Retire Abroad: July 2016 ($1,200)

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The Retire Abroad series inspired me to build a special tool for the FIRE community: The Earth Awaits. It’s a tool made to build you budgets for hundreds of cities worldwide, taking your family size, budget, housing needs, and a bunch of other things into account. I think it’s the best way to explore the places in the world you can retire– right now.

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As our safe monthly retirement income creeps towards the $1,500/month mark, the number of places in the world where we could live a happy life expands dramatically. This edition of the “Retire Abroad” series focuses on cities where $1,200 per month provides a safe, comfortable, fulfilling life for two.

In global terms, $1,200 per month is a fortune.  It’s more than the average monthly salary in Argentina, Chile, and Romania. It’s twice the average monthly salary in Mexico and four times times that of Serbia (which made an appearance in the last article). In fact, $1,200 per month would put you in the top 8.83% of earners in the world and makes you richer than approximately 6.5 billion people.

I’d also note that as the monthly budgets in these articles increase, it’s possible to increase the standard of living in one of the previously-discussed cities.  Sure, you could spend as little as $664 per month in Penang, Malaysia, but on a $1,200 per month budget your life would be far more decadent. This series will always focus on relatively lean budgets, but ultimately, you are the best judge of minimum acceptable lifestyle, and reading earlier articles in this series with a larger budget in mind may help you find the right fit.

With that in mind, bring on this month’s adventures!

The Budgeting Methodology

The basic elements of a comfortable retirement abroad boil down to four categories: Shelter, Food, Health, and Entertainment.

 

Shelter means a comfortable one-bedroom apartment for one or two people in a safe area, utility services, and an internet connection.

 

Food costs are estimated by taking a representative cross section of basic grocery goods and multiplying the cost of those goods by 3 to allow for varying tastes and dietary needs, as well as to allow for the purchase of basic household goods.

 

Health is more than just the treatment of illnesses– it’s also prevention. The methodology builds in a fitness club membership for two, as well as insurance premiums for two where applicable. Where no insurance or equivalent is available, a modest self-insurance budget is included.

 

Entertainment is highly individual. To allow for some basic entertainment, four cinema tickets, twice-monthly dinner for two, and two public transport passes are included in the default budget.

 

The preceding methodology produces budgets for most locations that cross-reference closely with other sources for cost of living data such as expat blogs, articles, and forum postings. The budgets provided here aren’t bare-bones, but they are not luxurious either. Most readers would probably prefer to build more breathing room into a long-term budget to allow for travel home, emergencies, and other unforeseen occurrences.

Antalya, Turkey (44.12)

Antalya, in southern Turkey, is a gorgeous resort city with beaches, mountains, and legendarily friendly people. Antalya’s primary source of income is tourism, so there’s a pretty well established ecosystem of businesses catering to foreigners. Antalya has been an important trading city for the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, and is full of historic and archaeological sites.

Antalya is the heart of the “Turkish Riviera,” so compared to the rest of the country the quality of life and number of available services tends to be higher. Finding an apartment meeting western standards is easy, and there is a sizable community of expats.  Like Greece, Southern France, and Southern Spain, Antalya has a hot Mediterranean climate for much of the year, and the surrounding mountains shelter the entire area from the wind.

At present, like the rest of Europe, Turkey is struggling with an influx of refugees, predominantly from Syria, but also from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Initial response by the Turkish government was disorganized and not particularly compassionate. More recently, however, the EU has realized that addressing the refugee crisis in Turkey is far preferable to waiting for people to arrive in their own countries, and the two have started collaborating.  The EU has offered a $1.1 Billion USD aid package to help improve the lives of refugees in Turkish camps. Time will tell whether and when the refugees will be integrated into Turkish society.

As a country aggressively pursuing EU membership, Turkey is modernizing rapidly, and compliance with EU regulations has made life for expats more simple and safe in a number of ways. These modernization efforts have led to Turkey being of the top ten medical tourism destinations in the world, and the quality of private medical care being on par with much of Europe. Turkish doctors commonly hold advanced certificates from institutions in Europe or the USA. As with most other developing countries, there is a gulf of quality between public and private hospitals, and westerners tend to opt for treatment at private clinics. Antalya has a few JCI-accredited hospitals such as Memorial Antalya Hospital.

I have slightly tweaked the apartment budget upwards based on my own research into local apartments that would meet western standards– just know that you could spend far less if you were willing to live more like a local, or commit to a yearlong lease.

