The 17 Best Places in the World to Retire

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

You might be surprised by some of the best places in the world to retire. A growing number of American retirees are moving to extremely far-flung locations. They find that retiring overseas can be more affordable and more fun than staying in the U.S.

When evaluating life in another country, you’ll want to consider what you are leaving behind here in the United States, but also what you are gaining as an expatriate. Here are 17 of the best places in the world to retire — including some truly unexpected places.

Get ready for some fun browsing!

First, a Note on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Business closes due to the coronavirus pandemic
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Most of the countries on this list have yet to benefit from widespread vaccinations. You may not even be able to visit some of these countries now, let alone move there.

Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic may be putting a burden on otherwise good (and even great) health care systems in some of these locations.

Does Retirement Abroad Improve Your Retirement Finances?

Retiree with money
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There are affordable places to live in all corners of the world and with a wide range of environments.

If moving abroad in your retirement sounds like something you would like to explore, the internet has a vast number of resources to help you:

  • Get inspired by the lists below.
  • Do a little more research. Identify the costs for food, housing, and health care, and make sure that the country welcomes retirees by researching visa and residency requirements. You will also want to explore the availability of health care and assess the safety concerns. Banking and taxes are other factors to consider.
  • Once you have an idea of what life might look like (and cost) in your target destination, plug in the costs of retirement abroad into the NewRetirement Planner to assess the real financial impact of your move.

How the Best Places in the World to Retire Are Determined

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Different indexes use different ranking criteria. The two most popular rankings come from Live and Invest Overseas and International Living.

Live and Invest Overseas rates the best places in the world to retire on 12 categories: climate, cost of living, English spoken, entertainment, environmental conditions, existing expat community, health care, infrastructure, real estate, residency options, safety, and taxes.

International Living has a more intuitive approach. Its rankings are based on interviews. It says, “Our index is informed by hundreds of opinions and real-life experiences — information — compiled by our trusted sources in the best retirement destinations across the globe.”

So, here are the seven countries that appear on both lists of best places in the world to retire. We have also listed 10 other affordable and enticing places to go.

Top 7 Countries to Appear on the 2 Lists of Top Best Places to Retire Abroad

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Europe, South and Central America, and also Asia boast great places to retire, and here are some notable countries.

1. Ecuador

Ecuador
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Ecuador is one of the most ecologically diverse places on the planet. It straddles the equator, is extremely mountainous, and sits on the Pacific Ocean — giving the country a wide variety of climates and terrain. Choose the mountains, beach, or a colonial city for your retirement.

Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, making retirement planning a little bit easier. It boasts an incredibly affordable cost of living. And, Ecuador’s health care system is among the best in Latin America — even the world. The country ranks high on Bloomberg’s listings.

2. Portugal

Estoril, Portugal
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Portugal is another country ranked highly by both Live and Invest Overseas and International Living.

Like Ecuador, Portugal offers a variety of terrain. It is famous for its beautiful Atlantic coastline, a thriving wine region, and vibrant European cities.

Property is affordable, as is the overall cost of living. It is estimated that you can comfortably get by on $2,500 in larger cities and on significantly less in smaller towns or villages.

Learn about retirement in Portugal at Expatica.com.

3. Mexico

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Some people hear “Mexico” and think of corruption, drugs, and illegal immigration to the United States.

Other people think white sand beaches, clear warm water, jungle breezes, icy margaritas, and a fantastic place to retire.

The indexes seem to agree with the latter, as they rank numerous cities in Mexico as excellent places to retire. Playa del Carmen is one such city. The number of foreigners living in Playa del Carmen is extremely high, making up about 7% of its total population, the report found. Even more, about 65% of real estate buyers are American.

If you’re looking to invest, Playa del Carmen may also be attractive with 12% annual appreciation and rental yields between 5% and 10%, according to Live and Invest Overseas. Property taxes are also extremely affordable, 0.1% per year.

Learn more from Escape Artist or Mexperience.

4. Panama

Panama City, Panama
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Panama is another Central American destination that is super popular with American retirees. It offers a range of lifestyle options. However, Investopedia estimates that a realistic starting point for a retired couple would be about $2,000 per month to cover basic housing and living costs.

And, with both private and public health care systems, you have options. Most retirees opt for private services, which are incredibly affordable. A local insurance plan costs about $145 a month for a couple in their 60s and pays between 50% and 70% of most health care expenses.

Learn more from Panama for Beginners.

5. Malta

Valletta, Malta
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Aside from the appealing fact that the second official language in Malta is English, the country boasts rich European culture, plenty of entertainment, and is ranked the fifth-best in the world for its health care systems and standards.

Also, becoming a resident of Malta is very affordable. There is no pensioner visa available in Malta, but it offers a Global Residence Program for non-European Union citizens, which can allow you to qualify by renting a place to live for as little as about $900 per month.

Get more details from Malta Inside and Out.

6. France

Provence, France
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Most of us think of France as a relatively expensive place and more of a destination for an expensive dream vacation than retirement. Champagne and couture, anyone?

Paris is indeed one of the least affordable cities in the world. However, in the countryside affordable and picturesque villages abound — Brittany on the Atlantic, Pezenas and Dordogne near the mountains, or the Languedoc region near the Mediterranean.

