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LA PAZ, BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR: Escape the Rat Race and Live Life as an Expat!: An Expat Fever Series Book
Escape to the beautiful waterfront city of LA PAZ!
Do you dream of escaping your daily grind, to live overseas in an AFFORDABLE version of paradise? Well, look no further! The Expat Fever series is meant to provide useful advice for those considering living in another country and is written from the perspective of real expats, who know exactly what the process of expatriation is like. This updated version (a re-release of an earlier book) includes new interviews and focuses primarily the Mexican state of Baja California Sur (BCS) and the bustling capital city of LA PAZ.
Learn how to live your dream!
Do you dream of expatriating? Leaving your old life behind and starting fresh in a beachfront paradise? Do you want to escape the cold and snow FOREVER? Well now you can learn how to do it... for FREE.
Read Richard's Story...
Richard: I'm living in Costa Rica right now, just outside the Guanacaste Region. I’m originally from the United States, specifically Washington state. I never got used to the cold weather. I hate shoveling snow. Whenever I had vacation time, I would drive down to Oregon or Shasta Lake in Northern California so I could enjoy the warmer weather. I don’t know what kept me in Washington for so long, except that I was used to it—humans are adverse to change, I guess.
I had a miserable job working for the state as a Data Analyst. I tried to stick it out until retirement, but I had a mild heart attack at 45. That was my wake-up call. I knew I would never make it to retirement if I stayed. I would end up in the hospital, instead. I knew that I needed serenity in my life, or I knew that I was going to end up in an early grave.
I decided to make a change. I took time off. I requested FMLA leave (due to health reasons and my heart attack). My employer was understanding about it, but I knew that they expected me to come back. I didn’t want to return to my job, but I needed time to think.
I never intended to become an expat, I went down to Costa Rica just to relax and decide what the next step in my life would be. I was recently divorced, and my kids were in college. I didn’t have anything tying me to the U.S. except my house—and a job that I despised.
While in Costa Rica, I met other expats. They all seemed a lot happier than me. That was what convinced me that I could live the rest of my life here. I spent three weeks in Costa Rica; a lot of time fishing and exploring the jungle. I lost 10 pounds! It ended up a very reflective period of my life.
I knew only basic Spanish (I took 4 years of Spanish in High School and spoke it occasionally at work, but I was very rusty). Still, I managed to communicate with the locals, who were all friendly and understanding.
After literally a few days of research, I went back to the U.S. and got my stuff in order. I sold my condo and most of my furniture and other belongings. That took about two months.
I contacted a few relocation companies and decided it wasn’t worth it to hold on to all my old stuff and take it with me. I kept some clothes, my golf clubs, and a few sentimental items that I packed up in boxes that I left in my brother’s garage. That’s it.
There wasn’t much profit in the home sale, but it was enough to pay for my move. I quit my job a month after that. All my coworkers were shocked. Some were even a little jealous. Everyone wanted to know how I was going to survive. I simply told them, “I’ll manage.” And it was true!
You can live on less than $1,000 per month down here depending on how you want to live. That’s especially true if you’re single and live away from the tourist zones. That’s certainly a lot more money than most of the local ticos earn in a single month.
I didn’t apply for Costa Rican residency right away. I did what a lot of other expats do—I entered on a visitor’s visa and did a “visa run” every 90 days to renew my visa. I’ve done border runs to Panama and Nicaragua, sometimes even staying up to a week to explore those other countries. But I always come back to Costa Rica.
I kept two U.S. bank accounts, just in case. One with a big bank and one with a smaller, regional bank. I had a problem with Bank of America a few years ago where a scammer drained my bank account, and I was without money for several weeks while the B of A’s fraud department sorted it out. Having all your eggs in one basket can be a recipe for disaster. I’ll never keep all my money in just one bank ever again.
For income, I had some carpentry experience and did some odd jobs for other expats who wanted to build an outdoor deck or some shelving. Nothing regular, though, so I knew I would have to get a “legitimate” source of income eventually.
I decided to become a landlord. I ended up purchasing a “fixer-upper” home and subdivided it into three rental studios, plus a small main house for me to live. Each studio is a separate vacation rental. Each one sleeps up to 4 people and has two beds plus a futon. I have a crib for couples with small children and some other small amenities, but they are pretty simple.
