Getting Out of Dodge – May 4, 2011
Introduction – We are starting some newsletters about leaving your home country. The target audience for
these articles are people from the USA, Canada, Australia, and the EU. We will start with some
fundamentals and then later on get more in depth. We work with relocation within Latin America only. We
will be speaking about relocating to Guatemala mostly. While there are other locations in Central and South
America we choose Guatemala because of the following reasons:
Cost of living
Infrastructure is acceptable in terms of internet access, cable TV, satellite TV, Phones, consumer
goods availability, roads, airlines, water supply
They do not tax offshore income
They do not have a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty or Tax Information Exchange Agreement that
would affect the majority of our clients
They respect personal privacy and this is incorporated into their laws
Gun ownership is fairly easy
Citizenships and residencies are not very difficult
Health care is affordable and the quality is more than adequate (think a mere fraction of USA, EU
Alternative Health Care is not suppressed at all.
Herbal Remedies are readily available
Most pharmacy medicines are very affordable and available without prescriptions
Housing is low priced and comfortable by North American standards
Food Supply is abundant and very clean. Food approaches being organic but no such labeling
There is a 12 month growing season
Free range meat is available (the norm actually) and very affordable
You can easily grow crops and raise livestock with practically zero government interference
There is a complete lack of chemtrails
These countries have Pacific Coasts and Caribbean Coasts which is important for seafood
Labor is most affordable and readily available. It would be easy to have a small farm and put one
or two families on the farm (you provide some simple housing) and they would work the land in
return for housing, food and modest wages.
These countries are far enough away from USA to be relatively unaffected by nuclear or chemical
warfare hitting the USA and civil disobedience riots.
When we look at other Latin American countries we get discouraged. The reasons are taxes, poor
infrastructure, bad governments that infringe on rights with police state mentalities, awful crime scenarios
with free range drug gangs, high cost of living etc.
Why Leave – Well some of you are disgusted with your governments. Taxes are horrendous, benefits are
meager. Some of you are finding the economy impossible or near impossible. Food and gas prices are
rising. Some of you are facing foreclosures. Some of you are out of work. Some of you have filed or are
contemplating bankruptcy. Some of you are sick of the high crime rates. Some of you are afraid of bank
holidays, riots, martial law, declining currency values, etc. The TSA is an insult to your dignity and does
precious little to keep you safe. Rising gas prices are going to push things closer to civil unrest. Rising food
prices will do same. Food shortages could occur. Rising unemployment will also push things closer to civil
unrest. The instability in the middle east is a potential trigger since it can push gas prices up fast. If gas
goes to $6.00 or higher there is going to be civil unrest. There is no sign of any economic turnaround
coming. A turnaround would take four or more years things are so bad. There are many different reasons
for leaving. Many of you were sticking around waiting for a change. Now you see most of the changes are
Leave While You Can – Addressing the USA mostly, I would say if you are thinking of leaving you
should do so while you are able to leave. There will soon be strict controls on money leaving the country.
This takes the form of having to show the bank an invoice to send money out of the country. The bank is in
control of your money leaving or not. They would be subject to fines if they approved an international
transfer that broke the guidelines. The other concern is exit visas. To leave the country you will have to buy
your ticket some days in advance. You will need to state reasons for leaving. This would be subject to TSA
or State Dept approval. Any government agency could block you from leaving the country. This could be
opened up enabling lawyers to block departures based on civil debts. This goes on in a lot of countries. In
the USA, in the eyes of the governments, the constitution is little more than just an historical document. If
they felt you had family in the country not traveling with you, they might be inclined to approve your trip.
The idea is to see if you are a risk for not returning. This used to be called the iron curtain. If you have a
substantial business and can document the need for a business trip this would be probably be granted baring
other factors. Tourism with the family would be something rarely approved. This of course keeps funds
inside the country. As the USD becomes less and less of a reserve currency they will try to keep the
currency inside the country.
Money & Expatriating – We do know that savings are down for most people. We also know that home
equity is also way down. Many of you will have trouble selling your home. Many of you have reverse
equity. Those of you on social security will have trouble living abroad. This is due to the low payouts and
the declining value of the dollar. We estimate that $2000 is what is needed for a couple to live comfortably
in Latin America as renters. Nice apartments can be had for $600 and nice homes can be had for $1000 to
$1300. Comfortable means at least as good as you live now, probably substantially better. Some of you
have this amount coming in from social security and some have this with retirement income. Some of you
might be able to sell their home, others may be able to rent it out.
