The World’s Top Retirement Haven – Times Five

One of the many reasons we say Panama is the #1 place in the world right now to retire overseas is because of the many and diverse lifestyle options it offers.

Last year, we thin-sliced Panama and named its El Valle de Anton as the world’s top retirement haven. This mountain town about two-and-a-half hours outside Panama City boasts a pleasant climate and beautiful, lush landscapes. Plus, it’s a half-hour from the beach and, again, within easy access of the capital.

When we revisited this question this year to try to name our world’s top retirement haven for 2011, we were reminded what a challenge it is to identify a single best place to settle in retirement.

In fact, it’s not possible. What’s best to me might be intolerable for you. As we remind you regularly, it’s a question of priorities and preferences.

Therefore, this year, we name not one top retirement choice in Panama, the most retirement-friendly place on earth right now, but five, from the city to the coast, from beachfront to cooler mountain climes, with top picks for retirees on strict budgets as well as those whose retirement resources stretch a little further…

  • World’s Top Retirement Haven #1: Las Tablas-Beach Retirement On A Budget

This is our number-one recommendation if you want to retire to the beach on a budget. Las Tablas is a safe, friendly, charming colonial town on the Pacific coast that boasts a laid-back lifestyle at a bargain-basement cost.

Las Tablas is also the first town of note along the east coast of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, the stretch of this country’s Pacific increasingly referred to as the “Gold Coast.” Boom may be coming to Las Tablas, but it hasn’t hit yet, which is why you can still enjoy life in this coastal town of cowboys and fishermen on a budget of as little as US$1,200 per month.

You could spend more, of course, living in Las Tablas, especially if you travel often to Panama City to enjoy the distractions of the big city. But if you’d be happy with a modest life, sticking close to home, passing your days fishing and swimming, Las Tablas could have your name written all over it.

It’ll take you four hours to reach Las Tablas from downtown Panama City. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you travel well-maintained highway door-to-door.

The other important thing to note about Las Tablas is that it is very much a “local” choice. Living in Las Tablas, your neighbors would be almost exclusively Panamanians. If you’re not comfortable with this idea and have no interest in learning to speak at least a little Spanish, Las Tablas may not work for you.

  • World’s Top Retirement Haven #2: Boquete-Comfortable Climate And Established Expat Community

Sea-level temperatures in this country can be steamy. The climate is much more comfortable in Panama’s interior highlands. Boquete isn’t this country’s only mountain town of note, but it is the best known and most developed.

Boquete has been attracting foreign retirees for the past six-plus years. Today, there are nearly as many expats as Panamanians residing in this town of eternal spring, and this is one place in this country where you could live without learning to speak Spanish.

On the other hand, Boquete isn’t as budget-friendly a choice as Las Tablas, for example, and, to state the obvious, it isn’t at the beach. This may be a negative for you…or not.

Also, while Boquete is perhaps the best-known town in Panama outside Panama City, it is not easily accessible. You reach Boquete via a half-hour in-country flight from the capital to David. From David, Boquete town is another half-hour drive away.

The real estate market in Boquete has settled noticeably in the past two years, meaning property prices are down from their bubble levels of the last decade. Still, they’re not bargain-basement but remain among the most expensive in the country.

Generally speaking, the cost of living in Boquete is about 25% greater than it is in Las Tablas. Your costs are greater…but so are the levels of products and services you’re able to access. Boquete is a town that has seen something of a boom already. Both the infrastructure and the cost of tapping into it, therefore, are higher than anywhere else in this country outside Panama City.

  • World’s Top Retirement Haven #3: Coronado-Developed Beach Area Near Panama City

We gringos in town aren’t the only ones to notice that Panama City is hot and steamy. Panamanians living here feel the heat, too, of course. That’s why those who can muster the means keep weekend and holiday houses at the beach.

Among Panamanians resident in Panama City, the preferred beaches are those nearest by. They like to be able to leave work on Friday afternoon and reach their places on the water by dinnertime, and they are willing to pay a premium for that privilege. That’s why property prices at these “city beach” areas, as they’re called, have appreciated in value dramatically over the past decade.

For my money, the experience doesn’t support the inflation. These city beaches aren’t great (typically muddy and flat), and there’s no real town anywhere along this coast, just collections here and there of (often) down-at-the-heels weekend party houses.

