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Advice for solo expact

Baddeck, Canada
Level Contributor
19 posts
Advice for solo expact

Hi,

I live alone in Canada, and cannot stay another winter. I am 57, and am on a fixed income. I really want to explore and live,learn cultures and perhaps never see snow again!! lol So this is a new adventure for me, I have not really traveled that much before and never for about 5 months which is what I plan. Dec./Jan to mid/end of April. I was told a bit by email of a friend who spent time in Guatamala in the 90's. Sounds very interesting, so I did a bunch of research on the area. Thought I may be interested in places around the lake as opposed to Panajachel?! Santa Cruz, San Pedro, j...can't think of the name right now. Anyway, it all sounds very interesting and intriguing, however I really am a beach, salt water person.

My top priorities are safety, affordable, coastal..ish, and culture.That being said, I have been looking @ Panama, Belize, Nicaragua(?), and Guatamala, Atitalan area, which is not coastal..so??? I'm just researching these and am not sure of affordability at this time. Sooo I am opened to advice, suggestions, and any information I can gather. Peru has also been suggested and also is very appealing. I have not researched it as of yet, been busy with the other possibilities. And to be very honest, I am a tad overwhelmed, to say the least!!

I would be very interested to hear about anyones experiences, locations, thoughts, interpretations, and advice. I will leave this with you, and hope to hear from you at your convenience.

Thanks,

Murdena

Toronto, Ontario
Level Contributor
1,044 posts
20 reviews
1. Re: Advice for solo expact

While Belize may very well fit the bill for what you are looking for (we are going back there for a month this fall), I am going to throw you a curve and suggest that you have a look at the island of Bequia, in the Grenadines. I know lots of people (mostly Canadians) who spend 3 to 5 months there each year and it is a really special place. We only go there for 5 weeks a year (so far). May be a bit light on culture, but there is an active music scene and some of the friendliest people you will ever find, and like Belize it is English speaking. Just a thought.

Baddeck, Canada
Level Contributor
19 posts
2. Re: Advice for solo expact

Well, thank you very much, I will google this area!!!

Saint James City...
Destination Expert
for San Pedro
Level Contributor
16,517 posts
10 reviews
3. Re: Advice for solo expact

I'm guessing, though I've never been, that Bequia will be much, much more expensive than places in Central America.

Belize and Costa Rica are considered the most expensive. The advantage to Belize is that it's English speaking, might be a nice first step. It's nice to be able to have conversations with the locals without a language barrier.

Of course, if you move to a Spanish speaking country, no reason you can't learn to speak the language.

I'm guessing Nicaragua will be cheaper, it's certainly cheaper to vacation there than some places in Belize. We spent a couple weeks there, loved it. Although our favorite place was Granada, which is not on the ocean. San Juan del Sur may meet your needs as well.

I'm hearing really interesting things about parts of Ecuador. Haven't been, but, might be worth looking into.

I also love the Pacific coast city of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. Very safe, very walkable. Lots of English spoken, although I'd learn some Spanish if I lived there. Just north of there, there are a couple of small beach towns, Bucerias and Sayulita. Both nice places I'd like to spend more time at. There are others, those are the only two I've been to.

You mentioned fixed income, but, if it is a decent amount, I'd consider traveling around parts of Central America this winter and see what strikes your fancy. Doing lots of reading is a good thing, but, doesn't take the place of visiting first hand. Would be a bummer is you signed a lease on a place for 4-5 months then got there and didn't like the area.

Wasaga Beach, Canada
Level Contributor
133 posts
4 reviews
4. Re: Advice for solo expact

Interesting question, I look forward to the replies....I would second Jeanh's suggestion of Puerto Vallarta, and the areas to the north. Have been there a few times and found it really "gringo friendly", as have a lot of Canadian snowbirds. Found the same vibe in Los Cabos, and know some people who spend a month or more at a time there in the winter. My suspicion is that for affordability, Mexico might be hard to beat.

Having said that, we will be staying in the San Pedro area for the first time this December. I look forward to doing some research on longer term stays, as I have been doing since I got hooked on our first winter getaway 25 plus years ago...can never do too much planning, I always say.

Central America
Level Contributor
1,972 posts
30 reviews
5. Re: Advice for solo expact

I've lived in Belize and Guatemala full time, part time in Panama, and traveled all over Centra America (CA) for the past decade. My perspective below.

Saftey & affordability are two of your criteria, so from that perspective:

Belize & CR are the most expensive by far. Generally safe, but crimes against resident expats in CR have risen in recent years. Petty theft is an annoyance in parts of Belize, but violent crime involving expats is rare.

Guatemala is an amazing country, but is not without its issues, so may push your safety envelope. Its home base for me and I love it, but its not for everyone. Very affordable. Excellent and very affordable healthcare in Guatemala City.

