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Old 04-14-2010, 03:24 PM   #61
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I like the look of the place, and the prices.

One of the things that jumped out at me:

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Assisted care at home for a loved one 120 - 250 Pesos, 3 hours
That's 3-6 bucks per hour. Hey, my dad's always liked enchiladas....

Does anyone know if there is any fishing in Lake Chapala?

Also, has recent drug-related violence, however overstated, affected the Chapala area at all?
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:42 PM   #62
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Does anyone know if there is any fishing in Lake Chapala?
Looks like no one is answering your repeated question ;-) Let me give it a try:

From what I've read about the area, Lake Chapala used to be one of the main source of fish for the area. But then pollution arrived. In the past few years, the government has done some cleaning and fishing has rebounded somewhat. That's all I know from reading (absolutely no personal experience.) I have not heard of largemouth bass caught from the lake.

As for the drug related violence, I think you got it right when you said "however overstated".
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Old 04-15-2010, 12:45 AM   #63
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Also, has recent drug-related violence, however overstated, affected the Chapala area at all?
I think a couple of octogenarians were arrested recently for fighting over a doobie.
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Old 04-15-2010, 02:40 PM   #64
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Writing from Playa del Carmen, Mexico... just saw this posting about Chapala and fishing in the lake.

The locals definitely do fish in the lake and many eat the fish they catch. I, personally - at this time - would not eat the fish, but catch and release might be fun for those who enjoy fishing.

There has been great debate over the cleanliness of the lake with some claiming that the water has been cleaned up from its chemicals, bacteria and pollution. The lirio has been cleared up and it's looking good from that stand point - but then there are those who would rather see the lirio (something to do with the oxygen it creates) than to see it removed. And the debate rages on...

We do see kayaks, water skiers, swimmers and even jet skis from time to time on the lake.

RE: the rentals and the gated communities - one can always spend more. The skill is to be able to find some place reasonable to stay and live a lifestyle that brings you satisfaction that doesn't cost you the same as up north.

But to come to Chapala (or elsewhere in Mexico) and say 'it's just like home, only cheaper' is not the square from which to start your new life, from our perspective. It's not just like home but it is a good lifestyle if you are open to it.

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The Adventurer's Guide to Chapala Living
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Old 04-15-2010, 02:56 PM   #65
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I like the look of the place, and the prices.

One of the things that jumped out at me:



That's 3-6 bucks per hour. Hey, my dad's always liked enchiladas....

Does anyone know if there is any fishing in Lake Chapala?

Also, has recent drug-related violence, however overstated, affected the Chapala area at all?
there is a beach on the gold coast of Barbadoes, where the chicken place is or used to be on the coast, called "geezer beach". The slope into the ocean is so gradual you can go in with a walker.

labour cost is very low there as well. If I am in need of nursing home level care, my plan is to rent a place there and hire a couple of mama's to look after me and rescue me from the ocean if I go out too far.
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Old 04-15-2010, 07:55 PM   #66
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No real fishing at Lake Chapala, but hey it's a 3.5 hour drive to Manzanillo with world-class deep sea fishing.

No major effects from the drug wars here thus far, but certainly the Mexican economy as a whole suffers for it.

In general I would say the numbers in the Kaderli's excellent recent post on Chapala costs are very accurate, though I think most gringos who come down here will end up in Ajijic (5 miles from Chapala) or nearby and renting a place in dollars rather than pesos - you pretty much have to if you want something other than 20 year old threadbare couches, mattresses with the springs poking through, etc. Probably 80% of the expat activity at the lake occurs within a three mile radius of Lake Chapala Society, which is in Ajijic, as are all the international (non-Mexican) restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.

Our experience has been that while you pay up a bit to rent a nice place (say from $400 for a one bedroom casita to $700 for a 3 BR/2 BA house - all fully furnished) your utilities are a third or less of NOB, food is less than 1/3 as much for infinitely better quality (and year round fresh fruits and veggies whose freshness and variety has to be experienced to be believed).

Another major difference is being able to afford to eat out, something we did less and less of in the U.S. due to costs. Today's taco lunch for two set us back a total of $2.50; a sit-down meal at the best restaurant in the area for lunch with friends yesterday was $12.40 for two including tip.

Last but certainly not least is the affordable dental and medical care, already mentioned in earlier posts. We have no trouble at all living on less than $2000 a month for two, even in costlier Ajijic, including catastrophic medical insurance and all visa fees plus a trip home each summer. We'd be living in a mobile home in a pretty boring small town in the U.S. for that amount of money, knowing we'd have to come back down here anyway in the even of any major medical issue.

