Why San Miguel is the Best City to Retire to in Mexico!


By San Miguel Vacation Villa

We are always extremely honored to call San Miguel ‘home.’  To give you an insider’s view on what our city may be the BEST PLACE TO RETIRE IN MEXICO, we are borrowing content from a well-respected and highly successful local Realtor, Dotti Virdargus.

Here’s her personal point of view, which we fully support:

The town of San Miguel has been consistently named one of the best places to retire to or visit. San Miguel is a popular retirement spot for Americans and people from the rest of the world as well. There are many reasons why this jewel in Mexico is the perfect retirement location no matter where you are from. Listed below are ten reasons why many people retire in this delightful colonial town.

  1. Cost of living- The cost of living in San Miguel is much lower than the cost of living in the U.S. It costs around one fifth of the price to rent or own a home in Mexico, compared to the USA, and living expenses are around one fourth of the cost in comparison.
  2. Weather- The weather in this Mexican region is nice almost every day of the year. With blue skies and plenty of warm sunny days, this is the perfect location for people who want to get away from the cold.
  3. Domestic Help- In Mexico, retirees can afford good domestic help, such as a maid and cook, and still live cheaper than in the United States. Instead of spending time cooking and cleaning, a small price will take care of this for you, and there are always plenty of domestic workers available at a great low price.
  4. Population- The population of San Miguel de Allende is friendly, warm, and helpful. Many speak the English language, as well as Spanish, so communication is normally not a problem for retirees here, and there are plenty of new friends to be made.
  5. Activities- San Miguel offers a lot of activities for retirees, whether they are active nature lovers or interested in things to do that are less active physically. There are shops and historic places to visit, horses to ride, and many beautiful and exciting things to see and do.
  6. Scenery- San Miguel is located in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the world. From the mountains in the background to the antique villas, buildings, and architecture, the scenery is this quaint Mexican town is exquisite.
  7. Location- San Miguel is a popular location with retirees, and visitors, because it is located close to many other attractions, but retains the Old World quality and culture. The border between Mexico and the U.S. is not far away, and there are many other towns and cities, as well as natural scenery and historic sights, to see in the surrounding areas.
  8. Modern Conveniences- San Miguel offers modern conveniences, such as wireless capabilities, phone service, running water, and electricity.
  9. Safety- San Miguel de Allende is a very safe place to live, whether you are from Mexico or the United States. The crime rate is very low, and there are many retirees who already live here because it is one of the safest places to live in the entire world.
  10. Festivals and Culture- San Miguel has more festivals through the year than almost any other city in Mexico. This location offers many colorful and enriching culture and tradition for both residents and visitors.


Original Source: http://bit.ly/2fxB15n

Mexican doctors ranked among the 50 best countries in the world: survey


By El Sol News

According to a survey by The Lancet, specialists have placed Mexican medical providers in position #48 of their global ranking….

According to the latest health ranking prepared by specialists of the British medical journal The Lancet, Mexico ranks 48th out of 188 countries for the best health professionals worldwide. This list includes nations from virtually the entire planet.

The methodological line developed by The Lancet includes, among other things, the progress and development of each of the nations subject to the present study according to 37 indicators related to:

  • The human development index;
  • Number of health professionals per 100 thousand inhabitants;
  • Quality of health services;
  • Main causes of death;
  • Most common risk factors among the population, etc.

Likewise, this ranking was adjusted to comply with the goals set by the United Nations (UN) in the so-called Sustainable Development Objectives (ODS) projected for the year 2030.

The Top Ten of the ranking includes:

  1. Singapore
  2. Iceland
  3. Sweden
  4. Norway
  5. Netherlands
  6. Finland
  7. Israel
  8. Malta
  9. Switzerland
  10. Great Britain

According to the publication, Mexico is in the 48th place behind nations like Panama (47th) and Cuba (38th) as shown in the following tabulator. The last place in the ranking is occupied by Afghanistan, with the worst doctors in the world.

Original Source : http://bit.ly/2x1thnz

Is Mexico Still a Safe Retirement Haven for Boomers?


By Al Kernek | Baby Boomer Life Boat

Mexico has several attractive communities where thousands of American Boomers have found low-cost, comfortable retirement. However, those considering retirement there have a real concern about security in the midst of the country’s ongoing drug violence. Has Mexico become a narco country controlled by drug lords?

