If you’re considering retiring overseas, you’re going to require a lot of knowledge. However, you also require direction on how to analyze the data. That is why we are here, and why we have developed the 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index: to assist you in the fascinating task of determining which part of the world best suits your needs.
When our Retirement Index was first established, it was our unique approach of dealing with an embarrassment of wealth. IL had already spent almost a decade exploring all manner of fantasy worlds at that point. As a result, there is an enormous and fascinating range of option and possibility. Fast forward to the year 2022.
Over three decades have passed, and our scouts have combed every part of the planet numerous times. As a result, there is a far larger and growing range of exceptional destinations where you may live a better and happier life while spending significantly less money and getting a lot more.
However, how do you decide?
What is the Global Retirement Index Annual?
The Retirement Index is the most in-depth and comprehensive assessment of its kind. It is the most effective method we are aware of for sorting through the world’s richness of potential, bringing some order, and assisting you in pinpointing the greatest location for you.
Our ranking is based on hundreds of perspectives and firsthand accounts—information—compiled by our trustworthy sources in the world’s greatest retirement destinations. We view it as a resource for you, our reader. A quick and easy approach for you to compare and contrast your best possibilities and begin narrowing down your options.
Our representatives are currently pounding the ground in appealing abroad towns that we believe you should consider. They are providing us with insights and knowledge on what is truly happening. They are not beholden to relocation service providers, real estate agents, tourism boards, or groups dedicated to economic growth. They work on your behalf.
Our Global Retirement Index is not intended to be a scientific publication. It is intended to be a useful tool for individuals, constructed from real-world, on-the-ground data and evaluated through the prism of informed experience and opinion.
Our sources live in the locations where they gather intelligence. And we have faith in their judgment. We trust them if they say the healthcare is fantastic or that a supper for two in a nice restaurant costs $20.
Our goal with this index is for it to be truly useful. We’re not searching for random input from random people around the world; that information is easily accessible via an internet search. Rather than that, we’re in the business of making reasonable suggestions about a manageably small number of possibilities.
Beyond statistics, it provides critical information, perspectives, and direction.
What conclusions have they drawn regarding the top retirement havens in 2022? Continue reading…
Uruguay is a small country (3.5 million people) located between Brazil and Argentina. Its interior is covered with native grassland that is used for grazing and agriculture. The Bay of Montevideo, the city’s natural harbor, is a thriving container port. And its southern shore, which is bordered by the Ro de la Plata (a sea-like estuary) and the Atlantic Ocean, is populated with beach resorts popular with summer visitors.
Uruguayans experience four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. In its capital, Montevideo, the average summer temperature is 82 degrees Fahrenheit, dropping to 63 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The average winter high temperature is 57 degrees Fahrenheit, dropping to 43 degrees Fahrenheit at night. And, as it is located in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed.
I relocated to Uruguay fifteen years ago. Among the things I admire about the country is its egalitarian culture. Uruguay is Latin America’s most democratic country. And, in relative terms, it boasts the Western Hemisphere’s greatest middle class.
Every employee receives Social Security, paid vacation, and complete health insurance. Anyone who passes the entrance tests is eligible to attend a state university for nearly nothing. And the notion of mutual respect is still alive and well.
Additionally, it is a land with little natural hazards. It is not in the path of a hurricane. It is not subjected to devastating earthquakes. Additionally, mosquito-borne sickness is not a problem as a result of good public health initiatives.
Uruguay is a country that operates efficiently. Its public utilities are among the best in Latin America, both in terms of quality and reach.
And, despite its tiny size, Uruguay provides a diverse range of desirable lifestyle options.
Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, is home to 40% of the population. It is a city famed for its tree-lined avenues, expansive green spaces, and seaside promenade that runs beside the Rio de la Plata.
Barbecued meat, Italian meals, and Mediterranean cuisine are all popular. (Around 65 percent of the people of Montevideo is of Italian ancestry.) Additionally, you’ll find a variety of ethnic cuisines, as well as coffee shops and craft beer bars. Additionally, if you enjoy wine, you can explore the city’s world-class wineries.
Street tango, Carnival parades, a local orchestra, and ballet shows are among the entertainment possibilities. There are sandy beaches, an 18-hole golf course, gyms, and tennis clubs for amusement.
Montevideo’s most popular neighborhoods include Ciudad Vieja and Centro, which feature authentic plazas and period architecture; Cordón, an emerging neighborhood with unique cafés, shops, and nightclubs; the Pocitos area, which features modern apartments and shopping malls; Carrasco, a low-density suburban neighborhood of single-family homes; and La Tahona, a private golf community located just east of Montevideo.
Punta del Este, South America’s most recognized beach resort, is located 80 miles east of Montevideo. Additionally, it is a college town with a growing full-time population. In and around Punta del Este, housing options include suburban homes, luxury condominiums, and country estates.
Recreational opportunities include a variety of water sports, golf, tennis, and bowling. There are a variety of food alternatives available, from sandwich shops to famous restaurants. There are pubs and casinos if you enjoy the nightlife. And, like with Montevideo, the surrounding region is home to some magnificent wineries.
While Punta del Este is less expensive than you may believe, it is the most expensive city in Uruguay. As a result, it is not for everyone. However, in the neighboring middle-class city of Maldonado, you can live in a comfortable apartment just four miles from the beaches of Punta del Este for a far lower price.
Do you prefer a quiet, laid-back coastal town but desire proximity to city shopping, restaurants, and services? Consider Atlántida or Piriápolis if this is the case. Atlántida is notable for its lush vegetation and expansive beaches. Additionally, it is located only 28 miles east of Montevideo’s Centro. Piriápolis is located 23 miles west of Maldonado and Punta del Este, and is notable for its hills and seaside centre.
La Paloma is located 70 miles east of Punta del Este. Long, sandy Atlantic beaches, a vast natural bay, a boat harbor, and a 40-square-mile freshwater lagoon are all found in this primarily rural region named Rocha. Surfing, kayaking, kiteboarding, and fishing are all popular activities in this region.
Small farms on the fringes of most cities and towns provide a taste of country life. Another possibility is to reside in a small interior city, where you can experience rural life without incurring the high cost of owning a farm.
Renting a long-term apartment in Uruguay may be a viable alternative. A two-bedroom apartment in Montevideo’s trendy Cordón area rents for $700 per month. A modern flat in Maldonado may be rented for roughly $500 per month.
If you’d prefer own than rent, that’s fine. You can own any form of real estate in Uruguay in your own name. (You are not need to have a partner, establish a trust, or obtain any particular permits.) In Cordón, a contemporary two-bedroom apartment is available for $150,000. A lovely apartment in Maldonado is available for $125,000.
Most expats subscribe in a private health insurance plan called a mutualista. From routine checkups to serious surgery and emergency care, a mutualista covers it all. The cost is between $50 and $60 each month, with a minor charge for services rendered. You can say good-bye to high deductibles and confusing bills when you work with a mutualista.
