Must Read Moving Tips From Seasoned Expat Residents

A must-read manual before you take the plunge and move abroad. Get some great tips and valuable insight to help make you move a success.

At Expatra, we strive to provide our readers with the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on the best places to retire abroad.

To achieve this, we conduct our annual International Retirement Survey, inviting our readers to rate the countries they have chosen to live in on various criteria. Based on these ratings, we update our Best Countries To Retire list every year.

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We know that moving overseas can be scary, so we decided to tap into the wisdom of our survey participants. And boy, did they deliver!

The comments we received in the 2022 survey were so good we couldn’t help but create this Practical Advice guide.

It’s like having your own personal team of advisors who have been there, done that, and got the t-shirt to prove it.

So, if you’re thinking of retiring abroad, don’t miss out on this guide. Trust us; your future self will thank you!

Moving abroad? Preparation is key

The critical advice mentioned in over 70% of the comments concerns the importance of preparation and integration.

To make sure you are ready and prepared, the survey takers advise the following:

1. Start learning the local language

This is what our survey takers say about the importance of learning the language:

“You can achieve incredible results by learning a few common phrases” (Bulgaria). 

“Learn a local language – French and Dutch, primarily. Life will be easier” (Belgium).

“Learn the language; it would be your most valuable investment” (Portugal).

“Learn some Thai, including reading and writing” (Thailand).

All of these are summarised beautifully by a retiree in Mexico:  “Learn at least some phrases before you come, and don’t stop learning while you are here”. 

2. Research ahead

Find out the cost of living, property costs, healthcare costs, legal requirements, safety, and infrastructure in your chosen location. You need to know how much your desired lifestyle would cost in your new home and, most importantly, make sure you tick all the legal boxes.

“Get good health insurance and have plenty of disposable income” (Peru).

“Have a good support system” (Costa Rica).

“If you have plenty of money, you could buy a nice property on the beach, in the beautiful south or in the north of Chile” (Chile).

“Have enough money to support yourself and take some self-protection courses for your own safety” (Mexico).

“Please be sure to get residency. Mexico is not like the wild west of the old days where you could come and go” (Mexico).

“Choose your location based on your needs. The infrastructure is generally ok in the cities but gets worse as you choose remote locations. Be prepared for a lot of paperwork, and you will need to pack lots of patience” (Ecuador).

“Do your homework. Beaches, mountains, weather…..what do you want?” (Mexico).

“Check all criteria for buying, renting property and residence qualifying details” (Mauritius).

“Have good health insurance” (Thailand).

3. Rent before buying

Rent a property in your chosen location long enough to get to know the area well in all seasons.

“Do your research first, come over and rent a place and live here off-season to see if you like it!” (Turkey).

“Rent first so you can experience the area and find out what really suits you and your family. What can seem like a dream location can sometimes be best served as a vacation location and not as a destination to live. It gives you the opportunity to truly find out what you are looking for in your long-term stay” (Costa Rica).

“Rent for a while before buying” (Turkey).

“Come here for a few weeks (winter as well as summer) and have a good look around for the different places where you could live, i.e., towns, coastal, rural, mountains, etc.” (Cyprus).

“Do your research, know what you require. Do not make your decision based on a holiday, if possible, retain your UK property and live for a whole year before making your decision” (Cyprus).

“Rent for at least six months before you buy and survey the whole Island” (Cyprus).

“Rent before buying so you can explore different areas, neighborhoods” (Mexico).

“Be aware that the heat is very bad here. About half of the year very hot” (Mexico).

“Visit first at different times of the year” (Mexico).

“Do your research; plan ahead to actually living here, not being on holiday” (Spain).

“Come for a month or two and have a look around. Thailand is a diverse country with a great deal of choice regarding climate, facilities and activities” (Thailand).

“Visit a few islands to experience what it is like” (Portugal, Azores).

4. Integrate 

Do not stay in an expat bubble; respect the local culture, get to know local people, accept the local ways of life.

“Try to get to know locals rather than gather with other expats. Learn the culture and history of your location” (Mexico).

“Have flexibility and an open mind. It is somewhere to consider if looking for open space, green countryside and a relaxed lifestyle, however being a developing country, there are going to be things that are not going to be available, or that won’t work quite right” (Paraguay).

“Be flexible and relax” (Chile).

“Plan ahead. Everything is slow so it takes time” (Chile).

“Please do not come if you want things to be like back home. Stay there” (Ecuador).

“Don’t come with a superior attitude” (Mexico).

