When it comes to sun, sea, and sand, southern Europe offers two attractive options on its warm, southern coastline—Portugal’s Algarve and Spain’s Costa del Sol. Each share a similar history of Roman and Moorish patrimony, excellent fresh seafood, and sunny idyllic climates. Owning property and living in either of these locations is a dream for almost anyone.
The property markets of the two regions differ in both value and affordability, with the Algarve being a better choice for those who want to live in the sunshine.
Let’s take a look.
Costa Del Sol
Costa del Sol is located on the southern coastal area of Spain’s Andalucía region. It’s bordered by the busy towns of Nerja and Marbella, with Málaga as its centerpiece. As an American expat living in Portugal’s Algarve for three years now, I have an easy two-hour drive to Spain’s Costa del Sol. The scenery is stunning, with mountains rising dramatically out of the sea.
Costa del Sol became a tourist haven early on and, unfortunately, tourists, expats, and property developers flooded the region. Builders erected hundreds of thousands of …
One of the questions I hear most frequently is why I chose to live in Mazatlán, rather than better-known Puerto Vallarta. In fact, even here at Live and Invest Overseas, Puerto Vallarta tends to get more coverage and higher ratings.
So why choose Mazatlán Let’s compare the two.
In Some Ways, Both Destinations Are Similar…
Both Puerto Vallarta (PV) and Mazatlán enjoy choice spots on Mexico’s Pacific coast, with good access to the United States and Canada.
Both cities are long-time tourism destinations, which has both positive and negative consequences. For example, the touristy Romantic Zone in Puerto Vallarta is about …
“Imagine yourself sitting on this veranda each afternoon,” said my real estate agent, “watching the sun sink into the horizon straight out there. The orientation of this unit couldn’t be better.”
I glanced down at my compass—something I always carry when looking at real estate—and saw we were facing south. That doesn’t bode well for sunsets in the southern hemisphere.
When buying real estate overseas, your primary interface with the market will be the real estate agent. And, while the certification requirements and rules of conduct are fairly rigid in North America, you’ll find a mixed bag overseas.
So it’s best to go into your real estate search with the proper expectations. Here are five ways that I’ve found …
A number of years ago, I bought a terrific property in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, from a friend. It was a good-sized parcel of land with a simple home and a guest cottage… and over 150 feet of river frontage. With a bounty of tropical fruits, coffee plants, and surrounded by beautiful mountains, it was a real paradise.
After a couple of years and much Spanish study, I got around to actually reading the title. What I discovered was that I hadn’t actually bought the property outright, but rather I’d bought shares of an inheritance from four descendants of the original owner. And to make matters worse, I wasn’t completely sure if I’d accounted for all the descendants…
One of the trickiest aspects of property investing overseas is verifying that you’ve got a clean title. In North America, this is something we take for granted. But overseas, ownership laws vary from one country to the next and can even vary between regions of the same country.
Your villa is close to a popular tourist destination; great restaurants; supermarkets and shops; tourist activities such as dune buggy rides, kite surfing, diving, paragliding, ATV tours, and boat trips; fishing; and several of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches.
Once built, the rental projection is 10%+.
Europe’s secret riviera is a haven for billionaires but comes with some very reasonable waterfront prices.
Boasting blue Adriatic waters, amazing beaches, and lush mountain interiors, Montenegro has it all…
My Montenegro Property Pick
Starting at just US$91,000, with views of the Adriatic Sea, this exclusive deal is just 8 minutes from the luxurious Porto Montenegro.
Furniture packages are available for less than US$11,000, meaning you can own here for US$102,000 plus closing costs.
Property ownership in Montenegro comes with residency rights, which will become even more appealing if Montenegro joins the EU in 2025.
This project has a 10.25% projected ROI.
The newest entrant to my list of dream beach deals is Morocco.
Perched at the top of the African continent, Morocco has coasts on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
Morocco has been slowly undergoing a transformation… It now has my attention for its cheap property prices, low cost of living, and growing tourism and manufacturing offerings.
Beachfront prices are some of the lowest available in the Mediterranean. There are vast, empty, white-sand beaches and near year-round sunny weather.
