The 20 Best Countries to Retire In

Many people have the desire to retire in a different country. Living abroad has become much more common and easier in just the last few years. Some countries have excellent incentives like tax breaks, good healthcare access, lower housing costs and more. Read on to discover 20 of the best countries to retire in along with some helpful details.

1. Panama

Panama is a country most famous for its Panama Canal, still used today for shipping. This warm, tropical locale boasts many pristine beaches along the coast, cool mountain towns with spectacular views and modern Panama City with upscale shopping, dining and other urban amenities.

Best of all, this country is situated outside the hurricane zone but gets cool breezes from the warm, Caribbean beaches on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

There are top rated healthcare facilities available nearby to almost every city here, lowered housing and rental costs along with many tax exemptions and other financial incentives for seniors. Retirees will find beachfront communities and a range of retirement communities especially in the popular Boquete region located in the country's highland area.

Highlights

  • Panama Canal
  • Visit Sunset Coast – beautiful sunsets
  • Bocas del Toro – popular beach destination
  • Casco Viejo – in Panama City – walk the narrowed historic streets
  • Surf at Santa Catalina & tour Coiba National Park
  • See Iglesia de San Francisco de la Montana – oldest Panama church dated from 1727

2. New Zealand

New Zealand is becoming quite the retirement destination with this Pacific island's exotic Polynesian and British blend of cultural influences. A visit to Paihia, a gateway location to New Zealand's Bay of Islands with kayaking opportunities, is a must-do. Take a cruise, swim with real dolphins and tour historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds in this scenic region.

Spot sperm whales and fur seals in Kaikoura and go snorkeling. Take a fun day trip to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to see ancient volcanic terrain. Retirees will find cost of living expenses in New Zealand close to that of the UK, lower crime rates and friendly people.

There are many retirement villages with some offering nursing care and others more for active seniors.

Highlights

  • Go wine tasting on Waiheke Island
  • Queenstown – tons of outdoor activities
  • Take a boat tour of Milford's Sound's fiords, peaks and stunning waterfalls
  • See the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata
  • Experience geothermal wonders in Rotorua – situated on top of the Pacific Ring of Fire
  • See a pre-European Māori village in Rotorua
  • Hike a National Park in Canterbury

3. Portugal

Portugal is a beautiful country rich in culture and traditions. The food here is delicious, and many retirees move here due to lower costs of living, good healthcare access, easy residency policies and tax cuts to foreign born seniors.

Wander quaint villages with cobblestone roads and whitewashed buildings. Portugal has a hotter climate with lovely sand beaches along the coast, many modern amenities, terrific music, food and cultural attractions along with a diverse population group with people from all around the globe.

Highlights

  • See historic landmarks in Belem – just outside Lisbon
  • Visit Sintra with its brightly hued architecture on palaces, castles and convents
  • Douro – famed vineyards
  • Explore the Benagil Sea Cave and beaches on the craggy coast of Algarve & walk the wooden stairs at Praia do Camilo
  • Walk the Historical Way
  • See the gorgeous cobblestone lanes of Tavira
  • Visit the volcanic islands of Madeira

4. Greece

Since ancient times, Greece has been a cultural leader drawing people to its shores from all over the world. Today, Greece is full of ancient ruins and landmarks, offers delicious cuisines, often made with fresh seafood from the Aegean Sea, and has become a haven for retirees in recent years.

The glorious weather, a mix of charming fishing villages and modern-day cities and countless islands provide plenty to do for seniors that desire an active lifestyle with lots of outdoor recreation.

Greece offers a guaranteed flat tax rate of 7% for new residents, access to fantastic healthcare services, a quiet and laid-back lifestyle and affordable property and housing in many areas.

Highlights

  • Visit Athens to see the ancient Acropolis and Parthenon with marble pillars
  • Mykonos – fabulous nightlife options
  • Island-hop in The Cyclades boasting 24 inhabited islands
  • Monasteries at Meteora – historic site
  • Tour the National Archeological Museum in Athens
  • See the domed churches in Santorini
  • White Tower of Thessaloniki – an important monument
  • Head to Corfu Island to wander charming fishing villages
  • See the famed Ruins of Delphi and hike Mount Olympus

5. Mexico

Many retirees from the U.S. and Canada prefer to retire in Mexico due to its proximity. Cost of living is much lower here than in the previous locations, and many seniors on a budget find that their money goes farther here.

