According International Living Magazine.
#10: PortugalOne of the smallest countries in Europe, Portugal is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Many fall in love with this little country due to its near flawless weather, abundance of golf and water sports, and superb fresh food.
The relatively low cost of living is also a big draw for those who choose to live in Portugal—compared with other European nations, goods and services are still bargains. The locals are warm and welcoming to foreigners making living here very enjoyable.
If your dream European retreat includes golden sand beaches…almond groves…picturesque castles…and little frontier towns on wooded hilltops then Portugal is the place for you. Slumbering abbeys, pilgrim shrines, and ancient castle towns are dotted inland while traditional fishing towns of narrow alleys and old houses stand proudly on the coast.
A two-bedroom house on The Silver Coast can be bought for $96,000, while the same price could get you a three-bedroom house with a yard among the olive groves and vineyards of Alentejo. Rental properties vary in price from $190 to $918 per month depending on where you are in the country. In cosmopolitan Lisbon expect to pay on average $900 for a one-bedroom property, while in the small town of Estremoz $200 will get you a two-bedroom home.
Living in Portugal is relatively affordable compared to its European counterparts. Utilities usually run from between $110 and $150 a month including water and garbage. You can still get a coffee for 75 cents and a three-course meal at lunchtime, often with a carafe of table wine, will cost around $12.
Romance, culture, and adventure awaits you in your ideal spot in Portugal.
#9 SpainPicture a sun-drenched, white house with a shady courtyard, perched on a cliff-top site in Spain. With the deep blue sea beyond and an olive grove nearby, it’s the stuff of which fantasies are made.
Beaches…mountains…fabulous cities…cracking festivals, and, of course, guaranteed sunshine. It’s not surprising that Spain is the most popular country for Europeans seeking a home overseas.
First, there’s the culture. From the Neolithic cave paintings at Altamira to the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Visigoths, and Moors, Spain’s roots are rich and multi-layered. In Spain you’ll find stone hamlets clinging to the Pyrenees’ green slopes, sun-baked villages in La Mancha—Don Quijote’s territory—cheerful seaside towns, and dreamy Moorish palaces. The food and wine are superb, there is a fiesta someplace every day, and siesta (with a long, leisurely lunch preceding it) is still a custom.
Many retirees flock to southern Spain’s beach towns. The Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol have large expat communities—and English-speaking services that cater to them. English isn’t widely spoken in all of Spain’s 17 regions—but you can manage with only a smattering of Spanish in many resort towns along “the Costas.”
And these towns are a great jumping-off point for exploring the rest of the country, one of Europe’s largest and most diverse: Madrid, with its world-class museums; the vast interior, with its endless plains, and northern Spain, with its rolling green mountains and rocky coast.
Northern Spain is famous for the pilgrim route, the Camino de Santiago, as well as being one of Ernest Hemmingway’s favorite European haunts. This part of Spain has a lot to offer—the stunning Pyrenees, the beaches of the Basque country, bull running in Pamplona, and a quality and cost of living that is near impossible to beat. This is also Spain’s wine country, so if you enjoy the odd tipple, you’ll be in heaven here.
#8: NicaraguaNicaragua is one of the most beautiful countries in the Americas. The largest country in Central America and the most sparsely populated, it boasts a dramatic Pacific coastline; long, gentle Caribbean beaches; and volcanoes and freshwater lakes that dot the hilly inland. And colonial cities like Granada and León offer visitors a taste of days gone by.
The Pueblos Blancos region, only one hour southwest of the capital Managua, is a hub of world-class artisan talent showcased by unique pottery designs in San Juan de Oriente, fine hand-crafted furniture in Masatepe, and elaborate tropical plant nurseries in Catarina. The Masaya highway takes travelers straight through the heart of this impressive artisan zone where you can furnish, decorate, and landscape your entire home for $1,000.
And San Juan del Sur, a tiny town surrounded by 21 gorgeous beaches, provides the laidback, surfside paradise that others long for.
Nicaragua is a land rich in natural resources ready to be harnessed for the purpose of producing clean, cheap energy. In an effort to bring prosperity to Nicaragua, there has been a surge in alternative energy exploration in recent years. From wind and solar to hydroelectric and geothermal driven power, the potential is unlimited.