The costs Billy and Akaisha provide for assisted living are spot on. We brought a basic car down here (Ford Focus hatchback) and like the convenience of having it (insurance is less than $200 a year), but we don't fill up the tank more than once a month and could easily do without. We walk everywhere.

Lest I make it sound like too much of a paradise: Mexico away from the beach resorts is very, very different from the U.S. and many people have a hard time adapting and head home after a few months or years. This area is thoroughly discovered and very busy, and Mexican ambient noise levels during the innumerable fiestas and private parties held throughout the year also drive many people back north. Traffic along the one and only paved road that circles the lake gets gridlocked every Sunday and for much of high season (November-March). There's great tennis and golf year-round, some hiking on very steep, loose trails but forget about cycling or any sort of outdoor experience of solitude. The cacophony of the villages is audible everywhere. Access to English language books and magazines is very limited (lots of Kindles down here!). Corruption is rampant and buying real estate is a minefield. Okay, that's about all the negatives I can think of at the moment. It ain't paradise, but it's close enough for us.

Medical
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Old 04-16-2010, 07:18 AM   #67
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Lest I make it sound like too much of a paradise: Mexico away from the beach resorts is very, very different from the U.S. and many people have a hard time adapting and head home after a few months or years. This area is thoroughly discovered and very busy, and Mexican ambient noise levels during the innumerable fiestas and private parties held throughout the year also drive many people back north. Traffic along the one and only paved road that circles the lake gets gridlocked every Sunday and for much of high season (November-March). There's great tennis and golf year-round, some hiking on very steep, loose trails but forget about cycling or any sort of outdoor experience of solitude. The cacophony of the villages is audible everywhere. Access to English language books and magazines is very limited (lots of Kindles down here!). Corruption is rampant and buying real estate is a minefield. Okay, that's about all the negatives I can think of at the moment. It ain't paradise, but it's close enough for us.

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Thanks Kevink for the negative aspects. Can you elaborate on the rampant corruption? What sort of corruptions and what are their effects on ex-pats?
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Old 04-16-2010, 08:18 AM   #68
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Hi Sam,

A cab driver in Puerto Vallarta we met (who lived in Oakland CA for years) put it very well: "in the U.S. you need big money to pay off the corrupt politicians and officials high up the chain, but in Mexico corruption is equal opportunity and occurs at every level of society."

So here from paying mordida ("little bite" - a bribe) to the traffic cop to a contractor paying off inspectors in order to cut corners building his new condo development to drug traffickers paying off the police...you get the idea. Overall the main effect for expats is that you learn in short order this is a "buyer beware" place at every level. You just don't have recourse like you do i the U.S. if something you buy or a service you contract for isn't what you paid for.
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Old 04-16-2010, 10:31 AM   #69
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from my reading on Panama, the "no-recourse" thing was a key element

there is the appearance that the magority of lawyers will steal from you as well, so what starts out as a small problem, becomes a big one

which points to the strategy of smallest financial footprint possible and keeping your bags packed

a few years back, after many years of convincing, I was able to get DW to agree to a trip to Mexico. It was booked and everything. We had couple of bad flus happen which ended up cancelling the trip, but I gave up trying to rebook travel there.

there was Canadian woman who was the cook for a crook and she ended up in jail. She did not have the money or savvy to figure out the system, and in the end, her lawyer took her last 10k without providing any service.

it took the visit of a the senior cabinet minister to spring her from jail.

it was at that point that I gave up on Central America.

So, at least in the US Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, you have an FBI office nearby to back up local institutions.

By the way, that is why the US dollar remains strong and remains the financial sanctuary. Even though the US messed up with the crisis, the non-oecd wealthy know that the US justice system stands behind the institutions.

Why do the Chinese buy US dollars and appear to suppress their own currency? its because they do not trust their own system.
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Old 04-16-2010, 11:06 AM   #70
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Thanks, Akaisha and kevink, for the balanced report. I am anxious to get down there and check it out. So far I've visited only Baja and Mazatlan (for bass fishing at El Salto Lake), so I'm sure I haven't seen the real Mexico.

The thought of the potential pitfalls of buying a place in Mexico (or Thailand, or Brazil, etc.) scares me to death. I'd be a renter for sure.
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Old 04-17-2010, 08:36 AM   #71
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There are many property owners in PV. Mostly they have trouble with their HOAs not their trusts or the government. But these are regular people who spend 5 or 6 months here every winter here. Aside from some disreputable developers, there are few problems.
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Old 04-17-2010, 10:44 AM   #72
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A cab driver in Puerto Vallarta we met (who lived in Oakland CA for years) put it very well: "in the U.S. you need big money to pay off the corrupt politicians and officials high up the chain, but in Mexico corruption is equal opportunity and occurs at every level of society."

