Expats thinking outside the box means finding destinations that can offer a combination of adventure and the challenge of living in a different environment. The Latin Tropics have a number of locations that can offer both an adventurous lifestyle and the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone.
The list below contains locations that range from rustic, provincial places, where you can immerse yourself in a new culture, to regions where high adrenaline activities are the theme of the day. These unique spots are not just for visiting but, for those who dare to try something different, places where even the most adventurous expats can find long-term fulfillment.
Locales for Expats Thinking Outside the Box
The list below is by no means exhaustive. However, these destinations are great examples of places where you can find more than just your run-of-the-mill expat hotspot.
Boca Chica Island, Panama
For those looking to escape from the 24/2/7/365 rush of modern urban communities, Boca Chica, Panama is the perfect getaway. This 400-acre private island, just a mile off the Panamanian coast and six miles from the town of the same name, combines natural beauty, world-class sport fishing, snorkeling and diving, and tremendous investment potential.
Boca Chica’s close proximity to Enrique Malek International Airport in David makes it easy to access this lush tropical oasis. Once experienced, it is easy to see that Boca Chica is a desirable place for relocation.
Adrenaline junkies who are looking for a place that combines high energy sports with the ambiance of a small tropical fishing village will find that rare blend in Crucita, Ecuador. This beachside town has become known as a premier destination for paragliding and hang gliding with stretches of open beaches, constant Pacific breezes, and a number of businesses that cater to “gliders.”
Given the small population (12,000) and rustic beach lifestyle, Crucita may be the ideal spot for adventurers who are looking for the magic of that “endless summer” without the tourist-centric atmosphere that many beach towns have. More than just a place to visit and play, Crucita has potential for investment while maintaining the irresistible draw of being a location where high-flyers can spread their wings.
Santa Teresa/Mal Pais, Costa Rica
Nestled on the southern tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya peninsula, Santa Teresa (and the surrounding region of Mal Pais) has become a haven for those expats seeking a life less cluttered. The region around Santa Teresa has become a go-to spot for surfers from all over the world seeking to find that perfect wave without the over-development that marks so many beach communities in the region. Surf camps and shops are plentiful; there are even two surf camps – Chica Surf Adventures and Pura Vida Adventures – that are for women only.
The perfect balance to the high-energy world of surfing, the region has also become home to a growing number of yoga retreats and alternative health spas. Close proximity to the first national park in Costa Rica, Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve and Curu Wildlife Refuge, provides special opportunities to experience a wealth of biodiversity.
Needless to say, this symbiotic merging of meditation, natural wonders, and adrenaline sports has made the Mal Pais region a popular place to visit and play. While there is an increasing push to develop more contemporary living in Santa Teresa, it is still possible to live there and immerse yourself in the eclectic ambiance of rustic small villages where the spirit of “pura vida” remains alive and well.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Nature lovers could ask for no better place to live than the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. While the Galapagos archipelago is made up of 19 islands, only five are inhabited: Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz. The largest city, Puerto Ayora, home to about 10,000 people, is located on Santa Cruz.
Long admired as one of the premier destinations for wildlife viewing, this group of islands is home to various types of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. The few villages and towns scattered throughout the archipelago are rustic settlements that are reminiscent of an earlier, less complicated time.
Living in a location that is unsullied by modern construction, surrounded by a unique and biodiverse environment, seeped in historical relevance, is what a move to the Galapagos Islands promises. More than just a place to visit, these islands can be a retreat from the modern world like no other place on Earth.
Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
Labeled by such figures as Aldous Huxley and Alexander Von as being the most beautiful lake in the world, the highlands area of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala has become a favorite for expats looking for a unique destination off the beaten path. Located in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range, the Lake Atitlán area has a cooler, less tropical climate that may appeal to expats who find the heat along the coast less inviting.
The nine villages that surround the lake offer both a rustic lifestyle and a chance to become immersed in the local Mayan culture like nowhere else in the region. Being able to see and experience Mayan culture, not just as a tourist presentation, but as a way of daily life, is a profound experience that cannot be had in many places in the world.
Less developed than other parts of Guatemala, this region holds great investment potential for those who are intrepid enough to create their own version of a Latin Tropics escape. Balancing growth while maintaining the special cultural vibe of the region is a focus of the area’s residents, and it shows.
Sanctuary Belize, Belize
Nestled between Mexico and Guatemala, the tiny country of Belize melds a unique blend of eco-lifestyles, adventures on land and sea, and Mayan ruins. Formally known as British Honduras, Belize is unique in that it is the only Latin Tropic country where English is the official language.
Belize offers a diverse selection of things to see, do and experience. Numerous Mayan ruins await those who wish to see the remnants of this amazing culture up close and personal. For those looking for aquatic adventures, the Belize Barrier Reef is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and second-largest in the world behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Sanctuary Belize has become a unique experiment combining eco-tourism and a “green” lifestyle on its 14,000 acre location. Having the opportunity to live green in the tropics while enjoying the natural beauty of Belize is certainly an exciting option for expats looking for something more than just an oceanfront existence.
Dare to Think Outside the Box
One of the best parts of the expat experience is discovering new vistas and new ways of living that can take you beyond the life you had before. Visiting these locations (or others that peak your interest) can be the first step to leaving your comfort zone to find your own road less traveled.
The number of millennials embracing expat living is increasing every year. Not surprisingly, the Latin Tropics have become a top destination for these young Americans seeking a path less traveled beyond the borders of the U.S.
Unlike retirees, or older expats, millennials often have to remain more focused on how to earn a living while exploring their new country. Whether the stay is just for a year or two, or a more permanent relocation, finding a job that can finance the tropical dream can be a challenging part of the expat experience.
Know the Rules
Working in a foreign country is not just a matter of getting hired. Many countries have rules and regulations governing employment for those who are not citizens or residents of the country. This may be a factor in the types of employment that millennials looking to work abroad can apply for.
While researching job opportunities, it is important to also look into any limitations that may exist for prospective foreign workers. The information for work permits, residency requirements, and other matters concerning employment are easily found on the internet.
What Jobs Are Most Available for Millennials Embracing Expat Living?
The types of jobs best suited, and most easily obtained, for millennials living abroad are different than those available to college graduates in the United States. Whether looking for something to pay the bills for a year or two, or as a transition to becoming a permanent resident, being able to look at some non-traditional roles can open up opportunities that you may not have considered before. Here are a few.
As the interest in life outside of the U.S. continues to expand, freelance writers and photographers are becoming more in demand. The plus side is that you are your own boss in terms of what projects you work on and when. The obvious downside is that there is no guarantee of a regular income.