If taking a run or walk on the beach in the morning, exploring ancient ruins in the afternoon, escaping the heat in the shade of over a million olive trees, and noshing on a pide stuffed full of spiced meats and vegetables sounds good to you, Antalya might be right up your alley.

ExpenseApproximate Cost
Total$1,160.57
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre$450.00
Basic Utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) $79.63
Internet (10 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)$18.34
Meal for Two, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course (twice a month)$39.26
Public Transport Pass for Two$81.94
Gym Membership for Two$57.34
Movie for 2 (twice a month)$20.28
Monthly Grocery Cost$213.78
Monthly Insurance Premiums for Two (Self-Insured)$200.00
Brno, Czech Republic (41.46)

Brno, the Czech Republic’s second-largest city, has many of the same appealing characteristics of the capital, Prague, at a fraction of the price. The Czech Republic is made up of the regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. Brno was the capital of Moravia for hundreds of years when these regions existed as semi-autonomous states. As a result, the city is the product of almost a thousand years of trade, investment, and intellectualism. Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, developed his theories in Brno’s St. Thomas Abbey.

Brno is located in the southeast of the Czech Republic, at the convergence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers. It is a short drive from both the Slovakian and Austrian borders, and Vienna is a brief and inexpensive train trip away. Brno’s climate is similar to much of non-coastal Europe, with warm summers and cold winters. During the winter, there is frequently some snowfall, though it is seldom heavy.

You. Guys. Pork knuckle and beer.

You. Guys. Pork knuckle and beer.

The city of Brno has made an effort to appeal to expats online with its Brno Expat Center, a web site devoted to easing the transition of foreigners into life in Brno. This cooperative effort between the City of Brno and a non-profit can help you with visa questions, finding a place to live, finding an English-speaking accountant for your taxes, and many other services. Though many cities pay lip service to attracting expats, few produce this kind of resource.

Czech cuisine is hearty and filling. Centuries at the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire made sausages, strong cheeses, and goulash staples of the local diet. Of course, beer is a national passion, and while it is not actually cheaper than water, it’s pretty close. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some afternoons in Czech beer gardens with local friends. It is incredibly easy to lose track of just how many beers you’ve had when refills seem to appear magically at your table, and your jovial friends talk you into ordering a pork knuckle the size of your head. For what it’s worth, the future Mrs. Vagabond is ready to head back to the Czech Republic for more delicious Pilsner Urquell ASAP! Most Americans know the Budweiser brand, which appropriated their name from an identically-named Czech beer. Don’t be deceived, though– the Czech brand is a completely different beer, and actually drinkable!

Czech people are more reserved on average than many Americans. Of course, people vary wildly, but don’t be discouraged if it takes time to get to know locals on a personal level. The very best thing you could do to improve your chances of fitting in, of course, is to learn to speak Czech. Despite some cultural barriers, and at risk of making this article too personal, I adore my Czech friends and find myself missing them, and the country, even now.

For me, the biggest danger of living in the Czech Republic would be overdosing on Trdelník.

ExpenseApproximate Cost
Total$1,168.61
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre$423.88
Basic Utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) $162.13
Internet (10 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)$14.85
Meal for Two, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course (twice a month)$40.94
Public Transport Pass for Two$45.04
Gym Membership for Two$62.22
Movie for 2 (twice a month)$26.20
Monthly Grocery Cost$193.35
Monthly Insurance Premiums for Two (Self-Insured)$200.00
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (42.49)

At the far, far southern end of Baja California lies Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Together with the nearby town of San Jose del Cabo, the area is known as “Los Cabos,” Spanish for “the Capes.” Where the Gulf of California meets the Pacific Ocean, and home to thousands of expats enjoying sun, sand, and surf, Cabo San Lucas is just a few days drive from the US border.

There’s a lot to like about expat life in Mexico. You can live in the same timezone as the west coast of the US. Big box stores like Costco and Walmart offer shopping options on-par with home, particularly in the cities frequented by US retirees. Amenities like internet, air conditioning, and most of the other comforts of home are affordable and easy to find. Cabo San Lucas has daily, direct flights to the US, year-round. For these reasons and more, Mexico may be a good option for those who aren’t quite ready to make drastic cultural or lifestyle change in retirement.

Cabo San Lucas itself has been a major tourist destination since the 1970s, when the Mexican government began to invest in infrastructure projects with an aim to develop the area’s tourism. They were successful, and Cabo (like Puerto Vallarta, discussed last month) is a renowned destination for lovers of fishing, diving, beaches, and all things beach-related.

