Destinations-Costa Rica Vs Nicaragua

Can’t decide between beach and city or volcanoes and rain forest?
Compare two very different destinations in Central America and make your choice.


Gabrielle Nathan

SEPARATED only by a narrow land border and united by a single
language, the two Central American countries of Costa Rica and
Nicaragua couldn’t be more different. On one side Costa Rica, with
its well-developed, well-trodden tourist trail, offers unrivalled
wildlife-watching opportunities and some of the most luxurious
hotels in the region. On the other, Nicaragua, with its rich history and still growing tourism industry, supplies an abundance of volcanoes and striking Colonial cities made even more charming by the people that inhabit them.

The stark contrasts between the two countries are pretty obvious
when you make the short journey from one to the other and, since
crossing the border is easy, you would experience two very different vacations
so here are some of the highlights of each. For instance, it’s only really possible
to fully appreciate a deserted path leading up to the crater of an active volcano in Nicaragua a National Park in Costa Rica and follow a path teeming with as many tourists as tropical birds. And it’s only once you’ve eaten your third meal of “gallo pinto” (rice and beans) in one day in Costa Rica that you completely relish the prospect of fresh fish and fried potatoes back in Nicaragua.

SWEET START
Beginning in Costa Rica and avoiding the uninspiring and somewhat
depressing capital city of San Jose by heading straight to the aptly
named Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) in the south east of the country would
get your vacation itineary off to a good start. Although the short plane
journey from San Jose to the town of Golfito isn’t for the
faint-hearted (it involves two take-offs and landings in a tiny
plane), if you’re able to overcome a fear of heights and look down,
you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the peninsula on which
you’d be staying. There are plenty of places for lodging in that area
with a variety of pricings.

FEAST YOUR EYES, FEED YOUR SENSES
From there, it’s easy to explore nearby Piedras Blancas National
Park by hiking to waterfalls accompanied by a
knowledgeable guide.Or you can head back to the water’s edge, pick up a
kayak and paddle into the Esquinas River and Wildlife Refuge to see
just how the “Rich Coast” got her name while you float past
hummingbirds, iguanas, tree frogs, river turtles and even crocodiles
before returning to your lodging to feast on local
produce, chill out with a rum cocktail and attempt to sleep through
the unnerving nocturnal calls of the forest-dwelling Howler monkeys.

WHITE KNUCKLE ADVENTURES
A journey northwest towards the province of Guanacaste,
the fearless would enjoy a white water rafting adventure on
the fast-flowing Savegre river, where
hair-raising runs on the rapids are interspersed with swimming pit
stops that help lower your heart rate to somewhere near normal. Or
sign-up for a terrifying zip-wire canopy tour in the dizzying
heights of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, where those who can keep
their stomachs out of their mouths and eyes open will be privy to
astounding views over the biological reserve, which
boasts over 500 different species of orchids as well as countless
birds, mammals, reptiles and insects.

LAST STOP
Back on the ground, make Rincon de la Vieja National Park your next
stop for a last chance to get up close and personal with Costa
Rica’s astonishing wildlife,before crossing the border into Nicaragua.
It’s also an opportunity to encounter an active volcano and get
acquainted with(though probably not accustomed to) the sulphuric stench
that seeps out from the surrounding steam holes and mud pools before
visiting more impressive examples in neighbouring Nicaragua.

TIME TRAVEL
Driving the short distance from Costa Rica to Nicaragua feels less
like leaving one country for another and more like travelling back
in time. Gone are the spotless, homogenous hotels and neat,
standard nature trails and in their place are beautifully
restored facades housing restaurants, bars and rooms with
personalities as well as miles of empty and inviting countryside.

And you don’t have to journey far from the nondescript border towns
to discover why the Nicaraguan people (known as Nicas) are justly
proud of their rich cultural heritage and impressive volcanic
landscape. Even the tiniest towns have museums dedicated to the
poets, writers and scientists that have lived in them and you feel
as if you’re never more than a hike away from a majestic – and often
active – volcano.

