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Using 90-day tourist visas to take refuge from U.S. hyperinflation, Part 1

Posted by John Reed on

I like to figure things out in part by gathering a huge amount of data. As a youth football coach, our defense kept getting beat game after game. I started watching our game videos while riding my exercise bike.

A pattern emerged. There was really only one play that was beating us: the sweep.

So then I created what football coaches call a cut-up. I copied onto a blank tape all the sweeps run by our team and against our team in a couple of seasons of games trying to figure out what stopped them and what caused them to succeed. I also read every defense book I could find checking the index for the word “sweep” first.

Then I watched that sweep tape over and over.

The problem is not the sweep. It’s just the wide-side sweep. 85% of snaps are from a hash mark. Sweeps run into the 17-yards away boundary don’t work. Only the ones to the wide side (34 yards) work. Also, what stops the sweep is a maneuver by the defensive end called boxing, combined with correct sweep pursuit by the other ten players.

Legal, cheap, quick escape from America

Similarly, I keep trying to understand leaving the U.S. and going to a foreign country during USD hyperinflation which would cause severe shortages of food and other necessities here. I’m interested in how to do it legally. And how to do it cheap for those with smaller budgets.

There are a lot of travel books which are quite helpful with regard to two-week-type visits to a foreign country. And there are a lesser, but still substantial, number of books about moving permanently or for years to various countries. And I am interested in which countries.

There is no book, as far as I know, on using a series of 90-day tourist visa to stay away from the U.S. for, say, two years.

Am I going to write it? Probably not. For one, I would sort of have to do just that and I am not in the mood nor is my wife. For another, it is a subject that people need to read about, but don’t know they need to read about, so there would be too small of a market for it. Also, it would be a very complex, dynamic subject. Better I just give you the basic ideas here and you supplement what I tell you with up-to-date research on the specific countries in which you are interested at the time.

As with the sweep issue, my marathon of research of the 90-day tourist visa multi-year travel picture is starting to come into focus.

Screw residence permits and citizenship

I am getting a ton of info on the getting of residence permits and becoming a citizen of another country and all that. You know what? Although it varies somewhat, it is a royal pain in the ass no matter where you go. Plus, it subjects you to all sorts of local laws regarding paying foreign taxes, paying foreign government health care premiums, etc.

And I see no benefit other than being able to stay in the country past 90 days. As I said in another recent article, you can change countries in some parts of the world by crossing the street—where you would automatically get another 90-day tourist visa for that country. Typically, at the end of the second 90 days, you can go back to the first country. For example, I think you could spend two 90-day periods per year in Australia and two in New Zealand and do it again the next year. That would give you almost two full years of living in those two countries in the form of four 90-day, nonconsecutive, periods in each.

So explain to me why I would put myself through great time consumption and expense and vexation, and subject myself to local taxes and health care premiums and other local rules just to avoid packing my bags and moving across the street. Even if I had to get on a plane, say, to switch between Australia and New Zealand, it’s no big deal to do that every 90 days.

Residence permits are ‘cooler’ than 90-day tourist visas?

I get a sense in reading the “internationalize your life” web sites and the “start a new adventure in a new country” or “start a new life in a new country” books that getting a residence permit or, better yet, citizenship, in another country gives you more prestige among American expats and among Americans who are intimidated by foreign travel and countries.

And that and a Sacajawea U.S. dollar coin will get me a ride on a San Francisco trolley.

I don’t need no stinking prestige. I’m just trying to have a plan if and when I can’t buy food and other necessities in the U.S., including if it lasts as long as two years, which is possible. The notion that there is something “cool” about a foreign residence permit or having another country’s passport is adolescent nonsense. Is this some sort of “James Bond” or “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” fantasy? I do not like hype. There are sometimes good reasons to move to another country. But all this military-recuriting-type poster talk of “adventure” and making you a better person creeps me out.

I must also point out that there is a lot of money to be made helping you get foreign residence permits and/or citizenship. This 90-day tourist visa advice of mine is designed to save you money and that has the effect of preventing me from making much. I want to sell my book How to Protect Your Life Savings from Hyperinflation & Depression, 2nd edition, but if I divide the cost of that book—$29.95—by the percentage of it devoted to 90-day tourist visas—I make what? 50¢ pushing the 90-day-tourist visa idea on you. And what do you get for your 50¢? Avoiding starvation. Seems like a decent deal.


There is also a “Dr. Von Hoffel’s Elixir” medicine-show resemblance. Moving to Costa Rica is going to give you a “more humane pace,” make you healthier (from fresh produce and nicer weather that cause you to be outdoors more but not so much discussion of skin cancer or malaria), give you more “social harmony” (with the good Costa Ricans, not the petty thieves or violent criminals). Being “immersed in another language and culture” is presented as an absolute good. I will remind readers that there are a lot of former Costa Ricans or whatever living in the U.S. and I’m guessing the number of them who want to come here and stay here far exceeds the number of us who want to go there and stay there.

Culture shock and reverse culture shock

You will suffer from culture shock whenever you move to a new country and stay there for a while. And, perhaps surprisingly, you will experience reverse culture shock if and when you come back to the U.S. One of my West Point roommates was a U.S. Army liaison officer in Canberra, Australia for two years. His first stop coming back was my house in California. We stopped at the supermarket to pick up some stuff. He was mesmerized by the enormous variety of different cereals and so on. In Australia, they have far fewer brands. What is being called “culture shock” in these become an expat books is merely habits and the availability of choices.

My wife was born in Indonesia and grew up there and in Taiwan and Ethiopia. She wants NO part of living in another country. And as I told her about the things I was learning about other countries in my research, she commented that my research was an America-appreciation project. Indeed, as were our travels to other countries recently. But although America is the greatest place in many ways, it will be no fun for a time if the U.S. government causes hyperinflation, then enacts laws like capital controls and price controls in the name of fixing it. Those will make living here in the U.S. intolerable.

Gotta have a Country B—and with 90 day tourist visa rules, a Country C and maybe D and E.

There is a vague notion that having a residence permit guarantees you can get into another country, but a mere 90-day tourist visa may not? That implies that 90-day tourist visas are sometimes not available, but residence permits are forever.

I am not aware of any evidence to support either of those assertions. I saw a list of reasons why countries stopped granting visas to citizens of other countries in the past. It was stuff like the two countries being at war with one another or at least really pissed off at each other, a contagious disease epidemic in the country you are leaving, high amount of terrorism or crime in the country you are from like Somalia or Iran or Afghanistan, high probability you are an economic refugee looking for a new country in which to beg. Stuff like that.

But there are something like 200 countries. They vary by desirability, but you only need two and you are only going there to be able to buy food and other necessities for 90 days. Right now, a U.S. passport generally gets you into almost all the countries of the world. And you probably don’t want to go to the ones who will not grant you an automatic or almost automatic 90-day tourist visa. Here is a line from the Wikipedia write-up on the subject “Visa requirements for United States citizens”:

According to the "Henley Visa Restrictions Index 2013," holders of a United States passport can visit 172 countries and territories visa-free or with visa on arrival, and the United States is currently ranked 2nd (tied with Germany, Denmark, and Luxembourg) in terms of travel freedom.

That should be quite adequate for leaving the U.S. and going to a country where they do not have hyperinflation, price controls, capital controls, and massive shortages of necessities.

