The party’s over!
I’ve been traveling and playing all summer, but now it is time to get back in the saddle and back to my “other” job…exploring the options throughout South and Central America to see where a couple of vagabond retirees might comfortably hang their hats for a few months or a few years.
What’s up next? How about Uruguay ~
This photo of Colonia del Sacramento is courtesy of TripAdvisor
I didn’t know very much about this tiny country (South America’s second smallest), but one of my friends who is much more well-travelled than I, visited a while back and fell in love with the beautiful old world town of Colonia. So, with her enthusiastic encouragement and a few gorgeous photos she sent for enticement, I decided to take a closer look.
This post is only a quick peak into what Uruguay has to offer, but it’s definitely enough to spark my interest for more in-depth study which, hopefully, will include a visit when we embark on our South American Tour.
Located in Southern South America, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Argentina and Brazil, this pint sized country has been popping up on “best places to retire” lists for a few years now. Slightly smaller than the state of Washington, with a population of less than 3,500,000 people, Uruguay is famous for it’s beautiful beaches that run the entire length of the coast. The Costa de Oro (Golden Coast) is a 30 mile stretch of golden sands where many expats from Canada, Europe and the U.S. settle comfortably into a laid back beach lifestyle.
Like many of it’s neighbors, Uruguay has had a somewhat turbulent past. At various times it has been part of Spain, Portugal, and Brazil. It still has a decidedly European flavor. These days, it is enjoying a stable (if left-leaning) democracy. The current president, Jose Murica, is a very interesting guy. He has been called the poorest president in the world because he donates 90% of his earnings to charity and lives on a modest income from his small farm. Under his presidency, however, the economy has flourished and unemployment is at an all time low. Uruguay has a good infrastructure, great roads, warm and friendly citizens. There are just enough expats who have blazed the trail and smoothed over some of the rough spots. It’s safe (and I understand that wherever you travel these days that safe is a relative term). No place is totally safe, but according to a US News/MONEY and Retirement report on Uruguay “The rule of law prevails here and the country enjoys the lowest level of corruptions in Latin America.” And Uruguay will soon completely legalize marijuana. I’m not sure what that means to me, but I thought it was interesting.
While the cost of living is definitely not as cheap as some other South American countries like Ecuador, several articles reported that a retired couple could live in many areas for less than $3,000 a month. Far less in some cases.
This photo of Montevideo is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The capital, Montevideo, is a large, sophisticated and bustling city filled with old world charm, shady parks, tree lined streets, sidewalk cafes and artisan markets. On the other hand, Punta del Este is a high end seaside resort with first class accommodations and casinos. It is where the elite of Brazil and Argentina come to play. And then there’s Colonia del Sacramento – my friend’s favorite. Located just 28 miles by boat from Buenos Aires, this beautifully restored colonial settlement attracts lots of tourists and for a good reason – sycamore shaded cobblestone streets, lovely shops, art galleries, outstanding restaurants and parrilladas (steakhouses). A recent check showed a two year old, 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with 1,183 square feet of living space and a water view in a great location on the market for $180,000. Cheap? Maybe, but that’s still more than I’m hoping to pay if/when we decide to settle down. The Costa de Oro, anchored by the towns of Atlántida and La Foresta, may offer some of the best real estate options with houses still selling in the low $100,000’s.
Everyone in Uruguay is entitled to quality medical care through the national health care system. This includes foreign residents. In the public system, the free clinics can be slow and crowded, but every town has clinic access and they do a good job. There is also a private health care system that is efficient, well-equipped and inexpensive. This insurance runs from $50 to $150 a month. Some caution here though, as it appears that when you reach 65 or 70, you may not be eligible for the private insurance. More investigation is definitely required on this one.
What’s the weather like? Well, it depends on who you talk to. Basically, it has four mild seasons. The average high in summer is about 82 degrees with lows in the mid 60’s. A high temperature in winter is more like 60 degrees. Frost is rare and it never snows. But it rains. The annual rainfall which occurs throughout the year (no rainy season) is 41 inches. It can be humid and windy too.
I usually start my research by ordering the specific country reports from International Living. Then I spend some time online with Kathleen Pedicord and Escape Artist. These sites are mostly set up to encourage people to retire abroad. They can provide a good overview, but the the view is definitely through rose colored glasses. After I have the basics, its time to start digging for the pros and cons. I look for personal blogs by folks who are living there. It doesn’t take long to see that one person’s paradise is definitely another person’s “what the hell was I thinking when I moved here?” That’s why connecting with people who already have their flip-flops on the ground and the lay of the land is essential. You want to hear the good, the bad and the Yikes! Sometimes a place is great for a vacation at the perfect time of year, but hang around for six months and it can be another story entirely.
So far my limited research puts Uruguay squarely on the “maybe” side of the retirement map. It sounds like a warm, relaxed and hospitable atmosphere with beautiful cities, beaches and countryside. There are good services (internet, electric, telephone etc.) and a stable economy. You can drink the water. Health care is good and residency is easy. They don’t tax your out-of-country income. The cost of living is reasonable but not cheap. But, on the other hand, it is a 9 hour overnight flight from Miami and you seldom find a bargain airfare. This makes visiting family back home a challenge and you might have few visitors. Also, although the weather is considered mild, if it’s really humid, that won’t work for hubs and I. We like it cool and dry. Sun is good too. I think Portland averages less than 40″ of rainfall and I’m looking for less, not more.
Want more? Here are a few good links to check out.
Expat Exchange – 10 Tips For Living in Uruguay
Huffington Post – How Much Does It Cost to Live in Uruguay?
Future Expats – What to Bring to Uruguay. Note: Apparently it’s dried cranberries.
and finally, a great blog from a guy who’s been there, done that Wally in Uruguay
What do you think? Have you been to Uruguay? Would you live there? Did you live there? We’d love to hear from you.