2020 South American Expat Thread

Cr33pin

Peacock
Gold Member
Welcome to 2020 gang, Names Uncle Cr33pin an my pronouns are they/them an this is a thread about South American living. A open discussion about pros, cons, cost, cities, neighborhoods, safety, immigration, food, healthcare, points of interest, do and don'ts, an anything one wishes to talk about EXCEPT things that are not tolerated in the new rules... aka "banging big booty hoes"

I've spent a few years living in South America including over a year in Lima Peru (although its not a life time destination for me) an I think South America has the most appeal for me to live in long term. Even though the places that are really piquing my interest right now are places I haven't been yet, Panama and Costa Rica, possibly Ecuador. Panama and Ecuador seem to be the easiest to live in immigration wise.

I would love to hear some insight amongst those who have made the plunge to living in South America and/or hear about cities or towns that guys here have experience with visiting and living in that they think could be long term destinations.

A bit about me and what I'm coming from and looking for in a "forever destination"
Right now I have a monthly budget of between 2k-3k and with in the next few years I plan on having a budget a 5k monthly. I'm not terribly concerned with leaving America behind and always feeling like a "outsider" living in South America. I felt like just as much of a outsider in America as I have in any other various countries I've lived in all over Asia, Europe, and South America. Also I'm not close with my family which also makes the transition easier then it would be for those that are.

What I am looking for is somewhere with nature and preferably some form of water near by, ocean would be ideal but a lake, river, creek or mud puddle will do. I am not a fan of cities at all.... I don't need any form of nightlife, for me night life is sleeping soundly in my bed. Weather is also important, I like sunshine and warmth which is a big reason why South America tops Europe for a long term living arrangement.

Boquete, Panama is sounding really promising and this year I will venture up there by land and sea. It seems to be a growing hub for retiring expats with great affordable healthcare, good coffee, and plenty of nature and tranquility.



Again all discussion about South America aside from that which is prohibited is welcome!
 

La Águila Negra

Kingfisher
Do you intend to buy real estate a Latin American country?

I lived in Colombia for several years myself in my early 20s.. Back then the adventure and the disgust for the sterile and docile back home made the disadvantages worth it.

Couldn't do that anymore. The visible poverty, the unsafetyness. Constantly having to have your guard up. The throughly corrupted state representatives. Locals trying to scam you all the frigging time.

You are probably in a different age and income bracket. So that could diminish those factors.

Being able to both be part of an expat community (I don't mean the transient English teachers /digital nomad crowd) and being in a country where the locals look/think like you is important too. Wouldn't want to be the only perpetually sunburnt white face in town
 

lavidaloca

Pelican
Gold Member
Interesting topic. Id like to explore colombia later this year. Almost a year straight in Cuba has me seeking new pastures.

Dont have anything to add in regard to SA but will follow the thread.
 

NoMoreTO

Pelican
lavidaloca said:
Interesting topic. Id like to explore colombia later this year. Almost a year straight in Cuba has me seeking new pastures.

Dont have anything to add in regard to SA but will follow the thread.
What is Cuba like? I haven't heard many stories of people setting up shop there for a year.
 
I am visiting bogota end of january for a few weeks. I will be learning spanish in the mornings and exploring the nightlife in the evenings and have the weekends free. Does anyone have any recommendations? Or is going to be there at the same time?

Matt
 

Road_Less_Taken

Woodpecker
In regards to the main post Cr33pin while I was only briefly in Costa Rica I noticed immediately it is on another level in terms of taking care of the environment and also safety. It isn't especially cheap but for your budget one could live super comfortably long term.

Hopefully some other members can chime in on best locations there but I can't see it being difficult to find your combination of nature, close to the beach with a comfortable lifestyle.
 
Friend of a friend* whom I only met once briefly sold everything and bought a small plantation or hobby farm (or something) in Nicaragua a couple years back. I don't recall seeing anything at all on this forum about that country, but it must have something going for it.

Does anyone here have any first hand experience of Nicaragua?

*dude impressed me because he referred to men being "emasculated by the government", the only time i ever heard such a sentiment expressed unironically in person.
 

tomtud

Pelican
Thank god for the internet because some of you would be lost if you had to use books and encyclopedias for information. Stop being lazy. Laziness will kick your ass in the long term.

There is a search function on here and albeit not all on this thread are lazy, use the search folks. I have also posted this site several times on here in threads.... https://www.expatexchange.com

If you can’t find info on here,,,,go on there.
 

