Honduras Feature

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Retiring in Honduras

Honduras gets high marks as one of the Western Hemisphere's up-and-coming retirement destinations. The magazine International Living, which many regard in as the bible in the field, cites several advantages to living in Honduras. The country has a lower cost of living and a moderate climate. The four hub destinations—Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and Roatán—boast good private health-care facilities. Real estate is easy to own for foreigners. Honduras has decent in-country transportation and communication, and deep-water ports make it easy to import household effects. Best of all, Honduras is close to the United States and has four international airports. Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula are just two hours by air from Miami or Houston.

Legalities

Honduras has set up three legal categories for foreigners who wish to reside within its boundaries. A rentista must demonstrate a guaranteed income of at least $2,500 per month from a source outside Honduras. A pensionado is a retiree who can guarantee income from a pension, public or private, of at least $1,500 per month. An inversionista is an investor who is making a business investment of at least $50,000 in a Honduran entity. An on-site attorney is advisable and necessary to help navigate the paperwork, no matter which category you're considering.

Who's Here? Where are they?

Americans and Canadians make up the majority of foreigners who have retired to Honduras. Hands down, Roatán in the Bay Islands has become the destination of choice, with neighboring Utila running a close second. (Guanaja, the third Bay Island, is just starting to take hold for those who see themselves as island pioneers.) The sheer number of foreigners who have moved to the Bay Islands facilitates adventures that were much more taxing a decade or two ago, like building a home or finding an English-speaking real estate agent or lawyer. Contractors and shopkeepers are used to dealing with gringos, and most speak good English. (English is practically the Bay Islands' second language. Some might say it's the first.) Roatán, especially, is rich with opportunities for foreigners to meet up for events or volunteer work.

You'll feel a bit more like you're staking out new territory if you decide to retire to Honduras's mainland—less English is spoken, for one thing. Smaller foreign communities have established themselves in Copán Ruinas, where some have become involved in the tourism industry, and in pleasant, lofty Valle de Ángeles, outside Tegucigalpa. On the Caribbean coast, La Ceiba and Trujillo have also attracted foreign residents, and neighboring Tela is expected to do so in coming years with its expected boom in development.

Try before you buy

Do not fall prey, though, to the dreaded "Sunshine Syndrome" that afflicts countless visitors to Honduras. Pause and take a deep breath if you find yourself on vacation here and starting to utter the words: "Honey, we met that nice real estate agent in the hotel bar. You know we should buy a house here. Or we could open up a bed-and-breakfast." Some succumb without a second thought, go back home and sell the farm, and return, only to find that living in Honduras bears scant resemblance to vacationing here. Experts suggest doing a trial rental for a few months. See if living the day-to-day life in Honduras is for you.

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