Countries on the ‘bad’ lists

If you want to see something funny, or at least it was to me, Google some foreign country name and add the phrase “tourist visa.” I just did it with Gibraltar. First search result is It basically says that if you are coming from a country like the U.S. or Norway, you automatically get a tourist visa just by showing up. But they also have a long list of countries whose citizens must apply for a visa before they come. What is that list? A list of all the shitty countries in the world. It makes me laugh because in diplomacy they are very careful to treat each country, no matter how shitty, with verbal dignity and respect—until someone from that country wants to set foot in their own. Then they get out the you-must-apply-for-a-visa-in-advance list. Here are the first ten countries on Gibraltar’s alphabetical, apply-in-advance list:

  • AFGHANISTAN                

One Gibraltar web site makes a color-coded map of who must apply for tourist visas in advance. That is funny to me because it almost looks racist, another deviation from the typical, ritual incantations of respect for everyone that incessantly come out of the mouths of government officials: It is crystal clear from this map that Gibraltar is not real keen on having visitors from Africa, former or current Communist-ruled countries, northwest South America, or the Muslim world. Whom do they want? North Americans, the rest of Latin America, western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, South Africa.

You can do that Google search with virtually all countries and you get a similar list of who gets automatic tourist visas and who does not. Even Indonesia, which is on Gibraltar’s bad list, has a similar bad list. Others on Gibraltar’s bad list, like China and Russia, require everyone to get a visa in advance. Russia and China are grumpy countries with not-yet-realized delusions of grandeur who are envious at the U.S., whose citizens are welcome almost everywhere that they would want to go. They refuse to have a good list with the U.S. or its allies on it. They are also run by dictators who, are, paradoxically, paranoid.

Who says residence permits are never revoked?

And what is the basis for believing that the country that granted you a residence permit won’t revoke it before it expires if that country suddenly has bad relations with the U.S., like the U.S. and Russia right now?

They do not revoke citizenship, but citizenship is extremely hard to get. One speaker at the 2013 Freedom Fest said there are three things you want in becoming a citizen of another country: a process that is cheap, fast, and easy. He went on to say you can often get one, sometimes two, but never all three.

And again, Americans already can get into 172 countries. Roughly speaking, you would only NEED citizenship in another country if the number of decent countries allowing U.S. citizens in on tourist or resident visas dropped to zero. That has never happened.

Two countries? Eight countries?

You could move to a new country every 90 days never repeating the same country during, say, a two-year period. Would that cost more? The only cost is travel to the new country. For example, you could just go from one Latin American country to the next adjacent one and work your way from Mexico down toward Chile. Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama were all recommended in one book I read about retiring abroad. That’s five 90-day periods right there. That book also recommended Ecuador and Uruguay. Pick one more and you’ve got your whole two years taken care of—and you saw eight different countries. Very educational.

Or you could do the same in the Caribbean spending 90 days each in, say, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Saint Martin (France possession but not part of Schengen Area), Sint Maarten (Dutch possession on the same island as Saint Martin—easy move—also not part of Schengen Area), the British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Turks and Cacos.

Can you do that in Europe? Not much. It’s almost all Schengen Area. After 90 days in the Schengen Area, you have to stay out of it for 90 days. And the only places out of it over there are the U.K. and Ireland, unless you count the Balkans, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova.

Actually, there are a couple of little St. Martin-type situations in Europe where you can walk across the street or a bridge and thereby leave, and later return to, the Schengen Area.



Schengen status
Andorra French-Spanish border not part of Schengen Area
Gibraltar Almost the southernmost point in Spain U.K. territory therefore not in Schengen Area; Americans can stay up to 180 days in Gibraltar, not just 90
Liechenstein Swiss-Austrian border part of Schengen Area
Luxembourg In between France, Belgium, and Germany part of the Schengen Area, indeed, the village of Schengen where the Schengen treaty was signed is in Luxembourg
Malta Mediterranean island 50 miles south of Sicily part of Schengen Area
Monaco French Riviera part of Schengen Area
San Marino Almost on the eastern Northern Italy coast (Adriatic Sea) about 100 miles south of Venice not part of Schengen Area

So you could spend 90 days in the Schengen area then 90 days in Andorra, Gibraltar, or San Marino, then go back to the Schengen area.

Worse things could happen to you. I have never been to any of them, but in print and photographs they seem to be lovely little storybook countries. Andorra is a monarchy! San Marino is a continuation of a monastic community that was founded on September 3, 301. I did not even know they had a calendar back then! Gibraltar has a queen—Elizabeth, the British monarch. All three of the non-Schengen microstates in Europe are big on tourism and have nice or relatively nice weather. Andorra’s average elevation is 6,500 feet and its lowest is 2,800 feet; San Marino is at 2,500 feet; and Gibraltar is at about sea level but it has a 1,400 feet tall rock.

Asia? Probably, say, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand. That could get expensive with both travel and cost of living.

Africa or the Middle East? Plenty of countries there but please leave me off the manifest.

Permanent cruise ship passenger?

Permanent cruise ship resident is another interesting idea for being away from the U.S. for extended periods. I asked my wife what the cheapest cruise would cost—like repositioning cruises between the summer and winter seasons. She thought about $50 a day. I hope more knowledgeable readers will correct that if it’s wrong. The cheapest I could find in a cursory Web search was about $160 per day. I presume you can get that lower with frequent cruiser and senior discounts and such.

One problem with repositioning cruises is you have to get off the boat at the new peak-season area. Then what? You’re 3,000 miles or more from where you started and you probably need to pay peak-season rates to get back—unless it’s some country where you can do one of your 90-day tourist visa stays. By the end of that, peak season may be over and you can cheaply repositioning out of there.

That would be $1,500 a month. I think they would require a passport, but you don’t need to get off the ship when it goes to ports so you could never show the passport to anyone and thereby never start any 90-day-visa clock. I got off on a bunch of Caribbean islands a few years back. If I had it to do over, I would have stayed on the ship in Nevis, Barbados, and St. Lucia. Bad neighborhoods with palm trees. St. Martin and St. Thomas were okay.

Not just rent—everything

If you had no mortgage or rent to pay back in the U.S., the $1,500 would cover everything: room, board, entertainment, pool, hot tub, medical that does not exceed the ship’s doctor’s capabilities. You can walk to everything on the ship so no need for a car or other transportation. There are some passengers who stay on the same cruise to the same islands time after time—getting frequent cruiser discounts and special treatment. When the ship returns to, say, Fort Lauderdale, they just watch the old passengers get off and the new ones get on. You can eat at assigned tables and thereby get to know your table companions during the cruise. Or you can sit with new people at every meal.

Healthy singles could probably become adept at finding and dating people from each passenger group.

Can you find cheap cruises all 365 days a year? Maybe. I have not researched that yet. One elderly female permanent cruiser was asked why and said, “It’s cheaper than a nursing home.” When it was pointed out that it lacked some of the facilities of a nursing home, she said, “like what? They prepare my meals, make my bed, have exercise classes, a doctor and nurse, everything is a short walk, I meet tons of new people constantly.” The lady has a point. Here is a link to that story:

That lady was paying $135 a day and it was a real cruise, not repositioning or some other discount voyage.

Here’s an article about getting cruise bargains by booking later than normal. Of course, crappy cabins, off-peak times of year, and such all save money.

All the interesting people you meet—on a freighter!?