My Moroccan Beach Property Pick
This beachfront property is in Souiria, along the Atlantic Coast. For just US$77,000, you get a 160-square-meter (1,722-square-foot) house with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 3 half-bathrooms, and an extra shower. The price is extremely low per square meter, and with this property you could enter the long-term rental market.
The property has a 180-degree beach view and is located 150 meters (490 feet) from a beach of fine golden sand and 500 meters (1,640 feet) from a small fishing port, making it a mecca for seafood lovers. In the village you also find market stalls, grocery stores, butchers, pharmacies, restaurants, and bakeries.
With great weather, a low cost of living, first-class health care, and an interesting culture, Portugal is a top all-around lifestyle pick. This country also boasts some of the best beaches in Europe.
It’s been a strong recommendation for several years, and beachfront property prices have matured. In comparison to the rest of the property picks in this list, this one seems expensive…
But I can tell you now, there is no other project like this in the region.
In North America, retirement villages have existed for some time now. But in Southern Europe, this concept is still in the early stages…
In Portugal, independent living communities are rare. If you do find them, they tend to be in remote locations that are far from amenities. They also tend to be small, not designed for aging populations when mobility and accessibility becomes a challenge.
This development in Praia da Luz takes independent living to another level. The community was created mainly (but not only) for the pre-retiree and retirees who want access to on-site amenities but also be close to everything the town has to offer. This has been specially designed to allow residents to age in the community and provide proper accommodations no matter the age.
My Portugal Property Pick
Prices start at 275,000 euros (about US$312k) for a 1-bed apartment, including a large terrace and garden along with additional storage space and a garage. Developer financing is available, and you can choose between a garden- or sea-view apartment.
This will be the region’s first residential luxury condominium.
The development offers a vibrant community atmosphere, with shops and seafront cafés and restaurants on its doorstep. It’s easy to access, just one hour away from Faro Airport.
For more information on this unique development, go here.
Mexico has been the foreign beach destination of choice for North Americans for decades.
The Mexican peso has taken a beating during the pandemic, which gets us some solid beach deals in this country.
Move Over Tulum—My Mexican Beach Buy
This eco-development is nestled in the jungle and has spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. It features walking paths, a seasonal waterfall, and natural botanical gardens.
An amazing almost private beach is 1 mile down the road.
One-bed condos start at US$165,000. Smaller pre-construction studios start at just US$89,000.
If you’ve ever regretted not investing in an area before developers got wind of it, now could be your chance…
The Caribbean coast of Panama has long been overlooked but is beginning to attract attention from long-term developers and big-name buyers.
This could be a long-term capital appreciation play for a savvy investor.
You can find undeveloped waterfront parcels here for a fraction of the cost of other beach destinations.
It will be years before the Path of Progress reaches this area, but basic infrastructure is already in place in some spots… and development is inevitable.
Watch this space for more coverage Panama’s Caribbean Coast over the coming year…
The Philippines offers some of the best beach value in Asia.
With a very low cost of living, spectacular beaches, ideal weather, and plenty of opportunity for adventure, the Philippines has a lot to offer.
Philippines Beach Property Pick
Available is a 210-square-meter (2,260-square-foot) beachfront house at Jawili Beach in Tangalan in Aklan Province, on the market for US$99,000. It has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a garage, and a mini garden, and it comes furnished. It’s just 5 minutes to the closest market.
There’s no denying that the political situation in the Philippines is tense… I’ll explore the realities of this in a future OPA issue.
New Year’s Resolutions
Beachfront living isn’t just the remit of multi-millionaires. There are fabulous low-cost options in vibrant cultural havens that would love to welcome you into their community.
I first visited Uruguay in 2004 and fell in love with its First World environment, honest culture, and super infrastructure. And, at an exchange rate of 34 pesos per U.S. dollar, life there was an amazing bargain.
In fact, I finished my first article on Uruguay with the words “…and best of all, it’s cheaper than Ecuador.”
A couple of years later I moved to Uruguay full-time, and by then the exchange rate was only 25 pesos per U.S. dollar. This drove my cost of living up by 36% in dollar terms. The cost of living was no longer “cheaper than Ecuador,” but it still wasn’t bad.