In fact, a 2015 Congressional Research Service report estimates at least 80,000 people have been killed due to organized crime related incidents since 2006. Despite this figure, several leading publications still endorse Mexico as a retirement haven for Boomers living on a tight budget.

According to AARP: A quick word about crime and safety in Mexico: Yes, it’s extremely dangerous in the cities bordering the United States and a few places elsewhere. Mexico, however, is also nearly three times the size of Texas, and most of the country is reasonably safe and secure, especially resort areas and tourist destinations.

This assessment is echoed by other knowledgeable authorities about retirement in Mexico. Yes, there are areas of Mexico one should avoid. And when traveling within Mexico, it is best to read the U.S. travel advisories first. Otherwise, as Kathleen Peddicord notes: “Mexico is, perhaps, your best [retirement] choice if you seek an adventure overseas with all the comforts of home.”

I discussed the issue of security in Mexico with a friend recently who has spent considerable time there. He feels that the expatriate communities are safe from the drug violence. In fact, he felt that retirees are physically safer there than in most U.S. cities. However, caution when traveling inside Mexico is urged, especially to avoid certain areas known for violence. There is also crime – mostly theft – and government corruption (“la mordida,” the bite, aka bribes). Moreover, since Americans have so much more than most Mexicans, one must be careful to avoid being scammed. But that’s just comes with the landscape south of the border.

For Baby Boomers, there are lots of good reasons to evaluate Mexico for retirement. Over one million expats live there, English is almost a second language, one can live well on a tight budget, they have an outstanding low-cost healthcare system, and many expat communities are almost like living in the U.S. One just needs to be safety conscious and exercise caution, much like we do in the States.


Why Expat Retirees Feel Like They’re in 1950s America

why expats

By Chuck Bolotin | Next Avenue

I’m seeing a yearning of many people around my age to return to a simpler time, like when we were growing up. My evidence: the hundreds of interviews I’ve done for Best Places in the World to Retire and the studies we did in which we asked expats about their lives abroad.

Interestingly, many Americans and Canadians have not only moved abroad partly to search for a life reminiscent of an earlier time, but quite a few tell me that they’ve found it — and in some very unlikely places, including Mexico, Panama, Belize and Nicaragua.

Here’s what they told us:

Less Government Involvement

It may sound odd that the government in countries considered to be socialist would have less government involvement than in the U.S., but in the day-to-day lives of the locals, it’s true. Whether these governments would want to be more involved or not, they simply don’t have the resources to do so. That means locals find themselves doing some things that the federal and state governments often do in the United States.

“Having the government less involved creates an entirely different dynamic than north of the border,” explains Dr. Santiago Hernandez, formerly from the Chicago area and now practicing in Ajijic, Mexico, on Lake Chapala. “If there’s a problem, most locals don’t expect the government to fix it, so they either live with it or fix it themselves. This creates more community cohesion and a feeling of involvement and belonging.”

While this is true of locals, it is even truer among expats, especially the “fix it themselves” part.

In every location we cover at Best Places in the World to Retire, expats have formed charitable organizations completely independent of any government, for everything from spaying and neutering animals to beach cleanup to providing a library for local school children, as Daryl Bushnell helped to do in Granada, Nicaragua when he helped create and fund Puedo Leer (“I can read”).

This is one reason why many locals are so grateful and happy to have expats live among them; it is natural for their new neighbors to help. And they are doing so in a place that not only needs their help, but where they can see the results firsthand, very intimately and frequently immediately. Expats have told me they find this very rewarding.

The Family Is Supreme

Many expats have also told me that, as life in America becomes increasingly busy and disconnected, there has been a reduction in the importance of the family. But where they now live, they say, is more “like it used to be.”

Expats see entire extended, multi-generational families together constantly, whether having a barbeque at the park or working, perhaps at a small, family- run business, with everyone from grandma to the grandkids working side by side. Many times, the young children are the ones handling the money (which they’re surprisingly good at!) in between doing their homework.

The children, I’ve been told, are more needed and seem to have more of a sense of belonging and self-worth than many north of the border.

Elders Are Respected

The expats also talk about a respect for the elders that they rarely see anymore in America or Canada.