Nicaragua is virtually unknown—and usually misunderstood—by most people, which is why forward-thinking, international investors can find some of the best real estate deals on earth in this country. Not only is it physically beautiful, but the country offers you the “best bang for your buck.” Depending on where you want to live, you can still find lots for $3,000 and up. Of course established towns and beach areas will cost more.
But the real attraction of this land stems from the magnetism of the Nicaraguan people.
Look into the eyes of almost any Nicaraguan and you’ll see perseverance, solidarity, ingenuity, and above all, a friend. The willingness to assist their fellow man in need is unwavering, creating an underlying sense of community across all aspects of Nicaraguan life. Even the poorest campesinos (rural population) will share what they’ve got—be it their first scoop of rice or their last. It’s time to start spreading the word that Nicaragua is “A Country With Heart.”
#7: ThailandPicture yourself wandering through gilded temples...exploring Bangkok’s hidden canals by long-tail boat...riding an elephant down jungle trails…meeting Hmong hill-tribe villagers, and treasure-hunting for hand-loomed silk, teakwood carvings, and exotic curios—all at a fraction of the price you’d pay back home.
Now let’s spin the kaleidoscope to white-sand beaches, swaying coconut palms, and an evening chorus of cicadas. Rising from jade and turquoise waters are scenes from an oriental fairy tale: a myriad of islands girdled by coral gardens...bizarre limestone outcrops smothered in spinach-green vegetation...incredible sunsets with a slow-burning sun dipping into the sea like a giant red lantern.
Thailand has a lot of options. Some foreign retirees choose to live in the hubbub atmosphere of Bangkok. Some live in the north of Thailand where life is quiet, peaceful, and very inexpensive. Others choose the south for its beautiful beaches.
Living in Thailand is unbelievably cheap. There are many places where you can dine well and still leave the table with change from $5. In fact, go north, and you’ll also find that 20-baht noodle stalls still exist—that’s just 60 cents!
You can rent a really nice place just about anywhere in the country for just $500 a month. We know of one expat who pays $222 a month for his beachside bungalow with air conditioning, hot water, and Wi-Fi. A full check-up in a modern hospital by an American-trained doctor will cost you less than $40.
#6: ColombiaLocated at the tip of South America, Colombia is where the Pacific and the Caribbean collide with the Andes and the Amazon. It’s a country that is more beautiful, dramatic, and diverse than nearly any other. It offers sparkling colonial cities in the highlands and world-famous (and safe) resorts along the Caribbean. Cartagena, a walled colonial city on those turquoise shores, is one of Spanish America’s most beautiful enclaves.
What’s more, Colombia boasts beautiful areas where the cost of living is the lowest you’ll find anywhere in South America. Just three hours from Miami, Colombia welcomes non-stop flights into Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena.
Colombia has a lot to offer International Living readers. Critical things—like low cost of living, inexpensive properties, and a colorful and diverse culture. There isn’t a single segment of the IL membership concerned with climate, culture, and lifestyle that couldn’t find their niche in Colombia.
Colombia offers something that will appeal to just about everyone. And you’ll find that Colombia is a more-developed country than most in Latin America, with the infrastructure, modern products, and services you’d expect in a country on the move.
Colombia can offer you a sophisticated, modern, urban scene or a cabin in a remote section of desert…a colonial walled city by the sea, or a sleepy Caribbean beachside town…spring-like weather high in the Andes, steamy tropics, or the “perfect” weather in between…North American enclaves or indigenous outposts. Unless you’ve got your heart set on snow, you’re almost certain to find your ideal spot in Colombia.
#5: MalaysiaConjuring up all the mysteries of Asia, Malaysia is a former British colony. The sultans, head-hunters, pirates, and gin-swilling English rubber planters of the Victorian age have long since gone, but the country remains as colorful as ever. Beyond the lofty skyscrapers of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, its dramatic canvas is embroidered with tropical beaches, mountains, dense rainforest, and vividly green tea plantations.
Influences from across Asia and beyond have melded together here to create an extraordinary cross-cultural melting pot of customs, dress, architecture, and cuisine. Along with foreign expats from around the globe, the country is home to Malay Malays, Chinese Malays, Hindu Malays, and Sikh Malays.
