And, though the greenback has fallen against most currencies in the past 12 to 18 months, it is not down against them all. In fact, the U.S. dollar has gained 113% on the Dominican Republic peso in the last year (it’s currently worth 48.39 pesos).
The dollar is also up 20% versus the Venezuelan bolivar…and has held its ground (gaining maybe 3%) against the Nicaraguan cordoba.
Currency ups and downs aside, some countries are absolutely cheap. Whither the worth of a dollar…you can live well in places like Thailand and Ecuador on just a fistful.
In the land of tango, gauchos, and mate tea, the mood is good, and the country is well along the road to recovery following its most recent financial crisis (of 2002)...but the cost of living remains wonderfully low. You can employ a full-time, live-in maid (working six days a week) for $200 a month. One family of six we know eats well on $700 a month (including groceries, cleaning products, and personal items).
Our favorite hotel in the city, the Claridge, a five-star place with white-glove service reminiscent of a fine hotel in London, charges less than $100 a night.
Real estate values, though up 20% to 25% from their bottom of July 2002 and still rising, remain one of the world’s greatest bargains. You can buy a Grade A apartment in the Retiro district for about $200,000…an unremarkable studio for less than $20,000.
For more on living and traveling in B.A. and beyond in Argentina, write to Argentina@InternationalLiving.com.
Ten countries are moving toward EU membership this year. Real estate values in these markets have been appreciating (at varying levels) for the past several years, and, as Steenie Harvey, our Euro-editor, has been reporting, it can be harder and harder to find a good deal.
However, Bulgaria is not scheduled to enter the EU until 2007. It’s early on in the curve here. Still a lot of opportunity. Lief Simon, Editor of Global Real Estate Investor and Contributing Editor to these pages, has identified Bulgaria as one of the most attractive markets in Eastern Europe.
hides early-in opportunities with big upsides...and the promise of rental
return while you’re waiting for the longer-term payoff from the appreciation
that is sure to follow EU entry. Right now, for example, you can invest
in a resort rental in this country, on the beach, for as little as $24,000.
That works out to $100 per square foot. Cheap on the world market for an
apartment on a coast. And in this case...there’s financing.
Yes, we realize Greece uses the euro…but we include Crete in this report as the most affordable destination in the euro-zone for the American with greenbacks.
Greece’s largest and most spectacular island offers one of the world’s most pleasing landscapes (of soaring mountains and deep gorges, fertile valleys and golden beaches, olive groves, and clear blue seas)…most interesting histories (home to the Minotaur and Zorba the Greek)…and most traditional ways of life…all at a price it’s easy to find too tempting to resist. Two can dine out well for less than $20, including wine…and you can buy a renovated village house for as little as $46,000 (unrenovated, that price falls to less than $25,000). Steenie’s full report is featured in the December 2003 edition of Island Properties Report (www.IslandPropertiesReport.com).
The fallout of Sept. 11 and a banking crisis last year have set this country’s economy into a tailspin. The DR peso lost half its value against the U.S. dollar in 2003, while inflation ballooned to 35%.
All good news
for the traveler, for the DR is desperate to resuscitate its faltering
tourist industry. You will find on these sandy shores, as a result, the
least expensive all-inclusive resorts in the region. You can negotiate
a rate of as little as $40 a night per person, including all meals. Tip:
Shop around and always ask for a discount. Try www.meliacaribetropical.solmelia.com;
“Our 4,400-square-foot home in Cuenca cost $170,000, and services and utilities run about $60 per month. Property taxes are less than $10 a year. A haircut is $2, an oil change is $9, and a beautiful handmade woman’s leather jacket can be bought for 30 bucks. You can see a first-run English-language movie for $2...buy a bottle of Chilean wine in a restaurant for $9...or attend a concert by the local symphony orchestra free.
“We’ve recently invested in a vacation home in Ecuador’s Valley of Longevity, near the town of Vilcabamba. We bought a small three-bedroom home with a guest cottage on 2.5 acres on the Vilcabamba River. It’s in a tropical setting with bananas, papayas, mangoes, and oranges growing on the property. Cost was $34,000.”
For more on Lee and Julie’s adventure, write to them at Ecuador@InternationalLiving.com.
Three words: close, comfortable, affordable. No, Mexico isn’t as cheap as it once was, but don’t overlook our neighbor to the south. In many ways, the charms of Mexico are still barely understood. Dan Prescher and Suzan Haskins, our man and woman on the ground, spend time in both Ajijic and San Miguel de Allende. This colonial highlands area of Mexico offers temperate, consistent weather and an established expat community (with all the infrastructure that implies).
