10 Countries Where Retirees Can Live Large and Save Big

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Retirees in Portugal
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Where do you want to retire? A tropical beach? Exotic mountain hideaway? Culture-filled city?

Many seek a foreign land where they can get more bang for their retirement bucks and live among friendly people.

The editors of International Living magazine, a monthly publication for subscribers, have ranked their top 10 retirement havens. That report, The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2020, is the basis for this list and descriptions.

10. Vietnam

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International Living likes Vietnam a lot, especially for the beautiful beaches, modern cities, rugged mountains and thousand-year-old historic sites. Vietnam’s people are warm and welcoming, its economy is strong and Westerners will enjoy the country’s modern conveniences.

The cost of living here is low throughout the country. The report says:

“Even in the most expensive cities—Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi—two people can live well for less than $1,500 per month.”

9. France

Provence, France
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You may think of France as too expensive to be an affordable retirement destination.

But International Living says, “Mais non.”

The magazine’s Francophiles cite the country’s legendary food and wine, climate, haute couture, unspoiled countryside, rich cultural life and excellent health care. History buffs are fascinated by the long and colorful history.

The cost of electricity, cable TV and water is akin to what you would find in the U.S., writes Tuula Rampont, the magazine’s correspondent in France.

But housing is about one-third of what she paid in California. She estimates a couple can live for $2,083 to $2,483 a month, including health care and rent.

8. Spain

Valencia, Spain
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With beaches, mountains, fabulous cities, colorful festivals and sunshine almost everywhere, Spain remains one of the most popular European countries for those looking to retire overseas.

Day-to-day expenses can be very low, says International Living, and a couple can live well in many parts of the country for about $2,500 a month.

Lunch is the main meal in Spain, and a fixed-price restaurant lunch special, including two filling courses, beverage and sometimes dessert, can be had for between $11 and $20.

7. Malaysia

The Strait of Malacca in Malaysia
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Influences from across Asia and beyond have melded together to create an extraordinary and affordable cross-cultural melting pot of customs, dress, architecture and cuisine in Malaysia.

According to International Living:

“A family of six can dine out in a good local Chinese restaurant (10 courses) for less than $5.70 per person, including beer. A men’s haircut costs just $2.16. In Penang, a couple can live comfortably on $1,800 a month, including rent.”

6. Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador
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Ecuador can’t be beat, many retirees say. Facing the Pacific Ocean, lying directly on the equator in the northwestern corner of South America, and filled with mountainous terrain, Ecuador offers almost any climate you like simply by moving up or down in altitude.

Popular expat havens here include Cuenca, Quito, Cotacachi and Salinas.

A budget of $1,650 to $1,825 a month for a couple — depending on location and lifestyle — will be fine, the magazine says.

5. Colombia

Guatape, Colombia
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Sophisticated Colombia is a hot new destination in Latin America.

Writes International Living correspondent Nancy Kiernan:

Getting a retirement visa to live in Colombia is also quite easy. All you need to do is prove at least $750 annual income from Social Security or $2,500 annual income from a private pension or 401K and you are eligible to obtain a visa that is good for three years.

The cost of living is equally easy, she says. You can expect to pay $8 for a good dinner out and $4 for lunch.

Costs vary but a couple can expect to spend about $1,030 to $2,720 a month, depending where on where they live and other factors.

4. Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico
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Home to more North American expats than any other country in the world, Mexico offers a diverse geography, including dry deserts, warm beaches and high-mountain colonial cities.

As a rule, Mexico is a modern country with paved roads, modern hospitals, a stable electrical grid and functioning internet.

Plan on spending $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending where you settle. That includes rent and health care, International Living says.

3. Costa Rica

Costa Rica
Lorraine Logan / Shutterstock.com

A safe and stable country with no army, Costa Rica has welcomed foreigners with open arms for three decades.

A couple can spend $2,000 a month for a comfortable, but not extravagant, life here, says International Living.

Among the attractions for retirees: Excellent health care, modern telecommunications, beautiful tropical beaches on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, rainforests, lush valleys and cool mountains as well as theaters, art galleries and fine dining.

2. Panama

Panama City, Panama
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While most famous for its canal, Panama draws retirees for its ease of living.

The cost of living here lets North Americans pamper themselves. If you like the city life, you can rent an ocean-view condo starting at about $1,500 a month.

Life in Panama City costs editor Jessica Ramesch about $2,600 a month as a single person. That includes rent, groceries, utilities, and entertainment. Qualified retirees have access to sizeable discounts on travel, health care, hotels, restaurants and more.

1. Portugal

Estoril, Portugal
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Lying quietly in the shadow of boisterous Spain, Portugal offers a sliver of coastline and an interior that can take you back centuries.

The people are warm and welcoming, writes International Living correspondent Tricia Pimental. She adds:

“You can live a comfortable, although not extravagant, lifestyle for about $2,500 a month.

If you choose to live in Porto in the north, the country’s capital of Lisbon, or in the expat beach havens of Cascais or the Algarve, you probably want to bump that up to $3,000.”

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