Why Laureles Is One Of Medellin’s Top Property Markets

The Perfect Blend Of Shady Neighborhoods And City Amenities

I’ve written many times that the El Poblado sector of Medellín, Colombia, is considered to be the best area of the city. And for most expats and travelers, that remains true.

But El Poblado is certainly not the first choice for everyone. Medellín has a number of equally desirable (and less expensive) areas that are gaining increased attention.

The neighborhood of Laureles is one of my favorites in the city.

Laureles offers lush, tree-lined streets in a sector crisscrossed by a few shady, divided boulevards. Among its streets you’ll discover a terrific selection of cafés, restaurants, services, and shops. There are also two attractive, wooded parks where you can relax and Continue reading

Guarujá Brazil

Guarujá, Brazil: A Laid-Back Beach Town With Relaxed Property Prices

A Tale Of Two Cities, Part 2: Guarujá

Last week we visited Santos on the coast of the state of São Paulo in Brazil.

Just across the estuary from Santos lies Guarujá. Though only four minutes from Santos by balsa (ferry), Guarujá is quite different in many respects.

Whereas Santos bustles, Guarujá is more of a laid-back beach town. In fact, a quick search online of the top things to do in Guarujá will present a list of beaches, more beaches, and still more beaches. Oh, and the Acqua Mundo aquarium, with its sharks and penguins.

Guarujá is full of vacationing paulistanos (residents of São Paulo city) during the summer months (December to February), and again during the July holidays. Throughout the rest of the year, it lies largely dormant.

Which makes it very attractive to me.

More and more as the years pass, I value tranquility, which can be Continue reading

Brazil, Santos

Santos: Brazil’s Bustling Island City With Gardens Galore

A Tale of Two Cities, Part 1: Santos

Likely you’ve never heard of Santos. Almost certainly you’ve never heard of her sister city across the estuary, Guarujá. But every Brazilian has.

These cities lie about one hour southeast of the city of São Paulo. Each is situated on a large coastal island, and though each boasts lovely beaches, they are quite different in most other respects. This week, we’ll get to know Santos. Next week, we’ll take the ferry across to Guarujá and go exploring there.

One Of The Best Cities In Brazil—But Don’t Take My Word For It

Santos is a bustling city of about 420,000. It is, in fact, generally conceded to be the busiest port in all of South America, servicing both container and cruise ships. But Santos isn’t the grimy blue-collar town you might imagine. Around 2010, with the discovery of oil and gas reserves offshore, there was a sudden inrush of white-collar jobs. Also, many of the locals are well-paid professionals who actually work in the city of São Paulo, but who make the commute daily because they prefer to live in Santos.

Santos, in fact, regularly appears on lists of the top cities in Brazil in which to live. In 2016, Santos ranked #6 among the best cities in Brazil as determined by the United Nations, considering factors such as average level of education, life expectancy, and income. Santos was rated earlier this year as the best city in all of Brazil for those 60 and over. In a country where people are given to complaining about the government and services, everyone here speaks highly and proudly of Santos, of its superior services, safety, and high quality of life.

Santos is attractive as well. Nature has blessed her. Here, as in so many cities in Continue reading

uruguay: Lots of people, energy, and bustle in the summer, and solitude in the winter

Piriápolis: Uruguay’s Most Intriguing Seashore Town For Expats

A Seashore Town Like 1950s America

Piriápolis, is one of Uruguay’s most popular destinations, and has been a high performing property market. It’s a 1950s-style seashore destination, popular with Uruguayans, Argentines, and expats. Increasingly, it’s catching on with Brazilians and Europeans.

Piriápolis was Uruguay’s first seashore resort, founded in 1890; more than 15 years before the founding of world famous Punta del Este. It’s located between Montevideo and Punta del Este, adjacent to the lesser-known Costa del Oro.

Piriápolis seems to be on the ocean, but technically, it’s located on Río de la Plata… the river that separates Uruguay from Buenos Aires. Since the river is 129 miles wide at this point (210 km)—and your visual horizon is only about three miles—it certainly feels like you’re on the Atlantic.

