The Best Countries to Live and Retire to

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For more than 30 years, International Living's editors and writers have been scouring the world to find the best places to live or retire to. Imagine lounging on your deck, a cocktail in hand, the quiet turquoise waters of the Caribbean spread out before you... Or picture yourself relaxing in a flower-filled courtyard where lavender bougainvillea tumbles over stucco walls, while the sweet perfume of frangipani fills the air at dusk. Maybe you dream, instead, of a mountain retreat where the air is crisp and you live amidst expansive, snow-capped peaks. Or perhaps it's an elegant pied-à-terre in a cosmopolitan city you envision.

Whatever you imagine, you can find out more here.

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  • Belize

    Expats are attracted to Caribbean Belize for many reasons including the warm, English-speaking people, the natural beauty, and the air of freedom and opportunity. Belize offers a fantastic Qualified Retired Persons Program for those looking for the ideal place to retire. It also offers economic stability, and ease of living at a low cost. Learn more about Belize here.

  • Brazil

    Brazil has almost 5,000 miles of beautiful, sandy beaches, clear, warm, Atlantic waters, a fantastic climate, stately colonial cities, and mountains with spring-fresh weather. So there’s plenty to enjoy. The country is starting to draw North American expats, second-home buyers and property investors like never before. Read more about Brazil here.

  • Costa Rica

    Expats are attracted to Costa Rica for numerous reasons, which include the low cost of living, excellent health care, beautiful beaches, rainforests, lush valleys, and cool mountains…not to mention the theaters, art galleries, and fine dining. There are more than 20,000 expats living in Costa Rica and many well-established expat communities. Learn more about Costa Rica here.

  • Ecuador

    Whether you want to live, invest, vacation, retire, or simply relax in Ecuador, you’ll find the perfect combination of climate, culture, and affordability to make your dreams come true. Ecuador is one of the best retirement havens in the world. Find out more here.

  • France

    Enjoy a great quality of life in France with good food, good wine, haute couture, a good climate, unspoiled countryside, glittering culture, excellent health care, and colorful traditions and history. And it’s more affordable than you may think. Read more about France here.

  • Italy

    Whether you’re looking to retire to Europe, relocate, or simply plan an extended adventure, Italy should be at the top of your list of possibilities. Enjoy its unspoiled countryside, wonderful climate, mouth-watering delicacies, lively, dramatic, and excitable people and their zest for life… Read more about Italy here.

  • Mexico

    Mexico is the most popular expat destination for North Americans in the world. Expats are drawn to its vibrant local culture and rich history, the friendly people and their relaxed lifestyle, the sunny climate, the delicious food and drink, the miles (nearly 6,000) of coastline, the low cost of living and the good health care available. Read more about Mexico here.

  • Nicaragua

    Nicaragua is one of the most beautiful countries in the Americas. It boasts a dramatic Pacific coastline, long, gentle Caribbean beaches, and volcanoes and freshwater lakes that dot the hilly inland. Add to that the very reasonable real estate value and low cost of living here and you could have your perfect retirement or second home destination. Read more about Nicaragua here.

  • Panama

    In Panama you can enjoy First-World convenience at Central American prices. Panama City is a bustling, vibrant, and exciting metropolis. Outside the city, there are beautiful beaches everywhere, with the Atlantic Ocean on one coast and the Pacific on the other. Panama is on the rise not only as a retirement destination but also as an investment paradise. Read more about Panama here.

  • Uruguay

    Uruguay will appeal to people who are ready to retire, invest, or buy a second home abroad, but who are also looking for a country with similar cultural values to their home country. A place with a good infrastructure and reasonable prices, but without the culture shock they might experience in a Third-World venue. Read more about Uruguay here.

Climate:


  • Ecuador

    Ecuador lies directly on the equator, so the entire country enjoys 12 hours of direct equatorial daylight 365 days a year. However, the climate you will experience depends largely on where you are in Ecuador. For example, Ecuador’s capital, Quito, lies in the Central Valley between the Andean Mountains’ eastern and western ridges. The equator is less than 20 miles north of the city, yet at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,900 meters), Quito’s climate is spring-like year around: about 50° F (10° C) at night and as high as 76° F (25° C) during the day.
    The beaches and rainforests, on the other hand, enjoy the tropical temperatures that one would expect from equatorial lowlands, with highs ranging between 80º F and 90º F. Between these two extremes, just about any type of weather can be found in Ecuador. Find out more about Ecuador here.

  • Uruguay

    Uruguay has a warm temperate climate with almost unknown freezing temperatures. The countries mild climate is due to the fact that the whole country is located within a temperate zone.
    Situated in the temperate zone of the tropic of Capricorn, Uruguay boasts warm summers (from December to February) and crisp winters (from June to August). The weather remains quite uniform from one region to another and there are no extremes of temperatures.
    The average temperature for the mid-winter month of July varies from 54 °F to 48 °F while the midsummer month of January varies from 79 °F to 72 °F. Read more about Uruguay here.

  • Malta

    Malta’s location means delightful, relatively warm winters. This is a great location for getting away from winter snow! You can walk around in shirt sleeves to stroll the streets and explore the countryside. High summer can be hot and muggy, but that’s when folks head to the many beaches. On an island this small (122 square miles), you’re never too far from one. Winters are mild and rainy, and summers are hot and dry. Spring begins in late February and it is October before summer ends. Read more about Malta here.

Low-Cost Living:


  • Ecuador

    In Ecuador, not only can you retire on little money, you can also live very well. It’s easy to retire on less than $17,000 per year, and this figure is based on a very comfortable lifestyle. This low cost of living in Ecuador allows retirees to increase their travel, take up new hobbies and generally enjoy a better quality of life. Ecuador offers something for everyone, and at prices unheard of in North America and Europe. Find out more about Ecuador here.