The country’s diverse ethnic mix makes being a stranger here easy. Whether you live in bohemian Penang or Kuala Lumpur, the country’s hip capital, you’ll meet friendly locals who are happy to stop and chat and welcome you into their home. People are accepting, just ask the international mix of expats all on the same journey as you, and happy to share.
You certainly won’t go short of anything in Kuala Lumpur (KL), or the other popular expat hangout, Penang Island. Malaysia has both public and private health care with medical expertise on a par with western countries. Most hospitals and health care facilities are staffed by English speaking professionals with international qualifications. Internet coverage here is on a par with services in France and Italy…the cost of living is cheap and it’s easy to live here (English is widely spoken). And with some of the world’s most stunning white-sand beaches, there’s a lot of like about Malaysia.
#4: Costa RicaIf you’re ready for la pura vida, “the pure life,” you might want to consider a Costa Rican retirement. This country of just over 4 million is tucked between Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
Costa Rica has a lot going for it…it’s a nature-lover’s dream, with green-carpeted mountains, oh-wow volcanoes, and that blue, blue ocean.
It’s got top-quality, affordable health care and is known as one of Latin America’s most peaceful nations (it has enjoyed over 60 years of uninterrupted democratic rule). Costa Rica has a wide variety of inexpensive housing, along with a wealth of every imaginable activity to keep you busy and happy.
Long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches, on the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts…dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife…towering volcanoes, lush green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes, rivers, streams, and waterfalls…mesmerizing sunrises, sunsets, and star-filled evening skies…all these things, and much more, are drawing people to Costa Rica.
Columbus called Costa Rica “the rich coast”—and it still is, with Caribbean beaches and Pacific shoreline that’ll take your breath away. But this nation has much more to offer, too: a year-round tropical climate, modern cities, rainforests, lush valleys and majestic mountains.
With its slower pace of living, warm, welcoming climate, healthy, fresh foods and reputation as one of the “greenest, cleanest” countries in the world it’s no wonder Costa Ricans are considered among the “happiest people on the planet.”
#3: MexicoWith its moon-lit fiestas, languid white-sand beaches, ancient colonial towns set in the rugged Sierras…Maya pyramids rising from the misty Yucatan jungle…little silver mining towns where the winding streets seem to run straight up into the clouds…weekly markets where just a few dollars can fill your shopping bag to the brim with fresh fruits and vegetables…fishing villages where the boats land in the morning with the giant snapper you’ll have for lunch, sautéed with garlic or simmered in a Diablo sauce that will make you call out for another ice-cold cerveza. Or buy the whole fish right off the boat for a few bucks (plus the 50 cents you pay the fisherman’s son to carry it home for you) and cook it yourself.
It’s no wonder so many retirees are starting new lives in Mexico.
Whether your vision of the ideal retirement involves shopping, fishing, sunbathing, diving, biking, mountain climbing, parasailing, collecting crafts, visiting archeological sites, partying, going to concerts, attending the theater, or fine dining in Mexico has all of these activities, and more.
Stately Spanish colonial cities in Mexico are steeped in tradition, and soaring baroque church spires overlook gracious squares. Here you can dine in elegant cafés, and browse upscale shops on the very spots where the heroes of the Revolution declared independence from Spain and forged a new country. For all these reasons, and many more, Mexico is one of the world’s top destinations for those dreaming of a relaxed and romantic new life abroad.
Wherever you go in Mexico, the people will charm you, the natural beauty will seduce you, and the remarkably affordable cost of living will entice you to stay.
Whether your dream retreat is a graceful colonial home with lavish gardens, a simple beachfront bungalow where you can prop up your feet on the rail and watch the tide roll in, an expansive hacienda with enough acreage for horses to roam, or a cliff side villa with sunset views and cool, steady breezes, you are likely to find it in Mexico.
Whatever your motives for settling in Mexico—whether you hope to escape the fast pace of life up north, enjoy a better lifestyle for less than you’d pay at home, or discover a safe haven where the crime rate is low and you can enjoy a “small-town” existence—you’re likely to find your quality of life improved in this country.
From snow-capped volcanoes to dense Amazon jungle…sun-drenched Pacific beaches to the famous Galapagos Islands, Ecuador offers something for everyone and at prices unheard of for years in North America and Europe. Whether you want to live, invest, vacation, retire, or simply relax in Ecuador, you’ll find the perfect combination of climate, culture, and affordability to make your dreams come true.