For a place with so many happy gringos, Dan and Suzan report, this region of Mexico remains surprisingly affordable. The taxi from Guadalajara to Ajijic is 220 pesos—about $20. It’s a 20-mile ride, the same distance it might cost you more than $100 to travel by taxi in, say, Miami.
A couple can enjoy lunch at a little restaurant on the plaza, including cold beer, for less than $3…a dinner of grilled fish and fresh shrimp for about $6 a person.
The real estate market is booming, and as more Baby Boomers discover how far their dollars go there, prices will continue to rise. This is a good time to be in the market.
For more on life in Mexico, contact Dan and Suzan at Mexico@InternationalLiving.com
country in Latin America continues to offer Pacific-coast real estate at
one-fourth the cost of coastal property across the border in Costa Rica…one-tenth
the cost of the same thing along the coast of southern California. We’ve
been telling you of the opportunity to park some dollars in this country’s
beautiful hard assets for more than 10 years. The window to act is closing.
It’s a buyer’s market for real estate, both sales and rentals, and this country is our top choice if you’re looking to invest in this part of the world in a city apartment (no city in the region begins to compare with Panama City) or an island hideaway (the Bay of Panama hides the Pearl Island archipelago, site of the two most recent “Survivor” series and including Contadora with its 13 white-sand beaches, playground of Panama’s rich and famous).
“Now is a wonderful time to visit the homeland of Copernicus, Chopin, and Pope John Paul II,” says our Euro-editor Steenie Harvey. “When Poland gains EU membership later this year, prices may rocket. At the moment, they’re laughably low. And cheap doesn’t mean nasty.”
Poland’s showpiece city is Krakow. For centuries, this was the royal capital and it boasts more than 6,000 historic monuments and buildings. Much more so than in Warsaw, there’s a real buzz and vibrancy to this university city. Streets around Rynek Glowny (the Old Town’s main square) heave with people until the wee hours.
And, as Steenie
says, it all can be enjoyed right now at bargain rates. Krakow’s Hotel
Demel ul Glowackiego 22, a four-star hotel within a couple of miles of
Old Krakow, has double rooms for as little as $46 a night.
“You’ll find the costs of food, construction, and household help are a tiny fraction of what they would be in the States. And although you can easily get absolutely anything you want, the lifestyle is far more laid back.
“Thailand is actually the safest and surest way to play the boom in China, as well. As the Chinese middle class grows, they’ll travel. And they’ll pile into Thailand, as a first choice foreign destination, simply because it’s such a delightful place. The price of land is going to go much higher".
“Of course, things can go wrong for a while; timing is important. The main downside to Thailand is its government, under Prime Minister Thaksin. What this megalomaniacal nincompoop is doing is creating a credit-driven boom, and its going to result in a bust.
“Fortunately, Thai culture will outlast Thaksin, the boom, and the coming bust. And the country remains perhaps my top choice in the Orient. But I’d hold off major investments until the bust. Which I expect will come within a couple of years.”
Doug also offers two travel tips: “The best hotel in the world is the Peninsula in Bangkok. It’s much classier and half the price of the Oriental across the river, which has been unjustly rated as the best for years. In Koh Samui, don’t even think about staying at the outrageously overpriced Meridian; stay at the excellent, and conveniently located, Nordic Inn, for $50 a night.”
For more on Doug’s take on the market in Thailand (and elsewhere in this part of the world), see his International Speculator issue published Jan. 30, 2004; website: www.caseyresearch.com. Doug also sends out a free weekly “What We Now Know.” You can subscribe at: http://server.publishers-mgmt.com/wwnk/index.php.
Unstable, ok…but beautiful, for sure. Don’t let the current economic and political troubles scare you off. Both the contrarian traveler and the speculator see opportunity here. The cost of living can be extremely low (gas is 25 cents a gallon…a can of beer or Coke can sell for 23 cents…a bottle of Chilean wine for $2.50…and you can hire household help for as little as $130 a month).
From one perspective,
things can only get better for little Venezuela. If you take that point
of view, you may be tempted by current property prices here, which are
at an all-time low, down as much as 50% in the past two years. A two-bedroom,
two-bath apartment in a beachside complex was recently on offer for $30,000.
And that was the asking price.