Colombia’s Healthcare System: An Expat’s Guide to Accessibility and Affordability

In this guest post, U.S. expat Daniel Arthur shares his knowledge of the Colombia healthcare system. Here is his story…

As an expat who moved from the U.S. to Colombia, I understand the anxiety about healthcare in a new country.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Colombia’s system not only accessible and affordable but also offering excellent care.

So, let’s dive into the details below. By the end of this article, I hope you’ll have a foundation for understanding the healthcare available in Colombia before you move!

Setting The Preliminaries

This article is designed for full-time expats living in Colombia on a migrant (M Visa) or resident (R Visa) visa and enrolled in Colombia’s EPS (public healthcare) scheme, which I will discuss below in greater detail.

The coverage and system discussed herein do not apply to tourists, visitors, and those on temporary visas. If you are “slow traveling” or vacationing here on a temporary visa issued solely by your passport, you are not eligible for any of these benefits.

Furthermore, as of October 22, 2022, those maintaining ANY Retirement Visas will no longer be eligible to enroll in the EPS system. Retirement Visa holders must maintain a separate Colombian prepegada (private) or a global international medical plan that covers them for the entirety of their visa term in Colombia.

It isn’t entirely clear whether those who received their Retirement Visa before the change in law will be “grandfathered” or continue their EPS coverage, so when your renewal comes up, always consult an immigration lawyer about current requirements. Laws, regulations, administrative procedures, and policies change regularly, sometimes with little or no transparent communication to the public.

I applied for my first M Spousal Visa from the Orlando Consulate in June 2022, moved here full-time in November 2022, and enrolled in SURA EPS as a beneficiary of my Colombian spouse. His SURA EPS premium payments are coordinated by his employer, who deducts our premiums through monthly payroll deductions and remits them to SURA on our behalf.

I just completed my M Spousal Visa renewal in May 2024 from Medellín, and with the renewal, I maintained my current SURA EPS with no lapse in coverage.

My situation is very different from most expats. Since I’m my spouse’s beneficiary, I’m not required to register with EPS as a contributor (and remit my premium payments directly to EPS). I’m not employed or have a regular income source, so I’m enrolled as a beneficiary.

Most expats and retirees must register directly with EPS and pay their monthly premiums to the EPS provider (unless they are employed by a Colombian company OR listed on their spouse’s plan as a beneficiary).

So what is EPS, prepegada, SURA?  I will expand on all of this below.

Understanding Colombia’s Two-Tiered System

Colombia’s approach to healthcare is a clever blend that ensures coverage for everyone in the country.

I’ll break down and explain the two main tiers below:

Régimen Contributivo (Contributory System): If you’re living and employed in Colombia, you’ll most likely fall under this system. Think of it like employer-provided insurance in the US in comparison. You and your employer make contributions, and this funds your healthcare needs.

Régimen Subsidiado (Subsidized System): The government steps in for those who are unemployed, low-income, or part of vulnerable populations. It’s Colombia’s equivalent to Medicaid or Medicare.

Regardless of your tier, the key players are the EPS providers –  your chosen health insurance provider.  Think back to the days of HMOs in the U.S.

They are your managed care plan – a medical clinic or group consisting of your primary care doctor who is an employee of the HMO (often owned by the HMO insurance provider, like Kaiser Permanente, for example).

Your EPS primary care physician coordinates, oversees, and manages your medical care, including referrals to specialists, outpatient referrals for procedures & labs, and writing prescriptions.

Well-known options include SURA, Nueva EPS, Mutual Ser, and Sanitas.  You can choose your EPS provider, although the choice is limited to the providers servicing your city.

Universal Coverage and What You Get

Near-universal coverage (around 95%!) is one of Colombia’s greatest healthcare triumphs. Both the contributory and subsidized systems offer the same comprehensive benefits:

  • Doctor’s visits (general practitioners and specialists)
  • Hospitalizations and procedures
  • Diagnostic testing (lab work, X-rays, etc.)
  • Medications
  • Preventative care (checkups, screenings)
  • Dental and vision care

Affordability: A Major Plus for Expats

Like the U.S. Medicare and Medicaid systems, the Colombian public EPS scheme provides essential, necessary, and critical care to those without insurance or who cannot afford a comprehensive medical policy and a system laced with bureaucracy. Contribution rates to your EPS are income-based, and the subsidized system is there for those who genuinely need it.

I can’t overstate the affordability of healthcare here. Compared to the US, it’s a breath of fresh air!

I paid cash (did not utilize EPS or insurance) to a top-notch dental facility with English-speaking doctors and staff to clean my teeth. The total cost to see the dentist for the exam and have the hygienist clean my teeth was $43.00!  Similarly, a visit to an English-speaking doctor trained in Texas for my annual physical was only $58.00!

Cash-pay patients can be advantageous in Colombia to avoid the EPS bureaucracy, just like in the U.S.

Since most people utilize some sort of insurance for their medical expenses here in Colombia, the insurance companies, in effect, dictate the level, quality, and type of care you receive. Their goal is motivated by profit and profit margin and reducing their overall expenses. Therefore, they approve the least costly treatment plan, not necessarily the doctor’s prescribed or preferred medical care for the patient.

Paying cash directly to a provider during service eliminates the “insurance red tape.” The provider can provide more efficient, quicker, and better-quality care without them or the patient fighting with insurance companies to get the care they need.  Sound familiar?  It is, for those of us from the U.S.

The costs are manageable and reasonable, even if you initially use private clinics or pay out-of-pocket before securing residency.

Quality of Care: It Surpassed My Expectations

Colombia invests significantly in hospitals and clinics, resulting in modern facilities nationwide. Doctors here are incredibly well-trained, often completing part of their education abroad, and are usually multilingual.

Finding fluent English speakers amongst your physicians, especially in larger cities, will be relatively easy.  Conversely, more rural towns tend to have only Spanish-speaking professionals across all sectors (not just healthcare). Consider your current language level when moving abroad.

Those not fortunate enough to live in a city with an English-speaking doctor can always bring a trusted friend or family member who speaks Spanish—especially advantageous if your friend or family member is a native Colombian!

Lastly, patients who do not “self-advocate” for themselves will inevitably receive lower-quality care and be subject to being taken advantage of, rather than those who do advocate for themselves, research all options, and are mindful of the expectations, policies, and nuances of the system, BEFORE they step into a clinic or hospital.

Challenges: What Expats Should Know

No system is perfect, and here’s where expats should be mindful:

Rural Disparities: Access to care can become trickier in remote regions. If you plan to move to a rural area, research local healthcare availability.

Wait Times: The public system sometimes has longer wait times for non-urgent procedures.

Bureaucracy: There is bureaucracy to navigate, but it gets easier once you understand how things work.  My SURA EPS is full of bureaucracy, especially when filling prescriptions for maintenance medications.

Private Insurance: A Supplement Worth Considering

While the EPS system is excellent, private health insurance can be an intelligent add-on, especially if you want to maintain your choice of doctors, enjoy faster service for non-urgent needs, and are relatively healthy.

The private system in Colombia, known as prepegado (prepaid or private), is similar to private insurance and employer-sponsored plans in the U.S.

The significant difference for prepegadas relative to U.S. employer-sponsored plans is that U.S. employer plans are required to offer a “guaranteed issuance without medical underwriting clause.” In contrast, Colombian individual prepegado and employer-sponsored prepegado plans require the insured to undergo medical underwriting.

What do we mean by this?  Colombia does not have laws guaranteeing policy issuance for those with pre-existing or chronic conditions.

If you have a complex medical history, be prepared for intense medical underwriting by the insurer, which likely results in denial of coverage.  Those offered a plan expect higher premiums to cover chronic or preexisting conditions.

Navigating the System as an Expat

As a non-resident, you may need to pay for some services out-of-pocket initially. Once you obtain your residency visa and cédula (national ID), you can join an EPS if it is still available.

Ask other expats in your area for recommendations, and remember that your EPS can help arrange doctor visits, prescriptions, and more.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions—most Colombians are friendly and willing to assist. If your Spanish is fluent, the actual EPS entities and your private insurer can also help!

Final Thoughts

Colombia’s healthcare system is a success story, especially considering its affordability. Consider Colombia as an expat destination, knowing that the system will manage and meet your healthcare needs at a surprisingly low cost with an excellent quality of care and where you will find professionals and people to help support you along your way!

AUTHOR’S DISCLOSURE: The topics discussed in this article contain accurate information at the time of publication, are for informational purposes only, and are based on my experience(s). The Colombian government regulates immigration, healthcare, and tax law. You should consult a licensed attorney and tax accountant before acting on the above article and its contents.

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Discovering Granada, Spain: A Hidden Gem for Potential Expats

Granada is home to the ancient fortress that draws people from all over the world. Located in southern Spain, its history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes make it a must visit destination.

Granada is known for its iconic Alhambra palace and lively university scene; it is the perfect relocation spot for those dreaming of a Spanish adventure. However, despite its many charms, Granada has yet to become a hotspot for foreign residents.

We fell in love with the city and we’re excited to share it with you!

Watch Our Video About Granada Spain

Getting to Granada

Our journey to Granada began with a train ride from Seville. Reasonably priced at $50 per ticket, the nearly three-hour trip was affordable and incredibly comfortable compared to flying.

The train ride offered picturesque views of the Spanish countryside, making the time fly by. This smooth, scenic travel option was a wonderful introduction to Granada’s accessibility and charm.

