3 retiree havens where you can stretch your dollar the most

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By Darla Mercado | CNBC

Retiree discount programs are available, for example, in a number of Central and South American countries. These programs offer senior citizens a range of perks, including affordable health care, reduced costs on travel and lower taxes.

There’s a catch of course: Countries that offer these senior programs have requirements that applicants must meet in order to qualify.

Generally, this means you may have to be a property owner or legal resident of that country (as opposed to just a part-time visitor) with a minimum level of income from a stable source — via a pension, for instance.

“Every country is going to be different, but in macro, countries want you to show that you won’t be dependent on their largesse,” said Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of International Living.

“Be aware of these requirements before you buy your ticket and head out, or you may find that you’ll have to come back,” she said.

You should also hire a lawyer who is familiar with the visa and residency requirements of your destination country, Stevens said.

Here are the locales with the best senior discount programs, according to an analysis by International Living.

Panama

This Central American nation won the top spot in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index, largely because of the special benefits it offers retirees.

The Panamanian pensionado program offers a 50 percent discount on entertainment costs and reduced rates on airline tickets and hotel stays, as well as lower prices on energy bills.

Though you don’t need to own real estate in Panama in order to qualify, you do need to draw a pension of at least $1,000 each month. If you have a spouse or children under age 18, you’ll need to have an additional $250 per month for each dependent.

Mexico

American retirees like Mexico because they can easily drop by for up to 180 days at a time on a tourist visa, said Stevens.

“There are a lot of people who go part time,” she said. “It’s close and you can stay for six months without going through any visa rigmarole.”

Once you decide to become a legal resident, however, you become eligible for the same discounts Mexican retirees may access. That includes reduced prices on theater tickets and museums, as well as lower costs on medications.

Retirees hailing from the U.S. can apply for a temporary resident visa in Mexico and maintain it for up to four years.

Ecuador

Retirees can apply for a pensioner visa in order to become residents, but they must show proof of income of at least $800 a month from a stable source, according to International Living.

Residents who are over age 65 can enjoy relatively affordable health care (compared to the U.S.), breaks on certain municipal and utility taxes, and steep discounts on transportation across the country.

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5 Places to Live in Mexico…and 3 to Avoid

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By Glynna Prentice | International Living

Mexico is not only the nearest destination abroad for U.S. and Canadian expats; it is also one of the most popular. More than a million expats are estimated to live in Mexico full- or part-time…the largest concentration of North American expats anywhere in the world.

Of course, it helps that Mexico is also one of the largest countries in the Americas, offering just about any climate, geographical landscape, and lifestyle you might want. As a result, you’ll find expats scattered all over Mexico. But some places have proven to be especially popular, with an appeal that makes them stand out from the crowd.

Here are five Mexico destinations where the living is easy…and any one of them could be your perfect expat home. (Plus a few places you may want to cross off your list.)

Modern Beach Living

For many North Americans, say “Mexico” and they think of white-sand beaches. That’s not surprising. Mexico has nearly 6,000 miles of coastline, much of it beautiful beach. If you’re looking for a beach lifestyle, Mexico will have you spoiled for choice.

For classic white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, it’s hard to beat Mexico’s Riviera Maya. This 80-mile stretch of coast runs along the Yucatán Peninsula from Cancún to Tulúm. Little beach towns are scattered all along the coast…and one—Playa del Carmen—has grown to become a city. One of the fastest-growing destinations in Mexico, Playa, as it’s known locally, offers a laidback beach vibe…and the upper-end shopping and restaurant scene of a larger city.

To enjoy small-town (but upscale) beach life on this coast, head to Tulúm. Once the domain of backpackers, Tulúm today attracts fashionistas and other trendsetters who come to get away from it all. Today you’ll find rustic, palm-thatched palapasalongside gourmet restaurants here…and a beach that’s considered one of the world’s most beautiful.

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, has been an international beach resort for more than 50 years. Once a small fishing village, today the greater Vallarta area stretches for nearly 30 miles along the shores of Banderas Bay, one of the world’s largest bays. This area offers pure First-World living, with shopping, restaurants, and real estate at every price point; an international airport; and a large, international expat community. Beaches and a long malecón (esplanade) border large swaths of the city. But Puerto Vallarta offers so much to do—from zip-lining and horseback riding in the hills, to fine dining and recent film releases in town—that you’ll have plenty to do, even if you never put a toe in the water.

If you want big-city life with the beach a short distance away, there’s Mérida. Capital of the Yucatán Peninsula, this city of nearly a million residents lies about half an hour from the Yucatán Gulf Coast. Small villages dot this placid coast. This is where Mérida’s middle-class families have summered for generations. Today expats have joined them, but many towns still have a family-oriented feel. Don’t look for boutique shopping or dining here, but if you’re seeking a laidback beach life at still-low prices, you can find it here.

Historic Cities

San Miguel de Allende

Not everyone wants to live on the beach…. If you prefer temperate weather and Spanish-colonial style, then Lake Chapala or San Miguel de Allende, both in central Mexico, may fit the bill. Lake Chapala has an enviably near-perfect climate—spring-like almost all year—and a large, diverse expat community. And being near Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, means easy access to its international airport and excellent medical facilities. San Miguel, about three hours north of Mexico City, is a beautifully preserved Spanish-colonial town that offers art galleries, gourmet restaurants, a wealth of arts and crafts, and a large expat community.