In Ecuador the weather is always perfect…about 77º F during the day and 50º F at night. In a single day’s drive, you can go from a sophisticated city with true cultural appeal to a tranquil pine-studded mountain hideaway…or an alpine retreat where you can bask in warm thermal waters under a starlit sky…or lush rainforest jungles full of exotically colored birds and flowers…or pristine beaches where the only footprints are yours.
It’s hard to pinpoint the best reason for coming to Ecuador. Its breathtaking natural beauty is certainly a huge draw. But the real clincher for most people is that it is an incredibly affordable place to live. Whether you decide to live in the bustling capital of Quito, the pretty expat favorite of Cuenca, or on the shores of the Pacific in one of the country’s many beach towns, you’ll find that your money will go a lot further than it does at home.
There are so many benefits to living in Ecuador…low cost of living but with no lifestyle sacrifices, affordable real estate (whether you’re renting or buying), good-quality, inexpensive healthcare, and a quality of life that’s hard to beat.
Ecuador is gentle…safe…healthy…private…civil. As one expat put it: “It’s like we are living in the U.S. in the 1950s.” You’re guaranteed a quality of life that just plain doesn’t exist anymore in the States. Up north, violence, materialism, and increasingly intrusive government policies have whittled away the last vestiges of the American Dream. Yet here you’re guaranteed a truly extraordinary lifestyle. And that makes Ecuador one of the best places to retire…or reinvent yourself. You’ll find like-minded company when you do.
And the winner is…..When it comes to attractive retirement destinations, Panama is at the top of our list. It’s the only country in Central America with a true First World city. But unlike most South American capitals, Panama City is only two-and a-half hours by plane from Miami. (And let’s not forget that, unlike some places closer to the U.S. border, Panama is hurricane free).
No matter your taste in lifestyle, Panama has something to suit you. You could choose to live in a sleepy mountain town…or by a tropical beach listening to the calls of parrots and toucans.
You could take in a play, see an opera, or sample the finest cuisines in a First-World, culture-rich capital city…or tend to your own organic farm in a little rural village…
The best part is, wherever you choose to live in Panama, a change of scenery is always on your doorstep, should you want it. Though it’s smaller than South Carolina, Panama packs a surprisingly large variety of landscapes into one tiny country.
Panama offers a comfortable retirement solution, in part because the nation is much more developed than most visitors expect. Many are shocked by the modernity of Panama and the clusters of skyscrapers that define Panama City’s skyline. All of the amenities you could wish for are readily available.
In Panama, you will enjoy the benefits of a developing economy where you can still take a taxi across town for a buck or two, get your haircut for a couple of dollars, or enjoy dinner for two with a bottle of wine at one of the finest restaurants in Panama City for a mere $40. There are also lots of activities for you to enjoy, from jazz clubs to art openings to English-language theater performances. You may be wondering what you will do when you retire...but in Panama, you will never find yourself bored.
Outside the city you will find the true treasures of Panama. There are beautiful beaches everywhere, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Pacific on the other. But there’s more to Panama than a sophisticated city and gorgeous beaches. There are rolling green tropical mountains, fertile farmlands, lush rainforests, and small towns where foreign visitors are made to feel like family. There truly is something for everyone in Panama.
Panama is safe, stable, and friendly. And it boasts the best health care and infrastructure in Central America. But these are only the bold headlines. As you take time to learn more about Panama, you’ll find it keeps looking better and better. Its climate is unrivalled in the world, with tropical rain forests, temperate mountains, and warm, tropical white-sand beaches. Its wildlife is abundant, with most of the bird species in North America, and its pristine natural setting is an eco-tourist’s dream. No wonder that the Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Center is located in Barrio Colorado.
And then there’s the country’s famed Pensionado Program, which helped put Panama on the map as a retirement destination in the first place. Regardless of age, you just need a government or corporate pension of at least $1,000 per month and residence here is yours. This government-backed program will virtually pay for your retirement. It helps subsidize your hospital visits and medicine, sales tax on your car, and property tax on your house. It provides for heavily discounted travel. Your food is cheaper in restaurants and so are your hotel stays and theater tickets.
All of these things combined, make Panama our 2016 Annual Global Retirement Index winner.