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These Are the Best Countries in the World for Retirement

The good life is even better abroad.

After years of working and planning for retirement, it's finally time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruit of your, well, labor. But don't pack your bags for Florida just yet. About 40 percent of American retirees are looking to relocate abroad. But where to? For many, picking a place to retire depends on two major factors: climate and budget. Although beachfront living in the U.S. is prohibitively expensive—California and Florida (even with its no income tax) will cost you a pretty penny—there are many similar international destinations at nearly half the price. From coastal European escapes to colorful South American getaways, here are the world's happiest, healthiest, and most budget-friendly countries for retirement.


pantheon in lisbon portugal

With its rich history and mild year-round weather, Portugal is one of the best destinations for retirees and expats alike. The Portuguese are very welcoming to foreigners from all over the world, and many speak multiple languages (including English). But what surprises people the most is that living in Portugal is actually really affordable; a couple settling in major cities like Porto and Lisbon can expect to spend $2,200 to $2,800 a month, including rent. The country also has world-class healthcare that's free for children under 18 and seniors over 65.


High angle view t in old town of Quito on sunny day.

From rural, mountain towns to bustling big cities, Ecuador's versatile environment has earned itself a massive influx of North American and European retirees. With its low cost of living, cities like Cuenca and Manta have seen a steady growth of expat communities. Additionally, Ecuador boasts a number of beautiful beaches throughout. A retired couple, depending on their lifestyle and location, can expect a monthly cost of living around $1,600 to $2,000, even in the capital city of Quito.


Elevated view of Kuala Lumpur skyline.

For the last decade, Malaysia has risen the ranks among the best retirement destinations. Because it was once a British colony, the Malaysian people are accustomed to western traditions, and they use English as their primary language for day-to-day living. Although a modern 6,000-square-foot apartment at the heart of Kuala Lumpur can weigh in at $2,000 per month, if you compare that price-for-size to New York City, you'd be looking at roughly $25,000 per month in The Big Apple. Plus, other expenses are much lower—a nice dinner date, for instance, is only $10 per person!


overview of the center of barcelona spain

Holistic living is perhaps the most important element when considering a place to retire, and Spain has that in spades. According to Bloomberg, it's the healthiest country in the world thanks to its food quality and organic farms. Spain also has a robust state healthcare system; once you're a registered resident, you are entitled to free medical coverage. All of these benefits balance the total monthly cost of living (around $2,000 to $2,500).


aerial view of ha long bay

Vietnam is the perfect base for retirees looking to travel throughout Asia; located centrally in the subregion, it is only a two-hour flight to most capital cities in the Southeast. The main reason expats retire in Vietnam is because of how cheap it is to live there. For a middle-class couple, a monthly budget of $1,000 to $1,500 is more than enough in the main cities. Though Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are favorites for their low-cost housing, Ha Long and Nha Trang are extremely popular areas for retirees who want to be closer to nature and beaches.


White clouds above the small town of Boquete, Panama

The strongest pull for retirees when it comes to Panama is its foreign tax exemption. The country has a territorial tax system that allows residents with foreign-gained income to waive income taxes. Yes, you heard that right! Especially with its newly instated pensionado program, moving to Panama has never been easier. However, living in Panama is not the cheapest in comparison to its neighboring countries; a couple can expect to spend up to $2,500 (including rent) to live in cities like Coronado, Pedasi, and Boquete. The latter is known for its exuberant expat community that thrives on yoga, meditation, and other holistic practices.


Aerial View of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.

Location, location, location. Bordered by four states—California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas—Mexico is the obvious choice for retirees who don't want to be too far from family. Although Cancun was once the go-to vacation spot, now expats have flocked to Lake Chapala and San Miguel instead. If you become a permanent resident, you can participate in the country's national healthcare system, and seniors can apply for discount cards to receive even more benefits. For around $1,500 a month, a couple can live nearly anywhere in the country.


Picturesque view on the old town (medieval Ragusa) in dubrovnik

Croatia has 1,100 miles of coastline along the Adriatic Sea—and that's not counting its 1,200 islands. So it's no wonder that the country would be a top choice for sun-seeking retirees. Here, you can easily immerse yourself in the local culture, as there's not a strong expat community since many Americans have yet to discover this European gem that's oft overshadowed by Italy and Greece. The best part? Croatia has zero wealth tax.

Costa Rica

small town of Playa Hermosa overview

In the past three decades, Costa Rica has seen massive social development, especially due to the wave of expats moving to the Central American country. The nation is small but well-developed, with liberal-leaning values like nature conservation and LQBTQ+ rights. The quality of life is high and cheap; a retired couple can live comfortably in modern villages like Montezuma and Nosora for around $1,300 to $1,600 a month, including rent and medical care. And although speaking Spanish is helpful, many people can converse in English too.


a boat by the island of phuket thailand

Arguably the most popular retirement destination in Southeast Asia, Thailand has long drawn expats from across the globe. With its jaw-dropping landscapes and strong tourism industry, Thailand is well established as one of the best countries to retire in. While Bangkok and Phuket have seen a surge in cost of living over the years, the mountainous city of Chiang Mai and the seaside province of Krabi are two fantastic alternatives.


Street in walled city in Cartagena Colombia with people walking

With Ecuador and Panama bordering the country, it was only a matter of time until Colombia hit the map as a haven for expats. Colombia has arguably the best healthcare system in South America—the World Health Organization even ranked it higher than both the U.S. and Canada. For a retired couple, the monthly cost of living is around $1,400 to $2,500 in major cities like Medellín and Bogota, which are a quick, cheap flight from Caribbean enclaves like Cartagena. And if you want to travel but have an expired passport (or none at all!), check out the 13 Coolest International Destinations You Can Visit Without a Passport.

Adam Hadad
Adam is a science and travel writer based in New York City. Read more
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