The Allure of Granada

We felt right at home in Granada! Let’s dive in to what makes this city so special.

Small City Charm with Big City Amenities

Despite its size and population of around 230,000, Granada packs a punch. It balances the feel of a small community with the conveniences of a larger city. The presence of a university adds a youthful energy that we found particularly appealing.

Low Elevation

At an elevation of about 2,400 feet (730 meters), Granada offers the unique advantage of mountainous living, which we enjoyed. The city’s higher altitude provides breathtaking views and a pleasant climate, apart from the hottest summer months.

History and Culture

Granada’s history is visible in its most famous landmark, the Alhambra. This “Red Fortress” was built over 800 years ago by the Moors and remains the most visited monument in Spain, drawing around three million visitors each year.

We visited the Walls of Albaicin and took a long walk through the neighborhood of Albaicin and Sacromonte. We also stumbled upon Ermita de San Miguel Alto, a popular lookout.

During our stay we visited the famous Catedral de Granada. Queen Isabella ordered its construction in 1505, and it is considered a masterpiece of the Renaissance.  Besides the Alhambra, the city’s ancient neighborhoods like Albaicin and Sacromonte are rooted in history, with constructions dating back over a millennium.

Safety and Friendliness

The city seemed exceptionally safe. There were many single young women out by themselves and and groups of single women out exploring as well. Seeing the women out day and night by themselves solidified our feeling of safety.The welcoming and friendly locals also contributed to the city’s inclusive atmosphere.

Plenty of Green Space

If you enjoy parks and hiking, you’ll appreciate all the green spaces throughout the area. There are plenty of parks featuring free exercise equipment (Amelia even took advantage of riding a free stationary bike). We found several hiking trails accessible right from the city center so there’s no need for a car.

Affordable Living Options

Granada is generally more affordable than larger Spanish cities like Seville. We found that rental prices were quite reasonable; for instance, a furnished apartment in Albaicin could range from $500 to $1,500 monthly. Utilities and daily expenses are also lower than in more popular expat destinations.

Public Transportation and Walkability

The public transportation system includes buses and a light metro system that links significant parts of the town, making car-free living entirely feasible. The Metro Ligero (Light Metro)  runs north and south through Centro and stops at the train station.  Taxis and Uber were also widely available.

We had no problems walking around the city. Centro and other parts of the city are flat and the sidewalks are wide. However historic areas are hilly and crowded so walking wasn’t as easy but still doable. (You do need to pay more attention since the sidewalks are uneven in this area.)  We were able to walk almost everywhere within 15 to 20 minutes.

Food & Dining

We often cooked at home during our time here. The city has mercados and fruterías with a wide variety of fresh produce at affordable prices. We found ecotienda organic shop that sold specialty food items as well. Additionally, there are bulk stores and big-box supermarkets such as Superkedy, Carrefour Express, Mercadona, Mas, and Aldi.

There’s no shortage of good restaurants in Granada.  We found some new favorites, including Wild Food, Hicuri, Thali Indian, Hannigan, and Sons Irish Pub.

Outdoor dining is very popular, even in the cold (they have heaters).  Places were packed, and not just the tourist places.  Part of the culture is to take time to enjoy your meals and drinks with friends.

Shopping

Granada has its fair share of places to shop.  There is a pedestrian shopping area similar to Seville, consisting of chains and local stores, including vintage.  Calle Calderería Nueva is a street with local shops selling many Arab-inspired clothes and souvenirs.

Challenges of Living in Granada

Despite its many advantages, Granada comes with its own set of challenges.

Noise and Crowds

The city can be noisy outside of the pedestrian areas. There’s a lot of traffic, loud motorcycles and buses, and a lot fewer electrical vehicles compared to other cities in Spain.

Popular spots in the historic area including Alhambra, parts of Albaicin, and Centro are full of tourists. These areas were crowded and there were often very large tour groups blocking the walkways around the attractions. We visited in the low season and we felt overwhelmed by the amount of tourists. Imagine what it must be like in high season!

We stayed near Paseo de los Tristes which is the Walk of the Sad. It is a popular tourist area with incredible views of Alhambra. It’s also a popular spot to take selfies.

The area is wonderful to experience but tricky to naviagate. The road into Centro is Carrera del Darro. It is full of hotels and rentals, restaurants, and shops catering to tourists.

The road is really narrow and pedestrians gave to share the road with cars buses, cars, motorcycles. We were able to find an alternate route by going up the stairs and taking the back roads into Centro.

If you want to avoid crowds we recommend staying outside of the historic area.

Weather

Granada experiences chilly winters and hot summers. We visited in November and we were cold! We both had to buy some warmer clothes.

The air was quite dry and we drank a lot of water. The summers get very hot, over 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 34 degrees Celsius. You’ll also need sunscreen year round since the elevation is higher.

Final Thoughts

With its old-world charm and modern conveniences, Granada reminds us of Cuenca, another beloved expat haven in many ways. It offers a unique lifestyle that could be perfect during the milder seasons of spring and fall. However we wouldn’t want to live there full time due to the hot summers, cold winters, and the tourist season.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Discovering Tirana, Albania

Tirana, Albania, might be the easiest option if you’ve ever dreamed of living in Europe!

Nestled on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, it’s a popular vacation spot for many Europeans due to being a vibrant city, offering a unique blend of stunning landscapes, rich history, and a welcoming community.

Its cost of living is low compared to the US and other places, so it might also be an excellent place to call home.

After spending two months here, we’re genuinely impressed and excited to finally share it with you!

Watch Our Video About Tirana Albania

Visa Options

Before exploring Tirana’s charms, let’s consider the practicalities. Albania offers various visa options for those seeking to establish residency.

There are pathways for different needs and circumstances, from a 1-year tourist visa for U.S. citizens to 90-day tourist visas, and long-term permits for retirees, investors, and digital nomads.

Whether you’re a US passport holder or from elsewhere, Albania’s visa options make it remarkably accessible for those seeking to live in Europe.

To qualify for a residency visa you’ll need proof of funds, an Albanian bank account, and an Albanian address. Residency visas can be renewed for 5 years after which you can apply for permanent residence.

Living in Tirana, Albania

I heart Tirana signNow, let’s delve into what makes Tirana such an appealing destination for expats!

We landed in Tirana in mid-January. The tiny airport, with only one runway, reminded us of the one in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Warm Hospitality

Albanians are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality and for welcoming and embracing newcomers.  The people are friendly (some of the friendliest we’ve met), they are very welcoming to tourists and foreign residents, nicely dressed, and they practice a healthy boundary in respecting your personal space.

English Accessibility

Tirana Albania picture of park and buildingUnlike some European countries, Tirana boasts many English speakers, easing communication and integration for expats in the larger cities!  This was evident in places like grocery stores, restaurants, dentists, Airbnb hosts, and young cab drivers, all of whom spoke English.

Ideal Location

Situated close to picturesque beaches and majestic mountains, Tirana offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. Plus, its international airport facilitates easy travel to other European destinations.

Manageable Size

With a population of around half a million, Tirana balances cosmopolitan amenities and a cozy atmosphere. Navigating the city is convenient, with most attractions within walking distance.  Traffic can be challenging, and while they stop for pedestrians outside the main areas, they can be a little crazy behind the wheel.

Clean and Safe Environment

Lighted flower sculptures in Tirana, AlbaniaTirana impresses with its cleanliness and safety, providing a tranquil setting for residents to enjoy their daily lives without worry.  We didn’t see much graffiti and were impressed with how people maintained their homes and businesses. We felt safe walking at night.

Affordability

Compared to many Western European cities, Tirana boasts a low cost of living, making it an attractive option for retirees and budget-conscious expats.  We will share a cost of living video, so hit the subscribe button if you want YouTube to tell you when it’s ready.

Quality Healthcare

Tirana offers decent healthcare facilities and is a popular medical and dental tourism spot. Tirana also boasts many cosmetic surgery options. While these services are excellent for those with private medical insurance, they may be out of reach for those relying on the public system!

JP broke a crown while in Tirana and had it replaced for 300 euros in a top notch facility with English-speaking staff.

Food & Culinary Scene

Tirana has a vibrant food scene catering to diverse tastes and preferences. Produce is affordable and easy to find in plentiful grocery stores, food stands, and farmer’s markets! Restaurants offer many cuisines, including Italian, Greek, Indian, Pizza, Irish Pubs, and American. We were huge fans of La Chakra (Indian).

Rich History and Culture

Sculpture in Tirana, AlbaniaAs a former communist country, Albania is steeped in history, offering intriguing insights into its past through landmarks, museums, and cultural experiences. We visited popular places such as the Pyramid of Tirana, Bunkart Museum, Skanderbeg Square, and Tanner’s Bridge!

Final Thoughts

Tirana, Albania, emerges as a hidden gem for expats seeking an affordable, welcoming, and culturally rich European destination. Whether you’re drawn to its natural beauty, warm community, or diverse opportunities, Tirana promises an unforgettable experience for those willing to embrace its charms.

We enjoyed our time here. The best part was that we didn’t experience culture shock or feel uncomfortable. As mentioned above, the people were friendly, welcoming, and accommodating. It reminded us a lot of Ecuador!

Are you ready to embark on your next adventure in Tirana? Let us know in the comments below, and stay tuned for more insights into expat life in Europe!

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Saranda Albania: Even Better than Expected

In this guest post, Warren R. Johnson shares his experiences in Saranda, Albania. Here is his story…

I first ran across Saranda, Albania several years ago on YouTube. I saw a video of the city and thought, “Oh, that looks like a nice place,” and didn’t give it another thought.

