11 Best Countries to Retire

More and more, retirees are looking to spend their later years abroad. Considering the many incredible destinations around the world offering numerous benefits for retirement, it's no shock that many people are finding new homes outside of the US.

However, moving permanently to a new country can be a daunting task. From finances to healthcare to fun, there is seemingly no end to the serious considerations associated with retiring abroad. The most important consideration, however, is certainly deciding where you want to retire.

Where do you start?

Not sure where to start? Not a problem. Some of the best places to retire—as well as considerations to help you decide if this country is the right fit for you—are coming up right ahead.

Where is the best place to retire?

What's the best place to retire? It will vary by person, depending on several factors like budget and climate preferences. The first destination on this list, though, is one of the most popular retirement destinations in the world, and it's easy to see why...

11. Costa Rica

Commonly regarded as the world's happiest country, it's no surprise that Costa Rica is a top retirement destination. With its year-round tropical climate, incredible Caribbean beaches, lush rain forests, and stunning mountains, Costa Rica inspires wonder in anyone who visits.

Why choose Costa Rica?

Currently, over 20,000 expats live in Costa Rica. Many are attracted to this destination not only for its plethora of natural scenery and stunning landscapes but also for its high living standards. Even better, its low cost of living and slower-paced lifestyle often attract retirees looking to take it easy.

There will be no sacrificing creature comforts, either. For example, it's easy to find high-speed internet and cell phone coverage, even in more remote areas.

What is the healthcare system like?

This country is also known for having some of the best healthcare facilities in all of Latin America. With modern facilities and universal healthcare options for all permanent residents, Costa Rica is a place where it is easy to obtain health coverage for a low cost.

Understanding Pura Vida

The country's famous motto "Pura Vida," translates to pure life, referring to the overall easygoing atmosphere. Furthermore, the locals are well-known for their welcoming and friendly attitude. You'll soon understand the true meaning of this motto for yourself.

If you want to be a little closer to home, though, the following destination could be your perfect retirement fit...

10. Mexico

Known for its warm climate, abundant natural beauty, rich culture, and delicious food, Mexico makes for an excellent place to retire, with a long-standing ex-pat community. Also, considering its close proximity to the US, it's easy to get reasonably priced flights to visit home or have visitors.

What is the healthcare system like?

Many are attracted to Mexico's overall low cost of living and its high-quality healthcare system. Specifically, healthcare costs in Mexico are significantly cheaper than in the US, with its overall infrastructure only improving. In fact, it's commonly known for its medical tourism, attracting foreigners from all over the world for various treatments and procedures.

What are the amenities like?

Mexico also offers various real estate options specifically designed for American retirees at a much lower overall cost than those in the US. Throughout Mexico, most places have good quality phone coverage and high-speed internet. Although not quite as advanced or widespread as in the US, their overall communication systems are only improving.

How much does it cost to retire in Mexico?

In Mexico, a couple could easily retire on as little as $1,500 a month. However, it is important to check visa and residency requirements beforehand to make sure it is a feasible option for you.

High quality of life and unlimited natural beauty.

With its rich culture, gorgeous beaches, and delicious food options, Mexico is a great place to spend retirement. All in all, Mexico proves to be an incredible destination with a great quality of life and unlimited natural beauty.

Of course, Mexico isn't the only Hispanic country worth retiring to...

9. Spain

With its rich culture and fascinating history, Spain has long been a top travel destination for many Americans. Always a vibrant and exciting place, you will never find yourself without activities to do and places to explore.

What are the residency options?

Not only is Spain a beautiful fascinating place, it is a country that is relatively inexpensive for ex-pats and retirees. If you are considering retiring in Spain, there are a few different options as far as residency is concerned.

Most commonly, retirees choose to get a residence visa (visado residente), which allows you to live in the country without employment. If you choose this visa, you must be able to prove you can support yourself and your family without having a job.

Another option is a long-stay visa, which grants temporary residency in the country. This option allows you to work, study, retire, or live indefinitely in Spain. Both the residence and long-stay visa options make it easy for you to stay legally in the country for a long period of time.

There is also an option for a short-stay visa (which is good for 90 days). With this option, you may stay in a nearby country and hop on over periodically with a valid visa.

How much does it cost to retire in Spain?

Overall, the exchange rate is less favorable than in other parts of the world. However, Spain is still much more affordable than many other European destinations.

