Leaning Towards Mexico

There is really no deciding where it is best to spend the rest of one´s life. It is all done with some bittersweet hope and trepidation. I´ve been too many places and have seen and experienced too much disappointment after having earnest confidence. I´ve read the stories of others whose hearts were broken by a place they fell in love with. Perhaps that is part of the reason I have been looking for so long, and have been mostly crest fallen at what I´ve seen.

But Mexico. In the last 14 years I have been in Mexico more time than in the US. I have worked there, a bit, and slept there a lot. I´ve invested in land there, only to be ripped off by my partner/good friend; a real soul crushing experience. I have few romantic delusions about Mexico. I am currently reading Under the Volcano, which should banish what remains of my fantasies. I think if I stay in Mexico, it will be a measured decision.

I landed back in Mexico City a couple of weeks ago, from Lima, Peru, and it didn´t take long to remember why it has always been my first and last choice. Why hadn´t I just decided that long ago? First, I am very concerned that I won´t qualify for residency with my very limited resources, besides, I still had exploring to do. The issue of financial requirements scares me. If I can´t get residency here, then I am back to the start in terms of finding a place. For a variety of reasons that I will try to  cover in another post, I was not satisfied with the options in South America.

I am set on Mexico for now. I have contacted an attorney, and I hope they can help me sort out the residency visa. Now is a good time to do this, as the dollar is at an all time high vs. the Peso, so at least it seems like I have more money than I do.

What is it about Mexico? That is the ephemeral aspect to choosing a place. I can give lots of practical reasons; I am learning the language, it is close to the US, I love the food and the culture, yada yada. But it comes down to walking the streets of Mexico City and feeling a part of it, and yet totally foreign. It gives me the psychic space I personally need while allowing and inviting me to be part of it.

If I stay, I will try to spend a lot of time in Mexico City. I imagine I will need to settle some place less costly, but I love the city. Here are some photos from the recent visit:

First, there is the architecture, the very bones of the City. The Cathedral is actually built upon the Aztec bones of old Tenochtitlan, upon and with the stones of the old empire. The architecture spans centuries and tells the history of the city. I think now the powers that be understand the importance of this and will protect it.



Cathedral built atop Aztec Temple


Bellas Artes


Random building across from my hotel room


Down a side street from the zocolo


The Cathredal


Abandoned building on the Alameda

And the food! My favorite two countries for street food are Thailand and Mexico. I really cannot decide between the two, but ranking Mexico with Thailand in terms of food says a lot. The food is cheap and plentiful, and of course, muy rico.





And cool, stylish, joyful street life. Mexicans live hard and party harder.





So, hopefully, it will be Mexico.



Next Stop: Medellin

(The featured image is from http://daringplanet.com/stupid-go-medellin-colombia/)

Damn! You sure intend to terrify your friends and family this time, I’m thinking. I haven’t told them yet, because I don’t want to deal with the response. But this is not the Narco’s Medellin. Times have changed, Medellin is now known as a sophisticated, peaceful and very modern city, with superb public transportation and other amenities. But, after years of reading of Pablo Escobar and the state of narco war in Colombia, and now with the new TV series that makes all of that fresh again, the old reputation prevails.

Why start at Medellin? A decision had to be made. The time had come, and in all of my readings, Colombia kept popping up. I’ll admit that the current exchange rate makes it inviting, as does the climate. Probably weighing in heavily was the ease of travel from the States, specifically Miami, but also Houston. Nonstop 3.5 hour cheap flights many times a day. I would get there eventually, why not immediately? Besides, Medellin, Colombia meets the requirements of my list:

Family and friends. Medellin is very close, via air, to the United States, and it is a cheap flight. Convenient for friends and family.

Affordability. I’ve chosen the cheapest city in the US, Harlingen, Texas, as a point of comparison for cost of living on numbeo.com. “You would need around … (1,325.44$) in Medellin to maintain the same standard of life that you can have   in Harlingen, TX…” Amazingly close to may $1300 mark. Shockingly, Medellin, according to Numbeo, is cheaper than Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, Cambodia!  

Legal Status. “You have to receive 3 times minimum salary in monthly bases to qualify for the retirement / pension visa. $644,350 pesos is 2015 minimum salary, so you must gain $1,933,050 pesos per month. Thats 805 USD with an exchange rate of 2,400 pesos per dollar.” (According to http://www.colombiaretirementvisa.com) Today’s exchange rate is 3,221.16. That translates to $584 US. The Pensionado visa must be renewed annually for 5  years, at the end of which you can get permanent residency.

People. It’s hard to generalize about the people of an entire country, especially one as diverse as Colombia. I have read that the people of Medellin are warm and friendly, but those of Bogotá are more reserved. Time on the ground will answer this one.

Language. Colombians speak Spanish, of course, and I understand that Colombian Spanish is preferred for newscasters for its clarity. I hope!

Culture. Latin American culture blends indigenous, Hispanic and African, so it is a lively stew. What is distinctive about Medellin? As one of the great cities of Latin America, Medellin has the urban high cultural elements one might expect in Mexico City or Buenos Aires. Well, that might be too high an expectation, but it seems to be a cosmopolitan city with elements from graffiti to museums and performances.

Climate. It calls itself the City of Eternal Spring. Sitting near the equator, the weather is pretty constant, and pretty constantly in the 70s and 80s (F). It is warmer than Cuenca and Mexico City, but certainly not as hot as places at lower altitudes in the country.

Beauty. I’ve seen the photos. I can’t wait.

Access to  medical care. Both Colombia and Ecuador have national health schemes that expats may participate in. “If you live in Medellín, it is possible to have access to world-class health care in several hospitals in Medellín at a much lower cost than is found in hospitals and clinics in the U.S., Canada or Europe.  Each of these hospitals and clinics in Medellín also has some of their staff that speaks English.”(http://www.firstamericanrealtymedellin.com/hospitals-in-medellin/)

Terrain. Most of Medellin is a valley floor, and relatively flat. Some of it is steep hills.

