The 10 Best Countries to Retire in (And How to Choose One)

Best countries to retire: senior couple hugging each other

Only a small percentage of seniors choose to relocate when they retire, but for those that do, it can be an opportunity to seek out warmer weather, a lower cost of living, or a more comfortable lifestyle. Depending on the exchange rate, your money may go further in another country than it would back home.

But moving to a different country can bring some challenges, such as having to learn a new language or go through a lengthy immigration process.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of the 10 best countries to retire in, based on key factors such as climate, quality of life, and access to healthcare.

10 best countries to retire in

The best country to retire in depends on your lifestyle and personal preferences. Maybe you want to spend your golden years in a part of the world you’ve never been to before, or maybe you want to live a short flight away from your friends and family.

A good place to start is to look at the annual Global Retirement Index by Natixis, which considers everything from inflation concerns to geopolitics.

We’ve aimed our list at retirees in the U.S. or Canada, but residents of other countries may also be eligible for some of these retirement programs.

1. Portugal

Portugal ranks highly on any list of the best countries to retire due to its low crime rate, excellent healthcare system, and low cost of living.

Many retirees pursue the country’s Golden Visa program, which can lead to permanent residency and even Portuguese citizenship for retirees who make investments in real estate or other areas of the Portuguese economy.

You can choose from cosmopolitan Lisbon, historic Porto, or the sunny Algarve region. And for Americans, “home” is just a short flight away across the Atlantic.

2. Spain

Spain has a similar retirement visa program that can lead to permanent residency for those who make a 500,000 € investment in Spanish real estate.

Popular retirement destinations include Valencia and Barcelona—both vibrant cities with sunny Mediterranean climates.

Like many countries, new residents must pay for health insurance out of pocket, but permanent residents get access to Spain’s healthcare system.

3. Switzerland

Switzerland is becoming one of the most popular countries in Europe for retirees due to its high quality of life and its natural beauty.

If you’re at least 55 years old and have sufficient retirement income, you may be eligible to retire here. However, it’s worth noting that each canton (or region) has its own rules on immigration, and you’ll need to apply for a local residency permit.

Also, Switzerland isn’t cheap, and its capital, Zurich, regularly ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world.

4. Panama

Moving on to Central America, Panama ranks highly for affordability and close proximity to the United States. Unlike some countries, which require a large upfront investment, Panama simply requires a minimum retirement income of $1,000 per month.

Holders of the Pensionado visa also get benefits like 25% discounts on utility bills and airfare, making it one of the best places to retire on a budget.

5. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is another Central American country with a tropical climate and a large expat community. Costa Rica has exceptional biodiversity, making it a great choice for retirees who want to spend their days hiking in the rainforest or climbing volcanoes.

There’s no minimum age to qualify for a retirement visa, but you’ll need to make at least $1,000 per month in retirement income. Residents can opt in to the universal healthcare system or purchase their own private insurance policy.

6. Ecuador

From the Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands, the country of Ecuador has some of the best-protected national parks in South America. Ecuador’s official currency is the U.S. dollar, so if you’re relocating from the U.S., you won’t even have to convert your money in order to spend it here.

Its capital, Quito, sits high in the Andes, so some retirees may have trouble with altitude sickness and may want to choose a low-altitude beach town instead.

7. Colombia

Don’t be surprised to see Colombia on this list if you associate it with political turmoil. While unrest continues in some remote parts of the country, Colombia has experienced greater stability and prosperity in the last decade. The capital city, Bogota, is a bustling metropolis with many expats. Further south in coffee country, “the City of Eternal Spring,” or Medellín, Colombia offers a temperate climate year-round.

Cartagena offers a beach city lifestyle with a Caribbean vibe, while other regions are great for exploring the Andes mountains or the Amazon jungle.

8. Vietnam

In 2021, International Living chose Vietnam as one of the best places to retire, calling it one of the best retirement destinations in Southeast Asia. The main draw is its low cost of living, but it also has beautiful beaches and a vibrant culinary scene.

In big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll find a large expat community and friendly locals, many of whom speak English.

9. Uruguay

Uruguay is one of the lesser-known retirement destinations in Latin America, making it a hidden gem for those who choose it. It’s primarily a Spanish-speaking country, but its proximity to Brazil and Argentina makes for plenty of cultural diversity.

Uruguay has an excellent healthcare and social security system as well as four distinct seasons that will be familiar for Americans and Canadians—but not nearly so extreme.

10. Mexico

Mexico is an increasingly popular retirement destination because it’s relatively easy to obtain residency for those who qualify. While tourists flock to Cancun, retirees are more likely to end up in beach towns like Puerto Vallarta or La Paz, or artist enclaves like San Miguel de Allende or Cuernavaca.

Retirees can opt in to Mexico’s healthcare system, IMSS, or purchase their own policy. Keep in mind that the U.S. Medicare system won’t cover you in Mexico.

What makes a great retirement destination?

Senior couple packing their clothes

Choosing a place to retire is a big decision. Take your time to research each destination and visit one or more places in person if you’re able.

Here are a few things to consider as you narrow down the list.

Living costs

Your retirement income will go much further in some countries than others, so consider the exchange rate and cost of living before deciding.

European countries like France, Switzerland, and Italy tend to be more expensive, while Latin American countries like Colombia have a relatively low cost of living.

Language

Learning a new language can be difficult and make it harder to adapt to your new home. If you move to a popular tourist destination, many locals will speak English, but it’s best to make some effort to learn the language in advance.

If you already speak a second language, such as Spanish, consider moving to a place where Spanish is the official language.

Healthcare

The best countries to retire in all have excellent healthcare systems. That’s partly what makes them so attractive to retirees. But every healthcare system is different, so don’t assume that you’ll automatically be eligible to enroll. You may have to purchase your own health insurance policy until you’ve established permanent residency.

Climate

For many retirees, a warm climate is the biggest draw to a different country or region. But not all warm climates are alike, and many of these destinations may have more humidity or a longer rainy season than you’re used to.

If you’re considering moving to a place with a tropical climate, such as Panama or Costa Rica, spend some time there first to see how well you cope.

Ease of migration

Finally, if you intend to move abroad, don’t overlook the amount of paperwork involved. Some retirement programs require you to apply for visas in advance, while others may allow you to establish residency after you arrive.

It may be easier to retire in a country where you already have ties, such as a country where you’ve lived or worked in the past, or one where you have family members.

Plan ahead when sending money overseas

Senior couple happily using a tablet

Moving abroad requires some financial planning, especially if you’ll be living on savings or recurring income from your home country. Some countries require you to show proof of monthly income, while others require you to make a large investment upfront.

Always use a trusted money transfer platform when sending money internationally, and check the exchange rate to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Remitly makes it easy to send money overseas or receive money from your family members in another country. You’ll be able to track the progress of your transfer right in the app or get an SMS notification when it arrives.

Download the app now to get started.

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