This vibrant country has deep traditions, and there is a mix of cultures present that is seen in the country's art, architecture, foods, music and lifestyles.

Higher crime rates in some of the larger cities is a deterrent for some. However, Mexico's healthcare is often cheaper than other nearby countries.

Highlights

  • Go whale watching in Holbox – a sparsely populated island paradise
  • Isla Mujeres is a must-see spot near the coast of Cancun
  • Tour the 2000-year-old ruins of Teotihuacán outside Mexico City
  • See the Frieda Kahlo Museum, Palacio de Bellas Artes and Palacio Nacional in Mexico City
  • Visit the ruins at Uxmal on the Yucatán Peninsula

6. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is popular with retirees due to its fantastic healthcare, lower cost of living expenses and no income tax. The country's gorgeous scenery and the wonderful weather convince many seniors to retire here especially along the coast and in the Central Valley region.

There are stunning stretches of beaches and wild rainforests with colorful, tropical birds and wildlife. This Spanish-speaking country is a blend of rural areas and cities that have modern conveniences. Costa Rica has a rich cultural environment with vibrant art, incredible cuisine and a slower paced lifestyle.

Highlights

  • Mauel Antonio National Park – hiking, birdwatching, nature scenes and outdoor adventures
  • Take a Sierpe-Terraba Mangrove Tour
  • Watch for whales at Marino Ballena National Park
  • Visit Territorio de Zaguates – the Land of the Strays – dog shelter
  • Go to San Jose for fine dining and city attractions

7. Belize

The small country of Belize has less crowds than other retirement destinations. There are numerous caves to explore, beautiful beaches and water adventures to enjoy. This spot is ideal for snorkeling, sailing, hiking, swimming and enjoying the good life.

Belize has affordable cost of living expenses and housing along with top-rated healthcare services in some cities. However, healthcare access is limited in other regions. Its official language is English although other languages are spoken here. The pleasant tropical weather and welcoming people make this country a dream retirement spot.

Highlights

  • Sip ‘N’ Dip beach north of Caye Caulker – floating inner tube bar
  • See Mayan Ruins at Caracol
  • Take a guided tour of Actun Tunichil Muknal – sacred cave
  • Take a sailboat ride and/or snorkel tour of Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley
  • Go diving in the Great Blue Hole

8. Ecuador

Ecuador boasts good healthcare, a 44% lower cost of living rate compared to the United States, tax incentives for seniors and a stunning landscape with a typical South American culture and vibe.

Housing is often cheaper here, but it really depends on location. Higher crime rates in some cities and slower moving government processes can be troublesome.

Highlights

  • See ancient Incan ruins at Ingapirca
  • Hike in The Cotopaxi National Park – outside Quito
  • Shop for local produce at Otavalo Market on Sundays
  • Take an Amazon River boat tour through jungles and rainforests
  • Visit Chordeleg – “The Silver City” to browse handcrafted jewelry and art from local artisans

9. France

France has both a rich culture and storied history. Most people associate France with exquisite and decadent cuisine, fine wine and upscale shopping. Paris is widely considered the leader in the fashion industry.

Along with the well-recognized Eiffel Tower and the Arc De Triomphe in Paris, France has many other attractions, like the French Riviera, that will appeal to those living in their golden years.

While property and homes are somewhat higher in price than some other nearby countries, rent is often cheaper. France's mid-European location makes it easy to travel across borders and enjoy the amenities in other countries.

Highlights

  • See the Palace of Versailles – Baroque architecture and pretty gardens
  • Stay overnight at a gorgeous French châteaux
  • Marvel at the Mont Saint Michel – historic Benedictine abbey
  • Have fun at a Parisian Cabaret
  • Visit the historic Picardy Region in Hauts de France – site of famed gothic cathedrals and art

10. Columbia

Columbia boasts an average cost of living rate at around 45% lower than the U.S. Good healthcare is available in larger cities, but healthcare access can be problematic in rural regions. Rising crime rates in the larger cities are a concern.

Most people love Columbia for its warm and constant weather conditions that do not change much throughout the year. On average, the temperature is usually near 74 degrees F. The higher mountain regions can experience cooler temperatures.

Highlights

  • Visit Tayrona National Natural Park – campgrounds and hammocks – near Sierra Mountains
  • See the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá – an old mine
  • Dine at Casa San Isidro – a restaurant on top of Monsurrate
  • Visit Cartagena for live music at Cafe Havana – a Cuban inspired jazz bar

11. Malaysia

Malaysia is an Asian country where most of the population speak English. Many New Zealand, U.S. and European citizens come here due to a lower cost of living and more financial incentives along with more affordable housing and other perks.