The majority of expat couples in Uruguay live comfortably on a monthly budget of between $2,500 and $3,500, including rent. The cost of living is higher in Punta del Este and the Montevideo communities of Carrasco and La Tahona. The cost of living is lower in La Paloma and many other interior cities.
To become a legal resident of Uruguay, you must pass a criminal background check and demonstrate that you have a regular monthly income source sufficient to maintain oneself in Uruguay (often roughly $1,500 for a single person).
To apply, you must enter Uruguay on a tourist visa and submit your application in person. Additionally, you can open a bank account in person at a bank. Uruguay has a number of prominent residential specialists. They can assist you in ensuring that you bring the proper documentation from home and then lead you through the procedures once you arrive in Uruguay.
Three years after filing for residency, a married couple may seek for citizenship. Individuals who have applied for residency for five years may seek for citizenship. There are no significant costs or investments associated with becoming a citizen.
Uruguay is a country that speaks Spanish. Montevideo and Punta del Este have the highest concentration of English speakers (including bilingual residency specialists and real estate brokers). Additionally, these locations provide Spanish language schools, which can be a great opportunity to mingle while learning.
Uruguay is priceless, but it is not close. The flight from Miami to Montevideo takes nine and a half hours nonstop. However, for myself and many others, it is well worth the effort.
Spain entices retirees with more than 300 days of sunshine and more than 3,000 kilometers of coastline. The inexpensive cost of living, superior healthcare, first-world infrastructure, and high level of personal safety all contribute to the appeal. Spain has long been a popular retirement destination for British, Germans, and Dutch nationals, as well as other Northern Europeans. Now, an increasing number of North Americans are discovering its allure.
Spain’s sun-drenched Mediterranean coast ensures that pensioners will never again have to shovel snow. The Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca both boast between 300 and 320 sunny days per year. Even Madrid, located on the central plateau, enjoys hot summers and mild winters with temperatures rarely falling below freezing. Spain’s northern coast, which is lush with vegetation, has a climate similar to Oregon or Seattle…or to England, which is close across the sea.
Spain also has a life outside of the beach and golf course. Its landscape is varied, ranging from sunny beaches to snow-capped peaks, dramatic deserts to verdant woods. Its cities are vibrant centers of trade and culture. Madrid and Barcelona are home to dozens of world-class museums, as well as festivals of opera, drama, and music. Valencia’s architecture is a synthesis of medieval and postmodern styles. Andalusia is enchanted by flamenco’s passion. Granada’s magnificence is crowned by the exquisite Alhambra. Each evening is bustling with music, conversation, and merriment.
This nice life comes at a reasonable cost. Spain has an incredibly low cost of living. Without a car, a couple may live in Mediterranean seaside towns for roughly $2,600 per month. Madrid and Barcelona have the highest rents, so you’ll need a larger budget to live there, but as a single woman in Madrid, I get by on roughly $2,000 a month. Spain’s public transit is among the most efficient and affordable in the world.
The fruits and vegetables that comprise the heart of the Mediterranean diet are readily accessible throughout the year at a fraction of the cost in North America. On the Spanish table, fish is prevalent. The expense of dining out is shockingly low. A three-course, fixed-price lunch including wine or beer costs between $12 and $16 throughout Spain. A drink of wine or beer costs roughly $2.50, and the absence of tipping makes dining out much more affordable.
Spain’s healthcare system is world-class. Indeed, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Competitiveness Report, it is the best in the world, and it ranks second in International Living’s 2022 Global Retirement Index. According to Bloomberg’s most current post-pandemic “efficiency ranking” for healthcare, Spain’s single-payer public health system is ranked 16th. The USA was ranked 55th out of 57 countries in the same study. Canada was ranked 27th. You will almost certainly receive better healthcare in Spain than you do today. Spain has 22 hospitals and healthcare facilities that are Joint Commission International recognized, the industry’s gold standard for hospital care. Costs are often much lower than in the United States.
Spain’s healthcare system is divided into public and private sectors. As an expat on a non-lucrative or golden visa, you are required to have five years of private Spanish health insurance. You can select from a number of suppliers. Sanitas, Spain’s largest private healthcare provider, is an HMO similar to Kaiser that employs English-speaking physicians. While the cost increases with age, it is roughly similar to the cost of Medicare, Medigap, and Plan D. At the age of 74, I pay approximately $266 per month, which covers everything without a deductible or payment, including lab work, testing, and basic dental. This Sanitas policy would cost $324 per month for a healthy 64-year-old couple. While prescription prices are not reimbursed, drugs are incredibly affordable by American standards.
You become a permanent resident after five years and are immediately enrolled in the public system. After one year of residency, many localities, although not all, allow residents to purchase into the public healthcare system. It costs approximately $70 per month if you are under the age of 65, and $187 per month if you are 65 or older. The public system covers 40% of the cost of the majority of prescriptions. The addition of interpreters to the public system is a new feature. Interpreters will assist patients who do not speak fluent Spanish. You can now reserve an interpreter at the moment you schedule your appointment.
Spain’s First-World infrastructure completes this alluring retirement package. You may consume tap water. Electricity is available 24 hours a day. Every night, trash is collected. Nearly everywhere has superfast Wi-Fi. Public transit is simple, quick, and inexpensive. In a matter of hours, clean, pleasant, high-speed trains will take you across the country. And, except in the most distant regions, you don’t need a car.
Additionally, Spain is a safe country. With the exception of a few pickpockets, crime is virtually non-existent. Homelessness is exceedingly unusual. Possessing a firearm is nearly impossible. You can walk anywhere in the middle of the night with confidence. The police are professional and courteous. The government operates within the framework of a stable, modern democracy.
The greatest benefit of all is the pleasant, helpful, curious, and really interested Spanish people in North Americans and our culture. Although English is frequently spoken in tourist regions and among youth, everyone is still learning and seeking practice. Spanish culture brims with vitality, and it is one of the most tolerant and LGBTQ-friendly cultures on the planet. Chueca is an LGBTQ neighborhood in Madrid with its own rainbow-striped Metro stop. Sitges, on the Costa Brava, has been dubbed “Europe’s Fire Island” for over 50 years. Torremolinos, on the Costa del Sol near Málaga, is a fabulously gay seaside town.
Did I mention the incredible cuisine and wines?
The non-lucrative visa and the golden visa are the most realistic visa alternatives for North American retirees. For a non-lucrative visa, you must have the equivalent of €30,000/$35,000 in a bank account or documented income of €2,130 per month ($29,644 per year at the current exchange rate) from pensions or investments, plus €532 per month ($7,404 per year) for your spouse and dependant children. Rental property income or salary is not allowed. Additionally, you must present proof of private health insurance in Spain, a clean FBI criminal record with fingerprints, and a letter from a physician certifying that you are disease-free. Consulates may impose additional conditions. You must apply at the consulate of your country of origin in the United States.