Places to Skip in Mexico

No country is perfect, and Mexico has gotten more than its share of knocks. But yes, some parts of Mexico should be avoided, while others are just not worth your time.

Some Mexican states bordering the U.S.

Notably Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Chihuahua—have vast, empty interiors where you can be at the mercy of accidents and bad weather. If you’re looking to drive down into central Mexico or farther south (and many expats do), consider checking routes through other Mexican states like Nuevo León, Sonora, and Baja California.

Acapulco

Acapulco was once one of Mexico’s top beach resorts, but age and scattered violence has dimmed the city’s glitter. If you want to stay on the beaches of Acapulco’s home state, Guerrero, head north to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.

Tabasco

Finally, Tabasco may be a famous hot sauce, but the Mexican state is largely humid, low-lying land. It’s the boring, often wet stretch you’ll pass if you’re driving from central Mexico to the Yucatán Peninsula. Tabasco’s capital, Villahermosa, is a major business city, headquarters of Mexico’s oil industry and home to several museums. Take a quick look if you’re inclined…but with so many interesting places both north and south of it, you probably won’t want to linger.

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U.S. And Canadian Baby Boomers Retiring To Mexico

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By Bill Dahl | Indepth News

The term boomerang is considered a noun and a verb. As a noun, it is defined as a curved flat piece of wood that can be thrown so as to return to the thrower, traditionally used by Australian Aborigines as a hunting weapon. As a verb, boomerang means a plan or action that results in a return to the originator, often with negative consequences.

One of the overlooked, unanticipated consequences of social, economic and political policies is that they inherently possess a boomerang effect; they return to the sender with negative consequences. A current example of this phenomenon are the negative consequences U.S. President Donald Trump’s range of policies have thrust upon a major demographic cohort in the U.S.: The Baby Boomers.

U.S. Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are retiring – in droves. Some estimates suggest up to 10,000 a day. U.S. boomers have been characterized as “having a – you only live once” mindset. Boomers have been uniquely focused on having personally and professionally productive retirements.” They seem driven to try new experiences and stay active throughout their golden years.” Boomers, along with GenXers, hold what are described as “consistently or mostly liberal views than have conservative positions.”

Another observer notes: “Whether it’s for economic viability or to gain companionship, seniors’ willingness to think outside the box is driving the growth of unconventional housing solutions.” One of the experiences boomers are living in their golden years involves moving south – to Mexico. Why? What are the economic roots and implications of this movement?

According to a recent study, U.S. boomers are ill-prepared to maintain their current lifestyle in the U.S. in their retirement years. An estimated one-half of U.S. boomer retirees will be solely dependent upon their Social Security income. Just under 25% of boomers have no retirement savings whatsoever, while 42% will have saved less than $100,000.  

Once referred to as the wealthiest generation in U.S. history, the estimates of current U.S. boomer wealth range from U.S. $4.6 trillion to $30 trillion dollars. Whatever the exact figure may be, boomer holdings of residential properties comprise a significant portion of that wealth. U.S. Boomers aged 65 and over have an estimated “extractable” home equity figure of $3.1 trillion dollars. With the peso currently trading at 19.4 pesos to one U.S. dollar, the financial attraction of Mexico as a retirement destination for U.S. boomers is both legitimate and alluring. Perhaps Donald Trump has fallen prey to what NY Times bestselling author Michael Lewis has referred to as the fifth risk: “It’s what you fail to imagine that kills you.”

Between 2016 and 2017, Mexico was the unequivocal primary travel destination of choice for U.S. residents, rising 12% from 31 million to 35 million during those years alone. In 2018, the figure rose to nearly 40 million. Interestingly enough, it has been noted that more U.S. residents are moving to Mexico than Mexicans moving to the U.S. Estimates of Mexican revenues from tourism are estimated at U.S.$20.3 billion in 2018.

The recent growth of the tourism industry in Mexico is remarkable. It reached new heights in 2018 and is currently the fifth largest source of revenue for Mexico. The fastest growing segment of the Mexican economy is tourism (among others). Tourism contributes an estimated 8% of Mexican GDP. For Mexico, one of the primary sources of foreign exchange, along with remittances and petroleum exports, is tourism.

The strategic importance of the Mexico-U.S. economic interchange is of vital importance, to both nations. The U.S. is Mexico’s largest trading partner. For the U.S., Mexico ranks third as a source of U.S. imports and second as an export market for the U.S. In 2017, Mexican exports to the U.S. total approximately 37% of Mexico’s GDP or 80% of all of Mexico’s exports. What these figures do not reflect is the export of the purchasing power of U.S. Boomers now flowing to Mexico for their retirement years.

Incredibly, the U.S. government does not maintain statistics on the number of U.S. citizens living abroad. The U.S. State Department estimates the current figure to be in the ballpark of 9 million. The number of U.S. citizens residing in Mexico ranges from 1.7 million to over 2 million. It is safe to say that “Mexico is the country with the largest community of U.S. citizens living outside the United States;” more than any other country in the world.

As I have written elsewhere, the steady stream of North American boomers headed to Mexico for retirement is a Mexodus. It is reasonable to believe these numbers will continue to escalate. The primary motivation of boomers headed to/living in Mexico is to reduce their overall cost of living, among others. The economic contribution of boomers who make the leap south to Mexico for their retirement years will be a windfall for Mexico. Their departure may also contribute to unanticipated factors taking the wind out of the sails of the U.S. economy.