Property is still fairly affordable in Cabo San Lucas (under $100,000 for a modest condo), but San Jose del Cabo is even more affordable.  In general, Cabo San Lucas is the hub of tourism, and San Jose del Cabo is more often the home of native Mexicans who own local businesses. If you are looking for all the advantages of the area, but also a more authentic Mexican vibe, San Jose del Cabo may be more up your alley.

Mexico’s visa rules are extremely amenable to retirees (traditional and early). A regular tourist visa allows one to stay in the country for up to 180 days, and a temporary resident visa is easily obtainable for between one and four years. By and large, it is possible to rent medium- and long-term accommodation with only a tourist visa. This is a huge boon to slow travelers and retirees who may split their time with another destination.

Mexico’s private dental and medical clinics range from decent to excellent, and many retirees choose to self-insure. In Cabo, the AmeriMed hospital and Blue Net Medical are staffed with English-speaking doctors and are well-regarded.

ExpenseApproximate Cost
Total$1,198.30
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre$416.46
Basic Utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) $27.22
Internet (10 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)$21.15
Meal for Two, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course (twice a month)$68.72
Public Transport Pass for Two$39.64
Gym Membership for Two$151.54
Movie for 2 (twice a month)$13.20
Monthly Grocery Cost$260.37
Monthly Insurance Premiums for Two (Self-Insured)$200.00
Cape Town, South Africa (35.97)

South Africa’s second most populous city, Cape Town, is also the continent’s largest tourist destination, and the home of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The name South Africa conjures strong reactions from many people: apartheid, Mandela, rich vegetation and wildlife, crime, and music all figure strongly into preconceived notions about the country.

Addressing the giraffe in the room, it’s true that Cape Town, like the rest of South Africa, is struggling with a violent crime problem.  The intentional murder rate in Cape Town itself is somewhere around sixty per 100,000 people, which is far higher than the US as a whole. To keep things in the proper context, however, note that Cape Town’s murder rate is currently roughly on par with that of New Orleans, a city that is visited by millions of tourists per year. If you fear violence in South Africa, apply the same logic you would apply to New Orleans: become aware of the areas which are objectively safe, avoid areas which are known to be unsafe, and exercise good situational awareness.

The vast majority of Cape Town tourists return home without ever becoming victims of crime. Even in the midst of its worst-ever murder rate, Cape Town pales in comparison to Richmond, Virginia and Washington D.C. during the 1990s, when the intentional murder rates were between 70 and 80 per 100,000 people. Just as in those cities, the majority of violent crime occurs in the poorest neighborhoods, and the victims are almost always the poorest citizens themselves. Johnny Africa wrote a post recently that addresses concerns about crime in SA– and he should know, he lived there!

Owing to the crime problem, home security is a huge focus in South Africa. Most middle class residents live in walled enclaves which are often patrolled by private security. It is a matter of some debate as to whether these precautions actually help to reduce crime, but it is likely that any apartment which would meet with western standards will be secured in this manner to some extent.

Road hogs.

Road hogs.

With the stereotypes and safety concerns dispensed with– what about the good? First off, South Africa is one of the economic success stories of the continent, and thus has far better infrastructure than many other places in Africa. South Africa is one of the few places one can see lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, zebras, and meerkats, all in their natural habitat. South Africa is filled with raw, unvarnished natural beauty. Cape Town’s immediate surroundings are full of world-class vineyards. Basically, Cape Town is a jumping-off point to explore a place full of sights and experiences that most people only read or dream about. Moreover, it’s an easy point of access for the entire continent of Africa, as inexpensive flights leave from Cape Town to most surrounding nations daily.

South African cuisine is unique throughout the world, influenced by Dutch, British, Malay, Indian, and indigenous traditions. Curries and chutneys exist alongside sausages and smoked meats. Bunny chow is one uniquely South African food- a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with meaty curry.

Private health care in South Africa is of high quality, and private health insurance schemes are available to residents. Public health care access is improving, but that is at the cost of quality of care. Health care is one area strongly affected by SA’s apartheid past. Hospitals were racially segregated and mostly built within white communities, and a huge gulf in health care access by black South Africans persists today.

It is reasonable to feel some trepidation about visiting or living in Cape Town. The country is facing real problems, and the future is uncertain. Someone who has never visited should plan on spending a reasonable period visiting to test the waters first.  With that said, the thoughtful retiree looking for both value and adventure can surely find it in Cape Town.

