Welcome to your retirement guide to paradise

retire in paradise for less, retirement, retire early, paradise, mexico, london,naked, ecuador,thailand,quito,cuenca,puyo,ambato,san miguel de allende,chiang maiHello, my name is John Arnold and with my travel and expat experience, I can help you get the information you need! The purpose of this website is to provide information about travelling or moreover, retiring outside your current country of residence. I have set out on a mission to find the Best Place to Retire.

This site is full of useful information about retirement and travel to beautiful and interesting places. What most of us have in common is a sense of wonderment with the possibilities in our lives and this website will help you implement those daydreams into reality. Actually looking back on my life, I have always been in search of the “best place” to live. In my fifties, friends began telling me: “John, nirvana doesn’t exist”. My reply: “maybe so, but there is an opportunity to learn about this beautiful world along with more joy and adventure looking for it”.

So where is this best place to retire? Is it the cheapest place to retire and live in? We all have various reasons to think about leaving our home country; you may be disenchanted with the current state of politics, the economy and affordability, the weather and others just want to experience a change in scenery. A BIG change in scenery!

Click on the menu bar above under “Countries” to find a list of countries that I have focused on. Further over to the right is a menu tab called “infrastructure”, here I provide information about transportation and how you get around your planned destination, how to use your cell phone, how to get cable television and use services like Netflix overseas and many more such topics. Also provided on this site is information on healthcare/insurance options and the logistics of moving your personal or household belongings to your new country and hopefully your paradise. There is also a “Social/Cultural” section where I have gathered information and learned the hard way, about relationships and how to behave respectfully in your chosen country. Last, but least, there is lots of information about “Cost of Living” including important pension information.

Your paradise and priorities in paradise may be different than mine. For me climate and safety are equally as important at the top of my list, followed by the cost of living. I see no point in being able to live very cheaply, in a sunny place but in an unsafe area.

Please enjoy the information and feel free to contact me about a topic that you think should be covered here on Retire in Paradise for Less. Happy reading.. and a very happy retirement.

Bali and the cost of living

Cost of living in Bali, col Bali, BaliAfter spending 3 months on this popular Indonesian island I have a good grasp of costs to live here. All of these numbers are just for a single retired man. No dog. No wife. No kids. Just me. Here we go with Bali cost of living… 

The cost to rent on this island, in popular areas, can be absolutely amazing low and can go up as high as “are you kidding me”. For example I booked a few hotel rooms, normally referred to as a “home stay”, for as little as 7 USD per night and this included breakfast!! I normally use via booking.com for all my rooms. This was in the town of Ubud and the beautiful relaxing gardens were right in front of the large porch where breakfast was served to me each morning.
I then began looking for a bigger room with a kitchen to stay one month. Again in Ubud I rented a beautiful room with a large bedroom, dining room/office, large modern bathroom and larger nicely equipped kitchen. It included the electric for the air conditioner that I never used and had a swimming pool and fantastic views from the second floor balcony of rice friends. My rent was 380 USD per month.
I also started to look for an apartment or house, commonly referred to on Bali as a “villa” that had a living room with a comfy couch and a big screen TV. This is when prices soared!! These villas started at prices around 900 USD per month plus utility costs. Nope, this was not good value for money and a strange jump in price.

The thing I really wanted was a living room..with a big comfy couch and a big screen TV. Those places are considered “luxury villas’. the prices averaged about 1,400 USD.. a really big jump from my room for just 380 USD.. the only difference was the added living room.

The next biggest expense, and oftentimes in my travels bigger than how much I spend on housing, is meals out. Yes, I rented a place on Bali with a nice kitchen, but knowing what ingredients to buy and where to buy becomes a lot of work. Plus the initial outlay of spices and other long term consumable and cooking for one just doesn’t add up budget wise. I had to be very careful in Bali, several restaurant meal prices too me buy surprise. The place might not look much and a bit basic so I had assumed a low price. I was very wrong. Conversely a nice looking place with comfortable seating was oftentimes a nice surprise for menu prices. A basic meal of chicken friend rice, “nasi goreang” was on average 45,000 rupiah or 3.14 USD. But its not that tasty or filling. A more realistic meal consisting of spring rolls, fried rice with additional fish or chicken, a coffee or a small beer was often 220.000 or 15.38. Not at all “cheap” for SE Asia.
The wonderful thing about Bali is finding a comfortable place to enjoy a coffee or a complete meal. Compared to Thailand, Bali is “luxurious dining”, with comfortable adult size chairs, proper wooden tables, often with a table cloth and placemats. In Thailand most of my meals were eaten sitting on a silly plastic stool at a metal folding card table on a sidewalk next to heavy traffic. Bali is much more comfortable.

Added to every restaurant bill is tax and service. I hate this. The USA and England does this and so the menu prices do not reflect the true cost to buy. Ten percent for tax and 5 or 10 percent for service is automatically added to the bill. Not good. On the plus side table servers in Bali all speak good English and know how to take care of the customers. Thailand was TERRIBLE is this regard.

