After spending three consecutive summer holidays in Romanian beach resorts, we’ve decided that a change in scenery is more than welcome. So, for this year, we decided to give our neighbor Bulgaria a try. After checking out various options, we decided to make Albena our new home for a week and see what it has to offer.

If you’re curious to see how our successful vacations went in Romania, you can check out my Hotel Dana in Venus impressions, as well as the story of our cheap stay in Eforie Nord. Last year, Eforie Nord was a dud and one of the reasons why I decided that we’ve given one too many chances to Romania’s seaside. For now at least.

In case things are not that obvious already, I am only going to judge the two countries based on what their seaside resorts have to offer. I can’t make other types of judgement since I haven’t visited any other parts of Bulgaria for long enough to get an educated opinion, but since most people look at both countries as cheap touristic destinations, this should be just enough.

Why did we choose Albena in Bulgaria?

Albena Bulgaria
View over Albena. Our hotel is at the bottom right corner

I did a lot of research prior to us leaving to Bulgaria and whoever does something similar easily finds out that Albena doesn’t stand out as one of the most popular destinations in the country. We chose it for two main reasons:

  • it is very close to Romania. We were going to travel by bus from Bucharest and getting to Albena takes about 7 hours. Almost anything else in Bulgaria is way farther and you can’t keep a 4-year-old (our son) entertained for that long. At least not without going crazy yourself, haha!
  • most people described it as a very chill resort aimed mostly at families and older people. We didn’t want to get there to party all night. We wanted silence, we wanted beautiful sea and beaches and opportunities to recharge our batteries. That’s exactly what we got!

Hotel Kaliakra in Albena

Hotel Kaliakra, Albena
Hotel Kaliakra, seen from the beach

We went for this hotel mainly because it was an All Inclusive hotel. It also had great ratings on Trip Advisor and its Romanian equivalent, Am Fost Acolo. Our son tends to choose food based on the way it looks (usually in photos in the menu) and then gets freaked out because he doesn’t enjoy eating broccoli with sweet and sour sauce or, even more often, because the dish he gets looks nothing like the photo.

In an All Inclusive deal, he sees the food right in front of his eyes and we can easily get a bit in our plate and let him taste it before making a decision. It was way easier this way (and definitely less expensive)

Hotel Kaliakra frontal sea view room
View from our room in Hotel Kaliakra

I am very happy with our choice, though. Hotel Kaliakra – a 4 star hotel in Albena – is right near the beach, with all rooms offering an impressive sea view. They offer two types of rooms: Superior and Standard, the former being larger.

Hotel Kaliakra Albena Room
Huge bedroom that Baby Romanian really enjoyed. There was also an extensible couch in the room.
Hotel Kaliakra Albena Room 1
Another part of the room and a bit of our amazing view of the sea.

Click here to check out Hotel Kaliakra (and book your stay there)

We chose the Superior Room as I actually had the impression that there are two hotels: Kaliakra Superior and Kaliakra, with the former being the better one since it was a bit more expensive. But I was wrong. It’s just a hotel, with two different types of rooms – the Superior Room is larger and has a direct view of the sea, while the other rooms have more of a side-view, although it seems to be just as spectacular.

Hotel Kaliakra Pool
One of the beautiful pools, with Hotel Kaliakra in the background

While there’s a lot of room at the pools, with just enough sun loungers, the food isn’t really the best around. I have no reasons to complain though: you definitely can’t go hungry during your stay and there are always a lot of things to choose from. However, I was a bit disappointed with the quality of the food, although it’s much better and definitely a lot more varied than what you’re normally getting in similar All Inclusive resorts in Romania.

Hotel Kaliakra Food
Fruits were always present for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Hotel Kaliakra Food
Although the presentation gets no points for style, the food was actually tasty and varied – this being just a very small offering at dinner time.

Even more, the hotel advertised in many places that the fruits, vegetables and honey were all organic, while the Angus beef was locally grown and fed in a very healthy way. So that was indeed an unexpected bonus!

We were treated very well at the hotel by all staff: from the girls at the reception, to the waiters in the restaurants and the maids… everybody did a great job overall. They were not all smiles and good mood as you’d like all people to be when you’re on vacation, but us people living in the Eastern side of Europe tend to smile a lot less than others… so we knew they weren’t actually grumpy.

Hotel Kaliakra themed dinner
One of my dinners during the stay at Hotel Kaliakra. They had seafood themed dinners twice during the 7 nights we spent there.

Overall, I was very pleased with the hotel and everything it had to offer. I am not sure I would go for the Superior room if I went there again, but I would definitely love to get there again!

Also read: If you’re a fan of comparisons, why not check out my Budapest vs Bucharest article?

Albena and the beach

I also didn’t know, before getting there, that Albena was nothing but a very small resort. I thought it was a place where we could find local people, houses and apartments – similar to Romania’s Eforie Nord. Instead, it’s more like Venus or other resorts in Romania. And very small too.

Albena street
Part of the main pedestrian street in the resort

However, it’s extremely nice! The beaches are spectacular. For some reason, unlike the ones in Romania, they are never packed. Our hotel was full and there were many hotels in the resort… but the beaches somehow managed to be airy and extremely nice. It’s always good if you can go take a bath in the sea without rubbing elbows with other tourists…

The photo below shows the most crowded day during our stay there and even though some might consider that crowded, it’s not Romania-style crowded and it definitely felt very airy when you were there.

Albea beach and sea
Beautiful beach and sea

It was also surprisingly clean. The sand of Romanian beaches and the Black Sea resorts themselves are usually dirty, but for some reasons these were not, despite the fact that there were a ton of Romanian tourists there.

In terms of attractions, there’s not a lot to do in Albena. They have a really large Aqua Park which we didn’t get a chance to visit (but heard great things about)… and that would be it. A relatively small pedestrian street with small shops, several restaurants and hotels. Definitely a place to go and relax, not waste nights in clubs or getting tired exploring the city. (Although there are several attractions nearby that local tour operators or even taxi drivers would love to take you to).

Albena Free Beach Library
They had free beach libraries with books in English, German, Russian and Romanian

In terms of costs, prices are similar to those in Romanian resorts. In other words, not very cheap by Romanian standards, but surely cheap for people coming from the Western Countries. And there was a lot of them: mostly people from Germany and other Nordic countries, as well as a lot of Russians. Definitely a lot more foreigners (even without counting the armies of Romanians) compared to what Romania gets – probably one of the reasons why the quality standards are a bit higher.

But back to prices, you could get a half liter bottle of soda from street shops for around one Euro, dinner at a nice restaurant was 10-15 Euros depending on what you went for and 1-2 euros for a beer or coffee. There was a standard rate for taxis (of around 5 Euros) from the bus station to the hotels, which was heavily overpriced – it was an easy 10 minute walk to our hotel and even less to other ones. Probably the reason why most people only took a taxi when they arrived and not when they left 🙂

One of the things that I enjoyed the most though was the silence. In Romania, there are pubs and bars on the beach and there’s loud music playing all day. You can’t hear the sea, you can’t think about anything but the loud music. Which is always hits from the 80s and 90s, if it makes any difference.

And as if the music wasn’t enough, the beach is full of wandering sellers yelling and shouting and making obnoxious jokes trying to sell you mud, corn on a cob and other crap. It’s chaos there and it was so good to actually be able to close my eyes, let the sun work its magic on me and hear the waves…

Bulgaria vs Romania: The Winner

Looking at everything as a whole, the two are extremely similar. It’s the same sea, the same water, the same climate, the same vegetation around and most of the hotels (especially the older ones) have that same – slightly outdated – look.

However, Bulgaria managed to adapt better, up their offering and increase the quality of everything they offer, leaving Romania well behind. From customer service to the clean beaches and clean resort, from the quality of the food and number of real-restaurants available (most in Romanian resorts are self service restaurants with very cheap, but very low quality food), to the hotels themselves… everything beats Romania.

Hotel Kaliakra restaurant view
Pool view from the main restaurant’s terrace

Bulgaria is far from perfect. For example, they are way behind Turkey and way behind the Greece, but still well above Romania.

When I went to Bulgaria, I was very afraid. I heard a ton of scary stories – especially on how badly they treat Romanians, but instead I received high quality service and smiles from most of the staff. Everybody asked us where we were from and as soon as they heard we’re from Romania, they threw a “Buna ziua!” (Good day) or “Ce mai faci?” (How are you?). At the main restaurant, there was always somebody to greet us in Romanian and wish us good appetite. They did the same with all the other guests, all in their native language.

That would never happen in Romania. That never happened to us in Romania. And I am sure very few people foreigners can say it has happened to them.

So even though it’s the same sea, it’s the same flora – it’s basically the same thing – the small but important elements make the difference.

Contrary to our expectations, we felt much better in Bulgaria than we did in Romania. Even more – and sadder, in my opinion – we felt more welcome.


  1. Buna ziua Calin,
    Great story and great pictures! I like the way you tell the whole unvarnished truth! Most people would invariably (consciously or unconsciously) tend to be biased toward their own county. Kudos for your honesty!
    What is the temp of the Black Sea? I mean does it set your teeth chattering when you first dive in, or does it elicit an “ahhhh” from the moment of entry? Are there any life guards? Are there dangerous rip currents? Are there any bad aquatic fauna to watch for like sharks, barracudas, or stinging jelly-fish, etc.? What sort of edible fish are there in the sea, and are the fish served at the hotel caught locally? Are there large fishing fleets from the surrounding countries on the sea? Are there ferry boat services which ply the sea between the various countries? Is the Black Sea very salty (briny) or more fresh? Does it provide drinking water for the surrounding countries?
    Did you pay by cc or use the local currency (Bulgarian Lev)? If the latter, how did the ROM compare to the BGN? (Did you lose or gain in the conversion?) And if you used the Euro, it just seems everyone should just convert to it and stop waiting around.;-)
    So, what do you think is the reason for the Bulgarian customer service to be better (at least where you were) than the Romanian? Are the Bulgarians are more consumer-driven society? I am curious from your standpoint.
    For that matter, if you’re still in Budapest, how does the Hungarian customer service there compare to that of the Romanian and to the Bulgarian?
    So, in your travels, do you still find English the best way of communicating? It must be quite interesting with so many nationalities converging on a particular area, for the locals to try to understand, and to be understood!
    BTW: From seeing your “mini-me,” pictured, he can’t be called “Baby Romanian” much longer!;-)
    Thanks for the great read!
    ~Teil (USA)

    • Hello Teil,

      Wow, a lot of questions! 🙂

      I’ll start addressing the Black Sea ones – at least the ones I can: I never found it to be too warm, but it is pleasant during the season. It seems cold when you first get in, but probably anything would after spending a lot of time in the sun 🙂 There were lifeguards present, but I wouldn’t consider it very dangerous. I am not a big swimmer, though, so I can’t really say about current – there’s none where I usually am – knee deep in the water hahaha

      We didn’t see any fishing ships while there and I know nothing of ferries, but there should be some sort of service here and there. I have no idea about the other things, but I doubt that the seafood we ate was from the Black Sea.

      Regarding the currency, we actually exchanged Euros to Levas. You could pay in Euros directly, but the rates were lower than what the exchange offices would give. The rates were similar for Lei as well, but you got the better deal from Exchanging Euros to Leva 🙂

      Romanian customer service is bad by tradition. People coming here will always complain about that. I have no real idea why this is happening, but I believe that the lack of tourism is the reason behind this. Both in Budapest and Albena, most of the people you interacted with were all smiles and made you feel welcome. In Romania, people rarely smile and are, in many occasions rude and seem bored when serving you (I am not only talking about state-owned places, but restaurants and stores as well). People don’t really try to give it their best since they probably don’t have a lot to earn from this. In the other countries, they probably know that smiling and behaving nicely will result in a large tip or something. Just guesses, though… I don’t really know for sure.

      I do have the feeling that people are starting to get educated in this area, but it will take some time. I remember wanting to take a photo during a visit to a local Carrefour in my home city. The employees had badges reading “Today I smile for you” (hence me thinking that companies are working to improve this), but cashier looked like the whole sky fell over her head. It was hilarious, but I couldn’t just pull out the phone and snap a picture 🙂

  2. Love this accounting of your holiday! Very refreshing read because you know how l love to hear the facts, good and bad?. I was cracking up at Baby Romanian and his ordering from the pictures. I can just imagine his face after eating the broccoli???. Nice to know the beaches weren’t very crowded either. I hate crowded ones. I remember the sandy beaches of Malta were like that. Your room looked awesome and the view quite nice. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

    • And he still hasn’t learned the lessons…but at least he might find some new favorite foods… eventually :))

      The beaches were a surprise for us, we were expecting them to be really crowded. It was a nice vacation overall!

  3. Hi Calin,

    Ditto to Kemkem’s remarks! Great story and nice to get the facts, along with the good, the bad and the ugly. “Baby Romanian” is sure getting big now; I figure soon enough he’ll be taking off on his own checking out the girls on the beach next time! It is interesting how such similar tourist spots would provide such a different customer service experience. I suspect there is something more going on here and not simply Romanian resorts and personal are just less friendly than Bulgarian ones. We know it’s not that. So, it is a bit of a conundrum.

    As much as this comparison was interesting, I must say that I may be one of the few folks who would be fine not spending any more time around beaches. Having lived in Florida for the past 30 years, and 8 of those in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, I yearn to be in the mountains and forests for the rest of my days…lol..
    One way that Romania has a huge advantage over all the surrounding Eastern & Central European countries, including Bulgaria, is the Transylvanian Alps and the Carpathian Mountains. The views and vistas are nothing short of spectacular.

    Btw, that reminds me, if anyone might be interested in where to see wildlife, Rasnov just opened a new observatory, where you can see bears, wolves, wild boar and lynx, for 25 euros per person. Here is an article I saw in Romania-Insider:

    • Just as it often happens nowadays, it seems that I know less and less about the things happening in Romania 🙂 I had no idea about the Rasnov observatory, for example.

      Regarding the beach and the sun, I can totally understand that! I’m still at a point where I hate winters and would do anything for decent sunny weather for the entire year.

      • I hate high heat and humidity, but hate serious winters even more. Recently learned Albania allows Americans(and us only!) to stay a year on a tourist card(then leave for 90 days) and allow us to skip several steps of residency and go to the 5 year one which for us is pretty easy to obtain. By European standards the winter weather, especially on their southern coast, is pretty mild. Heading to the capital Tirana in November. Georgia is just too far away and isolated for me and Albania has a Mediterranean diet with heavy influence from Italy, Greece, and Turkey. And close enough to visit places I want to see including the Carpathians.

      • Hi Calin,
        Well, you can’t be expected to know everything! lol….try as you might! But, mountains, wildlife and such are things of particular interest to me, so I specifically research whatever I can find out about those subjects. Romania-Insider has been a good source for a lot of what’s going on, especially for us outside the country, wanting to know more.

        Also, someone’s experiences with customer service can vary from time to time and place to place. But in terms of friendly locals, I’ve read great stories about Romanians, and bad about Hungarians and Bulgarians, and then the opposite. I’ve read similar of visitors to Florida, some had great experiences and others horrible.