What can the U.S. do to address this phenomenon? Frankly, not much if anything. It’s too late to assemble a legitimate “affordable healthcare” system in the U.S. that will entice boomers to stay. A significant Medicare and Social Security increase? Fat chance-politically. Eliminate political rancor and polarization in the U.S.…not happening. For boomers driven by “economic viability, a willingness to think outside the box regarding unconventional housing solutions, to try new experiences, and stay active throughout their golden years” – well, Mexico is terribly attractive.

What might Mexico do to capitalize on this once in a generation economic opportunity? First, to fail to target this economic windfall would be an avoidable strategic oversight. The new, Mexican federal government, the National Office of Tourism in Mexico, and cities throughout Mexico should become focused on this bonanza and engage in outreach marketing to this North American boomer market. A comprehensive examination of any current, non-essential barriers for relocation to Mexico by boomers is a superb suggestion.

Mexico, like many other countries, has public health and environmental hazards that need to be addressed. This agenda should be elevated to a national priority, as identified in Mexico’s NaturAMLO initiative, touted by new Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Finally, Mexico should consider enacting a set of incentives to attract North American boomers to relocate to Mexico.

For Trump, the boomerang he has thrown at Mexico is bound to return to him with a myriad of unanticipated, ongoing, negative, economic and socio-political consequences. For Mexico, Trump’s boomerang is bound to return economic windfalls for years to come.

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Why I Love Saturday Mornings in San Miguel de Allende

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By Ann Kuffner | International Living

Saturday morning is my favorite day of the week in San Miguel de Allende. I get up early, grab a quick bite, then head to my favorite local park. Parque Juarez is an oasis of trees and trails, smack dab in the middle of this charming Spanish Colonial town. On the weekends it becomes a focal point for art fairs, concerts, and exhibits. That’s when local artisans set up displays, ready to offer their art, pottery, jewelry, and food for sale.

On Saturday mornings, Cesar—the best ever Zumba instructor—cranks up lively Latin tunes, then guides us through a high energy routine. One by one, an unexpected mix of locals and expats join the fray, ready to kick up their heels. The class includes a mix of people aged 10 to 80 years old. Some are seasoned dancers. Others simply come to have fun and get some exercise. The guys in their 70s seldom master the complex moves. But they clearly have a good time. The exuberance and energy of the group class is infectious, with plenty of hooting and howling as Cesar pushes us to pick up the pace. This level of Joie de Vivre is not at all unusual in Mexico, especially in San Miguel. Mexicans are experts at living in the moment.

After working up a sweat, I head to a local coffee house with a few friends. Then we stroll to the Mercado Sano, a popular organic market, for the weekly Tianguis market.

On Saturday mornings the parking lot behind the Mercado Sano center transforms into a bustling open-air organic market. Farmers from the campo bring their fresh, gorgeous organic produce to town. Think leafy green lettuces, ruby red beets, multi-colored carrots, creamy avocadoes, sweet cherry tomatoes, apples, blackberries, and figs. For about $10, I walk away with a bag bursting with healthy, colorful produce. You can grab breakfast, or lunch, from one of the six or so pop up cafés. Some offer eggs, tacos, and other Mexican dishes. Most dishes go for under $3. If you show up after noon, you can indulge in freshly made paella, or sushi. After grabbing a bite, it’s time to peruse the local art, richly patterned Oaxacan rugs, and clothing being sold.

Each week a different band performs at the market, adding to the festive air. It’s a popular spot to hang out. So, we expect to bump into a mix of friends and acquaintances. Last Saturday, in just the first hour we ran into four different groups of friends. Each meeting lead to a pleasant social interchange. Although San Miguel is a mid-sized town, we often run into friends while running errands.

It’s so easy to meet people in this town… I can’t imagine ever being lonely here! After moving to San Miguel, my husband, Mike, and I quickly signed up for Spanish, dance, and yoga classes, and started attending Sunday services at the Unitarian church. At each activity we met lovely people who’ve since become friends.

There are a few primary reasons we moved to San Miguel. First of all, I love Spanish Colonia towns. San Miguel is the most spectacular of those I’ve visited to date. That’s why it keeps winning travel popularity awards. The spectacular architecture, amazing history that surrounds us, and the art and cultural scene quickly sold me on this town.

San Miguel’s Benito Juarez Park offers residents and visitors a leafy, green space to spend the weekend.

For us, the cost of living was another major factor. It’s surprisingly affordable here. We are living comfortably on our Social Security income. To date, my best estimate is that we spend under $3,000 per month. We own our home, so save on rent. But we take full advantage of the culture and activities the town has to offer, and we eat out often.

At this point in our lives we were determined to live where affordable hospitals and healthcare are within reach. Two private hospitals and the local Red Cross are located within a five-minute drive of our home. The cost of healthcare is reasonable, and private healthcare insurance is available. We currently have Seguro Popular, the public healthcare plan, which is very affordable. But we are considering adding private healthcare insurance this year.