Financial requirements must be met before being approved for a retirement 10-year entry visa. Malaysia has stunning jungles and rainforests where native orangutans can be seen.

There are also island beaches, beautiful historic temples and other landmarks along with larger cities that offer modern conveniences. Malaysia is truly a melting pot of different cultures evident in music, cuisine and art.

Highlights

  • Kampung Kraftangun – Handicraft Village in Kota Bharu
  • Pasar Siti Khadijah Market – farmers market in Kota Bharu
  • Porta de Santiago – historic European architectural fortress site dated 1500's
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park – lots of outdoor activities
  • Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur – modern skyscrapers

12. Spain

Spain is s stunning country with rich cultural experiences, sensational cuisine, historic landmarks from various times and influences along with modern cities where every amenity can be found. This country boasts an excellent quality of life partly due to its laid-back atmosphere and friendly people who welcome foreigners.

The public healthcare is rated highly, but stricter rules to obtain retirement visa privileges mean that some will need to purchase private insurance. Spain offers beautiful beaches, and The Canary Islands are a huge tourist attraction.

Highlights

  • See live Flamenco dance shows in Seville
  • Valencia has the best paella dishes
  • See the small town of Cáceres – beautiful medieval sites
  • Dine at Botin in Madrid’s Calle Cava Baja – oldest restaurant in the world dated 1725
  • Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – stunning art museum
  • See Alhambra Moorish fortress

13. Malta

The sunny and warm Mediterranean island of Malta appeals to many seniors due to its mild climate, water adventure opportunities, slower pace of life, retirement incentives to move there and its high safety rating.

Property along the shoreline can be expensive, but land and housing located inland is still considered a great deal. Maltese and English are the two official languages.

Highlights

  • Visit shops and attractions in Valletta – founded in 1566
  • National Museum of Fine Arts
  • Lascaris War Rooms
  • Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens
  • See Baroque & medieval architecture in “The Silent City” called Mdina
  • Enjoy Golden Bay & Paradise Bay beaches

14. United States

The United States is still one of the most popular retirement places especially for people already living in North America. The healthcare is suburb, however, rural areas and those with low income sometimes have difficulty with medical costs. The U.S. has long welcomed people from around the globe, and the American Dream is still alive and well.

The U.S. has gorgeous terrains and friendly cities and towns from coast to coast. While Florida and California tend to be meccas for retirees, more seniors are moving to dry and warmer areas, like Arizona, and states that are located more inland.

Highlights

  • Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island in NYC
  • The Grand Canyon – hiking, camping, river adventures and more
  • Atlantic coastline beaches – North and South Carolinas, Virginia and Florida with the Florida Keys
  • Pacific coastline of California – Los Angeles and San Francisco with its iconic San Francisco Bay Bridge
  • Pacific Northwest Region – see ancient Sequoia trees, mountains and state park lands
  • New Orleans – See the historic French Quarter in Louisiana – famed for its annual Mardi Gras celebrations
  • Hike or camp in the Smoky Mountains – in Tennessee
  • Take a Fall drive in New England states for gorgeous, colorful foliage scenes
  • Visit prairies and farmlands seen across the mid-central states

15. Morocco

For retirees who do not mind hot weather, Morocco has become a retirement hotspot in recent years. The costs of living here tend to be low, and the population is diverse blending European and African cultures along with other people groups.

Property prices are more affordable here, and there are some cooler locations in this vibrant country. However, there are stark social line divisions between residents who have money and those who do not.

Highlights

  • Tour the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis – near Moulay Idriss Zerhoun,
  • View the Atlas Mountains – guided hiking tours for advanced hikers
  • See the Bahia Palace in Marrakech
  • Shop Souk handcrafted carpets, exotic spices and more in Marrakech and Fez
  • Visit “The Blue Pearl of Morocco” in the city of Chefchaouen – see blue washed homes and streets

16. Netherlands

The Netherlands, sometimes called Holland, is bordered by Germany and Belgium. This country has high ratings among expats for its lovely countryside, friendly people and clean villages where most people ride bicycles.

Although the main language here is Dutch, over 90 percent of residents speak English making it an ideal location to retire.