But by 2008, the dollar had weakened so that I was getting less than 20 pesos per U.S. dollar… and in 2011, it was …
Panama And The Rise Of The “Whole House” Experience
As the long season of COVID-19 wanes, everyone worldwide seems ready to get back traveling. Booking sites can’t take reservations fast enough… wedding venues and caterers are booked months out… family celebrations are hastily being planned… sporting, arts, and music events are back on…
And Panama is at the top of many travelers’ wish lists.
What’s drawing more international visitors here?
For R&R seekers, there’s white-sand beaches, word-class resorts, and year-round warm weather…
For outdoor and nature enthusiasts, there’s surfing curls fit for international competition… scuba diving and snorkeling in blue Caribbean waters… volcano hikes up 1,550-foot Baru… native flora and fauna in protected reserves… and deep-sea fishing (for which Panama has more records than anywhere else on the planet)…
Not forgetting the city’s high-end shopping malls… the Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo… and that little engineering feat called the Panama Canal (and its museum)…
All this and more makes Panama a unique and exciting vacation destination. But it’s only recently that the government started to focus and capitalize on its tourist treasures. There’s a good reason for this delay…
Unlike neighboring Costa Rica, Panama worked hard at keeping the nation’s GDP less dependent on a single industry. The services sector—including banking, insurance, flagship registry, container ports, and product distribution—contributes almost 70% to GDP, while agricultural products such as bananas, coffee, shrimp, and sugar have slowed to under 10%. The carrying capacity of the Panama Canal was doubled in 2016 and consistently contributes directly over 12% to GDP, and indirectly, through the other sectors, up to 40%. One of the world’s largest copper mines—located about two hours outside Panama City—is expected to eventually contribute as much as 21%, further diluting the dependency on any one sector.
So far, tourism has remained steady at just under 8% of GDP. But the time has come for that to change…
Cortizo Recognizes The Importance Of Tourism
Tourism was one of the major political planks of Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo’s promised administration. He ran for president and won, empowered from 2020 to 2025. Coritzo recognizes the emerging audiences of the “extreme traveler” and the environmentally focused. His government recently awarded $6 million to a local agency to develop marketing to these audiences.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Panamanians were offered training in various tourism roles. This included everything from food preparation to leading “green” tours.
Cortizo’s administration is also teaching North Americans that, in a country about the physical size of South Carolina, you can engage in a wide variety of activities— sometimes all in one week. This covers sport fishermen with trailing children, honeymooners, glampers, cruisers, and those seeking a spa getaway.
Free Stop-Over In Panama, Anyone?
Major projects such as the new Panama Convention Center, the new dual cruise ports on the Amador Causeway, and Central America’s only subway are just three of the many attractive services Panama offers tourists and business travelers.
The convention center will introduce many first-time visitors to Panama. The largest exposition hall in Latin America, officially opened in September 2021, it has 14 large upcoming conventions scheduled, with 50 more being vetted.
Meanwhile, Copa Airlines recently introduced a program called “Stopover in Panama.” This allows travelers on Copa’s network to book a stop-over in Panama—for a minimum 24 hours to a maximum of seven days—with no additional cost to their airfare.
Delta Airlines recently announced its plan to increase passenger capacity to Panama City by 80%—with additional direct flights from New York (JFK), Los Angeles, Orlando, and Atlanta.
Travelers Want Different
Now that so many are working remotely, the definition of home has blurred. Where can home be? A beautiful beach… A long-term rental where children pick up an additional language… Or maybe a new destination full of possibilities…
According to Airbnb, travel is undergoing major changes. Seniors no longer look at “renting off the grid” as something questionable… instead, it’s something to be sought. Whole-house rentals are rapidly replacing the cookie-cutter, “what city am I in?” hotel room with little more than a bed and a bath. Today’s traveler expects more…
Panama Offers Up More
Many condo units in Panama have been developed to accommodate the tsunami of travelers. From ocean-facing beach units to those near schools and multinational businesses to luxury hybrids that embrace both, the options are amazing.
Ever since owners took possession of the first units at Royal Palm, with direct Pacific Ocean access, renters have found a welcoming whole-unit experience at amazing prices. Investors can capitalize on smaller units (for under US$200,000) to larger models offering family experiences. With tax abatements and low financing, return on investment is attractive. Royal Palm used to experience high season from November to April. Since the country opened up again, these units have been rented consistently over the past 12 months.