How about freighter cruises? That is, there are passenger cabins on freighters like container ships. Really. One had an 84-day cruise that was about $146 per day. They may have an indoor pool, hot tub, and gym, but not a lot of other cruise ship amenities. No doctor. I read somewhere that a freighter captain said his favorite thing about captaining a freighter was all the interesting people he met. Huh!? Turns out, many authors go on such cruises to get away from it all and concentrate on finishing their latest book.

We writers can’t write all day. Only about four hours in my experience and that of others who have commented on it. So the captain got to talk to them at meals and around the pool or deck in the evening.

Would you get bored out of your mind? Perhaps. There is Island Fever. Ship Fever seems like it would be worse. But I am a writer. If I had access to the Internet and my laptop on the ship, I think I could get into it. I had no trouble getting into it on that one Caribbean cruise I took—maybe two weeks long, I’m not sure. So if you get bored, get off the ship. All we’re trying to do here is stay out of the U.S. for six to 24 months. A combination of cruises and 90-day-tourist stays will work just fine.

It does not look to me like cruise ship are extraordinarily cheap living, but they are visa-free, and an opportunity to see the world. And you have to keep reminding yourself that the cruise ship fee covers all your needs, not just rent. And they could complement 90-day on-land stays. Perhaps 90 days in the Schengen Area followed by an 90-day freighter cruise that ends up with you back in the Schengen area.

And not everyone reading this is on a budget. Many can afford all sorts of prices per month and are just trying to make their hiatus from hyperinflated America as enjoyable as possible.

What is 90 days?

90 days is about the length of the seasons: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. It also matches high-season and off-season in resort areas, which has implications for costs and crowds. It matches the U.S. summer school vacation. Not sure about other countries. It matches the longer, multi-continent cruises. For colleges on the quarter system, it matches the quarters. There have been lots of 90-day internships in various fields, at least before the unions started demanding interns be paid. There are also a lot of non-college courses, exercise programs, and diets that are billed as taking 90 days. U.S. Officer Candidate School graduates were called “90-day Wonders” during World War II. My Uncle Jack was one of them.

This has implications for how you might use each 90-day tourist visa stay. Since you usually are not allowed to work legally on a 90-day tourist visa (you can in Costa Rica), you might use each stay to write or read or study or lose weight or become more fit or rehab from an injury or recover from surgery.

My childhood in Wildwood, NJ

From age 3 to 10, I lived year-round in Wildwood, NJ, a seashore resort. There were lots of empty houses in the nine non-summer months. In the summer they all filled up. Many were second homes of families who came every summer and stayed in their second house. One of my college roommates family had a summer house on a lake in MN that they went to every year. Seems to me you could do that maybe by having a home in Canada and another in New Zealand. During USD hyperinflation, you simply spend two seasons in your Canada house and two in your New Zealand House.

You do not need to own it. Many of the houses in Wildwood were rented to the same family every summer. The family liked the house and the landlord liked the family and preferred them to risking renting to a new family they might not like. This 90-day tourist visa rotating for six to 24 months need not be weird and jarring. It can be like going to the same summer house every year—only extended to all four seasons—two if you go to the northern and southern hemispheres as in Canada and New Zealand. You can spend Northern hemisphere Spring and Summer (April through August) in Canada then spend Southern hemisphere Spring and Summer (September through March) in New Zealand. It’s not Endless Summer, but pretty nice.

You cannot do endless summer because we only have two hemispheres, not four. But there are many countries where the temperatures are always what Americans think of as summer—basically between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn—about 23º north and south latitudes. Alternatively, if you want endless snow skiing, you can choose to always be where it’s Winter or Spring and at high altitude. That sounds more expensive.

Advantages and disadvantages of seasons

There is in many, but not all, places, a high season, off season, and shoulder (in between) season. Seasons can stem from climate; annual national, regional, or city holidays; school vacation schedules. You may want to go to the country in question during high season for the most attractive climate or famous events. Or you may want to go in off-season to avoid crowds and high prices.

You will need to go somewhere in shoulder seasons if you are going to be away from the U.S. for 365 days a year during USD hyperinflation. Also shoulder seasons offer a blend of not too crowded, not too expensive, not too hot, not too cold.

If you are rich, you can do whatever you want. If you have to operate on a budget, you may be forced to always be here you are in that country’s or city’s off-season. Worse things could happen to you. I lived year round in Wildwood, NJ for eight years, nine months of which were definitely off-season. The non-summer months were perfectly nice, only not as hot and certainly not as crowded. Unfortunately, the boardwalk was closed. Otherwise, it was just a normal place, not a bad place, from September to May.

Also, in some places, what are shoulder seasons elsewhere are the best seasons. For example, the best weather in San Francisco is not summer, but September and October. Indeed, Mark Twain once wrote that the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. If you hate crowds, shoulder seasons and off-seasons are high season to you.

Not just best country, also best PART of the country

Although the 90 day tourist visa applies to entire countries and the entire Schengen area, depending upon what time of year you go to the country in question, you should try to select the best part of the country in question. As you know, a foreigner coming to America for 90 days or two 90-day stays would be wise to ask a well-traveled American where to go in America depending upon the season. We would generally urge Hawaii or south in the winter and many U.S. locales (other than the desert or Southeast) in summer.

Of course, if you have some outdoor hobby that is very important to you, you could do like the guys in the movie Endless Summer, who were surfers, and go where conditions were best for your outdoor hobby during each 90-day period.

Overbuilt markets mean cheap housing

It seems somewhere in the U.S. or the world there are always overbuilt markets—too many houses and/or apartment buildings and/or hotels. If you are on a budget, you could seek out those to minimize your costs. To state it in MBA terms, housing and hotels have high fixed costs and low variable costs. That means they must offer really cheap rents when their market is weak.

That is not true of things with high variable costs like restaurant steak dinners. They will either sell at more or less normal prices or shut down. Apartments and hotels are loath to shut down. They would rather get whatever they can as long as it covers the additional cost of having a person in the room or apartment. They wish it would cover the mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance (fixed costs), but even when it does not, they need to get what they can. They only shut down when the rent you pay is less than the extra costs they incur because you are in the building—which are rather few and small.

You can Google overbuilt markets to find where they are around the world at any given time. I just did that on 4/11/14 and found that many parts of Canada, mainly eastern parts like on the Atlantic, Quebec, and Toronto, not Western Canada, are overbuilt.

Cheap, not overbuilt, is the goal for those on a budget

You can also say to heck with why the rents are cheap. Just tell me where they are cheap. For that, use which lists costs of living for hundreds of cities around the world. And in my limited travels to Australia, New Zealand, and Canada recently, I found Numbeo’s numbers to be accurate.

Lease term

Working on 90-day tourist visa rules, you might think you could only do 90-day leases. Actually, unless you scouted out the rental property in advance, that would be hard because you probably cannot find a place to rent the first day you arrive. You can sign whatever lease you want including one that extends beyond your 90-day visa. The landlord only cares that you pay the rent, not whether you are actually there in most cases. You don’t want to waste rent when you are not there, but a couple of days probably won’t kill you financially.

Then there is the tag-team concept. How many are in your family? You could sign even, say, a year lease on say, two properties in different countries, maybe Australia and New Zealand, then take turns living in each. You are in the Australia house for 90 days then got to New Zealand where you wife has been for 90 days and she goes to Australia. The more in your family doing this with you, the more flexibility you have in the lease terms you agree to. You could also team up with another family to do this.