        A few years ago I traveled to Anchorage Alaska, and spent two wonderful weeks exploring the state. I’d heard horror stories about bad service and rude people. My experiences couldn’t have been better, everyone was smiling and helpful, and I had an amazing trip. Sometimes things go wrong and don’t work out, but maybe next time they will. Almost any place can provide a good experience,so always hope for the best.

        • That is true, JC. Foreigners are usually treated preferentially, though and Romanians are considered friendly – which they are. In the end, it doesn’t matter that much at the end of the day if the clerk at the store smiled or not as long as you get nice friends here and you love the area.

  4. A very interesting read, thank you! I was always curious about Bulgaria. Both Bulgaria and Romania were accepted into the EU at the same time, and there seems to be a “competition” between the two to see who catches up to EU standards of living first. Your description of Albena and the friendly Bulgarian employees suggests the Bulgarians might be edging ahead of Romania. I think a very big problem for Romania is the “brain drain” of its most ambitious people to Western Europe where they earn far more than they can get in Romania. Maybe the Bulgarians don’t have this problem to the same extent because Slavs are a little less likely to migrate. The only Romanians left in Romania are the ones beholden to the PSD or retirees nostalgic for communist times. I read an interesting article recently ( which said there was a labor shortage in Romania. Construction companies, restaurants, meat processors and even wineries were desperate for workers. It told the story of a meat processing company which recruited and trained young Romanians only to see them run off to Germany when their training was finished. Its manager said the only solution was to “cut unemployment compensation for a while so that the unemployed would come back to work.” Romania is a mystery: how can such a beautiful country with so many natural resources and such highly intelligent (and beautiful) people be such a disaster? I have to think the “brain drain” explains it.

    • I am still in Romania – although I won’t lie and say that I wouldn’t like to move somewhere else 🙂

      I recently read a story where some guys who launched an agricultural company in Romania was looking for employees and was offering salaries between 3 to 5,000 Euros per month and he had no applications – I don’t remember what the positions were, but Romania is definitely lacking in many areas.

      Most people are now leaving the country by default. Another interesting article I read claimed that you could put Euros and Lei on par: 1,000 lei in Romania equals 1,000 Euros in Germany, for example. And this could be true: I have a friend in Germany, earning around 1,000 Euros per month and obviously struggling. He’s also sharing a studio with a relative and has a long commute to work. A job he also happens to hate.

      But the reason why he prefers to do this is because in Germany he managed to find a job. He tries to find a better one – if not, he plans to get a second, part time job. He’s there for two-three years now and changed a few jobs, but all were in the same area in terms of wages. However, he has no plans to come back because, as he says, he got fed up with the mentality here and the lack of trust and opportunities. Because while he was here, he tried for 2 years to get hired without any success…

      So it’s a difficult situation. Romania is beautiful if we look at it’s natural beauty. Things are improving, fortunately, and in the past couple of years, there have been reports of nice things happening. There are younger people who still believe in this country and stay here, doing their best to help it proceed. But it’s not easy – and the mentality, the way people act and behave in most cases is what’s killing it.

      For a foreigner, things are not as bad. The circles they’ll be in will most likely be in the more educated and probably more affluent areas, maybe also surrounded by other expats who will balance things out. Romanians tend to be friendly with foreigners and show them more respect. For these reasons, in most cases, it’s much better to be an expat – or just a foreigner in Romania – that a born and raised Romanian. At least for now.

      • I like what you said about putting the Lei against the Euro or any other currency for that matter. My husband is always saying the same thing. He gets miffed when people say a place is cheap because he considers it so IF the people of the country can afford to do things like eating out and having a comfortable life almost if not equal to the tourists. Most places you go, the locals are squeezed. Poland was the first place l felt people (locals) could eat out etc because the costs were low. We didn’t see the same in other places like Lisbon where everyone talks about how cheap it is. Maybe compared to where they came from, but not for the people that live there. 1000 euro wage in Italy and you are struggling just as much as your friend in Germany. Italy is the same, few jobs. His friends moved out of Rome leaving their kids and wives behind and send back money from Denmark, U.S etc. It’s not pretty right now and l am glad l’m older :-).

        • Exactly! Some places might seem cheap for those visiting – or for those not depending on local income. From that point of view, Romania is a great choice. Not so much if you earn your living here, where 1,000 Euros would be considered an amazing wage.

        • Kemkem & Calin,

          I definitely get that about cost of living as a tourist or expat compared to the local populations, and Kemkem, that’s a good litmus test of local spending power if they can afford to dine out a couple of times a week. During my research for countries with low cost of living (based on receiving U.S. retirement income), it’s not hard to find those where your U.S. income goes two, three, even four times farther than moderate to larger cities here at home.

          Sadly, the locals in some of those places are more often than not struggling just to survive week to week. Even in the U.S., there are approximately 45 million or 14% of the population below the poverty line, living week to week. Some are one check away from being homeless. It’s sad.

          That said, it’s understandable why so many retirees are looking for places abroad to make their limited fixed incomes go a little further. Personally, I dealt with unforeseen circumstances where I had to spend a huge portion of my retirement savings helping family members with emergencies and ailing parents with lengthy expensive medical treatments. I wouldn’t do anything differently if I had it to do over, but it has drained my retirement nest egg to a point where I have to be more frugal now, and try to live mostly on S.S. while trying to hold onto whatever savings I have left for emergencies. We all have our own stories, and we just do the best we can with the cards we’re dealt in life.

  5. According to Numbeo Bulgaria is a little more expensive than Romania now. 45% cheaper than the U.S., versus 47% for Romania. These are overall averages with all cities lumped together. Most likely both countries have rural areas that are much cheaper. I’m guessing the popularity of Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast probably accounts for it’s surge in costs. When I first started looking at Numbeo both countries were more than 50% cheaper than the U.S. with Romania the more expensive one. Joining the EU certainly contributes to rising prices.

    • Hello Wade,

      Numbeo shouldn’t be trusted too much. The reality is completely different – at least in Romania’s case (or at least slightly different) than what Numbeo says. However, the good thing about them is that they usually their estimated prices are higher than what you get, so you can only get a pleasant surprise when you see the reality 🙂

      Regarding Bulgaria being more expensive, I can’t really tell – but the prices on the Black Sea coast are definitely higher than what you’d get in Romania.

      • I found Numbeo pretty accurate for Mexico. They have a comments section and for Tirana, Albania several were saying restaurant prices for inexpensive restaurants were too high. I’ve seen some prices for various cities that seemed wrong based on what I had seen on expat forums. Since they base their numbers on averaging reader contributions I guess best you can hope for is a “ballpark” figure. Or knowing someone like you who actually lives in a place! 🙂

  6. Hi Wade,
    Thanks again, and I remember you had a lot of valuable info on Albania that you posted on Tim Leffel’s blog regarding cost of living there. Albania sure makes it easy to at least try it there, basically only a passport to stay a year and easy path to longer stay after that. Batumi Georgia looked good to me too, as it’s basically a similar deal of a year stay just for the asking there. It’s on the Black Sea, directly across from Varna Bulgaria or Constanta Romania. Georgia would concern me for any length of time, due to being a small country nestled between Turkey and Russia, where the situation could become volatile relatively quickly in that region in the near future. I hope to see a lot of the countries in those regions, as long as my savings hold out. Albania & Georgia both could be places to hang out in between the 90 day intervals away from Romania & Bulgaria.

    That said, everything is subject to change, as I have no idea what area I may or may not potentially fall in love with once I get over there. I still hope to travel around Central, Eastern Europe, and down to Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, etc, for maybe a year or so, before settling down for good, most likely in Romania, though still depending on many factors. Since I’ve never been, it’s all just according to research, but I haven’t found any place that seemed as ideal long term to me as the Transylvania area of Romania (the mountains, weather, culture, architecture, cost of living, proximity to the rest of Europe, etc. all major pluses).

    • Hi JC, I think you’re right about Transylvania, and if Romania ever decides to offer a reasonably priced retirement visa I’m heading there. Albania has some plusses being close to Italy and Greece as well as the rest of the Balkans. But it’s got issues like the rest of them. There’s a Facebook group called Georgian Wanderers that gives a lot of insight into living in Georgia. Most of them complain about living there, while some Albania expat Facebook groups seem to love it there. That’s enough for me.

      • Oh Wade, one other thing, I hope you’ll keep us posted on your experiences if you do end up in Albania for a time and if it lives up to what we’ve read about it. I have to find more of these expat forums to review, because just as you’ve said before, nothing beats actually being able to speak to or communicate via forums, etc with expats actually living the places you’re considering for relocating.

        I am also still looking at Uzhhorod in the Ukraine, and while they do have the 90 day stay policy, I’ve read several places they are very lenient about enforcement of it. Plus, it’s one you had recommended before; very cheap, close to the Carpathian mountains, the Slovakian border, and not far from the Hungarian border either.
        Thanks again.

  7. Thanks Wade, and I definitely understand about how the difficulty and expense of long term stay visas in Romania could be a deal-breaker. Such a beautiful country with so much to offer, but with distance from U.S. already a deterrent to many retirees, adding the difficulty & expense of long term stays or retirement visas kills it for some.

    For consideration closer to home, Colombia has some nice cities & towns to live, cheap, and easy to stay long term. I know others who also look at Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, etc, also, but Colombia has their act together and is a better deal overall from what I’ve seen. But then across the pond of course, Albania and Georgia both make it easy to at least try it there, while also being very inexpensive for those with U.S. dollars.

    About a year ago, I had planned to be in Sibiu Romania by now, working on getting my long stay visa, but I’ve been delayed by financial issues, legal matters that are taking longer than I had thought. So now, I have a lot to think about between now and probably early spring before I’ll be ready to finally make the move. I plan to spend all that time continuing to research, and keep an open mind for every possibility. Thanks again.

    • I’ve looked at Colombia too. Two things that make the Balkans and Eastern Europe better for me. Overall level of English usage. Safety. While Colombia has improved the safety issue it’s a long ways from being as safe as many countries in Europe. And I know enough Spanish to figure out a lot but can’t converse. If you’re fluent you’d have a much easier time. Colombia does have some beautiful places with a great climate up in the mountains. If you’re a beach person it’s boiling hot year’round. Medellin has fantastic public transportation along with a great climate and all the amenities. And Spirit Airlines can get you there cheap from Ft. Lauderdale. I think I’d blend in a lot easier in Europe and after 3 months in Mexico I’d say that’s a good thing. Colombia has areas up in the mountains, including Medellin, where it’s easy for Americans to blend in, except for the fluency issue.

      I think the trick to Ukraine is to stay well past the 90 days. If they’re going to penalize you for staying 5 months and not let you back in for several years, might as well stay a year before seeing what they’ll do. But everything I’ve seen says that you’ll pay a reasonable fine, and your ability to reenter is immediately reset so that you can come back right away. Some countries are really strict about the 90 day rule, but apparently Ukraine is sensible about it, and prefers people spending their hard currency in Ukraine than elsewhere. If Romania was that flexible I’d go to Transylvania immediately and find an apartment.

      • Thanks Wade, and I really enjoy reading about your thoughts and experiences about what you’ve found so far. I feel like we’re mostly on the same page regarding what we’re looking for as expats, and have similar ultimate goals. Btw, regarding Colombia, it’s still on my radar, but mostly three smaller cities south of Medellin in the mountains of coffee country. Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales, with the later being more hilly and the coolest with spring like temps most of the year. All relatively safe, but as a friend told me who is in Cuenca Ecuador; most of these towns are safe in the centers, but outside of town and on the roads between towns can be still be dangerous, especially at night. And yes, fluent Spanish is very helpful too for anyone relocating there.

        Still, there is something about that city in Ukraine (Uzhhorod) that really appeals to me too, and yes, I like the cold…lol. But, as you say, if Romania were as flexible with long term stays, there would be no question, Transylvania is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in photos, videos, and as described by people who’ve been there. I love the weather, mountains, castles in the area, wildlife, the vistas covered with rich, colorful, foliage, unlike parts of other countries in the region where the mountains are scorched and more barren looking. Still undecided, but again, would love to hear about what you actually experience in Albania, if you actually end up there for a while.

        I still have hopes of making it a real adventure, traveling around that general region for a while, possibly close to Romania, just in case. It’s more likely than not, that I’ll end up in that general region, but could end up spending time moving around a bit, and ideally, I may start from Katowice Poland, to say Uzhhorod Ukraine, to Batumi Georgia, and back down to Tirana Albania or Ohrid Macedonia. My initial research has inspired some genuine appeal for for each of these local areas. But, that plan is subject to change & could be more expensive than I’ve anticipated as well. We shall see.

      • Hi Wade,
        Sorry to ask so many questions, but you seem pretty knowledgeable about many countries in the area. What do you know about Montenegro? It looks beautiful, most places there are pretty cheap, and temporary residency permits seem fairly easy to get as well with only proof of enough income to support yourself along with acquiring local health insurance needed. Plus, according to, there are a lot of American expats living there or in the process of moving there. Also, let me say that I’m not trying to hijack Calin’s site here, as I think we’d both prefer to be in the Transylvania area of Romania if long term residency was a little easier, which btw, I still hope to be at some point. But in the meantime, I may spend some time before that where it’s easier to get temporary residency in the region while figuring things out. Thanks! JC

        • Hi J.C., Sorry it took so long. Everything I’ve read about Montenegro says it’s great. Wasn’t aware of the ease of residency, which makes it very interesting. It’s more expensive than Albania or Romania, but read a post the other day that if you get away from tourist areas it gets real cheap. Overall according to Numbeo it’s reasonable. An interesting thing about all the Balkans is rentals range from reasonable to astonishingly cheap, depending on the town. I was considering Shkoder, Albania to live because it’s only an hour from Podgorica, which seems to have good amenities. If you like mountains I’ve seen YouTube videos of Montenegro that look gorgeous. Thanks for the tip on the residency. Will have to explore that.

  8. Hi Wade,
    That’s great, but I may have spoken too soon, unfortunately. I did read one place, that proof of income and medical coverage was all that was needed for a temporary residence visa, but on their visa site, it appears buying property might be necessary as well. I swear it seems you need to be an attorney to thoroughly understand the jargon used for the visa requirements on many of these sites for the various countries.

    Now, I’m also looking at Ohrid Macedonia, which has a lot to offer, seems to be a beautiful place, that is both nice and inexpensive, and also appears to be a bit easier and cheaper to get residency than EU countries like Romania, Hungary or Bulgaria. I guess nothing is perfect, as I’ve also recently read concerning things about Georgia and now even Albania, which is a shame since they are so easy to stay long term as American expats.

    Anyway, thanks again, and I hope to stay in touch and hear more about Albania, or wherever you end up, as it sounds like you’ll be making the move a lot sooner than I. Also, I was just looking at Shkoder, and it’s exactly the kind of place I usually look for; it’s close to a big city (60 miles from Tirana), but smallish-medium sized pop. at 135k, on a lake, near mountains, and directly across from Montenegro & near other places of interest, all good things!