COLONIAL CHARM
What Nicaragua lacks in five-star hotels and European-standard spas
it more than makes up for in bewitching colonial architecture and
genuine warmth and hospitality, which is evident everywhere from
small villages to large cities, save perhaps for Managua, the
capital, which as well as being charmless, except for some great
mall shopping is also a bit edgy.

The Hotel Plaza Colon (www.hotelplazacolo n.com), in the ancient city
of Granada, is a brilliant example of a traditional building that
has been tastefully modernized and redeveloped into a first-class
hotel without sacrificing the unique characteristics of the original
structure.

Charming as the place is, the real Nicaragua is to be found outside,
on the streets and in the squares. Based on a grid system and with
lovingly painted buildings on nearly every corner to help orientate
you, the city is easily navigable, incredibly friendly and feels
safe at night, which is sadly atypical in this part of the world. By
day, it’s not only safe but also buzzing, full of Nicas and tourists
shuttling between churches, hotels, restaurants and shops, all
housed in buildings in various degrees of dilapidation, some of
which look dangerously close to falling down.

EXPLOSIVE ACTION
This theme continues in the neighbouring city of Leon, a colonial
masterpiece that once served as the country’s capital. It’s more
laid-back than Granada, has a distinctly hippy vibe, helped by a
high concentration of students and backpackers, and makes a terrific
base for exploring local volcanoes, including Telica, San Cristobal
and Momotombo. If you’ve got time, a two-day, overnight trek to the
crater of Vulcan Telica is an un-missable experience but one that
will challenge your fitness and stamina equally as it’s a long,
steep way to the top.

As well as her Cathedral, museums and churches, Leon’s local market
is worth a visit as it’s a great source of tasty local produce,
souvenirs and almost anything you’ve run out of and happily is far
less crowded than the sprawling handicraft market at the city of
Masaya, midway between Leon and Granada. If you’re staying
overnight, check in to the tranquil Grand Hotel El Convento
(www.elconventonica ragua.com) , an imposing building that sits on the
site of the former San Francisco Convent and has carefully furnished
rooms situated around a central, immaculately maintained garden. The
hotel also has a knock-out, gourmet restaurant on site but if you’re
feeling adventurous, it’s only a short walk to the street food
sellers on the main square where plates of delicious fried cheese,
plantain and vegetables come heaped for a few dollars.

From here, it would be easy to make your way further north, through
the remainder of Nicaragua and into Honduras, reaching Guatemala and
then Mexico. It’s also tempting but, with a limited amount of time
and a return ticket, you’ll instead retrace your journey through
Nicaragua’s volcano-littered landscape to Managua’s international
airport and from there back home, where the memories of two
countries geographically fused but poles apart will stay with you
long after your strange craving for rice and beans for breakfast has
subsided. Can’t decide between beach and city or volcanoes and rain forest?
Compare costs to these two very different destinations in Central America and once
you’ve discovered how you can have an extraordinary vacation in Nicaragua
for less than Half the price of the same vacation you would spend in Costa Rica
you won’t have to compromise!

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Best New Honeymoon Destinations-Central America!

When choosing a honeymoon destination a lot of things need to be considered. Besides Cost, the next biggest concern is where is the most romantic spot you can go to start a new life together? Maybe she loves sun, sea, spa’s and lots of relaxation. And maybe He would choose a place that offers a little adventure, sports, jungle attractions but all wrapped in a romantic package – Central America has the mix you are looking for.

Central America is all about several beautiful countries full of eco-adventures, nature, unspoiled romantic beaches,snorkeling, surf, beautiful sunsets, exotic food and the best lodgings for any couple’s budget.

Places like Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica are being discovered more by couples choosing potential honeymoon destinations. If you are planning your special time together on a budget, you can spoil yourselves silly in Nicaragua, with dozens of great spots you never even dreamed of before now. Choosing the perfect lodging could take a little research, Although I would suggest you avoid chain resorts, because you’ll find so many off the hook boutique lodges and hotels and even cozy bed and breakfasts to make your honeymoon even more romantic.