Housing costs can greatly vary depending on where you are. If you wish to live in one of the country's major cities, you can expect to see apartment costs upwards of $900. On the other hand, if you choose to live in a coastal beach town, costs are much lower, ranging between $400 and $700 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Never a moment of boredom.

All in all, there are numerous incredible destinations for those choosing to retire in Spain. However, if you're not sold on Europe, a Southeast Asian destination could be more to your liking...

8. Vietnam

Renowned for its incredible beaches, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture, Vietnam is truly a one-of-a-kind place. For those who have traveled here or have considered traveling here, it's also a great place to consider for retirement abroad.

How much does it cost to retire in Vietnam?

According to an International Living ranking, most ex-pats could afford to live in Vietnam on around $800 to $1200 a month. This means that with a savings account of $200,000, one could live here comfortably for about 21 years. The cost of living is much higher in large cities such as Ho Chi Minh, but gets increasingly lower as you move outside of a city.

What are the apartments like?

Modern Western-styled apartments are easy to find in Vietnam. Many of these facilities include features such as gyms and swimming pools.

What about the food and wildlife?

With its plethora of beautiful scenery and natural wonders, Vietnam is a fantastic place to enjoy the great outdoors. For foodies, it's easy to enjoy the authentic Vietnamese cuisine, which blends flavors from France and nearby Cambodia, China, Laos, and Thailand. Some of their famous dishes include pho, banh mi sandwiches, and Vietnamese egg coffee.

All in all, Vietnam is a wonderful Southeast Asian destination for retirees. However, there are other Southeast Asian destinations worth considering, too...

7. Thailand

Another incredible destination for those drawn to Southeast Asia is Thailand. Thailand is recognized not only for its abundance of beautiful scenery, stunning beaches, and delicious food, but also for its overall inexpensive cost of living. Whether you are seeking relaxation or adventure, Thailand has it all.

Why choose Thailand?

Thailand has long been known as a hub for expats and retirees. Not only is it extremely cheap to live in Thailand, but the overall lifestyle is also much more laid back. Despite the easygoing lifestyle, you'll never be bored thanks to the country's fascinating culture and exquisite food.

In fact, the abundance of affordable and tasty food is a huge attraction for retirees. For those who love to cook, there are plenty of market options that will provide you with all the ingredients you need to try out countless mouthwatering recipes. Those who don't enjoy cooking shouldn't fret, though. Because delicious restaurant and market meals are so affordable, there's no need to worry about cooking all the time.

What is the healthcare system like?

Another advantage of retiring in Thailand? The healthcare system. Specifically, Thailand has an overall inexpensive healthcare system. Although you may need to purchase private insurance if you have a lot of healthcare needs, general healthcare expenses are much more affordable than in the US (even without any insurance).

How much does it cost to retire to Thailand?

Thailand also offers a retirement visa, which requires a savings of 65,000 baht, or $2000, a month in a Thai bank account. Depending on your needs and expected monthly expenses outside of necessities, you could likely get by on much less per month—for some, even less than $1000.

Beautiful location, delicious food, and inexpensive healthcare.

It's easy to understand why many retirees are drawn to Thailand as a place to spend their older years. However, even if Thailand isn't your dream retirement destination, it doesn't mean you shouldn't consider other Southeast Asian options...

6. Malaysia

Another remarkable retirement destination that serves as a rich blend of different cultures is Malaysia. With its interesting mix of jungle, unspoiled beaches, and bustling cities, Malaysia stands out from many other Southeast Asian destinations. Additionally, most citizens of Malaysia speak English quite well, making it a little easier for foreigners to communicate easily.

A country that's easy to fall in love with.

One unique trait of Malaysia is its cultural diversity. Especially in some of the major cities like Kuala Lumpur, it's easy to see the mix of cultures. Cuisine there, for example, blends Chinese, Malay, Middle Eastern, Indian, Western, and just about anything else you could imagine. The result? A beautiful blend that's worth experiencing. Whether you prefer cities or smaller coastal towns, Malaysia is sure to have the right place for you.

What about outdoor activities?

Especially for outdoor enthusiasts, Malaysia provides a wide range of exciting activities to enjoy. From whitewater rafting to jungle trekking to camping to hot air balloon riding to spelunking, there is no limit to the amount of adventures waiting for you.

How much does it cost to retire to Malaysia?