    • I asked an Albania expat Facebook group about Shkoder. Consensus is that they really like it, but for movies, shopping, etc you have to go elsewhere. One lady said it doesn’t have shopping centers. What I really like about Korce is it has a milder summer climate, is close to Lake Ohrid as well as Greece, and the latest movies play there. It’s the only movie theater in the country outside of Tirana best I can determine. Shkoder takes two hours to get to Tirana because of the roads, but only an hour to Podgorica. I like Macedonia too and there’s a workaround by starting a business to get residency, similar to Romania but I don’t think the fees are as high. If I go to Macedonia most likely it would be Bitola. Ohrid gets very quiet outside of the summer season, and that includes many restaurants shutting down. Bitola is a very nice small city that’s much more affordable than Skopje. Ultimately just being able, as an American, to move to a city with everything like Tirana without all the red tape makes it worthwhile to me. If other places are so compelling that I’d be willing to deal with the hassle to move there then I’ll definitely consider it. As Americans after one year will still have to leave Albania for 90 days on the tourist card. Will explore options then. Macedonia is so affordable that it’s not worth dealing with Ukrainian winters to pay a little less. Was surprised the other day to learn that Skopje is more affordable than Tirana, and it’s by far the most expensive city in Macedonia. What are your concerns about Albania?

      • Should add about Shkoder not having malls, big supermarkets, etc not a negative for me. Something that does appeal is biking is very popular there. Just wished it had a multiplex theater. And more choices food wise. Can get Thai in Tirana.

        • Yea, Shkoder sounded like the best bet for me, though honestly I’d prefer to do without any 85 F degree weather altogether, lol…and yes, I don’t care about malls and such either, actually I kind of hate malls, as I spent so much time being dragged around them by my wife during the holidays…lol…and as far as cinemas, etc are concerned, I guess that’s where not only fast internet, but access to movie sites like Netflix, etc and such come into play, as I get most of that kind of entertainment online currently. Otherwise, I’d be checking out the outdoor activities, like nature trails and parks, cafes, etc. Oh, as far as Albania and Georgia negatives, I don’t know how reliable any of that I read on one forum was, but one guy said Georgia is changing becoming more authoritarian, and some of the new government’s changes seem to be showing anti-American sentiments, which could be a bad thing if true. On Albania, take this with a huge grain of salt, but the comment said that since Albania is the only majority Muslim country close to Western Europe, that radicalized groups (ISIS?) are spending more time recruiting there now. I don’t know if either of those things are true and haven’t read it anywhere else. So, there may be nothing to it. I know I’ve read about Macedonian cities where there are large Muslim and Christian populations living side and side, that get along just fine and have for many years. Personally I wouldn’t be worried unless I saw something I found concerning myself after living there for a while. Keep me posted. Thanks!

  9. Everything I’ve read says Muslims and Christians get along very well in Albania. Primarily because the Communists suppressed religion to the point that most Albanians are just nominally Muslim or Christian. Guess it only takes one fanatic though. Have read that several hundred ISIS fighters have returned from Syria and Iraq to the Balkans. Most likely includes Albanians. Albanians in Macedonia have had conflict with their gov’t which broke out in violence in the 90’s. Interesting fact about the far north around Shkoder is it’s primarily Catholic, not Orthodox, and they even outnumber Muslims there.

    I’ve seen concerns in Georgia that the current administration isn’t is pro-West as previous ones are. Probably political reality of being next to Russia. What it comes down to for me is settling for the realities of either Albania, Georgia, or Ukraine for staying long term, or dealing with serious costs and red tape of a few other countries that are possible to stay long term, or moving back and forth every 90 days which for me isn’t a real problem but might get old for some. It’s tempting to do that between Romania and Ukraine or Romania and Bulgaria. The latter would allow using the best internet in the region. There are so many nice cities and interesting cultures it would be fun planning the next move. But that’s if my wife doesn’t come. If she does we’ll be in one spot with the occasional short trip.

    • Wade, I really enjoy reading your posts as I basically relate to everything you’ve said, and am leaning toward very similar scenarios for myself when the time comes around. Just as you say, Albania and Georgia surely have to be part of the discussion of where to stay long term simply because of the ease of staying there. I also have certainly thought about the idea of shuffling back and forth in the region every 90 days or so, at least for while, but suspect it would eventually lose it’s appeal. As I understand though, you couldn’t go from Romania to Bulgaria or back and forth from any other EU country, as you have to leave the EU region every 90 days within a 180 day period before returning. But, it’s still a very workable alternative, that after the 90 days in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, etc, you have non-EU countries like Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Georgia, etc, etc..that are cheap and you could wait out the next 90 days before returning to the EU.
      I had pretty much reconciled myself to the idea doing that for my first year or so in the region anyway, just for the adventure of it, and to see & experience more countries, before eventually settling somewhere more permanently to hopefully create a home base. I still may continue to travel around some as long as my savings and health holds out. Uzhhorod actually is really appealing to me of the Ukrainian cities, being at the foot of the Carpathian mountains, and so close to Hungary, Slovakia and Romania’s borders. Anyway, I’m having fun researching any info I can find, as well as forums and anyone planning to retire or spend much time in the region.

      • Actually you can. They’re in the EU, but not in the Schengen treaty area. The countries that are in that require you leave that entire area after 90 days in an 180 day period. While Romania and Bulgaria both require 90 in, 90 out, you can go from one to the other. They’re candidates for being included but so far have been denied membership. Hey it’s great to talk to someone on the same wavelength!

  10. Well, that’s very good to know, and I’m very happy to have been mistaken!… and Wade, it’s great to compare notes with someone who shares similar views of these challenges, and understands how difficult the decision process can be looking ahead as an expat. Also, for me, this has become about taking time to consider other options, I’m thinking this shuffling around for a while could be a blessing, giving me the opportunity to spend time in other countries for comparison. Of course all of that would be helpful toward determining the best long term fit for me before actually setting down roots somewhere. When I started this process over a year ago, and according to all my research at the time, the Transylvania area had seemed to be the perfect place to settle long term. But because of the expense, bureaucracy, paperwork & long process involving local attorneys and accountants, my original plan to hit the ground working toward that goal by starting the application process immediately, began to seem premature and possibly a mistake. I just need to be sure before going through all that.

    So now, a year later, and less certain of several things, it now seems reasonable to alternate between Schengen countries and non, but including them in the rotation, like start in Bulgaria, on to Romania then to Hungary and back to Bulgaria. It just makes sense to check out as many countries as you’re able, and be as certain as you can before starting that residency process anywhere, which will require a big commitment on so many levels, including learning a difficult new language, etc, etc, etc.

    • Another affordable alternative is Armenia, which gives 6 consecutive months then you either leave or apply for residency. The capital Yerevan is worth considering. The problem with the Schengen countries is they’re too expensive, for me at least, and very difficult to move to. Would be nice to stay in a country full-time that really has it’s act together, and in the whole non-Schengen East Europe/Balkans/Caucasus region I’d say that’s Romania more than the others. Outside of that have to look at individual cities rather than take a country as a whole. Could definitely see spending time in Budapest or Prague, but will most likely go the cheap route.

  11. Exactly, this is why I need to plan better & longer, and make the most of whatever time I do end up spending traveling around, checking out different cities before settling in some place. So, point taken, as it certainly appears as if Armenia is worth checking out as well. And trust me, costs are very important to me too, as I don’t have unlimited funds for all of this, but that said, before I settle down somewhere, I want to feel reasonably confident I’ve made the best choice available for me.

    Most countries in Central & Eastern Europe have areas or cities away from the capitals that are generally pretty reasonable. Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, etc all have cities as cheap to live as most any place in Romania, but Budapest or Prague definitely aren’t the cheapest, though nice cities to spend time. Personally, I like a little cooler weather, so I found Katowice, a cool thriving city in Poland as very reasonable and has lots to do and plenty of nature parks, outdoor activities, etc. as well. Then there is a really charming little seaside resort town in Estonia, called Haapsalu, it’s cheap, friendly, with lots of history and only 60 miles from the capital of Tallinn, but might be too chilly for some, with average summer temps in the 50’s & 60’s.

    Plus, you make a good point, as I find I’m looking more at cities, than necessarily countries, because most of the countries in Eastern Europe have cheap cities to consider & live. Ideally, I prefer places that are close to a large city if needed for medical or shopping, etc. but far enough to have a charm of it’s own, be safer, friendlier and less expensive. A good example in Bulgaria is Blagoevgrad, an amazing city, only 60 miles south of Sofia, the capital, but much cheaper, has everything you need, is walkable, and includes mountains and an American University. I agree that Romania is probably becoming more “westernized” overall than other countries in the region, based on much of what I read in Romania-Insider each day. Still, they struggle economically and with corruption, and I’d say Poland is doing better in that regard than any other Central or Eastern countries, and comparable with some Western European countries.

    Finally, as of now, I am still planning to begin my journey/adventure next spring, and will travel about Central, Eastern, Balkans, etc areas as much as I can afford for a year, or two, before picking a place to settle. I still have a lot of loose ends to wrap up here in the states before I leave, but I also want to spend as much time as I can continuing to research right up until the end. Plus, I have to prepare for things to go wrong and the unexpected, and learning to be more patient, as typically that’s not a strong suit of….Ultimately, my main goal is be as prepared as I can, but once that’s done, try and relax & enjoy the whole process. We’ll see.

  12. OK, now we’re getting into strategy. Here’s what I’m looking at. Have been looking for situations where two reasonably nice affordable cities are close together but across borders so 90 days in one, then the other. Or live in one, but across a border and nearby is a city with a low cost air carrier like Wizz Air. Uzhhorod is close to Kosice, Slovakia, a VERY nice city that has Wizz Air service. Kosice would also be a nice break once in awhile from less developed Uzhhorod. There’s another Ukrainian city that’s getting a lot of attention and is bigger and more developed than Uzhhorod but isn’t that much more expensive. Chernivtsi. And it’s close to Suceava, Romania which has Wizz Air service. Suceava could be a place to spend 90 days if need be but I’d prefer Oradea. Another interesting possibility is Saranda, Albania. Affordable but a real zoo in the summer. But it’s a hydrofoil ride away from Corfu, Greece which is really developed and has a good airport that all the discounters fly to. Finding a place that you can fly to from London is important to me because London is the best city to fly to the States from at a reduced rate. Norwegian Airlines and WOW Airlines get you to the States cheaply from there. WOW now has 12 cities it flys to Europe from as low as $99 one way. Can fly from St.Louis to Paris for $149 one way and can connect to discounters from there to a number of places but more choice from London. Shkoder isn’t far from two airports in Montenegro that can get you to London on RyanAir or Easy Jet. And there are many cities in Romania and Bulgaria that you can get to London on Wizz Air. One of Albania’s drawbacks is hard to fly cheaply into Tirana but can catch nearby flights out of Greece, Montenegro, or Kosovo. Ukraine the same way but western Ukraine can be reached from neighbouring countries.

    The one thing I want infrastructure wise is good internet. So if going to do the 90 day thing best bet for internet is Romania/Bulgaria. If costs are the first consideration, then Albania or Georgia or especially Ukraine. Finding the balance of costs, internet, airport access, lifestyle, atmosphere, that’s the trick.

    • OK, now you’re talking! This is great stuff! And though I wasn’t even “here” yet, this would have been, and certainly seems to be, the next natural step in my research process moving forward. I had done some preliminary checking on RyanAir and Wizz Aiir, who recently opened up new routes in the region. Romania-Insider even had an article about expanded destination/stops in Romania, etc. I was surprised that for some reason, I was finding RT flights from parts of Florida to Sofia Bulgaria, much cheap that anywhere in Romania, or other close by cities. One search found a couple of months ago had a $525 RT fare from Ft Lauderdale to Sofia, for example. Anyway, thanks for reminding me this part of the research is important also, because I hadn’t thought much about possibly cheaper transcontinental flights out of London specifically.

      Also, for me, once I actually settle in Eastern Europe (for example), I don’t intend to come back to the U.S. more than once a year, maybe, and then only for the holidays, barring some kind of family related emergency. Still, cheap fares should be important to keep in mind for those occasions. For me, priorities beyond a place with reasonably friendly people & safe; is climate, access to decent medical and fast internet. I spend most of my time indoors online in some capacity, and when outside want to be exploring nature. I do hate extreme heat though, so seasonal weather is best, and I guess short hot summers would be acceptable as long was there were also real fall & winter weather. As I mentioned before, someplace where it never got hot, like parts of Ukraine or Estonia, would be fine by me. Romania is definitely hard to beat for both fast and cheap internet, but Bulgaria is close, and Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, and others are decent too. Even Estonia and Ukraine has good internet in larger cities.

      Now it seems as though I remember on another blog you mentioning to Tim Leffel about being retired airline, so you surely know most of the tricks and how to get the best fares, which I’m sure will be very useful. It’s unfortunate that Bulgaria and especially Romania have almost everything one might desire; being that they’re safe, cheap, with fast internet, and breathtakingly beautiful nature and architecture, friendly locals, etc, but are also among the most difficult and frustrating places to get permanent residency.

      Interestingly enough, I’ve never even been to Europe, so all my research thus far is on paper, once I get there, boots on the ground, so to speak, then I can better determine if someplace easier to become an expat isn’t as appealing, or if not, eventually bite the bullet and go through the process and jump through all the hoops to make it happen. Just so you, it’s been a pleasure hearing about your findings so far as well. Keep us posted with any updates, ideas, or discoveries you come across as you prepare to make the journey yourself sometime soon.

      • Forgot to mention that it was an article written by an American teaching in Blagoevgrad that got me started on all of this. Ultimately decided there were other places I was more interested in but living there and taking train to Sofia once in awhile seems like a pretty good lifestyle. There are a lot of British in Bulgaria and some have told me Bulgaria has done a pretty good job of rigging even rural areas for internet with good speeds. Bulgaria has lost a lot of population looking for work abroad and as a result you can find very nice homes there for much less than Western Europe or the U.S. all over the country. Some go for very little but need serious remodeling and you can find fully refurbished homes on very large lots for less than $50k, often much less. And between $50k and a $100k you’d be amazed at what’s out there. The Bulgarians have an aesthetic with stone and wood that’s very attractive. It too is a very mountainous country with great scenery. Bulgaria does have a retiree visa but for Americans it’ll involve the dreaded red tape and high fees. But something to consider if you’re looking for a place within driveable distance of nice city. I’ve decided getting by without a car on my budget is necessary so looking at the cities.

        All my research is on paper too so take what I’m writing with a grain of salt! Too often what we find out when we arrive at a place is totally different than what we imagined. Could be good, could be bad, never know. I like reading other’s take on places and if the general consensus is leaning a particular direction I go along with it. But things do change and I’ve read numerous posts of great improvements made in some countries or cities that surprised the poster. Of course they originally visited not long after the collapse of communism and are now surprised how improved some places have become.

        I hear you on traveling back to the States. Only for the holidays and family emergencies. I prefer warmer places with dry air. Heat is mitigated in the shade if air is dry enough. Can’t escape humidity. Still I may try Ukraine for the costs. The one thing that really throws me is the Cyrillic alphabet. Latin based languages are easier to decipher and there are many more English speakers in those areas. The Georgians have a totally alien alphabet too but they were kind enough to put English alongside just about everything. I would feel illiterate in Ukraine and feel uneasy about having to constantly ask for help. Not a big deal on a trip, but day to day I don’t know.

        Something I’m looking at right now is camping in Albania. They’ve got some very nice campgrounds that I could immediately get set up in while looking for a long term apartment. Much cheaper than AirBnB or hotels. WiFi and electric included for 7-10 Euros daily.

        Happy Labor Day!

        • A Very Happy Labor Day to you as well!