If you have language skills, finding work as a translator may be a way to fund your expat experience. This type of work can be found in both public and private settings.
Many local schools look for individuals who can teach basic English to their students. On the other side of the language coin, international schools are seeking native English speakers to teach Spanish to new arrivals to their Central and South American homes.
For millennials who want to immerse themselves in the local culture while sharing their knowledge and experience, working in the growing tourism industry is another possibility. Whether arranging tours, making reservations, or actually working as a guide, the opportunities and potential for income is certainly growing.
For some millennials, working to better the lives of those in need in a foreign setting is the ideal expat position. While the pay is often minimal, many organizations often trade room and board in exchange for the work you would do. Though not for everyone, positions of this sort can offer life changing experiences that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
Employment with a U.S. Company
There are a limited number of openings abroad for employees of companies based in the U.S. Generally, these positions require some specific skill or training that local residents may not have. As globalization continues, however, the number of positions for those interested in living and working abroad can be expected to increase as well.
Real Estate: The Unexpected Option
One type of work that may not immediately come to mind is the field of real estate. Many older expats looking to rent or purchase property in the Latin Tropics often find that they’re more comfortable dealing with someone who comes from their same background or frame of reference.
Expats know the kinds of areas and properties that might appeal to other expats like themselves. They’re also familiar with the way real estate transactions work in both the U.S. and their new country and can better explain the ins and outs to newcomers.
As a result, many local realty companies actively seek individuals who are excited about sharing the expat experience and who can spread that excitement to others considering the same choice. These positions can involve rentals, buying and selling, or even managing properties for absentee owners.
Where Do You Look for Expat Jobs?
After identifying the kinds of jobs that may translate well to the expat lifestyle, the next step is to discover where these positions can be found. Personal connections, such as friends and family are good places to start your search.
Alumni associations, fraternities and sororities, or professional organizations (if you belong to one) may provide unexpected connections beyond the U.S. borders. Even if none of these options is available, there is still one other trusty tool you can use for job hunting: the Internet.
A simple search for terms such as “international jobs” or “telecommuting” or “teaching English abroad” can yield a great deal of information about positions that are available and how to apply for them. Even a search for U.S. companies that are located in your chosen destination could reveal a potential source of opportunity.
Social media is another great place to get ideas. There is an ever increasing number of groups on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram dedicated to living and working abroad.
What Is the First Step in Embracing Expat Living?
But before you start sending out resumes, it’s important to make sure you’ve pinned down a location where you’ll be happy and fulfilled, whether for a few years or forever. Set aside some time to visit the areas you’re considering. Get a feel for the culture and the pace of life. And don’t forget to check out the job boards and see what’s posted!
Are you ready to be an expat? There are a lot of factors that should go into making such a life-changing decision. Taking an objective look at several important areas is a great way to test your expat readiness.
While there are elements that are unique to each person, certain general characteristics apply to almost everyone who’s able to thrive in the Latin Tropics. Answering true or false to a number of simple questions can provide a window into whether the expat lifestyle is something that you should pursue.
I’m Ready to Be an Expat: True or False
Below is a series of statements that address some of the factors that could impact your decision to move abroad. Read each one, and be truthful about your response. If you can agree to each of these claims, there is a good chance you would thrive in the Latin Tropics.
I Have Visited My Destination City/Country Several Times.
There is no more important step in the process of moving abroad than actually experiencing the country firsthand. By getting a good grasp on what life might be like before taking the plunge, you can avoid ending up with expat regret.
I Have Made a Budget for Living Abroad.
Having a realistic understanding of your own financial situation and what your requirements are to maintain the lifestyle you desire is particularly important as an expat. This should also include a “slush fund” to cover unexpected or increased costs.
I Have a Plan to Earn/Make Money in My New Home.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, you also need a plan for how you’re going to keep income flowing in. This could be from savings, investments, social security or pensions, or some kind of work or employment. Regardless of the source, this is something that should be in place well before you start packing your bags.
I Have a Place to Live.
It may seem obvious, but making certain that you have a place to live – whether rented, owned, or built – is crucial to preparing for your move overseas. A great way to deal with this is to research properties available, visit prospective locations, and meet with local agents who can answer questions about properties, transactions, and the overall potential of areas you’re considering.
I Am Comfortable Living in a Place Where English Is Not the Primary Language.
For those whose experience in foreign living has been exclusively at resorts that cater to North American tourists, discovering that daily life is not conducted in English can be a culture shock and a difficult hurdle to overcome. For some, learning to live life in another language is a welcome challenge. For others, it could be too much to handle.
I Don’t Mind Things Moving at a More Casual Pace.
Life in the Latin Tropics moves a bit more slowly than most North Americans are used to. Mañana, “tomorrow,” may actually mean next week. Next week might mean next month. Accepting that certain things, such as appointments with repair people, deliveries, etc. may not happen in the same time frame as in the U.S., can reduce your stress level and allow you to enjoy living life less frenetically.
My Friends/Family Support My Decision.
While the decision to move abroad is ultimately a personal one, having the knowledge that friends and family support your decision makes for a much easier transition to becoming an expat. Keeping positive lines of communication open can make the entire experience a joyous journey for all involved.
I Do Have a Fall-Back Plan.
Although your intention may be to make your move permanent, life sometimes intervenes. Family emergencies, financial issues, health problems, and similar unexpected occurrences may require a return back to the States. Having a safety net in place – even if it’s never used – can bring much-needed peace of mind during an uncertain time.
The Flip Side
If you answered “true” to the above statements, then congrats! You’re well on your way to making your dream a reality. But before you do, here are a few statements where your agreement could mean that becoming an expat might not be the best choice for you at this time.
I Want to Get Away from a Bad Relationship.
There is probably no worse reason to become an expat than to escape a failed relationship. While giving yourself some space may be a great short-term fix, you will soon discover that the feelings you sought to escape have travelled with you and could make adjusting to your new home very difficult. Try taking a vacation instead.
I Hate the Government and Want to Leave.
Many people threaten to move out of the country if so-and-so gets elected or if such-and-such bill gets passed. It’s understandable. We all get frustrated. But the truth is that there’s no utopia. If government policies and politicians frustrate you in the U.S., they will in your new country as well. While it’s true that Third World governments generally do less to affect your daily life and choices, there’s an incredible amount of bureaucracy and corruption.
I Want Life to Be Just Like It Was Back Home.
Simply put, this is an impossible dream. Life in the Latin Tropics is far different than life in the U.S. From the food, to shopping, to infrastructure, to the weather, you cannot hope to replicate the life you are leaving in the U.S. It will never happen.