Malaysia also offers a relatively inexpensive cost of living overall. Meals, for example, can range from as little as $2 up to $15 at a fancier restaurant. Home prices, too, are also relatively inexpensive. In fact, the average home price is around $75,390, which is quite inexpensive compared to costs in the US.

Overall living costs can be as low as $1000 a month with a moderate lifestyle. Expenses can definitely vary, though, depending on what your lifestyle preferences are.

What is the healthcare system like?

Another perk of retiring in Malaysia? The world-class healthcare system. The English language is used in virtually all healthcare facilities, and almost all of their doctors are trained in Europe or Australia.

A beautiful display of diversity.

All in all, Malaysia is a beautifully diverse country with a lot to offer any retiree. However, moving to Southeast Asia isn't for anyone. For those more drawn to Central America, the following destination might be a better fit...

5. Panama

For those drawn to Central America, Panama might just make the perfect retirement spot. With its beautiful beaches, mountains, and jungles full of rich biodiversity, Panama is nothing short of spectacular. Really, it's no surprise why many have fallen in love with Panama and its natural beauty.

Why choose Panama?

There are many benefits for US citizens traveling to and living in Panama as well. In 2019, Panama was listed as the world's best retirement haven by International Living.

How much does it cost to retire to Panama?

As with most Latin American countries, Panama has a low overall cost of living. Of course, living costs vary from person to person, depending on their lifestyle expenditures. In order to support a moderate lifestyle, though, a couple could expect living costs to be around $2000 a month.

There are added benefits for retirees abroad.

Panama, in particular, has numerous benefits for retirees abroad. Their retirement visa is available for anyone older than 18 years old with:

  • a lifelong pension,
  • social security,
  • or annuity income above $1000 per month.

Fortunately, couples can use their combined income to meet this requirement. Along with this visa are numerous discounts that can cover:

  • flights,
  • entertainment,
  • public transportation,
  • and more!

What is the healthcare system like?

Panama also offers extremely affordable health insurance that provides several perks. A typical plan, for instance, costs close to $150 a month and pays for over half of your healthcare expenses.

A relaxing place to retire.

All in all, Panama is an excellent place for anyone looking to slow down and relax in their later years. However, it's not the only Latin American destination worth considering...

4. Ecuador

Another top Latin American retirement destination is Ecuador. Well-known for its vast array of landscapes—from mountains to deserts to rain forests—Ecuador is truly a majestic country. Because of its many different landscapes, there are many different climates. So, whether you prefer a cooler or warmer setting, you are sure to feel comfortable in this country.

Why choose Ecuador?

For adventure seekers, in particular, Ecuador is an excellent retirement choice. Cuenca, for example, is a city set high in the Southern Andes Mountains. It is known not only for its rich culture and history, but also for its expanding expat community. In fact, it was listed to be one of International Living's best retirement destinations in the world. Large draws for retirees include its temperate climate and proximity to a variety of activities.

How much does it cost to retire to Ecuador?

As with any Latin American country, the cost of living is much lower than in the US. It's easy to live in Ecuador on $2000 a month or less, even with eating out and excursions. Part of this lower cost of living stems from the fact that overall rent prices are a fraction of what they are in the US. Meals are also incredibly cheap, falling between $2 to $4.

Excitement and relaxation can be found in Ecuador.

Whether you're looking to be more active or just relax in retirement, Ecuador is sure to be the place for you. However, if you're looking to move away from the Americas all together, perhaps the following European destination would suit you better...

3. Germany

If you are looking to retire in Europe, Germany makes for a wonderful destination. From its rich history and culture to its incredible world-renowned cities, it's not hard to see why many fall in love with this country.

Why choose Germany?

For Americans in particular, Germany makes for a convenient place to retire. In addition to its incredible sights and attractions, Germany is a place that is very easy to navigate. With abundant public transportation systems—including trains and buses—most people can easily get around the country without owning a car.

What are the residency options?

For Americans, there is no need for a visa for stays up to 90 days. You can also apply for a permanent residence permit while there. With the residence permit, you cannot work, but you can stay long term. In order to meet the requirements, you must prove that you can support yourself and pay for health insurance.

What is the cost of living like?

The cost of living in Germany is somewhat higher than it may be in other European countries. However, it is definitely still very affordable and significantly cheaper than many costs in the US. In fact, fewer Germans own homes since renting is such an easy long-term option.

What is the healthcare system like?

Germany has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Of course, this system does come at a higher cost. So, it's important to make arrangements for comprehensive insurance.

Germany is a superb European destination.

