Nearly two decades ago, when I first set foot in Nicaragua for International Living, the Managua airport was a simpler affair. I walked down steps to a hot tarmac and watched a porter toss my suitcase through a hole in the wall. Today there’s a Jetway, A/C and a duty-free shop. Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine gush about the country’s offerings. And we do, too. This month our correspondent there shares her recommendations—everything from volcano surfing to floating down a secret canyon. But my point is: we were poking around Nicaragua back in the mid-1990s, when it was otherwise overlooked. Today we persist in our boots-on-the-ground habit. We’re looking for storehouses of opportunity, spots ripe for engaging adventures, good-value investment, and comfortable, affordable living. Such places invariably sit under the radar and are misunderstood. But they can be worth your attention.
February sees Saint Agatha’s Feast Day take place in the city of Catania, on the Italian island of Sicily. The patron saint of the area, St. Agatha died at age 15 in the 3rd century, and every February 4 commences with a mass held at dawn in her name. Her statue is then given pride of place atop a massive silver carriage and carried to the top of Mount Sangiuliano by over 5,000 men. The ensuing days offer the chance to enjoy Sicilian food and wine, and the ceremony closes with a massive fireworks display. From February 11 to 17, you can experience the magic of Carnaval without having to take a flight to Rio. Just hop across the border to Mexico. It too is noted for its carnival celebrations, which take place in cities across the country. The most notable Carnavales take place in Veracruz, Mazatlán, and Mérida. You’ll have an exciting selection of parades, displays, live music, and cuisine to choose from, as the party atmosphere sweeps the nation.
Vietnam has plenty to offer expats, including some of the best beaches in Asia, an extremely warm and friendly population, low costs, wonderful weather, and cultural and natural splendor unsurpassed anywhere else in the region. From its colorful and energetic cities to its lush, tropical rainforests teeming with exotic plant and animal life, Vietnam has become a magnet for tourists and an exciting destination for adventurous expats. In this month’s cover story we guide you through some of the country’s most appealing destinations, reveal how incredibly affordable it is, and provide a quick guide to retiring here part-time…
The plain fact is that the world is awash in oil…for the moment. So it’s no great surprise that the oil price is tumbling, as are the shares of oil and gas companies. But I think we’re getting close to a buying opportunity. Global oil supply is already 2.7 million barrels per day (bpd) higher than it was a year ago. Meanwhile, global oil demand is only 700,000 bpd higher than it was a year ago. Don’t panic—this is a seasonal thing. The difference this time around is that we already have a 2 million bpd oil surplus on the market, and production in the U.S. and Middle East looks set to rise through next year. The good news is that not all energy companies are loaded with debt. In fact, some should do quite nicely. But they’re all getting pounded lower now. Of course, that means we’re coming to an incredible buying opportunity in select stocks.
"You’re crazy! Aren’t you scared? I could never do anything like that! I am so jealous.” These are just some of the reactions that Kris Cunningham and her husband Joel got when they announced that they were moving to David, Panama. They had been thinking of moving to Central America for a few years, but when the U.S. economy began to decline, they decided it was time to take the plunge and retire overseas. “We didn’t want to work forever, and we would have had a hard time making ends meet in the U.S.” After researching many possible places to live, Panama kept topping the list as a perfect retirement destination.
It’s a sun-drenched morning as I stand at a lookout point above the town of Mijas. Below me, the gleaming white buildings, with their roofs of rust-red tile, tumble down the mountainside. The pine-covered hills of the Sierra de Mijas mountain range reach up into the clear sky to my right. On my left, I can see the Costa del Sol—the Sun Coast—with the glittering Mediterranean Sea stretching to the horizon. It’s a comfortable 66 F here in Mijas, which is located in southernmost Spain. With more than 2,800 hours of sunshine a year around these parts, it’s the perfect place to escape a harsh winter back home.
Jim and Kathy Suits had long been planning to move outside the U.S. for retirement. English-speaking, with a tropical climate, and close to North America… little Belize offered a lot to a couple looking to retire abroad. Plus, the feeling of independence they experienced there, and the focus on personal responsibility and family values, had great appeal for the Suits. Belize’s Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) program was one of the main factors in their deciding on Belize. This program makes the transition to a new life in Belize quite easy for expats…and cost-effective. “I liked the QRP. I like the tax advantages. It does have some drawbacks. You don’t get to be a resident. You’re a permanent tourist. But it makes it easy for someone to come down and retire without a lot of headaches,” says Jim.
Looking to move to Mexico? If so, here’s some good news: Mexico has recently reduced the amount of income and assets you need to qualify for a residence visa. Combined with the already-streamlined visa application process, it means that getting legal residence in Mexico is cheaper and easier than it’s been in years. For temporary residence visas you now must show monthly income of only about $1,553 for the last six months or average financial assets of about $25,880 for the last year. For a permanent residence visa you must show monthly income of about $2,588 or average assets of about $103,523. Expats have a choice of two main categories of visa: a temporary residence visa or a permanent residence visa. Within these categories there are several ways to qualify. For instance, you can qualify if you’ve been hired by a Mexican company.
These days I’m pain free. I have all my flexibility back, I can enjoy the things I love doing, and it’s all thanks to a trip to Mexico. I’m one of many people who have traveled to Mexico for medical care. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my hips four years ago, and it came upon me quickly. I was at the height of my career but was forced to stop working due to pain and difficulty walking. I had been an athletic person all my life and an enthusiastic golfer…no more.
At a sidewalk café in the Plaça de Sant Jaume, patrons chat over their cafés con leche or sit reading the paper, their dogs lying patiently at their feet. Trees shade this corner of the city from the summer sun, turning the café and its little square into oases of cool, civilized tranquility. Yet mere steps away is the busy Plaça de la Verge, with its government buildings, spouting fountain, and camera-toting tourists from a dozen countries. I’ve walked to Sant Jaume along the narrow streets of the ciutat vella, the old city. At practically every corner, it seems, is a plaza, a medieval building, or a row of elegant, neo-classical facades. This is one of Europe’s largest and best-preserved historic centers; it can take days to explore it all. And after you’ve done that, there are still the many modern neighborhoods to see, with their shops, museums, concert halls, parks, and chic apartment buildings.