My Culture Is Better Than Any Other.
If you are not willing to immerse yourself in a new culture and already have a preconceived notion that your way is superior, living abroad is not for you. People in the Latin Tropics are extremely welcoming to foreigners, but they don’t have a thing for those who arrogantly think their own ways are best.
Answering the Question About Your Expat Readiness
In taking this quiz, you probably have a better idea as to whether you are ready to begin your expat journey. Even if you couldn’t quite answer affirmatively to every statement, you should have a better idea of how to prepare for a life changing adventure that can lead you to your tropical paradise.
There are surprising expat expenses whose prices are significantly higher abroad than “at home.” Identifying these items beforehand can help potential expats, particularly those who are living on a fixed income, to better prepare for these higher ticket items.
On the flip side, there are some things whose costs are much less than you might expect. Comparing these pluses and minuses can be a great way to plan a long-term budget for your life in paradise.
Surprising Expat Expenses-The Top 6 Items
The list below contains some of the most surprising expat expenses. While no means exhaustive, this group provides a good example of the kinds of things that expats should keep in mind as they make the transition to life in the tropics.
Transportation: Buying Or Shipping A Vehicle
One of the most expensive items that may surprise expats is the cost of purchasing a new vehicle in the Latin Tropics. It is not uncommon to find prices that are as much as 25% higher than you would pay for the same vehicle in the U.S.
An additional issue with vehicle purchasing is that financing probably will not be an option. This translates into having to pay cash which can certainly impact a budget if someone was expecting a monthly payment instead.
Even shipping a vehicle can be a pricey option. The cost of getting the vehicle to the port that it will ship from, the price of shipping, duty and import fees and taxes charged by your new country can easily total several thousand dollars.
Repairs To Vehicles
Getting a vehicle repaired in the tropics is another surprising expat expense. While the costs of labor are usually cheaper, getting the parts necessary to make the repairs can be significantly higher
The major reason for this is the fact that many parts have to be imported into the country since there are very few “after market” suppliers in the tropics. Ordering parts from a state-side distributor means paying to have them shipped and, depending on the price, possibly paying duty on them as well.
In the tropics, transaction fees can be a surprising expat expense when buying property. While there are few, if any, restrictions to foreigners actually owning property throughout the Latin Tropics, understanding the transaction fee structure can be confusing and, in some cases, add a cost that you may not have expected.
The fee structure varies from country to country and needs to be checked before signing any agreements. Even the tax on property can vary; in Panama, for example, the transfer tax is a flat 2%. However, the basis can be either the purchase price or the cadastral value, whichever is greater. This latter item is an administrative value used by local authorities for fiscal purposes, such as taxes.
Higher End Consumer Goods
One major expense for expats involves higher end consumer goods like appliances or electronics. Not only are “brand name” products harder to come by, the prices that one will pay for them could be several times higher than one would pay in the states.
Paying for electricity, internet (if available), cable, cellular service, water/sewer and related items are other surprising expat expenses. Once you move beyond basic service, costs can double or even triple. Additionally, if repairs should be needed, you can be charged for those as well.
Traveling Home Or In-Country
What makes this category a surprise is the volatility of airline fares and fuel. The recent spike in oil prices has pushed gasoline (and jet fuel) higher; yet, as recent history demonstrates, these prices can also drop just as rapidly. Trying to plan and budget for any traveling could be a more expensive proposition than you had previously thought.
There Is An Upside
There are also some pleasant surprising expat expenses that are less expensive that the counterparts stateside.
Fresh Fruits And Vegetables
With a large number of farmer’s markets, roadside stands selling fruits and vegetables, and a good variety in brick-and-mortar stores, the prices for fresh produce are much less that you might imagine. In addition, the selection is always changing as various crops go in and out of season. For those looking for a healthier lifestyle, having access to fresh products at good prices is a welcome benefit.
Domestic, Landscaping, and Gardening Help
Finding a housekeeper, a gardener or someone to take care of the landscaping on the property is usually an inexpensive proposition. These workers are more affordable and more flexible than their U.S. equivalents.
Finding The Balance
Ultimately, each expat has to weigh the pluses and minuses of the decision to move abroad. Are the higher costs of some items offset by having the opportunity to live in a tropical paradise? For most, however, even being caught off guard by surprising expat expenses would not alter the decision to enjoy life in the Latin Tropics.
North Americans living abroad cite a number of reasons they love the expat lifestyle. There’s the ability to experience another culture, the daily exposure to incredibly beautiful natural surroundings, and the drastically lower cost of living, to name a few.
But there are also some other, more deep-seated benefits you never hear about. Because they can’t be measured or, in many cases, even articulated.
They make up the emotional well-being that’s characteristic of the most successful expats. And they’re perhaps the biggest perks of all to the expat life.
The Number One Goal of Most Expats
Though the list of expat benefits is long, most North Americans who live in foreign countries will tell you they moved to find a better quality of life. And whether you’re looking for a more ecologically diverse environment, a better place for raising children, or a richer cultural experience, there’s no more satisfying feeling than living in a place that closely aligns with your priorities.
When you’re able to choose your place of residence, not because it’s where you grew up or because it’s close to relatives, but because it supports the values you most want to uphold for your family…that’s incredibly liberating.
Is a laid-back lifestyle essential to allow you to live at your own pace? Are you looking for a place that allows you to live sustainably and minimize your ecological footprint? Or maybe all you want is a home with a view of the sea.
Freedom Fuels an Incredible High
Taking control of where you live gives you the ultimate freedom. And that freedom is empowering. It sets the stage for an entire series of self-directed choices. Decisions about your livelihood, your pastimes, and your social network.
When you’ve shaken off the restraining bonds of things like schedules and rules, a whole new world of possibility opens up for you. I’m talking about having the ability to work remotely or go into business for yourself, being able to homeschool your children, and freeing up some disposable income for things like travel and adventure.
Imagine closing up your kids’ biology book and taking them to explore a prehistoric rainforest instead. Or finding a secluded beach to enjoy an afternoon with your spouse, rather than vacationing at a crowded all-inclusive resort.
When you – not society or the government or your boss – are in control of your life, the decisions are in your hands. You decide whether you want to squeeze in a little surfing before you start your work day or whether maybe you want to load up the family for a weekend getaway in the nearby mountains.
The Sense of Satisfaction Is Unrivaled
This might be a good time to point out that not all of the emotions associated with moving abroad are positive ones. There are a lot of drawbacks and, in fact, a lot of would-be expats don’t end up making it work.
There are instances of failed businesses, failed marriages, homesickness, and even substance abuse as expats try to navigate the system and culture in their new home. Surviving as a foreigner in a strange place requires determination, flexibility, and a whole lot of other attributes I don’t have room to discuss here.
