The Best Places to Retire in the World: Explore 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 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 ex-patriot. Here are 17 of the best places to retire in the world — including some truly unexpected places.

Get ready for some fun browsing!

best places to retire in the world

How the Best Places to Retire in the World Are Determined

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 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.

International Living looked at 13 categories with the goal of finding safe, good-value destinations for retirement overseas.

So, here are their best places to retire in the world (plus a few others):

1. Retire to Ecuador

Ecuador is one of only two countries to make the top 10 on both lists. However, the state department recently issued a travel advisory for the country suggesting that visitors exercise increased caution.

Ecuador straddles the equator, is extremely mountainous and sits on the Pacific Ocean — giving the country a wide variety of climates and terrain.

Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as it’s currency, making retirement planning a little bit easier.

Ecuador’s health care system is among the best in Latin America. The country was ranked 43rd overall in the world in 2018, according to Bloomberg. For reference, the United States is ranked 54th.

2. Portugal

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 a beautiful Atlantic coastline, a thriving wine region and a vibrant European city.

Property is affordable as is the overall cost of living. It is estimated that you can comfortably get by on $700-$1,500 a month in smaller towns or $2,200 in larger cities.

Learn more at Expatica.com

3. Costa Rica

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-percent higher than the average person living in San Jose. In another example, the cost of living in San Diego is more than 76-percent 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.

4. 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 indexes rank numerous cities in Mexico as excellent places to retire. Playa del Carmen, Mexico 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 an extremely affordable, 0.1% per year.

Learn more from Escape Artist or Mexperience.

5. Panama

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 healthcare 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 healthcare expenses.

Learn more from Panama for Beginners.

6. Malaysia

This Asian country also actively welcomes foreigners by offering a visa program that grants 10-year long stays, called 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 Traveler.

7. Slovenia

The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, 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.

Explore Move2Slovenia

8. Malta

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-EU 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.

9. 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.

Learn more from Move to Cambodia.

10. 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.

11. Philippines

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 reports that most expats live comfortably in the Philippines for $1200 a month — which is indeed less than the average Social Security check.

12. Peru

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 and Living in Peru.

13. Thailand

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 healthcare and inexpensive housing.

14. Spain

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 ex pats 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.

15. Vietnam

Investopedia estimates that it is possible to retire to Vietnam with just $200,000 in assets.

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

Get more information from Living in Southeast Asia.

16. Bali, Indonesia

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.

17. Italy

Last year the town of Sambuca on Sicily made news because they were selling homes for one Euro (just over a dollar).

So, yes, Italy can be extremely affordable for retirees.  More realistically though, Numbeo.com estimates the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Italy to be about $514 outside a city to $680 in a city center. Buying an apartment costs about $209-$345 per square foot, depending on location.

Get more information at Italy Magazine.

See What Retirement Abroad Does to Your Retirement Plans!

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.

  1. Start by doing a little more research and 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.
  2. 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.

The Planner gives you fast answers about your retirement finances. Instantly see how your retirement plans and finances could change 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 Investors (AAII).

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