          I understand the appeal of Blagoevgrad, as after my initial research I had come to the conclusion that either there or Sibiu were almost perfect, so why keep looking? would just come down to those two….lol…that was even reinforced on , where someone told me those were the best choices of anywhere in the world, and they actually favored Blagoevgrad…hahaha….it would be somewhat ironic if after another year of constant research of every potential country, uncovering lots of attractive possibilities, if I ended up either of those original two cites. As we know,long term residency is not easy in either

          Yea, I’ve been round and round about learning a new language myself, and I see it as a necessity wherever I end up, even semi-permanently. Spanish would cover almost all of Mexico, Central America and South America, so that’s tempting, and Romanian is considered a “romance language” and supposed to be easier and similar to Spanish, Italian and French. Almost everywhere else uses a Cyrillic alphabet or an otherwise totally different & alien to us alphabet. So, there’s that to consider. As far as real estate, I seriously doubt I will ever purchase property in another country, or even here in the U.S. again, once mine are sold soon. I would be content to live the rest of my life without that commitment and just rent wherever I end up.

          It sounds like you are checking a lot more resources than I, but I’m just not comfortable with FB or other social media. I do check expat exchange,, and others, but I find it’s really difficult to find expats from U.S. in any of the locations I’ve seriously considered to get real, boots on the ground kind of information about the day to day life there. I would pay real money to do a group skype meet up online with American expats in Sibiu or Blagoevgrad, or even other places I’m seriously interested, etc., if I could just find them!

          Camping in Albania? Really? Now I could see a few days, but are you actually talking about living in a tent for an extended period? Wow! I don’t think that’s something that would work for me. I love being in the wild or around nature, but at the end of the day, I like to go back to a fully equipped cabin. lol…I stayed in the middle of nowhere beyond Denali National park in Alaska for a couple of weeks, but I was in a cabin with all the amenities. lol..My plan was hopefully to do an AirBnB for a few days up to a week or so, and use that time to search for something that can only be found & advertised locally, for an extended period of say three months, or however long I was able to stay there. Hopefully, reasonable rents can be found that way in most cities as I traveled about researching until such a time that I ultimately find a more permanent place.

          Finally, if there are any sites you could recommend that I haven’t discovered yet, where I might speak to expats about day to day life in the cities there, I would very much appreciate it. In fact, any tips would be appreciated!

  13. A lot I’ve stumbled across digging on Google. There are expat forums for Ukraine. Facebook has very good expat groups, just search for by country name plus the word expat. These are people actually living in places. Yahoo Groups too although I rarely look there anymore. There’s a Facebook group about traveling in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the former U.S.S.R.(mostly the Caucasus plus some posts on Kazakhstan). Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum is good, as well as the City Data Forum. And back to Google can find very good info from bloggers. Much of this you may have already found. My favorite is “Kami and the Rest of the World.” The area we’re discussing is her wheelhouse and she has tons of pictures.

    I would prefer a small apartment but recently found a tent called the Siesta4 that designed to reflect heat and keep relatively cool. Don’t know how I’d last but as long as I can be comfortable may just go that route. There’s a great campground on the edge of Gjirokaster that has excellent WiFi, it own well stocked convenience store and restaurant, clean restrooms. It’s only an hour to Saranda and Gjirokaster is beautiful. Gjirokaster is well connected by bus to not only Albania but Greece too. No movie theater but I have a secret weapon. I have Dish satellite set up at my father’s house. I can access it anywhere there’s a decent internet connection with their Dish Anywhere app. Worked great in Mexico. And my 78 yr old dad gets free tv. Win win! Gjirokaster is an UNESCO World Heritage site, just a great atmosphere. At any rate I’m waiting to hear back on letting me stay monthly at 150 Euros, electricity included. I’m eventually going back to the States permanently, have to live cheaply to get the mortgage paid off. If I decide I need to get an apartment at least I’ll have a tent for camping trips.

    • lol…well, I guess I need to reconsider my boycott of google, FB, etc then, eh? lol.. I have gotten away from them because a tech friend recommended switching to or as a search engine, and as a browser. Simply because all the tracking elements embedded in google programs slow down your browsing and searching, but well, also, you know, track you…hahaha. Since then my anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spyware hardly finds anything when I run my daily checks, but lights up like a Christmas tree after heavy use of google and google chrome. Anyway, that’s a story for another day. But for the sake of widening my scope & opening up more possibilities/options for research purposes, which is more important right now, then I’ll check out your suggestions.

      Now, about the tent, don’t get me wrong, it sounds like a great plan that saves a ton of money, and I admire you for being able to do that, but I just don’t think I could deal with it for any length of time. I’ve never liked camping, even as a kid, and as much as I love spending time hiking & taking photos in the great outdoors, especially in the mountains, and around wildlife and nature, I still like to sleep in a real bed in a structure with a roof at the end of of the day…lol.. Btw, that is some cool setup you have with access to the that satellite from anywhere in the world, that’s pretty amazing!

      To go back to the language barrier issue for a minute, I’m actually hoping that I can get by with mostly English, but still learning some basic phrases wherever I end up spending any time during that first year or so. But only while shuffling around until I decide where to settle permanently. Then of course I plan to study and learn the language fluently. From my basic preliminary research, I think most of the medium sized cities I’d spend time in have a decent amount of English speakers. Or I’m hoping so. For example, even though Kiev in Ukraine might be ok, my preference of Uzhhorod may be a real challenge without knowing the language? Others like Haapsula in Estonia are ok, being a tourist spot. I think Ohrid in Macedonia should be ok with some simple phases to get by for a while, as well as Sibiu in Romania or Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria. But these will be one of those situations we will have to deal with as they come up, and I’m sure many unexpected things will. No amount of preparation will fully protect us from things not working out as we hoped all the time. But hopefully almost everything that goes awry can also become a positive learning experience, eh? All part of the adventure!

      • You may be right about the tent. Couldn’t sleep through a lightning storm in it. Hmmm.

        Have you looked at the website Numbeo? Great for determining prices. They do a number of things to determine costs.. One is averaging out prices readers give them. That works really well with places that see a lot of contributors. Another thing they do is constantly adjust the prices given with current exchange rates. For example I’ve seen the average cost of meals in inexpensive restaurants in Uzhhorod go as low as $1.89, slowly work up to $1.98, now back to $1.93. Compare that to the most popular city in Western Ukraine, Lviv, where an inexpensive restaurant meal currently averages $3.08. Still a bargain. For comparison Tirana, Albania is $5.57 and Sibiu, Romania(for anyone not familiar with these cities)is $5.18.

        And that is just too much to ignore for me. I would love to enjoy the milder winters and great food of Albania, but I’m in it for the savings. Most likely Chernivtsi, maybe Uzhhorod, but I’m going to Ukraine. I’ll deal with the cold and the Cyrillic.

        Speaking of language I’m pretty certain you’ll find plenty of English spoken in Romania. And Macedonia seems to have a high percentage of English speakers. Most of these countries have English as a second language to varying degrees, especially amongst young adults. Very common in Serbia. Probably least common in Ukraine but there are some in the bigger cities.

        If you can handle Baltic winters you’re a better man than I am! Would that be a 90 day in/out deal?

        • Funny you mention, I have it pinned/bookmarked to my address bar and spent roughly an hour on there a day…lol..I also like to compare it to a similar site,, especially say for cities without a lot of data available, like Uzhhorod for example, while presuming that with less info to gather from, it probably isn’t as quite as accurate. Here:

          And thanks for confirming language probably won’t be a problem short term in decent sized cities, I was hoping that was the case in most of those cities you mentioned, which are mostly “on the list” as places to try out. Btw, there are several YT video tours along with lots of pics and such of Uzhhorod, and it’s actually a beautiful and fascinating city.

          Wade, just to give you an idea of how much I don’t mind the cold, check out this place near the Arctic Circle called Svalbard. Not kidding. No visas needed, ever! But winters last for over 3 months, in complete darkness, with average temps of -20 F, summers last 4 months, sun doesn’t set, with average temps of 35 F. If you travel outside the city limits, they require you carry a rifle, as you may run into a cranky Polar bear. Interesting read though, and I spoke to Vanessa, the blog author, extensively about the place. The deal breaker for me was the rent is high and availability very limited, over $1K a month. But, check out the blog below just for fun, here:

          You ask 90 day in/out? for Ukraine for example? You said they are pretty liberal on staying past the 90 days with small fees/fines right? So, if I really like it there, I may push it longer. To be honest, I really do need to stay in Sibiu for 90 days at some point, as well as Blagoevgrad just to see if I actually like those two cities in particular as much as I suspect that I will. That could be a game changer. But if I end up liking other places in the region as well, then I may stay on the move for a while, or at least until I get tired of shuffling around.

          As much as I love traveling, at some point, I know I’ll want to call some place home, or at least home base. And I’m with you on the prices in Ukraine being hard to resist. First things I look at on Numbeo or Expatistan is rent, utilities & internet. Those costs are your big nut, everything else is workable.

        • Wade, also one more question, do you have another source for checking costs for cities not listed on Numbeo (or Expatistan)? You mentioned Chernivtsi for example, but there are other cities not listed that I might prefer in some countries, if only there were a way to get an idea of costs. A good example of extremes is Czech Republic, where the difference in other cities is huge compared to Prague.

  14. Hi JC, Svalbard? You’re definitely tougher than I am, LOL! I was asking if Estonia had the 90 day rule but since they’re EU guess I know that answer already.

    I just ran across which has a good format but not sure how accurate they are. Used Expatistan almost exclusively at first, along with Nomad List, which is website dedicated to digital nomads. It has content that you have to be a paying member to see. Supposed to have a good forum. Pretty happy with Numbeo but it can be frustrating when they don’t have the city I’m researching. Saw an excellent YouTube video yesterday on living in Lviv as a digital nomad. Have you checked out “Kami and the Rest of the World” yet?

    I really reacted strongly to those prices yesterday. I may have to plan heading to the States during the worst of the winter. Or talk myself out of it altogether. It adds up, but not sure an extra couple of hundred dollars a month is worth it. If that much.

    I’ve wondered about minor cities in countries like Hungary, if they’re reasonably priced. I’ve noticed prices in Bulgaria and Romania have steadily increased since joining the EU. In our hemisphere countries that use the American Dollar are more expensive than others, namely Panama, El Salvador, and Ecuador. Ecuador used to be dirt cheap with money hardly worth the paper it was printed on. Now more expensive than Eastern Europe. The crime level and bad infrastructure don’t justify the cost to me but Ecuador has been pushed by hucksters selling info and pushing real estate developments. If Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia are more your speed go for it. None of these countries are really large so it’s not difficult to check them out.

    One of the things that has surprised me most about Europe, at least the eastern half, is the lack of development in many areas. The eastern U.S. has town after town close together and you don’t have to go to a large city for amenities. Many towns of 10,000 or more have a lot going on and bigger towns of 50,000+ have about everything you could want or need. Probably Europe was affected by the vast estates of noblemen, with people concentrated into dense urban areas. Just guessing. But take Albania, extremely rural in much of the country. I think Calin has warned against village life in Romania. Surprising to me after millennia of history compared to the short history of the U.S. that there’s such a big drop off in development once you leave the bigger cities.

    • Yes, I definitely prefer cooler…even ten years ago, I could hike in the mountains all day at 45-60 F degrees, but at 85 F+, I can’t last an hour before the heat just zaps the energy out of me, then all I want to do is sit in a pub drinking ice cold brews….and yes, Estonia is unfortunately both EU and Schengen Zone. Which makes me wonder, how close Romania and Bulgaria are to joining, as I see them listed everywhere as “future Schengen states” or at least eager candidates. But still, that leaves Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Ukraine, Serbia, etc. etc. to wander around for a time.

      Btw, yes, I did check out that “Kami and the rest of the world”, which is a very cool, fun site btw. I just read her post on Montenegro and Czech Republic, and interest upcoming places she’s visiting in the next few months as well. She’s in Poland now. And that’s a good point about some of the smaller towns and villages across much of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, some don’t have running water, electricity or indoor plumbing. Pretty rustic. But here in the states as you mentioned, we are accustomed to even small towns having everything. As an example, Sebring Florida, where I’ve spent some time recently on a consulting job, has only about 10k population, but has a Super Walmart, a decent sized mall, Red Lobster, Chilis, Outback, Olive Garden, and every fast food franchise under the sun, Starbucks, two large hospitals, etc. Another thing here in the U.S. is that many smaller towns are considered part of the extended Metropolitan area of nearby larger cities, which helps, and many folks end up commuting to larger cities as far as 50-60 miles away. This is what most of us are used to in the U.S., even in relatively small towns, so we have to adjust our way of looking at things there.

      Now, that said, larger cities across Europe have everything, some truly international cities like Budapest, aren’t much different that most any large Western cities anywhere else as far as what’s available there. But, then, we do have parts of the Ozarks, or other areas here, where people live off the grid too. But, back to traveling around Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and the Balkans, I’m with you on finding the least expensive cities or towns there that have the minimum in facilities needed. The trick is finding those gems that aren’t listed on Numbeo.

      In this part of the world, particularly south of the border here, I’ve heard better things about Colombia overall that anywhere else. Most others are over-hyped, and as you say, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ecuador, Belize, all have their issues, and collectively, all can be dangerous at night, especially when traveling between cities. Colombia is better I’ve heard by a few folks I’d talked to actually living there. Medellin, Cali, most parts are nice and safe. And even smaller mountain cities in coffee country, like Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales are nice, and safe. But, even though cheap, nothing like those prices you gave for Ukraine, etc. I suspect the lack of develop outside larger cities in Eastern Europe and Balkans is the lingering remnants and effects of communist control. For example, the best and brightest are leaving Romania and Bulgaria in droves, because of low wages and lack of real opportunities; so, it’ll just take time to reverse those trends and turn thing around.

    • Ok Wade, I see where you are getting some of your picks and suggestions now! Kami! I was wondering what turned you onto Chernivtsi in the Ukraine, and now I know; Kami wrote a wonder article on her visit there. Also, I developed a similar affection for Liberec Czech Republic after reading her article on it. Beautiful, amazing city, and it happens to be listed in Numbeo, with cheap prices as well. Apartments going for $180-$350. Mild summers and cold winters though. Also, nice benefit that it’s only 60 miles from Prague! I like the things she covers, and that she is all over that region. It’s also very helpful to find info about many other places it may be otherwise be difficult to research. Good info and good site, thanks for suggesting!

  15. Hi JC, Think of the options if these countries would make a path to residency! I try not to torture myself looking at countries with no hope of living there fulltime, LOL. Supposedly the Bulgarians are going to make it possible to stay for their British residents after Brexit. Might be worth keeping an eye on, could make it easier for Americans too.

    There’s a link I think on Kami’s blog to her Facebook group. There are very well informed people there although I stopped asking about living in places because their emphasis is on travel. Still a lot of information hard to find elsewhere. Many of them love Ukraine. One said Ukraine was the intersection of quality and affordability.

