Thousands of retirees (and younger folks, too) are benefiting from a higher quality of life and a lower cost of living in places overseas where even a little goes a long, long way—whether it be filling a tank of gas, getting the week’s groceries, paying for health insurance, or making all the other ends of a monthly budget meet.
International Living has identified five best-value retirement spots around the world where $1,200 to $1,500 a month covers a couple’s housing, healthcare, food, and fun. Singles can get by on even less. In some of these havens, it’s possible to live well off a modest Social Security check alone. Many expats have relocated to these places for this very reason—but find good weather, laidback living, and friendly locals add to the comfortable lifestyle.
Stretching from the high Andes to the vast Pacific Ocean, Peru is a country of extremes. With its colonial cities, ancient ruins stretching back to antiquity, and long stretches of pristine beach, Peru has a wide diversity of lifestyles, but the one constant you can be guaranteed anywhere there is affordability.
International Living’s well-traveled David Hammond found Peru to be the most affordable country in the region.
“The cities I visited in Peru offer the highest standard of living for the lowest price that I’ve seen, especially for singles. Several single expats I met in the cities of Cusco and Arequipa report living comfortably on $500 to $600 a month. That includes everything—all rent and utilities, Wi-Fi service at home, eating out regularly, and a local pre-pay cell phone. Expat couples can live comfortably in Peru for $1,000 to $1,200 a month, including everything.”
Sandwiched between Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia offers a cost of living so low that many expats report costs around $1,200 a month. In cities like Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh, fresh-cooked meals at a restaurant go for as little as $2.50. On the beaches, $3 barbecues and 50-cent beers are common.
Cities like Phnom Penh have modern conveniences and food that draws on Chinese and Khmer cuisine, as well as on Cambodia’s French colonial heritage. In Phnom Penh, a basic rental can cost less than $200 a month, but expect to spend upwards of $350 for a good option in the center of town.
As for luxury items, leather shoes can be made to order for $22, a dress tailored for not much more than that, and a weekly manicure goes for $6.
Guatemala is not as developed as more established expat havens in Central America such as Panama or Costa Rica. This is still very much a developing country. But warm weather and cheap, farm-fresh produce make it easy to enjoy a healthy retirement all year round. A week’s worth of fresh produce can be had for around $12.
All told, a couple can comfortably call Guatemala home for $1,500 a month, which includes rent, utilities, food, a gardener and house cleaner ($3 each an hour), regular massages ($10 each), and three-course meals for only $20, among other little luxuries.
In Antigua, one of Guatemala’s most beautiful colonial towns, rentals for one-bedroom furnished apartments in town start around $300 a month. A furnished, three-bedroom house in a quiet gated community, with a living room, two bathrooms, garden, and rooftop patio with gorgeous views, goes for $700 a month.
As with any move abroad, expats often fret that the healthcare they receive will be poor. Not so in Guatemala. Although the general healthcare infrastructure may not be as developed as that in Costa Rica or Panama, there is great care in the capital. And—as with everything here—it’s for a small fraction of the cost back home.
Long overshadowed by its neighbors to the south (Costa Rica and Panama), Nicaragua offers many of the same benefits (healthy lifestyle, great food, terrific beach living) for an even lower cost. This great value has seen thousands of U.S. expats pursue a retirement here in recent years. After all, in this country a complete meal with wine can cost only $16.
International Living correspondent Bonnie Hayman enjoys a home with ocean views in San Juan del Sur, which she could never have afforded back home in San Diego. “I would never have been able to live in an ocean-view home in the States. But in Nicaragua I found a beautiful two-bedroom, two-bathroom home on almost an acre, with an ocean view, for only $132,000,” she says. “I pay real estate taxes of just $151 a year.”
“If the mood takes me, I can go to a nearby restaurant for a fresh red snapper ($8) and the best mojito in town…or to another restaurant for international fare like a chicken-curry rice bowl or a fish filet with orange-chili sauce for the same price. Fish tacos for $1, veggie wraps for $5, a raw-food sandwich for $6, fresh-out-of-the-oven cinnamon buns, sushi…you can satisfy any craving here.”
Rentals in Nicaragua are also highly affordable, with a furnished apartment within a short walk of the beach renting for $400 a month or less.
“Many of my friends here rent furnished apartments or vacation homes at prices as low as $300 a month for a one-bedroom furnished apartment with water, electricity, and Wi-Fi is included,” says Bonnie.
All told, with $1,200 to $1,500 a month can fund a great retirement in Nicaragua.
For decades, all that seemed to come out of Colombia was bad news. But in more recent times, peace (and the prosperity that has stemmed from it) is transforming this country into one of Latin America’s top retirement hot-spots.
In today’s Colombia, you’ll find healthcare on a par with that in North America—for pennies on the dollar. Vibrant metropolises like Medellín teem with dining options and a coffee culture, plus all the amenities a retiree would need. The highlands are home to striking colonial cities to match any in South America. Its range of elevations and equatorial location ensures a perfect climate. And all this can cost as little as $1,200 a month (for a couple), all in.
A couple could live comfortably on $1,200 a month in Pereira, a popular expat haven in Colombia’s Coffee Triangle. Lunches can be had for $3 to $5 and a three-course dinner typically costs $10 to $20. A liter of milk and loaf of bread are under $4.
The same is true for Manizales, another city within Colombia’s famed coffee-growing region.
Rents range from $130 a month for a comfortable home in a working-class neighborhood, complete with mountain views, to $430 for a modern three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in more upscale neighborhoods like Milán. And to keep it clean, housekeepers charge less than $20 a day.
The full report on these five affordable retirement havens can be read here: 5 Low Cost Countries Where You Can Live On $1500 a Month or Less.
Editor’s Note: Members of the media have full permission to reproduce the article linked above once credit is given to InternationalLiving.com.
Media Contact: For information about InternationalLiving.com content republishing, available source material or to book an interview for radio, TV or print with one of our experts, contact Associate Editor Carol Barron, 772-678-0287 (US), CBarron@InternationalLiving.com or visit the Media Center.
Get Your Free Report on the World’s Best Places to Retire
Learn more about the best places in the world to retire in our daily postcard e-letter.
Simply enter your email address below to sign up for our free daily postcards and we’ll also send you a FREE report on The World’s Top 10 Retirement Havens.