Leasing an apartment in other countries is basically the same as in the U.S., but they have some weird variations that you had better make sure you know about. You need to be very careful whom you deal with. Apparently, there are lots of people who claim to be real estate agents who may have nothing to do with the property or have a license and so on. You need local help you can trust to sign a lease. Do not do it sight unseen. So it’s mostly the same, but you’d better learn about the part that is not. Things like a refrigerator may not come with the apartment—important if you are on a 90-day lease.

In Costa Rica, many apartments have no hot water. Really! Or they have some inadequate electric water warmer that heats water a little on the way out the shower nozzle. We had no hot water in Vietnam, but we got our showers from a 55-gallon drum on top of the roof with a pull chain shower nozzle coming off the bottom of it. It was so hot in Vietnam that the 55-gallon drum in the sun all day did the job. But you may not be so easy to please when you are not getting combat pay.

In Australia and New Zealand, they are not real big on central heat or air-conditioning. You may say that’s because they have a moderate climate. It’s not THAT moderate! Sydney’s average summer highs are around 78 and their average winter lows are around the mid thirties! Auckland’s average summer highs are in the low 70s and the average winter lows are in the mid 40s. The average winter highs are in the low 50s in Auckland—Sydney’s average winter highs are in the low 60s—and no heat to turn on! Are they trying to create a market for wool sweaters?

4 x 90 is 360 days, not 365

What about the fact that 4 x 90 days is not 365 days? It’s only 360. Well, the only country I know of that says you can only spend two 90-day periods there is New Zealand. I expect there are others but I am not sure. NZ is concerned about both not exceeding 90 consecutive days and not exceeding 180 days per 365-day year.

Other countries like Australia and Canada seem to have a 90-day limit at a time, but no total days per year that I am aware of. The Schengen Area says you have to leave at 90 days then not come back into the Area until 90 more days, but your commencing your fifth 90-day period 5 days before the end of the first full year does not appear to be a concern of theirs. Gibraltar says Americans can stay for 180 days.

But what about 183 days?

There is another number of days that is of concern to many countries. That is 183 days. If you divide 365 by 2 you get 182.5 which rounds up to 183. If you spend 183 or more days in a country, you have spent most of the year there. Many countries, maybe most, have the attitude that if you spend most of the year in their country, they own you for making your pay taxes, health care premiums, apply for a residence permit and so on. In Spain, once you hit the 180th day there, you are required to get a Spanish drivers license, or never drive. The license is extremely expensive and time-consuming to get. One Michigan lawyer said it was harder to pass the Spain drivers exam than the Michigan bar. Really! If you keep driving in Spain by claiming to be a tourist who has not yet 180 days, and you have an accident, the insurance company will use your fraud to deny the claim.

Also, the country in which you spend less than half the time—typically the U.S. in the case of my readers—may start canceling your insurance and such.

One rough way you could deal with this would be to spend a week or so in yet another country, like a couple using Australia and New Zealand spending a week in Singapore or Hong Kong or Fiji each year. Then there is NO country in which you spend most of your year. Or you could take a five-day or longer cruise each year and accomplish the same purpose. A round-trip cruise from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia looks like it would take about two day each direction, maybe three, so that would fill out your 365 days.

So, do not spend more than 180 days in any country during your refugee-from-America period. If you cross the International date line to go between your two non-U.S. countries, that takes care of another day—going west anyway.

Not spending 183 or more days in any country may make a foreign country seek to lay claim to you. Since the U.S. lays claim to you for income tax purposes no matter how many days you spend in the U.S. your taxes are spoken for. But better you should not mention that you are a permanent 90-day tourist.

Heck, you don’t really know how long you will be out of the country. “For the duration” of the USD hyperinflation emergency is the answer. I figure it will last 6 to 24 months. But as it is going on, the first sentence in my book How to Protect Your Life Savings from Hyperinflation & Depression, 2nd edition applies both to the beginning of the hyperinflation and to its end. That first sentence is

It could happen tomorrow.

Hyperinflation always ends—because it is simply intolerable—and it ends overnight, when the government either introduces a brand new currency which is credibly guaranteed not to be over-“printed” like the last one was, and/or they repeal capital controls thereby letting Americans possess foreign currency and gold and use them to buy stuff here in the U.S. A new currency called the Rentenmark is how Germany ended its hyperinflation in 1924. Termination of capital controls is how Zimbabwe did it in 2009.

Best weather in the world

I had been wondering where the best weather on earth is. The book Living Abroad in Costa Rica says it is in Atenas, Costa Rica according to National Geographic.

I do not like people thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and I think a lot of the talk about traveling out of the U.S. to exotic locations is just that. But you can get some good weather. Based on past research, I would expect the best weather in the world to be at an altitude of about 3,000 to 5,000 feet and in the general vicinity of the equator. Indeed, Atenas is at 2,625 feet and has a latitude of 10 degrees north of the equator. The low temperatures are essentially 65º every day of the year and the highs average about 83º except for March and April when they go up to about 86º. But they have too much rain and too many rainy days for my taste.

Within the U.S., Hawaii has some pretty great weather, plus you can adjust it by going to the windy or non-windy side of the mountains or higher up. But my incentive to write about this is to get away from possible USD hyperinflation and price controls. Because Hawaii is an island thousands of miles from the mainland, I expect they would have to be given some dispensation from the strict price and capital controls I would expect to see in the Continental U.S. But I cannot calibrate or count on that in advance.

Cheap generally means poor

The foreign countries that are advertised as cheap are generally cheap because they are poor. That lowers the labor costs and, somewhat, real estate costs. But the stuff they do not produce has to be imported, plus they have trouble earning foreign currency which is needed to import stuff so they often have very high tariffs which drives up the cost even more than transporting it from afar.

The per capita GDP in Costa Rica was $12,100 in 2011; the U.S., $49,000.

Poor also means generally means lousy infrastructure like roads and government services like police. And it means many thieves who prey on wealthy tourists or expats living in their country. The Costa Rica book says almost all the houses have bars on their windows and doors. Here in the U.S., I regard such bars as evidence that the neighborhood is bad and has high crime. Essentially, the book says that’s why they have them there—using nicer words.

In both Living Abroad in Costa Rica and Living Abroad in Spain, which are written by two different authors, readers are warned again and again about pickpockets, purse snatchers, and general thieves. When my son and I went to London, Paris, and Rome in 2008, we read so many warnings about gypsies and pickpockets that we were highly on guard against them. We had no incidents, but I suspect it was because we were so on guard. For example, when I used an ATM, I had my son stand guard behind me. When gypsies approached us in Paris, we snarled at them and immediately walked away with our heads on a swivel looking for the accomplices that were supposed to steal from us while the first gypsy distracted us. In Rome, they were unbelievable with infants whom they were almost mistreating to get our attention and sympathy or something. We snarled at their speaking to us and speeded up walking away from them. In Hong Kong a tout attached himself to us and we had to complain to the hotel staff about their letting him into our room. We only got rid of the guy, whom we thought worked for the hotel, when we saw he was trying to get us into a car with a white license plate. I had read a guide book that warned against cars with white license plates—thank God.

We experienced none of this nonsense nor were warned much about it it Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. To the book authors, this is part of the “adventure.” I think it’s total bullshit. If you have to put up with it because you can’t afford more law-abiding countries, then I guess you had better do as we did in Paris and Rome and take all the precautions and then some. My middle son took a Spanish course in Barcelona one summer, and had to fight off a pickpocket once. A friend of my wife had the hotel bell hop take her stuff to the room, also in Barcelona, including her laptop, which was stolen before it got to the room. The hotel staff said, “Tough.” Living Abroad in Spain says that if you are a street crime victim, and you tell a nearby cop, he will likely shrug his shoulders as if to say, “That’s life.” Living Abroad in Costa Rica says if you are burglarized at your home and call the cops, they will often require you to send a cab for them at your expense, round trip, to get them to visit your home and look into the crime.