With more and more multinational companies setting up in Panama, you’ll find a steady flow of employees looking for an attractive long-term rental option here. The master-planned community of Costa del Este, where many international companies are based, is one area to watch. Existing buildings, such as Parkside, provide investors with immediate access to the influx of new visitors and workers.
Luxury condominiums in the Casa Bonita residences share amenities with the five-star Westin Hotel, located steps away and provide a whole-unit experience with full kitchens and views of the ships queuing up for transit through the Panama Canal.
For those looking for higher-end options, there are million-dollar residences available such as Matisse with maids’ quarters, private elevators, and sweeping views of Panama Bay.
Bottom line, convention-goers, as well as cruisers, want to find the best local accommodation options at the most attractive price. In sizing up your investment options, consider projects with Airbnb whole-units marketed directly to these audiences.
If you’ve been researching the topic of retiring or buying a property abroad, you’ve probably seen a lot about beaches, sun, sand, and warm-weather locations.
But I routinely hear from readers who don’t like hot weather or humidity and have no desire to live near the beach. Just this week, I heard from two people asking for more articles on destinations with cooler climates.
The term “eternal spring-like weather” is frequently abused by those who write about overseas living… and I have been among the offenders.
The problem is that “spring-like” is different for everyone. Springtime in Alabama is quite different from that of Ontario, for example. I’ve met lots of people who found Cuenca, Ecuador, too cold, while others were too hot in Medellín, Colombia, yet both places are said to have “spring-like” weather.
To me—and in today’s essay—“spring-like” weather is that which stays in the lower-to mid-70s℉ year-round. Here are three of my favorite locations that fit that definition.
El Retiro: Colonial Living In The Cool Colombian Mountains
When I first saw El Retiro, I fell in love immediately. The network of narrow streets, its wealth of colonial architecture, and the bustling and energetic town square make for an inviting setting. What’s more, the town is surrounded by mountains that provide a beautiful backdrop to its colonial ambiance.
El Retiro is a small colonial city in the Colombian highlands, a short commute southeast of Medellín. It’s also a pleasant, 30-minute drive southwest from the José María Córdova International Airport. Founded in 1790, the current population of El Retiro is around 21,000 people.
I first discovered El Retiro on a trip from the airport to my home in Medellín, when the driver suggested a short excursion. He knew El Retiro well because his family often leaves Medellín to visit on weekends and enjoy the small-town ambiance and cool weather.
The colonial center is anchored by a stately white church that overlooks the town plaza. Called Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario, it was named after a painting of the same name. This plaza is the social hub of the town’s historic center… always bustling and full of life.
El Retiro is somewhat sleepy during the week, but its cafés and restaurants come to life on the weekends as people from Medellín—many of whom have second homes in the area—come to enjoy its charms. The constant flow of visitors and the number of new projects going up in the area bode well for anyone considering buying here.
Another good sign is that the government is investing in parks, recreation, and infrastructure, in response to the town’s popularity. Renovation of the riverside park with picnic tables, a new bus stop on the plaza, investment in street lighting, sidewalks, and a new entertainment plaza are all examples of projects completed in recent years.
El Retiro is perched at an altitude of around 2,175 meters. The average high temperature is 73°F with a seasonal variation of one or two degrees. Overnight lows average 55°F, easily qualifying as comfortable, “spring-like” weather.
Here are a couple of examples of the kind of properties you can find in El Retiro…
– In the center of El Retiro, you will find nicely finished apartments, less than two years old, with up to 100 square meters of living space, three bedrooms, and three bathrooms. These properties offer spacious living and are perfectly located for car-free living in the heart of town, with shops, cafés, and the central plaza all within a short walk. They would also work well as rentals, accommodating weekenders visiting the cool mountains from Medellín. You can pay as little as US$100,000 for these apartments.
For those who prefer country living outside of town…
– You will find numerous country homes in the tranquil hills outside of El Retiro with expansive views of the surrounding lush mountains. The main house usually comprises around 200 square meters of living space with up to three bedrooms, often each with its own bathroom. Sometimes a guest or caretaker’s house comes with the property, usually with around 80 square meters of living area, two to three bedrooms, and a single bathroom. These properties sometimes go for less than US$200,000.
Puebla: A Cool Highland City In Colonial Mexico
This is my favorite city in Mexico. It’s not well-known on the retire-overseas circuit… and that’s probably why it’s my favorite.