Food! Being a Latin American urban capital, I fully expect the food to be varied and pretty great. Medellin is now earning a rather foodie reputation. (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/15/travel/medellin-food-destination/)

Coffee. Colombia. No need to elaborate.

Amenities. It’s a big city, but in a developing country. All the modern amenities will be here, but don’t expect LA standards. Internet probably won’t be as fast, for example. For me, having lived in Asia for many years, I’m rather inured to inconveniences. I used a bucket and pitcher to take (cold) showers in Bangladesh, so I have a rather lower bar than many.

Tranquility. Aha! Being a big city in Latin America, I would expect peace and quiet to vary a lot by neighborhood. The is another “we’ll see”.

Medellin may help me sort out whether I am more of a city mouse or a country mouse. I love the energy of cities. Being embedded in a neighborhood with cafés and little shops, with life all around me appeals to me. I loved that about Ho Chi Minh City and Chittagong. The frisson of the unexpected mixed with the familiar keeps me motivated. I have always been torn about city or country (by which I mean a village or small town). I can probably do both for a while.

I would love to have questions from my readers and I’ll do my best to research the answers.




Best Places to Retire Chart

I slagged on International Living recently because of its hype and its eager promotion of dubious products, but it often does have some useful information if you can get past the promos. Here is a chart that outlines the best places to retire based on a number of variables.


From International Living website

Read across the top to find the ones that concern you, don’t just look at the aggregate best score. I find that some of the variables aren’t a concern to me, or aren’t equally ranked with the others, and some other variables aren’t included. I notice that language isn’t included, and that is very important to me, for example.

If it weren’t for health care, climate and language (not in their variables) I would strongly favor Cambodia.

Mexico measures high on most everything, but the financial requirements are relatively high (I’ve covered this elsewhere, but as an example, you can retire in most of the other countries on a pension of $1200 US or less, and it is over $1500 and some measurable assets for Mexico).

Ecuador looks good for most everything, and my only serious hesitations are political stability and the fact that the currency is the US dollar. Ecuador continues to be a strong contender.

Air fares and travel costs are also not on the graph.The countries in Asia may be better choices for Australians due to their close proximity. On the other hand, North Americans will find Latin America close and convenient, and cheap for return travel. For example, you can fly from Medellin to Miami return for less that $350 US. A return flight from most any place in Asia is $1200 on a good day. On a pension that is a huge difference.

The above chart is a great starting point for checking out the options. Please send me any question you have on the topic and I’ll be glad to research it for you.



I’ve written about visa laws. Sometimes we forget that by retiring abroad we are immigrants. We have to meet the laws the same way migrants to our own countries do. Check the laws and be sure to stay legal. As the article shows, getting deported at 70 is possible. Personally, this sounds quite disruptive and painful. Not only can U.S. citizens get deported from Mexico, they do. Repatriated, deported and extradited Americans account for more than 2,000 cases a year, or five a day on average. Sometimes more.‘I got deported from Mexico!’ Country expels hundreds of U.S. citizens every year | Fox News Latino

Source: ‘I got deported from Mexico!’ Country expels hundreds of U.S. citizens every year | Fox News Latino

Latin America



It’s huge, and covers a continent and then some. I’ll be traveling around Latin America next year and checking out potential retirement spots. Fortunately in the 21st century a lot of the leg work can be done online. This I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.

I have criteria I’ve been rather loosely applying as I’ve been researching. Concern for affordable health insurance and health care has risen on my list, but the basics remain the same, and the bottom line is being able to live on my Social Security of $1300 a month (plus whatever extra income I can generate).

Here is my current short list:




Mexico meets a lot of my criteria. Unfortunately, there are rather high financial requirements for a permanent visa, and legal status is required for the national health plan. There are other plusses and minuses, and I’ll be spending time there and filing a full report.




Guatemala has risen on my personal list because the visa financial requirements are quite doable, there is good quality affordable health care, and it’s close to Mexico and the US.. Antigua and Lake Atitlan seem to be two favorite spots due to their climate and beauty. Guatemala City may be getting better, but it has a reputation for danger.I plan to spend some time in Guatemala.


This is another country with low entrance and residency barriers. The health care is reportedly good and affordable. The cost of living is cheap, and they are some beautiful locations. It hasn’t risen to a must visit yet, but I am paying attention.


Panama offers the best package for retirees. The communities that meet my criteria in terms of climate and size tend to be more expensive than Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico. The medical care is reputed to be excellent. Panama City is a cosmopolitan city, with a challenging climate. Like Nicaragua, I am still researching Panama, and it does have a lot to offer.




I met someone recently who convinced me that Columbia would be an excellent choice. The visa requirements are quite reasonable. There is very good health care and a national health plan. The cost of living is low, there are great beaches and old colonial towns and cities. Medellin gets good reviews, though it is a big city and I am not convinced that it is as safe as it is lauded these days. I do plan to visit and check it out.




There are many publications these days that rate potential expat retirement locations. The income requirements for a visa are quite reasonable. Cuenca Ecuador often tops these lists. In the mountains, it has a springlike climate. There are a lot of expats living in this colonial city. Health care is both excellent and affordable, with a national health plan available to legal residents for about $80 a month. Personally, I am not so keen on the “lots of expats” part of it, and will probably be more interested in places where there is a smaller presence of us. I’ll be checking out Ecuador and will be reporting back.

Next time I’ll go through the map and talk about what places I’ve ruled out and why. Maybe something will move up to my short list, and something else may fall off. I can’t wait to get started!