information was deemed accurate when written but the you the reader is always advised to do your own homework. Life situations change very quickly. If you have specific questions- Write EW. Hard as we try at EW to keep you up to date with current and correct information, things can change very rapidly in the Post 911 world we live in.
In this month's column we will give you an encapsulated view of some of the best places to live, retire or visit for the long term. These are locations that you can live a lifestyle miles ahead of what you could afford in most first-world locations on this third rock from the sun. They all have governments and bureaucracies that make it easy for you to reside there in one way or another, officially, transient or PT.
Guatemala -- This country has been called the land of the eternal spring for the climate is moderate all year long. It is now a safe country where living is very cheap. It has splendid scenery and a coastline on both the Pacific and the Caribbean. Tropical forest, mountains and valleys, hot mineral springs are all to be found. Guatemala City is a city with a village atmosphere but has all the amenities you need. If you are from North America, you are just a short distance from the "homeland".
Thailand -- This country has always been a cheap place to live in an expatriate manner (wanting most of the amenities of where you hail from). It is even cheaper today with the meltdown of the economy in Thailand and SE Asia. The Thais will allow you to stay for 90 days as a tourist and if you stay over you pay an automatic fine at a special desk at the main airports of 100 baht per day (about US $2.50). Some PT's don't bother making the quick overnight trip to Penang, Malaysia every 90 days to reenter Thailand for another 90 days legally, they just stay as long as they want and pay the fine of about US $75 per month when they do decide to leave the country. The people are warm and friendly, the beaches are some of the world's best. Accommodation can be had for a few hundred dollars a month in most locations outside of Bangkok. The country is extremely scenic and one can enjoy all the finer things in life - wine, women and song for pocket change. Unique to all the world is the flavour and wobbly-knee characteristic of Thailand's Singah Beer. It's Mekong whiskey is notorious. Need we say anything about the warm Thai ladies!
Ecuador -- For the same type lifestyle you would expect to spend $5000 per month in Switzerland, or $3000 in Colorado, you can do for US $500 in Ecuador. Whether you rent or buy, expect the $500 figure to hold true. Some examples: a dinner for two at a good restaurant is about US $10, gasoline at less than 50 cents a gallon, maid service at $40 per month, a movie in English at the local theatre, US 50 cents, a home manicure for $1. A bus ride costs 8 cents and the list could go on. And if you're worrying about the language barrier, you can start off your stay at US $ 225 per week, that includes an intensive Spanish language course, 6 hours a day, and room and board with a local family.
Ireland -- The charm of the Irish and the lowest price real estate in Western Europe make this an idea choice for living, retiring or PTing. Seaside cottages have sold recently in the $US 15,000 - $20,000 range. If you are retiring in Ireland there are tax breaks and transportation allowances and other perks offered. Writers and artists (who's to say you can't become one) enjoy special tax considerations. Dublin has the trappings of city life , but the countryside offers beaches, retreats, ancient villages, resorts and farm community life. You pick the nature of the beast where you're most happy.
Portugal -- There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of "foreigners" staying in Spain but right next door is the cheapest country to live in Western Europe and relatively untouched by expatriates. Don't get me wrong, but for what Portugal has to offer in comparison to Spain, the numbers should be in Portugal rather than Spain. Today there are just over 100,000 "foreigners" living in Portugal. Portugal also offers the best, quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get an EU 2nd passport for residents of the country. We have a report on that if one is interested called "Men of Means" ( US $15 to Expat World, Box 1341, Raffles City, Singapore 911745).
Indonesia -- You've all heard about the rioting that has resulted in a change of government (Suharto overthrown -- was the oldest surviving continual leadership in the world) in Indonesia. But living next door and visiting often we can tell you that life for the westerner is now safe and secure and dirt cheap! Indonesia has always been, in our opinion, one of the best well-kept secrets in reference to places to live. The people are friendly, the activities possible are immense, the country is big and beautiful and one never runs out of things to do. This endorsement doesn't even consider Bali, which is a separate world of it's own, praised by most short and long term visitors.
Costa Rica -- Been a hide-away for expats, retirees and PT's for years. Called the Switzerland of Central America it has it all packed into a relatively small country. Even with inflation of the past 10 years Costa Rica is roughly 1/2 as cheap as living in comparable circumstances and conditions in North America and much cheaper than Europe. The Ticas and Ticos (women and men) of Costa Rica are some of the friendliest in Central or South America. Scenery wise, it has it all from mountains to valleys to beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. You can hang out with expats or locals for there are plenty of both whom you will become friends within a short time. And if single or of the Bill Clinton addiction, the Tica ladies are some of the world's prettiest, friendliest and sexiest. As an intro to the country, check out the Nashville South Cantina (off the main square of San Jose, the capital). It's a good place to meet the long-time expats and locals for a flavour of the country.