Is it possible for a single person to live on much less? There are always those that want to live in the rural
areas, speak the language, not use bottled water, not have a car, and in case you are not getting the point
live dirt cheap. Sure this person can make it on less. People will call and ask us if they can live on $900 a
month. Sure. They can get a place for $300 a month, buy local produce cheap, etc. Most of you would not
be the least bit happy with this lifestyle and I do not suggest trying it. You might find you hate taking the
busted out old school buses they use for public buses. You might not like living in a pueblo where only
spanish is spoken. You might miss not going to the movie theatre. You might miss not going to a mall. You
might miss not taking trips outside of the country. Then you will want to go back home after wasting a lot
of money on the move. We can only help some of the people, some of the time. We cannot help all the
people, all the time. If you can afford to spend $2000 a month to live as a renter we can help. You will live
much better on this money than you could in your home country.
If you wish to work with cashing out a house, it is an entirely different matter. In cities and suburbs figure
about $140,000 for a nice townhouse, executive level in a gated community, pool, rec room, etc. Figure on
about 2500 sq. ft. If you want beachfront figure the same price but it will be more of a blue collar home, not
an executive level townhouse and perhaps only 1800 sq. ft. You could certainly ship your furniture into the
country. Figure about $6,000 to $10,000 depending on where you are and what you have counting import
tariffs. This is just a coarse estimate. I am talking about a forty foot container of clothes and furniture. I
would suggest you buy a car in the new country. The old country car will have different parts due to smog
and safety requirements. The warranty will not transfer. Sell the car and buy a local car. Used cars three
years old are about 50% of the new price. Once you have the car, the house and the furnishings you are
good to live relatively cheap. You need utilities, food, gas and maybe want a maid and a gardner. In
Guatemala the weather is 55 to 75 degrees year round in many areas, so no heat and no A/C which makes
for low housing costs. Food is very cheap. Feel free to have a large organic garden to reduce food costs
even more. Electricity is cheap. Water is cheap. If you have a live in maid and a gardner you are living
well. No cleaning, the maid can cook, no garden work etc. The gardner will also do house maintenance,
wash the car, etc. You can contract with the gardner to come two or three days a week, or even a few half
days a week. You could also have a day maid instead of a live in maid. That way you have privacy when
maid leaves at night. The reality is usually at around 7- 8PM the maid retires to her room and will not come
out again until say 7 in morning or whatever you work out with her. Maids can also fill in as nannies. Some
have more than one maid and nannies as well. It depends on how you wish to live and how large of a house
and family you have. One can get a six bedroom house with 8,000 sq. ft for say $350,000 and this may
require three maids to keep it clean. The houses open to a patio and have tile floors. This means the floors
are cleaned once a day. Then comes cleaning 8 bathrooms every day. Then the kitchen. Now the walkways
are going to be swept twice a day. The windows need cleaning. The kitchen needs to be cleaned after each
meal. The gardner is busy with the flowers, the organic garden growing produce, the lawns, the fountains,
the sprinklers, washing the cars, etc. Some will hire a driver. So now the driver goes to the fruit and
vegetable outdoor market with one or two maids to buy the produce once or twice a week. Then they go to
the meat market or have the meat delivered. So this frees you up up tremendously. Most people from North
America, EU, and Australia do not understand this lifestyle, it is foreign to them. Some of the women will
do the cooking and leave the cleaning up and shopping to the staff. So it is not that expensive to have a
large patio home made out of block and concrete (no serious fires to speak of), no shopping, no cleaning,
no cooking, no gardening etc. This leaves one really free to enjoy retirement or work at a business. This is
why I say we live far better than people in North America or the EU.
Temporary Residencies, Permanent Residencies, Citizenships and Passports – It is important that you
at onset understand the differences. We talk to a lot of people who are not clear as to the differences.
Temporary Residencies - Residencies are generally temporary at onset. This means you renew them each
year. After several years you can become a permanent resident. This is usually 5 years and in a few
instances is less. This will not give you the right to a passport. It will often (not always) give you the right
to get a driver license, own guns and obtain a carry concealed gun license. You will generally not be able to
seek employment from others but will be able to work for yourself or start your own business through a
corporation. Very often you will not be able to obtain professional licenses (nurse, doctor, architect, etc) as
a permanent or temporary resident.
Pensionado – This is a special permanent residency given to those who are retired. Generally an income of
$1000 a month is required. There is no need to go through a temporary residency.
Let's Use Guatemala Pensionado Residency as an Example
Guatemala – You can get a pensionado in two weeks. To get this you need to show a monthly income of
$1000 a month. With this you can travel by land to Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador
without any passport. After two years you can apply to be a citizen. You can open bank accounts in
Guatemala with just this ID card, no passport needed. The fee for this is $7500 and will cover a single
person or a married couple.