Last of all, I yearned to live in a town that’s bursting with culture. San Miguel reminds me of the San Francisco Bay Area, in that regard, where I lived for over 30 years. There are many cultural activities to attend here: concerts, dances, arts and craft exhibits, festivals, lectures, and movies. Each week it’s difficult to decide which we’ll pick. The cost for cultural events is a pittance here, compared to the Bay rea. A classical concert, with world-class musicians and singers, in a private venue, runs $10 to $15. We often take in an international art flick at a pocket theater. The $6 per person charge covers the film; a margarita, glass of wine, beer, or soft drink; and a bag of popcorn. The theater is cozy and intimate, with only 25 seats. It takes me back to my college days, when I frequented the funky movie theaters of the Berkeley, California, campus

And my husband and I are dancing again. While living in the Bay Area, we mastered the West Coast Swing. Since the move to San Miguel we’ve fully embraced the salsa, cumbia, cha cha, and bachata, attending Latin dance parties on Friday nights. I guess you could say that we’re dancing our way into a delightful new lifestyle.

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The 3 Best Places to Retire Abroad on Less Than $1,500 Per Month

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By Katie Brockman | The Motley Fool

For many people, retirement is an opportunity to start fresh and live the life they’ve always dreamed about. It’s a time to begin a new chapter and start a new adventure. For some, that may mean pursuing a new hobby or spending more time doing the things they enjoy. For others, it means packing their bags and moving to a new country.

Nearly 700,000 Americans receive their Social Security checks overseas, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), so if you’re thinking about retiring abroad, you’re in good company.

Hammock on the beach next to the ocean

Besides providing the chance to start anew and try something different, retiring abroad offers a host of other benefits including being exposed to a new culture, paying far less for healthcare, and even enjoying a lower cost of living. In fact, according to expatriate resource Expatistan, the U.S. ranks as the 17th most expensive country out of the 106 countries on the list — and there are dozens of countries that offer a more affordable lifestyle without having to sacrifice quality of life.

Is retiring abroad the right choice for you?

For some, starting your golden years in a new place can be the thrill of a lifetime and what they’ve waited for all their working years. For others, just the thought is downright horrifying. Retiring abroad isn’t for everyone, and there are advantages and drawbacks to choosing to spend your retirement in a foreign land.

Consider the costs of flying back to the U.S. every time you want to visit friends and family. Can you cope with not seeing your loved ones for holidays and birthdays outside of Skype or FaceTime? The effects of social isolation can be devastating, particularly if you’re part of a close-knit community that you’ll be leaving behind. It may also prove to be a challenge as you grow older and find it more difficult to get around. You may have children or grandchildren who can help take care of you in the U.S., but if you move abroad then leaning on loved ones as you age may not be an option.

That said, retiring to a new country can be a wise financial decision that provides you with a much better quality of life — particularly if your savings aren’t as robust as you’d hoped.

Nearly half of married couples rely on Social Security benefits for at least 50% of their income in retirement, according to the SSA. And when the average Social Security check is just $1,300 per month, it’s not always easy to get by in most U.S. cities. But in many other countries, that Social Security check can go a lot further and provides more bang for your buck. So if you’re thinking about retiring abroad, these cities offer an excellent quality of life for less than $1,500 per month.

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is often referred to as the “Paris of South America,” and for good reason. With a distinct culture, world-renowned museums, and a mouthwatering restaurant scene, this city truly has something for everyone.

On top of that, it’s also affordable. The average 900-square-foot furnished apartment in a more expensive area of town costs roughly $600 per month, according to Expatistan. Utilities run you about another $100 per month, and groceries are similar in cost to what you’ll find in the U.S.

Healthcare is more affordable in Argentina than in the U.S. — even after you factor in Medicare coverage. Under Argentina’s public healthcare system, emergency care and doctor visits are free to everyone — including expats — though you may experience long wait times, because many hospitals and doctor’s offices are understaffed. If you go the private healthcare route, you’ll likely experience shorter wait times, but costs vary by provider and city.

2. Georgetown, Malaysia

One of the prime benefits for Americans retiring to Malaysia is that English is widely spoken, making the transition much easier. Learning a new tongue in your old age is easier said than done, and if you don’t develop a fluency, it can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration in retirement. This Asian country also boasts a warm climate and beautiful beaches, so it’s perfect for retirees looking for a tropical getaway.

The country boasts an exceptionally affordable cost of living. A furnished 900-square-foot apartment in an expensive urban area typically costs between $500 and $600 per month, according to Expatistan, and if you’re willing to settle down in a more rural town, you could even  pay less than $300 per month for housing.

Malaysia also offers some of the highest-quality healthcare in the world. While healthcare facilities in rural areas can be hit or miss, hospitals and doctor’s offices in the more populated cities offer high-quality care with highly skilled staff, and most doctors speak English. Being able to effectively communicate with your healthcare provider in a foreign country is a huge benefit for retirees. Malaysia offers both public and private healthcare, and while expats have access to the public system, there’s also the option of buying private health insurance.

3. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

If you’re looking to retire abroad while staying relatively close to home, Mexico is a fantastic option. You’ll need to do some research to make sure you choose the right city as some towns have higher crime rates than others, but one promising choice is the tropical destination of Puerto Vallarta.

The city is a popular tourist destination, so it’s also very retiree-friendly with plenty of restaurants, shops, theaters, and, of course, miles of sandy beaches. While housing can be more expensive than other Mexican cities, it’s still more affordable compared to many U.S. cities — the average furnished 900-square-foot apartment in an expensive area of the city costs just under $1,000 per month, according to Expatistan. However, there are less pricey options, and if you choose to move to a less expensive part of town, you could pay just $500 per month for a furnished apartment.

