecuador3)  Cotacachi, Ecuador
Monthly Total: $1,017

Like Roatan, this small highland town in Ecuador has attracted an influx of foreign residents, not all of whom are retirees; International Living writes that families with young children and new residents in their 30s and 40s have also made their way to Cotacachi.

High-speed Internet, cable and satellite television is “everywhere,” according to the magazine and Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar. A survey by International Living of expats living in Ecuador found that it costs about 50% to 70% less to live in Ecuador when compared to a similar standard of living in North America.

Some sample costs:

  • Rent for a three-bedroom apartment in town, or a three-bedroom country home: $300
  • Health care (based on four $30 visits to a doctor per year for two people): $20
  • Water rights (can vary by neighborhood): $2

belize beach2)  Placencia, Belize
Monthly Total:  $1,415 to $1,765

Everyone speaks English and retirees won’t need a power adaptor for their iPods. Those are just some of the benefits to living in Belize. The U.S. dollar is accepted in many places: prices are in Belize dollars, but the exchange rate is easy--BZ$2 are equal to US$1.

Not only that, but getting there is easy. A two-hour flight from Houston will take travelers to Belize City where they can catch a 20-minute flight into Placencia.

Some sample costs:

  • Rent on an unfurnished house: $400
  • Electricity (without air conditioning): $80
  • Internet with landline ($500 deposit plus installation): $80

costa rica cruise ships1)  Escazú, Costa Rica
Monthly Total:  $1,079

Escazu is just a few miles from the capital, San Jose, and is the “poshest and most popular” destination in the Central Valley, International Living writes. Housing can be expensive – the magazine calls it the home of “some of the highest-priced real estate in the valley,”

“Hands down, Costa Rica’s universal health care system is one of the best in the world,” International Living writes, and once retirees establish legal residency they can participate in the system.

Some sample expenses:

  • Rent on a two-bedroom apartment: $500
  • Property taxes: $8
  • Doctor’s visit: $25-$35

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