Panama -- Has the same flavour as Costa Rica but a little cheaper perhaps and maybe not quite as scenic. Panama does have more of an American influence since it has the Panama Canal Zone (Due to be relinquished to the Panamanians in year 2000). You deal in American dollars as the official banknote currency of the country. Housing in the canal zone is going at very reasonable prices and out in the islands offshore Panama, the Boca's , beachbum-style up-market living can be had for small change.
MORE OF AROUND THE WORLD WITH EXPAT WORLD
PACIFIC NATIONS - Many are tightening their laws amid charges that Russian mafia money has been stashed in offshore banks in four South Pacific countries, according to diplomatic sources. The countries were named as the Cook Islands, Nauru, Samoa and Vanuatu. A report released last week said the four, plus Fiji, Niue and Tonga, had also been accused of being involved in growing Internet gambling operations which were believed to be vulnerable to money laundering. The charges were made in a report by the Financial Action Task Force, part of the Paris based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In the past the tax-haven operations, particularly in Nauru and the Cooks, had been named by the United States Congress as key money laundering operations for American drug cartels. The task force said the offshore financial centers of "non-cooperative countries," such as the Pacific ones named, showed an unwillingness or out right refusal to cooperate in dealing with money laundering. ( Hurrah for them, Editor's note.) The M.O. (method of operation) in such countries had the common characteristics of multiple financial transactions, the use of nominees or middlemen to manage the transactions and an international network of shell companies. A large concentration of financial activity related to known Russian organized crime syndicates has been observed, especially in Western Samoa, Nauru, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands.
SOUTH AFRICA - Polygamy beats divorce? So says an Afrikaner theology professor. Recently he preached that South Africa should legalize polygamy for whites to beat a divorce rate amongst the highest in the world. "Timesharing awaits us, ladies. And that at a time Viagra was sent for men,'' it quoted Christina Landman, a theology professor at the University of South Africa in Pretoria and member of the conservative Dutch Reformed Church, as saying. Only one in three South African marriages endures, and Landman argued that polygamy would allow a husband to take on additional mistresses without his wife feeling betrayed and left with no option but divorce. "There are just too few men in the world. They have exterminated each other in wars. Now is the time to go and select a married man and go and negotiate with his wife to become part of the family,'' she was quoted as saying. The tradition of polygamy is alive and well among black Africans — the King of Swaziland enjoys at least six wives. The lack of this option for South Africa's white minority was a clear case of discrimination, Landman said.
CHINA - It's case of: Y2, fix it or die trying. China, as an ultimate incentive to solve the millennium bug computer problem, has ordered its airline executives to take a flight on January 1, 2000. "All the heads of the airlines have got to be in the air on January 1, 2000,'' the London Financial Times quoted Zhao Bo who is in charge of dealing with the problem at the Chinese ministry of information industries.
SWITZERLAND - The Swiss army and intelligence service are currently setting up a new system designed to intercept data being sent to and from foreign communications satellites in orbit over Europe. Parabolic mirrors installed in several locations throughout Switzerland will systematically intercept phone calls, faxes and emails from individuals, companies, governments and foreign militaries. The intercepted data will be forwarded to a military mainframe computer near Switzerland's capital Bern. There, the communications will be scanned to search for certain "hit words", which, according to insider sources, include "rocket", "holocaust"... and "Regli", which is the name of the Swiss intelligence service's head. Results will be shared among political and military leaders, and "other parties." According to sources, one of these other parties" is the Swiss police, which will have open access to the intercepted information without having to obtain court orders, etc. Interestingly, this would be - at least at this stage - against Swiss law.
GERMANY - The German controllers at Frankfurt Airport are infamous for being a short tempered lot. They not only expect you to know your parking location but also how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that a United 747 listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and the pilot of a British Airways 747 (call sign Speedbird). Speedbird: "Good morning Frankfurt, this is Speedbird, we are clear of the active runway." Ground: "Guten morgen, taxi to your gate." The BA 747 pulls onto the main taxiway and stops. Ground (brusquely): "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?" Speedbird: "Standby ground, I'm looking up the gate location now." Ground (with typical German impatience): "Speedbird, have you never been to Frankfurt before?" Speedbird (coolly): "Yes, several times in 1944, but I didn't stop.
RUSSIA -- Rats are being put to good use in a plosh private club in Moscow. Members of the Grand Dynamo each night sit around with tumblers full of Scotch, scorecards in hand, placing bets on large trained rats that scurry through a neon-lit, glass encased "race course", prompted by a hand bell rung by a dwarf dressed as an 18th- century page. The manager of the club was quoted as saying, "that we've always had a lot of rats in Russia, but this is the first time they are organized."