“Be patient. Lots of hoops to jump through, and beware of racism… the Asian way” (Thailand).

“Remember it’s not your country; you’re a guest, be flexible” (Vietnam).

Get inspired: our top picks for the most helpful comments on various locations

SpainHave no doubts about joining the tens of thousands of foreign retirees who have already settled on the Costa del Sol/Andalucia!

Here’s a perfect place to start – read our Living In Spain Guide, a completed guide to settling in Spain.

FranceDon’t hesitate and follow your dream! France is a lovely country with such various types of nature, villages, climates and activities I can only strongly advise to retire here. Just learn some French words, and you will love it here.

For more information, read our Living In France guide.

Costa RicaWe are quite far from medical, but we are excited about a new 4000 sqft facility to be built in Cobano. Personally, I love that we are away from the majority of big towns. It’s so peaceful & serene. The downside is it’s like a fishbowl here; everyone seems to have an eye on what people are doing.

For more information, read our Living In Costa Rica guide.

ChileAs retirees, we chose to move to Chile and have a home on the coast. For us, there is no reason to go to the capital city of Santiago. Like most capital cities, it is overpopulated, dirty, has a high crime rate, and is smog-filled. Life on the coast is clean, with fresh air and very little crime. Unfortunately, If you need to work, you would have to live in the city.

Read more in our Living In Chile guide.

ChileBring lots of patience. The bureaucracy here takes a while, especially post-pandemic, and if you are applying for a visa, it’ll probably be a headache. Also, living expenses in Santiago are at least quite expensive, especially if you work as a freelancer. The metro and buses run pretty well, though the morning and afternoon rush hour traffic is bad. If you can ride a bicycle, I suggest braving the streets on two wheels instead of 4. Santiago is a relatively LGBTQ-friendly area, though not totally welcoming all the time. There is still a traditional mindset for many things, including gender roles. Crime rate is rising slowly; in general, there are many pickpockets and instances of phones being grabbed out of your hand, so as usual, be aware of your surroundings.

Learn more in our guide on Living In Santiago, Chile.

PortugalDo not hesitate; the Algarve is wonderful all year round.

Find out more in our Living In The Algarve guide.

SpainJust do it. No place is perfect, but you can retire comfortably in Spain if you’re flexible in your approach to living.

Discover more in our Living In Spain guide.

EcuadorCheck out Cuenca, Ecuador. There are many expats here—pretty easy transition. Ecuador uses the $$$, so no money changing is required. Fruits & vegetables are plentiful & fresh all year. Although Spanish is the language, there are many Ecuadorians that speak English, plus all the gringos. Catholic country, but many other Christian Churches. Ecuador has many climates: the Pacific coast, Sierra’s & Amazon. Ecuador has Inca rains & many cultural áreas to explore. Great place to retire. Housing is available for rentals & purchases—a great place to retire. My husband & I live completely on Social Security only. We live very well in Cuenca. We also have Ecuador Health Insurance.

To find out more, read our Living In Ecuador guide.

Thailand Don’t wait to do it! Don’t buy medical insurance. I’ve had two operations, and both were less than my deductible in America! Learn to relax and build your own home in the country! I’m 75, and my Thai wife is only 38 years younger, and this is our 5th anniversary! Be happy!

For more information, read our Moving To Thailand guide.

ThailandLearn some Thai – including reading and writing. Think about health insurance. Don’t buy property until you’re satisfied you’ve found the right place – rent first for up to a year (places change with the seasons).

HondurasThe snorkeling, fishing, and weather are wonderful!

Greece Come and spend some time here in the winter as many things are closed, particularly on the Islands. Also, the weather is much cooler, and we have plenty of rain. We live in Crete, which is the largest Greek Island with its own cities, which remain busy and vibrant all year round.

To learn more, read our Living In Greece guide.

North Cyprus great retirement community here, and the cost of living is very affordable, but you do need a car to explore the island.

Learn more in our Living In North Cyprus guide.

We are calling all worldly wise wanderers: if you have a wealth of experience living abroad, share your two cents in Our Global Retirement Survey. Your experience and knowledge will be deeply appreciated.

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Ola Degteva
Ola Degteva

Ola is a Content and Research Director at Expatra. Coming from a teaching and research background, she has been working in online publishing since 2010 when she became an expat. Having done 3 major international moves herself, Ola knows exactly what relocation and settling down in a new country involves and how important it is to plan ahead to make moving abroad less stressful.

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