 The bay at Piriápolis, with summertime swimmers

The bay at Piriápolis, with summertime swimmers

Just over an hour from Montevideo, Piriápolis has long been popular for its sandy beaches, calm waters, and attractive seafront.

When I first drove into the town of Piriápolis, it immediately brought back fond childhood memories of summers on the New Jersey shore. The old buildings, seafood restaurants, and people sunbathing or strolling along the boardwalk simply looked like life in the 50s.

With fewer than 9,000 full-time residents in town, Piriápolis never achieved the international fame of Punta del Este, and in fact, its popularity had already been eclipsed by Punta del Este just after the turn of the 20th century.

But that doesn’t mean that Piriápolis is not popular…

Continue reading

the clock tower, castle-like city gates of Loja Ecuador

Why Loja Is Ecuador’s Hidden Gem For Living Like A Local

Loja: Ecuador As It Was Before The Gringo Invasion

Loja, Ecuador, is the object of my most remarkable failed prediction. In fact, two failed predictions.

Loja is one of my favorite cities in Ecuador. In fact, if I were returning to Ecuador today, this small Andean city in the south of the country is probably where I’d settle.

The city of Cuenca, is far more popular than Loja. In fact, it’s one of the most-popular expat destinations in the Americas, with beautiful colonial architecture and loads of amenities.

By contrast, Loja is a city for Ecuadorians. Aside from a handful of exchange students, you’ll see very few foreigners here.

looking down at a city in the distance nestled between hills and mountains

Loja is nestled in a green valley high in the Andes

About 10 years ago—when the expat population of Cuenca exploded—I predicted that Loja would be next. It was loaded with opportunity for the entrepreneur, had lots of inexpensive real estate, and was still in its original, pre-expat state. In Loja, you feel like you’re in untainted Ecuador.

But that didn’t happen.

I went back to Loja in 2011, and it looked exactly the same as when I sold my house nearly six years earlier. But I knew the expat wave was just around the corner.

Wrong again. In 2013, it was still virtually untouched by expats. I’ve made no further predictions…

But to me, this is good news. While both Cuenca and nearby Vilcabamba have markedly different characters than they used to, Loja has maintained the pleasant, small-city character that struck me during my first visit here in 1998.

Loja Is A Pleasant, Clean, And Friendly City That’s Off The Gringo Trail

Loja lies in what’s known as Ecuador’s southern sierra; a beautiful and natural part of the country featuring high Andean peaks and lush green valleys. Cuenca sits 3.5 hours to the north by bus, and the famous Valley of Longevity—Vilcabamba—is just 40 minutes to the south. The airport lies to the west, in the town of Catamayo.

The average high temperature in Loja is 73° F (23°C), with a seasonal variation of only 1° F. Nights are always cool, with an average low of 45° F (7°C). So you don’t need heat or air conditioning, and you can retire your winter clothes and your snow shovel.

The city has a number of attractive parks and plazas, a pleasant historic center, and lots of country properties in the surrounding green hills.

a plaza with a castle looking building with a large mural of Simon Bolivar on it

The stern face of Simón Bolívar greets visitors who enter through the north gate of the city

A Disorganized Real Estate Market… But With Good Property Deals

Although it’s a city of 185,000, finding real estate in Loja is a challenge. English-speaking realtors may exist, but I was unable to find one. I walked into one realtor’s office, and when I asked what he had for sale, he looked up from his magazine and politely told me “lo siento… no tengo nada” (sorry, I have nothing).

But soon we found an agency that actually did have an inventory, as evidenced by the sandwich board out front displaying beautiful property photos and great prices. Unfortunately, none of the properties we wanted to see were still for sale (we found this at a few places). Apparently, they never take the nice ones down, as long as they’re still bringing customers in the door.

They did however, have a number of good properties that were for sale… so we made, confirmed, and re-confirmed an appointment.

Of course the realtor never showed up. But his innovative secretary found a friend of the realtor who was willing to show us around. She served coffee while we waited. It was a day well-spent, despite the two-hour delay in getting started.

We saw some terrific properties, of all types. But you can’t go about property shopping in the way you might expect. In my experience, it’s better to walk the downtown, while looking at “for sale” signs and jotting down phone numbers. Then afterwards, give the list to an agent, or call them yourself.