But as algorithms work, YouTube kept sending me more Saranda videos and I kept watching them. Soon I was hooked. I had to see this place.

Arriving in Saranda

In no time, I found myself on a small bus ascending mountains and cascading one of them straight down to the shore of the Adriatic Sea.  I had arrived in Saranda (officially Sarandë). I looked out at the Bay and then turned around. There was the view I had seen so often on YouTube: the panoply of white towers encircling the Bay.

As soon as I settled in, I headed straight to the water’s edge. I looked out upon the Bay, with a view to the Greek Island of Corfu. Then, I turned around and was struck with the view of the picturesque buildings climbing up the mountainside. This was no video. It was the real thing. I had arrived in Saranda.

Saranda Albania PromenadeI started to walk the promenade (boulevard to some). The central portion at the head of the Bay is paved with elongated tiles and runs for almost one kilometer. This is Saranda’s main focal point. Its flat, smooth walkway makes for easy walking in an otherwise vertical city. People walk this promenade day and night, not only for exercise but also to encounter their friends. The view in all directions is stunning, even more so at night with all the twinkling lights popping out around this crescent.

Five roads curve horizontally around the mountainside echoing the shape of the Bay. There is only one real vertical road crossing the five. Otherwise, access is by climbing several series of marble steps. Fortunately, not being one of the faint of heart, I climbed up and up with the reward of a magnificent view out to sea each time I turned around. I think I have climbed all of these stairways to become acquainted with the five roads.

Where is Saranda

Saranda sits in Southeastern Europe lying along the Adriatic Sea close to the border with Greece. It has been dubbed the Albanian Riveria. Situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, it is the unofficial tourist capital of Albania. Saranda is considered to be part of the larger Mediterranean Riviera.

What’s in a name? Greece considers its waters to be the Ionian Sea, including those around Corfu, while Albania lays claim to be alongside the Adriatic Sea. Saranda lies directly on the coast and climbs up the mountains. It is a beach town as well as a port for ferries and cruise ships.

Saranda is served by two international airports. The first is in Tirana, the nation’s capital. Reaching Saranda requires a five-to-six-hour bus ride. The second is in Corfu, with a thirty-to-fifty-minute ferry ride. The ferry port is right at the edge of the city center.

Viewing the Temperature Gauge

Mango Beach Saranda AlbaniaOne of the reasons for Saranda’s popularity is its weather. Saranda has a Mediterranean climate and claims to have 300 sunny days each year. In essence, the summers are hot and dry, while the winters are cold and wet.

The winter season lasts for seven months starting in late September, while the summer season lasts five months starting in late April. The wettest month is November, bringing five inches of rain. July sees the least amount of rain, averaging 0.04 inches. Consequently, winter brings higher humidity and wind than summer, but neither is excessive.

Mean temperatures in Saranda range from º5C (º41F) to º33.5C(º92.3F). These low and high figures generally occur in January and July-August. I should point out that these statistics are from pre-Covid days, a demarcation we seem to have developed. Bear in mind that the world’s weather seems to be changing, so these figures are probably fluid.

Shopping and Eating in Saranda

Shopping in Saranda follows the usual European model. I find that I have to shop in multiple stores to find what I want. There are no large department-type stores. There are four large grocery stores and many smaller convenience stores that specialize in one product or stock smaller quantities of multiple products. I need to go to a grocery store or visit one or more of the street vendors every other day. I can carry only so much each trip.

Supposedly, Saranda has more restaurants per capita than any other European country. This is hard to prove but might be realistic. Certainly, there is a large quantity of places to eat from traditional restaurants to sidewalk stands. In addition to Albanian restaurants, there are ethnic restaurants representing numerous countries. What there isn’t is any international fast-food establishments.

The New Cobblestones

Saranda Albania Sidewalk DesignI find an amazing civic project taking place in the central and western areas of the city. Sidewalks, and eventually streets, are being replaced with a new form of cobblestone. These 2-inch square stones, at 4-inch height, are being meticulously installed by hand in a decorative pattern.

Teams of four men throughout are hand-setting each of the stones. First, a sand base is laid and then curvature-shaped pipes of various sizes are laid to specification. A tan stone is placed within the outline of these curvatures and the areas between the pipes are filled in with white stones. Lastly, all the stones are cemented together.

This pattern is not just limited to the sidewalks. The streets will have the same stone pattern. To allow for easy accessibility, there will be no curbs. A shallow drain allowing for rain runoff separates the street from the sidewalk. This massive project must be very expensive, but the final result will put the city on the map, bringing a beauty unparalleled with other cities.

Another massive project underway is the construction of more apartment buildings and hotels. Although there are more such accommodations than there are permanent residents in Saranda, the need for expanding the lodging facilities is to meet the continually growing summer tourist demands. The winter season is fraught with multiple construction sites all around the city. It is a noisy time of year.

During the summer months, Saranda is overflowing with tourists. Accommodations need to be reserved well in advance. It would be unwise to think of driving in the city during this season because of the heavy congestion. Even the locals park their cars outside the city for their own travels during the summer. There is just nowhere to park.

An Expat Haven

Saranda MarinaA large international gathering of expats have chosen Saranda for temporary or permanent living. The weather and the lower cost of living here have induced these expatriates to leave their homes and journey to Saranda. It is not possible to calculate the number of expats here, as they come and go.

The United States played a supportive role in the Balkans War of the 1990s and Albania is especially thankful for their involvement. Consequently, Albania offers all Americans the opportunity to enter and remain for twelve months visa-free. At the end of the twelve months, or any time short of that, Americans must leave the country for three months before entering again. All other countries are granted the normative three months of visa-free entry.

Albania is open to hosting tourists, retirees, and other nomads. They have yet to offer a digital nomad visa, but you can work online for yourself or an international company. You may not be employed in Albania under normal conditions. Nonresidents do not need to pay any taxes, though it’s best to consult a tax attorney to clarify this. Albania is not in the Schengen Zone nor the European Union, though they are working toward joining both.

Final Thoughts

Despite the large amounts of tourists and heavy traffic during the summer months, Saranda lives up to the hype. It’s an excellent destination for a vacation or permanent move. The temperate climate and the beautiful scenery make it a must-visit. It was even better than I expected.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

There are several different types of Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas: Professional, Investor, Pensioners, Rentista/Digital Nomad, Dependent, etc. The qualifications and requirements vary for each type of visa so you’ll need to select the best option for your specific circumstances.

You can apply for an Ecuador permanent residency visa after 21 months of your temporary residency providing you haven’t left the country for more than 90 days during that period. The permanent visa requirements are identical to the temporary visa requirements. The only difference is that the temporary visa is valid for 2 years while the permanent visa never expires.

If you would like to discuss your visa options with Maite and her team at GringoVisas you can contact her at GringoVisas.com.

Several substantial changes were made to the Ecuador visa laws in March 2022. The new visa laws ONLY apply to NEW temporary visa applicants. If you are currently living in Ecuador with a temporary residency visa that was issued prior to March 2022, you can apply for a permanent residency visa at your 21-month mark under the old visa laws and income requirements as long as you haven’t been outside Ecuador for more than 90 days during your temporary visa period.

General Requirements for Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

There are a few general requirements for all Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas. You can read the detailed list on the government website here; however, here are the main things you’ll want to consider:

Ecuador Visa Passport Requirement

Passport Expiration

If your passport will expire during the 2-year visa period, we recommend renewing your passport before applying for the visa.

Ecuador no longer attaches physical visas to your passport. Instead, they issue electronic visas that are attached to your passport number.

When you renew your passport, you’ll get a different number which means your visa will need to be electronically transferred to the new passport. This requires a $100 fee and an additional trip the visa office to sign paperwork.

There’s no harm in renewing your passport early and doing so will save you a lot of inconvenience.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is required for the pensioner visa and to get a cédula for all types of visas (not the 90 day tourist visa). You will need health insurance from a private Ecuadorian health insurance company.

If you have foreign health insurance that will cover you in Ecuador, the contract needs to state specifically that you will be covered in Ecuador. You may need to request a special contract from your insurance company that specifically states “Ecuador” in the coverage area.

Income Requirements

Each type of visa has different income requirements detailed below.

For the pensioner visa, you must prove monthly income based on statements from Social Security, a pension or other retirement accounts.

For all other visa types, you must prove income based on bank statements from the previous 3 to 12 months, depending on the type of visa and the ministry official.

Self-deposits are allowed because they don’t verify the source of funds. That means you can deposit money into your own account from another account, or someone else like your spouse can deposit money into your account to meet the minimum income requirements.

It’s best to use an account that is only in the primary visa holder’s name rather than a joint account. If you have a joint account that you’re planning to use for the visa application, the Ecuadorian ministry will only consider 50% of the deposits as income for the primary visa applicant. Therefore, you would need to deposit twice the minimum income to meet the visa requirements.

You cannot combine income sources from your spouse or any other source. All the income must be in the primary visa holders income statements and/or bank statements.

Fingerprints & Background Checks

You’ll need to provide a State Police Report for your home state and a Federal FBI background check with your application.

Ideally, your background checks will be squeaky clean, but if you have a minor offense with a reasonable explanation, or if it happened a long time ago, it may not affect your application process. The ministry official has the final say, but a visa agent can help you navigate the process and advocate for your approval.

These reports must be less than 6 months old when you file your visa application. If they are more than 6 months old, you will need to request them again and pay for the new reports, so plan carefully.