Eco conscious destinations like Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize are hot right now,and you’ll find prices are much lower than on most of the Caribbean islands (even with an all inclusive resort) and Central American destinations appeal to couples with a sense of adventure.

Nearly every country you find will have resorts that boast all-inclusive packages, which include anything from lavish accommodations to quaint lodgings at huge discounts and with special offers. Such resorts provide countless in house specialties like spas, leisure rooms, unique cuisines, elite dining services and elaborate living arrangements for longer term stays.

Since Central America is quickly becoming the “New Riviera” you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what luxuries you can afford even on the tiniest of budgets.

Most hotels, offer great tour packages to get out and explore if you are not that comfortable doing it on your own. If you plan on staying for longer periods, say 2 weeks or more renting a car is a great way to explore the country on your own terms and more intimately and also get to places that half the fun is getting there.

Central America-The New Riviera!

When it comes to luxury vacations, sunbathing on the French Riviera in Nice, France in my skimpy bikini wearing my designer sunglasses would be the perfect dream comes true. Maybe take a scene right out of “lifestyles of the rich and Famous”.

Nowadays, discretionary travel spending dollars even for the luxury vacation spender are slowly getting tight. On top of that it’s getting harder to find an airline that won’t nickel and dime you to death.
For just a short plane ride from anywhere in North America you can choose one of 7 Central American destinations each with its unique blend of fun and adventure and a melting pot of fascinating cultures.
A round trip ticket from Miami to Paris will set you back $ 450.00 each way. On the other hand a round trip ticket from New York to Managua, Nicaragua makes my wallet feel warm and fuzzy at $497.00.

If you’re like me, as much as I enjoy kicking back on the beach and soaking up the sand and sun, I do get a little bored after awhile and love discovering other relaxing but fun activities. I have loved the fact that while travelling to different Central American destinations, I had the luxury of a picturesque beach and usually just a short hike away from a paradise hidden in the mountains with volcanic rivers, horesbackriding, bird watching and some of the most beautiful botanical gardens you could ever imagine.

Beaches, Beaches and more!
Now let’s talk about beaches! Some of the most magnificent beaches can be found in Central America. The isthmus of Central America has the geographical luxury of sitting in between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Much to your delight you’ll revel in consistently warm waters, thriving marine life, and soft sands across two diverse coastlines, the Pacifc Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The majority of the Central America tourism industry is focused along the edges. The second largest barrier reef in the world runs along Central America’s Caribbean side. And you can surround yourself with coconut palms, reggae beats, lots of nightlife, and offer lodging, dining, and nightlife options for every budget.

The Central America vibe on the Pacific side is no less vibrant. You’ll find most of your luxury hotels on this side. The Pacific side is where you’ll find most prime surfing and fishing locations. Something you won’t find while vacationing in Rio de Janeiro. A word of caution here… The closer you get to the equator, the more intense the UV rays so strong sunscreen will be a daily requirement.

LODGING
I would say, the drawback with vacationing on most of the more popular islands like Jamaica, Bahamas etc. is basically the cost. The average hotel stay in Dominican Republic will run you about $250.00 per night per person on average. In Central America, You’ll find a variety of lodging options, from all inclusive resorts to quaint bed and breakfasts overlooking the ocean You could spend a night in a beautiful beachside bungalow in Nicaragua for around $70.00 per night.

Luxury Central America travel is also relatively new in Honduras and Belize. For five-star accommodations in Honduras, you will find InterContinental properties here, including the Real San Pedro Sula and the Real Tegucigalpa, but there are some good beach and diving resorts on the beaches. Belize is fast becoming known for its intimate eco lodges.

Luxury Central America travel is also possible by boat, as numerous international cruise lines offer cruises that stop at ports here. A number of the cruise lines utilize luxurious smaller ship with capacities of only 60 to 150 passengers. Many of the cruises transit through the Panama Canal.