ExpenseApproximate Cost
Total$1,195.31
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre$543.46
Basic Utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) $67.65
Internet (10 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)$56.15
Meal for Two, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course (twice a month)$59.66
Public Transport Pass for Two$45.08
Gym Membership for Two$62.86
Movie for 2 (twice a month)$17.24
Monthly Grocery Cost$171.21
Monthly Insurance Premiums for Two (Private Insurance)$172.00
Casablanca, Morocco (37.94)

Casablanca’s climate, nearly identical to Los Angeles, isn’t the only thing it’s got going for it. There’s the European architecture, a massive modern mosque, bargain cost of living, friendly people, and a beautiful coast, too!

Casablanca was a small port town until around 1907, when the French used a local rebellion against them as a pretext to colonize the country. This lead to the death of thousands in subsequent bombarding of the city, and French architects used the “clean slate” as a surface on which to build a Europe-inspired colonial outpost. Though this led to a stunning “new city,” it’s important to bear in mind that this colonization was barely a hundred years ago, and many people still living in the city lost relatives just a few generations ago.

Today’s Casablanca is a major port and financial center with a rising middle class. It’s also a major migration point for the rest of the continent. Citizens of every country in the region find themselves in Casablanca, either permanently or on a stopover as they hope to find some way into Europe.

Compared to much of the Islamic world, Morocco is fairly progressive. Westerners routinely drink alcohol, which is sold openly. In Casablanca at least, western women can confidently display their hair and not worry overly much about dressing extremely modestly– but doing so will minimize catcalling and harassment. When visiting mosques, however, men and women alike should have their arms and legs covered.

Moroccan food is renowned all over the world. It is inspired by native Berber cuisine, Mediterranean food, and Arab food. Since Morocco was traditionally a major center of the spice trade, most food is heavily spiced (though only sometimes is it spicy). Moroccan meals are sometimes a bit of a marathon, with many dishes served one after another. Lamb is a staple meat, as is chicken. It’s common to eat with the fingers or with bead from a communal dish. Many dishes are served on a bed of couscous. And of course, no Moroccan meal would be complete without a heavily-sugared mint tea.

Healthcare in Morocco is wildly divergent. Public health care is quite poor, but private care is passable and affordable. For emergency situations, one should absolutely go to a private clinic. For serious, long-term illness, it may be best to return to your country of origin, or to fly across to Europe to seek treatment (personally, I would go to France and avail myself of their best-in-the-world care).

Morocco stands alone in this list as a place where all of the creature comforts of home may not be available. For a retiree seeking a complete change of pace, however, it presents an awesome opportunity to really dive into a rich and ancient culture.

ExpenseApproximate Cost
Total$1,118.21
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre$483.56
Basic Utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) $43.36
Internet (10 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)$23.79
Meal for Two, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course (twice a month)$30.78
Public Transport Pass for Two$41.02
Gym Membership for Two$63.14
Movie for 2 (twice a month)$24.60
Monthly Grocery Cost$207.96
Monthly Insurance Premiums for Two (Self-Insured)$200.00
Doors Opening Ahead

We’re nearing a dramatic cutover point in our monthly retirement budgets.  Over just the past few articles (and thus, the past few hundred dollars in monthly retirement income) the standard of living and diversity of retirement locations has broadened substantially. I suspect that between $1,500 and $2,000 per month in income, much of the world suddenly becomes viable as a destination for a family of two. It’ll be an exciting journey of discovery over the next year or so as we explore the frontier of our safe withdrawal rate!

What do you think about this edition’s destinations? Anywhere you could see yourself settling? Let me know in the comments!

47 thoughts on “Retire Abroad: July 2016 ($1,200)

  1. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies

    Can I pick all of the above? This gives me such wanderlust! Honestly, I’d probably pick a place where I could use my (semi-passable) Spanish. We travel to parts of Latin America now, and it’s such awesome motivation to really maintain my language skills. All of these places are incredible. It’s really amazing what a few hundred dollars extra a month can afford you around the world.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Us too! You’re totally right, it’s pretty amazing just how much of the world is available at what would be considered very low US income levels. For a variety of reasons I wish more Americans would consider retirement abroad, but it’s another one of those things that’s outside of the norm, and most people wouldn’t even consider it.

      My Spanish has gotten pretty decent in the past few years, so Spain and Mexico (along with a mess of South American destinations) rank highly for us too.

  2. Rockstache

    Love the Morocco suggestion, I would love to visit there someday. What sort of ‘creature comforts’ that might not be available were you referring to?