Citizenships – Normally it is five years to go from permanent resident to citizen. It often requires a one
year temporary residency before the person can apply for permanent residency. We do work with some
countries where a citizenship can be obtained in 60 days (approx). The fees are $50,000 for a single person,
$75,000 for a couple. These citizenships allow one to get a passport the day after citizenship is granted.
These passports are good for visa free travel to the entire European Union, Central and South America,
most of Caribbean, parts of Africa and Asia. It is just under 100 countries for visa free travel. Citizenships
are for life. We only use countries that do not tax offshore derived income. Citizenships allow one to get
the passport. Passports are renewed at any embassy of the country or inside the country. One need not
spend any certain amount of time in the country if a citizen. One can on the other hand live in the country
forever as a citizen. One could as a citizen vote, get professional licenses, work for others, own businesses,
use the citizen ID to open bank accounts inside the country or use the passport to open bank accounts
around the world (in other nations) as a citizen of that country. The citizenships are naturalization
citizenships. They are 100% legal.
Diplomatic Passport – This allows one to be a diplomat of the country. It comes with citizenship. You are
then traveling with Diplomatic Immunity. These are Class A Diplomatic Passports. For more information
please go here:
Working Abroad – In the countries we deal with labor is cheap. The average wage is about $200 a month.
A manager of a bank might make $800 or $900 a month. As a general rule you will need to be self
employed or retired. Working for others is not going to be feasible, so forget that. Many go into the bed and
breakfast business. Some open resorts. Quite a few have internet businesses. I never heard of an expat
going out and taking a regular job. So in summary you would need to be retired, own a business, have some
sort of income or be self employed.
Language – Cutting through the chase you need to learn spanish. Sure the high end restaurants and shops
speak english, but learn spanish. Many doctors and Dentists speak english but not pharmacies. Did I say
learn spanish. It is an easy language. There are a lot of immersion schools available. You attend small
classes for 2-8 hours a day.
Medical – I am going to use Guatemala prices for this. Medical care is about 25% of USA prices. Hospital
rates are about 10%. A suite in a beautiful hospital is about $140 a day. What is a suite? There is a regular
hospital bed, TV and bathroom for the patient with oxygen, monitors etc. Then there is another section of
the suite with another bathroom, a coffee table, another TV and a sofa bed. This is generally for the
relatives of the patient. You will find the hospitals cleaner and the staff far more polite and caring. A house
call by an MD is about $25. A vet house call is also $25, same price hmmm. Most prescription medicines
are available without a prescription including substantial pain meds. Sleeping pills, psych meds, and
narcotics are available by prescription. Many pharmacies have a doctor in the back of the store you can see
even at night to get a prescription for a serious drug. Antibiotics, blood pressure meds, heart meds, ear
meds, eye meds, asthma meds, skin meds, arthrititis meds, liver meds and so forth are all available without
a prescription. You just need to know the name in spanish and the dose. It is easy to find the spanish name
using google. Dentists run about 35% of USA prices and the work is good. Many dentist trained in the
USA. Dentist earn less in Guatemala but they also spend much less on living expenses. If you have a
relative who is elderly and needs care put them in a condo with a maid and driver. They are never alone.
They do not need to cook or clean. They can get out with the driver for walks, drives, go to parks, the beach
etc. They can get help bathing, if they fall etc. The staff can easily be trained to give them their meds on
time. Doctors will make house calls affordably or they can be driven to the office. Beats a rest home at a
fraction of the cost. They have their dignity, privacy and quality of life.
Banking – Bank offshore not in the country you live in. You can get a bank account but just use it for
money for shopping, paying the staff etc. Keep your money in a country other than where you live, always.
Crime – You will read that Guatemala has a lot of crime. The USA is not fond of Guatemala and likes to
bad mouth the country. Parts of the country by the border are bad. You will probably live at least 2.5 hours
from the border. There are bad sections of Guatemala City as well but you will not be going there. This is
like Los Angeles which also has high crime sections. There are places much safer than most of the USA.
Study Antigua, Guatemala on the Internet. Let me give you an example of bad press the USA gives
Guatemala. On the CIA factbook site they say Guatemala has a draft into the army. This is not the case for
over 20 years. Don't believe everything you read on mainstream media and government sites.
all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 50 are liable for military service; conscript service obligation
varies from 12 to 24 months; women can serve as officers (2009)
Their source page:
The World Factbook – Guatemala
Firearms – Guatemala allows residents and citizens to own guns. Carry concealed licenses are not hard to
get. Firearms are expensive. A Beretta 92 or a Glock 17 are going to run about $1800 with taxes and
registration. Expensive. The Berettas are Italian and the Glocks Austrian. They have Sig Sauer, H & K, a
few S & W .38 revolvers and some off branded guns that mostly function fine. Hi cap mags are allowed.