You’ll also find quality healthcare in Puerto Vallarta at an affordable price. Once you become a resident of Mexico, you are eligible to participate in the country’s public healthcare system. You can also buy private insurance, and while costs vary widely depending on the city and hospital, it’s usually more affordable than U.S. plans.

Choosing the right retirement destination

Of course, these are not the only options if you’re looking to retire abroad — there are dozens of fantastic cities around the world that would make fabulous retirement destinations. But the most important part is to do your research before making the leap.

Before you pack up all your belongings and buy your dream condo in a new country, visit your prospective retirement city for several weeks to make sure you can see yourself living there for the next few decades. Seek out other expats in the city and ask them about their experiences. Join online groups and forums to get an inside look at how other retirees are living, then decide whether you would enjoy that type of lifestyle.

It’s a big world out there, and if you’re the type of jet-setter who is ready for a new adventure in retirement, moving abroad may be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Just be sure you’ve prepared and put some thought into your decision so that you can truly live the retirement life you’ve always dreamed of.

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The 10 Best Places to Retire in Mexico

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By Lorimer Wilson | MunKnee

In the process of putting together this comprehensive report I have consulted with highly experienced ex-pats who have lived and/or live in the places that I rate here so, without further wait, here’s the top 10 places to live and retire in Mexico and the reasons why:

  1. Lake Chapala, Jalisco
  2. Ensenada, Baja California
  3. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
  4. Guadalajara, Jalisco
  5. Merida, Yucatan
  6. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo
  7. Mazatlan, Sinaloa
  8. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
  9. La Paz, Baja California
  10. San Cristobal de las Casas Chiapas

1. Lake Chapala, Jalisco (Winner)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dodSP4eHTTE&feature=youtu.be

According to Kristina Morgan of Focus on Mexico, “Of all the places in Mexico I have been, none can quite compare with Lake Chapala. There’s something about this place that just seems…magical and, as corny as it sounds, that’s the word I hear people use to describe Lake Chapala time and again. Lake Chapala gets into your heart and becomes home. It’s like stepping back 50-70 years here regarding the simpler lifestyle, culture and values. When I’m here I feel like I can be me, like I can breathe a little more freely and be the person I want to be and this is a sentiment expressed by most everyone who has ever been here or lives here”.

Lake Chapala used to be just a retirement community but in the last 10 years that’s changed and a lot of younger families and entrepreneurs are moving there for the obvious business opportunities and lower cost of living.

The Lake Chapala community is composed of a string of villages, mostly on the north shore, with Ajijic being the crown jewel of the area in terms of artisans, charm and amenities. Horses clopping down the road, vendors selling fresh fruit, women weaving, live music everywhere from classical to salsa and teenagers helping their grandmothers are common sights. There’s a happy hum of activity there.

The most compelling reasons are listed below.

Pros

The Climate: The weather, of course, is a huge draw. National Geographic touts Lake Chapala as the 2nd best climate in the world. The Lake is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains and is a mile high so there is very little humidity. The distance inland is still close to the ocean but far enough away to not have to worry about storms and hurricanes off the coast. We have all the same flora as Hawaii as well as the same vegetation in arid states like Colorado—pines and palms—growing equally well, side by side!

The most-developed expat/English infrastructure in Mexico: You may feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but there’s still a lot to do here, from golfing, to boating, to organized group activities including a community theater in English, two American Legion posts, the Lake Chapala Society, churches in English in every denomination, concerts and events (the Bolshoi Ballet even came to Ajijic!), live entertainment, world-class restaurants that will impress even the most seasoned palate and much more!

Ajijic and the Lake Chapala area is the largest expat community anywhere outside the U.S. and Canada. I figure 20,000 expats can’t be wrong but as Latin World says, “Despite being home to one of the heaviest concentrations of North Americans in Mexico, Lake Chapala doesn’t feel quite as Americanized as other retirement enclaves in Mexico.” I believe that is due to the fact that this isn’t a resort area catering to tourists, but rather a place to adopt a new way of life and be a part of a community.

There are also many real opportunities to get involved and make a difference through any of the numerous charities here if you want to volunteer your time. The rewards are greater than any paycheck.

Affordable, top-notch medical care is available: The University of Guadalajara, less than 1 hour away, boasts an excellent medical school. In fact, many U.S. doctors are educated there! There are excellent facilities, doctors, specialists and medical staff in Mexico and a major benefit is that they are readily available (no long waiting periods). Many of the doctors even speak English and often have taken some training in the United States or abroad. The doctors here have such a gift for listening carefully to you and not making you feel as if they don’t have time to spend with you. They even make house calls! There are two clinics here as well.

Proximity/Accessibility: Guadalajara, airport, coast: One of the reasons we chose Lake Chapala is its easy access to other places of interest in Mexico. Ideally located about 40 minutes from Guadalajara (Mexico’s 2nd largest city), 25 minutes from Guadalajara’s international airport, and as close as 3 hours to the pacific coast and a 12 hour drive to back to the U.S. so it is easy to trade the frigid winters and the wilting heat of summers north of the border for paradise. We wanted to know that they can get back home quickly if we need to so being so close to the airport makes being home in a few hours possible. It is interesting to note that travel is part of the culture in this area, for Mexicans and retirees alike and the low surcharge at the airport in Guadalajara makes flying more affordable.