NEW HOT TOURIST DESTINATIONS
Another up-and-coming destination for an affordable luxury vacation is Nicaragua, one of my favorite destinations. The country features beautiful beaches, spectacular active volcanoes that provide great places to hike, and historical cities featuring vibrant nightlife, lots of festivals, and bargain filled shopping opportunities. Nicaragua has the advantages of many attractions combined with beaches that rival those of more popular destinations. This country, the largest in Central America has an extensive coastline. Most beach-hunters migrate to San Juan Del Sur close to the border with Costa Rica. Although small by most beach community standards, San Juan del Sur offers lots of attractions: surfing, sailing, sport fishing, and sunbathing, along with amazing ecological beauty. Palm trees, lagoons, and wildlife all a part of the landscape and each year you’ll find sea turtles that nest in San Juan del Sur’s sands.

Today, an affordable luxury Central American vacation is even possible in tiny El Salvador, which is known primarily for its excellent Pacific Ocean surfing.

SAFETY ISSUES
Most of Central America is safer than ever before. However, some countries are safer than others. And certain parts of each country are more (and less) safe than the rest.
Nicaragua was once a country that was considered dangerous to tourists, but because of a change in leadership and a long period of peace, Nicaragua is a new favorite of tourists all over the world.

Best Times to Visit
While Central America benefits from a tropical climate year-round, the dry season is the most pleasant time to visit the region. The main part of dry season runs from January to March, with the months of December and April varying in weather conditions from country to country. At the beginning of dry season, prepare for cool morning and evening weather. In Belize and Panama, the season starts later — in February — but Nicaragua and Honduras have a longer dry season, beginning in December. Outside the dry season, in addition to humidity, travelers may face, heavy rain, and infrequent tropical storms You probably want to just skip the holiday season from Christmas through New Year’s and around Easter week — these are beach crowded times when local residents head out on vacation. One of the really cool things about vacationing in Central America is the fact that you can have an affordable luxury vacation that combines rainforest expeditions, water sports, pristine beaches, jaw dropping sunsets, all combined. To me, it just makes dollars and sense.

Send your mind on Vacation!

After basking in another beautiful sunset in Poneloya Beach, Nicaragua, I could not help but take in a another deep sigh–Pure relief and relaxation– I was finally far, far away from my old 7-day-2-job-work-week routine! Here, an ocean away from the gridlock traffic on I-4, the nearest shopping mall is an hour away. I don’t have a car but you know that’s just fine with me because what really matters is that I am only 10 yards away from the pool bar, where my next delicious tropical cocktail – made from exotic tropical fruits I’ve never heard of before – is being mixed by the friendly bartender with the gorgeous smile. And, “Yes!” my favorite Bob Marley tune is tickling my ears as I glance over at the sumptuous buffet heaping with delicacies I can’t wait to treat my stomach to! Ahhhh Paradise…

There is something therapeutic about watching a beautiful sunset as it slowly fades into the Pacific Ocean. Besides thinking how I could mentally jot this all down to share it with you later, my mind is free of any thoughts that would disturb my appreciation of the most beautiful landscape I could ever imagine.

Studies have shown that unless you are mentally “disconnected” from all the electronic media (and that means all things internet), you will be less likely to derive any benefits from vacationing and in fact can cause more harm than good. But are you REALLY going on vacation when you take along your laptop, blackberry, ipad, and cell phone while you stay connected to all your email and social media apps?

Taking time out of your busy life schedule for real rest and relaxation, gives you time to reflect, to sort out life issues that may be resting heavily on your psyche and creates an important and necessary balance.

Countless studies have shown the positive effects of rest and relaxation on the Human Body. One such study was called The FRAMINGHAM HEART STUDY. The researchers at Boston University published their results back in 1992 and concluded that women who took vacations less than once yearly were more likely to have a heart attack or develop heart disease than women who took multiple vacations each year.

With all the talk lately about terrorism, TSA screenings and ridiculous airline mishaps, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that a majority of would-be vacationers (mostly women) have significant reservations about leaving home for a bit of mind clearing activities. It’s unfortunate that more time in the media has not been spent on the significant health benefits a real vacation will provide you.

