Top 10 Best Places for Retirement in the World

Looking for the best places for retirement in the world? This round up speaks about destinations that offer a strategic mix of affordability, healthcare, safety, and lifestyle factors people look for in a fulfilling retirement. This list references destinations from two major sources that put out a list each year.  I’ve also added my own notes on destinations I have personal experience with, and for those who are long time blog readers, you may not be surprised that my second home of Costa Rica came in at #1.

best retirement destinations

For transparency, this list was created looking at both Kiplingers list as well as International Living

Best Places to Retire Abroad – Quick Notes

  • Picking the perfect retirement destination involves looking at the cost of living, healthcare quality, safety, and lifestyle, including community and cultural richness.
  • Popular retirement countries like Costa Rica, Portugal, and Malaysia offer a combination of affordable living, quality healthcare, tax benefits, and in some cases, special residency programs like Costa Rica’s Pensionado program or Malaysia’s MM2H.
  • Retirees should be aware of nuances in each destination such as Portugal’s NHR tax regime, Spain’s tax on pension income, Mexico’s safety concerns, and France’s requirement for financial sufficiency to ensure a comfortable and secure retirement.

Evaluating the Best Retirement Destinations

prime retirement locations

Deciding on a retirement destination is a significant decision, as it’s about choosing the setting for some of life’s most enjoyable years. When searching for that idyllic location to retire abroad, we take into account various aspects that influence the quality of retired life significantly. The critical elements to look at while selecting an ideal place include:

  • Affordability and cost of living
  • Healthcare access and health insurance options
  • Security
  • Cultural and lifestyle opportunities

A crucial consideration is finding somewhere your retirement savings will go without sacrificing comfort—financial practicality matters greatly in this context. But financial concerns are not everything. Healthcare quality is just as important. You’ll want to know whether health insurance there is both attainable and reasonable in price, along with trusting that you can depend on the local healthcare system during your later years.

Ensuring personal safety should also be high up on your priority list—you aim to spend these leisurely days safely enjoying every moment. Evaluating what kind of lifestyle a potential destination offers cannot be overlooked. This includes looking out for welcoming overseas communities, agreeable climate conditions, and engaging cultural experiences.

To aid retirees in their search for perfect global locales suited to their post-work lives, our annual global retirement index—a comprehensive guide known as the global retirement index—provides a researched rundown based upon these fundamental considerations mentioned above so they can make informed choices concerning international retreats best tailored to individual needs or desires. Let us explore together!

1. Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Imagine beginning your day with the melodies of tropical birds, savoring freshly brewed coffee, and relishing an eternal spring-like climate. This is the reality in Costa Rica—a haven that entices retirees with its low cost of living, superior healthcare system, and a bustling social environment.

Settling down in Costa Rica means enjoying more for less. Consider these points.

  • In sought-after cities such as San Jose, average rental prices are about $610 per month—making it one of the pricier locations for accommodation.
  • The property tax rates here present a stark contrast to those found in places like the U.S., being much lower.
  • Ranked 36th worldwide when it comes to healthcare systems, Costa Rica provides outstanding medical care at costs significantly lower than what you’d expect back in the United States.

Retirement should be synonymous with indulging in life’s pleasures—and on this account too. Costa Rica shines brightly. With its mild weather all year round and endless opportunities for outdoor adventures like hiking amongst lush forests or basking on sandy beaches—it truly embodies “pura vida,” or pure life.

Building connections is key during one’s golden years. Thankfully, Costa Rica offers no shortage of community spirit regardless if you settle within quaint villages or exclusive gated communities.You’ll encounter amiable expat circles ready to welcome newcomers warmly. Some premier destinations favored by retirees include Atenas, Tamarindo, Escazu, Manuel Antonio, and Heredia, each providing unique experiences whether seeking climatic comfort or cultural vibrancy.

For more color, read my blog about living in Costa Rica as an American.

2. Portugal

Portugal is quickly becoming a favored destination for retirees, recognized for its breathtaking scenery, substantial tax incentives, and low living expenses.

Attracting many expats is Portugal’s Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) program that offers up to ten years of tax relief on income from outside the country. With reforms under NHR 2.0, there’s now a single-rate pension taxation of only 10% within Portugal while also allowing exemption from inheritance and wealth taxes.