James David Audlin notes that every morning, when he gets on the bus in Volcan, Panama, everyone greets him with “Buenos dias.” After he boards and someone new comes on, Audlin joins the welcoming committee. He likes that.

When my wife and I are eating at a restaurant in Mexico, it is not at all unusual for other diners to engage us, as total strangers, and say a simple, “Buen provecho” (“Enjoy your meal”). It’s bad manners not to do that there.

When I visited the Philippines a few years ago, I witnessed and took part in a beautiful tradition. Whenever one of the children would enter a multi-generational gathering, they wouldn’t just start playing with their friends. Rather, the child would first go to each adult, take the adult’s hand, and place it on the boy’s or girl’s forehead and ask for a blessing, which the adult would provide. Only after the child did this with each adult would the youngster then go play with the other kids.

I found it very nice to be in this environment. Remember when we were children and entered a room, we would acknowledge adults first, in our own cultural way?

Were “the olden days” better in every way for every person, including minorities? Of course not. Are there other ways that life north of the border is better than south of the border? Of course there are. Do local family members sometimes work together because they need the money? Yes, many probably do. Are the larger cities south of the border becoming more like ones in the U.S. and Canada? In my opinion, regrettably, yes.

However, if you long for the sense of community, respect and family you recall growing up, you’ll find lots to appreciate and enjoy about life today in the popular expat destinations of Mexico, Panama, Belize and Nicaragua.


Retire Overseas: Follow the Coffee Trail to Your Perfect Climate


By Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher | International Living

If you’re looking for the perfect climate in which to make your retirement home…take our advice and follow the coffee trail. Because the same conditions that makes for great coffee growing also make for great year-round living.

It’s all about elevation, latitude, and a good blend of rainfall and sunny days.

For instance, near the equator, coffee grows best at elevations of 3,600 to 6,300 feet above sea level. In subtropical regions on either side of the equator, elevation requirements range from 1,800 to 3,600 feet above sea level.

In both areas, the cool (but never too cold) rainy, and warm, dry seasons must be well defined, so that the coffee beans can flower and grow during one season…and mature and be harvested during the other.

And when this perfect climate emanates from a scenic locale that also happens to be ultra-affordable, it’s the perfect combination for a top-notch retirement destination.

Here are our top six picks for excellent, perfect-climate, coffee-growing areas where you can live a great retirement lifestyle:


You’ve likely been to Mexico, or know somebody who has. Millions and millions of tourists each year safely visit its gorgeous world-class beaches. (Mexico has just earned the designation as the eighth most-popular tourist destination in the world.)

But Mexico isn’t just beaches. In fact, it’s home to the Sierra Madre mountain ranges, that run from north to south through the country. In these highland regions, you’ll find charming colonial towns and a perfect year-round climate.

Some of these are perfect coffee-growing regions, especially in select areas of Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chiapas states. You’ll find expats living in all these places, and more.

The most popular destinations in the highlands for foreign retirees are, arguably, San Miguel de Allende and the Lake Chapala area, which is where we’re currently living. Especially at “Lakeside,” it’s easy for a couple to live well for $2,000 a month or less, rent included.

While neither San Miguel nor the Lake Chapala area offer perfect coffee-growing conditions, you will find a most agreeable year-round climate. At about 5,000 feet above sea level, Lakeside is at the same elevation as Denver, Colorado, and the same latitude as Hawaii. Daytime temperatures are typically in the 70s and 80s year-round.

While the state of Jalisco, where Lake Chapala is located, isn’t known for coffee…it is the world’s best tequila-producing region.


A quickly emerging tourism and retirement destination—Nicaragua offers a rugged Pacific coastline with miles and miles of beach after untouched beach, as well as warm, gentle waters of the laidback Caribbean, and its little-known Corn Islands.

Here you can spend your days enjoying the cultural ambience of colonial towns such as Granada or León, taking a cruise on massive Lake Nicaragua or down the gorgeous San Juan River, or even climbing the flanks of a perfect cone-shaped volcano.

If you’re not a fan of the tropical climate, head up to the cool-weather mountain town of Matagalpa, one of the country’s undiscovered gems. This affordable expat haven, in the heart of Nicaragua’s coffee country, is home to 300 to 400 expats—mostly American and Canadian.