Each one has a simple kitchen with a 2-burner hotplate and a dorm-style refrigerator. I keep the price low in order to attract bargain hunters and students. I get some retirees, too, older couples who want to come down and enjoy Costa Rica on a budget.
I advertise online using Airbnb and Flipkey. I’ve used a few other websites, but most of my rental income comes from bookings on those two. I also maintain a simple website that I pay about $10 a month for through Weebly. I just upload pictures of the property and modify the website myself. I’ll put up a blog post every now and then if there’s something happening around town. I want to make sure that I have an actual website so renters can look me up and see that I’m legitimate, and not some fly-by-night scammer.
It’s worked out well for me. I stay pretty busy and usually have at least one of the studios occupied.
That’s how I make my living down here. If I can do it, anyone can.
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The first place we visited in Baja California Sur was La Paz, the state capital. For us, the main highlight of La Paz was the waterfront promenade, or El Malecón, as it is called by the locals. This spectacular pedestrian walkway and strip of swimmable beaches is the city’s main attraction, a must-see for anybody visiting La Paz.
The Malecón offers wide sidewalks (wide enough for bicyclists and roller skaters to use), beautiful local artwork, and benches just a few feet from the ocean, and many other attractions along the way. People often ride their bikes and go for walks there.
Many of the residents we spoke with said the city’s gorgeous waterfront was the primary reason they chose to live in this area. La Paz is the political center of the region, as well as an important commercial center in its own right. You can enjoy beautiful sunsets, a myriad of water activities, and the authentic feel of a city that has yet to lose its charm to huge skyscrapers and thousands of tourists. La Paz has a population of about a quarter-million residents. The city is full of people from all walks of life and boasts great hospitals, many schools, and a number of restaurants, bars, and shops. Life in La Paz is laid-back, but never dull.
There is plenty to do here, and the beach is only a short drive away from any area of the city. If you’re looking for a city full of beautiful scenery without the resort town feel, La Paz may just be the place for you and your family to settle down in Mexico.
We spoke with La Paz local, Carole who was originally from Canada. She was walking her little dog on El Malecón when we stopped and spoke with her.
Carole: I’m originally from Ontario, Canada, but I hate the cold. My husband and I were both looking for a warmer climate. We got lucky because a job basically fell into his lap. He was a college instructor, and he got an offer to come teach down in Baja, so we jumped at the chance.
I wasn’t sure I would like La Paz, because the city itself seems rather congested, but as soon as I saw the waterfront, I knew that I could be happy here, as long as we lived close to the water. We got a nice rental near the water, and now I walk my dog down here every single day. It’s done wonders for my stress levels. My husband teaches during the day, and I work online, but only part-time. We are living comfortably here on a third of what we were earning in Canada.
And no more snow!
Colegio El Camino is a bilingual, Private K-12, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization governed by a permanent board of governors. There are over 400 students from all different countries and backgrounds.
El Camino offers education in Los Cabos to students from all nationalities, religions, cultures and socio-economic standing. In addition to their bilingual curriculum they offer support services including licensed psychologists, a mentoring program, career and college counseling, a nutrition program recognized by AdvancED as an outstanding practice, afternoon academic academies, afternoon sports program, the Camino Language Acquisition Support Program (C.L.A.S.P), para-academic workshops and the IB Diploma CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) program.
Communication is a key component in any successful institution and to guarantee that parents are informed and the lines of communication are open and easily accessible we are equipped with their bilingual website www.elcamino.edu.mx.
Heath Sparrow is the Headmaster at Colegio El Camino, and you can contact him through the school's official website.
Today we are exploring the beautiful port city of Manzanillo, in the Mexican state of Colima. It is a busy port town on the Pacific coast. There is a lot happening here, and we weren't sure what to expect when we arrived. It is obvious that there is a lot of wealth here--and a fair amount of poverty, as well, as you go inland and away from the private beaches.
The weather has been beautiful since day one. It's not very hot or humid, although warm enough to swim every single day. The skies have been blue and gorgeous. Some of the beaches have been very crowded, although there are private beaches that are available to those who stay in exclusive areas. There are many beaches worth exploring, and we have visited several since our arrival.