Marriage License & Birth Certificates

For dependent visas, you’ll need a marriage license for a spouse or birth certificates for children. The documents need to be less than 6 months old when you send them for apostille; therefore, you will likely need to order new certified copies.

You can register your marriage license in Ecuador at a Registro Civil office so it will always be on file and you won’t need to go through this process again when you apply for permanent residency. Ask your visa agent for help with this.

Apostilles, Translations and Notarizations

ALL documents must have an apostille if you’re moving from a country that is part of the Hague Convention. If you’re from Canada, ALL documents must be legalized at the Ecuadorian consulate or embassy.

Additionally, ALL documents must be less than 6 months old to qualify for an apostille and to be accepted by the Ecuadorian Immigration Ministry when you submit your visa application. That means you need to plan the timing of your documentation very carefully.

Once all documents have an apostille, they need to be sent to Ecuador to be translated by a certified Ecuadorian translator and then notarized by an Ecuadorian notary.

A visa agent can help you navigate this complicated and time-sensitive process.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Ministry Fees

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas have two primary fees. The temporary resident visa application fee is $50 per person and is non-refundable. If your visa application is approved, the temporary resident visa fee is $270 per person and $135 per person for those 65 and older.

Permanent Residency Consideration

The temporary visas no longer have travel restrictions, which means you can be outside Ecuador as much as you want during your 2-year Ecuador temporary residency.

HOWEVER, if you plan to apply for permanent residency after 21 months, YOU CANNOT BE OUTSIDE ECUADOR FOR MORE THAN 90 DAYS DURING THE 21-MONTH PERIOD!

In other words, you can be outside Ecuador for a total of 90 non-consecutive days during the 21 months leading up to the application date of your permanent residency visa. If you are outside Ecuador for more than 90 days during that period, you will need to apply for another temporary residency visa rather than a permanent visa.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Types

All temporary residency visas in Ecuador are good for 2 years from the date of issue. You are allowed to apply for permanent residency after living in Ecuador for 21 months as long as you haven’t been outside Ecuador for more than 90 days during that period.

You can review all of the visas types and their specific requirements on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility website. The Ecuadorian government websites are all in Spanish, so here is a helpful article showing you How To Translate Websites to English from Spanish (or any other language).

Professional Visa

The Ecuador Professional Visa has the following requirements:

  • There is currently no income requirement for the professional visa
  • An undergraduate or graduate degree from a university approved by Senescyt, which is the entity in charge of recognizing foreign higher-level degrees
  • A notarized diploma with an apostille
  • A notarized transcript with an apostille
  • A notarized letter with an apostille signed by a university official stating the diploma and transcript are valid, and that at least 80% of the classes were taken in-person (not online)
  • A notarized letter with an apostille signed by a university official stating the field of study and level of education according to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) of Unesco

My temporary (and now permanent) visa is a Professional Visa, which means I still work, have regular income from outside Ecuador, and a degree from an approved university. Senescyt no longer publishes an “approved university” list. Most universities are now accepted, but they still go through the same approval process that they always have.

Amelia has a degree from The University of Phoenix, but that university is not accepted by Ecuador because the majority of classes are taken online. To qualify as an approved university, more than 80% of classes must be taken in a classroom setting and not online.

I went to the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk) for both my bachelors and masters degrees. When I graduated in the 90’s, online courses weren’t a thing yet, so I took all my classes in-person. This means Amelia is here on a dependent visa that’s attached to my professional visa.

We had to get an official diploma and transcript from KU for my most advanced degree (Masters). We also had to get a notarized letter from a university official stating my degree was valid and that the classes were taken in-person. Then we sent all the documents to the GringoVisas office in Connecticut so they could get the apostille before mailing them to Ecuador.

Investor Visa

For the Ecuador Investor Visa, you must show $460/month in income  and you must invest $46,000 in either a CD or property. You’ll need to show an additional $460/month for the first dependent and $250/month for each additional dependent.

Certificate of Deposit (CD): You can invest $46,000 in an Ecuadorian COOP CD for at least 2 years, the duration of your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa.

JEP Guayaquil Downtown

The interest rates on the CD’s will shock you if you’re coming from the US where banks no longer pay meaningful interest. As of this writing, the interest rate on a 2 year CD in Ecuador is roughly 8.0% annually! That’s around $283/month in interest on your $45,000 CD!!!

You can leave the interest in the account so it compounds, but you are allowed by law to withdraw the interest income from your CD without invalidating your visa. However, you need to be careful when signing the paperwork with a COOP like JEP because they will default the application to prevent withdrawal of the earned interest until the CD end date. Be specific with them and tell them that you want to withdraw the interest every month, 3 months, or each year, whichever you prefer.

Bank deposits are only insured up to $32,000 so that means at least $10,500 of your investment will not be insured. You are not allowed to split the investment into different accounts or different banks to make up the difference, either. The entire investment must be in one CD.

Property: You can purchase property to qualify for an Investor Visa in Ecuador. The only requirement is that the property be assessed by the municipality for more than $46,000.

The ministry will issue a visa lien against your property and if you wish to sell it you will have to forfeit your visa and request a lien release.  (You can apply for a different type of visa or convert to a permanent visa before selling the property.)

The assessment value may be substantially lower than the purchase price. You can request a new assessment if the registered value is less than $45,000.

You are not allowed to transfer the investment without reapplying for the visa. So, for instance, you cannot use your CD to buy property. The investment must remain the same for the entire duration of the Temporary Resident Visa and cannot be changed or transferred.

Pensioners Visa

In order to get a Pensioners Visa, you need to show income for the remainder of your life of at least $1,380/month + $250/month/dependent.

Your income can be from Social Security, a pension, retirement accounts, annuities, etc. If you’re using Social Security for your income requirement, you’ll need an annual statement from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that’s signed by an SSA official and has an apostille at the federal (not state) level.

Rentista (or Digital Nomad) Visa

The Rentista Visa has been updated to function more as a Digital Nomad Visa as of March 2022. There are now two ways to qualify for this visa.

Digital Nomad Visa: If you are a digital nomad or work remotely for a company abroad or as a freelancer, you need to show an income of $1,380/month + $250/month/dependent, or a yearly income of $16,560 + $3,000/year/dependent (based on bank statements) for the previous 3 to 12 months.

Additionally, you need to prove you work for a real corporation or LLC by providing the legal business documents. If you are a freelancer, you need to have your own legal LLC.

You may also need proof of your work contract or employment that states you will continue to earn an income after you move to Ecuador for at least 2 years.

Rentista Visa: If you own a rental property outright in your home country, you may be able to use that as the support for your visa.

You are required to have a tenant with a 2-year lease agreement for at least $1,380/month in rent + $250/month/dependent. You will need to provide the deed of ownership for the property and the 2-year rental agreement.

Work Visa

For the work visa you must be sponsored by an Ecuadorian company. The company has to pay into the IESS and you need a 2-year work contract.  This visa can now be converted into a permanent resident visa provided you don’t leave the country for more than 90 days during the first 21 months.

Dependent Visa

A Dependent Visa must be attached to a valid Temporary Resident Visa and can be used for your spouse, children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, or any blood relative. The primary Temporary Visa must be issued before the Dependent Visa application can be filed.

With the Pensioner visa the primary visa holder must show an additional income of $250/month/dependent and the additional income can come from any source. For the Rentista/Digital Nomad visa, you have the option of showing at least $3,000/year/dependent in lieu of the $250/month/dependent.

There are no other special requirements for the dependent visa. The dependent visa holder has all the same benefits and requirements as the primary visa holder.

Amelia is here on a dependent visa attached to my professional visa. Since our visas were issued prior to the visa law updates back in February 2021 (not 2022), we are stuck under the old rules. That means as long as we stay married, she can maintain her dependent visa, but if I die or we get divorced, she will need to get her own visa and start the entire process over from the beginning. That’s the major downside to the Dependent Visa in Ecuador prior to February 2021.

However, for visas issued AFTER February 2021, dependent visa holders no longer lose their visa if the primary visa holder dies. If you get divorced, you may or may not lose your visa, depending on the circumstances.

If you leave your spouse, you will likely lose your visa. If your spouse leaves you, he/she must file for divorce in Ecuador and you must contest it. If you sign the divorce agreement, you have voluntarily agreed to the divorce and will lose your visa. If the primary visa holder leaves you for a justifiable and provable reason (e.g. abuse, infidelity, etc.), you may still lose your visa even if you contest the divorce. The laws are complicated so speak to a qualified attorney before signing anything!

Other Temporary Residency Visas

The other types of Ecuador temporary resident visas are the volunteer visa, student visa and industrial investor visa.

These are only temporary visa options and cannot be converted to permanent resident visas at the end of the 2-year term. If your goal is to become a permanent resident of Ecuador, it’s best to get one of the other visa types.

These types of visas aren’t popular with expats because they don’t lead to permanent residency, so we’re not going to cover them in this article.

90-Day Tourist Visa

The 90-day Ecuador tourist visa is easy to get. Just come to Ecuador and it gets issued at passport control. It’s only valid for 3 months, but you can apply for a 3 month extension once every 12 months.

The extension application has a fee that has increased from $100 when we moved here to $141.67. You’ll need to apply at the end of your 90-day tourist visa.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Process

There are lots of steps involved with getting your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa, and it usually takes 3 to 6 months.