Its cities are safe, offer reasonably affordable costs of living and great healthcare. There are many modern amenities especially in larger cities. The weather can get cold in winter, but there are many outdoor recreation pursuits to enjoy all year. Dutch cheese, hearty meals, warm fireplaces and happy inhabitants best describe this enchanting country.

Highlights

  • Keukenhof, or Garden of Europe near Lisse – boasts gorgeous tulips and other blooms
  • See 17th or 18th century inspired landscapes dotted with windmills at Zaanse Schans
  • Take a River Boat Cruise in Amsterdam
  • Climb to the top of Dom Tower – medieval, central town landmark – in Utrecht
  • See wildlife at Hoge Veluwe
  • Scheveningen – seaside resort destination
  • Visit Texel – an island in Wadden Sea for hiking, biking and nature watching

17. Germany

Germany is a beautiful country that offers kind people and lovely neighborhoods where everything is orderly and peaceful. Retirees often retire here due to the country's excellent medical facilities, affordable living expenses and a variety of efficient travel modes with many Germans preferring to bike.

There is an emphasis on healthy lifestyles along with historic sites and outdoor pursuits to enjoy throughout the changing seasons.

Germany has many lush green forests, beaches along the coast and green spaces, like gardens, in its many city parks. The food is outstanding with a surprising variety, and most residents love the local farmer's markets, annual community festivals and access to big city culture and attractions from just about anywhere.

Highlights

  • The Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg – a large museum with 3 centuries of art exhibits
  • Schloss Neuschwanstein – 19th century castle
  • Hike or bike through Black Forest National Park
  • Aachen Cathedral – Charlemagne´s Throne
  • Tour Karl Marx's House
  • Visit the beaches in Rügen

18. Italy

Many retirees who move to Italy have higher incomes. Although Italy does have good healthcare, the requirement for a long-term visa has some stricter rules to qualify those from other countries. There are areas where government corruption and high crime rates are a problem. The cost of housing is also higher but depends on the location.

Italian cuisine is full of fresh and healthy ingredients, and native Italians are usually active well into their senior years raising quality of life. Expect to find family-oriented neighborhoods, many cultural attractions and beautiful art.

Highlights

  • Visit Venice for romantic gondola rides
  • Bike or drive the beautiful Tuscan hill villages
  • Take pasta cooking classes in Florence
  • Head to Verona for a world-class opera in a historic Roman arena dated from the 3rd century
  • Tour the Colosseum & other ancient ruins in Rome

19. Canada

This beautiful country is the second largest worldwide, and Canada shares a culture that is like the United States and many European countries. Many retirees from America and Europe opt to retire here especially those who love hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Canada's universal healthcare is terrific, and English and French are the two official languages.

The Northern Lights can be seen in Yukon, and large areas of pristine land are sparsely populated in northern portions of the country. Canada boasts affordable housing and lower crime rates except in the larger cities.

Highlights

  • Jaspar National Park
  • Visit Montreal – where 17th century architecture blends with modern skyscrapers
  • Head to Montmorency Falls Park for outdoor adventures and tour historic Quebec sites
  • See Canadian side of Niagara Falls
  • Bike, walk or snowmobile the Confederation Trail on Prince Edward Island
  • Art Gallery of Ontario

20. Australia

Australia is a culturally diverse country with many advantages for retirees. Cost of living expenses tend to be higher compared to many other nations. Australia's healthcare facilities are excellent.

However, this healthcare system requires pensioners to hold a permanent visa status which has stricter approval requirements.

Many parts of Australia are culturally similar to living in America or Great Britain with most people here speaking English.

Highlights

  • Swim, dive or snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Visit Tasmania & its Wineglass Bay – take the Wineglass Bay Walk
  • Drive the scenic Great Ocean Road in the southern coast of Victoria
  • Queensland Science Centre Museum, Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium & Brisbane Botanical Gardens
  • Kakadu National Park – in Australia's Northern Territory
  • Daintree Rain Forest – 180-million-year-old jungles
  • Meet kangaroos at Lucky Bay

FAQs about retiring overseas

1. What are some of the most important questions to ask before retiring abroad?

A: Ask about the country's healthcare, entry and visa requirements, housing and other cost of living expenses, taxes and incentives for retirees. Also, consider the weather, transportation options, access to utilities, safety and infrastructure conditions.

2. What is the best advice regarding retirement in a foreign country?

A: It is most helpful to visit the country prior to making plans to move there.

3. Isn't living abroad more expensive for seniors?

A: Not always, as many countries have lower cost of living expenses along with other enticing retiree perks.