I massage in Bali costs 100.000 rupiah for one hour and in Thailand 200 baht. Making a massage in Bali more expensive by one dollar per hour. However the girls in Bali were much nicer and not as sleazy as the average Thai massage place. No happy ending were offered in Bali whereas in Thailand 50% of the massages had that option at some point in the massage process.

My Internet only data plan for my cell phone was 9.50 USD for 23 gb of data at 4g speeds. The cost of Indonesia made clothes here was very low and so I bought 6 t-shirts and 2 collared casual shirts all high quality an material and for 42 USD the lot.
Grocery prices are crazy high. In fact in my opinion criminally high. The cost of a small beer from a convenience is store is about 32.000 rupiah and the cost of that same beer in a restaurant is 25.000!!! Yep… it costs less to pay for a beer at a restaurant. Bali has taken the words “convenience store” to mean that the shop owner can conveniently charge a silly high price. Bread, fruit, tuna chips and everything else I bought was expensive…the same or more cost than the USA.

Bottom line is that Bali can be an affordable place to live if you are careful. Of course cost of living is just one factor about finding your own paradise. I found Bali to be safe, the local people are very nice and interesting people, the culture interesting. The downside for me is that it was far too transient and finding a community to belong to just never happened for me in the months I was there. The infrastructure is not the best..roads ALWAYS choked with cars and motorbikes, lousy 4g and internet.

I hope you enjoyed and learned something here. Thanks and happy trails. 

Travelling and the art of being social

I began travelling when I was about 10 years old. My mum allowed me to travel on the train to see my grandmother. This was such a grand adventure for me and I savoured every moment.

Traveling, social skills, travelling and social skills

Everything about each trip was exciting: the bus to the train station, buying the “day return” train ticket, the ride itself and even waiting in the station waiting room..because it was full of travel posters of distance lands… like London, 100 miles away!!! ha ha ha. I also enjoyed my tea and chat with my grandmother.

Travelling has always been multi-faceted. A BIG facet is interaction with others. Especially other people of different cultures, because I wanted to learn, with keen interest about thier own lives. This has helped me develop an understanding of the world around me. it

It’s helped me understand the effects of poverty, censorship, religion and cultural customs and I learn more about the city or country I was visiting. Forty countries and counting…

So imagine my horror today when I had my suspicions confirmed that young traveller’s indeed do NOT want to interact!! Yes, you read that correctly, I was told by several people, under the age of 30, that they don’t talk with strangers. That strangers scare them.

I posted a comment on the Facebook “expats in Thailand” group… I asked why European people, especially under the age of 30 years old, did not acknowledge my hello, smile/nod of my head or my good morning. Here are a few replies:

“…if a ramdom person says hi I will think they’re a perv or scammer (the two times I continued a conversation with a random person in Thailand I encountered one of each, and I’ve gotten a couple of hellos from the sexpat looking types which I ignored, in addition to all the tuktuk drivers and business owners trying to lure people into business). And also I may not be expecting it and just minding my own business only registering the hello when it’s too late.
Also in my country talking to a stranger in the street could lead to ending up with my phone or purse snatched, or me stabbed or shot.”

“I don’t respond to creepy old men no matter what country I’m in lol”

“No one owes you a smile, an acknowledgement, or their time. At all. If someone wants to walk around ignoring everyone around them, so be it. Also, you don’t know what they’re thinking. Maybe they didn’t hear you. Maybe their dog died. Maybe they are triggered by random men chatting them up..? I ignore most unsolicited “conversation”. Lots of women do because it is a saftey issue. If you’re a cashier in a store or a barista or hold a door open for me I am polite and make eye contact, but that it not an invitation to continue to chat. You are not entitled to any person’s time it attention.”

Sad comments right? So what does a bad person look like exactly?? I use my intuition. Your age, gender, race is never a barrier for a simple Hola!! However according to these young-uns.. it is!! Apperently manners, politeness and the simple art of a “good morning” will be gone in 50 years.

I posed a subsequent question… “why do you travel if you hate to talk to others”. I got few responses, those that did stated “to see the country and not to talk to creepy old men”. Yep. So are all “old men” creepy? Or do they have some creepy old man radar technology in thier phone?

Us, older travellers and expats have made jokes for years about younger people being obsessed with thier smart phones. Well, this is now not a laughing matter, it’s a Western cultural change that is a scary look into the future. For me personally it is making travel far less interesting. Here in Thailand 80% of traveller’s in tourist areas are from Europe and they really do not want to say “good morning” let alone have a conversation with me! Last week I was leaving my hotel room in Krabi, Southern Thailand and a young European couple in the opposite room was leaving at exactly the same moment. We were less than 2 feet from each other and I said “Hi. Good morning”. No reply. No smile.. no nothing. Very odd indeed and very common here with young Europeans.