To qualify for the golden visa, you must purchase property in Spain worth at least $580,181 (€500,000). Then you can apply for a visa and residency in Spain for yourself, your spouse, and any dependent children, as well as work permits. There is a requirement for financial proof, an FBI report, and private health insurance. It is valid for one year but may be renewed if you have spent more than six months outside of Spain. The acquisition must have occurred within 90 days of the application date, and the $580,181 must be free and clear. You can apply from your home embassy, however applying while in Spain on a tourist visa provides you with additional benefits. Within ten days, applications are processed.
According to rumors, Spain will also offer a digital nomad visa in 2022.
If someone were to combine Southern California with a balance of Tuscany, Spain, and a healthy dose of the Greek island of Crete… That individual will have produced a reasonably accurate analogy for Malta, a tiny sliver of rock in the southern Mediterranean, only a geological stone’s throw from Sicily.
And “minuscule little speck” is not an exaggeration. The country’s five islands—of which only three are inhabited—are roughly the size of Lubbock, Texas. Nonetheless, it is densely populated with over 500,000 inhabitants, about 15% of them are expats. The majority of those people are crammed into the metropolis that spreads endlessly along the east coast—the cities of Valletta (the capital), St. Julian’s, Sliema, and the so-called “Three Fingers” of Kalkara, Birgu, and Senglea.
You’ll find a Western European way of life here, tinged with elements of Arabia, which explains the Maltese language—the only Arabic language to use a Western alphabet, albeit one with some unusual letters. However, fear not: Malta was a part of the British Empire for 150 years, and as a result, English is also a national language. Due to this history, you’re likely to meet locals driving on the wrong side of the road and traditional British cuisine. Additionally, considering the islands’ proximity to Sicily, which is only 90 minutes away by high-speed ferry, you’re likely to find an abundance of delicious Italian cuisine.
Everywhere in Malta, you get a feeling of the country’s history. It has existed for around 5 million years and has been conquered by countless civilizations, from the Phoenicians to the Romans, Arabs to Normans. Each has left their imprint on the culture, the cuisine, and even the physical appearance of the area.
After leaving the metropolis, the country opens up into panoramic, steep vistas of low-rise plants and trees spread across a stony, semi-arid region, with infinite views out over the Mediterranean. Here, you’ll discover ancient megaliths older than Stonehenge, delightfully tiny fishing villages, and the medieval fortress city of Mdina, which was once home to the Knights of Malta and also used as a set for Game of Thrones (yes, it looks that authentic).
The much smaller island of Gozo is located about 20 minutes by ferry north of Malta’s main island. It is the metro area’s equivalent of Upstate New York—a slower-paced retreat. With a population of slightly more than 32,000, it is extremely calm and appears to be years behind the big metropolis, a feature of Gozo that the Maltese and many foreigners adore.
Additionally, the country is densely packed with more churches than appears reasonable for such a small area: more than 360, or one for each day of the year. The good news is that with all those churches, there are street fairs and festivals dubbed “festas” almost regularly. Apart from that, Malta, despite its Lilliputian proportions, has a lot to offer. Trails for hiking. Scuba diving is among of the greatest in the Mediterranean. Water sports for all ages, including yachting, sailing, swimming, fishing, and water polo (seriously, you will find water polo courts right on the sea all over the metro area).
The weather on this island is roughly what you’d expect for a Mediterranean island sandwiched between Italy and North Africa… but in an unexpected way. There is no doubt that there is an abundance of sun; approximately 300 days each year. Despite its rocky, arid outcrop, Malta’s summers are swamp-like in their heat and humidity. Winters are brief and pleasant, with temperatures rarely falling below the mid-50s F. Even in winter, however, humidity levels are high, which means that the cool air penetrates to the bone, according to expats who reside here. This is made significantly worse by the fact that the homes are built to be chilly in the summer and warm in the winter, with all-stone walls and flooring intensifying the chill. The trick, according to all expats, is to scatter rugs throughout the area.
When it comes to housing, Maltese houses and apartments are not inexpensive. That is dependent on a number of factors. The country is constantly in demand from the rest of Europe, as it is a warm, beachy haven on a frequently frigid continent. Additionally, the country has no property taxes, which has resulted in a situation in which tens of thousands of homes passed down through generations to multiple heirs sit in disrepair due to inability of the heirs to agree on their disposition, but have no incentive to sell due to the absence of a carrying cost. This forces builders to construct new structures, which increases prices.
Modern, one-bedroom apartments in the metro region that are comfortable for the majority of Americans cost from $900 to $1,600, depending on location. Expect to pay approximately 30% less in Gozo—but also to receive less amenities and services on the smaller island. If you wish to purchase, budget upwards of $300,000, or, once again, perhaps 20% to 30% less on Gozo.
While meals in cafés and restaurants are less expensive than in the United States, they are still not inexpensive. Street food is inexpensive. A sandwich with a locally brewed Cisk Beer (pronounced Chisk) will cost between $3 and $7. However, a lovely sit-down lunch of spaghetti and salad, accompanied by a glass of wine, costs approximately $30 per person. And any imported, packaged food purchased at a neighborhood grocery can be too pricey. Expats have discovered that the best alternative is to shop from the neighborhood’s veggie trucks, which sell fruits and vegetables. Prices are easily 30% to 50% less.
You save money on transportation when you pay for food. The country is so small that you do not require (and, honestly, do not want) a car. Traffic is a nightmare, and parking is the demon torturing you inside that nightmare. Fortunately, the country benefits from an excellent, efficient, and reasonably priced public transit system. Additionally, it has a few local Uber alternatives, such as Bolt. Download the app to your smartphone, link it to your credit card, and you can swiftly and affordably get anywhere you want to go. Seriously, the island is so little that it’s a 30-minute trip from east to west.
Malta’s healthcare system is world-class, ranking sixth. As a result, it is a popular location for medical tourism. The country has only two hospitals, but several medical clinics. Because you do not have access to national health insurance as an overseas resident, you will require travel medical insurance. These normally cost between $2,000 and $2,500 each year and are available from a variety of well-known vendors.
The government provides several avenues for permanent residency. The Permanent Residence Program is the quickest. This process takes several weeks. However, it requires €500,000 in assets, financial support for the government and a local non-governmental organization, as well as some real estate/rental requirements.
The “self-sufficiency” visa is the less expensive alternative. Its primary requirements are a minimum yearly income of €50,000 (which may include Social Security) and proof of medical insurance, as well as a 15% tax payment annually (minimum payment: €5,000) on the money you remit into the nation.
Malta is difficult to beat for a Western European lifestyle with a beachy afterglow.
France is an exceptionally beautiful country that rarely fails to enchant its visitors. As Western Europe’s largest and most diversified country (sharing borders with 11 neighbors), it’s unsurprising that la belle France has grown in popularity as a top retirement destination on the continent. With an intriguing culture, breathtaking natural surroundings, and an amazingly affordable cost of living, this renowned region of superb wine and sumptuous cuisine is an excellent retirement destination.