Germany is full of friendly locals, most of whom speak English fluently or nearly fluently. Perhaps best of all, though, is the fact that Germany consistently receives high safety ratings. Considering your retirement savings, Germany may make a wonderful place for many to enjoy their later years.

While Germany can be a great destination, it is far from home. If you're looking for some place a little closer, relocating just a little up north could be the perfect retirement solution for you...

2. Canada

For those who prefer a cooler climate a little closer to home, Canada proves to be an excellent and affordable retirement option.

What is the healthcare system like?

Although Canada's healthcare system is not perfect (what system is?), it does come at a significantly lower cost than that in the US. After moving to Canada as a permanent resident, you will become eligible to access Canada's universal healthcare system.

A similar culture with many shared values.

For some, Canada is an appealing destination for its culture, which is quite similar to the US. So, while living at more affordable rates, people are able to still feel right at home as Canada shares many similar cultural characteristics with the United States. Of course, most people also speak English, which is helpful for retirees who primarily or exclusively speak this language.

Feel close to home—literally.

Also, being in such close proximity to the US, it's quite easy to travel home for visits. In fact, up to 75% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border.

What is the cost of living like?

Another advantage of living in Canada? The affordable real estate. For example, a beautiful oceanfront property on the enchanting Prince Edwards Island can cost somewhere between $150,000 to $300,000 CAD (Canadian dollars). These sums convert to $115,00 to $230,000 USD (US dollars).

It's not just real estate that's cheaper up north, though; the overall cost of living is also cheaper there than the US. Considering the conversion rate of $1.30 CAD to $1 USD, you're automatically getting more bang for your buck in Canada.

A cool place to retire that's close to home.

Assuming you don't mind a little cooler weather, Canada might just make the perfect retirement destination. If you want something a little warmer, though, the following destination could suit you well...

1. Portugal

Another incredibly popular European destination, Portugal, may serve as a wonderful place to spend your retirement. Set along the Mediterranean coast, Portugal offers unlimited incredible places to visit and explore. From cultural attractions to delicious food, this country has plenty for all to enjoy.

What is the cost of living like?

Recently, Portugal has worked to make the country even more affordable for both tourists and expats. For example, retirees may even be eligible to get 10 years of tax benefits, which can make a significant difference in savings.

Portugal is also known for its low cost of living, especially compared to many other countries in Europe. How does it compare to the US? Well, the overall living costs in Portugal are about just two-thirds of the costs in the United States.

Just how cheap, though? Even in a major city center, you can typically expect to pay less than $750 for a one-bedroom apartment. For those choosing to stay long term, they may even consider buying their own apartment.

What is the healthcare system like?

Portugal offers free healthcare services to its citizens. You may become eligible to receive this healthcare yourself once you become a permanent resident.

Why choose Portugal?

This beautiful European destination offers endless attractions and sights for anyone looking for an adventure. Along with fascinating cities, Portugal's low living costs and affordable healthcare system make it attractive for many.

What's next?...

Are you sold on the idea of traveling abroad? Keep reading for some extra tips...

Find your Dream Retirement Destination

For those looking to retire abroad, there are plenty of exciting and feasible options around the world. Whether you are looking to relax in a tropical paradise or enjoy fine dining in historic cities, you are sure to find the right destination for you.

Factors to Consider

Some factors to consider before moving abroad include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Can you take pets with you?
  • How quickly could you arrive back home in case of an emergency?
  • Will you need to learn another language? Are you comfortable learning another language?
  • Is public transportation available or will you need to own a car? What are the requirements for getting a driver's license in your chosen destination?
  • Are your vaccinations up to date? What vaccinations will the country you're interested in require? What vaccinations do the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend you get before traveling?
  • Is your passport due for a renewal soon?
  • Have you contacted your bank and set up a global account?

Some Tips for Moving Abroad

  • Travel to your chosen destination for an extended time before permanently moving. Make sure to travel during a non-holiday time, so you can see what the environment will be like the majority of the time.
  • Try the local food. How well will you like this new cuisine?
  • Find an expat group to join, either in person or online. These people will understand exactly what you are going through, so they can be valuable resources.
  • Check if your electronic devices can be used abroad or if you need special power adapters.
  • Bring 5 to 6 months' worth of necessary medications with you, along with a detailed doctor's note explaining why you need these medications.

Moving abroad may seem overwhelming at first. But, with proper planning and effort, the move can be well worth it.


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