We are staying in "La Punta" which is a developed community in a wealthier part of Manzanillo. The area itself seems very secure. There are a lot of federal police to protect the tourists here. The police are armed, and they tour the public beaches in pairs and hand out informational flyers to anyone who looks like a tourist.
Playa La Boquita in Manzanillo, Mexico
We visited Playa La Boquita yesterday and rented a palapa and chairs for 180 pesos (about $11 US dollars). The beach itself is very nice and safe to swim, the waves are not rough and there are lifeguards. This is an authentic Mexican beach experience. Playa La Boquita is just minutes outside of Manzanillo.
Don't get scammed into paying for parking when you drive in. The parking on the beach itself is free, although the palapas are not. Stay away from the rocky areas of the beach (on the right hand side, and for many meters towards the center of the beach). The rocks are painful on the feet and some have urchins. But there is an area in the middle with no rocks and the water is warm and pleasant to swim. Lots of great food and beach vendors selling fruit and oysters, I stepped on a rock and got a small urchin spike that I had to remove with a needle later, back at our condo. Wear water shoes. Otherwise the beach is very safe, pleasant, and the water is safe for swimming.
There are some expensive condos nearby that are linked to the beach by a pedestrian bridge. We saw locals cross over and walk their dogs along the water.
We had some fantastic food while we were there, and the kids had a blast playing in the sand all day. It's an affordable day trip because you can cart your own food in, including beer, soft drinks, and anything else you can carry to your table. The only expense we had at the beach itself was the rental of the palapa, although there were some locals who brought their own chairs and beach umbrellas as well as their own food.
Hi! I just found your blog. Love it! We are moving to Tulum! I have an 8 year old and a 12 year old. Its difficult to find any information on schools in Tulum. I'm not sure that there are even any expat kids living in Tulum as a result. Do you have any sites/info on where kids in Tulum go to school?
Tulum is a beautiful place. There are lots of expats in Tulum, as well as several active "expat communities". We have found that there are many private schools that you can choose from, it's been a while since we went back to Tulum but I would suggest asking other expats that live in the area. We've had very good luck with Mexican private schools and two of our children are currently enrolled in bilingual private schools. You can also choose to teach them using an online K-12 program that is U.S. based.
We didn't opt to do that, because we really wanted our kids to have a bilingual experience. You can try Tulum International School and go from there. I have noticed that many of the private schools in Mexico will have a Facebook page rather than a regular webpage, Facebook is very widely used in Mexico for communication so if you don't have an account it's a good idea to create one (even just a "dummy" account) in order to research and ask questions. A lot of expat groups exist on Facebook as well, including groups for every city in Quintana Roo.
We had a great experience at 24 Hour Passport and Visas, we realized very late that 2 of our children's U.S. passports were going to expire in less than 6 months and we were only going to be in the US for a week! They got us a very speedy turnaround on both passports, (went to their office very late on Friday and had them in our hands by the following Tuesday). Great service, and they were patient with our kids, which were crawling around trying to touch everything. It was pricey to get the expedited service, but well worth it for us.
We used their San Francisco location (on Van Ness) and the staff was friendly and took our kid's passport photos and everything. It was a bit pricey but absolutely worth it, as we were paying for a hotel and rental car while we were in the U.S.
Note: we are not affiliated with 24 Hour Passports in ANY way, we just wanted to share our experience, their customer service was great.
One of the most frequent questions we receive from American expats is what to do about taxes when you become an expat. When it comes to U.S. taxes, the answer is never simple! Today, we have a guest post by Inez Zemelman, EA, the founder of Taxes for Expats, a firm specializing in tax preparation for U.S. taxpayers who are living overseas.
Taxes for US citizens residing abroad is always a tricky subject. The following information is provided by Taxes For Expats -- They are a professional tax firm that work directly with expats in Mexico and taxpayers across the globe (they have clients in 175 countries) and they often get asked to break down the clunky IRS tax code & explain filing requirements for Americans who live outside the U.S. For more in depth info, please see their U.S. Tax Guide for 2017 for complete info.
(Note: Taxes for Expats is not affiliated with Expat Fever and has not paid a fee in order to be posted here.)