Dilated

Robin
Excellent thread. Will be following as I’m almost set on moving to S. America in 2 years.

I’ll add what I can.

I’ve been to most of SA. Overall impressions are this-
If you have the funds, I think Chile is the best. If budget is more of a consideration, Peru. Colombia a close 3rd.

Chile’s women are a little disappointing on the aggregate but it has SA’s most stable economy...great weather...and good logistics connections. Living costs are relatively high, though.

Peru seems fairly stable by SA standards. The women came across as sweet and fairly traditional. Lima has good int’l airfare connections. And Peru is easy on the budget. I haven’t been to Arequipa but it looks like it could be a winner- medium-sized city that is cheap with perfect weather.

Colombian women are knockouts but seem a bit unstable. Colombians, however, have generally been friendly to me. The coffee triangle intrigues me the most- Manizales/Pereira/Armenia.

Argentina economy (peso) scares me. Brazil is largely a violent shithole. Bolivia is too poor. VZ needs no explanation. Paraguay is a place nobody seems to know anything about. Ecuador I haven’t been to but will be going there in March.

Another consideration is long-term residency visas. From what I can tell Paraguay, Ecuador, and Peru have the easiest visas. Colombia’s actually looks the most straight-forward but the monthly income you have to prove is quite high for SA- about $2,500/mo. USD.

If Argentina had a more stable currency I could make a strong case for Mendoza being the best city to relocate to.
 

Cortés

Woodpecker
Gold Member
Currently I'm in Uruguay toying with the idea of immigrating here next year. Uruguay has a pretty open immigration policy if you have location independent income. Being fairly young still figuring out how I'm gonna make my living I'm curious to hear if anyone here is planning on expatriating and getting a job somewhere In south America? From what I've noticed the people on this continent who make more than maybe $2000 USD either own a business or make their money from abroad. Even computer guys here make maybe $1000 per month. I've got a nice stash of money from some investments that I'm cashing out on soon (not really sustainable). Planning on maybe a year from now taking the leap and either starting a business here or really commiting myself to computer programming to do some freelancer. Other plan is to buy some land and become a farmer.

From my travels and research I've found that Chile would be the best place to be a location dependent worker, Argentina would be the easiest to immigrate to, and Uruguay is a good mix of both. However I would imagine most of you in this thread make your money from the west. Personally I would love to live in Uruguay or chile, however im excited to see what Brazil has to offer. Anyone trying to expatriate to Brazil?
 

lavidaloca

Pelican
Gold Member
@Nomoreto I have a daughter here so its not exactly the same as most. Also own a home right downtown in one of the bigger cities in Cuba.

They recently got 4g internet which makes it a lot more liveable but constant shortages make it a huge pain. I haven't been able to buy toilet paper for 2 months or a pop from the store. Things like that wear on you. The cost of living is very low outside of Havana and Varadero but for someone who doesnt have family here theres too many issues preventing it from being a good expat destonation. Im yet to meet a fellow expat here under 50.

You cant own a home unless you have residency which you can only acquire in a more permanent fashion if you have a Cuban child. As a result you are stuck renting and then everytime you bring a girl back even just to chat they are signing a book that is passed on to immigration / police. You can rent secondary illegal places as well to avoid this but its a real pain in the ass. Havana is the only place where registration isnt really done but most girls in Havana dont want to go anywhere with a foreigner as the police are quite on top of it.

Makes it an unideal place unless you are settling down.

Overall its a good place to visit but not really a long term destination unless you are settling down and dont mind not having expat friends.
 

lavidaloca

Pelican
Gold Member
Im curious as to what type of budget one needs to have a high end lifestyle in the 3 main cities in Colombia (medellin, cali, bogota) as well as in Lima. Can you live exceptionally well on 4-5k usd / month?

Here in Cuba aside from when im purchasing real estate its pretty hard to crack 2k usd a month aside from Havana in terms of spending.
 

buja

Woodpecker
Cr33pin said:
Even though the places that are really piquing my interest right now are places I haven't been yet, Panama and Costa Rica, possibly Ecuador. Panama and Ecuador seem to be the easiest to live in immigration wise.

A bit about me and what I'm coming from and looking for in a "forever destination"

Right now I have a monthly budget of between 2k-3k and with in the next few years I plan on having a budget a 5k monthly. I'm not terribly concerned with leaving America behind and always feeling like a "outsider" living in South America.