Now restricted to certain professional categories, obtaining NHR status might impact various retired expatriates and working professionals alike. Beyond fiscal advantages lies an even more appealing factor: Western Europe’s relatively modest cost of survival compared to elsewhere. Remarkably in Lisbon where costs run nearly half than those found in New York City.

The hospitable international communities within Portugal number over 500 thousand strong – offering English-speaking settlers from abroad both comfort and companionship as they adapt to their new surroundings. Adding another layer of appeal is the D7 Visa, which extends permanent residency eligibility based on stable income alone rather than demanding large investments.

3. Malaysia

Malaysia, known for its captivating scenery, multifaceted culture, and low living costs, stands out as an excellent destination for retirees. The availability of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program has made it easier than ever to settle down in this Southeast Asian nation during one’s golden years.

The MM2H scheme facilitates a host of benefits such as renewable long-term visas, inclusion of dependents in the visa application, property purchasing incentives, and distinct financial advantages associated with joining the program. Participants must meet certain monetary conditions like proving a minimum level of monthly income from abroad and establishing a Fixed Deposit account with a Malaysian banking institution.

For those interested in buying real estate within Penang state or elsewhere across Malaysia, they will find that eligibility through MM2H lowers their minimum purchase requirements significantly. Retirees can experience superior standards of living at comparatively modest expenses—urban luxuries come at just a fragment of what they would cost back in Western nations.

As for cultural experiences:

  • Malay
  • Chinese
  • Indian
  • Indigenous roots

Interlaced to offer an exceptional array that reflects throughout local food choices and various celebratory events showcasing Malaysia’s mosaic-like social fabric.

Furthermore, the prevalence of English eases communication barriers dramatically, making integration into community life much less challenging. Ultimately, no matter if your preferences lean toward embracing nature on pristine beaches or lush rainforests, or you favor city-living comfort found abundantly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia caters brilliantly to all retirement desires.

4. Spain

Imagine yourself leisurely sipping sangria on a terrace bathed in sunlight, indulging in tapas at an animated square or wandering through the historic ramparts of a castle from the Middle Ages. This is Spain, known for its affordable living costs, varied terrains and landscapes, and an easily accessible healthcare system—all of which make it a preferred destination for those seeking to retire.

Living comfortably in Spain can be as affordable as approximately $2,000-$2,200 monthly. Costs drop even more. To about $1,700-$1,900 when residing outside major urban centers. It ranks among Europe’s most budget-friendly locales with average real estate prices spanning €3,000-€5,000 per square meter within prime areas such as Madrid.

Spain doesn’t just save you money—it also enriches your life with diverse topography ranging from pristine beaches to snow-capped peaks while immersing you in cultural opulence manifested by exquisite cuisine choices, festive revelries, and profound historical relics.Additionally, the country simplifies access to healthcare, equipped with public options alongside reasonably priced private health insurance policies starting around €50 each month.

Retirees looking towards settling down are offered various visa avenues by Spain; the ‘non-lucrative’ route demands evidence of sufficient financial resources whereas the Golden Visa caters predominantly to substantial investors.Pension-derived income does bear taxation implications.Furthermore, migrants should be aware that obstacles might arise, including potential language gaps and sluggishly paced administrative processes.Notwithstanding ascents observed within cityscapes and coastal zones regarding property markets, it remains an essential consideration for retirees planning their Spanish relocation adventure.

5. Panama

Famed for its iconic canal, Panama is also a sought-after retirement destination. Its Pensionado program coupled with low living expenses renders it an appealing choice for retirees seeking to settle in Latin America.

Acknowledged as one of the best retirement programs on a global scale, the Pensionado initiative requires that applicants demonstrate a minimum monthly income or pension of $1,000. This program extends numerous benefits including service discounts and tax breaks.

Panama provides diverse additional visas tailored for retiring individuals ready to invest within the nation’s borders. These encompass:

  • The Self-Economic Solvency visa
  • The Qualified Investor visa
  • The Friendly Nations Visa
  • The Free Trade Zone Investor visa

Each offers distinct criteria regarding investment amounts and routes toward acquiring permanent residency and even citizenship.