So here from paying mordida ("little bite" - a bribe) to the traffic cop to a contractor paying off inspectors in order to cut corners building his new condo development to drug traffickers paying off the police...you get the idea. Overall the main effect for expats is that you learn in short order this is a "buyer beware" place at every level. You just don't have recourse like you do i the U.S. if something you buy or a service you contract for isn't what you paid for.
So it's pretty much the same as in all "poorer" countries, "corruption is equal opportunity".

I don't know if "buyer beware" is exclusive to Mexico or other developing countries. I exercise "buyer beware" right here in the US. Sure, we have much better law here, but enforcement of the law through our legal system is such a night mare both time wise and financially that I suspect most people would act the same way most of the time "learn in short order..."

Personally I don't mind traffic violation "mordida", if I indeed committed the violation. It's cheaper and quicker.
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Old 04-18-2010, 08:44 AM   #73
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...Personally I don't mind traffic violation "mordida", if I indeed committed the violation. It's cheaper and quicker.
It is almost never cheaper. It is quicker though.
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Old 04-21-2010, 11:03 PM   #74
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I am currently staying in Medellin, Colombia and plan to stay here for up to 6 months; I was here 3.5 months last year. I also lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a year. I will add a few comments on what I read in this thread. I don't mean to be negative or anything, I am just trying to give my perspective and experience.

I have had trouble ever qualifying for any kind of long term non-tourist visa in various countries because I am only 44. They almost all want you to be at least 50 (or married to a local). I don't think you can really say you "live" in a place unless you have some kind of resident visa (something better than a tourist visa). Here in Colombia I am on a regular tourist visa that will allow me 180 days per year. The idea of doing border runs does not really work in the long term (and in most countries, like Colombia, it is not possible since your total time within the country is limited). And the laws can change at anytime to bring an end to this behavior -- this is what happened in Thailand, without warning, about 4 years ago and is still in effect there. So I can't really "base" myself in Colombia (for instance by signing a long term lease on an unfurnished apartment).

Ecuador was OK, especially Cuenca, which is a beautiful city. But it is true that crime is high there. And Ecuador is run by Rafael Correa (a chavista in training) and there is no way I would plan to live there long term and you are crazy if you buy property in a place like that. Property takings have been happening all over Venezuela and crime against the well-off has often been ignored and indeed sometimes encouraged. Tariffs were recently increased in Ecuador raising costs significantly.

I found San Miguel De Allende just too artsy and liberal for me personally. But I know some people are really into that. And it is definitely somewhat expensive. It is way too cold there for me. I look for a place that does not generally get below 60 degrees at anytime day or night. Whereas in the winter it is getting down into the 30s in SMDA. But everyone has different preferences for climate.

Chapala, Ajijic seem interesting (never visited) but real small. I think both have populations less than 10K? I would probably be more interested in living in a bigger city (Merida, Guadalajara?).

I don't think prospective full-time expats should plan on retiring to a place if they do not at least plan to become an advanced speaker of the language (not fluent but at least advanced) unless you are going to a place like Ajijic or perhaps SMDA which are dominated by expats (even then I would say should become at least an intermediate speaker). For those who have never mastered another language, let me tell you that it is a lot of work, probably way more than you imagine. Although getting to intermediate level is not that hard.

I actually think that for most Americans, Mexico is the best retirement option by far in Latin America. It is geographically nearby, there are close ties to the USA, Mexicans are generally friendly toward Americans, there are many climates to choose from, it has a large population and thus a strong cultural and country identity, and there are lots of other expats. It is not the most stable country in world but by Latin American standards way above average, especially if you stay away from the border areas.

I enjoy life here in Colombia. But you have to speak Spanish well in order to thrive and there are not many other expats (a big negative in my opinion). Most of my friends here are through my girlfriend, whom I met here last year. There is not that much of a tourist infrastructure in many parts. Colombia is actually close to the East Coast of the USA (less than 3 hour flight from Florida), but if you are from the West Coast, it is a long hike. Colombia has changed in 10 years from almost being a failed state to a thriving democracy with a growing economy, soaring foreign investment, and a strong currency. But it is still not the safest place in many parts even if it is better than the reputation would indicate.

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Old 04-22-2010, 08:18 AM   #75
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Kramer! We missed ya! (You need an avatar again. I liked the old rockin' swami!)

Your comments are always extremely valuable.

About Cuenca--is crime high there, too? I have recently read that tourists have been targeted but that Yankees fit in there more easily than many places due to the more European-looking population. Good Spanish is necessary, however.

Can you compare Cuenca to comparable places in Colombia for crime?

Mexico ain't what it used to be, although it appears that by choosing location carefully one can stay out of harm's way.

Please tell us more of what you have learned. I have been collecting your notes from various fora on the subject.

