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Retiring Overseas - A Simple Plan
The first step is to decide what you want from your retirement location. Then pick a city that fits those goals.
"Don't tell me what your plan is, show me what your plan is" Jim Rohne
In an endeavor, it's best to have a written plan. This forces your subconscious to do things that you might forget to do.
In this article, I'll share with you my "plan" when checking out a town that I visit. I've stayed 3 moths in one place, after investigating it for a week to make sure it had what I needed.
I picked Chihuahua to investigate because:
1) It only 3 hours from the U.S. border by car
2) It has a rich, colonial Spanish history.
3) It's has churches, museums and parks.
4) It has an expat community. (Expatistan.com is a good place to verify this)
5) It has American franchises like McDonalds and Pizza Hut. Wal-Mart has a presence.
6) The Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre in Spanish) is close. (Deeper than the Grand Canyon and a wonderful place to visit.)
7) It's close to Parral, which is where Poncho Villa was assassinated. A nice Mexican town and a popular Mexican tourist attraction.
8) In less than 8 hours, you can fly from any city in the U.S., and be at your vacation spot in Chihuahua
(Keep in mind, the closer to the U.S. border you are, the more drug cartel activity.)
My "plan" has to give me a reason for choosing a town to retire to. I wanted some connection with what I'm used to in the U.S. - American franchises. I wanted things I could see and do - churches, parks and museums. I wanted some tourist sites close to the town I've chosen - the Copper Canyon and Parral.
Before you leave, google Ciudad Chihuahua. Read up on the history of the city. Read what others have to say about Chihuahua on Travel Advisor and Lonely Planet. On these sites you'll also find feedback on the attractions - museums, churches, parks, night life, etc.
You choose your interests. I've found that looking at other peoples' plans helps me with my plan. I hope you'll use my ideas as an outline for your retirement plan.
Paquí Bed and Breakfast Chihuahua
The second step is to investigate the location
On Airbnb, I've picked a bed and breakfast for $24 per night, Paqui Bed and Breakfast. Good reviews from 17 people, so it has history with positive feedback. (Airbnb)
My plan has me arriving in Chihuahua by bus. From the bus station, I'll take a taxi to Paqui Bed and Breakfast
1) What's your first step?
Talk to Manuel, who owns the bed and breakfast. Listen to what he has to say about his city. Locals will be very open about what's going on. Usually, sharing both the pros and the cons. In a situation like this with a bed and breakfast that's been used by many tourists, he'll give you insight. Ask open ended questions. "Where should I avoid going?" If you were moving here, where would you buy, or rent, a house" "What are the best sections of the town?"
2) Ask the owner to find a taxi driver that speaks English.
To get a feel for the city, drive to some of the popular tourist sites. The churches, parks and museums.
Pay attention as the taxi driver goes through the city. How's the cleanliness? How's the noise level? How are the crowds? Are there many stalls going out into the streets? Is the traffic bad?
These are all personal concerns. Your's will be different. Make a list of what your concerns might be. During your taxi ride, check them off as you move about the city.
While checking out a town in Mexico, I happened across a wonderful wedding taking place. Lots of fun to watch!
ScotiaBank has many offices throughout Mexico and Central America
Talk to bankers, lawyers, doctors and dentists.
4) Check out the banks while you're in Chihuahua.
ScotiaBank has an office there. (A Canadian bank) HSBC has an office there. (A European bank)
Find someone at the bank who knows how to speak English. Talk to them about banking in Mexico. Remember, you're investigating, so ask questions about anything and everything. You don't have to move money to a Mexican bank, but it's something to consider if you're living there.
Also, ask the banker what lawyers they deal with on a regular basis. See if you can get a few contacts through the bank. You're the interviewer, the journalist trying to garner information to help you reach a decision.
5) Talk to the lawyers while you're in town.
If you have some names from the bank, that's a good place to start. Ask the owner of the bed and breakfast if he knows any lawyers. If you buy a house, if you're looking to become a legal resident, and many other things, a good lawyer is a valuable asset. (They're not as expensive as American lawyers)
6) If you spot an American owned business, stop in and talk to the owner.
People love to talk about themselves and their experiences.
7) Where are the doctors and dentists?
If you're retiring, that means you're getting old. Hence, you'll need the services of a doctor and dentist. Find some that speak English, or have your taxi friend translate, and talk to both doctors and dentists.
8) Talk to Rotary Club and the Lions Club members.
These folks are usually business people. They'll give you good insight into the workings of the city and it's people.
Outside restaurants around the parks
Eat out and have fun
9) Have a meal or a coffee and relax.
Big parks in Mexico and Central America have restaurants around them. Get a feel for the people. The central park is a great place for watching life roll by as the locals go about their business.
10) Take a bus or a van for a ride outside of the city.
Go to a smaller town or a local tourist site. There will be tour companies in the town that you can use or venture out on your own. There's always more to the location than the town you're staying in.
11) Real Estate
Check out the real estate that's for sale. Are there homes that you'd be comfortable living? Is there farm land that might be of interest to you?
Street scene in San Cristobal, Mexico
There's no pressure - there's no time limit!
Remember when you're investigating a possible retirement location - there's no pressure from anyone but you. No decision is required this second. Go back to the U.S. and then come back, or go to another town that might suit you better.
The best advice I can give is this: Once you choose a city, rent an apartment or home for a year.
Go through the dry and wet seasons. You'll get a good feel for the town, the shopping, restaurants, the nightlife, and the culture. The only way to know it, is to live it.
This is my outline, listing the items that I think are important.
Your list might be different. Maybe farming is a high priority. Volunteering might be your "hot button". Your desire might be an active artistic or music scene.
This checklist covers the basics. Lodging, cleanliness, health and legal questions. Your approach may include other things. Approach the location with a written plan. Be methodical. The information you gather will ease your fears and concerns.
Most importantly - travel safely, play nice and have lots of fun!!