Housing costs are on average 34% lower than in the United States—and property taxes are a tenth of what they are back home. Of course, if you want to set up shop in a posh Parisian apartment or a chalet in the Alps, you’re going to have to pay a premium. Outside of those glitzy zip codes, numerous locations provide reasonably priced housing.
Two-bedroom properties are available for $250,000 or less in the sun-drenched Dordogne region, which is noted for its pastoral vistas of sunflower fields, rolling haystacks, and chateaux (castles) that appear to top every bend along the Dordogne River. Once a closely guarded secret among our British friends across the pond, this beautiful region in southern-central France is attracting an increasing number of American expats.
Sarlat-la-Caneda, a medieval village with a bustling farmers’ market and an active social calendar, has become a favourite retirement destination for North American retirees.
While the flashy seaside resorts of the Côte d’Azur may be costly, retirees can save significantly on real estate by venturing interior. The Var department, which borders the Alpes-Maritimes region (which includes Nice and Cannes), is brimming with budget-friendly destinations. Cotignac, Correns, and Pierrefeu are picture-postcard villages tucked away among the vines of Provence. Maisons de village (village-style houses) are available for about $200,000—with a bigger budget allowed for an expansive garden and swimming pool.
Fans of urban living can visit Montpellier, France’s fastest-growing metropolitan area. Montpellier is an open, cosmopolitan city with an emphasis on the arts and gourmet living. Among France’s top five sunniest cities (Marseille and Toulon frequently take the top spot), life in this Occitanie jewel is made to be spent outside. Retirees can look forward to leisurely lunches on the city’s sparkling central square, Place de la Comédie, and early-evening apéros (aperitifs) while listening to live music or preparing for a show at one of the city’s several theatrical facilities.
Summer residents can take a shuttle bus to the Mediterranean beaches of seaside villages such as La Grande Motte and Le Grau du Roi—a 30-minute drive.
To take advantage of this ideal southern-France lifestyle, investors can take advantage of Montpellier’s thriving property market, which features an abundance of affordable, modern flats. The prices for one- and two-bedroom units begin at $160,000 and $215,000, respectively.
While the sunny south is alluring, France is more than that, and nearly every area of the country appears to have something distinctive and unique to offer. Lorraine and Alsace in northeastern France shine with sophisticated and cosmopolitan cities like Nancy and Strasbourg. Colmar and Riquewihr, two little towns in Alsace, resemble fairy tale towns with their colorful half-timbered buildings and flower-lined canals. With close proximity to Germany and a slew of international airports, these locations offer all of the fine-living features associated with France (great wine, world-class restaurants, and a vibrant artistic scene) while maintaining affordable housing.
Brittany and Normandy are two more northern jewels, and France, of course, would not be France without its superb wine-growing regions. While retirees can choose to live in any of the country’s wine-producing regions, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and the Loire Valley are particularly attractive locations for enjoying life amid the vines.
With all the talk of exquisite wine, incredible food, and affordable housing, it’s easy to ignore one of the most compelling reasons to consider relocating to France: the healthcare system. After three months of residence, the system is open to anyone without regard for pre-existing conditions, age restrictions, or entry fees. The country has one of the best healthcare systems in the world (rated number one by the World Health Organization), with extremely cheap expenses and modern, dependable services. Charges are set by the government and cannot be increased by any individual provider—you will be charged the same fee at Paris’s top teaching university as you will at the village doctor.
Without signing up for French healthcare, a basic doctor’s appointment costs $29 and a specialist visit costs $58. Once enrolled in the system, 70% of that fee is repaid to you after three months of residence in France—meaning you’ll pay around $9 out of pocket for a regular doctor’s appointment. Hospital stays are covered at 80% for the first month and 100% for the subsequent months at a cost of $69 to $173 a day. Prescription medications, which are already a fraction of the price in the United States, are covered at a rate of 65 to 100 percent.
Retirees contribute a very small percentage of their annual income to the universal healthcare system and are not taxed on income received from Social Security or pensions due to a tax compact with the United States.
France is a very desirable retirement destination because to its wonderful gastronomy, excellent wine, and relaxing, gourmet lifestyle. By avoiding prominent metropolitan locations and costly Riviera resort towns, retirees can enjoy cheaper home expenses while maintaining the same standard of living as the rest of the country. Residents benefit from one of the world’s best healthcare systems, which offers significant cost savings and a system that promotes personalized patient care. A retirement in France enables you to enjoy the finest of Europe while yet keeping a close check on your nest fund.
If you’ve been dreaming of retiring in a place where you can easily live on $1,500 to $1,825 per month, depending on location and lifestyle, in a culture that hasn’t been gentrified but still has all of the contemporary conveniences, Ecuador should be at the top of your list. Make no mistake about its obscurity. Ecuador’s tourist industry has expanded 30% in the last five years, attracting North Americans, Europeans, gap year travelers, explorers, and expats from all over the world who come to experience the country’s ideal combination of climate, culture, and affordability.
According to Anthony Bourdain, the country is “a republic on the equator located on the west coast of South America and is the continent’s second smallest country.” It is one of the most environmentally diversified regions on the planet, with 1,200 miles of coastline, one of the world’s tallest active volcanoes, and the Galápagos Islands.”
Ecuador is a mostly unknown country that has not yet been homogenized but nevertheless offers modern amenities such as high-speed fiber-optic internet, American dollar currency, moderate climate, excellent public transit, and affordable healthcare and housing. It has a tranquilo culture, in which manana refers to the future and people greet one another with cheek kisses and hugs. It’s sometimes compared to a journey back to the 1950s, except that the Indigenous men dressed in tribal garb (often seen hauling donkeys along on long ropes) are now conversing on their iPhones. Take a stroll along any major city street and you’ll notice that the population is diverse, including Indigenous peoples, Spanish descendants, North Americans, Europeans, and people of mixed ethnic origin.
Ecuadorians understand how to have a good time. It’s a very family-oriented, predominantly Catholic country where locals attend services in massive, gold-embossed cathedrals, gather for Sunday dinners, close their shops to watch their children play soccer, and frequently invite expats over for dinner—but be prepared for dinner to begin at 8 p.m. and end at 2 a.m. (which is most likely why they don’t start their days until 10 a.m.). There are numerous colorful parades including dancers dressed in fedoras and velvet skirts, fireworks that equal those at Disneyworld, street entertainers filling downtown town squares, international food, and a variety of elegant bars featuring artists playing salsa, classical, and rock music. To call it a joyful environment would be an understatement.
Ecuador’s weather is near-perfect regardless of where you live. You may relax on the beach and enjoy the cool sea breezes and temps in the low to mid-70s F. Or settle in the Andes, where the equator brings the mountains closer to the sun, resulting in temperatures in the 60s to 70s F even at elevations of 8,000 feet.