Low cost of living: I didn’t move to Mexico to spend a lot of money! It has been said that Lake Chapala is the place to be if you want a bargain and all the amenities you’re used to from back home.

Home prices are still low here. I know people who have looked into different retirement destinations all over Mexico and say they have found the best deals here. We also have an MLS, which almost nowhere else in Mexico has so it is easier find the right home for you. On the coast, you must purchase property through a bank trust but because we are inland you are allowed to own property outright through a direct deed….

This is a real community: To me, this is the most compelling reason to come here. People come to Lake Chapala for the weather and lower cost of living and end up staying because of the people. Lake Chapala still has a small-town feel to it. It seems like everyone knows everyone and the people, both Mexican and expats, are very friendly and look out for each other. This area also has the largest singles population owing to the sense of safety and community here. It is said that people are nicer here than they were back home. The Mexicans are still very warm and welcoming, largely due to the fact that most of the transplants are very cognizant that we are guests in their country and we try to be as gracious and considerate as our Mexican friends are. There is still an old-world, genteel flavor here. Mexicans embrace family, customs and tradition and tend to dote on their children and cherish their elderly. The people who come here are frequently in awe of the close ties in our community and how quickly they are welcomed and accepted. I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else in the world, not even in other places in Mexico.

A safe and secure environment: Despite a rather negative media representation which focuses on drug related violence, Mexico is actually a top choice when it comes to safety. The conflicts which make the headlines are mostly limited to the U.S. border area; the majority of the country is virtually unaffected, and news of these unfortunate events is as distant to these areas as it is to the U.S., and in some cases, even more so. “In Lake Chapala violent crime is almost unheard of,” points out Shawn Gaffney. “In Lake Chapala, the citizens walk the streets at any time of day or night safely and confidently.” Statistics back this feeling of comfort; in most parts of Mexico, violent crime is significantly lower than in large U.S. cities.

Stunning beauty: Lake Chapala has breathtaking sunsets over the lake, and majestic mountain views. Flowers are prolific and seem saturated in bold color. There are charming cobbled streets with stone walls and fuchsia bougainvillea draped like petticoats over the tops. The best way to give you a picture is that people say it looks like Hawaii. The vivid color here is whimsical and artistic, with many murals all over the area, including some that are painted on houses and businesses. There are at least 3 waterfalls in the area and thermal springs that will transport you with their relaxing and curative properties. Sun-drenched terra-cotta tiles, mesmerizing vistas and tropical foliage make it feel like you’re on permanent vacation—but without the heat, humidity, tourists, hurricanes or expense.

Solid investment: When you’re considering a place to retire, no one wants to flush their money into an area where they would have a hard time getting it back out if they ever needed to. This area is at a steady growth rate with promise of more future growth. You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck now while knowing your money will grow here.

Slower pace of life: We can learn so much from the people here about what is truly important in life. For those who are seeking to simplify their lives, Lake Chapala should be on your short-list. This isn’t a “time is money” culture. Mexicans work to live while many of us have lived to work. In general, the people here have their priorities straight. It’s all about how you treat people and recognizing that each day is a gift to be lived fully and graciously.

Cons

Altitude: At a mile high, some people who have respiratory illnesses may find this is a little too high in altitude for them. However, some people report feeling far better here and being able to sleep better than they ever could. The elevation is also a major reason we have such a temperate climate and why the area isn’t prone to natural disasters.

Language: If you move to Mexico you’re going to have to learn at least a little of the Spanish language to get by. Some people find this daunting and intimidating. The good news is that compared to anywhere else in Mexico, English is spoken to one degree or another by most people.

Small villages: If you’re looking for a big city feel then Lake Chapala isn’t for you. Think quaint fishing villages with an old world feel and modern amenities and you’ll have the idea. However, village life has its benefits in safety and community and if you need a break from the tranquility and want to head to the big city then Guadalajara is just up the road.

Noise levels: This can be said about any area in Mexico but I still think it needs to be said. Village life is noisy with live music, church bells tolling at all hours, roosters who crow all day and night, fireworks, parades and processions, parties and cars driving by announcing everything from their wares to who has a fresh catch of fish down at the pier. On Mother’s Day, some lucky moms are woken before dawn with mariachi bands serenading them outside their window. If this would drive you crazy, then be sure to look for homes on the outskirts of the villages or in a planned development, or gated community. Thankfully, there are a lot of places to choose from to escape the noise.

Not a Business Mecca: For those young and aggressive, they will be disappointed because the Lake Chapala area is NOT a mecca for business. Business gets done but for the most part, retiree’s are slower more set in their ways and thus are not seeking big opportunities so trying to sell them something using a carrot for the future can be frustrating and will land you in the “con man” category real quick.

It is not the ocean: Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake at 77 miles long and 13 miles across but if your heart is set on a daily routine of drinking a margarita on the beach with endless waves stretching out to the horizon then this isn’t for you. While this is the largest lake in Mexico and the conquistadores thought this was the ocean when they first arrived here, it is still a lake – a beautiful lake.