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      A few of the examples I came up with when brainstorming the article were: squat toilets even in many apartments, the fact that everything (everything!) involves serious haggling and never getting the locals-only price, and sometimes unreliable electrical supply (most hotels have generators available, but the average apartment does not).

  3. Johnny

    Hi guys! Love the blog. Just found it actually from my WordPress stats and I can see you linked to me so appreciate that! Actrually, I love the whole premise of the blog! I too have thought about what I can do to retire early and am mostly trying to save enough so I can live off dividends (my magical number is $25k) so glad to see other people in the same boat!

    Cape Town is my DREAM destination. It’s the most naturally beautiful city I’ve ever been to, the food is incredible, the people are beautiful, and the most stunning wine farms I’ve ever seen. However, unless you plan to live in the townships, Cape Town is NOT a cheap place to reside sadly. The one thing youre missing from your anlaysis is a car cost. Assuming you want to live any sort of western lifestyle there, not having a car will really make it hard. It’s probably the most public transit friendly city in South Africa but that’s not saying much for a country that is obsessed with its cars. nevertheless, their currency has weakened significantly to the dollar so that certainly plays to your advantage right now!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Johnny, thank you so, so much for taking the time to read and comment! Your blog was a huge boon to me when researching the article, and I hope that readers will head over there and read more about your experiences. Yes, lot of like-minded people over here!

      I always try to emphasize that these articles represent a bare-minimum, comfortable-but-not-lavish existence. I strongly agree that the average retiree would want to build in a significant margin to add budget items like travel home, better transportation options, gifts, and the like. I am hopeful that nobody would take the costs of living at face value– I just want people to consider all of the options available to them, as I think they’d be surprised at just how many options they have. I wrote about it elsewhere on the blog, but we have some close relations that I wish would consider a retirement abroad, where their social security and meager retirement savings would go so much further.

  4. Eric

    Your disclaimer keeps getting better! And it’s so nice and friendly. I’d probably just write “hey dummy, this probably doesn’t include all of your spending for the rest of your life so don’t blame me when you’re broke.” 🙂

    I was in Prague in May, but sadly didn’t have time to “Czech out” any other cities. And I thought it was pretty cheap (especially groceries) and I’ve read/heard that Prague is 2-3x more expensive than every other Czech city. I think I’ll definitely give Brno a shot. Although the Czech language is hard! Man, I couldn’t pronounce anything.

    I definitely agree about the original Budviser. It’s not the best beer, but it’s definitely passable, unlike the US version. Did you know the US Budwiser is brewed with rice? Rice!? It’s a travesty. There were a lot of good, similar, cheap beers throughout Prague. Although I think my favorite one I found was actually imported from Slovakia, called Zlaty Bazant — The Golden Pheasant.

    One last thing — I know that you wrote up Sofia, Bulgaria last time, but there was a really good article about Plovdiv that got posted on /r/digitalnomad that I think you’d like to read: https://medium.com/@euvieivanova/digital-nomad-guide-to-plovdiv-bulgaria-the-chiang-mai-of-europe-d7f258fb4413#.6vz84g42b

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Eric, thanks as always for the comment! I am super jealous that you got to Prague this year. The future Mrs. and I were there at right around this time last year, and were lucky to be in the hands of our local friends. Obviously, having Czech speakers opens a lot of doors and reveals a lot of knowledge that the average tourist like us doesn’t have access to. It was a ton of fun. I think Brno is really, really gorgeous, and per my Czech friends, the Moravian region is known for being a little more relaxed and outgoing. Failing that, the proximity to Vienna provides a pretty nice escape route if it all gets to be too much.

      We mostly drank Pilsner Urquell, but the pic above is the pork knuckle I tackled, and I guess that day we were drinking one of the beers they brewed onsite. That was delicious. I will have to try the Zlaty Bazant next time we’re there… and lord knows I’m always looking for any excuse I can get to travel. The future-Mrs. mentioned that she’s almost out of the fancy soaps she bought the last time we were in Paris, and I replied, “Well, back to Paris any time you’re ready!”

      I saw that article on /r/digitalnomad this morning! I hadn’t read it yet. That looks amazing, and definitely ticks all the boxes for us! Hmm, there’s still time to change the city list for the next few month’s posts in this series…

  5. ZJ Thorne

    I lived in Cape Town for a bit. Sadly, it is not safe for LGBT folks, in particular. It was so damn beautiful and complicated.

