Snowbird in Mexico

Mexico is an enchanting country, offering retirement options ranging from locations along two expansive coastlines, colonial cities, mountain ranges, to deserts or rain forests. The choice of places to snowbird in Mexico, or even fully retire in Mexico, are effectively endless.

Quick Facts

Source

Population: 125,959,205 (July 2018 est.)

Capital City: Mexico City (Ciudad de México)

Climate: varies from tropical to desert

Language: Spanish only 92.7%, Spanish and indigenous languages 5.7%, indigenous only 0.8%, unspecified 0.8% (2005)

Total Area: 1,964,375 sq km or 758,449 sq mi (slightly less than 3 times the size of Texas)

Coastline: 9,330 km or 5,797 mi

Residency Requirement for Naturalization: 5 years

GDP per Capita (PPP): $19,900 (2017 est.)

Snowbird in Mexico

I’ve talked to people who have lived in Mexico, and asked what it was like. The general response: it was fantastic, if you have a sense of adventure. Based on my research, Mexico sounds like a top choice for the international snowbird lifestyle (along with Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize), even if it does result in a few compromises.

Continue reading to find out more about opportunities to live or retire in Mexico.

Continue reading “Snowbird in Mexico”

Retire in Central America

Retire in Central America
photo credit: KkleinRN

Central American Life

From our home in South Florida, it is relatively easy to travel to and retire in Central America. Certainly, being a snowbird in Central America continues to be a draw for people throughout the United States and Canada due to rich cultural experiences, temperate climates, friendly and inviting locals, and beautiful natural landscapes. Additionally, a couple could retire on less than $2,000 per month and live a rewarding lifestyle.

Central American Locations

  • Belize
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • El Salvador
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica
  • Panama
  • Mexico (Although normally considered part of North America, the UN classifies Mexico as being in Central America for statistical and reporting purposes. Additionally, Mexico shares many similarities with the other countries on this list)

North American retirees (and expats) enjoy easy travel to Mexico and Central America, therefore offering an opportunity to live in exciting countries while remaining close to home. As a result, snowbirds will find most things they can get in the southern United States and more. Whether you’re looking for beaches, outdoor adventure, culture, or ancient ruins, you’ll find it when you retire in Central America.

Learn the Culture

The area from the Yucatan Peninsula through Panama is about the size of Texas, but its history and tapestry of cultures has created a diverse society that appeals to many snowbirds. Mayan, Spanish, and African influences can be found throughout the region. For example, in Guatemala – the area’s indigenous heartland – more than 20 Mayan languages are spoken. Additionally, colonial plazas and afternoon siestas are both around thanks to the Spanish. And finally, the Caribbean coast is rich with colors and sounds harking back to African roots.

Visit the Beaches

Surfing the Pacific swells off Costa Rica, Scuba diving off the coast of Utila, or enjoying the tranquility of Isla Holbox – your ideal beach lifestyle is available. Although my preference is a quiet, laid back, small town beach vibe, those searching for high-energy party beaches will find them from Cabo and Cancun to  Bocas and Panama City.

Brush up on your Spanish

With the exception of Belize, where English is the official language, Latin American Spanish is the language of choice throughout Mexico and Central America. Learning a few basic Spanish phrases will go a long way toward enriching your snowbird experience and making your retire in Central America dream more fulfilling. As a result, the locals will appreciate your interest in their language and culture, and cultural experiences will present themselves that may have been missed if you only spoke English.

Quick Tips

  • Laundry service is cheap for those who snowbird in Central America, so pack half of what you think you need. Since locals rarely wear shorts unless they are at the beach, be sure to bring along light-weight pants or skirts and tops with short sleeves.
  • Once you’re outside of the cities, it’s not uncommon for good lodging options to not manage email or websites in ways your used to. But don’t be frustrated. Even if you have just a basic understanding of Spanish, call ahead.
  • It’s usually okay to bargain in markets or at street stalls, but ask around if you’re unsure.
  • Personal space may be different than what you’re used to in North America, so don’t be surprised if locals have fewer boundaries about personal space.