Coronado is the exception. Development at Coronado began about 30 years ago, when this spot on the Pacific coast became a destination of focus among wealthy Panamanians from the capital. About two hours’ drive from Panama City, Coronado today is home to about 600 full-time residents, a mix of locals and expats.

This is not the place to invest, certainly not to speculate. Beachfront prices along this coast have already popped. This is, though, perhaps the most full-service, user-friendly beachfront option anywhere in Panama.

  • World’s Top Retirement Haven #4: Santa Fé -Remote Mountain Hideaway And Top Budget Option

Not everyone would be happy living in Santa Fé, especially full-time. This is a beautiful, safe region where the living is sweet but not well-appointed. At home in Santa Fé, you’d be living a true Panamanian lifestyle, among Panamanians. You’d need to speak Spanish. You’d need to be comfortable taking care of yourself. You’d need to be willing to put some effort into building your new life.

I first visited Santa Fé about four years ago. I had the same reaction as I’ve had many times over the past 25-plus years visiting new destinations for the first time:

Potential.

Santa Fé, four years ago, was as out-of-the-way as a mountain town can be. Today, it is slightly less so. The engine driving the change that is coming to little Santa Fé is to do, as it often is, with infrastructure. The government is currently replacing the bridges along the road close to Santiago and, as well, beginning to carve a new road from Santa Fé to the Caribbean. This is a big deal. The influx of tourists moving from coast to coast will be followed by commercial traffic. There is talk of a Caribbean coastal highway, which would turn Santa Fé into a station on a land bridge across the mountains.

How will things play out in Santa Fé from this point? We don’t know for sure, of course, but we can make some predictions based on experience. An important infrastructure development, of the kind now in the offing in Santa Fé, means opportunity. In advance of the improvement, opportunity for speculation. After the improvement, opportunity for investment, for increased tourism, and for an expanding population, including an expanding population of foreign retirees and other expats.

I’d be surprised if all these things weren’t on the horizon for Santa Fé. How you interpret them depends on your point of view.

If you’re looking for a place to speculate, to bank a little land, I’d say get ye’ to Santa Fé pronto. It’s still possible to get a very good deal (as little as US$1 to US$1.50 a meter).

If you’re interested in finding a cool-weather, back-to-basics, and super affordable place to live or retire, again, I say, again, you should plan a trip to this unsung corner of Panama. Change is coming, but it will unfold slowly. And it won’t be all bad.

Meantime, in charming Santa Fé, a small budget could buy you a rewarding lifestyle.

  • World’s Top Retirement Haven #5: El Cangrejo-Vibrant, Eclectic, And Bustling…The Best Of Panama City Life

A compact city of but a million people, Panama City nevertheless offers as dramatically varying lifestyle options as does the country overall, from waterfront high-rise (along avenida Balboa) to suburban neighborhood family home (in Costa del Este), from trendy and rowdy (on Calle Uruguay) to genteel and established (in Marbella)…

Our top pick for the expat interested in a cosmopolitan life in Panama’s capital is colorful El Cangrejo, where the streets are lined with palm trees and dotted with restaurants, where the expat community is diverse and expanding, where the cost of living isn’t bargain basement but does still qualify as affordable.

Rents spiked in El Cangrejo (as they did throughout the city) about 24 to 30 months ago. Right now, I’m happy to report, they’re down and highly negotiable. You should be able to rent a comfortable, well-located apartment in what is considered by many the “coolest” neighborhood in all Panama City for about US$800 a month.

A reasonable overall budget for living in El Cangrejo would be about US$2,000, including rent, a full-time maid, and a US$400-a-month entertainment allowance.

Kathleen Peddicord

Publisher, Live and Invest Overseas

www.liveandinvestoverseas.com

Electrolux Vacuum Cleaners Have A Long And Strong History With Consumers

Electrolux vacuum cleaners have enjoyed a quite reputable history; primarily because of the evident customer loyalty the brand has gained through the years. For instance, one Electrolux owner’s granddaughter has watched her grandmother use the same Electrolux vacuum cleaner since she was a little girl, more than 30 years, and the machine is still just as powerful.

Another consumer used her vacuum cleaner continuously for 20 years and immediately replaced her worn out model with a brand new Electrolux. If all products received this kind of praise, there would have never been a need for today’s consumer reports.

While Electrolux vacuum cleaners have always been well known for their workmanship, their name has gone through many changes. First manufactured in Sweden more than 90 years ago, Electrolux cleaners were soon cleaning floors in homes throughout Europe. Within 10 years, production of vacuum cleaners for the United States and Canada was started by Electrolux, LLC in Dallas, TX.