  • Nicaragua

    Nicaragua’s lower cost of living does not mean that you have to sacrifice the quality of life you had in the U.S. or Canada. You will, in fact, probably be able to live here with more luxuries than you are used to, simply because everything is so affordable. Expats report that they can spend as little as $1,000 per month per couple to live comfortably. Spend $2,000 a month and you live very well. Read more about Nicaragua here.

  • Malaysia

    In Malaysia, a couple can live comfortably in a luxury ocean-view condo on $1,700 a month including rent. (We know of couples living more modestly on even less…try $1,000 a month, including rent.) The cost of health care is low—you can see a specialist without any need for an appointment for as little as $11. Read more about Malaysia here.

Health Care:


  • France

    France provides affordable and great quality health care. According to a World Health Organization’s (WHO) study, France has the best overall health care system in the world. It is also relatively inexpensive.
    Many French health care professionals in major cities speak English, and France has both a public health care system and private-sector health care. The public health care system is available to those who pay, or used to pay, into France’s Social Security system. This system offers excellent benefits, paying the bulk of the cost for a range of medical services that includes doctor’s visits, hospital stays and prescription medications. Read more about France here.

  • Uruguay

    Excellent health care is nothing new in Uruguay. Most of the population are the descendants of European immigrants who brought their hospital traditions with them. As an example, the British Hospital has been operating here for more than 150 years.
    The private health care industry in Uruguay consists of a number of independently-operated health care organizations. They vary in size from a single clinic to networks of hospitals and clinics. The most popular private health care option in Uruguay is a “hospital plan,” whereby you make monthly payments directly to an individual hospital or network that provides your care; everything from routine check-ups to major surgery. The cost is extremely low compared to private health care options in the U.S. Read more about Uruguay here.

  • Costa Rica

    The health care in Costa Rica is top-notch. The facilities are excellent, the doctors are well-trained and many health care professionals speak English, especially in the private practices. And a universal medical system that gives everybody access to decent medical treatment regardless of income bracket really speaks volumes about a country. Read more about Costa Rica here.

Doing Business:


  • Panama

    Panama City is a hub where you can find almost everything—but it’s growing so fast, there is room for more. In the popular tourist and expatriate hubs outside the city, plenty of niches have yet to be filled. Some restrictions exist when it comes to opening a retail space, but there are plenty of expats who have done it anyway, undeterred. Rents on commercial premises are reasonable and commercial leases are business friendly. With so many English-speaking attorneys, you won’t need Spanish to get started. The country’s business infrastructure is excellent, too, with Internet penetration among the best in the region. Learn more about Panama here.

  • Uruguay

    Uruguay is strategically located between South America’s two largest economies, Brazil and Argentina. This, coupled with Uruguay’s stable economy and institutions, makes for a favorable climate for foreign investors who wish to do business in Uruguay. Uruguay, like many up-and-coming Latin American countries, is ripe with opportunities. International Living has profiled several expats who are running local businesses in Uruguay. Read more about Uruguay here.

  • Brazil

    There are a number of great reasons to do business in Brazil—it’s an economic powerhouse with a lot going for it. A growing middle class and growing demand mean that there are opportunities here.
    Also, most will agree that it would be hard to find a more pleasant place in the world to set up an overseas business. Brazil’s thousands of miles of sandy beaches, warm weather, terrific food, and fascinating culture make it one of the world’s most desirable destinations. For anyone wanting to reinvent themselves in a foreign land, there’s no more romantic place to do it. Learn more about Brazil here.

Retirement:


  • Panama

    When it comes to attractive retirement destinations, the list is short and Panama is at the top. It’s the only country in Central America with a true First World city. Panama City is only two-and a-half hours by plane from Miami. Nearly everything about Panama is convenient, particularly if you’re coming from North America. The currency is the dollar, English is widely understood, and the international community is large and welcoming. Plus, Panama’s Pensionado or pensioner residence program is among the best in the world offering numerous discounts to retirees. Learn more about Panama here.

  • Ecuador

    In Ecuador, not only can you retire on little money, you can also live very well. Retirement in Ecuador offers something for everyone, and at prices unheard of in North America and Europe. This is an affordable and beautiful retirement destination.
    If you’re 65 or older and looking for an incentive to retire overseas, take a look at what Ecuador can offer you. Unlike Panama’s pensionado program, which is aimed at foreign residents, Ecuador’s senior citizen discount program is intended to help its own citizens.
    However, because the country’s constitution guarantees foreign residents the same rights as citizens, you can enjoy the same benefits as locals. See here for more on Ecuador.

  • Malaysia

    Malaysia is the best place to retire in Asia right now, and there’s no sign of that changing. A couple can live comfortably in a luxury ocean-view condo on $1,700 a month including rent.
    The average temperature is 82 F all year round, and you’ll find some of the best beaches in the world here. There are cool hill stations, mountain retreats from the time of the British Raj, islands to hop or explore by yacht, and heath care is second-to-none. Read more about Malaysia here.

  • Spain

    Retiring in Spain is an increasingly popular option for many expats looking for a retirement that combines First-World European luxuries and charms with Spain’s famously sunny climate and abundant seaside living.
    No need to worry if you get sick here, either. Spain has nationalized, public health care as well as private health care—and both systems are excellent. Good hospitals abound, too—even in rural Spain, you’re never more than a few hours from a good hospital.
    But Spain’s biggest plus may be the people and the lifestyle. Warm and engaging, Spaniards believe in enjoying life, and they put a high value on friends and family. Read more about Spain here.

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