In Matagalpa, nestled in nature near pristine lakes, rivers and lush, fertile forests, your surroundings will be green all year-round. The climate is mild and average temperatures range from 59 F at night to 74 F during daytime.

Thanks to this temperate climate, you will never need heat or air conditioning, and your cost of living will be very low. A couple can live comfortably for $1,200 a month. A three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a garage and yard can be rented for only $300 a month. Just $75 will cover your utilities for a month and $400 your grocery bill.

And if you’re a cigar aficionado, you’ll be happy to know that Nicaragua is also known for tobacco…and rum lovers will love Nicaragua’s award-winning Flor de Caña rum.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is indeed a “rich coast.” That’s what Christopher Columbus called this land that he “discovered” back in 1502. If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you probably went directly to one of the country’s many beaches, where tourists flock to the shores and spend their days swimming, sunning, and surfing.

But Costa Rica too, is far more than just beaches. For decades, expat retirees have been streaming to its Central Valley, where almost three-quarters of the population lives. Here, you’ll find easy access to the international airport, first-rate hospitals, excellent shopping (with designer or boutique alternatives), lots of great restaurants, and more.

And then, of course, there’s the climate. With elevations ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 feet, you can pick the perfect spot with a mild climate to suit you. Again, air conditioning and heating aren’t needed—daytime highs are usually in the 70s F or low 80s F, and nights are typically in the 60s F.

See a trend here? The perfect combination of elevation and latitude is well suited to human habitation. And to the cultivation of great coffee…which you’ll definitely find in Costa Rica.

Some of the best coffee beans in Costa Rica are grown near the Central Valley town of Cartago. The rich volcanic soils and mountain elevations provide the perfect environment and you’ll enjoy not just a low cost of living ($1,700 a month for a couple, rent included) but a full-flavored liquid cup of heaven any time you like.


Panama is a small S-shaped country with much to offer retirees, including the world’s best retirement program that offers you a host of incentives and discounts on everything from utility bills to restaurant meals, travel, medical costs (including both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications), and much more.

As you likely know, back in 1904, the U.S. stepped in to spearhead the building of the Panama Canal, and since then the U.S. has enjoyed a big presence in Panama. That’s one reason you’ll find a good many English speakers in Panama…in the sparkling Panama City, along the gorgeous beaches on both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and in the highland coffee-growing region.

Most of Panama’s excellent coffee comes from the Chiriquí province where you’ll find two towns in particular, that are popular with expat retirees. The best-known of these is the pretty town of Boquete, nestled amongst tree-covered rolling hills and deep valleys cut by quintessentially babbling brooks, the Barú volcano looming above it all, often obscured by clouds.

This bustling town of around 20,000 sits at an elevation of just below 4,000 feet. So, despite being in the tropics, daytime temperatures are consistently in the 70s F and 80s F, cooling off at night. You can leave your windows wide open to let in cooling breezes of fresh clean air.

Once again, that means there’s no need for heat or air conditioning, keeping costs down. A couple can live in Boquete…all in…for around $2,000 a month.

The nearby town of Volcan has also become popular with expats looking for similar surroundings, climate, and affordability…but with a smaller town feel.

Some of the world’s best coffee is grown in the highlands of Panama’s Chiriquí province, including the ultra-expensive awarding-winning Geisha variety. But don’t worry, there are plenty of great coffee varietals grown in Panama, and for just $1 in a local sidewalk café, you can enjoy a rich cup o’ java that might cost you $8 at a Starbucks in the U.S.


Ah, Ecuador… There may be no more agreeable climate on the planet than in Ecuador’s Andes Mountains…especially in those regions where coffee is grown.

We lived for many years in the picturesque village of Cotacachi in northern Ecuador, and our favorite coffee came from the nearby Intag Valley. Café Rio Intag is a rich, dark blend of tasty goodness and comes packaged in a cool burlap bag that can be re-purposed over and over. (We saved and used them as small gift bags.)

Another place great for both coffee growing and expat life—is the province of Loja in southern Ecuador. A friend living in the town Vilcabamba—known for its healthy “vortex” that allows its citizens to live well into their 100s—once brought us a bag full of green coffee beans he had picked from his farm. We had great fun experimenting with roasting and brewing coffee from them.