In other words, you sort of get what you pay for in most of these low-cost countries.

Try living in a bad neighborhood in the U.S. first if you are tempted to think it’s a good idea to do it in another country

As I was reading this Costa Rica book, which excuses crime and other problems one page after another, I was thinking that you could do a sort of test of whether you wanted to live in Costa Rica by finding a U.S. neighborhood with lots of Costa Ricans—one with bars on the windows and doors, high crime, potholed roads, reckless drivers, etc. You would be very close to civilization if you needed to get away from the Costa Rica experience, but you could save the air fare and see how much you liked it.

I expect few Americans would want to do that, but I sense that the same situation in Costa Rica rather than South Central LA is cool and cute and quaint and supposed to be accepted as a wonderful adventure.

I do not find that logical.


Taking pets to other countries can be done, but it sounds like a major hassle. I am not going to get into here. You’ll have to investigate that on your own.

Transparency International corruption ratings

You can see the TI corruption ratings map at It ranks Costa Rica, for example, 49th in the world. The U.S. for comparison, is 19th. And, indeed, there are a couple of times in the Costa Rica book where the author admits that Costa Ricans…I’m searching for the right words here. The author lives there and has for many years. She basically says that if you are a stickler for calling a spade a spade and such, you will not be very popular there. Like honesty is considered a form of rudeness. Page 211 of that book sort of depicts the whole Costa Rican society as being like bad U.S. politicians. Nothing is their fault and if you ever say it is, even when it really is, you are on their enemies list forever. Lovely. And we have to pay them to live there?

Page 52 of Living Abroad in Costa Rica says:

To North Americans, who often value honesty above harmony, the Costa Rica method of preserving accord and personal honor can sometimes look a lot like lying. [Costa Ricans] don’t much care for our version of honesty, however, thinking it clumsy and rude.

Ah! So Costa Ricans are the like the U.S. military lifers who sign false documents daily in between patting themselves and their fellow on the back for having so much more honor than civilians. Not my crowd.

That strikes me as extremely unappealing. My personal honor code is: Tell the truth. Keep your promises. And treat others as you want to be treated. Costa Ricans, according to the author, are pretty good on the last one, but apparently not real fond of being a “fanatic” about the first two. So that TI map means if you go to a country where the color is reddish, you are going to encounter a generally lower regard for honesty and promise keeping.

To me, that’s a bit of a deal killer. But then I could not stand the dishonesty in the Army and hundreds of thousands of guys who saw the same things I did made the Army a career and went along with that themselves. No accounting for taste and although honesty is supposedly a universal virtue, the truth is it is a matter of personal taste for a whole heck of a lot of people. Indeed, I surmise the people who write these live-abroad books are proud of their worldly acceptance of lower standards of honesty and road maintenance and a lot of other things, like those who scoffed at criticizing Bill Clinton for his sexual escapades. We should think more like the French, we are told. They don’t care about such things. So we shouldn’t either. Pardon, monsieur. Je suis Americain whether you like it or not.

Honest countries

Well, I will care about what I want to care about and you should, too. If honesty and promise keeping matter to you, you should probably go to the less corrupt countries during your 90-day tourist visa escapes. Since rule of law, a related habit, is the main determinant of prosperity around the world, you will generally find that honest countries have a higher cost of living and standard of living and lower cost-of-living countries have lower integrity standards. Unlike the live-abroad book authors, I will not tell you how to think about it or whether to accept it. I am just pointing out that’s the way it is. You can make an informed choice with that knowledge.

Here is a list of the top 26 honest countries according to TI:

New Zealand
United Kingdom
Hong Kong
United States of America
Saint Lucia
The Bahamas

Drop down from there and you are in the Middle East, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries (other than Chile and Uruguay), Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia.

On page 53 of that book, the author says

…a boundless sense of the absurd will serve you well as you adapt to your new environment [in Costa Rica].

Uh, why is it not absurd to recommend living in a place where you need a “boundless sense of the absurd?” And what is the meaning of the word “sense” in that sentence? Affection for the absurd? Must be an acquired taste. I saw the absurd as a normal thing in the Army—SNAFU they call it—and could not wait to get out. In America, the absurd is more technically described as the various government organizations, like the Army. In Costa Rica, and I am guessing some other Latin American countries, it applies to the entire culture, which is also more governmented up than in the U.S.

Counterfeit money

You often get counterfeit money in Costa Rica. Maybe the person who gives it to you got snookered when they got it, but their solution is to snooker you—a sort of upside-down “pay it forward.” One standard way to get rid of it is to use it to pay a cab fare at night. The author of Living Abroad in Costa Rica brags about doing that. Very funny.

But the basic problem is passing counterfeit money knowingly is immoral. The fact that it is normal in Costa Rica does not mean you should start doing it. When a newly elected politician starts acting like sleazy politicians in Washington, they call it “going native.” Going native in one of these low-TI-rating foreign countries could have a corrosive effect on your previously honest American soul. Don’t pass counterfeit money. Just be extremely careful about accepting money especially in situations where someone is trying to give you the bum’s rush.

Too close

Part of the culture in Latin America and Asia is people physically pressing up against you in crowds or lines and standing way too close to you when talking to you. Even the author of Living Abroad in Costa Rica admits she can neither explain this away nor get used to it herself. My middle son, a quiet guy, almost flipped out in Barcelona, Spain when a guy tried to pick his pocket on a crowded bus there. That is the non-North American jamming together combined with the non-North American acceptance of petty street crime. Don’t be too quick to assume that you can comply with the “when in Rome…” rule on such things. The culture you have lived in your whole life is not just a jacket you can take off and replace at will in an instant. And when it comes to integrity, I don't think you should adopt the less honest culture even if you could.

As was in another book about living overseas, the Living Abroad in Costa Rica book says non-North Americans are very noisy at all hours of the day and they are not going to change for you.

Getting around

Generally, the list of honest countries is also a list of places where Americans can drive a car. Actually, you may drive in almost all countries, but I am told you won’t want to, because they drive like demolition derbies there. I saw that in Vietnam. Buses would have people hanging off them and sitting on the roofs. We Americans painted double yellow lines on the highways, but the Vietnamese would ignore them. If both lanes on a four-lane highway with a double yellow line were blocked, they would go across the yellow lines into the oncoming traffic to get around. The Marigold Hotel movie also showed the insanity of Third-World drivers and traffic, and I’m guessing the Indians don’t like being called Third-World.

So you need to think about how you are going to get around. In Latin America and other poor areas, apparently it is often very cheap to take buses or trains where they have them or taxis or to even hire a driver. But the more rural the location, the harder that is. In Costa Rica, they do not have many street signs or even numbers of buildings as addresses. The address on a letter is a list of directions to the mailman—the way we might direct a friend to meet us at a particular picnic table at a park!

So if you want to go rural, you need to take refuge in a country where you can drive as a practical matter. I have some American friends who own a vacation home on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. They have a couple of vehicles which they drive—on the left—on roads that generally have no shoulder! I rode with them. A bit freaky, but they said you get used to it. If you are in a country where you cannot drive or do not want to, you have to go to an urban area and one with walking-distance public transit or cheap taxis and hired cars/drivers.

