As global travel has increased over the years, many seniors want to continue the adventure of exploring the world by retiring abroad. Others settle in new locations to make their retirement income go further or to enjoy new experiences. Recent data from the Social Security Administration shows that more than 700,000 Americans receive their payments abroad.
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Health care, visa requirements, local culture, taxes, and living costs are all part of the decision to retire in another country. With so many considerations, it’s advisable to obtain professional advice, and advisers recommend spending at least several months in a potential retirement destination before making the move. The U.S. State Department is also an excellent resource for anyone considering retirement abroad. Here are 10 of the best places to retire in the world.
Related: 11 Best Cities to Retire in the U.S.
This Central American country has become a retirement destination, partially due to its proximity to the U.S., climate, and welcoming atmosphere. The cost of living can fit most budgets, depending on the location and style of housing.
The government has made retirement in Panama especially attractive with the “pensionado visa,” a plan that requires pension income of at least $1,000 a month and offers benefits including discounts on a variety of services and a tax exemption on importing of household goods. With a valid passport, visitors can stay for three months, but for permanent residency, a local immigration attorney must handle the details.
Panama has a two-tier healthcare system with public and private hospitals, clinics, and doctors, both requiring co-payments for services, with lower costs in the public system. Most retirees choose the private system which offers excellent care and facilities at reasonable prices, covered by private insurance or self-pay.
Portugal has become one of the most popular retirement destinations in recent years for Europeans and others from around the world. Mild weather, gorgeous scenery, and welcoming citizens are a few of the reasons. Housing and general cost of living are reasonable, with variations depending on the city. Lisbon and Porto costs are about 50% lower than New York, and living in Porto costs slightly less than in Lisbon.
Legal residents are able to register with the National Health Service for access to public hospitals and health centers, paying for services as they go. For others, health care is generally covered by private insurance. Health insurance is required as a condition of receiving a residence permit, along with a passport and proof of income. Retirees need to apply at a local consulate for a residence permit which is valid for five years, and then they’ll need to apply for a permanent permit when that expires.
For a tropical island retirement, the Dominican Republic is one of the least expensive Latin American countries for retirees. In Santo Domingo, the capital, rent is about 90% lower than in New York, and the cost of living is about 55% lower. Just two hours from Miami, its location is another advantage for some retirees.
Most retirees purchase private healthcare insurance as they are not eligible for government programs, and quality health care in private hospitals is available at reasonable prices. The Dominican Republic offers a retirement visa or “pensionado” with proof of at least $1,500 in monthly income, a background check, and birth certificate. Retirees can enter the country on a tourist visa and then apply for a retirement visa which takes several months.
Most expats live in the cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago, and there are beautiful tourist towns like Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, and Boca Chica. Certain areas are not considered safe, so it is advisable to research in advance of relocating.
Related: The Best Islands to Retire, From the Caribbean to the Mediterranean
Warm weather, welcoming culture, and a variety of environments from coastal beach towns to sophisticated cities make Spain a desirable place to retire. The country’s highly rated healthcare system includes public healthcare for citizens and residents who contribute to social security. Most expats opt for private healthcare covered by insurance.
Several different types of visas are available, but for retirees from outside European Union countries, the residence visa is generally used. The first permit is for one year, with renewals up to five years, at which time retirees can apply for a residence visa.
The cost of living varies among the major cities of Spain, and settling outside cities is generally more budget-friendly. For example, in the coastal city of Alicante, the cost of living is about 48% lower than in New York, and rent is about 80% lower than in New York. Groceries and dining out on Spain’s excellent cuisine are generally reasonable.
This Central American country, where “pura vida” (pure life) is a greeting and description of the culture, stretches from the Caribbean to the Pacific, with rainforests, jungles, and beaches. Costs vary as widely as environments, but in general, the cost of living in Costa Rica is reasonable. For example, in the city of San Jose, the cost of housing is 83% lower than in New York, and the cost of living is 53% less.
