How to Do a Reconnaissance Trip Before Retiring Overseas


Making the decision to retire abroad is a huge step for anyone, even if you're a seasoned world traveler. Perhaps you've spent significant periods of your life overseas exploring various locations, but making the move to another country is entirely different. It can be a daunting prospect, but you should do thorough research rather than making this kind of decision on a whim.

There are several steps you'll need to take to get ready for your big move, but one of the most important steps is to schedule at least one reconnaissance trip to your chosen country. This will enable you to make a fully informed decision as to whether or not that location is right for you. Here's what you need to do, and the info you should gather while you're in your desired retirement location. (See also: 5 Countries Where You Can Retire for $1,000 a Month)

Meet as many people as you can

The best place to start on your reconnaissance mission is to get the lowdown from people in the know. People who live and work in your potential destination can provide you with personal accounts of the important aspects of everyday life.


Some of the most insightful people to arrange to meet prior to arriving will be expats. Ideally they'll be from the same country as you, and also retired. This way, they'll know exactly what you need to do before you leave, and once you arrive. You'll also learn the pros and cons of that particular area, which will help you make your decision.

An easy way to find expats is to search on Facebook or other community sites for expat and retirement groups in that location. You can request to join these groups, and tell the members that you want to meet up while you're there. Expats tend to be a friendly bunch who are eager to meet new arrivals and help them out. It may also help if you offer to buy them a coffee or a cocktail in exchange for racking their brains. (See also: How to Get the Most Out of Your Overseas Retirement)


While it may be more difficult to set up these meetings in advance, it should be very easy to meet locals when you arrive. This will mean taking the lead and striking up conversations with people wherever you go. Locals might even provide you with alternative views to the expats you meet and mention aspects of living abroad you haven't yet considered.

If you don't speak the local language, you'll be relying on meeting locals who speak English. Visit places that are likely to attract tourists, as most locals who work within this area will speak English. Bars, restaurants, cafes, and shopping centers are all good options.

Ask the right questions

Meeting the right people is only half of it, because you're also going to have to ask the right questions. What you ask will be personal to you and the destination you're scoping out, but here a few questions to get started:

  • "What is the quality of the healthcare system like, and how does it work?"

  • "What's the one thing you like least about living here?"

  • "What do you wish you knew before making the move yourself?"

  • "Is it necessary to speak the language, or can you get by with some basics?"

  • "What do you miss most about home?"

Spend some time writing down a list of details that you want to find out before you leave, so you don't forget while you're there. (See also: 13 Financial Steps to Take Before Retiring Abroad)

Check out the property market

One of the most important things to get right when you move overseas is to find the right place to call home, so meeting with a few realtors should be a top priority. Keep in mind there's only so much research you can do online, and it could turn out to be a costly mistake if you purchase or rent a place without seeing it in person beforehand.

Narrow your search down to a few neighborhoods you're considering. Google Street View is a useful tool to help you get a visual idea of what the areas are like. It's essential to remain open-minded when you're looking for property overseas, because depending on where you are, it might be very different than what you're used to at home.

Once you arrive, arrange some viewings for properties that meet your criteria so you can see exactly what you'll get for your money. Ask the realtors to explain the process for renting or buying, and write down everything you'll need to do to complete a transaction. (See also: 9 Things to Know Before Retiring Abroad)

Treat it as research, not a vacation

Though there's no set time frame for a reconnaissance visit, you should really stay as long as you can. Between one to three months would be a solid test run for living there, but clearly not everyone will be in a position to do that. Just know that a one-week trip probably isn't going to be enough time to see everything you need to see, and the less it feels like a vacation, the more you'll understand what living there is truly like.

Use Airbnb to find a local home for your recon trip, similar to what you might expect when you move there. Staying in a hotel is fine, but it won't feel like you're living there, and probably won't give you the option to cook your own meals. A short-term rental, on the other hand, will most likely have a kitchen, and that way you'll get a better idea of the cost of groceries. (See also: The 14 Best Ways to Cut Food Costs While Traveling)

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