What I am looking for is somewhere with nature and preferably some form of water near by, ocean would be ideal but a lake, river, creek or mud puddle will do. I am not a fan of cities at all.... I don't need any form of nightlife, for me night life is sleeping soundly in my bed. Weather is also important, I like sunshine and warmth which is a big reason why South America tops Europe for a long term living arrangement.

Boquete, Panama is sounding really promising and this year I will venture up there by land and sea. It seems to be a growing hub for retiring expats with great affordable healthcare, good coffee, and plenty of nature and tranquility.
Boquete is wonderful. I first went there in 2002 and have visited several times since then. It can get rainy and/or chilly at times but usually it's quite nice.

A good buddy of mine lives in David, Panama which is the city down the mountain from Boquete. David is hot and humid as hell! Gringos who live in Boquete go down to David occasionally to buy groceries and other supplies and pick up their Amazon orders.

They really like gringos in David and the surrounding areas. It's a good place to make friends especially if you got Spanish skills. I went to my buddy's English class and I was getting looks like this from all his female students...



People will try to take advantage of you in business if they think they call pull one over on the naive gringo...won't be a problem for you since you are familiar with Latin America.

I like Costa Rica, people are nice, it's beautiful etc. but I've heard many horror stories about gringos being taken advantage of by local government, there seems to be a lot of cynicism toward gringos...

2-3k a month is excellent for almost all of Latin America.

Have you considered Guatemala?
Lake Atitlan is gorgeous - though it does get overcast sometimes.

I have residency there - though I don't live there full time.
Guatemala is business friendly for gringos.

Check out these podcasts about Latin America. He's a friend of mine - he's been in Latin America almost 30 years. He has excellent week long seminars twice a year.

https://theexpatfiles.podbean.com/

For sunshine and warmth, I hear La Sirena, Chile is excellent. I've never been there but a buddy used to live there. He says it has San Diego like weather.

PM me if you have any questions...
 

Brother Abdul Majeed

Kingfisher
Gold Member
I have lived in Panama full-time for the last 4 years. It's my "forever" destination. I really do enjoy living here and do not plan on going back to Canada other than for visits.

The U.S. dollar and the fact that the Americans will never let anything happen to the canal probably make this the most stable country in all of Latin America (technically Panama is in Central America, not South America - a slight distinction). Panama City is a very organized city (compared, of course, to other Latin American cities), and it's easy to purchase just about anything there. Even though it's a big city, I do enjoy going there and I have a few spots that I enjoy visiting in the city. Unfortunately I haven't been well for the last year, and I have to go to the hospital about every 6 weeks, but there's a world class hospital in the Punta Pacifica section of the city, it's a Johns Hopkins hospital, so I'm getting the best treatment available anywhere in the world. There are a lot of very wealthy people in Panama, so the amenities are there for them. It's a forty five minute plane ride from where I live to get to the city. Planes are available three times daily.

There are a lot of benefits to living here. I am not a city person, so I live in a more remote part of the country, Bocas del Toro to be exact, on the main island. The town itself can be a little bit of a party town, but I live on the other side of the island, close to Bluff beach. I have a little farm, as well as several businesses that make a decent income. The farm has been cut out of the rainforest (myself and a few workers did it with machetes, weed whackers and shovels - it was quite a task) and there's nothing quite like going to sleep with the sounds of howler monkeys as a background noise. The town itself may seem like a bit of a shit-hole due to the garbage problem, but there are a lot of nice restaurants and bars. There's a decent police presence here too, so crime is quite low. You'll lose your cell phone if you leave it on the bar and go to the bathroom, but no-one will ever violently confront you to get it.

Once I'm on the mainland, which is a half hour water taxi ride ($3.50 for locals, $5 for tourists), Costa Rica is only a forty minute drive away.

David is quite nice, I have to do shopping there quite often, as there are some things that still can't be bought in Bocas. David has a Price-Smart and a few malls. I also have to go and service my truck there, as there is nothing like a car dealership in Bocas. It's an hour and a half ferry ride to the mainland and about a four hour drive across the mountains to get there. The scenery is incredible, and David is a very friendly town. A hotel room in a clean hotel is $40 a night. A decent meal will cost under $10 if you know the right places. Beer is $1 apiece in most bars.

Boquete is a half hour drive away from David. It's a very picturesque little town, and is the preferred destination for expats (outside of Panama City). I personally find it a little dull there and there is a bit of a snobby attitude amongst the Gringos - but that's just my personal feelings. I do go there for weekends once in a while just to cool my body off. It's in the mountains and the climate is very refreshing. Hotel rooms are very inexpensive there as well, and there's a decent option for every budget.