The economic landscape in Panama welcomes retirees with an inviting environment conducive to investment activities. Foreign investors find no cumbersome authorizations needed while taking note that this country promotes a robust international financial sector hosting more than 80 reputable banking institutions.

Retired inhabitants take pleasure from not just reduced living costs, but can revel in residing at the helm of environmental performance rankings across Latin America – infusing their golden years with sustainability considerations.

I always have a great time in Panama and have spent considerable time in Panama City.  I enjoy the fact that they accept the dollar, have a very modern banking system, and offer fun nightlife in the heart of the capital city.

6. Mexico

Mexico is a prime destination for retirees due to its cost-effectiveness, delightful climate, and well-established communities of expatriates.

Noteworthy retirement spots in Mexico include:

  • Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo
  • Lake Chapala
  • Los Cabos
  • Playa del Carmen
  • Puerto Vallarta

-San Miguel de Allende

These areas provide options ranging from seaside residences to locations rich with cultural experiences.

A retiring couple can anticipate their monthly outlay to be quite reasonable, spanning between $1,315 and $2,900 based on the location they settle in within Mexico. English is predominantly spoken across various retiree communities throughout the country, which greatly assists those who speak it as their primary language in integrating smoothly.

Despite Mexico’s many appealing qualities for residents abroad, safety considerations remain critical. Official travel advisories draw attention to the possibility of violent crimes, especially prevalent in particular districts or after dark. Expatriates are encouraged by these warnings to exercise caution through measures like daytime travel only using authorized transportation services and staying within the confines of established tourist zones thereby reducing potential security threats.

Many people compare this country to Costa Rica.  To that point, I made a guide comparing the two destinations for vacations.

7. Ecuador

Located in the equatorial region of South America, Ecuador has become a popular retirement destination due to its affordable cost of living, varied environments, and accessible healthcare.

For those seeking an economical retirement life, Ecuador is appealing as expenses may commence from as low as $800 for modest living to approximately $1,500 for a lifestyle with greater amenities. This represents savings up to 65% compared to residing in the United States.

Ecuador’s varied terrain ranges from lush coastal plains to serene highlands with eternal spring-like conditions that appeal to different weather preferences. It provides an effective healthcare system praised for being both budget-friendly and conforming to World Health Organization standards via public and private medical facilities offering quality care.

This country is also rich in cultural traditions and home to about 10,000 American expatriates who have already chosen this beautiful land for their golden years. The presence of such a community offers comfort through shared experiences among fellow retirees.

American seniors can benefit financially from tax incentives provided by Ecuador while securing residency through a retirement visa which requires proving consistent monthly earnings starting at $1,350 minimum. Various sought-after locations include Cuenca’s charm. Quito’s blend of old-world charm and modernity. Or Salinas’ seaside tranquility—all contributing unique offerings within the retiree circuit in this nation.

8. Greece

The land of Gods, Greece, is not only rich in history and culture, but it also offers a warm Mediterranean climate, picturesque landscapes, and affordable living costs, making it an idyllic setting for retirement.

The cost of living in Greece is between 30% and 50% below the cost of living in the United States, making it an affordable destination for retirees. Retirees can immerse themselves in a blend of ancient history and modern charm with Greece’s cultural hubs such as Athens and Thessaloniki.

Coastal towns such as Nafplio and Agios Nikolaos offer rich history, charming streets, and breathtaking views, attracting retirees looking for a scenic and peaceful environment. And if island life is more your speed, Crete and Santorini combine natural beauty with cultural heritage, offering a diverse retirement experience in historical settings.

Corfu stands out as a prime retirement spot with affordable living costs and quality healthcare amidst beautiful landscapes. And for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path location, Rhodes boasts low living costs, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and welcoming communities.

9. Colombia

Colombia is drawing retirees in droves thanks to its vibrant cultural offerings, breathtaking natural beauty, and cost-effective living standards.

Retirees can lead a budget-friendly life in Colombia with the cost of living around 70% cheaper than that of the United States. A monthly budget between $1,500 and $2,000 USD allows for comfortable living.

