John's traveled since the 70's. Europe, Africa and is now in Central America. He shares his experiences and unusual places he visits.
Night Scene in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
What Should You Look Into Before Retiring Outside the U.S.?
First off, let's get realistic.
Travel agents and real estate people are going to share the positives about a location. Retirement magazines are in business to sell ads. Selling ads means touting locations. Writing about white sandy beaches. Pictures of beautiful mountain towns with flawless charm. (No location is flawless....)
The ads next to those articles come from real estate companies. Retirement magazines and blogs advertise restaurants, tour companies and upscale stores will also advertise.
Have you read in a retirement magazine article about waste treatment in other countries? I doubt it. The fact seems to be that most waste treatment facilities aren't used. The cities can't afford the electricity to run them in Mexico and Central America. Have you read an article about the amount of trash alongside the roads?
Like car salesmen, articles will tell you all the positives but won't tell you any of the drawbacks. And there are pros and cons about anything! Even retiring in beautiful locations.
Nothing wrong with what they do, it's their business.
Your job is to pull back the pretty curtain, and look behind it. To uncover the things that may turn you off about a particular location.
What should you do before making a decision about retirement outside the U.S.?
Mural on a Home in Oaxaca, Mexico
Find a Temporary Place to Live While Investigating Retirement Locations
Visit the place where you think you might want to live. And live there, at least briefly!
In this digital age, there is so much information! There are sites that offer apartments and homes for long term rentals. Blogs that share the authors thoughts about a city or a country. Cities will have their own websites. Even the U.S. government has recommendations about where NOT to live.
Pick a town, and then plan on staying there for a period of time while you check out the town and surrounding area.
I always want hot water in the shower, A/C (if I'm not up in the mountains), and a kitchen furnished with all the utensils. I'm single and travel alone so a studio is fine with me. Forget about getting potable water out of the faucets. It ain't going to happen. Expect to buy bottled water for drinking.
Usually, it's foreigners who use websites to advertise their rentals. If you rent from expats, the lodging will be like what you're used to in the U.S.
Here's a few of the sites I've used to find month-long (or longer) accommodations. I've been happy with the results from all these websites.
(All these sites are worldwide, not limited to Central America and Mexico. Just like in Florida or Arizona, prices go up when winter hits the north. They will also go up at Easter time.)
How to Find Month-Long Rentals
1. A popular site is AirBnB.
This is an excellent way to start your search for an apartment or home. Begin your investigation of the town you're thinking about moving to, here.
Now, I picked Oaxaca, Mexico as my destination. I've put down that I want to stay a month. (The longer you stay, the better the price)
The results are from $230 per month to over $2700 per month. Quite the range!
But, it gives you an idea of the rental prices. This is what foreigners are expecting from their rental properties. When things are great, prices are high. (as in the Holy Week throughout Mexico and Central America - think Easter Holiday)
After the 2007/08 financial debacle in the U.S., prices were about 30% less than what they are now. If you think something like this is going to happen again, now is the time to start your investigation!
2. Craigs List offers apartments and homes in Mexico and Central American countries
Here we also have quite the variety of options - $300 to well over $4,000 per month.
3. VRBO is another one I use. (It's affiliated with Home Away - which has similar listings as VRBO)
How to Find House-Sitting Opportunities
Now, if you want to be creative and go a different route, you can "house sit". This is where people are going on vacation themselves. They need someone to watch their house and the animals that they have.
You'll have to go through a screening process. A fee's required to access to the listings
1) Trusted House Sitters. A house sitting agency.
2) Normador. A house sitting agency.
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
— Augustine of Hippo
How to Find Ways to Live Like the Locals
If you want to live like the locals, there are these options. (I would suggest NOT doing this. I retired when I was 62 1/2. I do not want to live like the average Mexican or Honduran. I want better accommodations! But, these are options.......)
1) Work Away Just like the tile suggests, work while you're in any country of your choosing.
2) WWOOF - Work on an organic farm in exchange for rent.
Another option is to volunteer at one of the many NGO's that operate in Mexico and Central America. For free or a low fee, it will give you an great idea of what's going on around the destination that you're looking at.
True Travelers has a list of some free and low fee sites that you can volunteer at.
These sites will give you choices of where to stay. Investigating destinations for your retirement location is now in your hands. This is NOT all inclusive. There are so many travel sites, lodging sites and volunteer sites. There is not enough room in this article to list them all!
A Retirement "Fixer Upper" in Guatemala
Investigate Before Making a Decision!
The intention of this article is to give you ideas. Such as where to stay and how to get low priced lodging. Use this as a starting point for your retirement investigation
The biggest mistake retirees make is not investigating. Check out the town or area before making the move. Don't let this happen to you!
The travel and retirement industry, in all countries, are like the girlie magazines. They'll take pictures, photoshop away the blemishes of the town or area, and make it look GREAT.
In reality, what you need to do is to actually visit the town and area. See if it is suitable for your retirement dreams.
Not all those who wander are lost.
— J. R Tolkien
An Extended Search
The sites above are also great for a vacation or wanting to "give back"!
If you love to travel, and are not the type to be bound to "things", these sites are great if you just want to travel the world. This is what I'm doing. Stay in a location until you get bored, pick a new location, rent a place and move there. Rinse and repeat around the world!
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.
— Mark Twain
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Diana on June 17, 2020:
Well, I will retire in Diriamba. In two years probably. It is my country and I will be 25 minutes away from my family (Managua) and 25 minutes away from the beach. The weather is great.
John D Wilson (author) from Earth on September 17, 2016:
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!
Glad you appreciated the tips and advice. One learns as one does.......
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on September 17, 2016:
Some great tips and advice here, John. Especially spending some time getting to know a location before you move there permanently.