6/15/2012 3:38 PM ET|
The American dream -- in Uruguay
Affordable real estate, European architecture, miles of beaches, a low crime rate and first-rate medical care are among the attractions of this Latin American nation.
Sipping a cappuccino at a small table in a shady plaza outside my hotel, I'm reminded of days and evenings spent in similar sidewalk cafés in Europe. Stately 19th-century neo-classical and baroque-style buildings with wrought-iron balconies line the square. Curtains wave gaily through massive wood-framed windows.
Across the street, the famous 18 de Julio Avenue -- and another shady plaza -- are rimmed with shops selling clothes, housewares and electronics, currency-exchange outlets, and even more sidewalk cafés offering pastas, pizzas and chivitos. (A chivito is akin to a Philly cheesesteak, piled high with ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, a fried egg, slathered with sauce, and all atop a bed of french fries. Take that, dear arteries!)
I order another coffee and sit back to savor the moment -- no need to rush. As in European cities or neighborhoods of Manhattan or Chicago, whatever I need or want can be had within these 10 square blocks of Montevideo.
Expats in Uruguay say they have the best quality of life in Latin America
I was just getting started on my expedition to Uruguay's coastal cities and towns, but already I could understand why so many expats living in this country say it offers the best quality of life in Latin America.
The drive along the rambla (shoreline road) from the airport takes you past chalet-style homes with tidy manicured yards on the outskirts, giving way to stylized high-rise condo buildings nearer the city.
Just before sunrise, joggers and dog walkers were about their morning rituals. Silver streaks of light crisscrossed the massive body of water next to which Montevideo sits. Is it an ocean? A river? A little of both, it seems. About midway between west and east on Uruguay's southern coast, Montevideo hugs the bank where the Río de la Plata rushes out to the Atlantic Ocean. Nearly half of Uruguay's total population of 3.5 million people live here, in the country's capital, making for a manageable, not-too-big and not-too-small city.
While Montevideo's seven-mile coastline is not technically "oceanfront," it looks like the ocean. Beaches are wide and sandy, and waves and tides come in and out. During my visit -- at the height of the Southern Hemisphere summer -- beaches were thick with sunbathers and water lovers.
The city itself is easy to navigate, and public transportation is first-rate. Buses are new and clean, and they run consistently on time. Fares are less than a dollar, in most cases, to get just about anywhere in the city. (Cross-country buses are equally clean, comfortable, inexpensive and free-WiFi-enabled.)
I took a bus to the pretty Plaza Independencia, with its massive statuary tribute to national hero José Artigas. From here, you can easily walk from one end of Ciudad Vieja -- Montevideo's oldest neighborhood, founded in 1726 -- to the other in about 30 minutes via the pedestrian walkway called Calle Sarandí.
But it will take hours if you pause to gawk, as I did, at the many gorgeous historical buildings. These include the Cabildo, the former government building, the Casa de Gobierno, where the current government meets, and the pristine Solís Theater, the oldest operating opera house in the Americas.
Ciudad Vieja's architecture is a reminder of the city's colonial past. (The Portuguese, Spanish, French and British all tried to stake claims here at one time or another.) Many of the old buildings, especially along Calle Sarandí, have been renovated in recent years.
Antique shops, art galleries and boutiques occupy ground floors, with upper floors home to stylish one-of-a-kind apartments with shuttered windows and beckoning sunny balconies.
Go a few blocks either direction from Calle Sarandí, and you can find wonderful old buildings still in need of renovation. It's a popular investment strategy to buy an entire building, restore it and sell each unit separately.
If you're interested in doing this, plan on spending $315 to $630 per square meter (about $30 to $60 per square foot) or even more -- closer to $100 per square foot -- for a high-end overhaul. Keep in mind that these costs will vary with the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Uruguayan peso, which is currently at a bit less than 20 pesos to one U.S. dollar. (Real estate in Uruguay is typically priced in U.S. dollars.)