If you want to prove your manhood by driving in the crazy countries, good luck. Get a lot of steel around you. Actually, you may be safer inside a car than being a pedestrian in these countries. Better a bus or train, though.

Buses in decent foreign countries sound a lot nicer than the long-distance buses in the U.S.


Reportedly, you can drink the water in most parts of Costa Rica and this is unusual for Latin America. You ought to consider such things when picking a 90-day refuge. Our oldest son went to China for 19 days when he was in high school. He was in Beijing the night Hong Kong reverted to China. My research for his trip indicated he must not drink the water on the Chinese plane, brush his teeth with the water or even let a drop of it fly into his mouth when taking a shower. He abided by that advice and was one of the few on his trip who did not get sick. My wife went to China for 19 days in 2012 and got very sick, as did almost all the others in her group. 90 days of sick may not be better than 90 days in a hyperinflated US.


I like most foreign foods but I often have to leave a Mexican restaurant without eating because I don’t like anything on the menu. That might make it tough for me to take refuge in Latin America. If you have any category of food you don’t like, you probably need to rule out countries where that is the rule, or at least limit yourself to their big cities where you can go to McDonalds, KFC, and nice restaurants featuring French or Chinese or American cuisine.


The vacation travel books give you phrases. The Living Abroad books tell you to take immersion courses to learn the language. What about being a 6 to 24-month 90-Day tourist visa traveler? If you are an American like me or an English-speaking Canadian, you probably ought to limit your travels to English-speaking countries. I listed them in my other article about 90-day tourist visa travel:

Or you can stay in the expensive hotels like the Four Seasons or Fairmont in which case they will have plenty of English-speaking staff and outside contractors who speak English.

Should you study the language seriously if you take refuge in a country where English is not the main language? Well, if it’s Spanish, you could visit a series of countries for 90 days then move to the next one all of which speak Spanish and each of which has its own 90-day tourist visa. Here is the list of Spanish-speaking countries:

Spain (Schengen Area)
Costa Rica
Dominican Republic

Note that each of these countries speaks its own version of Spanish, but if you speak any of them, you should be okay.

Portuguese is not recommended because you would have to go to Portugal (Schengen Area) then Brazil then Portugal then Brazil—long flight and maybe they do not want you there that many times.

French? Nah. That just gets you France, which is in the Schengen Area, and some Schengen countries that have French as one of a number of languages, but you have to leave the whole Schengen Area after 90 days and stay away for at least 90 days. The other French-speaking countries are numerous but lousy—Haiti and a bunch of countries in Africa.

Are there any other languages that you could study one then use it in a number of countries that you visit sequentially for 90 days each? Not really. The most widely spoken language is Mandarin, but you only need it in China and Taiwan. Singapore has it but they also have English.

Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world, then English. After that you are into Hindi and Arabic. They speak English in India and I read that educated Arabs speak English rather than Arabic at home. Portuguese is actually the sixth most spoken language in the world, but other than Portugal and Brazil, it is just some African countries. However, Portuguese and Spanish are so similar that you can reportedly get by if each if you speak one. So you would study Spanish rather than Portuguese because it gets you far more countries and people.

So if you are an English speaker, and only know another language from U.S. or Canadian high school and/or college study, you should either stick to English-speaking countries or expensive hotels in major cities in any country or learn Spanish and do your sequence of 90-day stays in countries that speak Spanish or Portuguese. If you go to non-English-speaking countries, you could also help yourself a lot by living among, and hanging around with, expats from English-speaking countries.

Portable businesses only

Living abroad books talk a lot about getting work permits and business permits. About the only business you can do on 90-day tourist visas is a portable one that can be done in each country. Like my writing/publishing business or being a travel writer. Or maybe something you can do totally on the phone or by Internet or both. Are there any countries that allow a 90-day tourist visa person to work or engage in a business? Costa Rica does. If there are others, and you want to pursue a business or need to, you could find out what others there are and confine yourself to only visiting them. So can you earn money as an employee or entrepreneur when you have to change countries every 90 days? Yes, in certain jobs or businesses. Is it legal? In some countries, yes. And in all telephone/Internet jobs in which you are communicating only with people in other countries are probably invisible to the authorities so as a practical matter your moneymaking will not be prevented.


Can you have the same phone number while you move from country-to country every 90 days? Yes. I think you can do that with Skype and Vonnage and maybe some other providers. I don’t want to get too deep into that subject because it is dynamic and the details are not that important. But as I understand it, you can get a phone number, or use one you already have, such that when your friends, relatives, and business acquaintances call you, it rings wherever you are. The caller need not know where you are. For example, they may call a Denver area code. After a couple of rings, you pick up. You are in, say, Wellington, New Zealand, but there is nothing that tells the caller that unless you do. If there are any other considerations that are important enough I hope readers will apprise me of them and I will add them here.

There is also the issue of cell phones. Many say to buy them when you get to the country in question. I have never done that but cannot say there’s anything wrong with it. I have a Samsung Galaxy S III from Verizon. It is supposed to work more or less in every country. It did work in Australia and New Zealand, but I had to get on the phone for about two hours with Verizon from New Zealand to get it working. Part of it was taking the battery out and re-installing it. I was ordered not to use it in Canada because it is extremely expensive.

So you are going to have to research that with the particular fact of changing countries every 90 days being focused upon. Fundamentally, there is an optimal phone solution for a person who spends 6 to 24 months changing countries every 90 days. I do not know what it is exactly but I know there is a best way to do it. I hope readers who do a lot of international travel will tell me what it is.

Health care

The same is true of health care. When we went to Australia and New Zealand, Kaiser in California where we live said we were covered for emergency care—including seeing a doctor for a sore throat, not just ambulance/EMT stuff. Also, New Zealand provides free care to all including foreign tourists for accident injuries! What about non-emergency care? Not covered. Do it when you get back Kaiser said. If you try to get a residence permit, almost all countries make you prove you have health insurance that covers you in their country. U.S. Medicare does not.

You can buy such insurance from U.S. companies, international insurance companies, and some other entities. But when you go on a 90-day tourist visa, you typically do not need to prove insurance—another benefit of the 90-day visa compared to residence permits.

But what if you get sick or injured and are not covered? So you need it not only for getting a residence permit, but also for avoiding severe financial damage from the cost of the care. As with the telephone, I am sure there is some optimal solution for a person who is going to change countries every 90 days for 6 to 24 months. In part, it depends on which countries you are going to. If, for example, it’s just Canada, you could probably come back to the States for the treatment, even during USD hyperinflation. Pack a lunch.

There are some staying away from the U.S. legal and contract provisions. For example, somewhere in Obamacare, it says you do not need to sign up and pay if you are away from the U.S. for 330 or more days per year. There are probably similar clauses in health care insurance policies. You need to know if taking refuge from USD hyperinflation in other countries for 90 days or more will trigger any such laws or clauses, and if so, take appropriate action. For example, if being away that long invalidates your health policy, you probably ought to stop paying the monthly premiums, or maybe touch base in the U.S. often enough to avoid triggering a too-many-days-out-of-the-U.S. clause.

Also, it is apparently hard to become a new policyholder on a health insurance policy when you are over 65. Not sure what the fix is, but see if it is a problem for you and, if so, start researching how to fix it.