If you’re looking for a seaside getaway, visit the beaches, where you can sit on the shores of Puerto Lopez and watch whales while sipping a pilsner and eating freshly prepared ceviche under beachside umbrellas. As you go north, you’ll come across small, tranquil seaside communities that draw expats seeking an escape from the rat race, surfers, and hippies on bicycles in places like Montaita. Further north, the Galápagos Islands with their famous blue-footed boobies and huge green tortoises are explored. Salinas, on Ecuador’s southern coast, is a modern seaside town famed for its party bars, seafood, and year-round fiestas.
Continue inland and you’ll find yourself in the Andes, where you may zipline over mountain valleys, white water raft, be purified by Shamans, and shop for vibrant Indigenous fabrics. Numerous expats go to Quito or Cuenca to take advantage of the 16th- and 18th-century Spanish colonial and French Republican buildings that have earned these cities UNESCO World Heritage Site titles. Both of these colonial villages feature modern conveniences and streets packed with stores, stylish bars, and restaurants set amid picturesque, ancient Spanish colonial haciendas.
Travel east into the Amazon rainforests and white water raft down the Puyo river, passing Indigenous tribes and their youngsters who hold blast dart guns to test their aim.
Expats are dispersed throughout Ecuador, according to their lifestyle choices. The largest expat communities are in Salinas, with its beaches lined with modern condos; Cotacachi, a small, sleepy village where craftsmen create everything from leather goods to alpaca ponchos; Cuenca, a modern Andean resort town that serves as Ecuador’s cultural center, attracting visitors from around the world with music, art, and New Orleans-style architecture; and Vilcabamba, the home of the “Valley of Longevity,” known for its Indigenous cent
There are few countries in the world where living costs are as low as they are in Ecuador. Whatever your budget, there is something for everyone. Consider that for roughly $150,000, you may own a home on a Pacific Coast beach or an apartment with spectacular views in the Andes. Rental options are plentiful and reasonably priced, with a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in downtown Cuenca available for $500.
Due to the land’s excellent food production, largely due to year-round growing seasons, costs at local mercados are so low that it’s difficult to spend more than $15 on fruits and vegetables. Household help costs $20 for four hours of cleaning, gardeners cost $20, and a 90-minute deep tissue massage costs between $30 and $40. There are no heating or air conditioning expenditures in the majority of the country, and you can survive without a car in most cities by paying 30 cents for trams and $2 to $5 for cab trips to travel practically anyplace in town.
Cuenca has one of the largest expat communities in the country with a plethora of things to participate in—day trips to neighboring cities, card games, supper clubs, trivia, art classes, hikes in the Cajas, and lengthy lunches with friends.
Living in Ecuador can provide you with a retirement you might only have imagined if you stayed in the United States. Rather than living payment to paycheck or working far into retirement, Ecuador will provide a secure, cheerful, tranquilo lifestyle with enough money to travel the world.
Ecuador has continuously ranked among the world’s top 10 retirement destinations. It’s not just an ecological haven; it’s a location where you can meet friends, forget about money, and appreciate the uniqueness of a country only a four-hour flight from the United States. Not that you’ll wish to return.
At this point in life, we may either lay in our recliners and watch television all day, or we can recognize that life is not finished and that the adventure has only begun. Perhaps Bourdain said it best when he remarked, “Your body is an amusement park, not a cathedral.” “Enjoy the journey.”
Are you looking for the ideal retirement location on the planet? You are not alone in this. Numerous people are on the lookout for their own small slice of heaven in which to spend their “best years are yet to come.” Colombia ticks a lot of boxes for people looking for a low cost of living, great healthcare, closeness to the United States and Canada, and climatic options to fit almost every taste.
Colombia, the continent’s northernmost country, covers 440,831 square miles, roughly the combined size of Texas and California. Colombia is four times the size of Ecuador, 15 times the size of Panama, and 23 times the size of Costa Rica. Colombia has a Caribbean Sea and a Pacific Ocean coastline. The western part of the country is dominated by the three Andes Mountain ranges, while the southeast is dominated by the Amazon rainforest.
Colombia is the world’s second most biodiverse country, so what you carry will depend on your intended destination. Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta’s coastal areas are hot and humid, with daily temperatures ranging from the high 80s to the low or mid-90s F. Medelln, Bucaramanga, Pereira, and the Coffee Triangle have a more temperate climate due to their mountainous locations. With no humidity, temperatures vary from the mid-70s to the low 80s F. Bogotá will be significantly cooler, with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the low 70s Fahrenheit.
This country is home to colonial communities and bustling metropolitan metropolis; mountain retreats and Caribbean beach towns ideal for sunbathing. Colombia welcomes non-stop flights into its major cities of Bogotá, Medelln, Armenia, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Cartagena, and Cali, just three hours from Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Colombia is a more developed country than many other Latin American countries, with the infrastructure, sophisticated products, and services that one would expect in a developing country’s major cities. Colombia is no longer Latin America’s best-kept secret, as an increasing number of expats relocate here to begin a new life…whether retiring or continuing to earn an income.
Medelln is one of Colombia’s fastest rising expat hotspots. Due to the near-perfect temperature, flowers blossom continuously and brighten the streets year-round. Spend a few hours strolling through the city and you’ll understand why it’s dubbed “The City of Eternal Spring.” This idyllic climate is what initially drew me to the place. I lived in Maine for 27 years before moving to Medelln in 2012, and I am overjoyed to report that I have not encountered snow since my relocation.
Colombia’s healthcare system is ranked 22nd by the World Health Organization (WHO) out of 191 countries reviewed. That is higher than Canada, which is ranked 30th, and the United States, which is ranked 37th. Additionally, when financial newspaper América Economa compiled its most recent yearly ranking of Latin America’s top 63 hospitals, 26 of the institutions were located in Colombia. This means that Colombia is home to 41% of Latin America’s top hospitals. Bogota, Medelln, and Bucaramanga all have hospitals that have been accredited by the Joint Commission International, the top standard for international healthcare.
Visiting Colombia is straightforward. You may enter for 90 days using only your United States, European Union, Canadian, or Australian passport and then extend for another 90 days. A visa is required if you intend to stay in Colombia for longer than 180 days in a calendar year. Retirement visas are reasonably simple to obtain; they demand verification of at least $750 in monthly Social Security benefits or $2,500 in private pension or 401K contributions (depending on current exchange rates), and are valid for up to three years.
The real estate owner’s visa is available to those who acquire real estate in their own name for at least $83,000 (current exchange rates), a very low requirement in comparison to many other nations. Additionally, this visa is valid for up to three years at the officer’s discretion.
Your dependents, who may include a spouse, partner, minor children, or someone who is economically reliant on you, do not require a visa application as well. You can include them as beneficiaries on your visa. Colombia approved same-sex marriage in 2016, which entitles spouses to benefits.
In Colombia, retirement funds go significantly further. A couple may live comfortably in several cities around Colombia for less than $2,000 per month. Naturally, your cost of living will vary according to your lifestyle and the location in which you choose to live. “I can tell you that my living expenses are 60% less than they were in Maine,” Nancy adds. Simply not having to pay for heating or cooling expenditures saves me approximately $3,400 each year.”