But staying positive, keeping the ball moving forward, and coming out victorious on the other side is incredibly rewarding. You just keep pushing through until one day you wake up, look at your partner, and say, “We made it.”
That’s not to say there won’t still be down times. There will. But there will be so many more highs than lows. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment over everything from opening a bank account (no small feat in many countries) to learning the language, or finding your place in the local community.
Become Who You’ve Always Wanted to Be
The experience of being displaced and having to transition into a new way of life has the double-edged effect of making you lose your identity, to a degree. While temporarily uncomfortable, this phenomenon can give you the opportunity that no other experience can.
The ability to reinvent yourself and be the you you’ve always wanted to be, with no external motivators to impact your career path, your lifestyle choices, or how you spend your time.
It’s not about losing yourself or your past. It’s about finding your true joy and purpose without anything to cloud your vision.
The Best Emotion Is the One You Won’t Feel
The things people love the most about living overseas are as varied as the expats themselves. But there’s one characteristic that all successful expats have in common.
They will never have to wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t been too afraid to take the plunge.
Never will they regret being talked out of moving by skeptical family and friends. Nor will they have to live with the realization that they let themselves be dissuaded by their own fear of failure or their lack of faith in their ability to adapt.
And there’s a lot of pride in that fact.
Rather than lying awake at night worrying about an uncertain future, only to dream about a better one they’ll never attain, expats can rest easy knowing they’ve achieved something so many others can only hope for.
A mind without regrets makes an awfully soft pillow. Find out for yourself.
It’s a scary world we live in. The many recent acts of terrorism are proof enough of that. These days it seems many North Americans can’t even do simple things like attend a concert, go to work, or send their kids to school without worrying that the unthinkable might happen.
The U.S. is increasingly being targeted by extremist groups who place little value on human life, including their own. Many people wonder if their country is as safe as it once was or whether they should jump ship and find another, safer place to call home. And, if so, where would that be?
And what about the hassle of becoming an expat? Of moving to another country, learning a new language, and being far away from family and friends?
If you’re among those contemplating a move to someplace a little less attractive to terrorists, it might surprise you to know that there are some great options within a short distance from the U.S. And not only are these places safe, they also offer an incredible lifestyle at a much lower price point, with virtually no threat of terrorism whatsoever.
Central America Is Safer Than You Think
Each of the following three countries is located in Central America, and can be reached via a 3-hour flight from a number of U.S. cities like Atlanta, Houston, or Miami. They offer a lower cost of living (in some cases, much lower) than in North America. Yet, depending on where in the country you go, you’ll find services and amenities that rival a lot of major U.S. cities.
And here’s another important characteristic that each of these countries share. All three scored a zero on the Global Terrorism Index, a ranking of all the countries in the world based on the amount of terrorist activity they’ve experienced over a 10-year period.
For the sake of comparison, here’s how a few other countries fared. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan took the top three slots, with scores at or near 10 (at the time this article was published). Syria ranked 5th with an 8.12. The United States scored a 4.6, bringing it to the 34th slot.
By contrast, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama tied with a few other nations for 124th with a score of 0. Zero. Meaning NO terrorist activity whatsoever. I can’t think of many other ranking systems where I’d be so excited to come in dead last.
If that isn’t enough to convince you to make the move, here’s a little more info about each country and what makes it so incredible.
Costa Rica: Unparalleled Beauty Plus Top-Notch Health Care
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that there is nowhere in the world as incredible as Costa Rica. For starters, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. And it offers climates and settings to suit every preference. From the cool, lush, mountainsides with their sweeping vistas to the tropical white sand beaches lined with shady palms.
Once you look beyond the natural beauty of Costa Rica, you’ll also find that it’s just as rich in amenities that you don’t usually find in most tropical destinations. Services like banks, supermarkets, health clubs, museums, and five-star restaurants can be widely found. And the country’s free health care system ranks higher than that of the U.S.
Nicaragua: The Same Perks at a Bigger Bargain
If you’re looking for all the incredible scenery of Costa Rica, but at a slightly lower premium, then your journey ends in Nicaragua. With two long coastlines, two huge lakes, volcanoes, rain forests, and rivers, it offers all the same ecosystems and postcard-worthy views as its neighbor. But since it’s less discovered and less developed, it all comes at a slightly lower price point.
Less development does mean fewer amenities, but there are still plenty of places in Nicaragua where you can find most of the same business and consumer options you’re accustomed to in the U.S. And since prices are lower, you can even enjoy some luxuries you might not be able to afford elsewhere, like the services of a full-time domestic helper.
Panama: First World Infrastructure and the Best Expat Benefits
Panama has benefitted greatly from its long history of U.S. military presence and its long-standing popularity as an expat haven. As a result, its infrastructure and amenities are way ahead of their time.
You’ll rarely have any difficulty finding a Wi-Fi hotspot or getting a good cell phone signal. Many of the same consumer options you buy in the U.S. can be found in Panama. There are tons of businesses and services that cater to expats, often run by expats themselves.
Panama also offers a wealth of visa options, as well as an attractive pensionado program that offers considerable discounts on things like hotels and transportation, for retirees of any age.
So, if you’re a would-be expat searching for a safer place to live that’s reasonably accessible from the U.S., don’t overlook the opportunities available in Central America. Take a trip down and check out what this amazing region has to offer. It could be the best three hours you’ve ever spent.
The country of Ecuador has many cultural and natural features that make it an attractive location for those seeking an alternative to more traditional tropic destinations. You may already know a few.
For example, this increasingly popular expat haven is known for its biodiversity, its affordability, and its rich culture. It also enjoys a sense of familiarity due to the established expat population.
However, as you continue to explore and get to know this unique expat hub, you may discover a few facts that will surprise you. Here are a few that make it stand out from the rest.
1. It’s the world’s most “far out” place.
Ecuador is actually closer to outer space than any other country on Earth. The reason? Mt. Chimborazo (Ecuador’s highest peak) is located on the equatorial bulge.
As a result, the summit of this mountain is the farthest point on the entire planet from the Earth’s core. Put another way, it is the point on Earth closest to space.
2. The Darwin Award goes to…
Ecuador is home to the Galapagos Islands, which were the location and inspiration of Charles Darwin’s research. Ecuador is viewed as one of 17 “megadiverse” countries on the planet and is widely considered as the most biodiverse country, per square kilometer, anywhere.
3. Even its name is special.
The name “Ecuador” itself is unique. While it is well known that the equator runs through the country, a lesser known fact is that Ecuador is the only country on Earth named after a geographical feature. The formal name of the country is República del Ecuador, the “country of the Equator.”