If You Like…

Snorkeling: Isla Holbox, Mexico; Utila, Honduras; Belize; Bocas del Toro, Panama; Manzanillo, Costa Rica

Hiking: Volcán Mombacho, Nicaragua; Parque Internacional La Amistad, Panama; Parque Nacional Cusuco, Honduras; Volcán Tajumulco, Guatemala; Parque Nacional Chirripó, Costa Rica; Juayúa, El Salvador

Wildlife: Península de Osa, Costa Rica; Refugio de Vida Silvestre Los Guatuzos, Nicaragua; Isal Bastimentos, Panama; Moskitia, Honduras; Monterrico, Guatemala; Playa El Cuco, El Salvador

Scuba Diving: Parque Nacional Coiba, Panama; Roatán, Honduras; The Blue Hole, Belize; Isla Cozumel, Mexico; Isla del Caño, Costa Rica

Off the Beaten Path: Pearl Keys, Nicaragua; Bahía de Jiquilisco, El Salvador; The Darién, Panama; Mal País, Costa Rica; La Campa, Honduras; Tilapita, Guatamala

Colonial Cities: Antigua, Guatemala; Granada, Nicaragua; Suchitoto, El Salvador; Casco Viejo, Panama; Comayagua, Honduras

Surfing: Dominical, Costa Rica; Santa Catalina, Panama; Pavones, Costa Rica; Playa Hermosa, Nicaragua; Las Flores, El Salvador

Ruins: Tikal, Guatemala; Chichén Itzá, Mexico; Copán, Honduras; Tulum, Mexico; Caracol, Belize; Tazumal, El Savador

Volcanoes: Volcán Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica; Volcán Masaya, Nicaragua; Volcán Arenal, Costa Rica; Pacaya, Guatemala; Volcán Barú, Panama

Beaches: Kuna Yala, Panama; Playa Grande, Las Baulas, Costa Rica; West Bay, Roatan, Honduras; Little Corn Island, Nicaragua; Hopkins, Belize; Playa El Tunco, El Salvador

Healthcare for Those Who Retire in Central America

If you’re looking to snowbird in Central America, there are no required vaccinations needed (assuming you’re not coming from a yellow-fever-infected country in Africa or South America). However, it is recommended that you are vaccinated for typhoid, rabies, and Hepatitis A and B. But don’t let this scare you away… these are the same CDC recommendations made for those making an extended visit to England.

Hospitals in urban areas throughout Central America feature state-of-the-art technology and well-trained staff. Consequently, you’ll find service on par with the United States and Canada at a much lower price. For minor illnesses or injuries, healthcare facilities in rural area are adequate, but you’ll want to travel to major cities for more serious medical treatment.

Additional sources of information on health issues can be found in the World Health Organization’s International Travel and Health site, or at Red Planet’s MDtravelhealth channel.

Other Options

If retiring in Central America isn’t for you, but you enjoy the thought of being a snowbird in an international location, take a look at our Retire in the Caribbean summary or Curaçao Travel Guide. Maybe you’ll find some location ideas that better appeal to your lifestyle and interests.

Curaçao Travel Guide

Curacao Travel Guide

Are you thinking of how great life could be if you retire in Curaçao? Or maybe just looking to book a relaxing family vacation or romantic weekend getaway?

This guide to Curaçao offers a brief history of the island, and gives information and tips about when to go, how to get there, traveling on the island, banking, passport requirements, phone service, taxes, where to stay, where to eat, beaches, nightlife, shopping, and outdoor activities. Consider this your concise one-stop shop for all things related to those looking to travel, snowbird, or retire in Curaçao.

If you feel there is something I have missed, please let me know. If it will be valuable for other readers, I’ll add it to this page.

Curaçao History

Curaçao is the largest of the islands in what is known as the Dutch Caribbean. Located just off the coast of Venezuela, Curaçao’s 150,000 people live on a island that is is 38 miles long and 7 1/2 miles wide at is widest point. The capital city of Willemstad is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is known for its colorful waterfront town houses.

