Three countries surface in your preliminary search, vying for more gritty investigation.
Time to dig into the authentic feel of each country and to head out on a pre-pat cruise. It’s best if you can practice this big life change before making it. Pre-pat cruising will offer a truer sense of what this new life will look like.
Lisboa, Antigua, Roatan, Florence, Granada, Vilcabamba, wherever… I recommend staying a minimum of two to three months, or the length of the tourist visa, in one country or city.
Here are my 13 essential tips for exploring a new country for relocation:
#1 Explore the Neighborhoods in Specific Cities
One way to check out neighborhoods is to take a group or private walking tour with a local guide.
You’ll learn about the history, culture, entertainment, special niches, parks, socio-economic demographics, shops, and discover the social fabric of each neighborhood.
Maps, descriptions of different neighborhoods, and information on walking tours are often available at the local tourist bureau.
#2 Check Out Short-term and Long-term Accommodations
This includes rental and buying options, prices, and neighborhoods. Cities have real estate businesses that can assist in rental and for-sale properties. Walking the streets in a desired neighborhood will turn up small “for rent” and “for sale” signs. Always get recommendations for short-term rentals while looking for a more permanent residence.
#3 Take Public Transportation
Determine if the bus and/or train system is dependable, convenient, safe, and if it will take you where you want to go.
Are taxis affordable and safe? What other public transportation options are available—minivans, Uber?
Is it convenient and affordable to rent or purchase a vehicle?
Consider exploring local areas by bicycle.
#4 Discover Entertainment and Recreation Options
Explore opportunities for recreational and physical activities such as hiking, running, cycling clubs, fitness or gym facilities, yoga classes, swimming pools, outdoor parks, par-courses, and walking paths. What types of cultural entertainment such as music, theater performances, and local events are available? What are the costs for recreational and entertainment events, and which ones are free?
#5 Check Out Smaller and Rural Towns
Often overlooked because larger cities offer more amenities, small or rural towns off the beaten track offer a slower-paced lifestyle, natural settings, friendly locals, and a less complicated lifestyle.
#6 Evaluate the Friendliness and Acceptance by Locals
Whether in a big city or small enclave, are the locals welcoming, helpful, and does it feel easy to integrate into the local community?
#7 Meet up With Other Expats and Sign up for Local Expat Newsletters
Expats are a wonderful source of information (sometimes providing more than you want to know). Expats are easy to meet here at TCI, on Facebook, at Meetups, and at local expat restaurants and pubs.
Our TCI expats advise newcomers on schools, accommodations, neighborhoods, shopping, and dealing with utilities including local phone/internet services. Note if the local expat groups prefer sticking with their compatriots or mingling with locals. Ask how easy it is to get to know the local people and culture of your host country and how do you break out of the “expat bubble.”
#8 Explore Work or Volunteer Opportunities
If you are planning on working, you will want to investigate what type of work permit/visa is needed and what skills and knowledge best transfer to the new location. Is speaking the native language required? If you are planning on working remotely check internet reliability, especially in developing countries. Volunteering is an excellent way to get involved. There are many expat organizations and local nonprofits that may welcome your help and expertise.
#9 Consider the Climate and Elevation.
Many expats search out warmer climates or beach havens, while others prefer cooler temperatures, mountains, and high elevations or forested areas.
Higher elevations can present problems if you do not tolerate being above a certain altitude. Temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity, and elevation are all factors in feeling comfortable. It is important to know your toleration for altitude before you move to such a location. Spending at least at a bare minimum 2 weeks at a potential high altitude destination is a wise course of action.
# 10 Indulge in the Local Cuisine
Ahhhh … my favorite—the local cuisine. This includes shopping for food in local supermarkets, mercados, small specialty stores or with street vendors.
Can you find locally grown or buy organic produce and meats? Do you require fast food options? Ask if it is common practice to bargain or barter.
Restaurants and small eateries can provide wonderful samplings of local fare.
Try it all!
#11 Have a Plan for Emergencies and Health Care
Know who to contact in case of emergency, for example fire, theft, accident, medical. Is there an equivalent 911 number? Write your emergency contact information and have it easily accessible along with a list of your medications. Inquire about the quality and accessibility of health care, including dental, hearing, and vision, and health insurance that may be purchased privately or through the government.
#12 Assess Your Language Proficiency and Needs
How many people will speak English in the area where you might live? Will you need to communicate using the native language? What are the opportunities to learn/practice new language skills?
#13 Think About What Would You Miss About the Life You Are Looking to Ditch
Moving to a foreign country sounds exotic, exciting, adventuresome, rewarding, and novel—and, yes, moving to a new country can be all of those things.
It can also be stressful, challenging, frustrating, and emotionally draining.
Make a list of what you would miss about your current lifestyle—friends, support groups, colleagues, family, simple conveniences, your car, home or personal things and life treasures.
As you cruise through your potential relocation countries, I’d love to hear what experiences, insights, and recommendations you have for future expats. Post your thoughts below in the comments.
by Gwen Hyatt