    I’ve been on enough Colombia forums to know it’s got a lot going for it, but it’s a place you never let your guard down. Remember one guy who’s sister-in-law was murdered in a home invasion. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it isn’t U.S. safe. And we all know these things can happen in the U.S., but if it’s perceived in Colombia that you have wealth and aren’t vigilant you can become a target, much more so than the U.S.. In the U.S. you can be solid middle class and not stand out. That kind of wealth in Colombia will get you noticed. In spite of the great climate in the mountains it’s not worth it to me to play roulette. Probably not going to happen, but a much higher possibility that it would than in places like Eastern Europe. Still, there are people who’ve been there for years with nothing happening to them. I took a look at Armenia last year because it’s much more affordable than Medellin and Spirit Airlines flies there. Decided lifestyle wise Medellin is where it’s at. If you like cold weather though you should consider Bogota. It’s much cooler than Medellin, and from what I’ve read the north side is much more secure and very much like living in a prosperous U.S. city. And being near the Equator you get consistent weather year’round. Many days in the 50’s. And if you like adventure sports San Gil is the place to be. Around 50,000 population if I remember right. There are Americans there. Manizales looks nice, imagine there are beautiful college girls everywhere there. But it’s an extremely hilly city. I love the views of such places, but it’s hard on the knees for me. Mine really feel it.

    Great to have choices! I’m going to go against my advice on Colombia and go do some reading on Bogota. It’s a huge city, might not be to my liking, but I wouldn’t mind a pleasantly cool climate either, as long as it didn’t turn into Siberia every year. I’ve read many positive posts on it in the past, and at the time was living in Texas and couldn’t imagine living in “cold” weather all of the time. That Facebook group I mentioned has had some great writeups about Chernivtsi and Uzhhorod. Ton of great info on that group.

    • After reading some about Bogota don’t think I’ll end up there. Got confirmation from that campground in Albania I can camp there monthly for 150 Euros. That includes electric and WiFi. Thought I might head there in March, but now more likely to head that way in late October.

    • Yes, how wonderful it would be if all (or most!) of these had easier, less expensive paths to residency! I still like Uzhhorod on paper, and looking at Chernivtsi too in Ukraine. I think that I prefer the variety of Eastern Europe and the Balkans to Central and South America too, but one big advantage for retirees is that you just need to show around $800 usd monthly income in Colombia, Ecuador or Nicaragua, plus insurance, in order to qualify for residency. I really liked the look and got good vibes about Manizales too, but you make a good point, regarding being so hilly, as I really like a walk-able town, but that may be too much of a good thing!

      Another issue I read is it doesn’t have a lot of English speakers and knowing the language quickly would be important. You’re actually giving me reason as well to take another look at Bogota. The weather is a little warm for me, but with year round averages in the 50’s-60’s, I think I could live with that. And a decent sized English speaking expat community, that helps the transition. Plus, safe areas of town as well. Also, I guess I’m going to have to put aside my phobia about FB and check out some of those FB groups, both Kami’s and others.

      Btw, I might be out of touch for a short time depending on what this little storm does, as I could be without power for a little while. I’m very close to the Southwestern part of Florida, and it seems Hurricane Irma is headed right for us. We’re expected to get hurricane force winds & conditions starting sometime late Saturday until into Monday morning, so loss of electricity among other things is a real possibility for a few days. So, as you can see, it’s not just the hot, humid climate that I won’t be missing about Florida when I finally make my move out of here next spring. Take care.

  16. Be safe! Most of my family lives around Leesburg, really worried about this one.

    Found a hotel in Albania that has a 49% monthly discount and is currently offering an extra 15% on top of that. Just over $150 USD for a month. It’s in Korce. Thinking my tenting days are over!

  17. P.S. Love going back to visit family, but have never missed the heat+humidity, the bugs, the storms, the overcrowding in the winter. Just didn’t know any better growing up there.

    • Well, I still don’t know anymore than I did yesterday! I think the weather channel is deliberately confusing sometimes, as the actual projected time of maximum impact, storm surge, inches of rain, consistent wind, wind gusts, etc., etc. All subject to change. Btw, I used to have some friends in Orlando who moved to the Leesburg area. Back to Irma, it’s worse for us that it’s shifted west, but we shall see tomorrow. I plan to stick it out, and if I’m lucky enough to make it through without any real damage to house or property, but, lose power, I’m outta here for a week. Anyway, I’m sure we could compare notes on how miserable Florida can be to live here; tourists only here for a week at Disney or the beach have no idea, right?

      Anyway, great find on that discount hotel in Albania, wow, those are some great rates, especially if it’s a half decent place. If I’ve learned anything in my twenty-five years of living all over Florida, from Orlando, to Tampa to South Beach and Miami and Sebring, it’s I have come to know very well that a top priority for my contentment at this stage of my life is to get someplace not so hot and humid, which just zaps the life out of me. I’d love the high 40’s through the 50’s, which is like the fall weather I grew up with further north, and can even be fine with 20’s or so too, as long as you bundle up, layer and dress for it. One thing most of the cities I’m most drawn to recently, whether in Ukraine, Czech Republic, or even Colombia, have milder to cool temps, and very little warmer temperatures.

      I truly look forward to a time in the near future, when I’m only passing through Florida for a brief visit to family. Unfortunately, it seems likely that I could easily be without electricity by this time tomorrow, so if that’s the case, keep me posted on your research and findings and I’ll be back here as soon as I can. Take care.

  18. Hi JC, Hope you and your family are doing ok. Read yesterday that close to 15 million people in Florida were without power. My Dad’s came back on Tuesday night. Guess it could’ve been worse. Hang in there!

  19. An interesting development. I was under the impression that Armenia only allowed 180 days in a 12 month period. Turns out if you go up to Georgian border before 6 months are up you can reset your tourist visa for a new 180 days! Same as Mexico and Peru. Yerevan is supposed to be a great town. Biggest drawback is flying there cheaply. Pretty much have to go through Georgia for discount flights. But that’s a well trodden path, easy to get transport.

    • Hi Wade,
      Boy that Irma was a pretty awful ordeal! Fortunately, very little damage to the house (just a few tiles from the roof), but many in the neighborhood had extensive damage. Just got power back this morning, but I understand millions in Florida still without power, and some won’t get it back for weeks. Anyway, glad your dad was ok too!

      Onward, back to the endless search for the perfect locations for us wannabe expats on a budget! I must give you credit for your research, as you find these interesting possibilities not even on my radar! Armenia now seems like something worthy of looking into a little more extensively! Good find! Though for me, I really like the costs and the climate of those towns discussed in Ukraine. Still, every place seems to have drawbacks of sorts. There is certainly something to say for Colombia too, be it Bogota, Armenia, etc, etc. Again, the irony for me is that still, either Sibiu or Blagoevgrad would be close to perfect and a no-brainer, at least on paper, if their path to residency were less complicated and cheaper. Also, I just talked to a old friend I hadn’t seen in years who recently spent a good bit of time in Huatulco Mexico in the state of Oaxaca on the Pacific coast. I would leave the link, but this site doesn’t like “links” and last time it took days for Calin to see it and approve. So, you can google it if interested. My friend Dan seems pretty picky (like us), and is not a big fan of most parts of Mexico, but really liked this area, so may also be worth checking out. Life’s been chaotic the last few days so still trying to get everything back to normal. Take care. I’m back on the research wagon btw!

      • Glad to hear you got through relatively unscathed! In all my years in Florida never experienced a full blown hurricane. I get nervous in thunderstorms out here in tornado alley. Actually saw a serious tornado about a year ago. Luckily it was out over farmland, did minor damage.

        Looked at Puerto Escondido up the coast from Huatulco. Huatulco itself is a well planned resort area where the Mexican gov’t was trying to be environmentally sensitive. Has never taken off like Cancun but those bays are gorgeous. But Mexico’s coast is boiling hot most of the year, with super mild winters. The exception is the coastline south of San Diego in Baja California. Being close to the U.S. makes it more expensive, but it’s a paradise climate like San Diego.

        Funny that there’s an Armenia, Colombia too. I looked at it seriously because Spirit Airlines flies there. There’s a nearby small town that’s very popular with Colombians called Salento if I remember right. Yerevan, Armenia has a very nice central core that attracts expats. Outside of that the city gets a bit dreary but is also considerably cheaper.

        One of the attractions of Ukraine to me is that there’s quite a bit to see within the country itself. Quite a few sizeable cities. And while Albania is small it has some very unique and interesting places to see plus has so much surrounding it. Armenia’s development outside of Yerevan is pretty limited. On the plus side it’s second city, Gyumri, is considerably cheaper. Pennies on the Dollar cheaper. There are some beautiful mountains there. But the borders to Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed, leaving only Iran and Georgia. Couldn’t pay me enough to visit Iran. Tbilisi is nice but compare that to living in Albania and visiting Greece or Italy. In Korce I’d be less than 30 miles from Ohrid. A fairly easy travel to Montenegro. It’s good to know places like Georgia and Armenia exist. Can always go there if Albania doesn’t work out.

        If you decide on Ukraine and start reading on various groups and forums, you’ll find there’s a hardcore expat group that believes you must adhere to the 90 day rule religiously. Got my head bit off for asking once about overstating. In their view it’s bribing border officials to pay the fine. Others have done it without issue which rankles them. These are guys who married an Ukrainian and got residency. If you go that route you’ll encounter this. They act like it’s their country. Encountered the same from Mexico expats who hate that they went through the residency process while others make border runs to renew their tourist card. Even in other countries you have to deal with Americans who want to control everything!

        • Hi Wade,
          It’s amazing and I feel incredibly lucky to have come out from this storm with practically no damage and to have gotten power back after just 2-1/2 days, while much of Florida is still without, and there are areas of such terrible devastation.

          Yes, one thing I found in originally researching Mexico was almost the entire country was too hot for my liking and the few area that weren’t and were safe, were also expensive. Your “boiling hot” description says it all for me on that area. One thing that jumped out at me about Bogota is that the annual climate as listed is as ideal as it gets for me, it’s my “sweet spot” for sure. High 40’s to high 60’s, basically year round is my Shangri-la….lol…never too hot, never too cold. With over 8 million people, it’s a very large city, with all the problems of big city life, but they also have something for everybody, and there are safe areas that don’t cost an arm and a leg too. That and the fact that residency seems fairly easy compared to the EU countries definitely makes it worth taking a closer look at more details.

          On the other hand, I like much about Uzhhorod, and it’s only a 7 hour drive from Sibiu Romania, which was my first choice when I first got serious about joining the ranks of my fellow expats. I can also see benefits in your idea of Korce Albania too for example, being just a short jog over to Ohrid Macedonia, which I really liked for their weather, natural beauty of the area, outdoor activities, etc, as well. I think it would be relatively easy to move around Eastern Europe and the Balkans if I decided to start someplace there. And likewise to try other cities in Colombia, as well as Ecuador, Nicaragua , etc, if trying out Central and South America.

          But it would quickly get expensive to travel back and forth between Ukraine and Colombia for example. And short of actually taking a scouting trip to these places, the best I can do in addition to my research, is in working harder to establish contact with expats actually living in these places and get as much “boots on the ground” info on their actual day to day experiences there.
          That would be a tremendous help. It’s a shame you’ve encountered those hard core groups against not trying to find ways to get around the 90 day in/out rule.

          And trust me, I hear you on staying away from Iran, or Afghanistan or Iraq as far as that goes. I’ve had enough conflict in my life, just looking for some peace and tranquility as I approach my golden years…lol. I really appreciate the opportunity to exchange ideas and compare the findings from our research, as it’s easy with the whole world to consider, that we could overlook some retirement haven yet undiscovered.

          My goal is to narrow my choices down to two places to decide between before I start my journey, and by the first of the year. Then I’ll start my preparations for whichever that happens to be before I actually leave, with my current target date around the first to middle of May. Therefore I still have a few solid months to continue researching, but need to find ways to get more usable info from this time and expats to talk to. Take care, and let’s keep this exchange of ideas and info going, as it’s very encouraging for me.

  20. Hi JC, Heard today that 2.5 million are still without power. Was 15 million at one point. Got to give those power guys credit. Can only imagine the work they’re putting in!

    I think you and I are thinking along the same lines, as in where the heck am I going to end up at?!! My wife actually said tonight she thinks she wants to come with me. Depends on whether her daughter can handle the mortgage payment by herself. Not holding my breath, but if she does come we’ll get a nice apartment in Tirana and just live our lives. I’ll probably still go to Korce for awhile by myself to send her money to get the car paid off. Can send over a thousand a month. Then she’ll join me. But the plan to get the house paid off is out the window.

    I’ve read several times in the past that northern Bogota is very much like living in a prosperous American city. Getting to Florida from there is easy. Don’t know if it matters but the big difference between Bogota and Medillin, as well as the Coffee Triangle, is Bogota is much more mestizo. They look like Mexicans but the culture is definitely Colombian. As is the case in most of Latin America the more prosperous neighborhoods will have more whites. Not saying this for anything other than it’s just easier to blend in if many around you look like you. Read about Manizales that blond hair and green eyes are common there. I’m definitely heading to Albania, but Bogota looks like a viable option that meets your criteria.

    What I’d really like is a mountain town with jaw dropping scenery, fast internet, cheap rent, and dozens of affordable restaurants. With good train service to a nearby large city. I know, I’m dreaming!

  21. Hey Wade,

    And I definitely agree about the government and Power companies had their acts together on this storm. The coordinated efforts were unprecedented as there has never been a mass outage on this level. I believe it was literally 3/4 of the state out at one point. Less than a week after one of the largest hurricanes to ever hit the U.S. It broke so many records, there are multiple pages to describe it. The size of the area of tropical force winds of Irma were 70,000 square miles, and the entire state of Florida is only 65,000 square miles. No other hurricane has ever sustained Cat 5 status wind speeds for over five days in recorded history. On and on. It was something.

    Now, to more pleasant things. After running numbers and comparisons for Bogota, Medellin, and other cites in Colombia, as well as Cuenca in Ecuador, I guess I’m coming back to Manizales as the best compromise now.
    Not quite as cool as Bogota, but much cheaper than any of the others just mentioned, and not exactly a small town at half a million population. Weather is good, beautiful mountains and countryside, but their are very few expats, and most of the city is extremely hilly. And I’m basically looking for the same thing you mentioned in your last paragraph as well. Mountain town, beautiful scenery, cheap rent, decent internet, friendly people. I don’t necessarily need lots of restaurants, or super-fast internet, though available transportation to large cities for travel elsewhere would be nice.
    As for my wife, I have a similar situation, but a little different. She is technically an ex, but we’re still together, and though she knows she is welcome to come, I’m not basing any decision on her preferences. She could probably get more excited about Ecuador or Colombia, just because of the perception of being closer and easier to get back home here. She is worried about being so far away from her folks who she has a close relationship with, and who are in the 80’s now, so she’s naturally concerned. We shall see.

    That said, there are still many reasons to favor Central or South America, but still, I’ve always fantasized about Europe and regretted not backpacking across it with some of my friends that summer between high school and college. As it turned out, I never made it to Europe, though traveled extensively around the U.S. and a little around Canada. Western Europe doesn’t hold as much interest anymore, except maybe Portugal, and Ireland, where I have some distant cousins somewhere near Dublin. I remember the year before I took early retirement, I watched a YT video on Transylvania and Romania, and then another tour through the Carpathian mountains, that just blew me away and stuck with me. I decided I wanted to retire there, first in Brasov, then later Sibiu. And that’s how this whole crazy plan of mine got started.