The first Europeans to discover Curaçao were the Spanish in 1499, on an expedition led by Alonso de Ojeda. The Dutch came to the island in 1634 via the Dutch West India Company, and are responsible for building the capital of Willemstad. Over the years, the city built fortresses to defend against attack from England and France. A few of those ramparts exist now as house restaurants and hotels.

In 1651, twelve Jewish families arrived from Amsterdam. By 1732, a synagogue was built. The current Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue is the oldest in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere.

Tourism is growing rapidly in Curaçao, with year-over-year cruise passenger growth among the highest in the Caribbean. This is partially due to a recent massive pier expansion project. The government and private sources have invested in the restoration of some of the island’s colonial buildings, and the hotel development in recent years has increased to support the tourist demand.

Continue reading “Curaçao Travel Guide”

Using Cell Phones Overseas

Woman on cell phone

Traveling internationally doesn’t mean that you need to be disconnected from your family and friends. When overseas, I’d recommend using FaceTime or Skype when you have an internet connection. You can call home for free using those VoIP tools, and the video call feature beats a normal phone call any day.

There are times, though, when you’re going to want to use a cell phone. With international calling rates, data charges, and roaming fees, your cell phone bill may arrive as an unexpected surprise upon your return home if you’re not careful.

If VoIP isn’t an option and you need a cell phone, you’re going to want to get an unlocked GSM Quad Band World Phone and a SIM (subscriber identity module) card.

What is an unlocked cell phone? Basically, when you get a phone in the U.S., it is usually tied to your carrier. So the phone you’re using on your Verizon plan probably isn’t going to work if you switch over to AT&T. An unlocked cell phone comes with a SIM card slot that makes it easy to switch from one carrier to another. Changing carriers and plans is as simple as swapping out the phone’s SIM card.

When you’re considering buying an unlocked cell phone, the first thing to look for is GSM compatibility. Most countries in the world use the GSM network, and the phones come with a slot for the SIM card. If you’re currently with AT&T or T-Mobile, your cell phone is already on the GSM network. Those with Sprint and Verizon are on a different network called CDMA. The CDMA phones may not work overseas, since many do not come with removable SIM cards.

There are four GSM frequency bands (850, 1900, 900, and 1800). Different countries support different bands, so you’ll want to make sure the phone you’re purchasing supports the correct frequency. If you’re a frequent traveler or go to many countries, you can’t go wrong with the quad band phones that support all of the frequencies.

Here is a chart that will help you understand which frequency bands work in what country:

Continue reading “Using Cell Phones Overseas”

This is Curaçao – Video

Many years ago, my wife and I had a discussion about Curaçao when she mentioned that one of her high school acquaintances spent the summer there at an uncle’s house. That conversation was probably the first time I thought that I might be able to do that too. If her uncle could own a second home there, why couldn’t I?

While doing some research recently, I came across a video created by the Curaçao Tourist Board that I thought you might like. For your convenience, a transcript follows as well.

 

Over. Under. It’s well within your reach, yet wonderfully out of the ordinary. Left of center, but just right. So close. So very close. Yet beyond. Beyond your every expectation. There is a difference, and this is your destination.

Curaçao is an island paradise nestled between Aruba and Bonaire, easy to reach with daily direct flights from the U.S., Europe, and South America. Here, the skies are tranquil and placid, the seas are crystalline and warm.

Located outside of the hurricane belt, the island enjoys favorable weather virtually year round. The capital, Willemstad, offers the ambiance of a cosmopolitan European city, with the breath-taking beauty of an island locale.

You’ll see constant reminders everywhere of the Dutch, African, and Latin people that combine to create one of the most interesting cultures in the Caribbean.

The dramatic Queen Juliana bridge presides over one of the most active waterways in the Caribbean. It’s also the water that’s made Curaçao a true Caribbean treasure, dotted with ivory beaches and remote, rocky coves.

Curaçao’s semi-arid climate contributes to the island’s crystal-clear seas that offer visibility up to 150 feet, and a year-round perfect temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s no wonder that Curaçao is often named one the best scuba diving and snorkeling destinations in the world by scuba diving magazines and by divers.