You can get hollow points and plus P ammo. Shotguns are common mostly pump but some semi-autos. I
never saw a bolt action shotgun in Guatemala. Some double barrels are around. You can get a shotgun
listed on your carry permit. You can buy these with a 14” barrel with a pistol grip too. They have outdoor
ranges. Ammo is about double the price you are used to. Ranges do not sell ammo. Importing one or two
guns can be done but it is a serious hassle. Forget importing the whole gun collection, it's not going to
happen. Rifles suitable for serious long range work are about impossible to find. Assault rifles can be had,
but are hard to find and need to be bought used. Basically you should think about defending yourself with
handguns and shotguns. Slugs and double ought buck are available. The 9mm is most popular followed by
the .40. There are .45 acp handguns around as there are .38 special revolvers. I never saw a .357 mag, a .41
magnum, a .44 magnum revolver in Guatemala. I do see .25 acp, .32 acp and .380 acp pistols, if you care
for that sort of caliber weapon. Easiest to stick with 9mm, .40 or .45 and 12 ga shotgun.
Self Defense - You have a right to defend yourself against lethal force threats. They do have a concept
called investigative detention in many Latin American countries. This is not the same as mainstream prison.
You can go into investigative detention for hours to a day or two while the police investigate a shooting
where the perpetrator was killed. The police want to make sure as to what really happened. Same could
happen if you kill a pedestrian in a traffic accident. If a thief breaks into your house and you blast him it
would be extremely unlikely they would do anything more than take photos, write reports, get statements
etc. If in the street and you shot the crook who had a weapon (deadly force) trying to rob you it could go
either way regarding being held during the investigation. More than being held a little while while they
complete the investigation would be extremely unlikely. If the perp had a stolen gun, and false id and you
shot him it would go heavily in your favor but would take some hours for them to find out gun was stolen,
he had a record, etc. This means they could take you in for questioning while they investigate. A lot
depends on witnesses. Generally the population turns on bad guys who try to rob people in the street. No
one likes this sort of thing. Now you also call your lawyer perhaps before the police. The lawyer can file
some papers and pay about $400 and bypass you being held during the investigation. This is different than
the USA, Canada and EU. It is not necessarily worse and can actually be far better. In the USA you may
have to go before a grand jury for self defense. Many prosecutors in the USA charge people routinely who
defend themselves against deadly force. We have no need to flee doctrine here. We have something like a
castle doctrine but probably even stronger. The police can not search your car if you want a lawyer present
until the lawyer gets there. They have to wait until lawyer gets there. Gets interesting. They get mad but
when they hear lawyers they get nervous. 95% of the country is never going to be able to afford a lawyer. It
is really hard for police to get into a house. They need to go to a judge and convince the judge to issue a
warrant. You could insist on a lawyer being present. Not a simple matter here. Privacy is valued.
Constitutional Issues – Guatemala has a constitution. They even have a court system reserved just for
constitutional issues. It is a republic but operates as a democracy. The country is not litigious. People do not
go around suing each other very much. The utility companies are the exception who take advantage of the
poor people regarding unpaid bills, late charges, etc. For the first few years do not sign any contracts
without a lawyer reviewing them first. You must remember the legal system is not what you are used to. It
is markedly different. A landlord can write a lease that says you are responsible for all maintenance. This
could mean if the roof leaks three months later you pay to fix it. Never sign anything related to real estate
or give any sort of a real estate deposit for anything without first consulting a lawyer. The legal system is
statue based, not based on case law. This means it is far easier to understand. The general idea is to have a
lawyer review anything you sign at least until you understand the system. Best is to always use a lawyer.
Driving – This is going to be pretty much the same as the home country. There is much less traffic
enforcement for moving violations. Tickets are rare for moving violations. You do not see the laser and
radar gun speed traps that you do in North America and the EU. If you should get a ticket you send your
lawyer down to pay it. There are no points and it does not get reported to the insurance company. You see
very few accidents in Guatemala. There are a lot of 125 cc and 150 cc motorcycles. They drive crazy
delivering food and they get clipped by cars a lot. They run at night without lights on the bikes and they
swerve and ride in between lanes. A number of them get hit by cars. Pedestrians also get hit a lot. They
cross streets like Evil Kneivel but wear dark clothing at night. Car versus car accidents are not common.
Car versus truck or bus accidents also uncommon. I think the people are concentrating on the other cars not
trying to look for cops. It appears to me the police in USA, Canada, EU with their speed traps and other
harassing tactics cause more accidents than they prevent by keeping the people distracted looking for them
trying to trap them. Guess you never heard that theory before but think about it.
Summary – This is a start. We will be doing these newsletter periodically covering other points. Questions