    Again, I can certainly understand how Albania moved to the top of your list, being so easy and hassle-free for a long term stay, and the close proximity to lots of other cool places in the region. For me, it feels like so many decisions, so little time, but I really do enjoy the whole process of researching all of these places too!

    • Speaking of mountain towns, have you ever looked into Bansko, Bulgaria? Probably the best ski resort town in Eastern Europe. It’s way overbuilt, and one bedroom condos can be bought for less than $20k. Saw nice studios renting for 150 Euros. Pretty busy in the winter, but somewhat quiet in the summer. Still popular for mountain biking and hiking. And you can get 200 mbps internet! Think I might try it for 3 months. Rents are cheap but everyday prices are a bit higher than average for Bulgaria. Roads to it are kept clear in the winter so well connected to Sophia.

      The Transfargaran(spelling?) Highway in Romania is supposed to be one of the world’s great drives. Before I get too old I’d like to rent a sports car if possible and drive it. There are so many great cities and towns between Cluj and Brasov I doubt anyone could get bored there. And for a change drive the Bulgarian coast or visit ancient sites in Greece or head to Budapest.

      Have you considered the food of Colombia? There’s plenty of fresh produce of course but in general Colombian food is considered pretty bland. Peru is supposed to have the best cuisine in South America. With the exception of Argentinean beef. There’s quite a few expats in Lima. You’d think it would be hot but much of Peru benefits from an ocean current, the Humboldt if I remember right, that cools it the way San Diego gets cooled. The drawback there is a large part of the year it’s overcast and gray. The country’s second city, Arequipa, has a spring like climate year’round. The expats there really love it but for some odd reason Arequipa never got popular like Cuenca. And Peru let’s you stay 183 days with renewals at the border.

      If you are looking for a country that works, pretty close to first world, every kind of climate you’d want, it’s Chile. With the Andes as a backdrop the entire length of the country. From the world’s driest desert to the north to land comparable to Alaska in Patagonia to the south. And the Chilean Lake District is about as beautiful as you’re going to find anywhere. The Chileans like to call themselves the British of South America for how old orderly they are. All of that costs more than most Latin American countries, but still reasonable. Pretty much on par with Portugal cost wise. My big concern with Colombia is safety. Chile on the other hand is very safe. Just a long way from anywhere else.

      Have a great one!

      • I agree with most everything you’re saying and have found support for a lot of it during my research as well. Where do I start….hmm…I believe you about Bansko for example, I also heard that Plovdiv was a beautiful city too. I am totally convinced even though every thing I know about Romania or Bulgaria to this point is on paper only, that I could be happy in either place for a long time. Beautiful countryside & landscapes, architecture, castles, great food, safe, cheap cost of living, fast internet, friendly people, seasonal weather, etc. The list is endless, and only the cost and difficulty of getting long term residency forces me to consider other places. Funny, I have this strange feeling that if I started my journey in Sibiu for example, I may fall in love with it and never leave. Then just do whatever I had to in order to stay. But we shall see.

        I also looked at Peru too, but heard Lima was overcast most of the time, not great weather, and kind of an ugly city, whereas Arequipa is cooler, beautiful, but air quality not great, and a lot of expats have become disenchanted with it, plus it’s also quite isolated, being far & inconvenient to get to or from, any other city. Now, regarding Chile, I have wondered about it, and curious why Tim Leffel didn’t even give it honorable mention in “Better Life for Half the Price” or newsletter, “The Cheapest Places to Live 2017”. I thought I read it was dangerous, and there was political unrest there, but maybe I’m mistaken. I did however look at Argentina, obviously for the Patagonia area as well, with the mountains, cooler climate, etc. Places like Bariloche, San Martin de Los Andes, or even really small towns like El Bolson, that are really cheap, and beautiful. But, you are right, Patagonia is long way from anywhere else!

        Now, regarding concerns over food & availability of a variety of quality restaurants; it sure sounds like you are much more of a foodie than I am. I’m generally not an adventurous eater, and eat to live rather than live to eat. I could be happy with rice and beans or eggs and potatoes, etc. most of the time. However, that said, I do love fish; salmon, snapper, trout, grouper, cod, or pretty much anything from the ocean, along with tropical & exotic fruits, though not big on vegetables. I typically enjoy going out for dinner to restaurants or cafes much more for the social aspects & benefits than the food itself. I also love my espresso and coffee throughout the day, and then a couple of glasses of good wine in the evening. For example I think read that much of Romanian food is similar to Hungarian and Bulgarian, but more bland, which is pretty much fine by me.

        Oh, on crime and safety, it is interesting, when you actually do the comparisons to large cities here in the U.S. that even Guatemala or Colombia and others don’t seem than bad. Certainly, medium sized cities even more so. Manizales, with about half a million people, is considerably safer according to numbeo than Orlando Florida. But, I happen to feel very safe in Orlando for the most part. You just have to know where you can go, or areas to avoid at night, and so forth, and realize that any decent sized city is like that. That said, one very unique thing about Romania, Bulgaria in particular, but other countries in the region as well, it’s very unusual how safe they are while most of the people living there are struggling financially to survive. The most economically depressed areas of the U.S. generally seem to have the highest crime levels. Not so over there. Interesting.

  22. Colombia is definitely more affordable than Chile, but Chile is as safe as Canada. Seafood is huge there, and Chilean wine is comparable to Napa. A bottle that costs $20+ in the States costs $4 in Chile. And actually I hate spending money in expensive restaurants but eating out is popular in this household. Tripadvisor is good for finding out what kinds of cuisines are available locally as well as recommended cheap eats, and number of restaurants. That’s really our two vices, eating out and going to the movies. But as beautiful as Chile is it’s a bit too expensive. Was really high on Argentina until it turned into a basket case economically and politically. Bariloche really appealed to me. Chile had the military coup in the early 70’s. Odd thing though is the dictator Pinochet instituted capitalist reforms that set it on it’s current path.

    Definitely a different dynamic going on crime wise in the Balkans. And true, most likely nothing will happen to you in Colombia. Just from what I’ve read though many expats have been the victim of violent crime of some sort or know someone who has. The murder rate country vs country is about 6 times higher but stay out of poor neighborhoods and never lose your temper with a Latino in any of those countries and probably will never have a problem. The vast majority of people are going to be decent and friendly. I’ve just come to the conclusion that I want to be where it’s easy to blend in and can get by in English(although I want to learn enough to ask for things numbers wise, to say hello and thank you, that sort of thing).

    Are you familiar with the Germans who settled Transylvania? There used to be a large population of them in the mountains there and if cities like Sibiu look different than elsewhere in Romania it’s because of their influence. Most of them left after WWII but were in Transylvania for several hundred years.

    Of course if you really want to go cheap India now offers Americans a 10 year multiple entry visa you can buy online. You have to step out of the country every 6 months. They have high altitude towns they refer to as hill stations that are much cooler than the lowlands but definitely not cold. Have read too much about poor infrastructure and sanitation to want to try it, but if you want to live comfortably on $300 a month and speak English you can do it in India. $1000 a month will put you in a nice home in a great neighborhood with plenty to eat in most of India. There was a time when I wanted to live in exotic places like India and Thailand but after many years of hard work just want it easy to deal with. In a way the Balkans are a little exotic, but still familiar. Works for me!

    • Funny you mention India. I guess every soon-to-be expat at least considers India at some point, just because it’s so darned cheap to live there & has a relatively painless path to residency for us! Besides the fact that it’s scorching hot most everywhere, except up where the Tibetan monks live in the Himalayas….hahahaha….there are those real concerns you also mentioned. So, I just can’t. I love to save a buck like the next guy, but I have my limits…lol. I have two older cousins who fought in Vietnam, and can’t get those pictures out of my head from the stories they told me, and even though I know it’s a whole different place now, none of S.E. Asia really holds any interest for me.

      The big decision right now is not so specific necessarily, but I do need to at least narrow it down to which continent. I think I could find a place to be content somewhere in either Central or South America. Conversely, I also believe with all of Eastern Europe and the Balkans to explore, I could be happy and find some place that works well for me there as well.

      Regardless, a big congrats to you, as it sounds you’re pretty well set on at least basing yourself in Albania for a while to start with, and then play it by ear as you check out other cities in the region after that. Having made that decision has to be a huge relief for you. It certainly makes sense and would give you a full year worry free before having to go through any kind of more formal residency process there or anywhere else.

      Now, as I continue my never ending search for my personal Shangri-La, it’s funny, my family has started making bets on where they think I’ll ultimately end up settling. My one cousin, who was like a big brother to me most of my life, is convinced that if I get to Sibiu and really like it as much as I think I will, that I’ll end up biting the bullet, spend the money and start the tedious process with accountants and attorneys and file for a long term residency permit there. Then there’s my uncle, who’s convinced that I’ll end up in one of those mountain towns up in coffee country of Colombia. Maybe, but again, they could both be wrong…lol.

      I do suspect that maybe I should step away from the research for a week or so, as I’ve been so obsessed that it takes up such a big chunk of my day. Unfortunately, that’s actually making me more confused rather than helping me narrow down my choices. I see real benefit to simplifying the process as much as possible and I certainly agree with the basics you are looking for as well. Looking for a place that’s easy to fit in, get by with mostly English, though learning some basic greetings and phrases to help with questions for vendors & clerks. That said, I definitely intend to learn the language better of the place I finally intend to settle more permanently, but not for those I’m just trying out for a while.

      Oh, and yes, I do recall reading about the Germans that settled Sibiu and their influence there, but I’ve also done so much reading articles & books, and watching so many videos, talked to people on expat sites,etc, since I started this process that I’m starting to forget some of it over time. Also, I hear you and understand concerns about safety in certain countries & certain cities. It is different in another country, where you don’t know all the areas to avoid, different customs, or anything that might insult another culture, etc. It’s just like in Atlanta, Chicago or New York, I may be able to spot a area or situation that looks or smells like trouble, where maybe someone from another country might not. Same may hold true for us in Medellin or Bogota, etc.

      Finally, one thing that I never thought much about or didn’t even fully realize until I started this process, is that it’s so much easier to find a place with tropical weather, that hot and humid, than a place that’s cooler or at least has real seasons. Unfortunately, I’ve have enough hot & humid weather to last the rest of my life, so cooler climate is a priority. Also, even though I’m taking a break from research, I still get a big kick of discussing ideas and possibilities here. Take care friend.

  23. Hi JC, It’s a conundrum. If I were looking for a cooler place that was used to gringos in Latin America I’d probably go with San Cristobal de las Casas. I’d prefer Antigua, Guatemala as it’s close to both Guatemala City and Lake Atitlan. It’s got a goldilocks climate, not cold. Zacatecas in Mexico is over 8000′ in elevation and gets pretty cold in the winter. Very few expats there but so many from that area have lived and worked in the States it isn’t hard to find English speakers. You can fly to the States from there or drive your car down. There’s a city in Bolivia I’d love to try living in, Sucre, which sits at 9500′ if I remember right. But the Bolivian president isn’t fond of the U.S. and makes it difficult to stay there. If you’re looking to find a mate you certainly can’t do better than Colombia looks wise! And they’re very willing.

    I know firsthand what you are going through. For years I looked very closely at the Philippines, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Panama, El Salvador. Had never even considered anywhere in Europe because I thought it was all expensive. There’s almost always a place or two worth considering in all of the above countries, some have many worthwhile places. But it just kept nagging at me that if I didn’t have fast and reliable internet I wouldn’t be happy. As of right now that’s only parts of Mexico. Or southern Chile. Maybe a few ISP’s in wealthy neighborhoods of a few other countries. That’s not even an issue with many. They love the scenery, the beaches, the low cost. Concerns me about Albania although expats there assure me good internet is available.

    I may look into the retirement visa in Bulgaria. Bansko may be what I want. Later amigo!

    • Thanks Wade! You gave me a few more places to research that either I missed altogether, or didn’t think much about. Not a fan of Guatemala in general, and my perception is most areas have concerns about crime. Same for a lot of areas of Mexico, and Zacatecas seemed to rank pretty high in crime, over twice as much as San Cris, which actually did seem worth looking into a little more.

      I’ve also looked at most of those other countries you mentioned multiple times, but mostly keep coming back to take another look at Colombia, and even Philippines on several occasions recently. The Philippines seems like a complicated mess to try and get a handle on actually. There are people, especially retired older males, who sing it’s praises, and others who say it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, but the truth is probably somewhere in between. Large group of many islands, some very dangerous, most very hot, many other issues abound as well, but there are a few places in the mountainous areas that are cool enough, fairly safe, and reasonably cheap. Now, from my research, most of Belize is either too dangerous, too hot, too expensive, or some combination of the three. Malaysia could be good for someone who likes it hot, as there are reasonably cheap & safe places, good infrastructure, friendly people. The others I found to have concerns about safety or are too hot, or both.

      Now, I also have a couple of questions for you regarding things you’ve mentioned. I can understand fast internet is nice to have, and helpful when using for business, but I have had all kinds of speeds over the years, between living in Orlando, Miami, South Beach, Sebring, Tampa, and I currently have only 20 Mbps by choice, as it saves me a few bucks, and it’s been more than fine for my needs. I haven’t had any issues, and I stream movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. with no buffering issues at that speed. I know 100 up to 200 Mbps is available in Romania, etc, but is it necessary? I know areas of Mexico, and the more rural areas of many countries still have some internet issues, but don’t most real cities have at least decent internet now? I do have an old friend currently living in a small village in Cambodia, and his internet is spotty for sure. I tried to skype with him one day, and he kept losing connection. So, yea, I do get it about reliable internet.

      Also, just genuinely curious, why Bansko for example, instead of say Blagoevgrad, only about another 30 miles from there, which is a decent sized city with a pop. of 70k, and with most everything one needs, and just as cheap if not cheaper than Bansko, a ski town with only a 8.5K pop.? I’m just wondering…lol…it’s just that you’ve made me wonder if I was missing something about Bansko… as I value your opinion….

      Oh, quick funny story, when I first looked at Mexico, of course San Miguel de Allende caught my interest right off the bat, decent weather, not too hot, lots of gringos, beautiful authentic colonial town, very artsy, lots to do. But then I read all these blogs & articles of horror stories, how all these rich, arrogant American expats had ruined it, and overrun the place, lots of negative stories, and then of course, all those expats drove cost up also, so, now it’s kind of expensive too, so, that finished that idea….lol. I also have Tim Leffel’s book, and I know he is a big fan and speaks highly of Mexico for expats, he even lived there with his family for years; but then I’ve also talked to Loren Lowe who has a blog and YT channel, who’s been all over Colombia and Ecuador, as well as Mexico, and is back living in Cuenca now. He doesn’t speak so well of Mexico. Not just street crime, but if you have any trouble or run-ins with the local authorities, it can lead to some scary experiences, as you have to remember you’re not in the U.S. But, I guess that could happen in many other countries as well, depending on circumstances.

      Finally, let me know what you find out about that retirement visa for Bulgaria. It certainly is worth exploring, especially if it’s any easier that that whole process and expense that Kevin and his family had to go through when they were moving to Brasov. Take care.

  24. Hi JC, Mexico really depends on where you’re at for internet. I had surprisingly good internet in Valladolid, Yucatan. Yucatan state is the safest in Mexico, and I never felt threatened there. But I was ill most of the time there, really wore on me. And it was miserably hot. Which in away was fascinating as the city cooled down quite a bit after sunset and everyone came out. Was like a little New York after sunset.