The island’s reef system is rich, vibrant, and pristine. Divers find magnificent star coral, frog fish, huge sponges, and one of the most spectacular collections of sea anemone in the world.

Unexpected inland bays provide for other water sports as well. You can water ski, wake board, kayak, and boat to your heart’s content. The waters of Curaçao provide days of sublime pleasure. It’s no wonder Curaçao is so popular with visitors from Holland, the Americas, and even its Caribbean neighbors.

Lounge on one of the many picturesque beaches, each with an ambiance of its own. Some feature beach side bars, restaurants, dive shops, showers, even massage. Others cater to families, offering umbrellas, bar-b-cue grills, and enough water activities to keep you busy from the first ray of light to the brilliant sunset and beyond. So why not stay and host your own private beach party beneath the twinkling starlit sky?

Just as the waters hold countless wonders, the island itself features cultural discoveries for every interest. No other Caribbean destination provides such a rich and colorful concentration of Dutch architecture as Curaçao. Willemstad’s entire downtown area has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These gem-colored buildings create the most surprising cityscape in the Caribbean.

A short walk across the Queen Emma floating bridge takes you to Otrobanda, where you’ll still feel like you stepped back in time to a 17th century Dutch provincial town. Indeed, the entire island’s colorful history is well-documented, with many museums, attractions, and monuments. The Kura Hulanda Museum details Curaçao’s critical role in the slave trade, with rare artifacts and relics. The maritime museum documents the island’s history as both a strategic military location and a vital commercial center.

And Curaçao is also home to the Mikvé Israel-Emanual Synagogue, the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.

In the countryside, there are close to 100 land houses that dot the landscape, each one lovingly restored. As in Willemstad, these beautiful structures live on today as offices, shops, galleries, museums, and residences. There’s really no place quite like it.

The spirit of the island can also be seen at Mount Christoffel. It’s namesake park is an opportunity to experience nature while having fun outdoors.

Nearby, Shete Boka National Park is home to Boka Tabla with its ocean-carved caves, spectacular sprays of sea water, and natural bridge.

For an experience you might expect to find, there’s Landhuis Chobolobo where Curaçao’s famous blue liqueur is distilled.

And for an experience you might not expect, there’s the Curaçao Ostrich Farm, one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere. And close by, the Aloe Vera Plantation.

If you prefer a more sporting experience, take a swing at one of Curaçao’s golf courses in a picturesque setting by the sea.

For families and nature enthusiasts, a visit to the sea aquarium is a must. Touch tanks allow you to hand feed sea turtles, sting rays, and even sharks.

For a more hands-on experience, be sure to visit the Dolphin Academy where you can learn about and interact with these intelligent creatures.

Or take a dive 1,000 feet below the surface to see what few people have seen before.

Curaçao’s accommodations are designed to fit every mood and taste. Whether you’re seeking a cozy bungalow or a grand hotel with an exciting casino, you’ll find warm hospitality along with diverse and delicious cuisine.

With so much to do, your stay will be as fascinating as it is relaxing. From the sparkling beach to the top of the mountain. From sun-drenched days to glamorous, romantic, moonlit nights. Colorful architecture and natural splendor. A Caribbean designation like no other, Curaçao is everything you’d expect from an exotic locale, with all the comforts that make you feel right at home.

There is a difference, and this is your destination. This is Curaçao.

Retire in the Caribbean

I sometimes dream of retiring to an island and basking in the romanticism of the Caribbean. I currently live in south Florida, in a location that many of my friends up north think of when they are planning their vacations. In fact, this past February I knew five different families who spent a week vacationing in the warmth down here. I’m lucky enough to live within a few minutes drive of world-famous relaxation destinations, yet I still covet what I don’t have. I guess when you want to retire in the Caribbean, the grass is always greener…

My wife and I have talked many times about where we would like to visit, or eventually retire to. Although I’m not ready to say I want to retire to an island yet, I would like to spend some time exploring different Caribbean locales to get a feel for what island retirement might be like. I plan on using this space to document and share my research, in case it might help you when you’re planning your own visit. I’m going to cover touristy/vacation-type of information here, since that is stage of life I’m currently in. The learnings I gain here will be used to plan future vacations, where I’ll be able to share more first-hand knowledge about the snowbird life in the Caribbean.