It can take 2 to 3 months just to get the background checks done in the US, sent for the apostille and mailed to Ecuador for translation and notarization so keep that in mind when you’re planning your travel.

Step 1: Fingerprints

The first step in the process of getting your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa is getting your fingerprints taken. We had ours taken in Cuenca Ecuador on our exploratory trip in 2017, but you can also have them taken back in the US at a local police station.

Step 2: Background Check

Once we had our fingerprint forms, our visa agent requested the background checks from the FBI Identity History Summary Checks website.

Step 3: Visa Specific Requirements

Professional Visa

You need to request a notarized diploma, transcript and the official university letter stating your documents are real and classes were taken in-person (not online).

Dependent Visa

If you’re applying for a dependent visa, you’ll need to get a certified copy of your marriage license, and birth certificates for your children and other relatives. Again, all these documents must be less than 6 months old to get an apostille so you may need to order new certified copies.

Investor Visa

For the investor visa, you’ll need to invest in a CD at an Ecuadorian COOP for at least 2 years, or purchase property that you intend to keep for the duration of the temporary resident visa. You can wire funds directly to an Ecuadorian bank from a US bank.

You will need to open the CD in a COOP such as JEP because banks like Banco Guayaquil require an Ecuador government ID (cédula) to open an account. You can open an account at a COOP with just your passport and your investor visa application.

Pensioner Visa

You need to request a letter from the SSA stating your monthly income and you’ll need to provide monthly income statements.

Step 4: Request an Appointment with the Ministry

You can go to any of the ministry offices in Ecuador to submit your application, but some have longer waits than others. Your visa agent will know which office is best at the time.

Step 5: Fill Out and Notarize the Visa Application Form

The visa application form is in Spanish and must be filled out in Spanish. Once it’s filled out, you’ll need to go to a notary to have it notarized. You need to sign the application in front of the notary after showing him or her your identification.

Ecuador Visa Documentation

Step 6: Submit Your Application

Once you have your completed visa application form and all the other required documentation with apostilles as needed, go to the ministry office on the date of your appointment to submit your application. You’ll need your passport as identification.

This process is different if your visa will be issued in your home country. Your visa agent will help with that process.

Step 7: Wait

We submitted my Ecuador temporary resident visa application at the end of October when we first arrived in Ecuador, but didn’t receive it until the end of January. It took 3 months to get approved and printed.

Due to the constantly changing laws and delays when we applied for our temporary resident visas, we were here in Ecuador for several months beyond our 3-month tourist visa without our temporary resident visa. Since the application was in-process, we technically weren’t illegal aliens, but it sure felt like we were! Thankfully we didn’t need to leave the country during that small window or it might have been difficult to get back in.

Step 8: Get Your Visa from the Ministry

Once your visa is approved, the government issues an electronic visa that is digitally attached to your passport number. They no longer attach a physical visa sticker to your passport. Again, if your passport is about to expire, we recommend renewing it first before applying for your Ecuador temporary resident visas.

Step 9: Get a Cédula

After we received our temporary resident visas, we took them to the government office in Cuenca to get our cédula, which is our official government issued identification card. It looks like a driver’s license, only it doesn’t allow us to drive.

It took about an hour to get the cédula and the cost was $5. You are not required to get a cédula; however, your expat life in Ecuador will be much easier and you’ll have more banking options available to you if you have one. You will need a cédula to apply for the public IESS health insurance.

Hopefully, you found this lengthy article about the Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas helpful. If you see others asking about this complex process on social media, please share it with them. And if you spot any inaccuracies or outdated rules, please let us know so we can keep this up-to-date.

HUGE thanks to Maité from Gringo Visas for not only helping us with both our Temporary and Permanent Resident Visas, but for taking the time to answer a bunch of questions for this article about the new visa requirements in Ecuador.

Watch Our Video About Ecuador Temporary Residency Visas Updates

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Live In Seville Spain as an Expat: The Pros & Cons

Seville, Spain (or Sevilla in Spanish) is the vibrant capital of the Andalusia region. It’s a city steeped in rich history and culture, offering an enchanting blend of old-world charm and modern conveniences.

Seville was our first stop in Andalusia and it did not disappoint! We were amazed by the beauty and lively culture.

We picked the perfect time to go because it wasn’t too hot or too cold and it wasn’t during the height of the tourist season. Overall we loved our time there, but our visit wasn’t perfect. Unfortunately, a few aspects of Seville weren’t that appealing to us.

In this article, we dive into the experiences and observations from our visit and share the pros and cons of living in Seville as an expat.

Watch Our Video About The Pros & Cons of Seville, Spain

What We Loved About Seville, Spain

There’s a lot to appreciate about this romantic city, starting with:

Safety and Peacefulness

Spain ranks high on the Global Peace Index coming in at #32 on the list for 2023. During our stay in Seville, we felt secure wandering the streets day and night. We observed solo travelers, women, and even children walking by themselves and out after dark.

Beautiful Winter Weather

Monumento a San Fernando Seville, SpainWe visited in November and the weather was warm and dry, with a lot of sunshine and just a touch of rain on one day. Seville is a great place to spend the winter months unless you really like snow and cold!

Walkability and Bike-Friendliness

Seville exudes a big-city vibe while maintaining a compact and highly walkable layout. Many streets are designated pedestrian-only zones.

The city is flat and, outside the historic center, the sidewalks are wide and even, making walking easier and more wheelchair accessible. However, some of the streets in the historic center are narrow and you’ll have to share the road with cars so be sure to stay alert.

We were also impressed by the extensive network of bike lanes and the amount of cyclists and scooters zipping around the streets. Visitors and locals can find bike and scooter rentals all over the city. We didn’t expect two-wheeled transportation to be so popular!

Convenient Public Transportation

Seville offers a reliable public transportation system, including local buses, taxis, and ride-sharing services like Uber. If you’re traveling further outside of the city, Seville has a modern and reliable train station.

We took the train from Seville to Granada and it was affordable, easy, and relaxing. The station is in the heart of Seville and it is clean and easy to navigate. One thing to note is that your luggage must pass through a security screening but that process was quick and painless.

Rich History and Culture

With a legacy spanning over 2,800 years, Seville is steeped in history and cultural heritage. Evidence of its storied past can be seen in landmarks such as the Cathedral and Palace, as well as remnants of Roman and Moorish influence scattered throughout the city.

We were in awe of the medieval city walls and the enduring legacy of flamenco, although we heard that flamenco is often geared towards tourists.

Architectural Marvels and Scenic Beauty

We were also awestruck by Seville’s architectural landscape. The city is full of colorful buildings, picturesque rivers, and elegant bridges that are pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist-friendly.

Serene Parks and Outdoor Spaces

Parque de Maria Luisa Seville, SpainThe amount of green spaces and parks enhances the romantic feel of the city.  From the Jardines de Murillo behind the Royal Alcazar Palace to the expansive Parque de Maria Luisa, there’s no shortage of places to unwind and enjoy nature’s beauty.

We particularly enjoyed finding a quiet spot in Parque de los Príncipes to relax, people-watch, and listen to the birds.

Excellent Restaurants

Foodies will love Seville’s diverse culinary scene. We found plenty of options to suit every palate and budget.

However, dining in tourist areas can be more expensive. We recommend venturing a few streets outside the popular areas to find hidden culinary gems serving up authentic flavors at reasonable prices.

Great Shopping

As for shopping, the city offers everything from small specialty stores to a fantastic pedestrian mall that goes on for blocks! Shoppers can find anything and everything thanks to the variety of stores.

The pedestrian shopping areas get crowded but we still felt safe shopping there and we really appreciated that we didn’t have to watch for cars.

Vibrant Community Atmosphere

Mercado in Seville, SpainThroughout our visit, we were struck by the sense of community in Seville, with locals and visitors alike enjoying the city’s offerings. We loved seeing friends and family hanging out over tapas and wine or beer and enjoying the beautiful evenings. There’s an undeniable energy that infuses every corner of the city.

The Downsides of Seville, Spain

Although we loved Seville there are some downsides:

Sweltering Summers

While Seville’s sunny weather is generally pleasant, summers can be scorching, with temperatures often exceeding 95°F (35°C).

Lots of People

Popular tourist areas can become overcrowded, particularly during peak seasons, necessitating patience and strategic planning to avoid the crowds.

We were shocked by the amount of tourists and large tourist groups when we were there, during the supposed low season!

Limited Grocery Options and Higher Dining Costs

Antonio Garcia Hats Seville, SpainVisitors may find the selection at local grocery stores somewhat lacking in variety, requiring trips to additional stores.

We enjoy going on a “scavenger hunt” as we like to call hitting up the small shops to find everything we need.

However, if you prefer one-stop shopping you’ll need to go to one of the larger supermarkets outside the city center.

Dining out in Seville can be relatively pricey in tourist-centric areas, although still more affordable compared to many other destinations.

We ate at a popular restaurant in the heart of the tourist area and ate at other restaurants in the local neighborhoods. The local restaurants were half the price for more food and an overall better dining experience.

Language Barrier

We struggled to understand the Spanish spoken in Seville because the accent is much different than what we are used to in Latin America. The Spaniards speak rapidly and we had trouble understanding some of the words and slang.

Cultural Differences

We didn’t experience a lot of culture shock but we weren’t prepared for some of the cultural differences.

Stores and restaurants close during the day for hours and that meant we needed to change our schedule a bit. We’re used to eating dinner around 6 pm but restaurants close around 4:30 and reopen for dinner at 7 pm or 8 pm. We had to get used to eating later.