    I was living in Guadalajara for two months on the property of a doctor. Internet was so so, but I was at the edge of his WiFi range. Couldn’t Skype well, buffered a lot. It was an upscale suburb but could only get TelMex there. A few miles away you could get the two fastest ISP’s in Mexico, one offering 200 mbps. These are all recent developments as Telmex had a monopoly for years until Mexico’s Congress opened things up to competition a few years ago. So yes, in Mexico you can get great internet in a number of cities, depending where you live. I’ve seen too many frustrated posts from people who live there complaining not only about the speed but the constant downtime. San Cristobal for example has lousy internet, which kept me from going there. A lot of reasons to be there, but that’s a deal breaker for me.

    As far as safety goes if you stay out of bars late at night, keep your home secure you’ll be safe in Mexico. The drug wars don’t affect gringos unless they’re involved in it. Doesn’t mean Mexico is perfect of course. In my opinion there’s a huge difference between the Mayan population and the rest of Mexico. Which is why Mayan dominated areas like the Yucatan are considerably safer. Canada safe. That’s the Yucatan, Campeche, Chiapas. Quintana Roo too but with all the goings on in Cancun it’s not as safe. But outside of San Cristobal and a few smaller towns it’s hot country.

    Antigua is expat central. Stunning scenery. It’s also the favorite of Guatemala City’s elite so very well policed. It’s also pricey. But from what I read it’s climate is truly blessed. But it has a problem that also affects the Philippines one truly cooler city Baguio. They’re both earthquake prone. Serious fault lines. Not a matter of if, but when.

    We spent 9 days in San Miguel. All the criticism about SM is mostly baseless. The city is about 65,000 in a metro area of about 150,000. The ones who claim it’s been ruined by so many gringos usually have a chip on their shoulder about leaving the U.S. and becoming as Mexican as possible. Talked to owner of local English paper. Her estimate plus other sources say that there about 14,000 foreigners living there, with Americans making up about 5000. Quite a few snowbirds come down in the winter. But most tourists are Mexican, and a lot of people visit on weekends out of Mexico City. The demand makes it expensive, which is what really rankles the naysayers. It’s a beautiful place though. One real plus is you can find a lot of American brand food there, although it’s more expensive being imported. You’d be shocked at how poorly stocked Mexican supermarkets are in other cities. Extremely limited on choice. Mexicans tend to buy fresh food from markets. And I’ve read numerous times if you have crime issues it’s best not to involve the police, as they can be as bad as the criminals. That is true I guess in many cities but not so much in havens like San Miguel or Lake Chapala. They know how much the expat population contributes there. By the way have you looked at Ajijic/Lake Chapala? Near perfect climate, biggest American expat enclave anywhere. Mexico’s version of Florida.

    Bansko, as small as it is, is extremely nice. It’s like a Colorado ski town. Blagoevgrad is bigger of course, but much more limited in its offerings. It is fairly close to Sofia, and is cheaper. Bansko is set up for visitors, easy to navigate in English. If you’re into outdoor sports Bansko is it. I’m not keen on cold weather but summers in Bansko mean mountain biking, hiking. It’s got a little elevation too which helps. Bulgaria gets hot in the summer. And it’s got about 6 times the restaurant choice than Blagoevgrad. That you can buy fairly new construction for less or just rent cheaply because it’s overbuilt is a real plus. And these aren’t Soviet era concrete buildings. Very nicely done ski lodge type buildings. And the old town itself is very attractive. My wife is a big city girl but when I showed her pictures of Bansko including what we could rent for so little she said she’d have no problem living there.

    I found a law firm in Bulgaria that handles the retirement visa process for you for 500 Euros. Not even sure if that’s necessary. Googled American Bulgaria retirement visa and found some good info. Appears it’s important to start the process in the U.S. with their embassy or consulate. Seems fairly straightforward. Will have to have a Bulgarian bank that you can transfer funds into. Have to have insurance. Prove you have retirement income. The usual stuff. The big killer for me is if there are high fees and if it’s an annual thing. Romania’s workaround seems designed to milk everything they can get.

    I like your point about the tropics being easier to move to. Hadn’t ever considered that, but it’s true. For so many a tropical paradise is the ultimate. Just wonder if people from colder climates realize what they’re getting into.

    • Wade, it’s great having you as a resource to compare notes with and get another perspective from someone who as you say, knows firsthand what I’m going through with all my research and planning. Btw, I did also look at Ajijic, Lake Chapala, and heard similar things as I did about San Miguel regarding the expat community. So, it’s great to get your slant on it as well, though I still think it’s probably a tad rich for my blood, or what I’m looking for anyway. Also, another concern; Mexico just had their second major earthquake in less than three weeks. As you had coincidentally mentioned about several other places where anticipated earthquakes were also likely at some point. And yes, it was in fact Baguio that had gotten my attention in the Philippines, after I had seen several YT videos that made it seem pretty appealing overall.

      As for Bansko, this is what I meant by being so helpful to get your perspective, because now I can see the appeal since you noted several good reasons that make it worth taking a deeper look into now. One thought on internet, is that much of the info I’ve read on several cities/countries, is sometimes dated, maybe as much as two or three years, so, whether justified or not, I kind of presumed that almost everywhere, other than the most rural locations, would have seen a dramatic improvement in internet availability and reliability as of 2017. But I’m guessing that may be a dangerous presumption, eh?….lol.

      Yes, I think many expats who are retiring from the Northeast, who are so tired of shoveling snow, and winter storms, believe that tropical weather sounds like heaven to them for their golden years. But as we know, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. When you live with the heat & humidity, almost year round with no break at night, bugs & more bugs, mosquitoes, that along with dealing with all those unique pests near tropical beaches like sand fleas and noseemes or no-see-ums, and sometimes those other nasty black flies?…fun times. Admittedly, I like actual cold weather better than most, but I suspect most folks would ultimately prefer some level of seasonal weather with real temp changes where they actually end up living long term.

      That American Bulgarian retirement visa deal sounds very promising, with 500 euros being a drop in the bucket compared to the $5k -$6k for the first year, Kevin spent. There are a ton of reasons why I have no interest in purchasing property or real estate in another country, ever. Once I finish selling off any property I have here, I plan to rent for the rest of my natural life, wherever. That friend in Cambodia, built a house in a small village, spent over $50k, where it might as well be a palace. He has “neighbors” that actually live in grass huts. He put it in his Cambodian girlfriend’s name, since staying on a resident visa, can’t own property. Now, he has become disenchanted with Cambodia, the heat, lack of creature comforts he was used to, but he has two problems. It’s very difficult to find someone interested in such an extravagant house out in the middle of nowhere, and another issue is with the family of his GF, who don’t want her to agree to this, as they see this house as wonderful place for them to live if he leaves.

      Now, there are several issues here, but for me, it’s a simple enough reason that although I might potentially really like someplace for a while, I could always change my mind and just want to go, or there could be other reasons, like political unrest, sudden Anti-American sentiment in the country, war, conflict or a multitude of other issues outside your control making it necessary to pull up stakes and leave. Anyway, my point is if a path to residency anywhere includes me investing in real estate, that would be a deal breaker, unless there were other options available. My biggest commitment from here on out, is signing a lease on a house or apt.
      It sounds like you may pursue that Bulgarian retirement visa further, so please keep posted, Also any other advice! Take care Wade!

  25. I agree on the renting. For years on expat sites the advice has been always rent first. My wife prefers to own though because she wants to do things with her “nest.” But she wants her U.S. house, not overseas. If we did buy and I up and died there’s no way she wouldn’t come back. So not much point sinking money into anything, even if by U.S. standards it’s ridiculously cheap.

    I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with places we haven’t talked about. But finding a place that’s affordable, can blend in, and enough English is spoken really narrows the field. Throw in a cool to cold climate and that really only leaves the places we’ve already discussed. Bulgaria by the way got hammered with snow last winter. If you look at the latitude compared to North America it’s no wonder. The Mediterranean and it’s offshoots have a noticeable influence, but get inland a bit in places like Korce and still gets pretty cold.

    Speaking of conditions changing in places I every so often Google living in Albania or some other country and set the search for in the last month. Can often find recent blog posts of people who just moved there or passed through. Good way to find out about current conditions.

    And for something really different, have you ever considered fulltiming in a RV? If you boondocked on Federal land you could cheaply follow the seasons, even go to Canada 6 months a year. If you owned your rig outright it’s reasonably affordable. I lived in a 26′ travel trailer with two big dogs for years, moving with my job. I admit I enjoy having more space now, but it’s one of the few ways to live affordably in the States. I think you’re set on going abroad, but it’s something to consider if you are looking for a viable option.

    Have a great one!

    • Yes, we’ve probably covered most potential spots, but it’s possible that some of the ones that we dismissed for conditions that existed a year or two ago, may have improved to the point of being worth another look. Of course others, like Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, etc could all shoot to the top of the list by simply revising their residency options for Americans or non-EU citizens. Anything else, hmm, let’s see, Nepal is beautiful, cheap with cooler temps, but hard to stay past 130 days, and has water & sanitation problems, power outages, and unreliable internet. Indonesia is cheap, doable on long term residency if 55 or older and have steady income. Slightly cooler temps in the mountainous areas, but with the most active volcanic region in the world, and frequent earthquakes…Yay!?… I like Covilha Portugal, costs are not super cheap, but doable, and there are options for retirees with income for residency. Beautiful scenery, and cooler temps, good spot for outdoor activities, including the country’s only Ski resort 12 miles away. Then again, your plan for basing yourself in Korce, while being close to Montenegro, Greece and Macedonia sounds as good as any, unless or until, something changes in one of the other places we’ve discussed.

      Interestingly enough, yes, I have considered getting an RV and traveling around the country for a while. Several family members encouraged it as well, but only to keep me closer to home. It’s still a possibility, as it just might satisfy my wanderlust, and thirst for adventure for a while. I might really enjoy traveling around the Southwest for a time, and up through the Northwest, on to British Columbia, and finally on up to Alaska for a while. Buying a slightly used unit should weather all that travel for a while, and if I got tired, I could stay put somewhere in between for a short periods of time too. I’ve never even been to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, through Montana or Wyoming, or any number of other places that sounds like they could be fun & worthwhile. Again, it’s still a possibility, as I’ve considered just doing it for a year or so, sell the RV, and then back to my plan to find someplace interesting to become an expat abroad somewhere.

      Ultimately, saving money is actually only a part of it. I would be fine for a number of years, but if I were to live more than another 20 years for example, as I hope to do, I could potentially outlive my savings with the lifestyle I’m inclined to want to enjoy. As you might be able to understand, it’s all about increasing our options as well. If I could spend ten years in another country just getting by on S.S. for example, and without having to dip into my savings & retirement funds every month, I’d create the option to return the U.S. if I decided to and live out the rest of my time here after that period without any worries. Or maybe I’d chose to stay there in my new “home” wherever that was, and just come back for visits for the rest of my life.

      But still, it’s more than just that, as I’ve spent far too much time, working through earned time off, while missing out on traveling to exotic locales around the world that I secretly yearned to do for years. I see what’s before me as a win-win, a chance to save money wherever I end up settling down for a while, and also enjoying the sheer adventure of the experience while I travel about a while before that time. Keep me posted if you have any other ideas, advice or revelations about other places worth reconsidering. I’ll keep looking as well, being you’ve already offered some helpful tips to find out more about those areas that I’m most interested. Take care!

  26. Numbeo is including Kosovo now. Those Muslims are very secular and they love the U.S.. And prices are comparable to Ukraine! There’s a town in Albania, Kukes, that’s about 17,000, on new highway and 35 kms to Prizren, Kosovo. Prizren is the place to see in Kosovo according to the travelers on that Facebook group I told you about. I don’t think Kukes is much to shout about, but it’s surrounded by beautiful country. Amazingly an international airport has recently opened there and both Ryanair and Wizz Air have expressed interest in using it. Not sure if any carrier is using it yet. Would be similar to Wizz flying into Kutaisi, Georgia. Anyways an average cheap restaurant meal in Prizren is about $2.40 if I remember right. Since Kosovo was part of Serbia I imagine English usage is pretty high there. If Kukes is liveable I might look for a place there and shoot over to Prizren for entertainment. Or not. Worth a look though. That highway is 4 lane state of the art. There are a number of nice towns in the northeast, some in areas that are still almost completely Christian because the Muslims had difficulty getting at them with the terrain. I think Kukes is mostly Muslim though. But in all honesty I’m just dreaming. The internet would probably be horrible, the poverty high. Prizren on the other hand would be very liveable. They have the 90 day in/out rule too. Think I’m going to investigate residency there. If it’s possible it would be worth the hassle. Albania overall is roughly 50% cheaper than the U.S.. Kosovo is 60% cheaper with rent more than 80% cheaper. Of course there’s more to it than just low costs, but if you look at Kami’s blog she, and others I’ve read, really enjoyed it. Wizz Air flies to London from Kosovo’s capital, as well as from nearby Ohrid. I’m almost certainly going to Korce to start, but it’s a nearby option.

    Speaking of expat enclaves with mild climates have you considered Boquete, Panama? There’s the interesting crowd in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. These aren’t cold places but very mild weather. Cuenca gets complained about as too cold. Might work.

    To be honest I spent years dreaming about some mountain paradise in Latin America. I look at it now and only southern Chile and parts of Argentina are appealing to me, and I never would have felt this way 10 years ago. Maybe Nicaragua’s highland cities of Esteli and Matagalpa. I used to be pretty athletic, could handle myself. Now I’m dealing with diabetes, am slowing down, my knees hurt, and I worry about young men with guns. I want to be around nonviolent people who are glad I’m there. In Mexico I felt like the round peg that wasn’t fitting in. I met some nice people there, but saw more anger than friendliness. In a place where I blend in, especially in one that likes Americans, can’t help but feel I’ll be happier, less stressed. At this point in my life who needs unnecessary stress? May not be an issue for you at all. Didn’t think it was going to be for me. I’m part Cherokee, have Hispanic cousins, had always been attracted to Mexican culture. But to many Mexicans I’m just another gringo, and many of them aren’t comfortable with us, and at times it’s palpable. That was my Guadalajara experience but to be fair they’re a lot friendlier on average in Yucatan State. And who knows maybe the farther south you go the better it gets. But Guadalajara kind of turned me off to Mexico and Latin America in general.

    Have a great one!

  27. I love your enthusiasm! You find out about a new spot (Kosovo), and you’re already calculating all the pluses and minuses based on proximity to your other possibilities! Funny, I was also was leaning toward Latin America in the beginning, and the cooler, slightly less popular spots in the mountain region of Nicaragua , like Esteli, Matagalpa and Jinotega. I hadn’t started considering Colombia yet, as I initially thought it would be too expensive, too dangerous or both. But here we are, Colombia is back on the table. lol.

    I read this blog by a journalist, who had moved to El Bolson in Patagonia region of Argentina. She found this amazing house next to a river for a mere $350 a month, and it was a breathtakingly beautiful area. I said now that’s for me! hahahaha…That’s where it started, and it’s been all over the place since that time. You may be way ahead of me in your time spent researching and actually having been to some of these places I’ve only read about, but we certainly seem to have similar outlooks, priorities and preferences as we move forward from here.