“I’m living a lifestyle that I could never achieve in the United States,” Robert Venhuizen, 68, explains. “I have sufficient funds to do whatever I please.” Robert enjoys a calmer pace of life, less traffic, and a lower cost of living in the pueblo (small village) of San Antonio de Pereira, 45 minutes outside of Medelln. “Because my sole source of income is Social Security, I could not sustain this lifestyle at home. Financial independence is unquestionably the greatest advantage of living in a tiny community.”
Colombia is perhaps one of the world’s most misunderstood countries. Almost certainly, your only exposure to this country has been through the Juan Valdez coffee advertisements and apparently nightly news headlines about Pablo Escobar and the drug gangs. That was back then, and this is now. Colombia is still famous for its coffee, but the shade created by Pablo Escobar has been lifted, revealing the actual Colombia: warm, inviting people, breathtaking landscape, a contender in global economy, and a producer of oil, flowers, minerals, and emeralds.
It’s unsurprising that Portugal has been ranked as the greatest retirement destination over the years. This little country in Europe’s southwest corner has something for everyone. Vibrant cities brimming with Old World beauty, miles of golden sand beaches, rolling green hills, some of the world’s greatest healthcare, a reasonable cost of living, and safety.
However, the finest aspect of living in Portugal for me is the people. The Portuguese are warm and polite, and everyone is greeted with a double-cheeked kiss. We rented our first apartment on the Silver Coast from a sweet Portuguese woman who knew no English but was always filling our arms with fresh fruits and veggies from her garden. Despite the linguistic barrier, she grew as close to us as a sister, and we adored her. Our landlord at our current property in central Algarve has shown us about the area, assisted us in navigating government services, and even dropped over a birthday gift box at our door. She, too, is a member of the family, speaks fluent English, and is an incredibly lovely person.
Due to the fact that English is taught in schools beginning in the sixth grade, many Portuguese can communicate in English, which makes retirement here a little simpler. Throughout Portugal, cinemas screen first-run films in their native language, which is frequently English, with Portuguese subtitles.
To entice foreigners to relocate to Portugal, the government even offers free Portuguese language classes in public schools around the country. These programs run concurrently with the school year and aim to give immigrants with an elementary level of comprehension and communication skills in the native language in order to facilitate and improve their daily life.
Perhaps the most difficult decision when relocating to Portugal is where to live, so let’s consider a few options.
My husband Clyde and I began our lives in the historic city of Caldas da Rainha on Portugal’s gorgeous Silver Coast. The name translates simply as “Queen’s Baths,” as the city was built around a thermal spring that is now home to Europe’s oldest thermal hospital. This mid-sized city, located one hour north of Lisbon, features a cobblestone center, a daily produce and seafood market, a weekly flea market, a contemporary retail mall, a gorgeous park with a lake, and a sizable expat population.
If you’re hoping to retire in an Old World city, consider Lisbon. The city comes to life with vibrant tiles, museums, palaces, nightlife, and a tram system that winds its way through the city’s steep, cobblestone streets. Inhale deeply and inhale the sweetness of the pastries all around you. Try an authentic custard tart at Belem’s renowned bakery, which has been baking these exquisite delicacies since 1837.
Continue north to Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. There is lots to discover in Porto, which is famous for its port wine production, stately bridges, a colorful riverfront neighborhood, academic ambience, and tours down the Douro River. Porto also has an international airport, one of only three in the country, which simplifies travel.
Are you considering retiring and living without a car? Then perhaps city life in Lisbon or Porto is for you. Portugal has an outstanding long-distance bus and train network, which makes visiting different parts of the nation simple. Both cities are densely populated by expats and, as a result of tourism, English speakers are plentiful.
The Alentejo region is located south of Lisbon and contains the cities of Beja and Évora. The country’s largest and most rural region, it is known for its wildflower meadows, tall cork oaks, medieval villages, and scant population. The pace of life is leisurely here, the winters are pleasant, and the summers are hot and dry.
The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region. Known for its Atlantic beaches, fishing villages, golf resorts, and waterparks, as well as for its hot, dry summers and tourists. Due to the long history of British holidaymakers, English is frequently spoken.
Thus, how much money do you require to retire in Portugal? Although cost varies according to a variety of factors, you can estimate that you can live on roughly one-third less money here. In Portugal, a couple can live well, but not extravagantly, on $2,500 per month. If you wish to reside in Lisbon, Porto, Cascais, or the Algarve, that figure should be increased to at least $3,000 a month.
My husband Clyde and I have been living in Portugal for more than three years. Our first rental in Caldas da Rainha was a three-bedroom, fully furnished private home for $404. We adored the house’s views of beautiful, rolling hills and fertile agriculture. However, the winters were far too harsh and wet for us, and we relocated south.
We currently reside in Vilamoura, an unincorporated community located near the city of Quarteira. At the present exchange rate, we may rent a two-bedroom condominium in a gated community with a pool and garage for $981 per month. We adore Portugal and have never regretted making the move.
Mexico is, in many respects, the original retirement destination for Americans and Canadians, with expats staying for upwards of 50, 60 years. It is popular for a variety of reasons:
Mexico is close—it is, after all, the United States’ neighbor—and easily accessible either car or direct flight into one of the country’s several international airports. There is affordable, high-quality healthcare available, including a well-regarded government system. From coast to coast, the weather is perfect. It’s a contemporary country with high-speed internet, well-maintained motorways, reliable electricity and water, reliable cellular service, and familiar businesses and brands.
And because Mexico is such a large country, roughly three times the size of Texas, it has a diverse range of climates, cultures, landscapes, and lifestyles—there truly is something for everyone in Mexico, from bustling beach resorts to quiet country villages, picturesque colonial towns, and bustling metropolitan areas.
That is just the beginning of the reasons why more than a million Americans and roughly a half-million Canadians live in Mexico either permanently or part-time (there are a lot of snowbirds in the country in winter, especially from the northern U.S. and Canada).
Mexico is therefore expected to be the most popular expat destination in terms of sheer numbers. And for many who come, the presence of a sizable expat population is a significant asset in and of itself. When relocating to Mexico for the first time, you are not need to be a pioneer. You are not required to understand anything. Additionally, while learning Spanish is a terrific idea, you do not need to be proficient or even speak much Spanish to move around comfortably.
Things are “pre-arranged” in a sense. Locals are accustomed to the presence of foreigners. Additionally, the expat community is quite hospitable, making the move much smoother. Individuals can assist you in locating a rental property or a specialist physician… recommend eateries, a lawyer to assist you in securing housing, and about anything else you can think of. Additionally, there are a variety of enjoyable activities available, including clubs, charity work, live music, theater, happy hours, and parties. Numerous expats in Mexico assert that they have never had as many acquaintances or a packed agenda.