Here are some important things to consider that would make sense and compelling reasons for planning a regular series of annual vacations:

EXERCISE– For a majority of us, a typical 40 hour work week finds you sitting behind a desk, on your computer, sitting hours on a train commuting back and forth to work, or schlepping kids around from point A to point B in that minivan. Or maybe your daily exercise routine consists of merely walking from one meeting down the hall to another. You’ll find that while on vacation you have many more opportunities to walk and get physically fit. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever experienced trekking up to the top of a volcano, or walked along some of the side streets in Jamaica. If you ever decide on vacationing in Central , South America or Europe, be prepared to bring comfortable walking shoes, because most of the travel “must sees” are not accessible by car and usually require a long hike or walk.

SPAS-Nothing rejuvenates a body more than a relaxing hot stone massage in a secluded cabina on a hilltop, with a tropical rainforest as a backdrop. Can you feel it? No matter where your destination is, you can rest assured there is a spa waiting for you. Even some of the most remote places in the world have places you can go for exotic spa treatments including facials, massages, saunas and lots of other skin and body treatments.

The perfect vacation should include a day visit to a spa, with a soothing massage and a facial. Here are some facts you should get to know about a massage and why it’s extremely important to have one regularly:
1. It improves the metabolic wastes and releases toxins from the body.
2. It increases your metabolic rate which in turns burns calories which then promotes weight
loss.
3. It helps normalize your blood pressure levels.
4. It lowers Cholesterol, boosts your immune and digestive system.
5. It reduces aches and pains in the muscles and joints.

FRIENDSHIPS
I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most helpful and interesting people in my life with my travels around the seas. People I’m sure I never would have met, had I stayed in my comfortable neighborhood community. Not even my membership in several professional and trade organizations gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting people from all across the globe. My travels have allowed me to interact and bond with some of the most incredible people on the planet. I met an amazing woman who I consider to be a close friend of mine on a bus ride from Honduras to Nicaragua. It totally blows me away every time I meet women travelers who have left friends and family behind to pursue a travel adventure. Signing up with an organization such as COUCH SURFING (www.couchsurfing.org) is an incredible way to meet people from all across the globe. It’s a network of individuals who have signed up to offer their home or apt to travelers, or perhaps act as personal tour guides for their city, all at no cost to you. What could be better than meeting people who share your passions and interests?

CULINARY TREATS
And yes! This is my absolute favorite reason you should go on vacation… For the food! We as professionals have all become a products of busy work days and hectic private lives. As a result our dietary requirements often suffer. Nonexistent breakfasts, take away food is usually part of our unhealthy daily routine. Whenever I travel, I almost never eat fast food. I make it a habit of eating mostly well cooked foods with lots of fruits and vegetables. If you travel throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, you really have to go out of your way to find a fast food joint. A great place to experience a country’s cuisine is to visit the local markets. Not only will you find fresh food there you’ll also get a chance to see how and what the locals eat. But to avoid packing on the pounds, stick to foods like fruits and vegetables, which will always be lower in calories. If you really like something, you might even be able to bring some home with you. I suggest that when food shopping in local markets, try to avoid raw meat, poultry and dairy products that may not have been refrigerated. Be advised that certain culinary items may not be brought into the U.S. or are restricted, depending on the item, or country of origin.

With an uncertain global economy, and more and more people delaying or postponing travel altogether, there is a wonderful opportunity for you to find relaxing affordable vacations from a myriad of hotels and airlines. Quite honestly, NOW is the perfect time to plan a much needed vacation.
Yes go ahead and plan a cozy and delightful escape for yourself. And remember “The hardest part of planning a vacation should be deciding when to go back home!

Daniel Ortega’s NEW Nicaragua

Perhaps you haven’t heard much in the press lately about the upcoming elections scheduled for this fall in Nicaragua. The future of the largest country in Central America is on the brink of a historic election and on a passage to possibly a record boost in its economy and place in the world view.

Gone are the days when just mentioning the words “Nicaragua” and “Ortega” conjured up images of guerilla tanks with soldiers dressed in fatigues patrolling through the streets of Managua and Leon.