Puebla is one of the most impressive Spanish-colonial environments you’ll find in the Americas because it’s a real, living city… not one that caters primarily to tourism or expats. Its population is around 3.25 million, yet in many ways it manages to feel like a small community.
Among international travelers, Puebla is known for its famous Talavera pottery and its mole poblano… a rich, dark sauce made from toasted ground chili peppers, spices, chocolate, and up to 25 other ingredients.
Puebla’s zócalo (town square) is one of the best in Mexico, an entire city block lined with sidewalk cafés and shops hidden behind the classic portales (arches) common to the zócalos of many colonial cities.
The sheer size of Puebla’s historic center—and its pristine state of preservation—make it a rarity in Spanish America and led to Puebla’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. There are over 1,000 colonial buildings downtown, the cathedral is magnificent, and you’ll find 70-plus beautiful churches in the historic center alone.
There are few American retirees in Puebla. In fact, if it weren’t for family connections, I may not have made it here myself. This lack of a large North American or Canadian expat community will be a positive for some and a negative for others… but it does create the feeling that you’re in traditional, old Mexico.
As for the climate, Puebla sits at an altitude of about 2,135 meters and enjoys a subtropical highland climate. The average high temperature is 77°F, with a seasonal variation of about ±5°F. Overnight lows average 49°, passing as optimum temperatures for most of us.
The property prices here are surprisingly low, even near the zócalo and cathedral. This is partly because homes are priced in pesos—unlike the better-known tourist and expat haunts—giving dollar holders a tremendous advantage at today’s exchange rates.
– Interesting property purchases in Puebla can be found in genuine 16th-century casas antiguas, certified historic monuments located in Puebla’s Historic Center. Some of these have been completely restored and divided into condos. These condos have about 200 square meters of living space on two levels, including three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and covered parking for one vehicle. The asking price hovers around US$150,000.
– Pay a little extra and enjoy the perks of having a balcony, laundry area, and parking for two cars. These slightly more expensive properties often have common areas, including elevators, roof gardens with views of the surrounding mountains and historic center, multiple-use salons, storage spaces, and even hot tubs.
Arequipa: A Sparkling Colonial City In The Peruvian Highlands
Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city and one of its biggest tourist destinations. Due to its beautifully restored historic center, Arequipa was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Known as the Ciudad Blanca, or “white city,” many of Arequipa’s buildings are constructed using sillar, a white stone made from volcanic rock found in the area. The effect of all of this white architecture is a sense of brilliance in the strong Andean sun.
Arequipa has a strong Moorish influence, resulting in a fascinating blend of architectural styles throughout the city. Construction quality is good here compared to what I’ve seen in other colonial cities due to the use of sillar for older buildings, which better withstands earthquakes.
Arequipa has its own airport but it’s pretty small, so for most trips you’ll need to connect through Lima to get here.
As for the spring-like rating, Arequipa sits at an altitude of around 2,300 meters. This gives the city a gorgeous climate, with an average daily high temperature of 75°F. The average low is around 50°F, with almost no seasonal variation.
For a real estate buy, I like most areas in the historic center… although I’d avoid the blocks immediately around the main square due to the heavy tourist traffic. There are also several pleasant residential areas outside of the historic center, such as the Cayma district.
– Apartments with three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, maybe a study, a family room, a spacious kitchen, and a single garage space are available in the historic center. These buildings are conveniently located close to colleges, universities, and commercial centers. The asking price for one of these city center apartments is around US$150,000.
– You will also find modern houses built in the old Peruvian style, with charming stone arches and counters with tropical-hardwood finishing. A two-level home with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an area of around 220 square meters… plus a little bit if there is a carport and maybe even an interior courtyard would have an asking price of less than US$200,000.
A second home by the beach is enticing to many people… but certainly not to everyone. If you’d rather have cool weather—without the need for heating or air conditioning—then these three options are worth your attention.
Latin America Correspondent
Letters To The Editor
For countries with an investment-for-residency visa, is it a one-time investment?
If a periodic re-investment is required, will a home purchase satisfy the requirements? If you leave after, say, five years, is the investment returned?
Good questions. Investor visas take numerous different forms, depending on the country.