The Pensionado visa caters specifically to retirees looking to settle in Colombia. By demonstrating a passive income of roughly $830 USD per month, applicants not only gain entry but also have the opportunity to apply for residency after five years.

For those interested in real estate investment opportunities, foreign retirees find it convenient, partly because obtaining residence through property purchase is feasible. With progressive taxation linked closely with residency status and transactions Straightforward ones shouldn’t encounter too much difficulty navigating this process here at home away from abroad!

In terms of cultural experiences, diverse environments await any retiree considering relocation into Colombian society where one will never tire discovering new aspects about rich local cultures nor run out of options when seeking enjoyment outside amidst stunning landscapes throughout various regions across the country.

Ultimately whether your heart is set on enjoying Medellin’s perennial spring-like climate or basking in Salento’s spectacular scenic wonders, rest assured knowing each location within borders promises cozy settings perfect for anyone wishing to spend their golden years surrounded by unparalleled splendor warmth welcoming communities alike.

I’ve been to Medellin a handful of times. It’s gorgeous.  There’s a lot to like, and as mentioned here, it’s a great place for a bachelor party.

10. France

Filled with a wealth of culture, an extensive history, and a cuisine that is celebrated worldwide, France ranks among the top destinations for travelers. It’s equally recognized as one of the premier countries for settling down in retirement.

To living costs in the United States, France offers about a 9% reduction overall. Notably, rental prices are markedly lower – on average 51% less expensive. A person living alone can expect their monthly expenses without rent to be under €1,000 across various French localities.

Places like Nice cater not just to frugality, but also foster tight-knit communities which are especially welcoming to American retirees. Among the favored spots in France where Americans often retire are:

  • Paris
  • Brittany
  • Provence
  • Occitanie
  • Dordogne
  • Alsace

These areas offer economical housing options alongside dynamic expat societies — perfect scenarios for those interested in international living.

Cities steeped in rich cultural traditions such as Paris or provinces such as Provence draw retirees who desire a genuine European lifestyle. In order to remain long-term within France’s borders, retirees need to prove financial independence by showing they meet or exceed the minimum wage thresholds established by French authorities—a criterion typically satisfied by standard Social Security payouts from America.

If you are looking for retirement abroad, it’s also worth mentioning that Western Europe is also coming up in the regions of foreign countries that are getting a lot of attention. For those living on Social Security income, it’s a great place to make your money stretch much further.


The world offers a pearl of options for retirees, from the stunning shores of Costa Rica to the lively cultural environments in Malaysia and Colombia. The best 10 places to retire each present distinct perks, including cost-effective living expenses, excellent healthcare systems, tax incentives or captivating ways of life. Relocating abroad during retirement is an exciting opportunity that presents new landscapes to discover, diverse cultures to immerse oneself in and different lifestyles to embrace. So why delay? Begin orchestrating your ideal retirement now!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cheapest and safest country to retire in?

Based on various factors, Colombia, Hungary, and Iceland stand out as the most affordable and secure nations for retirement. These countries provide top-notch facilities at economical prices coupled with a reduced cost of living.

For retirees seeking a tranquil and safe environment to enjoy their golden years, these destinations are excellent choices.

Where is the best place to retire quality of life?

Affordability, quality of life, and healthcare provisions make Virginia and Florida top choices for retirement. Iowa, Delaware, West Virginia, Missouri, and Mississippi are also among the highly ranked states when it comes to retiring comfortably.

What factors are considered in ranking the best retirement destinations?

The best retirement destinations are ranked based on factors like cost of living, healthcare quality, safety, and lifestyle opportunities.

These are important considerations when planning for retirement.

What is Costa Rica’s Pensionado program?

The Pensionado program in Costa Rica is aimed at drawing in overseas retirees by providing them with tax benefits. This initiative mandates that participants must have a minimum monthly income of $2,500.

Specifically tailored to attract retired expatriates, the scheme provides fiscal incentives as part of its appeal.

How can one benefit from Portugal’s Non-Habitual Resident tax regime?

Expats can take advantage of Portugal’s Non-Habitual Resident tax regime, which offers the potential for a decade-long exemption from taxes on income sourced outside of Portugal, representing a substantial benefit.

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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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