Nicaragua has emerged to become a key player in the race for Tourism and investor dollars. The tourism industry blessed Nicaragua with US$308.5 million as income in 2010, according to the statistics provided by the Nicaraguan Central Bank, breaking an all time record of visitors to this Central American country.

Some of the draw to this “newly discovered” gem is the fact that Nicaragua offers 720 kilometers (450 miles) of coastline in the Pacific and Atlantic, 25 volcanic formations, thousands of miles of lakes, lagoons and rivers, with the second largest lake in Latin America, which in turn holds the largest island in a lake in the world (Ometeppe Island). In addition, the country has over thousands of nature reserves and interesting colonial cities with great cultural richness, amongst which the colonial city of León is among one of the oldest cities founded in mainland American soil. Under the Ortega regime, crime has remained significantly lower than most other Central American countries.

In fact Nicaragua had the distinction of being one of the safest countries in Central America. Nicaragua surprisingly has a low national murder rate only 3.5 per 100,000 people. In fact, the inter-American Institute on Human Rights states that Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in the world.

These statistics are a bit surprising considering that Nicaragua lived for 45 years under a Somoza family dictatorship that severely hurt International business and trading, not to mention liberty and democracy for the country. It wasn’t until the early 80’s after their government was overthrown by the Sandinistas that the country experienced a slow but steady introduction back into a somewhat “normal” society. A young José Daniel Ortega Saavedra joined the Sandinista movement in 1963 and rose through the ranks and became a leading player in the overthrow of the Anastasio Samoza regime. He actually was imprisoned several times during the course of his rise to power.

There is no question however, that despite Daniel Ortega’s insistence that Nicaragua enjoys a democratic society it truly is a dictatorship. His candidacy for the presidency is barred by the constitution, which prohibits acting presidents from seeking reelection after already serving two terms. However he has once again accepted his party’s nomination for the presidential bid. There have been outcries from within and from some on the outside world looking in, but early polls show José Daniel is favored to win this November’s election. The consensus from the Nicaraguan people is one of mixed feelings. Under his dictatorship the country’s sizable poor population has benefitted a hundred fold from Ortega funded social programs (Backed by Venezuelan dollars) and government handouts and an ever increasing flow of tourists and investors. The country’s exports reached a billion dollars this year based on high commodity prices for Nicaragua’s main exports, Coffee, Gold and Sugar. In 2001, almost 80% of all Nicaraguans lived on less than $2 per day. Today the figures show a significant drop to 45%.

At this point he is considered by most to be the lesser of two evils. A recent poll released back in May showed 61% of the Nicaraguans felt their lives in general had improved under Ortega while only 30% said they felt they were worse off.

One incredible thing this left- wing Sandinista leader has managed to do is to provide Nicaragua with Stability in a world with increasing political turmoil and social upheavals. The world has been watching, and so we discover Nicaragua is slowly, but steadily emerging as a close competitor to its neighbor to the east Costa Rica. But most importantly, once considered the second poorest nation in the hemisphere, Nicaragua is positioning itself to become the crown jewel of Central America

Securing Your Overseas Retirement

Three Key Elements to Securing Your Overseas Retirement – EFAM | Escape From America Magazine | EFAM

3 essential things to consider before taking the plunge and retiring abroad

Record numbers of baby-boomers are fast approaching retirement in the US, and one thing they all have in common is a yearning for a comfortable retirement.

The economic state of the nation means that for many Americans, retirement abroad will be the only way they can ensure they have the comfortable life they dream of however.

To ensure that your overseas retirement is a success, there are three key elements that need to go into the planning of it, as we will now illustrate.

1 – Money Matters – More Than Anything Else!

Sometimes it’s considered crude to talk openly about money. However, when it comes to affording a decent retirement, openly looking at your financial situation and discussing your money matters with a professional is critical rather than crass.

We work our entire lives, pay our taxes and save as much as we can whilst ensuring our family has a good life – and then we retire! At this point we all really hope that our pensions have been well invested and that our guaranteed income from our investments will provide for a comfortable life.