Getting bank accounts and other financial ventures can be a bit of a hoop-jumping experience, but once you've managed to get all that done and the headaches are over, life is golden.

If you want more info on Panama and life here, feel free to inbox me.
 

Cr33pin

Peacock
Gold Member
This thread IS heading in the direction I had hoped. Some solid and encouraging responses thus far.

Uruguay:
To the people curious about Uruguay I lived there for 3 months last year in Montevideo in the Punta Hermosa neighborhood. I also rented a car and drove across the country to the Brazil border and back..... Montevideo is the most expensive city I have ever lived in, its generally known as one of the most expensive countries in South America. I was in Colonia del Sacramento a cool little city a few hours from Montevideo with a friend and we were chatting with out waiter while having lunch and asked him about Uruguay being so expensive... an I will never forget his response, which was "Yes its expensive but here we have legal marijuana, gay marriage, and abortion" He must have mistakenly took us for the woke types jaja. We just smiled and nodded but for the rest of our trip and beyond we made jokes about being willing to pay more for homosexual sodomy, drugs and killing babies. Anyways a lot of Uruguay is pretty "woke" however its super safe and has great steaks. Plenty of diversity in the looks of the people there from white European to typical Latino. I enjoyed my time there but the cost really takes it off the list of places to set up shop.

Brazil:
I spent a few months in Porto Alegre and had a absolute blast, but a big part of that is cause there was a nice basketball park near my condo and literally everyday it didn't rain I was there balling up Brazilians. They were great people in general, the food was good, the prices were cheap, the girls were insanely sexy, safety wasn't a issue but as some of my Brazilian baller buddies pointed out... I was living in a very rich neighborhood. Brazil is a special place with a vibe thats hard to put into words. However for whatever reason I just never consider it for a "forever" destination. The language barrier kind of sucks to. I spent 2019 in South America and I legit had the best time in Brazil. After my time was up in Porto Alegre I rented a car and drove it up to the Bolivian border, which again was also a amazing experience.

Boliva:
I spent a little over a month in Santa Cruz Bolivia which is a lot different then most other cities in Bolivia, its seemingly more Brazilianish then Bolivian. It was ok not really much to say about it, seemed safe and cheap. I then rented a car and Drove up to La Paz which was a really cool experience. I stopped along the way at Cochabamba which seemed really cool and I wish I had spent more time exploring there. Fun story, I went to the big Jesus statue in Cochabamba and then just started exploring all these random dirt roads on the mountains and out in the middle of nowhere I came across a band playing on a path in full traditional costumes. I stopped and chatted with them an we all took pics with each other, they gave me the name of their YouTube channel and later when I was back in civilization and looked them up they had a few million subscribers, they are one of the more famous Bolivian bands in their genre. Then there is La Paz.... I started out La Paz on the wrong foot and probably never gave the city a real chance after that. Driving into La Paz my damn GPS had me go down some crazy steep road with a big cliff at the bottom, I was thinking F this and pulled into a little side road and planned on turning around but when I backed back onto the steep road my SUV started sliding sideways towards the cliff that would have been the end of me... fortunately it stop sliding before the cliff so I had to drive down the road and saw a little road that went off to the side, it was a tight little one lane road and I drove a few hundred yards to the end of it only to find out it just ended with no where to run around. I hopped out of the SUV pretty much in a full fledged panic attack at this point, walked down to the end of that road where the cliff was... thought to myself "Ain't no one gonna get me out of this mess but me" walked back to the SUV and had to back down that crazy narrow road then managed to turn around at the cliff drop off, put the SUV in low 4wd and gunned it up the steep road and that was that. I've never been so happy to turn in a rental car. After that I was pretty shitty on La Paz, its also a very high altitude, very busy, very dirty city. I booked a apartment there for a month but just left the city after 6 days and just chalked up the lost rent money to the game.

I'm in Peru now and there is tons of info on it so I'm not going to post much other then Miraflores in Lima is my nice little first world city bubble that I like to live in. Its safe, clean, and the food is AMAZING. I also spent a month in Cali Colombia in the past and it was great but it was pretty great cause it was in the Cali hay day and we had a team of RVF killers there at the time an it made everything more fun.

I'm also curious to hear about Guatemala or Nicaragua from someone who has been. there.
 