In short, Lake Chapala is a one in a million place with everything it offers. Of course, one size doesn’t fit all but if you’re looking for a paradise with a low-cost of living, an established English infrastructure and activities, modern amenities, near-perfect climate and a friendly and safe community, come visit Lake Chapala and see if this might be for you. Retiring in Mexico couldn’t be better.

2. Ensenada, Baja California

According to John Vogel of BajaWine.info, “In Ensenada, you have everything that a major city could have but it’s still a small family town” The weather is very temperate between 60 to 80 F mostly all year round. It’s never too hot or too cold in Enenada as it’s on the Pacific coast in a bay so it’s somewhat shielded by direct ocean winds. For expats, it’s an easy transition because Ensenada is really half Southern California half Mexico. Most speak English as the border is just 1 hour away. So travel back and forth is relatively easy. It’s a major benefit for those that want to live an Mexico lifestyle but still get the San Diego Chargers game every NFL Sunday for a little tailgating.

Pros

  • Close to US Border
  • Easy going beach weather
  • Inexpensive
  • Very little rain fall
  • Family friendly city
  • All kinds of events held almost every weekend

Cons

  • Airport is in Tijuana about 1 hour away and San Diego International Airport is about 1 hour and 30 minutes away by car albeit, there is a border crossing that could take from 1 to 3 hours depending on time of day.
  • Anti-septic Mexican culture meaning that the culture in Baja is more close to the USA culture as it’s a mixed culture. If you’re looking for authentic rustic old Mexico, Ensenada is NOT the place to be. This is San Diego South and the people of Baja are a hybrid of Mexico and USA.
  • You must have a car to get around.

3. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

According to Rebecca Fass San Miguel de Allende is “the most wonderful place on the planet”. This place is probably the most well-to-do city in all of Mexico. With world-class arts, music, and amazing restaurants with the highest end people from all over the world, SMDA is the most exquisite classy place to live in Mexico. So if you’re looking to hob-nob with the rich, famous, artsy types, and people who really hold their own at the highest levels, SMDA is the place to be.

Klaudia Oliver says “I can´t speak for that many places in Mexico but I can certainly suggest that San Miguel is THE top destination. Why? Because there is an overriding sense of well-being which permeates the inhabitants of this beautiful colonial town. There is a swirl of social events and it’s like a college campus for baby boomers with cultural and social activities constantly”.

Pros

  • Amazing cultural beauty
  • Old Mexico meets the well-heeled traveler
  • Small town full of super interesting internationally renown people who you will get to know quickly
  • English spoken everywhere
  • 3 hours away from Mexico City and all it’s available big city offerings
  • Friendly small town atmosphere
  • Beautiful architecture and history.
  • Excellent nightlife

Cons

  • Not close to major city or airport
  • High desert elevation means it’s cold in winter and hot in summer
  • Extreme temperatures mean that in one day can go from high 80′s at high noon and then into the 40′s at night.
  • Very expensive to live.
  • Feels like living on a desert island since there is nothing within an hour away.
  • Nearest airport is in the City of Leon; about an hour and a half away.

4. Guadalajara, Jalisco

The weather is amazing; Perfect really! Guadalajara is the 2nd largest city in Mexico so if you are used to living in the city, then you will enjoy Guadalajara as it is the very best big city in Mexico. Guadalajara is not as inexpensive as it used to be but you can still find bargains if you look hard.

5. Merida, Yucatan

An old colonial city in the heart of the Yucatan jungle. It is very hot and humid mostly all year round and so you must love warm to hot weather to enjoy Merida. Amenities are excellent. According to resident expatriate, Randy Miller, “Progresso, our closest beach, is a fabulous place to swim. It’s only a short 20 minute drive from the house. There are so many things to do here; art, markets, museums, theater and so much more”.

Merida is about a 4 hour bus ride from the major resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It’s a Mexican business working city where prices are low and life is excellent.

6. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo

Welcome to the Jungle! The Riviera Maya includes Cancun in the North, Playa del Carmen in the center and Tulum in the South and all points in between.

According to Bil Mabra , ” Even though the cost of living in the Riviera Maya is a bit higher than other areas of Mexico it is still way more affordable than in the United States or Canada.”

Even with the real estate market in the U.S. taking a huge dive, the properties in Riviera Maya are still cheaper. Consider buying something that is not right on the beach but possibly walking distance or a 5-10 car ride to the Caribbean ocean….Lastly, upkeep on your Mexican home will not cost you as much because the cost of labor is a fraction of what it is in other countries.

If you are retiring then a question everyone has is about health care. In the Riviera Maya there are 3 top hospitals—2 of them are run by a group from Spain called Hospiten. The other is the American Hospital in Cancun. Hospiten is recognized for being a top-notch medical facility the world over and is on par or above most health care facilities you find in the U.S. and Canada. Most of the doctors and nurses that work at Hospiten are bi-lingual so even if your Spanish is not that great you can still communicate very effectively.

It is an every day occurence for people to migrate from the U.S. to have all types of medical procedures—everything from cosmetic surgery to heart bypasses and everything in between – done in Mexico. Compare the cost of healthcare and medications in Mexico to the cost in other countries and you will find the cost is usually more than 50% less.

The Riviera Maya climate is tropical but the actual daily temperature does not vary that much from the winter time to the summer time. Yes, summertime there is more humidity and it gets hot but typically there are only 3 months of the year where it is very hot from July to September. A lot of people take their vacations during this time if they want a little break from the heat. The other 9 months of the year it is very comfortable.