Most stores close around 2 pm and reopen between 4 pm and 5 pm, including some grocery stores. Additionally most stores close on Sundays.

We learned the hard way that we shouldn’t wait to buy groceries! A couple of times we wanted to pick up a few things to cook and the stores were closed.

Another cultural difference is tipping. Tipping isn’t expected or required, except in the tourist areas. However, if you do decide to leave a tip, the norm is 10%.

Popular Expat Neighborhoods in Seville, Spain

Seville is a big city with a lot of interesting neighborhoods. Here are a few of our favorites:

Macarena

Setas de Sevilla SpainDuring our stay, we resided in the vibrant Macarena neighborhood, which is conveniently located close to popular areas. We walked to Setas de Sevilla in around 8 minutes and to the cathedral in around 15 minutes.

Macarena has a lot of history, colorful buildings, funky stores, and great restaurants. There’s a nice Mercado and several small grocery stores making it easy to get your essentials without leaving the area.

We also ventured across the river to explore the popular neighborhoods of Tablada and Triana.

Tablada

Tablada is a local neighborhood with a lot of younger people including young families and university students. We saw lots of high-rise condo buildings, and the vibe of the pedestrian mall, Calle Asunción, was quite a bit different because it wasn’t full of tourists.  You’ll find local shops there and they do close in the afternoons and on Sundays.

Triana

Guadalquivir River, Seville SpainTriana is more touristy although it is still popular with locals. We liked walking along the river past all the lively restaurants and the view of the bridges.

This neighborhood has a big Mercado and its own pedestrian mall which is located on Calle San Jacinto. The pedestrian mall has local stores and popular chain stores along with restaurants, bars, and tourist shops.

Final Thoughts

Despite a few drawbacks, we had an amazing time in Seville, Spain. We fell in love with the charm, vibrancy, and history of this incredible city.

However, due to the hot summers and huge amounts of tourists, we wouldn’t want to live there year-round. But it would be great to go back and spend more time exploring Seville and immersing ourselves in the culture.

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UPDATED: Our Thoughts About Ecuador Right Now

UPDATED Feb 16, 2024

It has been a little over a month since President Noboa declared a state of emergency and signed the decree he called the Phoenix Plan.

In that time, the military and police have carried out 99,000 security operations nationwide. More than 8,000 people have already been arrested, many of whom are from other countries.

The agents have seized:

  • 2,405 firearms
  • 12,433 explosives
  • 167,024 bullets
  • 1,236 bullet magazines
  • 3,422 knives
  • 979 vehicles
  • 931 motorcycles
  • 28 boats from crime, including a semi-submersible to transport drugs
  • $195,398
  • 47,360 gallons of fuel

Noboa has an 80% approval rating, which is simply unheard of in Ecuador (or most countries) and the international financial markets are responding positively with Ecuador’s bond values jumping on the positive news.

Crime in the worst areas of Guayaquil has plummeted by 50-90% since the first 10 days in January. The murder rate in Guayaquil, Duran, and Samborondon was 28 per day to start the year. It’s now under 6 per day. That’s a 78% decline in just one month.

The notoriously overprotective US State Department still has Ecuador rated a Level 2 Travel Warning (Exercise Increased Caution). This hasn’t changed for the country as a whole in several years and matches other popular tourist destinations like Mexico, The UK, Spain, and France. However, Guayaquil and a few other coastal areas are rated a level 3 or 4 and we still recommend avoiding those areas.

Cuenca, Loja, Cotacachi, Baños, Mindo, and most of the other mountain areas are still safe to visit.

Quito is a big city and our friends tell us there is a lot of military presence on the streets, which can be disconcerting, but they’re doing a job that needs to be done and it’s working.


Original Post

We received dozens of messages on Wednesday about our safety in Ecuador, even though we haven’t been in Ecuador since October 2023. If you haven’t watched our videos lately, you might not know that we’re in Europe right now (January 2024).

If you want to keep tabs on us, we post more frequently on our YouTube Community Tab, Facebook Page, and Instagram. We also write about current events in our newsletter so if you’re wondering if we’re safe or what we think about a current event, these are the best places to check for timely information.

It takes about two weeks for us to research, film, edit, and publish our videos now that we’ve improved the quality of them. We don’t sit down in front of the camera and record rambling, low-quality videos anymore. And we haven’t recorded news updates in almost 2 years.

Our format has changed and, based on the growth of our channel subscribers and views, our audience seems to appreciate the improvement. That’s great news because the more people we reach, the more people we can help live an unconventional life!

It wasn’t “good timing” for us to leave Ecuador. This has been our plan since we launched our YouTube channel in 2018. We wanted to see the world and share it with all of you.

Our original plan was to take several exploratory trips each year throughout Latin America until both our dogs were gone. However, the pandemic put our travel plans on hold and then Daisy’s health was deteriorating rapidly so we didn’t want to leave her for very long (she passed on August 30th).

Ecuador is still our home base, but we’re going to spend a lot of our time each year traveling to all the popular expat destinations around the world so we can share our firsthand experiences and observations with you.

Plus, Ecuador has been in the news for all the wrong reasons way too much lately, and that has caused a lot of you to start thinking about Plan B. We get it.

Our Boots on the Ground Intel

Yes. Taken as a whole from afar, Ecuador is a mess right now and we would have serious second thoughts about visiting or moving there if we didn’t already know it so well.

But like we say every time it makes international news, the whole country isn’t on fire.

We were worried about our friends and viewers after the on-air invasion in the Guayaquil newsroom, the prison escapes, and the new state of emergency, but we’ve since heard from several who live in Cuenca, Cumbaya, Puembo, Quito, Cotacachi, Olón, Loja, Vilcabamba, Baños, Salinas, and Malacatos.

All of them told us they hadn’t seen anything unusual in terms of crime. A few told us that a lot of misinformation was being spread online and people were panicking because of it and the news stories.

Cuenca Mayor Cristian Zamora held an emergency news conference to calm the people. The mayor said, “Nothing is happening in Cuenca. All the rumors are false. There are no criminal attacks here.”

Apparently, what people thought was a gunshot in Parque Calderon that caused a panicked stampede was actually the eves of a building falling to the ground.

According to Kristen, our close friend in Cuenca: “We’re calling it the ‘one day upheaval.’ Pretty much that’s what it was. Things have settled back into a normal routine. I’m not noticing anything when I walk into El Centro, albeit being a little quieter than usual but as the week went on it bounced back to normal.”

(Now we know what it feels like when we see news media reports and we’re not there to witness it for ourselves.)

As a result of the hysteria, schools, stores, and restaurants closed early last Tuesday (January 9, 2024). The CLP Bus to Olón canceled its routes for the day. Some delivery services were also closed for the day. American Airlines canceled flights to the Galapagos Islands (even though NOTHING is happening there).

And by Thursday, everything was back open. Although, there is a lot more police and military presence on the streets in some areas and some schools have reactivated the pandemic-era remote learning policies.

Here’s a quote from Rolando Montesdeoca, a chocolate producer in the rural town of Calceta northeast of Manta: “Foreign and domestic tourists come here, and in reality our zone is tranquil, but what happens is that everything is lumped together when viewed from the outside, so any abnormal situation of a crime, a murder, a hit, ends up affecting everyone.”

The Next Steps for Ecuador

When we moved to Ecuador in 2017 and started our YouTube Channel in 2018, Ecuador was the 3rd safest country in all of Latin America. Now, it’s the most violent in terms of homicide rate at 45 per 100,000 (almost entirely gang/drug-related).

The issues Ecuador is facing started over a decade ago, but have been escalating for the past 3 years and 2 presidents. Very little has been done until now and the issues won’t resolve themselves without serious intervention.

President Noboa took office in late November and seems determined to restore Ecuador to its pre-pandemic level of safety. That’s the major reason he won the election.

On January 4th, Noboa authorized the construction of two new maximum-security mega-prisons using the same company that built the prisons for President Bukele in El Salvador.

According to Noboa, “It is [an] Israeli cooperation in the design of maximum and supermax prisons and the segmentation for minor crimes and misdemeanors. It is a system that was not invented by Bukele…before then it was already in use in Thailand and Singapore. Then came Mexico, El Salvador, and now Ecuador will have it.”

On January 9th, Noboa signed Decree 111 (aka The Phoenix Plan), which declared an official “internal armed conflict,” classified 22 organized crime groups as terrorists, and ordered the Armed Forces to neutralize them by any means necessary (including the use of lethal force and profiling based on gang tattoos, another tactic used by Bukele).

El Salvador went from the most dangerous country in the world just a few years ago, to the safest country in Latin America today. Bukele’s approach is not without its downsides (and critics), but the results in overall public safety cannot be ignored and 9 out of 10 Salvadorans approve of the measures taken by their president.

Some would argue that desperate times call for desperate measures and Ecuador now finds itself in the same position as El Salvador before Bukele took the same steps Noboa is just starting.

The next few weeks and months will be very telling for Ecuador. There’s no way to know how this will play out, but Noboa seems to have enough political, military, and social support to do what is needed to return Ecuador to the peaceful nation it once was.

Shockingly, the National Assembly voted unanimously to support Noboa’s Decree 111. It’s nice to see the National Assembly working WITH the president for the first time since we moved to Ecuador.

Latest News from Ecuador

The police and military are in the process of taking back control of the prisons where the gangs have ruled almost unobstructed for the past several years.