Suerta!

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Old 04-22-2010, 09:47 AM   #76
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Hi Ed, Thanks for the encouragement

I only spent a weekend in Cuenca over 4 years ago. It is a beautiful city with a colonial center and there are some expats there. It is at a lower elevation than super-high Quito and so the weather is much better. In my mid-range motel in the center of Cuenca, a lady was robbed in the hotel, sitting a few feet away from the receptionist and while a bunch of folks were in the lobby, including me. One criminal dropped something and she leaned down to pick it up, the other grabbed her purse, then the original one offered to chase him and went off in the opposite direction, everything gone. Quito, where I spent over 2 weeks, was definitely subject to high crime against tourists including violence based on many stories I heard. I am less sure about the ongoing level in Cuenca.

I don't know how to compare crime in Colombia to Ecuador. But I don't think either place is really that safe by American standards. I first came to Colombia in 2008 after crime had really dropped and Colombia had turned the corner. While things are looking up in Colombia, crime has increased over the last couple of years. I definitely feel safe here and also walk at night. But through a lonely neighborhood at night I generally take a taxi.

It is true that one fits in better in Colombia. I am 6'1" blue eyes and sandy hair, but people still will mistake me for a local -- I get asked for directions literally everyday. In Medellin, people's skin is very light but they tend to have black hair and brown eyes, and these are what give me away or at least folks are not sure what I am, at least until I open my mouth.

Colombia has the second most Spanish speakers of any country (second to Mexico) and second highest population in South America. Tourism is booming in Colombia.

Bogota moves beyond its bad-boy image - USATODAY.com

Different parts of Colombia are different culturally because the parts have been geographically isolated due to the rough geography (a continent within a country twice the size of Texas). Cartagena, the culture and the Spanish spoken there and the economy, is probably almost as different from Medellin as Mexico City is from Buenos Aires.

Colombia is not as cheap as one would expect, lots of taxes to pay for security, etc. It is a service-oriented culture and the service you receive is usually excellent (totally unexpected before my arrival) -- you constantly here the words at your service. People are culto (cultured and polite and educated) well beyond what might seem like the limited economic development of the country, probably because the violent past has held them back so far. Strangers greet each other and say goodbye in elevators. Colombia is a true frontier investment market.

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Old 04-22-2010, 12:30 PM   #77
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Hi Kramer – good to hear from you and glad to hear that things are going well in Colombia. Learn how to make arepas yet?
Are you going to be in Medellin for the world cup? Colombia isn't fielding a team but it'll still be a blast.

Back on topic, Kramer’s comments make a lot of sense. I would add a couple of things:

Latin America is pretty inexpensive right now, but has not always been, and this is not necessarily its “normal” state. The economies and currencies have moved in cycles and all the countries mentioned in this thread have at times been very cheap and at times been very expensive (is US$ terms). Folks looking for inexpensive living and on fixed income streams may be unpleasantly surprised after 5-10 years of local currency appreciation with inflation.

There has not yet been a generation of socio-political stability in any country. The likelihood of this changing now is not high. People need to understand, however, that economic growth and a more mature and stable political environment will with absolute certainty make the cost of living rise (in US$ and local currency) as the standard of living improves. This will be of benefit to the locals but a real problem for expats who went for the low cost (and standard) of living.

While I have no experience with expat communities and how they are impacted by language and cultural issues, in non-expat communities one cannot emphasize enough the importance of language skills and cultural assimilation to relocate successfully to any place in Latin America, including Mexico.
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Old 04-22-2010, 12:55 PM   #78
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Learn how to make arepas yet?
Arepas, the bottom of the corn bread barrel.

Ha
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Old 04-22-2010, 01:46 PM   #79
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I am currently staying in Medellin, Colombia
Kramer, I was kinda hoping you´d show up and give us your outlook. Great.

I´m in Quito, Ecuador now. Here are some observations so far:

Ecuador impressions
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Old 04-22-2010, 03:04 PM   #80
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Thanks Kramer for sharing your thoughts. I always learn so much from you and have the greatest admiration for the way you travel: frugally, intelligently, with keen interest in and respect for the cultures in which you immerse yourself. You're the ideal ambassador - and "canary in the coalmine" - for the rest of us. Much appreciated.

I think you are right-on about Spanish. Here in Ajijic, Lake Chapala as well as in San Miguel many gringos work diligently at learning the language, but the hard fact of the matter is language is a skill that atrophies if not used, and on a day-to-day basis most expats here hang out with fellow gringos 90% plus of the time. Still, being able to have a civil, respectful conversation with shopkeepers, bus drivers, restaurant owners and the like, even in kindergarten-level present tense Spanish, is invaluable.
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