    It is strange to realize that you are better off than billions of people. I’m not quite in your territory yet, but I know that I’m still in a safer and more financially secure position than billions of humans. It really boggles the mind.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      I don’t doubt that you’re right, ZJ. 🙁 Thanks for providing that insight, it’s really valuable.

      You’re right, it’s strange indeed to put into cold, hard numbers just how well off you are compared to most of the world. Very humbling.

  6. Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions

    This is incredible information. We are hoping to start traveling a lot more and stay in places for longer periods of time. We are incredibly lucky to be in the position we are in when you compare it to most people in the world. Thanks so much for sharing! (And time to dig deeper in to your blog!)

  7. BostonDave

    While these types of articles are interesting, they are also very misleading. The rental prices you quote (especially in Cabo and Turkey) are for a third-world residence. There aren’t many Americans, especially those with the wherewithal to consider living overseas, who would tolerate that kind of life style. In these two places, it’s hard to find a decent hotel room for a couple of nights at these prices, let alone an apartment for a month.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. While I understand the skepticism, I often address this kind of concern. I don’t just blindly accept the numbers provided by Numbeo– I also do my own research into rentals in the cities featured in this series. Case in point, I actually mentioned in the Antalya write-up that I had adjusted the apartment price *up* to $450 based on my research. Further, I also linked a search for apartments in that write-up:

      http://www.longtermlettings.com/find/rent/?searchmode=SubmitSearch&s=s&sess=461747815&scr=Turkey&srg=&sct=&sltcity=&txtCityOrTown=Antalya&sltbedrooms=&sltFurnished=&sltpool=&sort=asc&sltlocality=&sltpricerange=&txtkeyword=&ctype=Dollar

      At the moment, that search yields this modern condo for $421 per month:

      http://www.longtermlettings.com/r/rent/fpk1638721/

      For those that read this in the future, the condo in question is in a modern building with pool, stainless appliances, granite countertops, etc.

      Here’s a comparable search for apartments in Cabo and environs. At today’s exchange rate, anything under 7,500 pesos will match the budget listed here. There are many, many, many completely comfortable apartments in this price range.

      http://casas.trovit.com.mx/index.php/cod.search_homes/type_results.list/type.2/what_d.departamento%20cabo%20san%20lucas/isUserSearch.1/origin.2/orderby.relevance/price_max.7500/

      I also always double check my prices against English-language blogs of expats to determine credibility of the information I’m putting up here, and link when interesting or relevant.

      I know that it is difficult to believe that some of these budgets are possible, and as I mention, most of them leave little available for emergencies and other niceties. I strongly believe that people *should* save beyond the bare minimum level– but budgets as I present them are based on research, and while bare-bones, I am confident that for a lean retiree, they are basically sound.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      M1M, you’re absolutely right, those in countries with high earnings and powerful currencies are very fortunate. I am glad that you and your blog are there to bring the message to other Brazilians, though!

  8. Kurt

    As an American expat living on Vancouver Island, I heartily endorse the general idea of living abroad. $1,200/month isn’t enough in my community but might be enough in some remote spots on Vancouver Island and on the many other small islands in the strait between VI and the British Columbia mainland. The larger point is, there are many attractive, inexpensive places outside of US borders. We’d do ourselves a disservice if we ignore most of the planet. And many of these places even have guaranteed, affordable health insurance–what a concept! 🙂

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Kurt, thanks for the comment! You’re right, on this budget anywhere in BC (at least of the places I know about) would be tricky!! My mother has long fantasized about a retirement on Vancouver Island, in fact. We have some family up that way.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hi Sikasem, thanks for the comment! You are completely correct. It is often so hard to choose just five cities to feature in each of these articles. Because I try to really put in the effort to verify budget numbers, look at quality of life, and do other research about whether or not a city would make a good retirement destination, each city takes me a number of hours of background work. I would be grateful to hear about other cities you enjoy on the continent, and rest assured that Africa will appear regularly in future editions of this series! I am excited about a number of cities in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and others.

      Edit to Add: I notice you are from Ghana! I hear wonderful things about the country and people, though I haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet. I hope that we will get there someday soon!

  9. just a thought

    First time visitor and I will be spending more time on your site, I love it. My personal goal, ever since I can remember, is to achieve $2,000 USD in passive monthly income. I have felt that this number could provide a decent to high quality of life for 2 people in most places in the world.

    Since I am getting very close to that number, the timing of me seeing your site is perfect!