Known as the “Land of Eternal Spring” for its temperate climate where almost anything can be grown, in Ecuador you’ll also find a very low cost of living. We owned our own home, so we didn’t pay rent, but still, it was hard to spend more than $1,400 a month, and that included dining out often, our HOA fees, and more.


Who hasn’t heard of Juan Valdez? There’s a very good reason you know that name. Juan Valdez was “created” by Madison Avenue in 1960 as a spokesperson for Colombian coffee.

Not that Colombia needs much help in that regard. The country is known for growing some of the best coffee on the planet. There’s even an area in the heart of Colombia known as the “Coffee Triangle.” This is where most of Colombia’s rich Arabica coffee beans are grown. And the scenery couldn’t be more beautiful, nor the climate more amenable. Gorgeous, green hills, clear-water creeks, and vistas of lush coffee-covered valleys stretching for miles and miles.

One of our favorite towns in the Coffee Triangle is Salentowith its pretty historic buildings painted in pastel shades. Colombian tourists have enjoyed visiting here for decades, and today, a rapidly growing number of international travelers are also finding their way here. (Rent a nice apartment in the center of town for $200 to 300 a month or buy a home for an average $50,000 to $80,000.)

Pereira and Manizales are larger cities in the Coffee Triangle and they too, are worth a look. Manizales is a university town and particularly loaded with cultural attractions, including museums, theaters, huge parks, excellent hospitals, and more.

About how much does it cost to live in Colombia? Far, far less than you might expect for a thoroughly modern country…one of the most progressive in Latin America. Most expat couples report that they live very comfortably on $1,500 to $2,000 a month, depending on whether they own their own home or not.

And a single can live on even less. One single woman we know tells us her monthly expenses are less than $1,000 a month…and that includes $300-a-month rent for her gorgeous, newly renovated apartment in the historic center of a beautiful UNESCO-protected city.

The takeaway: Wake up and smell the coffee. If you’re looking for the best place for your overseas retirement, and a near-perfect, year-round climate is at the top of your list, one of the easiest strategies is to follow the coffee trail.


Make Your Retirement in Mexico the Best Years of Your Life

ret 1 By Thomas Lloyd | Top Mexico Real Estate

Retirement beach, cheap food, great health care are only a few benefits which make retirement in Mexico the best option for a happy lifestyle. Can you image surrounding yourself in a place with sun and heat year around? We don’t know exactly where you are coming from, but we know snow can cause a lot of havoc for people, and it is just a pain.

Having to drive in a snowstorm, or feeling like you can’t get warm after walking outside is just not fun anymore when your getting older. We know winter sports are fun but white sand, turquoise water, sunshine and hot climate year around, sounds a lot more fun.

When you think of retirement in Mexico what excites you the most? Knowing that you are free from that 9-5 grind? Being able to spend every day at the beach? We know how scary and excited it might sound, but once you get use to it, you will ask yourself: How did I survive all these years living this way? Why didn’t I move to paradise sooner? That is where we come in and show you how great your retirement can really be.

Moving to Mexico is only the beginning. And once you take that initial leap of faith, you will never turn back. You will find it hard to say let’s go home and visit our friends and family. Your mind set will now change to: -let’s invite our friends and family down to Mexico for a vacation and show them our new life here-.

A few of our favorite tips to make retirement the best years of your life are:

  • Live each day to the fullest
  • Protect your skin with sunscreen
  • Eat healthy Mexican food
  • Chum with the locals and meet new people

Enjoy the peace and tranquility that makes retirement in Mexico a great decision

These tips are easy tips to guarantee a fun filled retirement. It’s important to live each day to the fullest. Don’t spare any new adventures, get out there and do it. Remember to relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility that makes Mexico such a beautiful place.

When doing so, make sure you apply sunscreen as often as you need to. You have one body to protect, so do it right the first time. The sun here can be very hot if you are not in the shade. It’s important to pack it wherever you go. We encourage you to eat some delicious Mexican food and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is not hard to do that when you live in paradise, because everything is always fresh, and the healthy food is cheap here.