And it’s worth it. Properties here are less-expensive than their equivalents in Cuenca, and the cost of living in Loja is less than either Cuenca or Vilcabamba.

a plaza with colonial style buildings and lamp posts

San Sebastian is my favorite downtown plaza, retaining its colonial character

Here’s A Sample Of What’s On The Market Today 

The market here starts at about US$60,000 for a small apartment that’s downtown, but outside the center of historic center, in a middle-class Lojano neighborhood. The following properties are upscale by Loja standards, but should meet the needs of most North American expats.

bulletWe found a second floor, two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment on the market, with high quality finishing materials, central gas, storage room, security system, and garage parking. Built in 2015, the apartment is located near Parque Jipiro, close to nature and public transportation. The asking price is US$85,000.

bullet In the quiet neighborhood of Las Palmeras, there’s a brand-new home available, with 140 square meters (1,507 square feet) of living area, including four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, with an upstairs family room central to the bedroom area (in Ecuador, this area is common, and called an estar). The asking price is US$112,000.

bullet North of town, in a quiet residential neighborhood close to everything and with great views, there’s a spacious 300 square meters (3,229 square feet) home on the market, with four bedrooms, six bathrooms, along with a two-car garage and front patio/garden area all enclosed by a perimeter wall. The asking price is US$168,000.

bulletJust a few blocks from downtown, on a low traffic side street adjacent to 24 de Mayo, we found a two story 250 square meters (2,691 square feet) house, with eight bedrooms, four bathrooms, a large courtyard, an office, and spacious living areas. The asking price is US$275,000.

Is Loja For You?

Loja is definitely off the well-worn gringo trail. So if you want to live among hundreds or thousands other expats—or you plan to speak only English—then there are far better choices in Ecuador… places like Cuenca, Vilcabamba, or Cotacachi.

Expats who settle in Loja will need to become a part of the local community, which is why I find it attractive.

In Loja, you’ll experience life in the real Ecuador. You can enjoy a night at the symphony, or appreciate the art and culture that have made Loja unique in the country. Also, here in the southern Andes, you’ll be part of a dramatic and beautiful province.

So if you’re ready to leave the beaten path for a fascinating lifestyle among warm and welcoming people, then Loja could well be for you.

Lee Harrison
Editor, Overseas Property Alert


Letters To The Editor


I am really interested in Cuenca, Ecuador. No bugs, cool weather, healthy drinking water, and great health care all sound very inviting. 

Do they have any ISIS problems over there that you know of? I was interested in Malaysia until I heard of ISIS recruitment over there.

Thanks so much and God bless you, 


No, you’ll find no ISIS problems in Ecuador. One of the many things I like about Ecuador is that they are not aggressors, and are not targets of aggression in the world. While living there, I felt like I could watch the world’s conflicts as a bystander, rather than a participant. It’s a feeling that can be quite liberating.



How do I get info on living near the ocean in Ecuador? Purchasing land is my main interest.



Contact Renato Gheno. He’s an expat from Italy who has settled in Salinas, on the Ecuadorian coast. (Renato also sometimes writes for Overseas Property Alert.) I’m sure he’ll be happy to help you out.


Hello Lee, 

I try to read your email weekly. They are sooooo enticing! I lived in Mexico City in ’68 and ’69 while teaching at the University of the Americas, which is now housed in Puebla, Mexico. I also spent much of the ’80s and ’90s in Chapala, Mexico.

I just read your August 2016 article on Zika-free living, in which you mentioned Puebla. The last time was in Chapala, dengue fever-carrying mosquitos were prevalent. That is why I’d like to be a little higher in altitude. 

How much would a live-in maid cost monthly? I am 78 years old and would definitely appreciate some live-in help. 

What are the medical facilities like? Even though I live in the Boston area, I go to Guadalajara/Chapala to visit my dentist regularly. 

Keep up this great research. 

Thanks so much,

Puebla is a great choice if you’d like to live without mosquitos. In fact, we had no screens on our windows while we were downtown, a block from the cathedral.