    Thanks for putting in the time and effort into your research.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks, JaT! I totally agree, I think there are a *lot* of places $2K/month will sustain a very comfortable retirement for two. Southeast Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Portugal, Mexico, and most of South America would probably be wide open to you at that amount! Hang in there, I hope that we’ll hit about that number by early next year, and maybe we’ll cover someplace that will be the right fit for you!

  10. Lauren

    I wish so many people weren’t posting articles like this with unrealistic prices for health care. Living overseas we see people showing up who plan to self insure on low budgets like you propose and then they get in a car accident, have no private insurance, can’t afford the $10-25k a private hospital will ask for up front (let alone the final bill of $30-70k), and end up at a public hospital that doesn’t have the resources to save them. If you are planning to self insure, know that you need a big nest egg (that you can afford to lose) to back that up.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hi Lauren, Thanks for your comment- For the record, I don’t disagree with you. I try my best to caution people that the budgets here cover the basic necessities and do not address unexpected items like taxation, trips home, or major medical emergencies. I suppose that caution still needs some work to be perfectly clear. If someone has no medical costs in a given month, it isn’t my position that they should just funnel that money into entertainment or another frivolous purchase. Rather, I think a few hundred dollars a month most places where self-insurance is feasible should be funneled into a savings or investment vehicle, and remain devoted to that purpose. And, of course, anyone who is following the savings and investment message of this site as a whole would and should have large investments to be able to cover a major medical expense. Hope that makes more sense.

      1. Lauren

        Thanks for the speedy response, and sorry for venting. I’ve been frustrated by the number of fundraisers being held for unprepared people’s medical expenses in our expat community.

        1. The Vagabond Post author

          Totally understandable and absolutely no offense taken, that’s tragic. I want people to consider retirement abroad because of the richness that experience can bring to their lives, and the comparatively comfortable life they can lead in those places- not out of a sense of necessity. Could I ask where you’re living? I’m going to guess somewhere in Asia or South America perhaps if the expat-on-a-shoestring crowd is that big?

  11. Emma Healey

    This is awesome. I think it goes without saying that people will have the appropriate travel insurance. Also, I think that almost everywhere outside of the US doesn’t have the same fear mentality when it comes to healthcare. When we lived in Spain we just paid out of pocket for everyday stuff like doctors visits and pregnancy scans and had travel insurance to jet us home for major treatment.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Emma, thanks! Nice choice of URL to link to in your comment, too. For those that don’t see it, Emma has an article on their cost of living in Spain here:

      http://www.moneycanbuymehappiness.com/how-much-does-it-cost-to-live-in-spain/

      You guys were super effective! Spain is alllllmost certainly going to be our first early retirement destination. We’ll probably have a higher budget– we’re thinking Barcelona– but like you, we think that you can get a long of bang for your Euro over there. Plus, so much of what we enjoy is free in Spain! Warm sun, pleasant people, beautiful beaches, many miles of road to cycle on, and steeping ourselves in awesome history and culture!

  12. Div

    Fun list, thanks for putting it all together! Would never have even considered visiting (outside of Cabo), let alone retiring in any of these places. I’ll be visiting Cabo in a couple of weeks, now I’m even more excited about the trip!

    Bert, One of the Dividend Diplomats

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hey, Bert, thanks for the comment! Of course not all the places in the articles are for everyone– Our plan is to slow travel, so even if a place is a bust, we’ll never be locked in for more than six months or so, and surely we can find something of redeeming value to do for six months almost anywhere! Have a wonderful Cabo trip!

  13. Colleen

    This is an excellent series.

    I thought I was doing crazy research for our upcoming trip but I’ve learned quite a few new things about old destinations and have some entirely new locale to consider.

    We’re a family of five about to set off for a year of slow travel in 2017. A year is not so long at all but I’ll try to hit a dozen places or so. Our kids are nine, 15 and 14 right now so I haven’t committed to permanent long term travel. Well, I have but not my better half. So we’ll return to launch the two oldest and then head out for a few more years if we love it as much as we expect to.

    We’ll have $5000 per month after taxes available to us. But that’s Canadian so shave about 30% right off the top (sigh).

    Thanks for the series. It’s quite enjoyable!

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  15. Miss Mazuma

    Hello – I hopped over from Rockstar Finance…I’m checking out the bloggers ahead of me on the list. 😉

    I LOVE this!! Knowing( ideally) what monthly/yearly amount you want to retire on is one thing, but knowing where you could already retire on what you’re currently making is a total script flip. I know there is a huge community of people planning to slow travel as their retirement and they factor lower cost countries into those plans, however, when many are just starting out we tend to use the 4% rule based on current conditions and locations. I know I did! This is a refreshing way to look at the current options regardless of if you plan to exercise them or not.