Highs in the winter time are usually around 84 degrees fahrenheit with lows in the high 60s to low 70s. Highs in the summertime are typically around 93 to 95 degrees with more humidity in the hottest months. If you come from a colder climate it takes a few months to get acclimated but once you do it sure is nice wearing your shorts and flip-flops in January and February.

Living in the Riviera Maya also allows many people to get in and out of the country very easy. There is an international airport in Cancun servicing many major cities daily in the U.S. and Canada and another airport is now being built near Tulum. Getting to and from the Riviera Maya of Mexico has never been easier.

As far as amenities go, how about going shopping at Wal-mart, Costco or Sam’s Club and then going to have lunch at Applebee’s? Yes, now in this area of Mexico there are mostly all the creature comforts which all of us have grown accustomed to such as high speed and wireless Internet, satellite TV and GSM mobile phones.

20 years ago, this was a small fishing community – from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. Now, because of the influx of European and Mexico City money, this area has exploded. This is good for many reason, people choosing to now move and live here, have all the necessary amenities that one could need. The beaches are some of the best in the world. Miles and miles of white sand and beautiful Caribbean warm waters.

7. Mazatlan, Sinaloa

Mazatlan is a local Mexican resort city. It is older, inexpensive, and has a wonderful older downtown with excellent cultural rustic Mexican life. Excellent seafood in this very unique resort town.

8. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Life in the pacific tropics is excellent in Puerto Vallarta. Lovely fun downtown, great restaurants. Prices are relatively high for Mexico and so it’s not for the budget retiree.

9. La Paz, Baja California Sur

Inexpensive city life on the Sea of Cortes near Cabo San Lucas, La Paz is a family friendly small city. It’s very hot so it’s not for those that love colder climates.

10. San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Randy Bowser, who’s lived in Mexico for over 10 years says, ”I lived in San Cristobal de las Casa for 1 year and have to say really liked it a lot. The truest of Mexican culture exists in San Cristobal. It’s 5000ft above see level. It does have a chilly feel to the climate year round but the beauty of the area is well worth the trade-off. It’s not really a viable place to live for the younger generation but for those retiring from life and wanting a slow, relaxed, peaceful existence, then this would be the place for you. It’s a magical place.

Original Source

¿Por qué hay tantos ‘gringos’ en San Miguel de Allende?

Por Enrique Legorreta | Barrio

Se ha convertido en el lugar donde hacen realidad el ‘sueño mexicano’

San Miguel de Allende es uno de los lugares de México en cuyas calles podrías escuchar más inglés que español.

Esta ciudad colonial ubicada en Guanajuato se ha convertido en uno de los lugares preferidos para los norteamericanos y se estima que más de 10 mil estadounidenses jubilados radican aquí.

¿Pero por qué esta ciudad se convirtió en favorita de los extranjeros? El estadounidense Stirling Dickinson contribuyó en gran medida a popularizarla.

En 1937, Dickinson terminó en San Miguel de Allende casi por accidente, cuando en su viaje por el país, un retraso en el tren que tomaría le permitió conocer y enamorarse de la ciudad, de acuerdo con la revista Smithsonian.

Tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Stirling abrió una escuela de arte que recibió a varios jóvenes veteranos estadounidenses.

En la actualidad, la ciudad cuenta con una fuente Memorial a Dickinson cercana a su tumba.

Años después, otros estadounidenses fueron atraídos a este lugar, formaron familias, abrieron negocios y comenzaron a participar en organizaciones sin fines de lucro.

El aumento en la población estadounidense se nota en el precio de la vivienda, que en gran medida se cotiza en dólares. Adrián Toscano, agente de bienes y raíces de Agave Sotheby’s International Realty contó a Telemundo que en la década de los ochenta la propiedad más cara costaba 110 mil dólares, hoy el precio puede llegar hasta los 12 millones de dólares.

“Gente como yo va a Florida a morir, a San Miguel de Allende vienen a vivir (…) Muchos amigos hemos vivido en otras partes del mundo, pero escogimos San Miguel de Allende porque es maravilloso, económico y hay muchas oportunidades para apoyar a la comunidad”, explicó a la agencia AFP Michael Gerber, habitante de origen estadounidense de 75 años de edad.

Adrián Toscano dijo a Telemundo que debido a que hay mano de obra barata y diversos eventos, la ciudad es una opción atractiva para los jubilados que buscan “gastar bien su dinero y estirarlo”.

Otro atractivo para muchos es que tiene un clima agradable y templado todo el año.

La arquitectura es otro punto fuerte de la ciudad, coronada por la parroquia San Miguel Arcángel, uno de sus lugares más representativos.

Y a esto se suman la oferta gastronómica y cultural, con numerosos restaurantes y eventos.

Todo esto le ha valido numerosos reconocimientos a San Miguel de Allende, entre ellos la ‘Mejor Ciudad del Mundo’ por la revista Travel+Leisure.

Este año fue nombrada como Capital Americana de la Cultura (2019) por el Bureau Internacional de Capitales Culturales.

También fue declarada Ciudad Patrimonio de la Humanidad por la Unesco en 2008 debido a su aporte cultural y arquitectónico al barroco mexicano y a su importancia en la lucha de Independencia de México.

Fuente original