4. It offers a lot of bang for your literal buck.
Since 2000, Ecuador has used the U.S. dollar as its national currency. As a potential expat or investor, this means not having to deal with currency conversion rates and international fees, both in your daily life as well as in commercial transactions.
Being able to purchase real estate using U.S. dollars makes buying and investing both attractive and ultimately more affordable than in other locations. The fact that there are a growing number of properties on the market makes for a wide variety of options to choose from.
5. Yes, we have bananas…lots of them!
The singing of the old novelty song, “Yes, we have no bananas” (from 1922) would be woefully out of place in Ecuador. This country is actually the world’s largest exporter of the popular yellow fruit, shipping an average of 43 trillion of them annually. This translates to roughly 1/3 of all bananas exported worldwide.
6. You can be in both worlds at the same time.
One of Ecuador’s top tourist attractions is Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (literally “City of the Middle of the World”) where one can stand with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere.
Thanks to more modern technology, scientists have discovered that the true equatorial line is some 240 meters north of the popular monument and marker. However, the historic landmark is considered close enough for the many tourists who visit this location each year.
7. Nature has its own rights!
In 2008, Ecuador took an unprecedented step in declaring that nature had constitutional rights. Stating that it had the “right to exist, persist….and regenerate its vital cycles,” the Ecuadorian government declared that nature should not be treated as property.
This singular acknowledgement is, perhaps, one of the most forward-thinking statements about the environment you’ll find anywhere.
8. We’re the ones who really started the trend.
The familiar white straw and black hatband of the “Panama hat” has become a ubiquitous fixture throughout the Latin Tropics. Yet the many visitors to the region who purchase one of these signature hats might be surprised to discover that they didn’t actually get their start in Panama.
Originally from the coast of Ecuador, near the town of Cuenca, these hats were made for the workers who constructed the Panama Canal. Later, this headgear became a symbol of largesse of wealthy tourists who could afford to sail through the Canal. Today they’re still a popular souvenir choice of visitors to the region.
9. Expats are more than welcome.
It may come as a surprise that Ecuador is gaining popularity among expats as a preferred tropical destination. According to the annual survey done by InterNations.org, Ecuador has ranked as the number 1 choice among expats for the last two years.
From personal finance, quality of life, cost of living, and a number of other reasons, Ecuador has been consistently given the highest rating, rising above even other longtime favorite destinations in the Latin Tropics.
Discover Other Special Things About Ecuador
Perhaps the best way to discover what is special about Ecuador is to visit and explore it firsthand. You may just find that Ecuador is the unique tropical destination you’ve been looking for.
Modern technology has made the prospect of moving overseas much less daunting than in the not-so-distant past. The growing popularity of smart devices places a wide variety of applications at a user’s fingertips that can make the transition from casual traveler to seasoned expat much easier.
No matter what type of platform you have, these applications can make navigating the nuances of your new home both accessible and portable. In a real sense, these programs have transformed the way expats become integrated into their life abroad.
Essential Smartphone Applications for Moving Overseas
Perhaps the best way to prepare your smartphone or tablet for moving overseas is to first make a list of the kind of applications that you might need on a daily basis. Once you’ve identified your needs, group similar apps into those categories for easy access when you need them.
To demonstrate how this method can work for you, below are several major topics that expats frequently have questions or concerns about. Under each topic you will find some of the most popular apps that can help you with that issue.
Communicating With Others
Being able to communicate with your neighbors, especially in a new language, can be one of the most challenging aspects of moving overseas. The cost of making calls back to the U.S. (or elsewhere) can also be prohibitive. Below are some of the best apps to stay connected and to make sure you’re clearly understood.
Skype has become the “go-to” application for international travelers who want to be able to connect with friends and family, no matter where on Earth they may be. Having the ability to see who you are speaking to, as well as hear them, is one of the key features of this tool.
Once downloaded on your desktop or laptop, it is an easy matter to install the free app on any smartphone, sign in, and start up a conversation. Skype also has a number of fee-based options, such as unlimited calling and creating a personalized number, that can further enhance its usage.
This is a user-friendly, free app that allows you to type in or speak a word or phrase and have it translated instantaneously. You can have someone speak a phrase into your smartphone, and the app will immediately recognize the phrase and provide an English translation.
Likewise, you can also use the app to speak a phrase or question in English and have it played back in the desired language. It’s like having your very own translator right in your pocket.
Duolingo is a newer and very popular application for those who want to learn a second language, for free, while traveling. The wide variety of languages offered makes this a useful addition to any expat’s electronic toolkit. Although the learning level of the languages is basic at this time, being able to make yourself understood for most daily tasks, like shopping, will make the transition to expat life much easier.
Worried about getting stuck somewhere with no access to the Internet? WiFi Finder is another free app that can help you find Wi-Fi “hotspots” where internet access is available. Being able to reduce or avoid high phone bills or roaming charges makes this an essential app for new expats and experienced travelers alike.
Banking and Money
Before moving overseas, doing some online research on bank fees for international transactions can save both time and money. Checking with your current financial institution is a good place to start in the process.
Nerdwallet.com and Wallethub.com
These are two great applications that let you compare the pluses and minuses of banks and credit cards in terms of international transaction fees and other benefits. Naturally, each of the financial institutions listed have their own websites that can be reached online.
XE Currency is widely regarded as the premier free application for currency conversion rates. Knowing how much (or how little) a dollar is worth, in terms of local currency, can help new expats better plan out their monthly finances. Comparisons can also be done on multiple currencies at the same time.
Perhaps one of the hardest parts about moving overseas is trying to build up a social life. Between the language barrier and not knowing where to go, the expat life can be a bit isolated in the beginning. Fortunately, there are a number of apps that can help.
This app, which you may already be using, is probably the most popular and best known smartphone app in terms of social interaction. Being able to look up groups or individuals, seek out topics, and put your own information online can all help to build your social circle in your new home.
Meetup is a newer, free application that is rapidly gaining in popularity. By filtering by location and interests, you can find like-minded people and events that can help you interact and expand your connections beyond your immediate home area.
This is another newcomer to the expat-focused app world. Covering more than 200 cities worldwide (and growing), with this tool you can discover more than 20 million events that can help you get out and mingle.
21st Century Technology Makes Moving Overseas Easier
The number of applications available for smartphones and tablets will continue to grow as user demand increases. Having access to the information available in these apps, while on the go, has transformed the expat experience in ways that were unthinkable just a short while ago.