Our last piece of advice for a great retirement in Mexico, is to chum with the locals. You will get along great here, and learn so many new, wonderful things by talking to the locals. It’s a little hard when you first move to a new place; so what better reason than to make new friends. Who could teach you a thing or two about the place they were born and raised. Our last tip is to have fun! This is your life, live it the way that makes you the happiest.


The Cheapest Places to Retire: Five Towns Where You Can Live Better For Less


By International Living

At home, prices are rising. It costs more to put gas in the car, buy groceries, and pay for health insurance. At the same time, retirement savings eroded in the market downturn.

If you’re looking overseas for a low-cost alternative to an uncertain retirement at home, there’s good news. You can find it in places that offer not just “cheap” living, but a whole basketful of benefits, too—places where a mild spring-like climate is yours all year round…beaches are of powder-white sand…snow-capped mountains soar above colonial towns…and your costs could be as low as $1,000 a month.

In our annual Global Retirement Index (published every January), we rank and rate the best retirement havens in the world. You can stretch your dollars in any of them and live better than you can back home—for less. But the five here offer an outstanding bang for your buck: Ecuador, Panama, Malaysia, Nicaragua, and Mexico.

We asked our editors and in-country correspondents to pinpoint within each nation a specific community to recommend—places that have lots to offer retirees and can be enjoyed on a budget of $1,000 to $2,000 a month.

Santa Fe, Panama: From $1,000 a Month

“Buenas,” he says, nodding his head as he rides past. Leathery tan on a face framed by a worn cowboy hat, he’s the very picture of a Marlboro Man. Except he’s Panamanian.

I’m sitting in an ancient Lada Niva—a Russian 4×4 made for rugged terrain. We’ve stopped so our cowboy (and his herd of cows) can pass safely. It’s a chance to take in the view…

In the distance I can see the national park, where hiking trails crisscross hills lush with rainforest. In the treetops above me, I’ve seen monkeys and toucans and several species of birds I can’t name. This is Santa Fe de Veraguas, Panama—a tiny mountain hideaway about 200 miles west of Panama City.

It’s the kind of place where $6 will get you a sack of fruit and vegetables…and two chicken breasts for dinner. Where the town’s one Internet café charges 60 cents an hour and your monthly water bill is rarely over $3. Where home rentals can be as little as $400 a month and any significant crimes take place on TV.

A couple on a budget could live on $1,000 a month in Santa Fe, easy. Expat residents Mitzi and Bill Martain agree. They retired here 10 years ago to live the good life for less. “This was a place where we could live on social security, comfortably and happy,” says Mitzi.

Santa Fe may boast less English speakers than other, more popular parts of Panama…but the low cost of living is a function of this. You can hire help…cleaning ladies or even builders…for $15 a day. Utilities are low, too. A typical electric bill is maybe $20 a month, Internet is as little as $15, and cable starts at about $20. Trash pickup is just $2 a month, and gas for cooking will cost you even less.

Mitzi and Bill are clear about one thing: While the cost of living is great, it’s not the only reason they’re living in Santa Fe. “We chose to be here primarily because of the people,” says Mitzi. “Panamanian people are so wonderful, and will do anything and everything to help you out when they see you’re trying to adapt and find your way. We respect and admire them, and we try to earn their respect and admiration, too. It’s important to us…especially here in Santa Fe, where there aren’t many expats. It’s mostly local.”

Mitzi is the picture of contentment, shelling peas on her tidy, sun washed porch as she shares her story (and her fresh brewed coffee). The property, says Mitzi, is the land where nearly anything grows. She and Bill grow heirloom vegetables and tropical fruit. The property is run through by the Santa Maria River, and there are plenty of cats and dogs, and wildlife, too.

“We are so grateful for this location. We have waterfalls nearby and everything from birds to deer—and we’re surrounded by flowers. This is home.”

From its rural, rugged mountain-scape…to the mild sunny days and cool evenings…to the welcoming locals and the small expat community, Santa Fe truly does have it all.—Jessica Ramesch.

Granada and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: From $1,000 a Month

Nicaragua offers the lowest cost of living in Central America, and there are so many great places to retire in the country, including the historic colonial city of Granada and the picturesque seaside village of San Juan del Sur.

In Granada, you’ll be lured by ancient pastel-painted, colonial-era buildings with terracotta tile roofs that spill along the north shore of Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America. Views of the nearby Mombacho Volcano add to the postcard-ready image.