There is also medical tourism. That is where you pay out of pocket for a surgery or other treatment, but you do so in countries where the procedures cost 1/6 to 1/3 of what the same procedure costs in the U.S. India and Thailand have been prominent medical tourism destinations for Americans. Costa Rica also happens to be one of the destinations for such medical tourism. I expect that because of ObamaCare, new medical tourism facilities will open closer to the U.S., namely in Mexico and the Caribbean. I wrote about medical tourism more in my other 90-day tourist visa article:

Costa Rica ranks high in happiness and friendliness surveys. I would have to go there to comment on that but I think it’s true that some countries are distinctly better than others in those sorts of personality metrics. In Spain, I asked the fare collector on a bus, in Spanish, to tell me when we arrived at a particular street because the street signs were zipping by so fast. He agreed and another passenger offered to walk with me all the way to my destination, which he did. In Germany, a week later, I did the same thing, in German. The fare collector just looked at me. So I strained to read the zipping-by signs. Then he cleared his throat. It was my stop.

Did they help me in both countries? Yep. Was there a drastic difference in the personalties of the two peoples? You do the math. Is this important for deciding where to go for extended periods? Yes.

No army

One of Costa Rica’s claims to fame is no army. Until Vladimir Putin finds out, or the Vladimir Putin of Latin America. I think that means Costa Rica is assuming we will protect them and free-loading off that. Americans are getting a bit tired of that. We seem to be paying for the defense of the western world and not getting much for it.

Political and economic stability

Costa Rica brags about being politically stable since 1948. Hell, I’ve been politically stable since 1946. If you want to grade on the Latin American curve, I guess that’s saying something. But America has been politically stable since 1865 and Canada longer than that. They grow a lot of bananas in Costa Rica. And it’s a republic. I hope they stay stable and see no immediate trouble on the horizon, but when I look at the globe seeking stability, Costa Rica is not the first place to come to mind.

On page 29 of the Costa Rica book, there is a little Indian legend of the origin of white people—leaf-cutter ants who destroy everything in their path. It’s next-to-last sentence is

The white man cuts down everything that is green, and where he lives there are no trees, no rivers, no animals.

Lovely. Can’t wait to enjoy social harmony with those folks. They need to get out more. I heard there was actually still a tree somewhere in America.

The claim to economic stability is disproved by their very typical Latin American action of devaluing their currency in 1979.

Not so many Spanish

I originally had a vague notion that since Latin Americans speak Spanish and Portuguese, their ancestors were Spanish and Portuguese, just as ours are mainly English people.

Apparently not. Not that they don’t claim that is the case. In their census, in which they get to self-select a race, they come up 83.6% white or mestizo (part Indian, part white); mulatto (half black half white like Obama), 7%; refuse to say, 5%; 1% black.

I have been to Spain and Mexico. And we have lots of Latinos here in California. They do not look Spanish or Italian to me. They look more like American Indians. And some Latin American countries, like Cuba, look more like blacks.

It is typical and a bit comical that Latin Americans and their governments often claim to be Italian or other European ethnically, not Indian or black. It’s only the “shades of dark prestige in Third World countries”s thing. Lighter skin is more claimed than darker. I read somewhere that DNA-type analysis of Latin Americans reveals more Indian and black ancestry than is admitted to. The Costa Rican president in the early 1990 said there had been no Indians in Costa Rica when Columbus discovered America—a false statement.

A 1995 study by geneticists found that almost all Costa Ricans are mestizos—and that the not-Indian DNA in them is 40% to 60% white; 15 to 35% Indian; and 10 to 20% (not 1%) black. Also, about half the populations is recent immigrants from Nicaragua. Costa Rica is not, like America, mainly a nation of colonists from the mother monarchy country followed by European immigrants.

For the record, I am 7/16 Scots-Irish; 4/16 Irish; 4/16 Magyar or German (my maternal grandfather claimed his parents were German but he was born in Budapest and had a Hungarian-sounding name); and 1/16 Cherokee Indian. I will judge a person by the content of his character, not the color of his skin, but I do not care for people downplaying, ignoring, or denying their DNA, like Obama claiming he is black. What he is was determined by who his parents were, not by who he wishes they were. I prefer Tiger Woods’ answer. Oprah asked him if he “considered himself” black. He said no, he was Caucasian, black, American Indian, Chinese, and Thai. His father had at least three of those so Woods is not even half black. Woods calls himself Cablinasian, a word he made up.

Champagne social welfare with a beer budget

Costa Rica, and probably most other Latin American countries, talk a good game about universal education and health care, but they lack the money to pay for it and a high percentage of kids go to private school and the health care system for wealthier people is private or a mixture of the public system, which everyone must join and pay for, and the private one, which is more efficient and competent.

Because they are poor, the IMF and USAID who bail out Costa Rica and similar countries with loans have forced partial privatization of the various monopoly government businesses like the phone and electric utilities, banks, oil company as well as reduction in protectionism.


This can be a deal killer. School age kids can probably be home schooled as you move from country to country. As a practical matter, even if the country in question had a law against that, like Germany, I can’t see how they would know you exist other than as an American tourist family. Home schooling takes time and effort and that is not my area of expertise. Here, I am just telling you that it does not appear to me that you will be able to enroll your kids in local public schools in another country during a 90-day tourist visa. Private schools might be willing to work something out. Private tutors could probably be hired.

Back to the language issue. The Living Abroad in Spain book says kids 10 and under can be put is local public schools and they will make friends and learn the language. But that over-ten American or Canadian kids not only will not just pick up the language, they may have a melt down. Kathleen Peddicord’s daughter did not care for moving from America to Ireland. Then they moved to Paris, also not to the liking of the daughter until she got a French boyfriend after which she liked it fine. Peddicord’s son was okay with both countries.

My wife and I know a family where they were just moving from one U.S. coast to the other when one of their kids was a teenage boy. He was extremely unhappy, and committed suicide with the father’s pistol! Teenagers are delicate. Peer approval means all to them. Ripping them from their friends and maybe the puppy love of their life can seem the end of the world to them. Throwing them into a foreign school where they are the only one who can’t speak the language is akin to throwing a kid who can’t swim into the deep end of the pool. You may think this “If it’s Fall, this must be Canada” permanent tourist status is a great adventure, or a necessity caused by USD hyperinflation, but your teenager(s) or 11 or 12-year-old may violently protest and be harmed by it or his or her reaction to it.

You need to anticipate that and prepare for it. Perhaps some pre-hyperinflation fire-drill-type trips to get everyone acclimated. How you deal with it is very much an individual situation that I have no knowledge of. But I do need to warn you that is is a distinct possibility if you have kids over 10 and maybe for some who are 9 or 10.

Sports and other TV

If you enjoy American sports, leaving the U.S. may require some TV gyrations. The sports you can attend in foreign countries are typically soccer and rugby and apparently sports are not a college activity outside of the U.S. They have baseball in Latin America and Asia.

So you need access to Internet TV. Expats in Australia reportedly use Apple TV and Slingbox. I know nothing about either, but I am guessing it takes significant bandwidth and you cannot assume such is available in every banana republic or every metro area in countries that do have broadband Internet. Satellite works everywhere, in theory.

So you need to ask the expats in countries you are considering how one watches U.S. TV there. It will almost certainly be a satellite or high-speed Internet connection so need to make sure where you are considering living has an adequate, affordable version of either.