Combined with increasing Wi-Fi connectivity and advances in the quality and capacity of mobile devices, more people are considering the benefits and promise of the expat lifestyle. Grab your phone and explore the possibilities!
There are a number of reasons expats love Belize as a retirement destination. This small Caribbean nation (population roughly 370,048) has seen a steady growth of new expat arrivals with about 1,600 more expected by the end of 2016.
Even with all of the positive aspects of moving to Belize, this tropical destination may not be ideal for everyone. Like every expat destination, it has its pros and cons. It’s important to weigh them carefully, in light of your own personal priorities, in order to decide if Belize is right for you.
Why Expats Love Belize
Expats love Belize because of several unique characteristics that have become the hallmark of this former British colony. The top reasons for this rise in popularity are listed below:
The Importance of Language
For many retirees and potential expats, a major concern is how to get along in a foreign country where English is not the primary language. Belize is the perfect choice for those who are not comfortable with Spanish.
English is the principal language in the country, both in day-to-day and, even more importantly, in all official and governmental transactions. Being able to easily communicate with native Belizeans in business and social settings makes for an easy adjustment.
Money Conversion Is Not a Problem
Belize does have its own currency, the Belizean dollar (BZD). However, the U.S. dollar is widely accepted for personal and commercial business. For those rare instances when local currency is needed, the conversion rate is simple to calculate: 2 BZD=1 U.S. dollar.
Location, Location, Location
When people retire, one of the major drawbacks that can keep them from following their tropical dream is the distance from family and friends. The announcement that you are moving out of the country can often be met with resistance and disapproval from those close to you who are concerned about keeping in contact.
One of the biggest reasons that expats love Belize is how close it is to the U.S. With a variety of regularly scheduled flights to and from Phillip Goldson International Airport, located in Belize City, staying connected to loved ones is convenient and inexpensive.
Home Sweet Home
Foreigners can hold real property in their own name in Belize. Ever since the abolition of the Alien Landholding Act in 2001, there are no requirements, special licenses, or permits required for non-residents to own their own home.
What’s more, it is far easier to purchase beachfront property in Belize than in most other countries in the Latin Tropics. For those looking for an investment possibility, owning an oceanfront parcel can result in a good return on the initial cash outlay. With a growing list of properties on the market, finding your ideal home in paradise may be just a mouse click away.
People and Places
With so many Belizeans having U.S. connections, it is not surprising that new arrivals are welcomed as neighbors and new residents. Entry into the country is especially easy for citizens of North American countries or the U.K. who do not need visas for entry.
The variety of opportunities to explore and enjoy all that this country offers is yet another reason why expats love Belize. From the ancient Mayan ruins at Altun Ha, Caracol, and Lamanai, to the natural wonders of Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world, to the mysterious Blue Hole, Belize combines culture and adventure with a laid-back tropical vibe.
The Two Things Expat Hate About Belize
While there are lots of reasons why expats love Belize, there are two major factors that many expats hate about their move to Belize. By looking at these negative aspects, you are in a better position to decide whether this is a move that you want to undertake.
Time Is Relative
As is the case with many countries in the Latin Tropics, the importance of time is dramatically different than what most North Americans are used to. Expecting things – such as repairs or governmental functions – to be completed at the same rate as they would be “back home” can lead to a great deal of frustration and angst.
Ironically, one of the elements that can add to this sense of frustration is the natural desire to please that is a prominent feature of Belizean culture. Belizeans may say “maybe” or “possibly” instead of “no.” This kind of cultural difference is one of the biggest complaints many expats have expressed about their experience.
There’s Still Room for Improvement
There is so much in Belize that reminds expats of “home.” English is the spoken language. American television is watched by almost everyone. And in Belize City and other developed areas of the country, the modern amenities are similar to what you’d find in most U.S. cities.
However, the real downside of living here is that many items – especially big ticket items like appliances, electronics, and vehicles – are not readily accessible and, when they are, prices are much higher than one would expect back in the U.S. Even smaller items, like clothing, food products, and over-the-counter medicines can be a real challenge to find.
The combination of high import taxes, limited or no supply, and lack of major retail centers is another feature that many expats hate. They eventually learn to get by using locally-sourced products, but the adjustment period can be an issue for some.
Love or Hate It, Belize Is Worth a Closer Look
Everyone’s idea of retiring in a tropical paradise is different. Belize, with its positives and negatives, may or may not be the ideal place for the next phase of your life. Researching the country, visiting it, and being realistic about your own expectations is the best way to help you decide whether Belize is right for you.
There are a number of destinations that can be included in a list of the healthiest places in the Latin Tropics. The abundance of fresh foods, a more relaxed pace of daily living, and the tropical climate are just some of the features that have made the region a long-time favorite destination for retirees and other expats looking for a better quality of life.
This compelling combination has dramatically increased the interest of U.S. residents in finding alternative approaches to their current living arrangements. It is not just the locations themselves, but the qualities and opportunities that can be found there, that promise an overall healthier lifestyle – both on the physical and the emotional levels.
What Makes the Healthiest Places in the Latin Tropics Special
There are a number of qualities that the healthiest places in the Latin Tropics all seem to share. Below is a list of these factors that contribute to the wellbeing of locals and expats alike.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Finding fresh produce in the tropics can be as easy as taking a short walk or drive to one of the countless roadside stands or weekly farmers’ markets that are a fixture of life in these countries. The wide variety of locally grown products is not only less expensive but makes it far more convenient to prepare meals from scratch – leading to another element that makes life in the tropics a healthy alternative: diet.
There is certainly a much smaller emphasis on pre-packaged or “fast” food in the Latin Tropics. As a result, more meals are prepared fresh, instead of out of a container or microwavable box.
Additionally, there is not as much emphasis on red meat in the region, the preferred protein sources being poultry or fish. These kinds of diets have been shown to be healthier in terms of reducing fat and cholesterol.
Having more sunlight, warmer temperatures and less extremes in climate (i.e., winter cold to summer heat in a short period) has shown to be more conducive to better health. Aside from the physical benefits of Vitamin D, the abundance of sunlight also helps combat Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Appropriately abbreviated as SAD, this type of depression brought on during the shorter periods of daylight during the winter months impacts roughly three million adults yearly. Given that daylight hours only vary about fifteen minutes during the seasons, life under the tropical sun is emotionally healthy as well as physically healthy.
Less Stressful Pace of Living
If there is one thing that is the hallmark of the Latin Tropics, it is the slower, more relaxed pace of life. The stress of facing crowded streets, time clocks, and the omnipresent “noise” of the 24/7/365 connected world is replaced by the far more tranquil natural rhythms of the ocean, tropical rain forests, and small villages.