    I agree that you can not plan for all the unforeseen costs (especially medical) though the same could be said if you were living in the states. Medical costs can be expensive regardless of where you live and especially in life and death situations.

    I’ll also add that Barcelona gets my vote for a first stop! I’ve spent a fair amount of time there and it is easily one of my favorite cities. 🙂

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks for the comments, Miss Mazuma, and thanks for the kind words! I love Barcelona as well, though it’s been over ten years since I was last there. We’ll have to get out there on a scouting trip in the next few years.

      I agree about the script flip, too! It’s an indulgence in fantasy, but it’s grounded in reality. Of course we don’t plan to retire *today*, but “what if…” is a powerful motivator to stay on the path!

  16. Markdee

    As one who has visited over 140 countries… and lived outside Canada [where I was born] since 1982, I was most surprised by the selections featured… especially when one considers that personal security is one of the things that most seniors that I have met [numbering in the thousands]. In addition you do mention, in the preliminary comments, that one could live even more economically… and it is where I have lived since 2009– Penang, Malaysia.
    Not only is it less expensive, with a culture of very high levels of quality service [especially in the health areas] but personal security is exceedingly high… and, one can speak English! Malaysia also has the very best programme to welcome retirees– “Malaysia my Second Home {MM2H]– google it for more details
    It is also very easy to visit other countries which are also interesting, safe and very affordable…
    For me, and many others, Penang is the NUMBER 1 place in the world to retire!!!!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hi Markdee, thanks so much for the comment! I love it! It’s awesome to hear about people out there living the dream! For what it’s worth, I absolutely endorse Penang as well! I wrote about it a few months back in this article (please excuse the fact that the numbers have changed somewhat since then, and so has my budget methodology).

      Using my current budget methodology, it appears Penang would be doable at around $1,000 a month on the lean side. We hope to visit someday soon! Thanks for sharing your great insight.

  17. Gabrielle David

    France’s health care system is fabulous, I’ll grant that. My mother is just as I type starting her end-of-life journey, i.e. has decided to end her home dialysis after almost seven years. She paid not a cent for the supplies, the twice daily nurses visits, the monthly hospital follow-ups, the medication, the transportation to and from the hospital, the hospital bed in her room, the wheelchair, etc. etc. BUT I saw what a foreigner would have to pay for an overnight stay in the room she was in quite frequently when she began needed blood transfusions as well (before her doctor managed to arrange for transfusions as an outpatient) – back in 2013, that rate was almost 1,800 euros per night. Fly from Morocco to France if you have a health problem … but be sure your pockets are deep enough and that you didn’t retire in Casablanca because you were almost broke, or you most certainly will be when you see the bill.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Fair points, thank you Gabrielle. I’m terribly sorry to hear about your mother– I wish you comfort in what I know is a very hard time. My fiancée lost her mother last year, and I can only begin to grasp at what complicated emotions arise at this time.

      I strongly recommend that all travelers (be they slow travelers or retirees) avail themselves of the best insurance coverage available to them. If I were living in a country like Morocco where the nearest first-class treatment was across the Med, I’d probably elect to hold a traveler’s policy that would protect us from that kind of out of pocket expense.

      1. jan

        Hi

        I just saw your post over at MMM …just came back from Penang and i also agree with Markdee above that it would make a fab retirement destination…cheap and very good food, spoken English and road signs in English…relatively safe,,,friendly people and a great jumping off point as a base also for neighbouring countries..plus a fab MM2ndH retirement visa!

        1. The Vagabond Post author

          That’s awesome, Jan, thank you! I love hearing about other’s experiences! I hope that we are able to visit Penang someday soon. It’s so nice to have people reporting back their experiences here.

        2. Markdee

          Hi Jan:

          Your comments are “spot on”… BUT, as one lives in Penang for a “while” one also gets to benefit from the “Culture of Service”– which is exhibited in Markets, on the street, in Restaurants, at the Dentist– even in dealing with the Income Tax Officials!!!

          The culture of service is also very evident when visiting any of the hospitals and dealing with the very experienced medical specialists!!!!

          Another un-noticed benefit is the quality of the water.. especially in the Northern part of the Island…. even tests done with an “atomic absorption spectrometer” bear this out!!!

          Also, the cultural events, musical scene etc adds to the “richness of the experience”!!

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