So, where can I go? Continue reading “Retire in the Caribbean”

About the Nest Learning Thermostat

Begin Your Smart Home With Nest

Your home’s thermostat probably isn’t on your mind throughout the day.  It’s likely something you set months ago and adjust infrequently – maybe only as the seasons change.  If you’re like most people, you leave the house at one temperature and forget to change it because programming a thermostat is complicated and irritating.

Meet the next generation thermostat!  The Nest Learning Thermostat can lower your heating and cooling bills up to 20% by learning your schedule and programing itself to operate efficiently.  Whether you’re considering transitioning to a complete smart home or just want something to show off to the neighbors, the Nest should be the FIRST purchase you make for your winter home.

If you don’t think thermostats are important, consider this: they control half of your home’s energy bill.  That’s more than lighting, computers, appliances, TVs and stereos combined.  If you’re thermostat isn’t programmed optimally, you could be throwing away a couple hundred dollars per year.

The Nest Learning Thermostat isn’t just practical, it’s also sexy.  Wait a minute… can a thermostat be sexy?  Yeah, I guess it can be when it is envisioned by the creator of the iPod.  Tony Fadell, the founder of Nest Labs, served as a Senior Vice President at Apple and is known as one of the fathers of the iPod.  While building a vacation home, Tony decided to design a new and better thermostat when he found himself unimpressed by those that were available in the market.  Partnering with Matt Rogers, the two founded Nest Labs in 2010.

Video: Meet the Nest Learning Thermostat


Features

Nest has been created to save energy and money.  And with Auto-Schedule, it does both automatically.  Once installed, all you need to do is change the temperature for a few days.  This helps teach Nest about your climate preferences.  It doesn’t just learn the temperature that you like.  It also learns the time, the day of the week, and your patterns.  It continually adapts to your life’s changes, and is so simple that 99% of Nests have schedules that match their owners’ lives.

Auto-Away is a feature that utilized built-in sensors to determine if the house is empty.  When Nest detects that no one is home, it automatically adjusts to a more conservative temperature to save energy.  Auto-Away works in 90% of homes, and 75% of those home go into Auto-Away at least once per week.

The Nest Leaf appears when you choose a temperature setting that will save energy.  By adjusting the temperature just one degree, you can save up to 5% on your energy bill.  The leaf is a visual representation to guide you toward saving money.

Airwave lowers your air conditioning runtime automatically when the humidity in your home isn’t too high.  This feature can reduce A/C runtime by up to 30% by turning off the unit a few minutes early , then using the fan to spread the cold air through your home.

Auto-Tune is a service that is only available through Nest’s energy partners, and powers Rush Hour Rewards and Seasonal Savings.  Rush Hour Rewards takes advantage of energy company incentives that pay you to use less energy when other people are using more.  Seasonal Savings takes everything that Nest has learned about you and fine-tunes your schedule to save energy without sacrificing comfort.  You can check to see if your utility company is an energy partner here.

Video: How the Nest Learning Thermostat Learns


Conducting Additional Research

When making important purchases, I recommend performing additional research at Amazon.com.  I always read the customer reviews to get an idea of how others feel about the item.  I think about how I would use the product and try to find similar users who have left reviews, and see if their experience has been favorable or unfavorable.

I like to start by looking at the “Most Helpful First” reviews.  This is usually the default setting that you would receive if you went to the review page on Amazon.  I read the first couple of reviews and look for patterns related to the pros and cons of the item.  When reading the “Most Helpful First” reviews, it’s important to note the dates those reviews were made, however.  If the review was done a year ago, you’ll have to ask yourself if it is still relevant.  Has the manufacturer made any revisions, updates, design changes, etc. since then?  If so, you might want to put less weight into certain reviews.

