The Best Places to Retire in the World: 10 Unexpected Locations

You might be surprised by some of the best places to retire in the world. A growing number of American retirees are moving to extremely far flung locations. They find that living abroad 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 ex-patriot. Here are 10 of the best places to retire in the world — including some truly unexpected places.

best places to retire in the world

Best Places to Retire in the World According to a Recent Index

The following locations are recommended by a recent index of the top retirement destinations, published by Live and Invest Overseas. They rate the best places to retire in the world 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.

Greece: Headlines about Greece’s financial crisis might put you off retiring in there. However, according to the Live and Invest Overseas index, Crete, Greece is the number one retirement destination. It ranked as in the top spot for its low cost of living. Rent, utilities, groceries and entertainment are all affordable. Based on experiences of other expats, a couple in retirement can expect to spend about $1,090 per month on a mid-range apartment.

Mexico: Some people hear about 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.

However, the index ranks Playa del Carmen, Mexico as the second best foreign destination for retirees. 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 an extremely affordable, 0.1% per year.

Malaysia: Taking third place in the index for best foreign retirement destination is Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Located on the northwestern coast, Kota Kinabalu has low crime rates, the report found. The diversity of Malaysia also makes it favorable for foreigners.

The Asian country also actively welcomes foreigners by offering a visa program that grants 10-year long stays, called Malaysia My Second Home visa program. The high health care standards in Malaysia make it appealing for retirees as well. A visit to the doctor usually costs less than $10.

Slovenia: The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, which is abundant with art, culture, architecture and history. The second-richest of the 13 Slavic countries, Slovenia is 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.

Belize: Also making the list is Cayo, Belize for those retirees who may be attracted to self-sufficiency and independence. The cost of living for a couple is about $1,206 per month. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, follows with a cost of living around $1,280 for a couple per month.

Malta: Valletta, Malta is the eighth best foreign destination for retirees. Aside from the 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-EU citizens, which can allow you to qualify by renting a place to live for as little as about $900 per month.

Other Unexpected Best Places to Retire in the World

The world is truly full of interesting and affordable places to spend your retirement years. Here are a few more unexpected options.

Cambodia: 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. In fact, Investopedia ranked Cambodia as having the cheapest cost of living. And, 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. According to the Investopedia research, one-bedroom apartments rent for about $268 per month.

France: Most of us think of France as a relatively expensive place and more of a destination for an expensive dream vacation than retirement. Champagne 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. Retiring in France offers a checklist for retirees interested in moving to France.

Uruguay: Central American countries are common retirement destinations. And, South American countries have been on the radar as well, but Uruguay is not usually top of mind. However, Uruguay boasts a stable democracy and, according to Kathleen Peddicord, the world’s most affordable healthcare.

Philippines: The Philippines is one of the largest island chains in the world. This means that tropical beauty abounds. However, not all places in the Philippines are equally safe and comfortable for foreigners.

However, find the right little spot and you can live very well for very little. The expat exchange reports that most expats live comfortably in the Philippines for $1200 a month — which is indeed less than the average Social Security check.

Could Retirement Abroad Improve Your Lifestyle?

Hopefully, this list got you thinking — 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.

Start by identifying the costs for food, housing, and healthcare and make sure that the country welcomes retirees by researching visa and residency requirements. You will also want to explore the availability of healthcare 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 a retirement calculator to assess the real financial impact of your move.

The NewRetirement Retirement Calculator makes it easy to get a detailed assessment of your retirement plans.

This tool gives you fast answers about your retirement finances. You start by entering some basic information and then you get a detailed assessment. You can then rapidly assess different options. For example, what happens if you sell your house to move abroad? How much earlier can you retire if you lower your cost of living?

This tool was recently named a best retirement calculator by the American Association of Individual Investor’s (AAII)


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