A few ways to become a resident include the Pensionado Program which requires a monthly income of at least $1,000. Those funds must be transferred to a Costa Rican bank to be withdrawn for expenses. The Rentista Program, for those without a monthly pension, requires a minimum of $60,000 or monthly income of $2,500 for at least two years.
Healthcare is available through public and private systems. For residents, the national medical program (with no copays or exclusions) is available along with the option of private care with out-of-pocket costs that can be self-insured or paid through a private insurance policy.
This tiny Mediterranean country’s population is nearly 15% expats, mostly from mainland Europe, Australia, and the U.K. Malta’s attractions include weather, location, beaches, and architectural beauty. English is widely spoken; Malta was once part of the British Empire. The cost of living is just 4% lower than in the United States, and housing is about 30% less. Groceries and restaurant dining are reasonably priced.
Private healthcare is recommended as expats do not have access to national health insurance. To gain permanent residency, a “self-sufficiency” visa requires around $60,000 in assets, proof of medical insurance, and an annual 15% tax. The Permanent Residence program requires about $600,000 in assets, financial contributions to the government, and real estate purchase.
Related: 9 of the Best Places to Retire in Europe
Located in northwest South America, Ecuador is the gateway to the Galápagos and home to an active volcano and miles of Pacific Ocean shoreline. Its low cost of living attracts retirees, especially those who enjoy adventure and appreciate nature.
In the city of Cuenca, a popular locale for expats, the cost of living is 66% less expensive than New York, and rents are about 88% lower than in New York. Ecuador uses the U.S. Dollar as its currency, and many people in the major cities speak English.
Healthcare services are about 25% lower in cost than in the United States, quality is high, and all citizens and visitors are guaranteed care. Foreign retirees can join the government system for less than $100 monthly for full coverage or they can provide proof of private health insurance. Permanent residency visas are available once an individual has lived in Ecuador for at least 21 months under a temporary visa. Minimum income requirements, investments in real estate, or bank deposits are required as part of the temporary visa application.
Mexico’s low cost of living and nearby location attract large numbers of retirees from the United States and Canada. In addition, as a tourist destination, Mexico is familiar to many visitors who have vacationed there over the years. The country offers a wide range of locations, lifestyles, climates, and living costs, making it the top retirement destination for Americans who choose to leave the U.S.
Healthcare is available through two government-run programs that cover low-income residents or require payment of a premium. Private hospitals and specialists offer low-cost, high-quality care, and many retirees simply pay cash for services or maintain private insurance.
Becoming a resident is relatively easy, with income requirements of around $2,100 a month for temporary residence and $2,700 for permanent residence. Bank account requirements are about $36,000 and $149,000, respectively. Temporary residence is up to four years with provisions to re-apply after that point, and applications are processed through the Mexican Consulate in the United States (or country of residence).
This South American country, located on the continent’s northwest coast, offers beaches, rainforest, mountains, and a variety of cities. Colombia has increasingly become a popular tourist destination, and many visitors have discovered its attractions as a retirement home.
The cost of living in Bogotá is about 72% lower than in New York, and rent is 88% lower. Costs vary among cities and inland communities, and a variety of housing is available. Colombia’s healthcare system features modern public and private hospitals, with high-quality, affordable care. The public health plan is available to citizens and holders of a national ID card, including expats, with payment of premiums. Private insurance is also available.
Several visa categories include the pensionado visa, most commonly used by retirees. To obtain the visa, applicants must prove a minimum monthly income of at least three times the minimum salary in Colombia. Income can come from pensions, Social Security, or savings. Currently the minimum required is approximately $750. After five years, retirees can apply for a resident visa. Visa holders can also apply for a foreign ID card which provides access to the healthcare system and other benefits.
In the United States, Florida’s cities are favorite retirement havens, with warm weather, miles of coastline, and no state income tax as some of the draws. A variety of cities on the Atlantic and Gulf shores offer a range of lifestyles and costs, making Florida accessible to most retirement budgets. Retirees who want to relocate but stay within easy traveling distance find Florida the best option. Throughout the United States, college towns, ski resort cities, and small towns are all desirable options for retirees.