If you want to buy an already-renovated apartment in Ciudad Vieja, you'll pay, on average, about $200 per square foot. Since apartments tend to be small, the total price won't be exorbitant. For example, I saw a one-bedroom unit in a building constructed in 1861 -- it's 645 square feet, and it comes with a garage. The asking price, fully furnished, is $123,000.
Despite the aesthetic appeal of Ciudad Vieja, most expats I met in Montevideo prefer living in the trendy neighborhoods of Pocitos and Punta Carretas. I could understand why. Both border the city's best beaches, and Pocitos, especially, has an urban neighborhood feel.
"Pocitos reminds me of the Riviera or Italy or elsewhere in Europe," says Doug Wayne, a U.S. expat who has lived all over the world but moved to Uruguay nearly three years ago. "It's completely self-contained, with little shops and restaurants and its own night life. There are shady little parks, and we're right next to the water. You can walk everywhere; you don't need a car."
Pocitos is where the Friday "English" night takes place, bringing together expats and locals who want to practice their English. Pocitos is also where you'll find lots of rental apartments. Most are smaller one-bedroom units that rent from $1,000 to $1,500 per month, but I found a 450-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment with great sea views, thanks to its ninth-floor location, renting for $600 per month.
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Something is wrong with this article. I live in Las Cruces, NM, a US retirement city (mentioned one of the best by Forbes magazine) my house is a 2 bed, 2 bath, garage, high ceiling, back yard, nice neighborhood close to hospitals, shopping , fire, police station, low tax, nice climate and my mortgage is $110,000. Why retire in a foreign country when you can do the same here in the US, just need to do a little research to know where. Yes, there still hope for retirement in the US. By the way, I came from a Latin country.
Real estate prices are insanely high and recent articles in one of Urguay's major online newspaper show that the real estate market is floundering since the Argentines are pulling back their investments.
'Expats' usually are conmen(women) who are preying on people. BEWARE.
It sounds like a nice place to visit, but how dare the author/editor imply in the title that the American Dream is better found in Uruguay. My parents emigrated to this country and started their own business. They were able to watch their children grow up with full bellies and warm beds from their own sweat. There wasn't a word about entrepreneurship in the article.
The American Dream IS NOT about sitting at a roadside cafe drinking espresso. Most immigrants came to America to escape European villages exactly like this. They didn't want it. They thought they could do better - in America.
The information in this article was interesting, but the title was complete link-bait.
First things first...what kind of work are expats doing, and what are they making?
I'm not convinced this is a place older retirees want to live. What about medical services, taxes, etc?
I now live in a small town in Kansas where a nice, older home can be bought for $120,000, property taxes are average, the town has a University with an enrollment of well over 10,000, 10 well maintained city parks, a new sports arena. A large hospital and medical centers(including one that well serves those with low incomes). The yellow pages list well over a hundred Physicians, Dentist, and other professionals that serve all the needs of a wide area. The crime rate is low, the unemployment rate is below 4%, and there is free access to many public buildings that serve the needs of thousands of people. The town has an abundance of Churches, schools, etc. We have a first rate nationally acclaimed Library. A first rate Police and Fire department. And other things that make this a nice town to live in. And no, I'm not working for our first rate Convention and Visitors bureau, and did I forget to mention we have 2 first rate golf courses and a wonderful swiming pool?
I spent one day and one night in Montivideo back in 2003. Actually, I was on a cruise and Montivideo was a port of call. I enjoyed the city, it's people and architecture. I retire in (4) years. And like most Americans of modest means, I'm looking at overseas retirement options. Costs are too staggering in America.... . and will get worse.
Obviously, visiting and vacationing in a region is totally different from living there. I agree $123,000 for a 645 sq. ft shoe box anywhere is a bit much..... particularly in South America. I toyed with the idea of buying; but I think I'll just rent for 3- 4 months of the year when I'm out of the U.S. during retirement years.
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