While the slower pace of getting things done (such as repairs or building projects) can take some getting used to, the physical benefits are worth the extra time spent. It can truly be said that, in terms of daily living, you do without doing and it all gets done.
More Active Lifestyle
One of the most important features that all these locations share is a more active physical lifestyle. Warm weather is more conducive to outdoor activities that can range from merely walking to more strenuous forms such as swimming, surfing, and other sports.
The Top Five Healthiest Places in the Latin Tropics
Here is a list of the top five healthiest places in the Latin Tropics. While each one has its own unique characteristics, they all share qualities that make them desirable of destinations for those seeking to find their own personal “fountain of youth.”
5. Volcán/Boquete, Panama
Located in the Chiriquí province of Panama, the Volcán/Boquete area boasts access to an abundance of fresh produce, herbs, and coffee and is known as the “breadbasket of Panama.” The moderate temperatures, low humidity (thanks to being 4000 feet above sea level), and a tranquil sense of wellbeing, all contribute to a more active lifestyle.
The region also can claim longer life spans for its residents than the rest of Panama. Boquete has been singled out by AARP magazine as one of the top places to retire in the entire world.
4. Playa Gigante, Nicaragua
This rustic fishing village on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua is rapidly becoming a mecca for a growing number of alternative health and yoga spas. With a very laid-back lifestyle, ready access to fresh fish and produce, and natural beauty of one of the country’s ecological centers, healthy living in Playa Gigante comes easily.
3. Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
Aside from its breathtaking vistas, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala is becoming recognized as a place for retirees seeking a healthier lifestyle. With some of the best weather anywhere, the rich Mayan culture (still very much in existence), abundant fresh produce, and a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy, Lake Atitlán’s popularity as both a tourist destination and a retirement location continues to grow.
2. Vilcabamba, Ecuador
It may come as a surprise to many that Vilcabamba, Ecuador is included in this list. Located in what is has become known as the “Valley of Longevity,” local residents claim to reach life expectancies well past 100 years.
While there is no hard evidence to support this claim, the mild climate, abundant fresh air (no pollution), low animal fat diets, and active lifestyle certainly are positive factors for healthier living. The natural beauty and relaxed pace of life in the valley also contribute to the growth of Vilcabamba as a top retirement destination.
1. Nicoya Peninsula/Nosara, Costa Rica
Featured in the book, The Blue Zones, the Nicoya Peninsula – and Nosara in particular – has become the best known of top healthy places in the Latin Tropics. The ready access to fresh produce and seafood combined with a more relaxed outdoor lifestyle has created an environment where longer life spans are the rule, not the exception.
Healthier diets and more physical activity seem to be only part of Nosara’s secret. The growing number of alternative therapies, such as meditation and yoga, create an atmosphere where life can be embraced as opposed to just being lived.
Finding That Longer, Healthier Life Path in Paradise
Visiting the locations mentioned above (or others in the region) could be the first step to discovering what the healthiest places in the Latin Tropics could offer as a lifestyle choice. Learning where and what resonates with you is a great place to begin your quest for a healthier, happier existence.
The beaches of Ecuador are some of the best kept secrets in the Latin Tropics. These oceanside destinations are rapidly gaining the attention of expats looking for a life filled with sun, sand, and water as well as foreign investors who are recognizing the potential for strong returns on investment in these communities.
Sprinkled along Ecuador’s Emerald Coast, each of these locations has a unique character that ranges from vibrant party and surfing towns to more sedate, higher end resort communities. The five locations listed below can truly be said to be the gems of Esmeralda.
What Makes Ecuador Beaches Special?
What makes the top beaches of Ecuador special is the fact that they aren’t as well known as other beach communities in the Latin Tropics. In a real sense, expats have the opportunity to explore and discover new and exciting locations that they may not have been previously aware of.
What follows, in no particular order, is a list of the best of these seaside destinations.
Perhaps the best known beach town in Ecuador, Salinas offers the high-rise modern lifestyle that many expats enjoy. The combination of modern amenities, combined with a wide variety of outdoor activities, and great weather, have made Salinas the “go-to” spot for foreigners and expats alike.
Whale watching, surfing, parasailing, and even skydiving as well as a vibrant nightlife are just some of the many activities that Salinas offers. For those seeking more tranquil alternatives, the nearby thermal baths and spas are a powerful draw.
For those looking for something a little less crowded, nearby Libertad is a commercial hub that is working to build up its beachfront as well as the pier areas to make it more attractive. For those looking for single family homes, the quiet community of Ballenita has some outstanding bargains for ownership and/or investment.
Montañita has long had the reputation for being the most lively beach town in Ecuador. Native Ecuadorians travel here to enjoy the surf and the party atmosphere – particularly during high season (January to April).
The nearby community of Olón has a growing expat population and is far more serene than its more boisterous neighbor. With stunning beach vistas all its own, living in Olón offers the best of both worlds–a quiet home close to a bustling and energetic entertainment center.
Canoa/Bahía de Caráquez
Two of the most up and coming beach towns in Ecuador are Canoa and Bahia de Caráquez. Canoa is a small village favored by surfers and backpackers but rapidly expanding into a more dynamic tourist and expat destination.
Bahia, just a short distance away, has grown into a mecca for expats looking for high-rise living. Being located on a peninsula between the Rio Chrone and the Pacific Ocean, Bahia has also become a favorite port-of-call for world-class yachtsmen (and women) from around the globe.
This dynamic combination promises to increase property values and development. The modern infrastructure makes it especially attractive to retirees and investors desiring tropical charm with the promise of a good return on initial outlay of investment funds.
Crucita has been favorably compared to Jaco, Costa Rica. Like Jaco, Crucita first gained attention as a destination for adrenaline junkies – in this case paragliding and hang gliding, while Jaco focused on surfing.
This has lead to a growing expat community and a continually improving and developing infrastructure. Crucita’s location, close to both Manta and Portoviejo, makes it an ideal spot to access the benefits of major urban centers while still be removed from the more frantic pace of those cities.
While Crucita continues to grow, it still retains much of its small, fishing village vibe. This quality is what is luring many retirees and expats who want a quieter pace but still within easy distance of larger expat communities.
At the opposite end of the scale from high-energy locations like Montañita and Salinas, is the quiet fishing village of Mompiche. It is the most rustic place on the list and is a perfect destination for those looking to disconnect from the 24/7/365 world and just enjoy the tranquility of living by the ocean.
Owning a Part of the Top Hidden Beaches of Ecuador
The allure of these Ecuadorian destinations has increased the interest level of those seeking a tropical destination close to the ocean. The real estate market, while still feeling effects of the 2008 recession, has a number of real jewels that can be had for a surprising affordable price.