    Also, I have to tell you that it was quite interesting hearing your story about where you are at this stage of your life, and what you’re looking for, as I can very much relate to your journey and where you’re at now. I too was very athletic all my life, and up until about ten or twelve years ago, I’d say that even if I wasn’t exactly “ready for Everest”, I could definitely hike in the mountains all day without getting worn out. I did it around Mt. Rainier, in the Olympic mountains, all over Denali National Park in Alaska, in fact everywhere you went in Alaska required a lot of walking and hiking, as it seemed nothing worth seeing or doing there was ever close together. Anyway, I’ve had to slow down a lot, and I’m terribly out of shape now, but, I am slowly working on getting back to where I can at least do some of the hiking and exploring I’d like to do wherever I end up spending much time. Trust me, I hear you on avoiding stress and just wanting a little peace and harmony at this stage of my life, or as much of it as I can find. I retired a couple of years ago, and was completely stressed out & burned out, as well as well as physically just worn out, from constant travel, 15 hour days, and helping oversee multiple operations. It wasn’t the good kind of travel either, but living out of a suitcase, and no time to see anything but offices/stores. That’s why now I just want to take my time, enjoy the travel and have fun, do things for pleasure, see places I want to spend time, in no hurry, and as you say, I’d also prefer it be somewhere where the locals didn’t hate you or resent you either. That would be nice.

    Oh, you mentioned Vilcabamba, and I did consider it, and saw videos of Andy Graham (hobotraveler) talking about it as well. Also, Cuenca looked worth a look too, and I watched Loren Lowe’s videos about the area, who travels all over Colombia and Ecuador, and is now back living in Cuenca again. He also spoke highly of Armenia Colombia during a recent trip to Colombia. There are still so many considerations and thus far, no place really seems ideal, or even close, as they all require serious compromises. I recently had a conversation with my friend living in that small village in Cambodia, and he says cost of rent (utilities, internet,etc) is often the big nut, as he said, believe it or not, he sometimes ends up spending almost as much for food and such there as he could get away with here. Now, I’m presuming that doesn’t compare dining out, but just preparing food at home…lol.

    Another thing, I used to vacation quite a bit in the Northwest, basing myself everywhere from Portland, to Seattle, to Vancouver, and beyond. All pretty expensive places to live. But another friend who has lived all over the northwest says there are smaller towns in higher elevation areas (i.e-cooler climate) of Idaho and Utah that you should be able to find decent rentals in the $400 range. Who knows? I certainly can’t find any place in Orlando I’d want to live, for that. So, I keep that in mind too.

    But, the reality of it all is that I believe the wanderlust that’s building inside of me is real and won’t be denied, and since I don’t have a job tying me down anymore, whether it’s an RV traveling around the country, or it’s shuffling around Latin America or possibly Eastern Europe and the Balkans, those are now the more likely scenarios for me regardless of anything else. Finally, I still have a few more months to finalize a plan, and then figure out how to make it work! That may be the most difficult trick of all my friend! Take care!

  28. Hi JC, Lived in Seattle for a year back in early 90’s. Loved it when the sun was out. Having lived in several places out west I have my doubts about the affordability of any place that’s halfway nice to live in. Way too many wealthy people from both coasts have moved into the more scenic areas and have driven up property taxes with the huge homes they’ve built. That plus the costs of shipping in supplies adds up to higher prices all around. Eastern Idaho would probably be your best bet for reasonable prices. I really liked Pocatello when passing through. But if those prices don’t turn you off then Portugal or Romania, both of which have high fees for Americans to live there, would certainly be doable.

    Sounds like you’ve had a busy life. And realize there’s more to life than work and if you’re going to do it while you’re young enough to enjoy it then the sooner the better. Don’t I know it! And have just agreed to give my wife until the end of the year before leaving. We’re two payments behind on the mortgage and the car and I want to be throwing money at it as soon as possible. She doesn’t care. I love her dearly but I envy your freedom to decide just for yourself.

    Learned something today. Looked up Armenia, Colombia today on Airbnb. Economics 101 actually. With the lower demand there are a lot of very affordable rentals there. And they’re probably still pricey compared to what locals pay. Was looking at Kosovo and was surprised at high prices. Turns out there are a lot of foreign gov’t agencies and NGO’s there paying top dollar for accommodations. So scratch that idea. Looks like Korce is it.

    Maybe you should look at Georgia again. Tbilisi is awesome in everyone’s opinion it seems, signs and menus are in English, Europe’s highest mountains at over 18,000, Georgian food is among the best in Europe. Heck Georgian restaurants are all over the former U.S.S.R. like Mexican restaurants are in the States. They have a modern fast train, two stories amazingly, brought from Switzerland, that runs between Tbilisi and Batumi. And good internet available. A lot of expats from all over live in Tbilisi. I don’t think there’s a real threat from Putin or elsewhere. Putin made his point years ago. Gets plenty cold in the winter and the mountains are cool in the summer. And it’s affordable with no red tape hassles. Why I’m not headed there is beyond me! Take care amigo!

    • I really enjoyed Seattle as a place to base myself in the northwest back in the 90’s. You were half an hour from Port Angeles, to catch a ferry to Victoria, B.C. or two hour drive from Vancouver north, 45 minutes from the Tulalip Resort & Casino in Marysville, and also used to take whale-watching trips to Friday’s Harbor out of Port Everett, 30 minutes away. South you had Portland and that 20+mile? winding road over to Mt. St. Helens and the Johnston Observatory, where you could take a chopper down into the crater…very cool! Those were good times! It’s just not the same anymore out there. Alaska was a wonderful experience as well, I could go to Alaska fifty times and still not do half of things I’d like to see and do there.

      Oh, speaking of Georgia, I have read good things, but also recently read some concerns about the new government being a little anti-American, a few comments on which always concerns me if that seems like that could become a trend somewhere. Otherwise lots of good thing; like weather, costs, and ease of staying beyond the usual 3 to 6 months is a plus too. I found much to like about Armenia Colombia too, but the weather is just a little too hot for me. The Latin cities in that general region that I could deal with are few, mostly, it comes down to Bogota, Manizales, or Cuenca in Ecuador.

      Yes, I see your point, but I don’t think I’m being too difficult or selfish to put my needs first now. I’ve spent most of my life compromising for my family, my wife & marriage or for several different jobs, so now I want to focus on the things that I want and that are most important to my contentment at this stage of my life. I’m very happy to do what I can to make things easier for family or friends, and help in any way I can, but since again, I’m financing this relocation, so I’m going to ultimately decide where we, or I go, based on my priorities, and climate is definitely one of most important. I know regardless of anything else, that if I’m too hot most of the year, I can’t be happy there. So, ideally I’d love high 40’s to low 70’s. Also, winter months in the teens with snow is more than fine too. But anyplace with 80’s & 90’s is just not going to work for me. I know that now.

      Btw, I also did a separate comment below somewhere with a link for a site called, which is great for comparing all the most important aspects of any potential U.S. city you’re interested in with pretty comprehensive detail. I did find it amusing that I actually had to reverse the ratings for climate, where what they call a C or D is really an A for me, and vise-versa…hahaha… and if I do decide to hang out in some small town in Idaho or Utah for a while, I sense it would be a short term fix. At least I’ve narrowed down Latin America to probably Manizales or Cuenca. In Eastern Europe or the Balkans there are still multiple possibilities, so who knows? I’m still hoping that something will magically change over there between now and the first of next year to help me make a decision about where to go, or at least where to start. Plus, our discussions are also helping me carefully consider all the options and to reconsider others I’d passed over originally.
      Take care friend!

      • I hope you didn’t think I was saying you were being selfish! Not at all. You’ve worked hard for a long time, you’ve earned it. You and I and plenty of others have looked at the options in the States and think there’s got to be a better way. So many people never even consider the possibilities. They hang on for dear life trying to make ends meet with less income. The ultimate for many is to end up in Florida or Arizona.

        I think Calin has been super generous and patient with us. If you want to take this conversation to email mine is [email protected]. Thanks for the good talk!

        • No, I didn’t think you were suggesting that at all, I just realize that some may think that. Also, you are right about Calin being more than understanding and patient with us, so I did send an email to your address provided, so check your spam folder possibly for it. Take care!

  29. Something possibly helpful: Website where English speaking locals in just about everywhere have signed up to guide you around their city. Most have a hourly fee but some list as free. I’m going to contact some and ask them to locate an apartment for me, then show me where groceries, etc can be found.

  30. I’ve been reading through this thread with great interest.

    I can see why someone may not be interested in India or South East Asia (heat, 3rd-worldish, etc). But how about little-talked-about Taiwan? No, it’s not as cheap as the Republic of Georgia, Romania, Ukraine, or perhaps a few places in South America. But, it’s very cheap compared to the US, Japan or Western Europe. Red tape doesn’t seem that bad at all. It’s people are very welcoming towards Americans (none of that “hate on Americans” stuff as in Western Europe) with a fascinating culture that takes ancient traditions from mainland China.

    For me, it’s down to Taiwan, Georgia, Hungary, Chile or Argentina.

    Southwest France and Japan are just too expensive.

    I don’t like heat. Although Taiwan has cool period in winter, its summers are terribly hot. That’s the only downside I see, unless, that is, you don’t like Far Eastern cultures.

    Best of luck to you all. I hope you find your cheap, magical place!

    • I really like your shortlist, Damien! Except for Georgia, which I consider a poorer choice than Romania or Bulgaria, all the other countries sound really nice. I’ve been fascinated with Taiwan for a while and indeed, it is a really solid option for still cheap cost of living in Asia, without the year-long warm weather of the popular three: Thailand, Indonesia or Philippines.

  31. Hi C. the Romanian!

    Glad you like the list, save Georgia (lol).

    I really enjoy this discussion topic. It’s spot-on for what I’m doing now in my life. I’m trying to find a cheap place overseas to move to.

    I’ve heard so many good things about Taiwan on all fronts (except the terrible heat for about 5-6 months of the year).

    I do have doubts about Georgia. The government is getting further right. It is quite isolated. It really is lacking progressive values on many fronts with corruption spewing out of control. It is appearing to go backwards now. I suppose what drew me there in the first place: super cheap with beautiful and pristine mountains on which are gorgeous monasteries that date back many centuries (ancient Christian history). But the more research I do (and I do a lot!), it’s becoming just a place I want to visit.

    I don’t like excessive heat. But if everything else is on point, I might take a swing at Taiwan.

    Budapest is not that bad for rent. Yes, it’s more than Romania, Ukraine or Bulgaria; but I will settle for a place that is relatively low in price compared to the USA/Western Europe.

    I speak French fluently, and maintaining it is a passion; so going to Southwest France is something I like to do (the Pyrenees region for the beauty and SW accent near Toulouse). The rest of Western Europe, apart from a few other exceptions maybe, is just not my thing. I go for the cheap and the exotic.

    I am very much into Buddhist culture, so that draws me to the Far East, particularly Taiwan.

    I could buy a home for 25,000 in a super cheap country, but it’s have to be a place I’d really, really want to live. I’m over big prices in overrated places. I’m off to the cheap and exotic (food and people are always better in those places anyways).

    Take care and best of luck in cheap-country-hunting.

    • Research is the most important part of the journey. What works for some doesn’t work for others and indeed it depends on the type of culture you want to be a part of. Living in Romania, I know that cheap countries have their share of problems and there are reasons why they are so cheap 🙂 On the other hand, I doubt that any country out there is perfect and without its set of problems 🙂

      I personally like Hungary and Budapest especially – it’s my all time favorite. A bit crowded, a bit touristy, but absolutely beautiful and prices are not a lot higher than what you’re getting in Romania. If you are to compare Budapest with Bucharest, you’d end up paying about the same in each country (with the former being a bit more expensive, but also offering a lot more). In Budapest it gets really warm too – this summer in August when we’ve been there, we’ve had constant temperatures of 35 degrees celsius. We were in an apartment without air conditioning and it was pretty bad 🙂

      Good luck in cheap-country-hunting as well!

  32. @ C. the Romanian,

    Right now, I’m down to Taiwan, Hungary, or Bulgaria.

    Do you think Bulgaria is as beautiful of a country as Georgia?

    If you have more tips to share, or any insights, please share them. I will check back on here from time to time.

    Great discussion for sure! Love the like-mindedness. It totally rocks!

    • Hello Damian,

      I have never personally been to Georgia, but since Bulgaria and Romania are so similar, I would dare to say that they look very much like Georgia too. Out of the European countries, Hungary is by far the most beautiful in my opinion (but again, it depends what you’re looking for, as they would be pretty much even in terms of natural beauty, with Romania and Bulgaria topping the charts maybe thanks to the mountains and breathtaking views). But for city life, definitely Hungary. As for Taiwan… it’s really difficult to compare it with the countries in Europe as everything’s different, from the culture to everything else. Tough choice indeed!

      Probably the best thing for you to do, if possible, would be to go spend a week in each of these countries and see how you feel there. A week is not enough to get a complete impression, but most likely it will be enough to have one of them resonate with you more than the others.

  33. Everyone says how beautiful the mountains are in the country of Georgia. But there are gorgeous mountains in many a country around the world. Not sure why the Caucuses stand out as superior compared to the Canadian Rockies, Andes, Alps or Pyrenees. Some rave about the cuisine, too, but it seems unvaried – the same few dishes over and over again. I’m not trying to be critical – just realistic. But when I attempt to read more objectively about the country, there seems to be quite a bit of evidence of Anti-Americanism and strong corruption (issues with Russia, etc.). Appears to be more like a 2nd-world country.

    I am more interested in the Far East than Europe, both in culture and cuisine. So I am biased. lol

    Looks likes Taiwan is more where I am headed.

    Peace to everyone.

    • I am happy to hear that you’ve made your decision, Damian! I looked a lot into Taiwan recently – mostly Taipei, and I found it to be indeed a really great place to be in. I would be a bit concerned about their earthquakes – so I’d definitely choose a new building, created to do well under the stress of a larger one. But apart from that, Taipei does sound like an exotic, great choice in my opinion.

      Keep us up to date!

  34. Thank you, C. the Romanian! I very much wanted to go to Eastern Europe/southwestern France, but my heart is pushing me to the Far East this time. Why fight it? Go where you are being pulled.

    I will keep you up to date. I really enjoy this discussion – very enlightening and adventure-spirited.

    Best of luck to all of you in your new travels and endeavors.


  35. I would like to post something: Has anyone here ever lived in the Ukraine? I heard it is dirt cheap. Seems to be true after a little googling.

    Haven’t gone yet to Taiwan. Need to soon make arrangements. LOL. God, who knows where I will end up?

    • Ukraine might be cheap, but I don’t consider it one of the safest countries on the planet right now… their problems with the Russians are still relatively fresh and probably not over so anything could happen there…

  36. How are you, C. The Romanian? Sadly, I have yet to go anywhere. LOL. This autumn may be the time I finally spread my wings and travel the world. It’s been years since I traveled to Europe and other countries.
    Peace and happiness to you!

      • So nice to hear from you again! You inspire me somehow in your posts. I do believe my time to travel is coming very soon. I feel it in my blood. You are right, however: it will happen when it’s supposed to happen. Anyways, I love the discussion we have had on here. I will post at some point with an update. You take care of yourself for now. Bye!


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