Notably, Mexico has retained its unique culture. Yes, tourists and expats have altered the demographics of some areas. However, holidays, celebrations, and festivals continue. And, as a foreigner, it’s extremely enjoyable to learn about and occasionally participate in these traditions. It’s all part of the adjustment process as a new expat, and you’ll discover that Mexicans are quite warm and pleased to educate newcomers about their country’s history and unique characteristics.
Mexico has it covered in terms of practicalities.
Naturally, the cost of living is related to one’s lifestyle and habits. However, on average, a retired couple may live well in Mexico for roughly $2,000 per month. This includes accommodation, transportation, health care, utilities, and food. Some individuals get by on considerably less since they live more like locals, while others spend significantly more—if you’re looking for luxury and high-end, Mexico has it in spades. The attractiveness of a location, whether it has a sizable expat population or is a prominent tourist attraction, can also have an effect on costs.
However, Mexico is a fairly affordable country in general, with economical housing (whether rented or owned), affordable food (whether buying in the market or dining out), low-cost medical care, inexpensive or even free entertainment, and other ways to save. Over 60s receive a unique discount card that entitles them to savings on travel, medicines, and much more.
Another significant advantage is the ease with which one can become a resident. The income requirements are relatively modest for the two categories to which the majority of applicants apply: monthly income of approximately $2,100 or $36,000 in the bank for temporary residence and $2,700 or $149,000 in the bank for permanent residence. These figures are approximations due to year-to-year variations in currency rates.
Temporary residence is permitted for a period of up to four years. At that moment, you may reapply to remain a temporary resident or convert to permanent resident status. If you meet the requirements, you may also apply for permanent residence at the outset.
Unlike in some other countries, once you acquire a residency card, you are not required to stay in Mexico for a specified amount of days each year. You are free to come and go whenever you like without regard for the calendar.
The only other documents required to apply for residency are proof of citizenship in your native country (your passport) and a marriage certificate if applying jointly with your spouse. The application procedure is straightforward, with the majority of it completed online. And, while the process must begin at a consulate located outside of Mexico, this is a minor inconvenience given the dozens of consulates located throughout the United States. After receiving initial clearance, you must complete the process at the nearest immigration office to your new residence in Mexico. The entire process takes a few months, maybe less.
Healthcare accounts for a sizable portion of Mexico’s reduced cost of living. There are two government-run programs, one of which (INSABI) is essentially free for Mexican citizens and foreign nationals residing in Mexico (there can sometimes be some small out-of-pocket expenses). This system is intended for those who lack the financial capacity to pay for other forms of healthcare and includes institutions located around the country. Another government option is IMSS, which costs approximately $500 per person per year. However, pre-existing conditions are not covered under IMSS.
There is also private healthcare, which includes clinics and hospitals equipped with the latest technology and equipment, as well as experts trained in the latest techniques and treatments. Indeed, Mexico is a popular destination for medical and dental tourism as a result of this. You can pay cash at a private facility (costs are a fraction of what they are in the United States—about $50 to $70 for a specialist visit, $300 for an MRI), or you can use local or international health insurance.
As previously said, Mexico has wonderful weather. However, it varies considerably depending on your location.
There is the dry heat of the desert in and around Los Cabos on the Baja California peninsula’s tip, which contrasts with the perennially sunny and warm days and slightly cooler nights of the peninsula’s northern half, which is just across the border with Southern California.
On the Pacific, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico coasts, beaches such as Puerto Vallarta and Playa del Carmen are stunning, and the climate is year-round warm and humid, tempered by sea breezes. Travel to the country’s middle, to the Colonial Highlands, and places like as San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato are relatively mild year-round, with some cold days in winter.
Mexico undoubtedly has a lot to offer. And it’s set to remain a perennial favorite with expats for years to come.
2. Costa Rica
True, the secret of Costa Rica’s popularity has long been known. However, millions of visitors and new foreign residents continue to experience the country’s own brand of enchantment, drawn by the tropical temperature, lower cost of living, friendly natives, reasonable medical care, many real estate opportunities, and, of course, the country’s famed natural beauty. Costa Rica is located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, a region prone to political and civil turmoil. It’s comforting to know that Costa Rica continues to be a beacon of stability, democracy, and the desired laid-back lifestyle.
When the government dissolved the army in 1948, the world took notice, coining the moniker “Switzerland of Central America” for Costa Rica. This military budget has been set aside for education and healthcare. As a result, universal education and a First-World literacy rate are achieved. Additionally, all citizens and legal residents have access to healthcare under one of Latin America’s top-rated public healthcare schemes.
This republic is renowned worldwide for its tranquillity and environmental stewardship, with nearly a fifth of its area protected as national parks and wildlife refuges. The current democratic government, led by Carlos Alvarado Quesada*, is regarded progressive on the majority of policy issues, although not all. For example, same-sex marriage is permitted among the LGBTQ community, and women’s rights are legislated. While marijuana is widely available, it is not legally sold. Additionally, gun restrictions are considered severe, with possession restricted to citizens and legal immigrants with permanent resident status. Background checks, psychological evaluations, and firearm instruction are all required. Hunting is prohibited. * Take note that the next presidential election is scheduled for February 6, 2022.
Costa Rica has two distinct healthcare systems–public and private. After obtaining residency, you contribute approximately 7% to 11% of your reported monthly income to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social healthcare system (Caja for short), and this national medical program is available to you without copays, pre-existing condition exclusions, or age restrictions.
Residents may combine public and private medical care by self-insuring or purchasing private insurance policies. These are available through well-known insurance brand names and are substantially less expensive than comparable policies in the United States. Three private hospitals accredited by the JCI are located in the San José area, along with several private clinics around the country. With over 29 hospitals and almost 250 regional clinics, the public system makes it easy to access healthcare regardless of where you choose to settle.
For around $2,000 to $2500 per month, a couple can live comfortably, but not extravagantly. This includes the rental of a two-bedroom home/condo equipped with North American conveniences, including air conditioning, as well as food, entertainment, transportation, and healthcare. If your monthly budget exceeds $3,000, you may enjoy a peaceful lifestyle with the majority of creature amenities.
One of the frequent comments made by expats is how friendly and inviting the ticos (Costa Ricans) are. They are great people who are eager to share the enchantment of their culture, cuisine, and traditions with visitors. Additionally, you’ll find engaging multinational communities of expats that can assist you with the acclimatization process. The great majority of newcomers report finding it really easy to make friends and integrate here. Additionally, people of color are discovering a more peaceful existence in Costa Rica, free of the systemic racism associated with the United States. The official proclamation of the Costa Rican government condemns all forms of racism and prejudice.
Pura Vida is a popular Costa Rican expression. Although it translates as “pure life,” this description only touches the surface of a word that is ingrained in Costa Rican society and is used to indicate everything from “hello” and “goodbye” to “wonderful news,” “cheers!” and many other pronouncements.