A prime example of what you can find in these ocean side communities is this new 2 bedroom, 2 bath house overlooking the ocean for $85,000. Located in Ballenita, it could be the perfect seaside retreat or investment property in a growing area.
Some Beach, Somewhere
As can be seen from the above list, the top beaches of Ecuador provide a range of opportunities from rustic to high-end modern. Exploring them for yourself is the best way to find the sun and sand location that is right for you.
Measured by nearly any economic or social metric, Ecuador enjoyed a sustained boom between 2000-2014.
However this was a relatively new phenomenon for the small South American country. With the approximate landmass of Colorado and a population of just over 16M, Ecuador has experienced tremendous change over the last 30+ years.
As a result of popular revolts against government corruption and mismanagement, Ecuador saw seven different Presidents take office between 1992 and 2007 – there was even a brief time in 1997 where three different individuals claimed to be president of the country simultaneously!
Dollarization following the collapse of the Sucre in 2000 marked the beginning of stability and greater prosperity.
According to The World Bank, GDP rose from $18.3B in 2000 to over $100B in 2014 with the poverty rate dropping from 64.4% to 22.5% over the same period. Population growth, life expectancy and crime rates saw similar positive trends.
For those who understand the mechanics of money creation and that asset prices are inextricably levered to The Money Supply, it will come as no surprise that according to tradingeconomics.com, Ecuador’s M2 Money Supply also increased – from $11.79B in 2007 to approximately $40B in 2015.
According to the same source, consumer credit expanded at a similar rate, rising from $4.9B in 2007 to approximately $16.5B at the end of 2014.
This boom, partly fueled by the increase in money supply and a credit expansion, also coincided with, and was driven by, several larger trends taking place at the national level.
With Rafael Correa’s election in 2007, corruption began to decline and government spending, largely on infrastructure, began to increase.
According to Trading Economics, government spending increased from approximately $368M in 2000 to $2.5B in 2015.
This meant that ports, airports, roads, healthcare, drinking water, sewers, electricity, education, police, and fire were brought up to international standards.
According to a recent survey, conducted by the InterAmerican Federation of Construction Industries as part of the Global Competitiveness Report for 2014-2015, Ecuador ranks fourth in quality of infrastructure in Latin America.
Much of this expenditure was funded by oil revenue. Starting in early 2004, oil prices began to steadily rise, giving OPEC member Ecuador a steady source of capital to finance spending. Oil revenue accounted for as much as 40% of all Government revenue during the strong run for oil prices between Q1 2004 and Q4 2014.
Where Things Stand Today
A confluence of challenging economic factors hit Ecuador towards the beginning of 2015 that have affected the country greatly and play a big role in the country’s outlook going forward.
Oil prices began to plunge beginning in June/July 2014 and, while they’ve bounced off their lows, have yet to recover to post-2004 levels.
In addition, a strengthening dollar has hurt exports.
At the same time, early 2015 marked the end of a credit and construction cycle – credit began to tighten and construction slowed.
These factors led to budget cuts and a soft job market.
To make matters worse, President Correa in May 2014 announced plans to increase the capital gains and inheritance taxes to levels that caused some amount of capital flight. The proposals have yet to be enacted and it is unclear if they will, but the damage was done.
As a result of these factors, GDP was essentially flat in 2015 and is expected to be negative in 2016.
The government’s response to these headwinds has been to raise taxes and seek external sources of funding in the form of debt.
Rising tax revenue, along with recent loans from the IMF and China have served to cover budget shortfalls for now, but with the state continuing to grow and the environment becoming more difficult for the private sector, barring a significant rise in oil prices these are not sustainable solutions.
What Does It All Mean?
Ecuador is an amazing country. The climate, variety and natural beauty of the landscape, amazing people, low cost of living, great infrastructure, and the quality of life attainable here are second to none.
As a place to live, it’s hard to beat.
Having relocated from New York City over three years ago, purchasing land, starting a project, and launching a business I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
However, as an entrepreneur/investor evaluating Ecuador, one must consider the pros and cons.
On the positive side there is tremendous opportunity. With only a decade plus of political and economic stability, Ecuador is a relatively new market. Many goods and services that would have significant demand have not yet been brought to market.
Tourism is seeing amazing growth. According to World Bank statistics, Ecuador saw 511,000 tourists visit in 1998. That number rose to 968,000 by 2009 and 1,557,000 in 2014.
In addition foreigners are moving here to live in increasing numbers. Ecuador consistently shows up at the top of publications ranking the best places to retire. While foreigners have settled in places like Cuenca, Banos, Cotacachi, Vilcabamba, Quito and several others on the coast like Manta and Montanita for several years, the rest of the country largely still has yet to be discovered internationally.
From this perspective, Ecuador is in the sweet spot – being a relatively new market, with incredibly attractive attributes such as a varied and amazing climate, great infrastructure, political/social stability, excellent safety, abundant natural resources with excellent tourist/expat growth –offering the right mix for successful investing.
The other side of the coin is the business climate. Current President Rafael Correa considers himself a socialist. He has taken a considerably anti-business, anti-wealth stance as born out by his tax and regulatory policy.
The World Economic Forums Global Competitive Index for 2015-2016 ranks Ecuador 76th out of 140 Nations and 9th in Latin America.
Steep import taxes, a 14% Value Added Tax, inheritance taxes, a 22% corporate tax rate, 35% personal income tax, and a myriad of burdensome rules and regulations have made it more difficult to succeed as an entrepreneur/investor.
Asset prices have of course been affected by the economic situation. Capital has become scarce.
This is an interesting development for real estate as Ecuador, in addition to being such an attractive place to settle, is home to some of the most fertile and resource rich land in the world.
As real estate prices have begun to decline, an already comparatively inexpensive asset has become cheaper.
In addition, investment opportunities for those with capital are more plentiful with potentially better returns as business owners and entrepreneurs have to turn to private financing.
With national elections coming up in 2017, it is unclear what direction Ecuador will take.
With another decade of rule ideologically aligned with that of Rafael Correa, a future like that of Venezuela is not impossible to imagine. However, with a little less spending/borrowing and less controls on business it’s easy to see how Ecuador could capitalize on its amazing potential and insert itself into the conversation as one of the best opportunities in the world.
This article was written by Jesse Bayer. Jesse sold his real estate holdings in New York City and left for Ecuador with his family and business partner in July 2013. Since then Jesse has begun a large-scale development project and co-founded Abundant Living Ecuador, a real estate and relocation services firm based out of Loja. You can contact Jesse on our contact form.