I am once again using some online forums (Thailand and Bulgaria currently) to get feedback from expats living in those countries. The discussions sould strangely similar to when I used Costa Rican expats forums a year ago. First, you get a lot of disgruntled people complaining about the country and the people. You also get those who recommend making a trip, a holiday, to the country before moving. I heard this plenty before moving to CR – WITHOUT a pre-move visit.
I have a problem with this advice simply because it’s some of that one-size-fits-all stuff. If I was moving a family, a household of goods, a car, or if I was buying real estate or starting a business in another country, of course I would visit the country first. But if my intent is to stay there only a year or so, and if I’m only bringing two suitcases of stuff, and since I will have a return airline ticket, why waste the money to visit the country first? An addendum to that is that I have limited funds and travel is expensive, so I would be spending savings I cannot replace to visit a country to decide if I want to come back in another month to live. That simply does not pass the smell test.
My formula worked for me when coming to CR and it will work for whatever country I decide to move to next. First is months of research to determine housing and living expenses, location desired, visa requirements, travel schedules – air and ground, etc. The selected country has to have a significantly lower cost of living than in the U.S., have a secure and preferably democratic government, allow me to stay at least a year, have good medical services, and be an interesting place to visit, with interesting countries to visit nearby. The climate should be warm year-round.
All of this can be determined from my laptop. I can even call people in-country to schedule appointments once I arrive for, say, to look at rental property. Temporary housing can also be taken care of remotely, as can in-country travel from the airport to my destination city.
And if I don’t like the city I originally choose, then I pack up and head for another city in-country (as long as I don’t have a long-term lease). This all saves me $3,000-4,000 if I instead decided to visit the country on a holiday, which, BTW, is not the best way to get “a feel” for a city or country. You gotta live there, baby! Just keep the wheels on in case you need to go.
All of this advice comes from actual experience, BTW. I have had very little trouble in my move to Costa Rica – and I did not visit first.