Once settled, the majority of expats will agree that they are leading a better lifestyle. Costa Rica is an outdoor playground, with plenty of opportunities for physical activity, including fishing, golfing, horseback riding, hiking, surfing, pickleball, and yoga. Additionally, it is simple to design a healthy diet that is low in processed foods and bountiful in locally grown fruits and vegetables, organic eggs, shellfish, and grass-fed cattle. It’s unsurprising to hear accounts of expats losing excess weight, lowering their blood pressure, taking fewer prescription medications, and generally improving their mental, physical, and spiritual health.
These results are unsurprising, given that Costa Rica is home to one of the world’s only five “Blue Zones,” located on the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste. These zones were discovered in the early 2000s by National Geographic longevity researchers. They are regions with an extremely high proportion of centenarians (those aged 100 years or more). Tenfold that of the United States. The research demonstrates that nutritious meals, naturally calcium-enriched water, sunlight, active lifestyles, strong familial and friendship relationships, and spirituality all contribute significantly to their lifespan.
Costa Rica, like the rest of Latin America, is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, with around 75% of the population identifying as such. Nonetheless, Costa Rica is seen as relatively secular. The government guarantees religious liberty to everyone. Evangelicals, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a tiny number of Jews, Mormons, and Muslims are also present. Expats relocating to larger international communities will have access to English-speaking nondenominational churches.
With a dozen declared climate zones and hundreds of microclimates, there is a climate zone for everyone. Many people love San José’s temperate “eternal spring” environment and the surrounding Central Valley. Alternatively, the dry, hot beaches of Guanacaste or the lush, green jungles of the south and Caribbean side are popular choices.
The pandemic threw the world into disarray, and Costa Rica suffered similar consequences. The country is now experiencing a slow economic recovery, thanks to initiatives such as the new digital nomad visa and an updated law designed to attract retirees with benefits such as a lower investment threshold (down to $150,000 from $200,000) and the ability to import a shipping container of household goods tax-free, as well as two vehicles—all without incurring the high import costs. Although the healthcare system has been severely taxed, it has not been broken. Costa Rica, with its protected natural beauty and resources, resilient people, and progressive visionaries, appears to be a viable long-term relocation option as we move toward a more regulated COVID future.
According to some, the only thing that is constant in life is change. However, after more than 15 years in Panama, I’ve discovered that some of life’s greatest pleasures stay the same. It’s unsurprising that this diminutive powerhouse has once again topped International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index.
We’ve been here before…with justification.
That is because Panama is extremely difficult to beat in terms of overall benefits and value. It’s what happens when a slew of professionals collaborate to produce the ideal tropical storm. Any doubter need only construct a list.
To begin, consider Panama’s physical location and climate. It’s conveniently located between North and South America, on a narrow isthmus between the Pacific and the Caribbean, just a three-hour flight from Miami.
It’s tropical and warm, yet fully outside the storm belt. While it is a high-humidity, high-rain destination…particularly in the mountains and along the Caribbean coast…it is also one of the sunniest expat choices in the region. My days here are delightful and balmy, with seaside breezes and light, bright mornings.
Cornflower-blue skies and deep-green jungle foliage are ideal for #nofilter Instagram pictures. Both the Pacific and Caribbean seas defy description at this latitude, with their many hues ranging from turquoise and mild jade to dazzling, flashing sapphire. (And as one of just three carbon-negative countries in the planet, Panama takes environmental protection seriously.)
The warm climate and astounding biodiversity are just the beginning. Panama’s shape and strategic location also made it an ideal choice for the construction of the canal, which is today world-famous. This resulted in significant infrastructural improvements and the establishment of the region’s busiest aviation hub.
People who have never been assume it is very Third World, but I have reliable power, drinkable water from the tap, high-speed internet, and fantastic cell phone service. I can get on Central America’s only metro line for 35 cents and whizz downtown in ten minutes.
A glittering skyline and the glistening Panama Bay frame the city core. Residents and tourists alike gather here to exercise, skate, ride bikes, and enjoy picnics, among other activities. From here to the picturesque historic section known as Casco Viejo, a wide, lush park and recreation area spreads.
Tocumen International Airport, dubbed the “Hub of the Americas,” is located on the city’s southwestern outskirts. Today, Panama is one of the most accessible retirement locations from the United States or Canada. Panama is accessible via direct flights from every state in the United States, as well as other locations in Canada and Europe.
Travel within the country is very straightforward. I enjoy exploring, and with so many alternatives available to me from my home in Panama City, it’s difficult to keep track of them all. I can go to Veracruz in about 20 minutes for a boozy seafood lunch on the beach. Alternatively, I can take a 30-minute ferry to Taboga Island, dubbed the “Island of Flowers.”
Cerro Azul, Sorá, and El Valle are all within a one- to two-hour drive of the city. Portobelo’s unspoilt Caribbean beaches are approximately two hours distant by automobile. Alternatively, I may fly in an hour to my preferred Caribbean islands.
The verdant highland sanctuary of Boquete is the most popular destination for foreign retirees. It’s nearly as far as you can drive from the city, approximately six hours. I generally fly, as the domestic airport in the city of David is only one hour away. From there, I can rent a car and be in Boquete in less than 40 minutes, sipping award-winning coffee.
My current favorite destination is Coronado, a bustling seaside town located just an hour from the capital. Indeed, I enjoy it so much that I purchased an apartment there and am already packing to relocate. Coronado is home to one of the most active and hospitable expat groups in Panama. I haven’t arrived yet, but I’m already receiving invitations to potlucks and happy hours.
I also intend to participate in exercise activities such as yoga and water aerobics, as well as whatever else comes to mind. Tennis, golf, pickleball…you name it, it’s definitely being played.
Anywhere in Panama, you’re likely to be less than an hour from great hospitals. I’ll have access to the San Fernando facilities from Coronado. It is a satellite location of the San Fernando Hospital in Panama City, which is a JCI-accredited facility linked with Miami Children’s Hospital, Baptist Health International of Miami, and Tulane University Health Services Center and Hospital Clinic.
Panamanian physicians instill in me a sense of genuine concern. They do not rush visits, and they frequently provide you with their mobile phone number so that you can contact them directly during therapy or recovery. Indeed, I’d argue that Panamanians as a whole are the nicest aspect of living in Panama. I’ve met so many lovely people here. Individuals who are hospitable and amusing, with a diverse range of interests, ensuring that the conversation is constantly enthralling.
Panama is not perfect—no country is—but I would not swap it for the world. As a single woman, I feel secure and liberated here, whether I’m out for dinner and Ubering home late at night or travelling cross-country to visit friends. Perhaps this is because this is a true country of opportunity, home to thousands of hardworking, upwardly mobile residents and immigrants.
Over the last few of years, there have been several ups and downs—in Panama and throughout the world. However, this country has earned the right to be known as Central America’s powerhouse. And here’s the thing about living in a powerhouse nation: Panama was ideally situated to weather the financial and health-care storms, with world-class healthcare and a robust economy that seemed certain to rebound.
Thus, it is “back to business” here these days. The country is currently in the process of embracing tourists, new citizens, and new investment. And if you’re on your way down, Panama is also waiting to greet you.