Generally speaking, you do have to maintain a qualifying investment to keep the investor’s visa. In the case of homeownership, this means that you still own the property or own another one of sufficient value to qualify. If you’re holding a certificate of deposit, you’ll need to show that you still have one of the proper value.
That said, in some countries, after holding the visa for a specified period, you may be eligible for some form of permanent residency, which does not require periodic re-qualification.
I am currently single and would like to live on the coast somewhere in Mexico. I would prefer to buy a beachfront condo rather than rent. I hear from Mexican friends that if the seller knows you are an American, the price will go up.
Should I try to buy through a Mexican friend and then somehow transfer the title?
I appreciate your advice,
It’s true that you may be a victim of “gringo pricing” as an American or Canadian buyer. But the truth is that it’s actually rich-people pricing… that is, a wealthy Mexican would most likely get the same price as you would.
You definitely do not want to have a friend buy the property and then transfer it to you. There would be a significant transaction cost in doing this—including the setup of a trust—it would probably cost you more than it would save… plus, it’s risky.
One trick that I’ve used is to have a friend (or a native speaker) establish the price for you, after which you’d take over and sign the actual documents. That may get you a better price, and there’s no risk or extra cost.
In Brazil I once gave a hotel receptionist the equivalent of US$20 to respond to about a dozen real estate ads in the paper. I figured that when they heard my accent, the price might go up. I don’t know if I got the best prices… but at least I know it wasn’t my accent that did me in.
This one was directed to contributor John Clites.
Your article on Domingos Martins mentioned its German roots and heritage but did not mention if German is still spoken there.
Can one get by there speaking German, or is Portuguese an absolute necessity?
You would really need basic Portuguese to manage in Domingos Martins. Although there are efforts to expand the number of speakers, only a minority of residents speak German… which in Domingos Martins is an old Pomeranian dialect, not modern German.
After living for six years in Punta del Este, Uruguay, I swore to myself that I’d never, ever live in a tourist area again.
And that includes places with large numbers of expats, which can have the same impact as large numbers of tourists on an area.
However, after making that declaration, I have since bought two more properties in high-tourism areas…
That’s because there are really two sides to that coin. Living in a popular tourist destination can be annoying… but it also has its advantages.
Things That Really Annoyed Me About Living In A High-Tourism Area
1. Lack Of Community:
Touristic areas just don’t have the same community feel as a normal residential setting. Since many of us stand out as foreigners when living abroad—and tourist destinations have high numbers of foreigners—you often feel like you’re being treated as a tourist rather than a local resident who is part of the community.
2. It’s Hard To Integrate:
In touristic areas it can be hard to integrate with the local culture and people because the local residents often place you in the “tourist” camp (or expat camp) rather than the local camp.
3. Higher Costs And Gringo Pricing:
As an expat living in a tourist area, it’s hard to exempt yourself from the pricing practices that tourists usually fall victim to.
4. The Disneyland Effect:
Popular touristic areas anywhere in the world often don’t reflect the country or region’s genuine character. Instead you get a caricature of the country, one designed to attract visitors.
5. Tourist Annoyances:
High-tourism areas often come with annoyances, such as a constant stream of vendors, tour guides, scammers, and even beggars. When I lived in Montevideo’s Centro neighborhood, I watched from my balcony as the town’s pickpockets, thieves, and beggars passed uneventfully through Centro on their way to Ciudad Vieja to prey on its wealth of tourists and cruise-ship passengers.
There may also be issues with crowds themselves, bringing noise and traffic, or taking up valuable space in your favorite parking lot or restaurant.
There’s no doubt that these things can be bothersome. But high-tourism areas also have benefits… benefits that you’ll appreciate.
These Advantages Of Touristic Areas May Outweigh The Annoyances
1. The Community Amenities:
Touristic areas usually have more than their fair share of nice restaurants, cafés, and entertainment. When I first moved to Vilcabamba, Ecuador, we had 16 restaurants listed in the guidebook, in a village of about 500 people. This is far more than you’d see in a normal Ecuadorian mountain village.
2. Care Of Infrastructure:
Tourist destinations usually have excellently maintained roads, sidewalks, trails, and beaches. In Mazatlán, Mexico, there are crews who clean the boardwalk streets and beaches every morning. In Punta del Este, Uruguay, platoons of young people rake the beach each day while looking for stray items of litter.