Recently, AB Electrolux in Sweden decided to cash in on the the popularity of their trademark in North America and offered Texas Electrolux manufacturers $50 million to change their 80 year old name to Aerus.

Aerus has continued to provide Americans and Canadians with durable, hard working Electrolux vacuum cleaners under both names and, while their products haven’t seen many changes, their sales methods have changed drastically.

When Electrolux first began in America, salesman traveled from door to door, demonstrating and selling the vacuum cleaners to middle-income housewives. As time progressed, the Electrolux line was promoted in several department stores.

These attempts were not very successful, but some models are still found in a few major department stores. Most of today’s Electrolux vacuum cleaners are sold through an independently owned franchise store. There are more than 500 Aerus dealers across the United States and Canada, including several islands as well.

Aerus also promotes their Electrolux vacuum cleaners online through their website, but a registered account is needed to purchase the products through the site and there are no visible buttons that allow visitors to click and buy.

The “buy now” link offers an easy way to locate a store nearby for those interested in buying a vacuum cleaner. Consumers can also schedule a product demonstration or request additional information through the website.

The very first American Electrolux vacuum cleaners were innovatively designed with an easy to maneuver tank attachment. This style of vacuum cleaner is commonly known as a canister vacuum. Today, the Lux Classic, once known as the Electrolux UltraLux 2000, is still one of the most popular models available from Aerus.

There are many styles of Electrolux products available today, now branded simply Lux, but this classic canister style has proven to be a reliable workhorse that often lasts as long as 30 years.

Service and Repairs for Classic Electrolux Vacuum Cleaners

Electrolux vacuum cleaners are favorites in many American households because of their long life span, but they do occasionally need repair. Any authorized Electrolux dealer can make repairs to your machine, although vacuum cleaners bought online, through eBay, or elsewhere outside of a franchise dealer are not covered by warranty.

It is not recommended for consumers to purchase a vacuum cleaner online because these models are often rebuilt, sometimes used, and, occasionally, these products are stolen.

Electrolux vacuum cleaner parts, however, can be found in abundance through a variety of online dealers. Electrolux bags and filters can be purchased online with ease, even bags for older models including style C bags for the Lux Classic.

User handbooks and product manuals can also be found online and are available for instant download. Some repairs can be performed at home with the assistance of the manual, but an authorized Electrolux store should be responsible for all major service and cleaning to the machine.

AB Electrolux of Sweden, also known as the Electrolux Group, took over the Electrolux brand name in 2004. Before becoming known as Electrolux in North America, this Swedish manufacturer sold vacuum cleaners to American households under the popular brand name, Eureka. Today, AB Electrolux is the leading provider of quality vacuum cleaners all across the globe.

Today’s Electrolux vacuum cleaners are available in a wide array of designs, including classic canister styles, convenient lightweight models, and standard upright cleaners. Electrolux also has a robotic vacuum cleaner in the works, but it is not available for sell yet. This cutting edge vacuum will offer a trouble-free floor cleaning solution that automatically recharges itself at the special charging station whenever the battery runs low.

There are many different options available in each style of modern Electrolux machine as well. Some models offer low noise, some are rechargeable, and others feature handy, retractable cords with extra length for specialized cleaning. Some styles use vacuum cleaner bags, while others are bagless, or cyclonic, and some Electrolux vacuum cleaners are equipped with special HEPA filters to eliminate allergy causing dust particles.

The Electrolux Oxygen Ultra is a canister style vacuum cleaner that features a washable HEPA 13 filter, perfect for households with asthma sufferers. This model cleans away virtually all the dirt and allergens inside your carpet and locks it inside the self-sealing bag, eliminating indoor allergies and respiratory complications due to dust.

The Electrolux Harmony is another popular canister style vacuum cleaner from the world’s leading supplier of residential carpet cleaners. This model boasts a silent motor that is ideal for families with small children, night workers, or others sleeping during the day. The Harmony, model number EL6985, also has a self-parking feature that is great for small storage spaces.

Lightweight vacuum cleaners are perfect for small spills, cleaning the couch cushions, or vacuuming the stairs. The Electrolux Pronto is a rechargeable, bagless vacuum cleaner that works as a convenient hand-vac and crevice tool as well.