You gotta go there

All the books on living abroad say you can only get so much from reading. You have to physically go there to get a final reading. Part of it is personal taste. The author of a book on Costa Rica typically loves it and lives there because they love it. Whether Costa Rica would be to your taste is another matter. You gotta go there. The books typically call it your “fact-finding” trip. “Taste-finding” may be more accurate. You can get a lot of facts from the books and Internet. I made fact/taste-finding trips to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in recent years.

Falling in love with a place

Many fall in love with foreign countries or foreign cities. Never happened to me yet. I kind of like London and Paris. Rome seemed to be an acquired taste to me. I liked the people in Spain, Mallorca, Australia, Canada, New Zealand. Germany was interesting but the people were cold. Vietnam was sort of like the Slumdog Millionaire/Marigold Hotel movies—so awful and foreign as to make We Gotta Get Out of This Place and Leaving on a Jet Plane our favorite songs when we were in Vietnam.

I lied Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, and Lake Louise, Canada, but I did not fall in love with any of them. Hong Kong was stinking hot and humid in July, shockingly crowded, so foreign as to be other-worldly (selling raw fish spread out on the dirty city sidewalk with no paper or plate under it for customers to see) and I felt racial animus as a Caucasian there. So there is much to lean that requires an in-person visit.

My geographic falling in love has involved Boston; Manhattan; the Wildwood, NJ boardwalk; New Orleans French Quarter, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles Area, San Diego, Santa Barbara; Lake Tahoe; Yosemite National Park; and Hawaii. Chicago is okay when the weather’s not bad.


As far as I can tell, 90-day tourist visas are all you need; no residence permits or citizenship in a non-U.S. country If you can get a second citizenship with little effort, cost, and hassle, I would recommend it. Bu I do not see it being worth it if you have to go through the normal trouble.

If and when you have to flee the U.S. because of hyperinflation, make sure you pre-position money in foreign currency savings accounts and that those accounts are outside of the U.S. Because of the need to move every 90 days, I think you should stick with only countries where the official or defacto language is English unless you happen to be truly native-born fluent in another language. If you must go to a country where they speak another language, most countries seem to have cities and neighborhoods with large American and/or U.K. expat communities and English-speaking schools, doctors, and so on. Live in those neighborhoods.

Try to live where you can rely almost totally on public transportation. Outside the U.S., most major metro areas have better public transit than most American cities. Forget about driving except in the former British colonies that became populated with Brits or Northern European countries.

Make sure you have the health care and car insurance you need while you are on this extended hiatus from the U.S.

The more money you have and are wiling to spend, the less guidance you need from me. The less you have, the more you have to follow my advice in this and other articles about a possible USD hyperinflation hiatus away from the U.S.

There are enough honest, rule-of-law, civilized, low-crime countries that you need not live in some second- or third-world country—unless they are the only kind you can afford.

Nowadays, you can find all kinds of cuisines in any major metro area in the civilized world. If you have to live in a rural area of a foreign country for cost reasons, you had better pick a country where you like the native cuisine.

If you have kids age 11 to 18, you need to take great care to have them buy into this and great care on making sure they can fit in and find friends in the foreign country. If they have some unbreakable tie to your U.S. home, like they are the starting QB on their high school football team, you’d better figure out a way to leave them here and send them real money from abroad.

Remember that 90 days is a maximum, not a minimum in most countries, and only with regard to consecutive days. You do not have to stay that long. You can leave whenever you want before 90 days if you can afford it.

Here is an email about this article from a reader [and my comments in red]:


This is another great article!

I think the best line in it is the one which offers the advice:  “if you’re going to live in a dangerous country, try living in a dangerous US neighborhood first.”  Being married to a woman from [Latin America] and having traveled extensively throughout Latin America, I applaud that notion with both hands and feet.  Please let me explain why:

I speak fluent Spanish after having been with my wife for 12 years.  This includes colloquialisms, jokes, slang, etc., to the point where people ask me if I am from Argentina, because I have blond hair and blue eyes and evidently there are a lot of people with those traits in Argentina.  This is because I can speak almost like a native.  Which is why folks who “speak English” in Europe come to the US and have no clue what we are saying.  Because what you learn in school or from “Living Language” or “Rosetta Stone” CDs is NOT A TRUE REPRESENTATION OF HOW POPULATIONS SPEAK NATURALLY IN THEIR NATIVE COUNTRIES.

So if you think your 3 months of DVD classes are going to prepare you to live abroad—think again.

Most “normal” Americans would not spend a night in South Central L.A., South Detroit, or on Chicago’s South/West side.  Because they don’t want to associate with slums or run the risk of being shot.  What they have in Latin America makes the aforementioned locations look like 4-STAR RESORT PROPERTY.  I am not kidding—and if you haven’t been there, you have no clue what I’m talking about.  As I read through your Latin America list I found it hilarious to note that almost every single country named has had or is having some sort of armed, internal conflict.  Having traipsed through several of these locations in the past few years, I can tell you without reservation that you DO NOT WANT TO BE EVEN A SPECTATOR AT ONE OF THESE EVENTS.  You have no idea how a 6’-tall white person sticks out amongst Latin American folks—angry, revolutionary Latin American folks who hate Gringos….

Crime is extremely common in these locations.  Pick-pocketing is mild.  I won’t describe the other end of the spectrum.  And their laws on “self-defense” are quite different as well.  If you clobber someone trying to rob you and he pleads a different case when the cops show up, good luck trying to win the non-English-speaking Law Enforcement Officer over to your side.  Have you heard about Mexican jails?  Yes, they are that bad.  And guess who will be marked as the #1 target once you’re thrown in?  Yep, you got it.  You think we have racism in THIS country?  Good luck in Latin America—Gringo.  BTW—they don’t like African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or Hispanic-Americans there either.  And let’s not forget the moral compass reorientation you may have to make re:  bribes in an effort to get yourself out of a simple situation that rapidly developed into something way out of your control quick, fast, and in a hurry.

I dislike expat communities because they are, invariably, populated by too-rich arrogant American a-holes who opine that, even though they live outside the US, they are still “superior” to the natives of the country in which they currently reside.  They continuously (and angrily) demand that everyone around them caters to their every need and speak English whilst doing so.  They exist solely at the whim of local government—which is happy to accept their American Greenbacks, particularly at recent exchange-rate prices.  Let’s not kid ourselves, however, that you will have any “real, native” rights in those communities.  And not sure why I’d want to hang around these types of folks anyway—I wouldn’t even do that in the US. [I think there is some truth to the superiority of America in relationship to poor countries, but if that is the case, why are you there? And if you are there, you’d better hide the superiority complex completely. As a practical matter, the locals can probably imprison or kill you if they want to and maybe without suffering any consequences for it. My experience in the U.S. Army had some similar characteristics. You don’t want to live like that.]

My advice:  if you are a white English-speaker who wants to live in a foreign country, go live where the population is predominantly white and English-speaking.  [I suspect Northern European countries are also acceptable.] Unless your white spouse is a native of the chosen foreign land and he/she is willing to accompany you everywhere as a permanent translator.  I can tell you, from personal experience, that Latin America is the LAST PLACE you want to take up permanent or quasi-permanent residence as a Gringo—even if you, like I am, are colloquially-fluent in both the language and the culture.

[In a couple of my web articles, I have warned Americans going abroad that they have no rights and the officials in the other country are doing them a favor just to let them be there. The border guards can deny you entry and even ban you for years or forever. If you act like a jerk, you increase the chances that you will be mistreated. Complaining is a luxury of people who live in rule-of-law countries. There are not very many of those.]


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