. . . continuing last week’s blogpost of questions from a reader:
How much are your medical costs? (Doctor appointments are cheap where we are now.)
Brazil has a free public health system that looks excellent on paper, but which in practice ranges from quite good to nightmarish. My husband and I don’t use the public system. We have a Danish health plan that is offered to citizens of one country who live in another. We keep the annual premium low by choosing a high deductible. We pay for medical appointments, which range from $50 to $140 or so, as we need them. We’ve never yet even come close to exhausting the deductible, so in effect we’re self-insuring, until some unexpected calamity, at which point our insurance will kick in 100%.
We love our doctors. They spend as much time with you as you want, and their examining rooms are generally right in their offices. You don't sit in a cubicle, waiting and shivering. When you make an appointment, you’re the only patient until you’re done. If we need a medication we buy the generic, and the prices are great.
Are there hospitals and clinics in Buzios?
There is a hospital in Búzios, yes, and we would have no qualms about going there for emergency treatment in the middle of the night. But for any serious operation or treatment we would go to Rio or São Paulo. There are several clinics in Búzios run by excellent doctors, and these serve our general medical needs. There are extremely competent specialists in the nearby town of Cabo Frio. The laboratories are as modern and up-to-date as you can get. As I write this, I realize that speaking Portuguese is vital. Not all the doctors and very few support personnel speak English.
What can you tell us about residency requirements, and/or dual citizenship?
This is a huge question. Foreigners who want to live here legally have to research the options and choose what works for them. Start with any Brazilian consulate website for the basic information.
One American couple we know has a house here in Búzios, but they come only on tourist visas. They stay 90 days, go to the Federal police and request a 90-day extension. So, in effect, they live here for 6 months and in the States for the other 6 months. That works for them and they're happy. But we wanted more permanency than that. Initially, my husband and I came on foreign correspondent visas, which were valid for 4 years. We then got an extension for another 4 years. After that the only other visa available to us was an investor visa, which requires an investment of a certain amount of money (the amount varies depending on the prevailing law at the time you apply) in a company that you must open and operate for a certain number of years (the number of years also varies — for friends of ours the requirement was 5 years, when we applied it was 3 years). Later you can apply for a permanent residency visa. The company that assisted us in obtaining our permanent visas is Mundivisas: www.mundivisas.com.br.
There’s a lot more to be said about this complicated subject, but one would need lots of time and a bottle or two of sparkling wine.
Is it easy to start one’s own business?
Are you asking because you really want to start a business and work in Búzios? No, it’s not particularly easy, and they’re changing the rules all the time. Brazilian businesses are heavily taxed, and the labor laws are intricate and onerous. We unfortunately know plenty of people who have opened businesses in Búzios, closed them after a few years, and left with considerably less money than they started with. This oft-repeated Búzios joke says it all: "How do you leave Búzios with a million dollars? Come with two million."
What cannot be shipped to Brazil? (We were only allowed to ship clothes to the place we are now, and it was a royal pain.)
There’s no such restriction that I know of for shipping to Brazil. We shipped everything we wanted to, including books, clothes, kitchen equipment, some furniture (though we had sold much of what wouldn’t have survived the tropics), artwork — everything. There was no problem getting our shipment through customs as long as it contained nothing but used, personal effects. They opened a few boxes, saw that it was used, and away we went.
My husband and I are both 53 and if all goes well we hope to dock at the Búzios Yacht Club. Is that a good area? Where would the best place for people our age be to settle? I like to be close to great boutiques/stores for shopping.
The Yacht Club is in a lovely neighborhood called Ossos, which is within walking distance of the center of Búzios, where most of the shopping is. But there's no "best place" for particular ages or anything like that here. Búzios is not a retirement town, though this is the town to which my husband and I seem to have de facto "retired."
Búzios is mostly a Brazilian resort, a getaway for monied people from Rio. It also attracts loads of Argentines, Uruguayans, Chileans, Peruvians, and plenty of Europeans, mostly French and Germans. It is uncomfortably congested during high season, it is noisy, it is full of young people in full throttle and renters who come here to party (think "Fort Lauderdale during spring break" and triple it). It does calm down during low season, but one thing to keep in mind, Búzios is absolutely not Boquete, Panama or Corozal, Belize, it is not a place where you’ll find an established community of American retirees. In fact, there are very few Americans here. And although many Brazilians speak excellent English, you won’t find many speakers of English among the salespeople, cashiers, secretaries, garage mechanics, lab technicians, pharmacists, banking personnel, insurance brokers, accountants — all the people you’ll need to talk to in order to conduct your daily life. I mention this particularly because you spoke of a "language barrier" where you are now. If you don’t speak Portuguese you’ll face a language barrier here, too.
What would you say are the pros and cons of living in Búzios?
My husband and I have never been happier, never been healthier or more stress-free, never had better friends or a higher quality of life. I am privileged to have a spectacular view that fills my heart every day. So when I balance all that against the downside of life in Brazil — crime, bureaucracy, corruption, even the annoyance I might feel when I’m up against a seemingly illogical or less-efficient way of doing something — Brazil, and specifically Búzios, still win out hands down.
Since you’re already on the continent, my best advice would be for you to come and try Búzios on for size! Give us a call and we’ll open that bottle I mentioned above!