By: Laura Ray
PLAYA QUIZALES, COSTA RICA (PHOTO CREDIT: NURIAJUDIT / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
Thinking about retiring abroad? International Living has been a proponent of living better, for less, overseas for decades. Its 31st Annual Global Retirement Index factors housing, benefits, visas/residence, fitting in, development, climate, healthcare, cost of living, and more to determine the best places to retire in the world. In addition to stats, the index is also informed by the expertise of International Living’s contributors based around the globe. From tropical escapes to rural countrysides, here are the top 12 countries to retire in this year, starting with number 12.
HA PENNY BRIDGE IN DUBLIN, IRELAND (PHOTO CREDIT: MADRUGADA VERDE / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
When most people think about retiring on an island, they probably aren’t picturing Ireland, but maybe they should! This enchanting place is full of nature, history, and culture. Its vast and verdant plains have earned it the nickname the Emerald Isle, and the 2,000 miles of scenic ocean just off its west coast draw thousands of visitors every year.
Its storybook landscape boasts castles, cliffs, looking-glass lakes. and green fields hemmed with stone walls. If you want to spend your retirement surrounded by fiddle music at a cozy pub or in a brightly painted seaside house, consider Ireland. Wherever you choose to live, you’ll never be far from a beach, a fishing spot, a golf course, or literary gathering.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Ireland rarely gets too cold. Sure, it gets pretty wet, but as Dolly Parton says, “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
LUMPINI PARK IN BANGKOK, THAILAND (PHOTO CREDIT: TRAVEL MAN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
Tourists and expats alike are drawn to Thailand’s warm climate, inexpensive cost of living, and laidback lifestyle. This Southeast Asian country is home to breathtaking beaches, world-renowned cuisine, and thousands upon thousands of Buddhist temples. From mountainous regions in northern Thailand to the 1,430 islands situated predominantly along the country’s southern coast, there is something for everyone who dreams of retiring in the tropics.
Add inexpensive healthcare and friendly local residents and it’s no surprise that many people choose to live in the “Land of Smiles” full- or part-time. According to International Living, “After spending time in the country, many expats are told by their friends that they look 10 years younger.”
MONTEVIDEO URUGUAY OLD CITY (PHOTO CREDIT: WORLDROADTRIP / SHUTTERTOCK.COM)
A truly safe haven in Latin America, Uruguay lies between Brazil and Argentina. This modern and progressive yet laid back country is politically, economically, and socially stable with a strong infrastructure to boot. In addition to the best road system and most reliable electrical grid in Latin America, you’ll also find the fastest overall internet speeds. Add the low cost of living, high-quality affordable private healthcare, low crime rate, temperate climate free of earthquakes and hurricanes, safe drinking water, and good public transportation and you’ve got yourself a great place to retire!
This small country offers a variety of lifestyles for every type of retiree, all of which are much more slow-paced than the U.S. Its capital city, Montevideo, features beautiful beaches, great historic architecture, and an active cultural scene. Choose from the seaside resort town of Punta del Este or the smaller beach town of La Paloma. Or, skip the beach altogether and opt for a small farm or rural dwelling in the countryside.
ANDALUSIAN WHITE VILLAGE IN COSTA DEL SOL, SOUTHERN SPAIN (PHOTO CREDIT: ALEX TIHONOVS / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
If you picture retiring to a sun-drenched, whitewashed house, complete with a courtyard, perched on a cliff, with an olive grove and deep blue sea nearby, then may we recommend Spain? This hugely popular European getaway is home to stunning beaches, mountains, an agreeable climate, and some of the best food and wine around. Its fabulous cities host colorful festivals and its residents lead lively, outgoing, cultured lifestyles. Life here in this laid back country is meant to be enjoyed. Spain also has one of the lowest costs of living in Europe and some of the best healthcare in the world.
POPEYE VILLAGE IN MALTA (PHOTO CREDIT: JON CHICA / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
Off the southern coast of Italy and north of Tripoli and the Libyan coast, The Republic of Malta is composed of three islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. These beautiful islands provide the idealistic setting for retirees looking to spend their later years diving or relaxing on the beach. At one-tenth the size of Rhode Island, this quaint island nation is especially painless to navigate, yet it still boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Densely populated and extremely welcoming to non-European expats, Malta is an easy place to find fellow retiree friends. Add in the low cost of living and world-class golf courses and it’s hard to find a reason to retire anywhere else but this Mediterranean oasis!