Next, I review the “Newest First” option.  This helps to answer the question if any changes were recently made to the product.  Look for how many stars the most recent reviews have.  Is the average above or below the overall product average?  Do you notice any important issues that are being repeated over and over?  Try to spot trends that are being called out in the reviews and determine how they would relate to how you plan on using the product.

You can do your additional research on the Nest Learning Thermostat right now by clicking the following links to take you directly to the reviews sorted by:
Most Helpful First
Newest First

Smart Homes for Snowbirds

What is a smart home?

A smart home is one that utilizes automation and the latest in technology to provide the home owner with comfort, security, efficiency, and convenience, whether you’re home or away.  Think of a home where appliances, lights, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, audio & video systems, security, and camera systems are all able to communicate with one another.  Or where you are able to interact and control them via your smart phone or tablet.  Or where they are able to email you detailed reports providing updates on their current operational status or a history of their use over the past week.  Imagine a home that is able to learn your lifestyle preferences and automatically adjust itself to help your family live in comfort, while optimizing efficiency to lower your utility bills.  This is what a smart home is all about.

Most homes do not already have the appliances and systems built into them to be considered a smart home.  In many cases, however, it is relatively easy and affordable for the home owner to retrofit smart products in to their home.

What kind of devices would you find in a smart home?

Lighting.  Controlling your home’s lighting is one of the easiest places to start when transitioning to a smart home.  There are many affordable starter kits that will allow you to utilize home automation in just minutes.

Security.  Installing a DIY wireless home security system to keep your family safe is simpler than ever.  Many systems combine control with this security, providing an added convenience.

Audio & Video.  Controlling your entertainment system with home automation is easy.  With the touch of a button on one remote control or your smartphone, the lights can be dimmed and your home theater and audio system can be ready to watch a movie with the sound set just the way you like it.

Climate Control.  Your home’s temperature can be programmed and controlled remotely, helping you save energy and money.  When starting a smart home project, this is where I would begin.  Read more about the Nest Learning Thermostat to find out why.

Why should a snowbird own a smart home?

Convenience.  This is one of the biggest reasons that you should consider retrofitting, building, or purchasing a smart home.  The remote access to all of your home’s connected features allow you to monitor and control your home from afar.  If you’re still up north and you want to check in on your winter home, it can be done quickly and easily by checking an app on your phone.

Security.  Advanced security features such as network linked cameras and motion sensors that can communicate automatically with the police or a private security company provide an extra level of comfort for snowbirds who will be splitting time living between two homes.  Additionally, smart homes may also make use of key cards or fingerprint identification in place of conventional locks to make it more difficult for someone to break in.

Accessibility.  We’re all going to get older.  This is just a fact of life.  Owning a smart home, however, can provide accessibility features that can help make life easier for elderly or disabled residents.  Voice-activated systems will help the owner control lighting, lock doors, use a computer, or operate a telephone.  In addition, labor-intensive tasks like watering the lawn or flower beds can be performed automatically with home automation.

Resale.  Automating a home can attract buyers and increase a home’s market value, since it will have an abundance of effective selling points.  Homes with automated systems have the potential to sell for much more than similar homes with conventional technologies.

Air Conditioning Maintenance Tips for Snowbirds

Air Conditioning Maintenance and Service for Snowbirds

Living in the South, one often overlooked item you should pay attention to is your air conditioning unit. I have found in my Florida home that we don’t use the air conditioner very often during the winter months, as we prefer to open the windows and feel the cool night breezes. There are, however, still those winter days when having the A/C on provides more comfort than when it’s not. Knowing the importance of the unit, and the expense of replacing it if things go wrong, listed below are a few essential tips to keep your A/C performing well.

Continue reading “Air Conditioning Maintenance Tips for Snowbirds”

Southwest Florida Extreme Weather Contact Information

Each year the National Coastal Data Development Center creates/updates extreme weather contact sheets for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  These contact sheets can be considered a one-stop reference for contacting government officials and monitoring information.  The sheets are available in a laminated and waterproof format free of charge by e-mailing:  ncddc@noaa.gov.

For easy reference, the content of the Southwest Florida region extreme weather information sheet is shown below.

Continue reading “Southwest Florida Extreme Weather Contact Information”