We like Nicaragua a lot. It is relatively inexpensive. Currently, statistically one of the safest countries in CA despite its troubled past. But infrastructure still has some catching up to do.

Panama has a lot to recommend it as a retirement venue. Generally affordable (in the middle for CA) and safe, better infrastructure than many other CA countries. Very favorable retirement residency programs. Good healthcare, but a bit more expensive than Guatemala.

Regardless of where you initially choose, rent don't buy for at least a year to confirm it really is for you. That's not a bad long-term strategy either.

Central America
Level Contributor
1,972 posts
30 reviews
6. Re: Advice for solo expact

Re coastal areas of countries in CA:

Belizean mainland coast is not especially pretty, but there is good fishing/exploring. The real jewels of Belize are the offshore cayes, barrier reef, and outer atolls. Many picture post card perfect islands, world class diving and snorkeling, good fishing (wide variety of species depending on whether you fishing the mainland, the cayes, or the reef). Hot and humid coastal lowlands.

Guatemala. Both a Pacific and an Atlantic coast. Pacific Coast is not as dramatically beautiful as many other pacific coasts...mostly just straight black sand beach. World class big game fishing though. The very short Atlantic coast is more scenic and more interesting. The Rio Dulce is beautiful, but the climate is hot & humid (something to consider since you are from Canada...highlands climates will probably be more comfortable for you).

El Salvador. Some spectacular sections of rugged Pacific coast line, dotted with small villages which have become popular surfing venues (like El Tunco, a funky little surf town, which we really enjoy...but we go for the excellent beers of Brew Revolution, not the surfing). El Salvador is inexpensive but may be outside the box for you in terms of safety (though the vast majority of visitors & expats don't have issues).

Nicaragua. Some beautiful sections of the Pacific coast, but some areas very arid. Atlantic coast even more interesting (see Corn Islands etc), but there are some areas of the Atlantic coast (like the NE autonamous region) which have security issues.

Costa Rica has some spectacularly beautiful Pacific coastal areas, but again very expensive (higher cost of living generally than the USA). I have not spent much time on CRs Atlantic coast.

Panama. Panama has a lot to offer from this aspect too, with two coasts separated by a narrow isthmus of mainland. Both coasts have some very interesting and scenic areas. We rent a casita in Volcan (Chiriqui highlands) part time. From there we can drive to the Pacific coast in about 1.5 hours and the Atlantic coast in about 4.5 and both scenic drives.

There is a lot to be said for living in the highlands, and the resulting comfortable climate, with easy access to the coast. You can do this most notably in Guatemala, CR, and Panama.

Edited: 15 August 2014, 14:42
Central America
Level Contributor
1,972 posts
30 reviews
7. Re: Advice for solo expact

"You mentioned fixed income, but, if it is a decent amount, I'd consider traveling around parts of Central America this winter and see what strikes your fancy. Doing lots of reading is a good thing, but, doesn't take the place of visiting first hand. Would be a bummer is you signed a lease on a place for 4-5 months then got there and didn't like the area."

Good advice I think. With 4-5 months you can sample a lot of the region and see what you like. Especially important since you have not travelled a lot.

london
Level Contributor
7 posts
40 reviews
8. Re: Advice for solo expact

Hi Murdena

I went to Belize for two weeks with my boyfriend recently and it was the most significant holiday of my life. The culture is amazing if you know how to make the most of it. The people are very laid back. We splashed out a little with diving and water orientated activities but one thing I really wanted to pass on is our 'jungle' experience. I found a listing on airbnb for a tree house. I booked solely on the reviews and it was by far the highlight of my trip. I am on a mission to make sure as many people experience the Belizean jungle experience with this family. Look up martz farm on here or Facebook. It's a lovely couple; Joe and miriam. They have been living on the land for 14 years and have built a jungle farm of sorts. They have tree houses and also standard rooms. They have horses and chickens and lots of land. They are well connected and near to San ignatio which is a lovely village to visit. Their way of life is enlightening and simple. They are welcoming and warm. Regardless of what your longer travel plans are I urge you to go see them! You should be able to stay there for around 25usd a night with breakfast included. For a longer stay I am sure miriam will be happy to sort out an offer. Say hi from Alex and Anna if you do contact them! All the best, Anna

belize
Destination Expert
for Belize, Placencia, Ambergris Caye, Cayo, San Ignacio
Level Contributor
7,581 posts
13 reviews
9. Re: Advice for solo expact

Did you also love the Vaca lagoon boat tour?

Central America
Level Contributor
1,972 posts
30 reviews
10. Re: Advice for solo expact

Speaking of treehouses and expats. The Salisburys packed up their family and moved to Belize around 1980 (IIRC). They built a treehouse on Orange Point (south of PG) and lived a very basic life there. Later they wrote a book about their experiences. Nice folks and an interesting book.

http://treehousebelize.com/

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