Cortés

Woodpecker
Gold Member
^^^ definetly all true about Uruguay, Montevideo is expensive and "woke" af. I think $2000 per month would be a middle class life in Montevideo. Not too fancy but it would be in a secure, clean city. It would be tough to find people that live more conservatively, which I feel is the biggest drawback to Uruguay. Outside of Uruguay its cheaper and the people are pretty laid back (but still rather liberal). The coast between MVD and Punta del este has some stunning beach towns. Atlantida is my favorite beach village and Piriapolis as a small City. Again not as cheap as most of south America, but I guess your basically paying for the safety and cleanliness. Think of it as living in Europe. Uruguay is a great place to vacation, to take your wife/kids for some beach time.

I just arrived in Brazil today by the border crossing at chuy and I'm hoping to get a taste of life here as it seems to hit the sweet spot of easy immigration, cost of living, and general livability. The one major drawback (at least from my research and rather limited time spent here so far) is the safety. I just heard gunshots when I was outside half an hour ago.

For the guys looking to expat to south America and are looking for a country where you can find like-minded traditional Christians, take a look at this pew research

https://www.pewforum.org/2014/11/13/religion-in-latin-america/

It has some good detailed info over religious values from most latin countries. Generally Chilean, Argentinean, and Uruguayan Catholics have the weakest alignment to traditional values. Central American evangelicals (Catholics as well in this area) tend to be the strongest. I do think even in a country like Uruguay if you look hard enough you can find a Catholic wife who holds traditional values. I do admit this article has me thinking about getting involved in the Evangelical church to find a girl to convert back to Catholicism (is that moral? Lol)

Edit: As far as being an outsider in South America, I think one of the best things about south America is that if you learn the language well enough and make some local friends (not hard at all in most of these countries!) You can be Chilean, Colombian, Brasilian etc. As opposed to Asian countries where white/black people don't look like locals, or Eastern European countries where you don't have local blood/roots, Latin American identity is more open to someone who tries to integrate
 

Australia Sucks

Kingfisher
Buja I spent 3 or 4 days in La Serena Chile. It has decent beaches close enough to the city and seemed safe enough. The climate was nice when I was there (do not know about the whole year though).

The women in La Serena are reasonably busty and attractive (it ain't Colombia though) albeit with the typical moderately bad attitudes (not at Western levels yet though) and extreme flakiness that is customary with Chilean women.

Aside from the beaches which are somewhat close to the city (by bus), the city is otherwise small, boring and fairly non-descript. From La Serena you can go to the Elqui valley (a tourist and agricultural area) by bus where you find lush greenery, picturesque landscapes, its own unique micro-climate and probably the best tasting fruit and vegetables in the northern half of Chile.

Overall I wasn't amazed by La Serena but it seemed pleasant enough.
 

scotian

Crow
Gold Member
lavidaloca said:
Im curious as to what type of budget one needs to have a high end lifestyle in the 3 main cities in Colombia (medellin, cali, bogota) as well as in Lima. Can you live exceptionally well on 4-5k usd / month?

Here in Cuba aside from when im purchasing real estate its pretty hard to crack 2k usd a month aside from Havana in terms of spending.
You can live very well on $3K/month in those cities, Bogota will be the most expensive but still very reasonable for a city of it’s size. $4-5K and you can have very nice things including a daily maid, car, etc. I always stay as a tourist but my friends who are here permanently all say $3K is enough, their only real complaints are residency and banking issues, taxes, etc.

Interesting that no one has mentioned Mexico yet, AFAIK it has very easy tourist/resident visas, I think Yanks and Canucks can pretty much come and go all year. The violence is overblown in the media and mostly limited to areas where tourists don’t go although in recent years there’s been an increase in the Cancun region. I’m still getting to know the country, I’ve spent about three months there in total, so far my two favourite towns are Merida and Queretero, both clean, quiet, historic, safe and cheap.
 

Cr33pin

Peacock
Gold Member
Anyone got any info on Cuenca, Ecuador? It's always at the top of list of "best places to retire to" and "happiest people" type list. Even my sister (who is no traveler) randomly sent me a message asking me if I had been there cause she was thinking of retiring to there. Unless something in Lima really captures my attention in the next few weeks I'm gonna head up to Cuenca and post of for a month or more depending on how I like it. There also seems to be three pretty big universities there (one of them a big catholic uni) so I feel like the city will have a younger crowd going for it because of that.

[img=580x348]https://www.roamingaroundtheworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Cuenca-sign.jpg[/img]


It ranks also ranks high in cheap cost of living and access to good healthcare
 
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