Granada is known, too, for its colorful horse-drawn carriages that clip-clop their way atop cobblestone streets, toting neck-craning tourists and locals alike. The latter go about their daily business with the languid, carefree aura that comes from living in the tropics.

In the enclosed courtyards of the city’s colonial homes—some of which have been converted to boutique hotels and cherished homes, Nicaragua’s famous rocking chairs—made of rich tropical hardwoods and wicker—beckon.

Many are occupied these days by North American retirees—but only for brief moments. They’ve not come to rock away their golden years, but for the active and adventuresome retirement that Nicaragua offers. It helps, say retirees here, that the cost of living is so low. It’s easy to live on just $1,000 a month, they say, especially if you own your own home.

Donna Tabor, a retired single in Granada who has lived there since 1996 and owns her home not far from the lake, says her expenses each month rarely top $1,000—including gas and maintenance for her truck.

Further south along the coast—not far from the border with Costa Rica—charming San Juan del Sur beckons to those with a penchant for seaside living.

The culture and the sense of community here, says Renda Hewitt who retired to San Juan del Sur with her husband, Ralph, in 2003, reminds her of what it was like growing up in rural Texas back in the 1940s. Children are taught to be respectful and well mannered, she says, and they don’t have to worry about their safety, because everyone in town is looking out for one another.

Ralph, a lifelong sailor, loves the town for its perfect crescent-moon bay, its soft golden sands, its sparkling blue water and (for him) near-perfect weather—85 to 95 degrees year round with a cool easterly breeze and few bugs.

Over the last 12 years, Ralph and Renda have built a condo project, a small hotel (which they still run), a couple of houses, and—most rewarding of all—they devote lots of time to community projects.

It’s a wonderful fringe benefit, says Renda, that their monthly expenses in Nicaragua are low.

“Include everything…groceries and going out to restaurants…my weekly shopping trips to Rivas (a nearby town)…and our monthly shopping trips to Managua and hotels and restaurants there…and even gas for the car…all we spend is $1,000.”

They both laugh and Ralph says again for emphasis: “Our monthly expenses are just $1,000…. a thousand dollars. We actually have money left over each month from our Social Security…so every October we take a cruise.”—Suzan Haskins.

Campeche, Mexico: From $1,400 a Month

Just 100 miles south of Mérida on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Campeche has long been under the radar for expats. But that is changing fast as visitors discover the charms of this city, considered one of the safest in Mexico.

Campeche is one of Mexico’s few World-Heritage cities to sit by the sea—it’s right on the Gulf of Mexico. A three-mile-long malecón (boardwalk), with running and cycling paths, mini-park spaces, and workout equipment, runs beside the water. Just a few blocks inland lie the city’s World-Heritage neighborhoods and historic center, with their rows of attractive candy-colored, Spanish-colonial facades.

The historic center (just eight blocks square) and the three historic neighborhoods are walkable, and it’s possible to live in these areas without a car. Campeche has a small-town or even village feel—remarkable in a city of almost 300,000.

The government—both state and national—has made improvements in the area over the last few years. The highway to Mérida is now four lanes, reducing driving time to less than 1.5 hours. A new shopping mall just off the malecón is anchored by the high-end Liverpool department store. It also has a Cineplex, restaurants, and a range of stores. Campeche already has a Walmart Super Center, a Sam’s Club, and numerous large supermarkets, plus a large traditional market just outside the historic center. In addition, more of the historic center has been made pedestrian-only, with art and sculpture exhibits decorating public spaces and outside dining available.

“The weather is good, the people are friendly, and there are fresher fruits and vegetables year-round here than you get back home,” says expat Daniel Record, of life in Campeche.

Day-to-day expenses are relatively low. You can buy a week’s worth of fruits and vegetables at the market for as little as $8. A sandwich or tacos from one of the many small loncherías (lunch joints) will cost you $2 to $3, while a seafood plate at a sit-down restaurant may run $12 or $15.

You can rent a small local house for as little as $400 a month. Comfortable modern homes, with two or three bedrooms, rent unfurnished for $500 and up. These same homes sell from $150,000.

