Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico - As one of the top international destinations for retirement, Puerto Vallarta is home to an estimated 50,000+ people, or "ex-pats," who have retired here from other countries.
Moving to Mexico, however, can be a stressful adventure initially. Moving to a new country with a different culture, language and set of laws can be difficult at first.
Whether it's signing up for health insurance, handling visa requirements, deciding where to live, finding a doctor and dentist, or something as simple as obtaining a mobile phone or setting up a bank account, you're bound to make costly mistakes and live with some frustration your first few months here.
Ray Drew (known as "Ray Vallarta" locally) has launched a new business, Navigate Vallarta, to assist those who are moving, or retiring, here by helping them with a myriad of issues and challenges.
I took some time to talk to Ray about his business and ask him a few questions.
BanderasNews (BN): Ray, what inspired you to start this business?
Ray Drew (RD): Well my first few months in Vallarta, though as exciting as I could imagine, were stressful as I figured out how to get things done and solve problems. I made many costly mistakes, despite having friends who were helping me. After a couple of years, local friends started coming to me asking for help, and I decided to advise people who were planning to move here. When moving to new country, you simply can't know what you don't know. Tasks that seem quite simple in your home country can be quite confusing here.
BN: What types of services do you provide?
RD: My services break down into four categories:
1. technical needs such as applying and registering for a visa, importing household goods, setting up a bank account, finding a place to live, and handling government regulations;
2. professional referrals to realtors, attorneys, accountants, mechanics, handymen, veterinarians and many other professionals that you'll need when you live here;
3. medical care needs such as finding a doctor and specialists, and obtaining proper health insurance; and
4. learning how to retire and how to become a local including learning where to shop, how to adapt to local laws and customs, which neighborhood you want to live in, how to meet quality people, networking, etc.
BN: Ray, how do you teach people to retire and become a local?
When you retire, I always recommend that you just relax and acclimate to the new culture. Have a margarita on the beach and just enjoy. Believe it or not, that can be difficult because you feel that you have so many decisions to make. I'm always advising my clients to slow down and take their time before making big decisions. For example, your decision about where to live or whether you need a car will likely be quite different after being here a month and have toured the neighborhoods.
After a while, you'll be settled in and then it's time to hit the "bucket list". For many, you'll have time to do things you never did in the past. Whether it's traveling to the wonderful destinations in Mexico, learning to sail or scuba dive, learning the language or taking up other new hobbies, this is an exciting phase in your life.
BN: How do you meet new friends?
RD: You need to do this deliberately. I help my clients network and make new friends in town. You'll notice right away that people are incredibly friendly in Vallarta.
BN: What are your clients' greatest reservations about moving to Vallarta?
RD: Safety is one of the biggest concerns. US citizens are usually the most concerned because of the anti-Mexican news that they are bombarded with. Yet after moving here, my clients quickly realize that Vallarta is much safer than the city they have come from. It does take time to "deprogram" yourself from all the news you've heard, but Puerto Vallarta is definitely the safest city I've ever lived in.
The second biggest fear is medical care, especially for my clients that are older. We have world-class medical care here and you can obtain health insurance at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. There's a reason that the medical tourism industry is so strong here - because of the excellent health care you can get here.
BN: How does your charitable work align with the values of your business?
RD: Vallarta didn't feel like home to me until I started giving back to my community. I always suggest that to my clients. Not only is it rewarding, but it's also a great way to meet quality people in town.
It's important that you choose the right charity to work with. I've worked with many non profits in town and always research them before I start working with them, so I can make great suggestions for how to get involved.
BN: How do you charge for your services?
RD: Every client has different needs. Some may already own a home here and others may need my help to find a place to rent. Some may want to import household goods while others are coming with suitcases only. I do an interview by phone or in person and go through a long checklist to determine what their needs are, establish a meline, present a proposal and quote them a price for my services. My proposal is comprehensive and completely transparent. One thing I can promise is that people save more money by using my services than they pay me, by avoiding costly mistakes.
BN: This all sounds wonderful! How can potential clients reach you?
BN: Ray, what are you proudest of in your new venture?
RD: It can be so difficult to know who to trust when you're moving to a new country. I'm known for my honesty and for always putting my clients' needs first. And I just really enjoy this work. It's fun for me.So there you have it, folks. If you are planning to make the "Big Move" to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Ray Vallarta can help make your transition smooth and easy.