On Sunday, inmates were stripped to their underwear and lined up in the prison courtyards where they sang the Ecuadorian National Anthem. Meanwhile, the gang murals were painted over in the common areas.

According to the government, 1,327 people have been detained in the 6 days since the Phoenix Plan was initiated.

Final Thoughts…

We will be back in Ecuador sometime this year, but we have several more destinations to check off our travel list first.

We still love our adoptive homeland and we’re not giving up on it! For the first time in over two years, we’re full of optimism for it!

The Pros and Cons of Living in Rome, Italy

Rome, the eternal city, a place where history merges seamlessly with modernity, offers a plethora of experiences for travelers and residents alike.

From its stunning architecture to its rich history, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture, Rome captivates visitors with its charm at every turn.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the various aspects of Rome to help you get a better understanding of what this iconic city has to offer and help you decide if it’s a good place to live.

Watch Our Video About Scouting Iconic Rome, Italy

The Pros of Living in Rome, Italy

This astounding city has a lot going for it and here’s what we love:

Rome Is Gorgeous!

View of the Roman Forum from Rome, ItalyWe were awestruck by Rome’s beauty. The architecture is stunning and the shocking amount of iconic ancient monuments, statues, and fountains scattered throughout the city really surprised us!

We also loved all the trees, greenspaces, and picturesque parks. We walked to Parco della Caffarella, which is an incredible park with a lot of different walking trails, 2,000-year-old ruins, and even a flock of sheep! It felt like we left the city entirely and were in the countryside.

Parco Villa Borghese, located north of the historic center near the neighborhood of Parioli, is another beautiful, must-visit park, especially if you’re in the mood for a relaxing stroll.

Incredible History & Things To Do

The Baths of Caracalla in Rome, italyHistory buffs will find themselves in paradise in Rome!

It was well worth paying to access these incredible places, such as the Colosseum, the Roman Baths of Caracalla, and the Roman Forum.

However, you don’t have to pay to experience many of the sights. You can see so much just walking down the street and of course, you can appreciate the structures from the outside.

Rome Is Safe

While petty theft and pickpocketing can occur, the city is generally safe for visitors.

We felt comfortable roaming around day and night but we were extra mindful of our belongings in the crowded areas and on the Metro.

Rome Has Great Food & Restaurants

There’s no shortage of great food in Rome, from affordable street food to high-end restaurants.

Grocery shopping is easy thanks to the variety of small grocery stores, organic stores, and specialty stores in each neighborhood. You can easily find gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and gourmet products.

Buying produce in the mercatos is always an enjoyable experience for us. We like to buy local as much as possible and everything we bought was full of flavor and affordable.

Solid Infrastructure

Rome has good infrastructure, with well-maintained roads, reliable electricity, and widespread 5G cell coverage.

While the tap water may look unusual when boiled due to mineral content. It contains calcium-carbonate, which becomes insoluble at high temperatures making boiled water cloudy, but it’s safe to drink.

Public Transportation in Rome

Navigating Rome is easy thanks to its efficient public transportation system. The tram and metro are affordable and convenient, providing quick access to major tourist destinations and the airport.

Additionally, buses, taxis, and ride-sharing services like Uber are available, but traffic is congested and slow so rail options might get you there faster.

Rome Is Walkable

The Roman Forum in Rome, ItalyRome is a pedestrian-friendly city with wide sidewalks and drivers who generally stop for pedestrians.

Since we walked almost everywhere we appreciated the yellow walk lights and countdown walk timers.

Romans Are Friendly People

Despite being a bustling metropolis, Rome retains its charm with friendly locals who are often willing to help.

While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, learning Italian can enhance your experience and help you connect with the community on a deeper level.

Rome Is Centrally Located in Italy

Rome’s strategic location makes it an ideal base for exploring other parts of Italy and other countries.

With the availability and convenience of high-speed trains, you can easily travel to other cities such as Florence and Naples.  You can also take an international train to France.

Rome has two international airports with direct flights to numerous countries, including the U.S. and Canada.

The Cons of Rome, Italy

No place is perfect and that includes Rome. Here’s what we didn’t love:

Rome Is a Big City

As with any major city, Rome has its share of urban challenges, including traffic congestion, graffiti, and occasional crime. There are some areas to avoid and you always need to be aware of your surroundings.

Bad Traffic in Rome

Traffic congestion is a common issue in Rome, especially during peak hours, which can result in longer commute times and increased costs for taxis and ride-sharing services.

We decided to use Uber to take us to our Vatican City tour because we thought it would be faster. Unfortunately, we got stuck in traffic and we almost missed our allotted entry time! It was stressful and we would have been better walking or taking the metro.

Rome Is Crowded

Rome’s popularity as a tourist destination means that certain areas can get overcrowded, particularly around historical landmarks and tourist attractions.

At times we felt overwhelmed trying to navigate through the crowds and it wasn’t even high season!

Housing Issues in Rome

Rome Italy Centro HistoricoFinding affordable housing in Rome can be challenging, with high rents and landlords often preferring long-term leases of 3 years or longer.

Additionally, a lot of condos have been converted to short-term stays and listed on sites like AirBnB, reducing the supply for long-term rentals.

Therefore, purchasing property may be a better option for those planning to stay long-term.

Cultural Differences Are a Challenge

While we didn’t experience a lot of culture shock, we were surprised by the amount of smokers and that we couldn’t flush the toilet paper in some places, including our apartment rental. Consequently, we’ve embraced the bidet!

Tourist Scams

The Colosseum in Rome, ItalyTourist scams are a reality in Rome, with aggressive vendors and individuals attempting to exploit unsuspecting visitors, including us. We got hit up by these scammers multiple times and it was very off-putting and irritating.

Some common scams include offering a free gift or asking you to sign a petition and then trying to guilt you into giving them a “donation”.

As a general rule, don’t accept anything for free and if someone asks you to sign their petition, just move on, because more than likely it’s a scam.

In these situations, the best thing you can do is try to ignore the scammers by avoiding eye contact and not stopping or acknowledging them when they try to get your attention.

Weather In Rome

We visited Rome in December and we needed to wear our warmer coats, gloves, and scarves. The temperatures were above average for the time of year and, even though we had some sunny days, we were still pretty chilly!

Summers can be painfully hot and, in July of 2023, Rome experienced a record-breaking heatwave.

Final Thoughts

Rome is an amazing city and we’d absolutely love to spend more time there. While it has its challenges, the city’s beauty, history, and friendly atmosphere made us sad to leave.

Although we wouldn’t want to live there long-term, it would be a great place to live for a few months or even a year.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Portugal Livability for Expats

Portugal is one of the most popular places for expats, but how livable is it?

We took an exploratory trip to see for ourselves because it was at the top of our list for another residency. While it does have a lot going for it in terms of livability for expats, we’ve crossed it off our list for one main reason.

This article evaluates Portugal’s livability based on the crucial factors that matter most when considering a potential new home, such as safety, cost of living, residency options, and taxes.

Watch Our Video About Why We’re No Longer Considering Portugal

The Crucial Factors

Residency Visa Options in Portugal

One of the critical factors when contemplating a move to a new country is the availability of residency visa options. Portugal has two viable visa options, the D7 and D8 visas.

D7 Visa

This is a passive income visa, with a minimum income requirement of 820 euros per month plus a minimum savings of 9,840 euros deposited into a Portuguese bank account.

It is a 2-year visa and can be renewed for an additional 3 years. This visa allows you to apply for permanent residency after 5 years.

D8 Visas

The 1-year Temporary Stay visa has a monthly income requirement of 3,280 euros and is renewable. You are not required to obtain a NIF (taxpayer identification number). However, depending on the consulate processing your visa, you may need a Portuguese bank account.

The 2-year Residence visa has a monthly income requirement of 3,280 euros and is renewable for an additional 3 years. This visa allows you to apply for permanent residency after 5 years. You ARE required to obtain a NIF and open a Portuguese bank account for this visa.

Disclaimer: Please note there are additional conditions and requirements for the D7 and D8 visas. Please consult a qualified visa specialist for complete information and guidance.

Safety & Stability in Portugal

Torre Dos Cierigos tower in Porto Portugal Portugal is known for its safety. We felt comfortable walking around the city, both day and night.

The country recently experienced some political upheaval, including the resignation of the Prime Minister, triggering snap elections on March 10, 2024.

Regional Weather in Portugal

Portugal has diverse climates across its regions, from the cooler and wetter Green Coast to the warmer and drier Lisbon Coast and Algarve Region.

Picture of the moon in Matoshinos Portugal

While the country generally experiences favorable weather, occasional storms from the Atlantic Ocean happen.

We experienced heavy rains when we visited Porto, (part of the Green Coast), in November. It didn’t rain 24/7 but it rained more often and heavier than we expected.

We still enjoyed our trip but we’ll go to the Lisbon area or the Algarve Region if we go back during the rainy season.

Health Insurance & Healthcare in Portugal

With a healthcare system ranked 20th globally by CEO World, Portugal offers good medical services at affordable prices. Public healthcare is mostly free; however, it may take longer to see a doctor compared to private healthcare.

Private health insurance is affordable, with an average price range of $50 to $150 per month for 1 person. Prices vary depending on the type of coverage, age, and other factors (like smoking).

We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the quality of care in the private sector from other expats. English-speaking doctors are available and a typical office visit will cost $40 to $50 without insurance.

The high quality and low cost of healthcare contribute to the overall livability of Portugal.

Cost of Housing in Portugal

Green Building in Porto PortugalPortugal provides various housing options, but prices vary, with coastal and city areas being more expensive, especially in Lisbon and Porto.

