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Best Places to Retire Abroad

FAQs: From Health Care to Crime

13 essential questions you must ask before retiring abroad.

Best Places to Retire Abroad (ITALY)

Vineyard in Amico, Italy. — Jason Varney

Can I own land abroad?

The short answer is yes, though you’ll need a good lawyer to help cut through the red tape. One major exception is Mexico: Within 50 kilometers of a coast or 100 miles from a border, foreigners may not own land outright. Instead, coastal expats rely on bank trusts; the bank holds the title in trust for you. You have all the rights of a property owner, and can buy and sell the trusts. In other Latin American countries, some land is restricted (you can’t own an island in Panama, for example) and some property may have murky documentation. In Europe, ownership has its own red tape, but buying a house is comparatively straightforward. Building a house, however, is severely restricted in some European locales, such as Italy. Let’s say it once more: Consult a local attorney.

Are the crime rates high?

Europe has a lower crime rate than the United States does, but in much of Latin America, burglary and robberies are a problem for expats and prosperous locals. Violent crimes are rare in major tourist and expat locations, and though you may see gruesome shootouts between drug gangs on the news, the drug wars are largely limited to rougher urban neighborhoods and highly dangerous border cities. If you take the same commonsense precautions you would take in any American city, you can live a safe, low-stress life.

Will I have to learn a new language?

English is the world’s second language, so in the countries we’ve spotlighted in print and online, most people will understand you. But the farther you get from cities and expat enclaves, the more difficult it becomes if you only speak English. If you live in a gated community of Americans, you can probably get by without ever using the local language. But where’s the fun in that? Knowing at least the basics of a local language will enrich your life abroad immeasurably.

Can I get domestic and garden help?

In Latin America, yes. Service in these low-cost countries remains very reasonable: $15 per day for a maid or gardener is common. Domestic service in Europe is rare for the average expat.

Can I see American television and movies?

Europe gets American movies after the United States does, many dubbed. Latin America also gets U.S. movies after they open here, but illegal bootleg videos are frequently sold on the streets. As for TV, the U.S. networks are generally not available abroad, though specialty cable channels via satellite are everywhere. Figuring out how your satellite dish can pick up U.S. signals is a major expat sport.

Can I buy my favorite American foods?

Yes, many are available, but at a considerable markup. Best advice is to stick to local products and food. If you don’t like the local food, what on earth are you doing there?

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