However, with improved healthcare and better living standards many more of us can now look forward to a very long retirement. And believe it or not, this is not entirely good news. When it comes to money matters it is critical to ensure that the wealth you have accrued is well invested and protected to ensure it lasts as long as you do!

One of the reasons driving many American baby-boomers abroad is affordability. That is they are well aware that their pension income can go much further in a lower cost country overseas. This is a fact – but it is not one that removes your need to carefully look at how money is managed to make sure it will really provide for a decent income throughout retirement.

Take the time to assess your wealth status with the assistance of a professional, qualified and correctly regulated adviser. Use their expertise and services to correctly save and invest your money so that it is properly structured to enable you to achieve everything you want to once you move overseas.

You may need to look at where you bank your money and whether you will need to open a bank account in the country you’re relocating to. You might have to think about currency conversion too if you receive your pension in US dollars but live in a country with a different currency.

You might want to think about whether any savings and investment programs that are still running are best invested in terms of taxation and also risk. Note: many advisers prefer to encourage retired clients to take a less risky approach to the investment of their wealth.

Finally, look very closely at the cost of living in your chosen overseas country. Factor in day-to-day grocery costs, any taxes you may have to pay, real estate related costs, medical or health insurance fees, utilities and transportation.

Get a really good assessment of the cost of living, ensure you can comfortably afford it and only then should you make the commitment to relocate overseas.

2 – Location, Location, Location – Research is Essential…

If you do a search on ‘cheapest places to retire abroad’ you’ll find countries as diverse as Panama, France and Argentina listed. However, one man’s affordable country is another man’s luxurious and unaffordable dream. So bear in mind, cheap is relative to how wealthy you are!

When searching for a place to call home in retirement affordability is a very critical factor. Additional critical factors are elements such as the climate (too hot can be unbearable, too cold can cost more in terms of heating bills). Security and crime levels are important; considering local economic stability is also vital.

You will also need to look at the healthcare standards locally, and what treatment costs. Accessibility is a factor for those who want to be able to maintain contact with family and friends. What about the language barrier? And are there cultural or even religious obstacles to your comfortable integration?

You may have thought that picking a country to retire to was the easy part – however, to get it right on all levels a wealth of research needs to be done into how suitable a given nation is for your personal retirement requirements.

When you have drawn up your shortlist for consideration you need to visit to make sure what you think is true about a country is actually accurate. If possible visit for a prolonged period of at least a few months before you commit to a permanent relocation abroad.

You can rent a home and get a good feel for what day to day life is like if you spend longer in a nation than just a week or two. You need to see life up close and personal, rather than just seeing a country through the eyes of a holidaymaker.

Going on vacation overseas is a vastly different experience to living abroad.

3 – Home is Where the Heart is – Where Will You Lay Your Hat?

The final key element to securing your overseas retirement is finding the right house to call home. A property that drains your financial resources and your physical energy with its demands for repairs or heating, for example, will not be the best place for you to lay your hat in retirement.

A further advantage of making an extended visit to your chosen nation before you relocate permanently is that you can rent a home and get to know all the different neighbourhoods.

A suburb or city, hill top location or quaint village that initially looks ideal may turn out to be too noisy, lively, dead or deficient in terms of amenities. So you need to spend time looking at where you would most like to live before seeking out your ideal home therein.

When it comes to looking at real estate you need to understand the rental or ownership rules and laws in the new nation. It may be that foreigners cannot own property, or it could be that taxes for purchase are very high.

You might prefer to build your own house or rent somewhere fully furnished or totally bare! In other words, you will have a lot of choice therefore it will be your responsibility to get it right.

Do your research on the ground once you have retired overseas – and don’t rush to commit long-term to the first apparently suitable house you come across. As stated, an initially ideal location may prove to be unsuitable – but only a little time will tell.

Rent first before ever considering buying, and rent short-term so that if you want or need to move on you can easily do so.

Remember that real estate markets in different nations are built on different fundamentals, laws and economic elements. So, ensure you understand the dynamics and prospects for a market before you buy in and commit for the long-term.