Housing prices have increased significantly over the last few years, and locals told us they are struggling to find affordable rentals. You can expect to pay more for less in terms of size and amenities.

The average home price in Porto is 1,802 euros per square meter, according to Portugal Business News. Despite a slight cooling down expected in the housing market, prices remain a significant factor since this is typically the biggest living expense.

Typical rental prices are between  $700 to $1500/month depending on size, location and amenities.

You’ll find more affordable options in smaller cities such as Braga and Coimbra, and rural locations.

Cost of Food & Restaurants in Portugal

We found a nice variety of food, from locally produced items to international and gluten-free to fresh produce for sale at the local markets.

Our food costs were similar to Ecuador and approximately 50% to 70% less than in the United States.

We were impressed with the quantity and quality of restaurants in Porto and Matosinhos. There is a wide variety of local and international cuisine, along with fast food, casual dining, and high-end, multi-course meals.

We spent $15 to $30 for lunch and $30 to $50 for dinner with wine.

Portugal Taxes

Capela das Almas tiles in Porto PortugalPortugal’s exchange rate and sales tax can impact expenses, and the potential end of the NHR tax scheme can lead to higher taxes for new residents.

Sales tax is up to 23% but not on everything. There are variable rates with some items, such as most food, taxed at 6%. Wine is taxed at 13%.

There isn’t a tipping culture in Portugal so you can save the 20+% that many Americans automatically add when dining out. If you do decide to tip, 10% is more than what’s expected.

There are tax exclusions and credits available to help offset the higher taxes in Portugal (assuming they do eliminate the NHR tax scheme), but you still may end up paying more in taxes.

Monthly Cost of Living in Portugal

Understanding the cost of living is crucial for anyone considering a move. Based on our research and personal spending, the average price for a single person is around $1800 to $2200/month, and for a couple, the average price is $2500 to $3000/month outside the major cities.

Tack on an additional 30% to 50% if you want to live in Porto, Lisbon, or other popular areas.

Although the increased housing costs have impacted the livability of Portugal the overall cost of living is still reasonably low, especially when compared to the United States and Canada.

Walkability & Public Transportation in Portugal

The cities and towns are designed for walkability. There are a lot of local neighborhood shops so you can get what you need within a short walk.

We had no problem walking around in Portugal although some areas are hilly and some places have uneven sidewalks. There are plenty of crosswalks and the drivers stop for pedestrians.

The country has an extensive rail system, making it easy to travel in and between cities. There are also plenty of buses, taxis, and Uber services.

Quality of Life in Portugal

Park with shadow of a tree in Matoshinos PortugalPortugal offers a high quality of life with a lot of different things to do. You can spend time in the city and visit a museum or go to a concert. You’ll find a variety of classes, gyms, and studios.

You can hike in the mountains or go to the beach. You won’t be bored in Portugal!

It is family friendly and all the locals we met were helpful and welcoming.

Language Barrier in Portugal

While Portuguese can be challenging, English is widely spoken, especially in larger cities and popular tourist areas.

We were surprised by the amount of Spanish spoken, which was great for us. If someone didn’t speak English, they spoke (or at least understood) Spanish so we could communicate.

And we were able to read a lot of Portuguese since the language is similar to Spanish, although when it’s spoken, it sounds more like Russian than Spanish!

Final Thoughts

Portugal is definitely livable for expats. It offers a compelling mix of factors that make it an attractive place to call home.

We enjoyed our time there and plan to explore more of the country. However, we are taking Portugal off our list for a 3rd residency, at least for now, because of the elimination of the NHR tax scheme.

PLUS, we have a lot of other countries to explore before we make a decision about our 3rd place to call home.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal is a city with a history that predates even the Roman Empire and it continues to captivate people from all around the world.

Despite our arrival coinciding with one of the worst rainy seasons in recent memory, we were lucky enough to have a few hours of sun and blue skies to explore the city. We didn’t let the weather stop us!

Porto is extremely popular with tourists and foreign residents but it isn’t perfect. In this article, we share what we love about Porto, as well as some of the downsides, to help you decide if it is a good fit for you.

Watch Our Video About Porto, Portugal

The Pros of Porto, Portugal

This historical city has a lot of great things going for it, starting with…

Safety and Friendliness

Porto boasts a reputation as one of the safest and most peaceful countries globally, ranking  #7 on the Global Peace Index.

The locals were friendly, helpful, and welcoming. We didn’t experience any anti-foreigner sentiment during our stay there.

Language Accessibility
Fonte Dos Leoes Fountain in Porto Portugal

The minimal language barrier is a significant advantage, as English is widely spoken, and Spanish is common.

We were surprised that we could read Portuguese because many words are similar to Spanish.

The spoken language is much different, however. It sounds like Russian and the pronunciation is different from what we’re used to when speaking Spanish.

Overall we felt comfortable communicating with the locals and we were able to pick up some Portuguese quickly.

Clean and Green
Crystal Palace Gardens in Porto Portugal

The city is clean. We saw very little litter or graffiti, and the air is clean, thanks in part to all the electric cars and buses.

Drinkable Water

You can drink the tap water, but it does have a strong mineral taste.

We were given bottled water when we asked for water in restaurants. They didn’t offer us tap water at all.

Rich History and Architecture

With a history spanning 900 years, Porto showcases a blend of old historic churches, monuments, and captivating architecture.

People have been living in Porto for over 2000 years!

The influence of Moorish culture, visualized in the Azulejo Ceramic Tiles, adds a unique charm to many buildings.

The Ponte Luis I Bridge in Porto Portugal Porto is also famous for its bridges. Our favorites are the Ponte da Arrábida which is the white arched bridge close to the ocean and the Ponte Luís I. It was the longest of its type at the time.

Compact and Walkable

When we looked at the map of Porto we thought the city was big and our walks from monument to monument would be long.

The reality is that Porto is a compact city and everything is close and convenient. Most of the places we visited were 5 to 15 minutes on foot.

Public transportation

If you don’t want to walk, Porto has excellent public transportation options, including Uber, Taxis, Metro, and Trains. Getting around the city is quick and easy.

You can also take trains to neighboring cities, such as Braga and Lisbon. The trains will take you all the way to the Algarve region as well.

Wonderful Restaurants

The city’s culinary scene, featuring street-side cafes and beautiful restaurants, offers a wide variety of delectable dishes.

From the traditional Portuguese sandwich, the Francesinha, to exquisite desserts like Maracuya Tiramisu and Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse, Porto caters to diverse tastes.

We loved the restaurant scene a little too much; we both put on a few pounds! We couldn’t resist the variety of food and the different ambiance. Plus everything was very affordable.

Affordable Food

There are several small grocery stores around the city as well as specialty stores and mercados.

Groceries are affordable and the prices were similar to those in Ecuador, with some exceptions (tropical fruits are more expensive in Porto).

We were able to buy a wide variety of local and international food, although we did have to shop at a couple of different stores.

Drinking Culture

We were surprised by the drinking culture at first but, because the Portuguese wine is quite good and very inexpensive, in retrospect it is understandable.

We saw people drinking wine at all hours, even in the mornings. People enjoy wine at the mercados as well as the street-side cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Shopping Experience

Porto has a lot of shopping, including outdoor malls, specialty shops, and unique markets.

We especially liked the pedestrian areas since we didn’t have to watch for cars.

There’s a variety of stores including local and international chain brands. You’ll also find a lot of specialty stores, such as chocolate shops, shoe shops, and tourist shops.

The shopping experiences in the pharmacies reminded us of Ecuador. Most of the items are behind the counter. You have to take a number and meet with the pharmacist who will then get you what you need.

The Cons of Porto, Portugal

No place is perfect and Porto is no exception. Here are the drawbacks…

Rainy Season

We knew we were visiting in the rainy season but we weren’t prepared for the intensity of rain. It can definitely be a drawback.

Tourists

We were shocked by the amount of tourists and we were there during the shoulder season! At times it was overwhelming.

We wouldn’t want to visit during high season and we wouldn’t want to live in the historic center. There were just too many people for our comfort level.

Construction

There are a lot of big construction projects throughout the city which made it difficult to navigate, especially since the maps weren’t updated and kept trying to send us through closed areas.

NHR Scheme Deadline

The Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) scheme, ending in 2024, presents potential tax consequences that may influence decisions about living in Portugal.

Since we’re not retired and still work online, the tax rates in Portugal on our active income would make living there cost-prohibitive.

Could We Live in Porto?

Despite a few downsides, we had a great time exploring Porto and we could live there. We loved the architecture, the variety of things to do, the walkability, and the public transportation.

We’re glad we stayed in the heart of the historic center but we found some other neighborhoods where we would prefer to live.

We liked Bonfim, an older and less touristy area with lower rents.

We liked Marques and Lapa as well, there is a younger vibe in both areas.

Vila Nova de Gaia is another popular area, especially with expats. It is located south of the river and is less touristy once you get away from the riverfront. We had fun exploring the neighborhood and we saw lots of locals. It is very hilly though, we were out of breath a few times!

Final Thoughts

The challenges posed by the weather, crowds, and ongoing construction, didn’t diminish our time in Porto. The city’s unique blend of history, modern amenities, and restaurant scene makes it a place worth considering for future visits or as a permanent residence.

Whether it’s strolling through its ancient streets, savoring local delicacies, or exploring its diverse neighborhoods, Porto has left an indelible mark on our experiences.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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