How to Find Your Ideal Climate for Living Abroad

ideal climate

Blue skies (as usual) in Guanajuato

If you’re going to try out international living, the whole world is on the buffet table and that can be a bit intimidating. It’s like being faced with an entire store full of wine bottles when you’re clueless about wine and just want to buy something to bring a friend who invited you to dinner. One place to start is the climate. If you could pick your weather—and you can—what kind of weather would you want?

As outlined in A Better Life for Half the Price, there are three main buckets that go into decision making when figuring out the ideal place to live abroad. There are the wallet decisions, the head decisions, and the heart decisions.

The wallet one is key for most people—what can you actually afford? Or how much are you trying to reduce your expenses? If you’re starting a business, how long does your runway need to be before you’ll be profitable and can stop bleeding cash?

The heart one is hardest. That mainly involves actually going to a place and giving it a trial run. Do you feel happy, energized, and fulfilled there? It’s emotional rather than logical.

The Pros and Cons of a Place’s Climate

Climate and weather are a head decision because although you may get very negatively or positively emotional when faced with a certain climate, you can look up the averages and put them on paper. There will be unusual spikes and dips now and then, but global warming aside you can get a general idea of what to expect. Prague will be cold in the winter. Saigon will never be. Cuenca will be cloudy and chilly a few months every year. The Baja California Peninsula will not be.

So what are you looking for? If you get depressed with a lack of sun, then you probably don’t want to be in most of the northern USA, Canada, Europe, or east Asia in winter. If you hate hot and humid weather, you probably don’t want to move to Southeast Asia, Central America, southern India, or coastal Colombia. Sometimes it’s easier to start striking places from your list than it is to fill a blank page with the possibilities.

winter weather

Fun? Or “never again”?

What if you want a “Goldilocks” climate that never gets all that hot or all that cold? Some of those have become expat havens for retirees: Boquete (Panama), Medellin (Colombia), Lake Atitlan (Guatemala), and Mexican destinations Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende, and Oaxaca. There are plenty of others that fit the bill but just don’t have a lot of expats living there. I have that kind of climate in Guanajuato, which is at 6,500 feet in altitude. Our house doesn’t have heat, air conditioning, or insulation and that’s the norm. Apart from a couple space heaters we pull out for cold snaps in winter, there’s no need. (So as you can imagine our utility bills are next to nothing.)

Checking the Temps in Each Destination

One of the members of my Committed group posted this Weatherspark site in our private Facebook group and it’s a great resource for checking average temperatures in a given place. You can find a whole slew of other data on cloud cover, precipitation, wind, and more but here for example is the temperature range for average highs and lows in Medellin, Colombia:

Medellin weather

Here it is for one of the most popular “location independent living” magnets of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

living abroad weather

I once spent six days in Chiang Mai and it rained buckets the entire time. Sure enough, when you look at the rainfall section for that city, for the months of June through August you’ve got a 2/3 chance of cloud cover and rain every day. For people coming from London or Seattle, that’s probably okay. If I moved there from Florida I’d need to find somewhere else to go for a few months a year.

What’s Your Ideal Climate?

That’s the thing though: weather preferences are very personal. True, most of the snowbirds in the tropics are coming from miserably cold places that get lots of snow in the winter. But obviously some people like those winters or they wouldn’t keep living there. Others want to live somewhere they’ll never need gloves or a winter coat, but they don’t want to sweat a liter of water every time they walk out the door. Others are happy if it’s hot every day, especially if they live by a beach.

So while you’re putting together your list of ideal factors (mountains or beach, isolated or close, urban or rural) don’t forget the factor that can really affect your mood: the weather. It’s not just a subject of small talk. It could be the difference between you loving a place and hating it.

Ideally try to do your trial run when you can see some of the worst time to be there. The rainiest season, or the coldest, or the windiest. If you still like it then, you’ll really love it when it returns to the norm.

Comments
  1. Don

    An excellent article Tim. Thank you for posting it. These are questions I’ve been mulling over for quite some time.

  2. Nika Jane

    Well, it’s not about the climate that brings fun, it’s about you handling the situation. Thanks for the post. Your article makes me think of something.

  3. Chuck Smith

    I’d add this tool to the list–start poking around Wikipedia’s pages on the “Köppen Climate Classification System,” starting with the color-coded world climate map you’ll find here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6ppen_climate_classification

    Look at the color-coded map. Zoom in on places where you already know you like the climate. Make a note of its color and find matching colors, or make a note of its 2-3 letter classification code and click on that code below the main map in order to see an article and a map about that specific climate code. Or search for a favorite-climate city in Wikipedia, and check out what they say about its climate–they may tell you the Köppen code for that city, and then you can return to the maps and find more places with similar climates.

  4. Linda Dockery

    Hi Tim,
    Thanks for that information I have 5 months before making the big decision , all your posts are so helpful.

  5. craig

    Your comments are spot on. I moved to Thailand 6 years ago, , south of Bangkok about 2 hours and near the beach. I loved it at first. Nothing but shorts and t shirts year round.

    But now, the humidity is really starting to bother me. Many think it’s getting hotter and hotter every year. I’ve spent most of my life in Southern California. Great climate, but too crowded and too expensive. I’ve spent about a year rv’ing Mexico. Loved it!

    I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but SE Asia is just too hot and humid.

    I met you at TBEX in Bangkok. Thanks for the articles!

  6. Bill

    What you say about climate is so important. I started out to immigrate to coast of Ecuadoe in March. Two earthquakes finished that idea, but while house-sitting there, I cam e to realize.” Hell ,it’s raining almost everyday”.! I left Canada to find the sun.
    My return ticket said Panama City; why not try a house-sit there. Once again, rain!
    Almost evryday so far for 24 days.
    Next stop Manzanillo Mx. and a house-sit there for 4 weeks and I pray for ‘El Sol’!
    Maybe ‘hole-up’ for the winter, soak up some ‘rays’ and keep searching for that ‘preferred’ climate !
    Like ‘Happiness’, there is no one ‘perfect climate’; I’m planning to settle for “Reasonnably Satisfied’!

    • Tim Leffel

      In general, it’s rainy season or even hurricane season in the summer months when you’re in the tropics or near the equator. Then it could be blue skies for the next 9 months. You’ll have better luck in high desert climates if you’re trying to avoid rain.

      • Jimmy

        Exactly, desert climates are perfect to avoid rain. We live in Mendoza Argentina and it hardly ever rains (except this year with el Nino). And Argentina is easy to stay for a long time. You just pay a small fine and its settled.

  7. Rizqah

    Really helpful post, I usually like to travel to a country with a warm climate.

  8. Laure

    This article is really interesting. Actually , I am living abroad in Mexico city and I am French so this is really far. I agree that the climate is really really important when you decide to go somewhere and your article will really help to know where to go but I think it is not enough. There are other factors that have to take into account like the food or many things.
    Sometimes even if the climat is good, this is not enough…

    • Tim Leffel

      True, and I go into this is great length in A Better Life for Half the Price. It’s just one factor on the flow chart I provide as a bonus to the e-book buyers.

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