Colonial properties, which most expats want, cost more. Unrenovated colonials for sale start at about $80,000—most cost more. Relatively few renovated colonials are on the market, but you can get small ones starting at around $100,000. Likewise, only a handful of furnished, renovated colonials are available. Colonial rentals in the centro and historic neighborhoods generally rent for $800 and up. Modern rentals, and colonials outside the center can start as low as $300 a month. More colonial rentals are desperately needed; it’s a business opportunity looking for an entrepreneur…—Glynna Prentice.

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: From $1,485 a Month

Johnny Lovewisdom, a quirky spiritual seeker, first put Vilcabamba, Ecuador on the gringo map in the 1960s. He advocated (among other beliefs) breatharianism—that one can live on air and sunshine alone. (He died in 2000…some say of malnutrition.)

While clean air and constant sunshine are abundant in this lush valley in southern Ecuador, so is fresh, organic food. The healthy lifestyle is just one reason expats are drawn to Vilcabamba today.

Many residents live to be 100 years old or more. That may be thanks to clean water, clean, stress-free living, or the near-perfect climate. Just shy of the equator and at an elevation of 5,000 feet, temperatures average between 65 and 81 F, day in and day out. Estimates put the number of permanent foreign residents at about 150 and part-timers at perhaps another 100.

Although it takes some doing to get to Vilcabamba, it’s a small price to pay. Literally. Vilcabamba is among the lowest-priced retirement havens in the world.

Here is a sample monthly budget for a couple in Vilcabamba:

  • Housing (rental of a furnished two-bedroom apartment or home): $375
  • Utilities (including phone, water/electricity, internet, and DirecTV): $155
  • Maid (once a week): $60
  • Groceries (not including alcohol): $400
  • Maintenance and fuel for one car: $140
  • (personal items, etc.): $75
  • Entertainment (two people dining out six times per month, with drinks, dessert, tip): $200
  • IESS (social security) healthcare: $80
  • Monthly Total: $1,485—Suzan Haskins.

·         Penang, Malaysia: From $2,000 a Month

My wife and I first came to Penang, Malaysia for a vacation in 2008 and after two weeks, which we extended to three, decided that it was the perfect place for us to live. From the region’s best street food to smart restaurants, bars, shopping malls, and movie theaters, it had everything that we needed and more.

George Town, Penang’s capital, is a UNESCO-listed city and dates from 1786. Most of the buildings in town were built between 1820 and 1900, and it’s these historic streets that are the main attraction for visitors to the island. Some of the colonial mansions on Penang Hill were built even earlier. We loved its history, but also its deserted white-sand beaches, pristine jungle trails, constant sunshine, and affordability.

There is a lively street culture anchored in religious festivals, a recently opened performing arts center at Straits Quay Marina, and events like the Penang World Music Festival and the annual George Town Festival (a month of performances) that have become a must-see event in Asia.

Our apartment is a short distance from the local market, where we can buy vegetables, fruits, bread, meat, seafood, and all manner of goods. An entire bagful of fresh fruit, including mangoes, bananas, apples, oranges, and pineapples, costs just $6.

High-speed internet is reliable and costs $30 a month, and the premier cable TV package for $40 includes favorites like HBO, CNN, numerous sports and movie channels and the BBC.

We live in a spacious 2,100-square-foot apartment with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. We also have a covered carport, swimming pool, and well-equipped gym. The apartment is fully air-conditioned and fitted with ceiling fans, and costs $900 a month. We have a maid who comes one day a week and costs just $56 a month.

Penang is known internationally for its good medical care, which is downright cheap. Six world-class hospitals are situated within George Town. All the medical staff speak perfect English. You don’t need to make an appointment to see a specialist and seeing one can cost as little as $12.

Originally from San Francisco, Ivan Peters has been living in Penang for just over a year. He noticed that three moles on his back had changed color, and he decided to have them removed. The initial consultation by a world-class plastic surgeon cost him $12, and the moles were removed five minutes later. The total cost came to $22. In the U.S. he estimates that that it would have cost closer to $1,000.

Penang is an exciting place to live and we have no regrets about moving here. Well, just one…that we didn’t do it years ago. Where else could you eat out seven nights a week, sampling any cuisine you want, and still live for under $2,000 a month?—Keith Hockton.