According to one European young lady she conjectured that maybe the other people were “triggered” by me saying hello. Ha ha ha . Really? well, in that case, you need some profesional help and some inner healing. I need need to travel where there are less younger Europeans with a very bad attitude about life.

Death by bus or bullet?!

As a retired expat living and travelling to several countries the question of “how safe is that area” is at the top of my list of needs and probably yours too.

For me, there is no point in living in a town with low-cost of living, clear sunny days and lots to do if you also have a much higher chance of being the victim of a violent crime. I am not the kind of person that worries a lot, if at all. I live my life by managing the risks. Life has plenty of risks without moving to a crime-ridden barrio in Mexico where known gang members operate. No need to worry, just don’t travel or live there! See, that was easy. Manage the risk, no need to worry.

Of course, areas of crime around the world and indeed inside each small town or big city are forever changing. So what was once considered a safe area of town in Mexico maybe now considered to be hell on earth. This is another reason why I am a huge advocate of renting instead of buying in your newfound paradise. Noisy neighbours next door..move! Drug cartel setting up a presence in your town and you need to sell your home and move fast? Good luck!!

Thailand, for many years, has been, or nearly always at the top of the list of “worst traffic fatalities in the world”. While Mexico has had the unfortunate accolade of one of the most dangerous countries to visit in terms of violence. So pick your poison if you choose to live in either country. Death by bus or bullet?

thailand road safety, mexioc violenceHowever, if you take a closer look at the situation there are a number of variables that we can all manage to mitigate most of this risk. In Thailand you never want to travel by bus at night, oftentimes the drivers are overworked and often take stimulants to keep them awake. Unfortunately, the stimulants stop working and the driver drives off the road or into an oncoming cement truck. Travelling at night, travelling in poor weather multiplies the chance of a traffic accident anywhere in the world, but especially in Thailand. Mini van drivers have horrible reputation for accidents and deservedly so. I was a passenger in one once. That was enough, never again. They often drive at very fast speeds and weave in and out of traffic. These things are totally illegal in Thailand but most traffic laws are NEVER enforced. Many foreigners in Thailand are killed while renting a motorbike ( called a scooter in many places), whether on holiday or an expat in Thailand. Riding drunk, not paying attention to other drivers, who are also not paying attention could get you killed or at the very least in a hospital for a few days. You need to be a confident and experienced rider in Thailand.

Now México…

The drug cartel news stories are far more prevalent and well known than the atrocious traffic habits of Thailand. Perhaps they are much more sensationalized headlines, such as “Mexican cartel members vs military police shootout in Centro ” versus ” “15 dead in a bus crash in Thailand”. Mexico is certainly dangerous in many areas and situations. To manage the risk stay informed. By reading local news via social media or expat online news you will be armed with information that can mitigate the risks somewhat. Again driving on the roads ar night or taking a bus at night should be avoided. Visiting area where recent violence has occurred should be postponed or at the very least reviewed carefully. I suspect although I have no actual facts at hand, that 70% of the murders in Mexico are related to organised drug crime in one way or the other. If my guess is correct then most of Mexico is about as safe as most of the USA. I have no first hand knowledge of violent crimes in Mexico. Police shakedown for a few hundred peso bribe, yes and burglaries occasionally.

crime in mexioc, thailand road safetyAn interesting note about my own personal experiences with safety. Chiang Mai is known for being safe and not at all violent and yet the only murder I ever witnessed was in that city, just 6 meters from my dining table at the time. A very jealous and angry Thai wife hacked to death her foreign husband while he was chatting to a much younger girl in the bar across the street. In the same city I was also hit from behind by a car that sideswiped me as I was walking at 3 pm on the side of a small road in heavy traffic. The driver never stopped. The noise that is produced when a car hits a person is VERY load and yet she continued on her way at about 15 kph.

Your choice of a country or city to travel or retire to may not be discussed here, but the logic is still the same: do your reasearch, manage the risks and stay informed.

So, death either on a bus in Thailand or a drug cartels bullet is certainly a risk to be carefully considered. In my opinion, they are about the same risk in each country and managed sensibly will give you peace of mind, which finding paradise for less is all about.

I hope you enjoyed this article and encourage you to share it via social media and click the button on the left. All the best, John

Eating local food in your chosen paradise

Whether you are an American, British or from Australia, eating in foreign countries, can have its gastronomical challenges.

The big difference with food outside of a Western Culture is the spices used. Spices can be mild and make the meal more enjoyable or the added spices can also make you cry and choke simultaneously, all the while you are trying to flag down a waiter for some water! Not a pretty sight and it can be quite alarming even for a seasons expat who discovers a new high in the meaning of “spicy”.

Many expats who retire in paradise rarely eat the local food and for me, this is a huge travesty and injustice to your adopted Country. Add to this the fact that the expense of such food is often double the cost of local food! So when in Rome, do as the Romans do! East the local grub!