By contrast, I once lived on a “local” beach in Brazil where the plastic bottles and trash stayed put until the homeowners got out there to clean them up.
3. Lack Of Obvious Poverty:
Obvious poverty can be a downside in poor countries, but in tourist areas you’ll often see far less of it. One reason is that these areas bring local jobs… the other is that local officials often make efforts to keep panhandlers and homeless people away from the high-tourist sectors.
4. Better Flight Connections:
Areas with high tourist traffic usually have convenient ways to get there, such as international airports with frequent flights or good public transportation.
5. Rental Income And Resale:
Many tourist areas offer the opportunity for good rental returns due to the high demands for short-term stays. They can also provide you with more liquidity at resale time.
6. More English Spoken:
English is the primary international language and is almost always used in tourist destinations. So if it’s the only language you speak, you’ll generally be better off in an area with lots of tourists or expats.
7. More Conveniences:
I’m talking about things like ATMs and bank branches as well as North American franchise stores and North American products. In areas with lots of tourists passing through, these conveniences are plentiful, making life abroad much easier.
8. Better Construction Options:
High-tourism or expat areas often bring better options for housing than the local market would otherwise demand. You’ll find more high-end condos, for example, built to first-world standards in areas with high levels of tourism.
This can cut both ways. Sometimes high-tourist areas bring mass-market, low-end, bargain construction that results in poor quality housing.
9. Finally, Great Local Intrinsic Attributes:
Tourists usually don’t come just to hang out with other tourists… they come because the area has something good to offer. This can include beautiful beaches, sublime weather, scenic mountains, or quaint old cities.
Whatever brought the tourists in the first place is something that you probably will enjoy, too.
A High Concentration Of Expats May Produce The Same Effect As Tourists
When I first moved to Cuenca, Ecuador, in 2001, there was maybe one restaurant in town that qualified as fine dining. Litter was a problem in the historic center and many of the streets and sidewalks were in poor repair. Locals didn’t speak English, Spanish was mandatory… it was six months before I met my first English-speaker in Cuenca.
Today, Cuenca has between 8,000 to 10,000 North-American retirees.
This influx has brought some disadvantages: a lack of integration with the local community and higher prices all-round. The local culture is changed, likely forever.
But it’s also brought positives: dozens of creative and elegant dining options, cafés, ethnic food, a more diverse supermarket stock, and a cleaner, better maintained downtown.
You will also find far more English spoken, plenty of modern condos on the edge of town, and even a local immigration office.
Ultimately, a large expat community affects the local environment in many of the same ways that tourism does, bringing both the bad and the good.
Consider The Tourism Angle Carefully When Buying Abroad
Be honest with yourself about whether you’ll be using your overseas home full-time, for part of the year, or as a vacation getaway. In my experience, the more you’re in residence, the less you’ll like the tourist environment.
If you’re spending one month at a time abroad, you’ll enjoy the tourist areas’ amenities, and the annoyances won’t have time to wear on you. Long-term residents, however, will appreciate the community feel and local culture of non-touristic areas, long after the novelty of the tourist amenities have worn off.
Medellín, Colombia, is a rare find where I enjoy all the amenities of a tourist destination without the tourists or annoyances that come with a busy tourist trail. I can go weeks without seeing another American while still enjoying a convenient, upscale lifestyle at a low cost.
But aside from isolated examples like Medellín, you should give this issue careful thought when buying a second home abroad. Buying in a popular tourist destination will bring you some much appreciated amenities, but they do come with a price.
Latin America Correspondent
Letters To The Editor
Thanks for your information about Colombia. I used to live in Cali and I’m interested in returning now that things are politically calm.
I would like to know if it’s worth the time and money to ship my things, like my bed and a small amount of furniture. I don’t even know where to start in that regard.
An excellent question—and one that comes up frequently. I’ll start by saying that I’ve moved a household internationally three times and had a good experience each time. Each year the process for booking an international move gets easier. A number of sites will even put your move out for bids, after which you’ll get competing prices via email. Take a look here for two that I’ve used in the past month:
However, I would not consider moving furniture to Colombia. At today’s exchange rates, high-quality, Colombian-made furniture is a real bargain, and there’s no way you’ll save money by moving a few items. You can buy brand-new furniture in Cali for thousands less.