This model has received plenty of reviews from consumers with an average rating of 3.5 out of 5. It has been noted, however, that the Pronto doesn’t work its best on carpets and rugs.

One of the most popular Electrolux vacuum cleaner models is the Intensify. This innovative vacuum cleaner operates as an upright model, boasting unsurpassed suction power, and conveniently folds away like a canister vacuum so that it barely requires any storage space.

The outstanding power of the Intensify does come with a price and this model’s compact design doesn’t come without drawbacks either. The Intensify will only hold half as much dirt in the bag and uses more energy than other models.

Other features commonly found on modern Electrolux vacuum cleaners include expandable wands for attachments to save space and make cleaning easier, integrated lamps to illuminate dark corners, and guards and soft wheels to prevent damage to furniture and walls.

Some models have dust sensors to alert you to change the bag and many models provide space-saving options like foldaway designs and flexible handles.

Safe Travel in Mexico, What Is the Truth?

It’s Summer mid-week. The fresh sea breeze has cleared away the morning fog, and the skies are blue over the Pacific. Rosarito Beach is quiet today for which I am personally grateful, but many pray for the return of the booming tourist business. I step out of my car, having found a convenient parking place in front of the fish store. Walking inside I am greeted by a friendly “Hola!” A light smell of salt and sea life is present and I swear the fish are so fresh they are still wiggling. Leaving, with a full bag of shrimp, the man calls out to return pronto. Sunlight is bright and I marvel that the streets are devoid of the bare-skinned summer youth. They used to fill the streets. They have not returned in any great numbers.

However, there are thousands of us who never left. We foreign residents transplanted into northern Baja for many different reasons. Even through all the many changes that have taken place since 9/11, we didn’t leave. Of course, it is an old story that the Mexican people have paid a very high price for all the fluctuations in US economy; terrorist attacks, closing of the border, real estate booms and crashes, and the latest is the blatant media attack and travel warnings declaring how dangerous it is to travel here. I don’t intend to minimize the fact that there is violence in the world. Violence against one another is a holy war that still rages. Instead, I am suggesting that a peaceful life in Northern Baja is a newsworthy truth. For most of us who live here, we would not choose to live anywhere else.

The past Mayor, Hugo Torres, began the campaign to clean up the streets of Rosarito, and he did just that. He then took on the US media. What was happening to tourism in the Northern Baja cities was “Murder by Media” he said and an all-out effort to kill the tourist trade. The residents can support his view entirely. We are witness to the constant media’s lack of good journalism when reporting about Baja. It is a blatant and relentless intention to feed a negative image to travelers. We all just look at one another and shake our heads in wonder. The truth is that we live the most peaceful lives of any people anywhere, and this includes the United States of America.

“Aren’t you afraid to go to Mexico?” is becoming a tiresome question. It makes no sense to put out a travel warning to stay away from Baja, because there is violence in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas. It would be like Mexico telling people in Baja not to travel to California because there was a mafia shootout on the streets of Chicago. Admittedly, it does require a reasoning mind.

Robert Reid, Lonely Planet’s US Travel Editor, reports:

“What we don’t get from most reports in the US is statistical evidence that Americans are less likely to face violence in Mexico than at home.”

Tijuana has dropped off many of the most violent cities in the world lists. It has seen an increase in business travelers, medical tourists, and day visitors. It is, in fact, more dangerous to visit Disney World of Orlando than Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, reports Reid.

The State of Texas Department of Public Safety advised against “spring break travel anywhere in Mexico.” Suggesting instead, places like Bahamas, Belize and Jamaica, all of them having much higher homicide rates. “Mexico may be more dangerous overall, but not for Americans.” This, according to the FBI crime statistics, is less than half of the US national rate for crimes against Americans. Texans are twice as safe in Mexico and three times safer than in Houston.

Reid further reports that New Orleans broke its own tourism record last year, 8 million visitors. It had ten times the US homicide rate, and close to triple Mexico’s national rate. Even the violence in Juarez dropped 45%. Most of Mexico’s 31 states are not on the State Department’s travel warnings. The warning does recommend against travel to select parts of other states. Thirteen States are completely free from the warnings, including Baja Sur. Reid gives thumbs up to Mexico travel, saying that the Lonely Planet “took on the subject simply because – as travelers so often know – there is another story beyond the perception back home.” He goes on to stress, “And, equally as important, Mexico makes for some of the world’s greatest travel experiences.”