Puebla has had an expat community for a long time, which brought with it high-end medical care. My mother-in-law remembers meeting Americans who worked in Puebla’s Packard plant in the 1920s, back when the luxury Packard was sold in 61 countries. Today, Volkswagens and Audis are made in Puebla, and there’s a strong German expat community there.

You’ll need to see for yourself, but I like the facilities at Angels Hospital. Here’s an English version of their website. Look around, though, as there may be other good choices that suit you better.

As to a live-in maid, I don’t have any first-hand information on the cost. But I do know that the average salary for a live-in maid is 5,400 pesos per month, which is about US$306 today… so that will be a good starting point for budgeting purposes.

Have a question? You can write to Lee here.

the rooftops of the colonial style city of cuenca

The Evolution Of Cuenca, Ecuador Into A True Expat Haven

Market Update On Cuenca, Ecuador

I retired to Cuenca in 2001, at the age of 49. I knew no other North Americans there, and no one who spoke English.

Retiring to Ecuador was not a popular idea in 2001. Nine months into the year, I obtained my pensioner’s visa from the New York consulate.

At that time, one restaurant in Cuenca qualified as fine dining.

By 2004, I counted around a dozen expats… and marveled at how popular Cuenca had become.

But in 2015, there were over 8,000 Americans living in Cuenca, according to the local paper El Tiempo, a number that grows to 12,000 when including Canadians and Europeans. These numbers could be high… but everyone will agree that Continue reading

One Of The Smartest Land Purchases You Can Make

Why These Farms In Uruguay Are Such A Smart Purchase

One of the smartest property buys you can make is a property that serves more than one purpose in your overall financial and lifestyle agenda. And there are few investments that do this more efficiently than the Uruguayan land parcel known as the chacra.

In Uruguay, the chacra is a popular way to invest in land… but it also gets you a few other benefits:

  • It gains you a foothold in one of the best countries for international diversification;
  • It can provide a self-sustaining home that’s off-the-grid;
  • A chacra can give you the presence required for Uruguay’s program for residency and second citizenship;
  • Being a Uruguayan property owner is a natural segue into Uruguay’s financial system, with its multiple-currency and high-interest accounts.

Continue reading

An Urban Setting With Plenty Of Green Space

Cali, Colombia: An Urban Setting With Plenty Of Green Space

Cali: Great Lifestyle, Low Price Tag
My workout over, I wipe my brow and walk over to chat with Sergio.

Sergio comes to Parque El Ingenio almost every day to sell agua de panela—water flavored with brown cane sugar and lime—to the folks who exercise at what I have come to call “The Flintstones Gym.” The equipment here is homemade. Barbells and dumbbells sport blocks of concrete rather than steel plates, but the equipment is well maintained and this is a popular spot in the mornings. The men who come here are serious about working out, but also friendly, and they welcome me with smiles and nods.

Sergio pours me a generous cup of agua de panela, and I fish a sweaty 1,000-peso bill—about 35 cents—from my pocket. I hand it over and we begin another of Continue reading

Coloonial Style Buildings in the Coastal City of Olinda Brazil

3 Top Coastal Colonial Cities Offering Fun, Sun, And Property

Three Top-Rated Colonial Cities By The Sea

Most of us think of colonial cities as being situated in the highlands… not on the ocean. In fact, when we talk about various lifestyles in Latin America, we often discuss colonial city living and the beach lifestyle as if it were necessary to choose between the two.

But the truth is that you can have both. That is, there are a number of colonial cities on the water that offer an excellent expat lifestyle; not to mention the advantage of two property markets.

Here are three of my favorite colonial cities by the sea in Latin America…

Olinda, Brazil: An Early Portuguese Colonial Gem

Traveling down the coast of Northeast Brazil, it’s common to see gleaming resort cities, long stretches of sandy beaches, and beautiful small beach towns and fishing villages.

What I didn’t expect was Continue reading

Retirement For Boaters

Sail Into Your Retirement: 3 Top Retirement Spots For Boating

My first retirement plan—10 years before I moved to Ecuador—was to spend winters in Arizona and summers living on our 44-foot boat in the Chesapeake Bay. We planned to spend part of the season docked in the small town of Charlestown, Maryland, and the rest of the time cruising up and down the Continue reading