About the author: Rhiannon Davies is the editor of ShelterOffshore, and writes extensively about living abroad and achieving the dream of a new life overseas.

Expatriate or Smart Retiree?

It should come as no surprise that the largest segment of The world adult population (Baby Boomers) is about to, trying to, or considering, their retirement options.

There is also a growing list of the population not just in the United States but other countries also considering a Life overseas. The majority of those folks that do take the leap will relocate or retire to what may be considered a “third world’ country”. The growing trend is for a place outside of their current home that will include great beaches, incredible sights, exotic foods, opportunities to learn new languages and cultures, and most importantly, offer a more affordable lifestyle than they currently have.

This last year has brought a flurry of articles that talk about how many people are planning to handle their future; what are their prospects for survival? There’s also talk that their choices are dwindling and their hopes and dreams of a perfect retirement are looking bleak, due to concerns such as safety, health, finances, cost of living, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and the ever growing cost of healthcare.

In the U.S.just 10 years ago, states like Florida, Nevada , Arizona, Pennsylvania, Vermont, North Carolina, were all heavy retirement destinations. Today they have all but climbed out of reach for many in these groups and they’re discovering costs are much higher than they ever anticipated they would be during their retirement planning. So new places all over the globe have popped up for Expatriates (also called Expats)and retirees to escape the high costs of living. Places like Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize and Nicaragua are becoming more and more popular retirement hotspots.

In January of 2007, an article in the latest McKinsey Report made the following statements:
*McKinsey research finds that U.S. workers are far more likely to be forced into early retirement than many of them expect and that many significantly underestimate the costs they’ll face in retirement.Almost half of all pre-retirees expect to work past age 65, yet only 13 percent of current retirees have done so.

Living or retiring overseas is not for everyone; it requires flexibility, particularly if you live in a developing world. Learning a new Language is hard. Integrating into the local community can be difficult. Getting things done in a timely manner can be stressful.

Every potential retirement locale has benefits and drawbacks. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all retirement haven, and no retirement choice is perfect. Believe it or not, There is NO paradise.

There are those that may say if you chose to live outside of the US or another developed country you have different or no values at all. Well it certainly brings you to the question of whether you want to be considered an Expat or just a smart retiree?

Many others who have made the transition are proud of being in a small select group that is doing something that others would like to do, and fiercely proud of all the associated challenges that have had to endure but successfully overcome.

Moving a hundred miles in your own country and surviving for ten years probably won’t impress anyone. Moving from England to a tree house in Brazil and surviving ten years certainly would. Bragging rights come when you get to live somewhere difficult and make a success of it.

What are your main reasons for even considering a place to retire outside of your home country? Is it greater prosperity, better early retirement opportunities or perhaps more travel confidence? Or if you are nowhere ready for retirement but are considering relocation could it be the changes in technology making it possible for you to work remotely from anywhere in the world?

The best advice for people thinking of moving abroad should focus on the foreignness of the new surroundings, the legal aspects, medical, schooling and overall lifestyle choices. You should make it a must to visit any potential country you have an interest in and contact other ex-pats who live in the area you are considering moving to and ask them detailed questions. The advantage to you will be they speak your language. They have probably made all the mistakes that you would like to avoid. But most importantly they will be a wealth of useful information.

If you have considered Nicaragua as a possible retirement destination you will find it to be a country with all the modern conveniences that you could find in the US or Europe at half (or less) the cost. The roads and airports are modern and safe. The people are warm and friendly. You can experience greater health benefits by being able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown right where you live.

Living in Leon, Nicaragua you will find a pretty city with a beautiful surrounding area.T exits here a more genteel way of life than you’ll find in most of Latin America. Real estate values are a bargain. Modern conveniences such as cable internet cell phones, Theaters, supermarkets etc. are all part of this ever evolving city. Is it scary to pack your bags and move to another country? You better believe it is! Is it scary wondering if your retirement check or pension will be enough for you to live a moderately comfortable lifestyle in years to come? You better believe it is!