OUTDOOR MARKET AT COURS SALEYA IN OLD TOWN VIEUX, NICE, ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA (KIRK FISHER / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
Culturally, the French value their leisure time and pleasure more than work, making it the ideal fit for retirees looking to leave their careers behind. Explore a wide variety of landscapes, including beautiful beaches, forests, historical cities and monuments, and even the mighty Alps and Pyrenees mountains, all within a country the size of Texas. France ranks in the top five in the world for its extensive healthcare system and all residents are entitled to national medical coverage. Finally, foodies and wine connoisseurs will never tire of the vast world-renowned French dining offerings.
COLORFUL COLUMBIA CITY OF GUATAPE NEAR THE ANDES (PHOTO CREDIT: GAIL JOHNSON / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
As the gateway to the rest of South America, Colombia is an excellent place to call home just a short flight away from the U.S. Enjoy the world-class beaches on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, venture into the rainforests of the Amazon, and take advantage of the many comforts of the growing cities.
People who choose to retire in Columbia can wake up with a cup of the world’s best coffee and get to bird-watch first thing in the morning. You see, the second-most biodiverse country on the planet is home to 1,889 species of birds — 20 percent of all species on earth. The most populous nation of Spanish-speaking South America, Columbia has been growing in popularity with expats and retirees alike for its wonderful climate, vibrant cities, and low cost of living.
GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR (PHOTO CREDIT: ADODI PHOTOGRAPHY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
With a name that means equator in Spanish, Ecuador has surprisingly balmy, moderate weather. Boasting one of the larger middle classes in the country, it has become a hotspot for retirees looking to stretch their post-career dollars.
Situated on northern South America’s west coast, it is bordered by Peru to the south and east, Colombia to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. This incredibly biodiverse area encompasses the Galapagos Islands as well as part of the Andes Mountain range. Ecuador offers a dizzying array of activities as well as a comprehensive healthcare system.
PORTO, PORTUGAL OLD TOWN ON THE DOURO RIVER. (PHOTO CREDIT: ESB PROFESSIONAL / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
Situated along the coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is bordered by Spain. With the average cost of living being half of that in the U.S., you can see why it is so popular with retirees. It is possible to live comfortably on less than $1,500 a month.
Portugal makes it easy to apply for a resident visa. There is a non-habitual resident program with no tax on foreign pensions and other retirement incomes. Receive top-notch healthcare via reasonably priced private healthcare insurance. In major cities and certain parts of the country like Douro, Lisbon, and the Algarve, English is widely spoken. It also happens to be one of the safest countries in the world.
Portuguese people are known for their friendly and welcoming demeanor, which makes the transition to this southern European country much easier for expats. Historic and charming yet progressive Portugal is a great place to retire if you want to be surrounded by great food, amiable people, and proud culture.
PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO, MEXICO (PHOTO CREDIT: DIEGO GRANDI / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
Warm weather coupled with an extremely low cost of living has lured expats south of the border for years, whether for snowbirding purposes or more permanently. In fact, 1.6 million U.S. citizens currently live in Mexico. Its proximity to the U.S. and flavorful cuisine doesn’t hurt either. While national healthcare is provided for residents, out-of-pocket medical expenses are a fraction of the cost in the states.
Louisa Rogers, a TravelAwaits writer who splits her time between Guanajuato, Mexico, and Eureka, California, describes it as a “fascinating, diverse country, with a rich mix of culture, history, architecture, landscape, and geology.” When asked whether it is dangerous, Rogers replies that although “crime is a well-known problem in Mexico, the violence between rival gangs doesn’t generally affect people not connected to the drug industry.”
PLAYA QUIZALES (PHOTO CREDIT: NURIAJUDIT / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
2. Costa Rica
Gorgeous ocean views, incredible biodiversity, and year-round warm and temperate weather are just a few of the reasons why many Americans flock to Costa Rica every year. While the laid back country offers many reasons to visit, it also has many reasons to stay, like excellent healthcare. Costa Rica provides universal healthcare to all residents, including free emergency care, extremely low-cost medical procedures, and even free (or almost free) prescription medication.