Speaking French is an asset for retiring in France. And since learning a second language is a great way to keep your brain young and vibrant, maybe France is actually an ideal place to retire.

Expatica covers many financial details for retirees interested in moving to France.

7. Vietnam

Vietnam
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This country, once a wartime foe, is friendly to United States citizens, and English is widely spoken.

A tropical climate, friendly people, and great food are some of the many reasons to retire to Vietnam. Never mind that it is incredibly affordable. Many expats in Vietnam estimate that you can live quite comfortably for about $1,000 a month.

Getting a retirement visa involves opening a company, but that is relatively easy to do.

Get more information from Move to Asia.

10 Other Countries That Could Be Great Retirement Destinations for You

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There are also some other countries that are perennial favorites for retirees looking to journey overseas. Keep reading to see some top choices.

1. Italy

Venice Italy
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A couple of years ago the town of Sambuca on the island of Sicily made news because it was selling homes for one Euro (just a little more than a dollar).

So, yes, Italy can be extremely affordable for retirees. More realistically though, Numbeo.com estimates that the cost of living in Italy is, on average, 1.30% lower than in the United States. And, rent in Italy is, on average, 48.28% lower.

Get more information at Italy Magazine.

2. Costa Rica

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While Costa Rica is more expensive overall than some of the other popular retirement destinations, it is still more affordable than living in the United States.

According to international consumer price data gathered by Numbeo.com, the average person living in Phoenix faces an overall cost of living more than 34% higher than the average person living in San Jose. In another example, the cost of living in San Diego is more than 76% higher than in San Jose.

Beware of housing costs, but be aware you get a piece of somewhere pretty special. From long stretches of undeveloped beaches and green-carpeted mountains to volcanoes and dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife, this Central American country is a “nature-lover’s dream.”

Get tips for retiring to Costa Rica from the Tico Times.

3. Malaysia

The Strait of Malacca in Malaysia
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This Asian country also actively welcomes foreigners by offering a visa program that grants 10-year stays, called the Malaysia My Second Home visa program.

It is a “Cross-cultural melting pot of customs, dress, architecture, and cuisine,” where you can access:

  • Public and private health care on par with that in Western countries, and medical facilities staffed by English-speaking professionals. Did we mention it is also affordable? A visit to the doctor usually costs less than $10!
  • Low cost of living (around 43% lower than in USA, excluding rent)
  • Internet coverage on a par with services in France and Italy

Learn more from Malaysia-Traveller.com.

4. Slovenia

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The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, is abundant with art, culture, architecture, and history. The second-richest of the 13 Slavic countries, Slovenia sits among neighbors Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia in central Europe. Violent crime in Slovenia, as a whole, is unheard of, therefore ranking the country the 10th-safest in the world. Though it is not a well-known city, a couple could live comfortably for under $1,500 per month in Ljubljana.

Explore Move2Slovenia.

5. Cambodia

Sunrise in Cambodia
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Cambodia is hardly the first place most people think of as a retirement destination. In fact, many of us think of Cambodia and have horrific images of war, landmines, and poverty.

However, the contemporary reality is much more appealing. This is a land of warm weather, nice people, and a very low cost of living. While Cambodia has its own currency, most transactions are done in U.S. dollars — making it relatively easy for foreigners to navigate day-to-day living.

Siem Reap is one town to consider. It has an international airport, and the location attracts thousands of tourists due to the proximity to the spectacular temples of Angkor.

Learn more from Move to Cambodia.

6. The Philippines

Phillipines
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Questionable leadership aside, the Philippines is full of tropical beauty. It is one of the largest island chains in the world.

While not all places in the Philippines are equally safe and comfortable for foreigners, find the right little spot and you can live very well for very little.

The Expat Exchange website reports that most expats live comfortably in the Philippines for $1,200 a month — which is indeed less than the average Social Security check.

7. Peru

Lima Peru
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The ancient land of the Incan culture also offers modern city living and gorgeous Pacific coastlines.

According to International Living, a couple can retire comfortably in Peru for about $1,000 a month (including rent), and single expats can live on even less.

Learn more from Traveling & Living in Peru.

8. Thailand

Thailand
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Have you had Thai food? It is delicious and might be good enough reason to retire to Thailand. But, don’t forget gorgeous beaches, beautiful mountains, and one of the most exciting cities in the world, Bangkok. It also boasts a friendly culture, top-notch health care, and inexpensive housing.

Here is a step by step guide to retiring in Thailand.

9. Spain

Valencia, Spain
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Experts say it is possible to live in Spain for as low as $25,000 a year. However, your actual cost of living will vary greatly depending on where you end up in this country. Popular cities for expats include: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, San Sebastián, Alicante, and Málaga.

While it is possible to find other English speakers, knowing Spanish would be a definite plus.

Learn more at Spanish Living.

10. Bali, Indonesia

Bali Indonesia
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Beautiful. Exotic. Full of traffic. These all describe Bali.

Bali is also relatively affordable for retirees. But, if you really want to make your dollar last, try one of the other islands in Indonesia that are less touristed.

Learn more from Indonesia Expat.

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