Retirement Saving

Top 10 Places to Retire Abroad

Worried about how far your retirement funds will stretch in the United States? Many Americans are considering retirement abroad, where their purchasing power is often double or more. Besides, if international travel is a post-retirement goal, why not just travel full-time?

We ranked some of the top international retirement destinations from 1-10, 1 being the best, according to the following five factors. We then averaged their scores to give them an overall ranking. Here’s how we measured each factor.

Cost of Living: We measured this factor using, a cost of living comparison calculator. For reference, we compared this to Orlando, Florida, a popular domestic retirement destination with a fairly average cost of living for the United States.

Health Care: We combined the World Health Organization’s World Health Report rankings of healthcare systems across 191 countries and the cost of healthcare in these countries.

Visa and Residency Laws: Although it can have its perks (Panama offers some of the best), obtaining residency isn’t always worth it. In some countries, like Costa Rica and Nicaragua, it’s as easy as hopping over the border and coming right back every 90 days to renew a tourist visa indefinitely. Using information on International Living, we’ve evaluated the Visa and Residency laws of each country and ranked them according to how easy it is to obtain residency and what the benefits are.

Safety and Stability: We ranked countries according to the Global Peace Index. For reference, all but three countries (Colombia, Mexico, and Thailand) ranked higher than the United States.

English Proficiency: Although it’s always good to learn some of the language where you’ll be living, we’ve used the English Proficiency Index to score countries based on how easy it is to get by on English alone.

10. Thailand
A foodie’s dream destination in Southeast Asia with cities, history, and the the world’s most treasured beaches, what Thailand lacks in comforts it makes up for in affordability and diversity. It’s also fairly easy to gain residency with a minimum monthly income of $1,900 but doesn’t offer many perks.
Cost of Living: 4, 43% cheaper than Orlando.
Health Care: 8, ranked 47, not free for foreigners but moderately affordable.
Residency Laws: 6
Safety and Stability: 8
English Proficiency: 8
Overall: 6.8

9. Portugal
Located between the beautiful Mediterranean beaches of Southern Europe and the rolling green mountains of Northwestern Europe, Portugal has the amenities of Europe at a relatively modest price. Obtaining residency is more difficult than most on the list, requiring temporary residency for five years before one can even apply for permanent residency, and a pension or savings significant enough to exceed the cost of living in Europe.
Cost of Living: 6, 33% cheaper than Orlando.
Health Care: 5, ranked 12, free for permanent residents, somewhat expensive for non-residents.
Residency Laws: 8
Safety and Stability: 1
English Proficiency: 3
Overall: 6.4

8. Nicaragua
Often called the “up-and-coming Costa Rica”, Nicaragua is unbelievably gorgeous, diverse, and affordable. Although it has been safe and peaceful for a while, it is still comparatively undeveloped in terms of infrastructure. You can stay forever as a tourist under current laws, but residency is very easy to obtain, requiring a monthly income of only $600, and offering tax incentives and opportunities for real estate and business.
Cost of Living: 2, 50% cheaper than Orlando.
Health Care: 10, ranked 71, not free for residents but highly affordable.
Residency Laws: 2
Safety and Stability: 7
English Proficiency: 10
Overall: 6.2

7. Panama
Panama has long been a haven for expat retirees and offers arguably the best retirement benefits abroad, from plentiful tax incentives to huge discounts for retirees on everything from entertainment to transportation and travel. You need only have an income of $1,000 a month and deposit $5,000 into a Panamanian bank account. However, cost of living is one of the highest on the list.
Cost of Living: 9, 10% cheaper than Orlando.
Health Care: 7, ranked 95, not free for residents but affordable.
Residency Laws: 1
Safety and Stability: 6
English Proficiency: 7
Overall: 6

6. Mexico
Although it’s one of the less safe countries on the list, Mexico is a vast country, and there are plenty of spots that are perfectly safe. Additionally, cost of living is cheap, and the food and culture is diverse. With a monthly income of $1,500 one can apply for a temporary resident visa. With $2,500 you become eligible for a permanent visa.
Cost of Living: 3, 48% cheaper than Orlando.
Health Care: 6, ranked 61, not free for residents but highly affordable.
Residency Laws: 5
Safety and Stability: 9
English Proficiency: 6
Overall: 5.8

5. Malaysia
With the “Malaysia: My Second Home” visa program to attract expats, Malaysia is climbing a lot of lists for hot retirement spots. You must have a monthly income of at least $2,300 to apply, and it includes tax exemptions for income made from foreign sources, education for foreign children under 18, and even a maid.
Cost of Living: 5, 39% cheaper than Orlando.
Health Care: 9, ranked 49, not free for residents but affordable.
Residency Laws: 3
Safety and Stability: 3
English Proficiency: 9
Overall: 5.8

4. France
Who wouldn’t want to retire to France? Although Paris, Provence, and the Riviera are very expensive, other areas, such as Lyon and Toulouse (where our data is based) are far more affordable. And although it takes some work to gain permanent residency, the benefits are some of the best, including the ability to apply for EU citizenship after 5 years if you can pass a fluency exam.
Cost of Living: 10, 10% less than Orlando.
Health Care: 1, ranked 1, free for permanent residents, affordable for non-residents.
Residency Laws: 10
Safety and Stability: 5
English Proficiency: 1
Overall: 5.4

3. Colombia
Quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations for expats and with the lowest cost of living on the list, Colombia is a contender. As with Mexico, it is still unsafe in parts, but there are plenty of areas where crime can be avoided. A monthly income of about $1,000 is required to qualify for a retirement visa, but there is no law in place to avoid double taxation between Colombia and the United States, so taxes can offset cost of living.
Cost of Living: 1, 52% less than Orlando.
Health Care: 4, ranked 22, not free for residents but highly affordable.
Residency Laws: 7
Safety and Stability: 10
English Proficiency: 4
Overall: 5.2

2. Costa Rica
A peaceful country that abolished its military some 60 years ago, with some of the world’s most preserved and biodiverse wildlife, and universal healthcare, Costa Rica has been a hugely popular destination for expats and retirees long enough that the cost of living has skyrocketed a bit. However, it’s still one of the best places to retire, being moderately easy to obtain residency with a little work, especially if you’re willing to invest in property or business.
Cost of Living: 8, 13% less than Orlando.
Health Care: 5, ranked 36, free universal healthcare for residents.
Residency Laws: 4
Safety and Stability: 4
English Proficiency: 5
Overall: 5.2

1. Spain
Despite the increasing popularity of Latin America and Asia for retirees, Spain still tops our list due to its world-class infrastructure, and it’s still one of the most affordable countries in Europe. You can spend half a year here without applying for residency (tourist visas allow you to visit for 90 days every 180 days), but a successful application for residency will put you on the road to EU citizenship after 10 years of residency.
Cost of Living: 7, 22% less than Orlando.
Health Care: 2, ranked 7, free healthcare for residents.
Residency Laws: 9
Safety and Stability: 2
English Proficiency: 2
Overall: 4.4

About the author

Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and “digital nomad” specializing in small business, entrepreneurship, career advice, real estate, travel, arts, and culture. She’s written for outlets as varied as Rawckus Music and Arts Magazine, Itcher Entertainment, Sweden Tips, Houzz, Hometalk, JobHero, Tico Times, and Eugene Weekly. Thanks to a three-year stint in a travel job, a knack for mining great deals, and credit card churning, she has not paid for a single flight since 2012, despite her constant travels. You can find her on Twitter @LizzieAldrich or her website,


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