If you are self employed or have a job, you likely need to file a U.S tax return. If you are a US citizens or Green Card holder, you must (assuming you meet the minimum filing thresholds) file an annual tax return reporting your worldwide income from all sources. The minimum requirements are $4k USD for those who are married filing separately (generally those married to a non-US citizen), and $400 for those who are self employed. If you are single the threshold is $10k USD.
You must file - but you likely won’t pay (if your return is prepared correctly). There is a general misconception that you do not need to file if you earn under $100k. This is incorrect. You must file, but if you take advantage of the proper exclusions, most expats won’t end up paying any taxes to the IRS. To take advantage of these exclusions, you need to file; they are not automatically granted. Each year, you must continue to file if you meet the minimum filing requirements. Failure to do so can lead to penalties.
How do expat returns differ from a tax return when you live in the states?
Deadlines: For those residing abroad, tax due is June 15 (automatic two month extension is granted). Note - if you owe any tax, it is still due on April 15th, so get your returns done early in the year to avoid any unpleasant surprises. An additional extension until October is also available - this must be filed before June 15
Many deductions/exclusions available only to those residing abroad: The tax man giveth, but Uncle Sam does not give automatically. In order to benefit from the tax saving methods available - the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), Foreign Tax Credit, Foreign Housing Exclusion, Treaty exclusions, and many more - your tax return must be prepared correctly and tax saving tools utilized properly.
No W-2 (country equivalent) sent to the IRS: Unlike a U.S. employer which will issue a W-2 or 1099, which will be sent to the IRS and to you, your foreign employer will not provide you with such a form (and even if there is a local tax declaration, it does not get forwarded to the IRS). As such, you should keep accurate records of your finances. The U.S. calendar year remains Jan 1- Dec 31, and your local tax declaration may be on a different fiscal year (ie; Apr 1 - Mar 31); we have a special income calculator in our questionnaire that helps normalize your earnings to the U.S. calendar year.
Overall complexity: Living abroad has many benefits, but increased complexity of your U.S. tax return is not one of them. Chances are you have non-US pension, you may be self-employed or own a non-US corporation, or invest in non-US mutual funds - dubbed PFIC (foreign passive investment corporations). Finally, you likely contribute to a non-us social security system, and you need to read up on what totalization agreements are, along with calculating how to treat your employer contributions to your superannuation account and understanding the various tax treaties- it’s no fun; let us make this annoying process less painful.
Reporting your financial accounts - does not generate tax due: Aside from the filing of your returns, you also need to declare your non-US financial accounts (such as bank accounts, superannuation and any other non-US pension) to the U.S. treasury. Note - this does not cause you to owe tax - but you must report these balances. This reporting consists of two main forms --- FBAR (FinCEN 114) and FATCA (form 8938).
These two forms are similar, but have different filing thresholds (10k USD for FBAR - 8938 depends on your filing status and where you reside (see link above). 8938 is filed with your tax return, FBAR is filed separately.
Ines Zemelman, EA is the founder of www.taxesforexpats.com.
The Bisbee Black and Blue Marlin Tournament begins on October 24, 2017 in Baja California, and is open to all! What better way to get away from the cold and enjoy fabulous fishing in the pristine blue waters of Baja California.
To register, go to the official website for the tournament.
Bisbee Tournament Dates: 10/25/2017 - 10/27/2017
If you attend this event, send us your stories and photos, we would love to share them with our readers!
The celebration of the Mexican War of Independence on September 15 is a big event all over Mexico! We spent the day purchasing traditional candies and costumes for our kids. Here is our youngest son all decked out in his traditional garb.
There is fun and fireworks and lots of great tradition on this day. All over Mexico, the politicians come out en masse to celebrate the day, making long speeches while famous bands play in the background. We always look forward to watching "La Paquita Del Barrio" who is considered a national treasure for her salty, heart-felt lyrics ("Paquita from the neighborhood" is the stage name of Grammy-Award winning singer, Francisca Viveros Barradas). The kids all get dressed in traditional Mexican costumes and have great fun breaking pinatas and playing with other children. Lots of fireworks, too, which are a huge hit.
For those of you who are here as expats, enjoy the day and enjoy the fun! It's ten times bigger and better than Cinco de Mayo in the U.S., and you're sure to have a blast.
Just a middle-class dad and mom with three young kids, looking to escape the rat race. This is our journey!
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