Worldwide Retirement Guide – Top Places to Retire

Retiring to a foreign country is a dream for many people around the world. Is it for you?

If you are going to live the dream, your life will be made much easier if you take some basic steps before moving to retire in a foreign country. See our very thorough Preparing to Retire Abroad guide for more about this.

The good news is that today, thanks to the internet, you can access lots of materials to help this process of planning and preparation. See the links at the end of this guide for some useful places to look if you are preparing to retire in a foreign country.

Why are people retiring abroad?

The main reasons are:

  • Climate
  • Way of life
  • Lower property prices
  • Lower cost of living

Many of our US clients were pursuing a long outdated dream of retiring to a place with a good climate, good healthcare and where they could employ a live-in maid for US$100 per month. Whilst those days are long gone, by retiring to a foreign country they can still live well for much less – and in very agreeable surroundings. A number of their favoured destinations allow a couple to live in comfort for US$1,000 – US$1,500 per month.

The same sort of savings are possible for Europeans in some of their favourite destinations.

See the “Top Ten” below for more about this. These factors have driven the growth of places such as France, Spain, Mexico and Costa Rica as retirement destinations.

Healthcare

Most people about to retire are well aware that they are aging and are concerned to make proper provision of healthcare.

See our country-specific guides to healthcare in the various countries we cover.

Some people are prepared to go to places where the healthcare might be OK for basic procedures but knowing they will have to travel somewhere else for anything serious. This is not a good solution. You don’t know when a serious situation will arise and, if it does, travelling could be difficult or impossible. It can also be an expensive solution if you suffer several illnesses over the years.

Most people I know who have taken this approach have abandoned it if ill health strikes and moved somewhere with better facilities. This might be “back home”, to another country or even elsewhere in the country they first chose; for example, moving from a rural location in Spain to Marbella, which has excellent facilities.

Finances

Equally, people about to retire understand the need to have their finances in order.

Take financial advice from a planner or accountant in the country you are retiring to. Be aware that you may also need to take advice “back home” to make sure that the two parts of your plan are properly linked together. This will be especially true if you intend to spend time or have assets in both countries. It is also usually important if you are an American as the US insists on taxing on the basis of your nationality rather than your residence.

Taking advice is even more important if your life is “complicated” – for example, you are divorced, you have children by more than one relationship, you are gay or you have complex finances – especially if you have funds in several countries.

A little money spent now on good advice can save you a fortune. I recall a client a few years ago who was retiring from the UK to France. He saved £400,000 (US$600,000) in inheritance taxes on a wealth of £1,000,000 (US$1,500,000). Worth doing!

Safety

This is high on the list of things people look for when short-listing retirement destinations.

Some of the popular retirement destinations have a dubious image when it comes to safety. For example, according to the UN, Honduras has 52.56 murders per 100,000 people, Colombia 25.5, Mexico 19.26 and Costa Rica 11.6. For comparison, the US has 5.35, Canada 1.68, and most popular European retirement destinations are lower than 1 (Spain: 0.69; Portugal: 0.64; Malta: 0.94).

See our Global Guide to Crime, Justice and Corruption and our country-specific guides for more information on crime and safety abroad.

Of course, safety can be a very local issue: the place where you are thinking of retiring could be a tranquil haven in an otherwise deadly country. None-the-less, a high number in the indices mentioned in our crime guides should cause you to pause for thought.

Where is the best place to retire?

This is simple. It is a place you love.

For over 30 years I have found it absurd how many people would allow tax and financial opportunity to determine where they are going to spend their final years. In my view, even if a country has low living costs and no taxes during your lifetime or on inheritance, it makes no sense to retire there if you don’t like the place: it’s too hot, too far from your family, has poor health care and/or lacks infrastructure or cultural activity. I hope this is your view too.

Having said that, there are some countries that look like pretty good bets for retirement if they suit your needs. A number of people have compiled lists of “top retirement destinations”. See the links at the end of this guide. They are easy to write and fill a page or two in a magazine but I often wonder whether the writers have ever visited the places in question! Despite this, they are interesting, if only for the comments from people who really know the place.

Some countries do seem to have merit. They are – for many people – pleasant places to live and also fairly low cost and low tax destinations.

These countries tend to fall into two main groups: those popular with Europeans and those popular with Americans. However, it’s interesting to note that more Chinese are now retiring to another country and that their choices look very different. Within each group, there are three sub-groups: places popular with conservative retirees, places popular with people looking to live economically and places popular with the adventurous.

My “Top Destinations”

Here, with some trepidation, are my “Top Destinations” – in alphabetical order. They are put forward as a starting point for discussion and ideas, not as advice. At least I have been to all of these places, lots of them many times!

Remember that some of these countries are huge and that the differences in desirability of the various retirement destinations within them can be equally large.

Compare the local costs of the destinations below with where you live.

Belize

Retirement Visa

Belize offers seemingly generous visa treatment to retirees through its Qualified Retired Persons programme – although some reports say that the process is cumbersome and the benefits not worth it, as you’re technically treated as a non-resident. The QRP programme may be particularly useful if you want to import high-value items (such as a car or a boat), as it gives you the ability to sidestep Belize’s high import duty for the first year.

Another way to get residence in Belize is by staying in Belize for 50 weeks, renewing your visitors’ visa monthly, and then applying for residency (ideally with the support of a local lawyer).

Visas will be granted to retirees who wish to reside permanently in Belize, who are the recipients of regular remittances from abroad, and/or who have transferred their savings into the banking system of Belize.

An immigration specialist will be able to tell you which is the best option in your circumstances.

Belize as a place to retire

Belize has long been one of the top overseas retirement destinations for Americans but is becoming increasingly popular with the British too. Its beauty, safety, low taxes and green credentials are all major draws. For such a small country, healthcare is good – but nowhere near the best by US or European standards.

The cost of living is also low. Depending upon how and where you choose to live, it can be very low. An American couple I know say they live on about US$1,300 per month – and they live quite well.

Links

Belize.com – Top Ten Reasons to Live or Retire in Belize

International Living – Retire in Belize

The Huffington Post – Retire to Belize

Belize.com – The cost of living in Belize

USN – 7 Reasons Not to Retire to Belize

Canada

Retirement Visa

There is no dedicated retirement visa in Canada. For most people, it is easy to visit Canada for up to six months per year but – if you want to stay for longer – you will need to apply for permanent resident status. This is hard for retired people unless they have plenty of money to support themselves and, ideally, also to invest in Canada. Changes in 2014 made it even more difficult.

Canada as a place to retire

Despite this apparent snag, small numbers of people – especially from the US and the UK – do move to Canada when they retire. What they find when they get there is a country with a very warm heart but – except in the Vancouver area – a very cold climate.

They will also find a cost of living about 20% lower than in the UK or the US. In summary, if you like the country and can get residency, you’re likely to love retirement there.

Canada just sneaks into this list, mainly because the people who do retire there seem to love it so much. However, the visa problems are a big hurdle for most people.

Links

Retiring to Canada – expatinfodesk.com

CanadVisa – David Cohen (lawyer)

Caribbean

Retirement Visa

People talk about “retiring to the Caribbean” but, of course, these nations are all independent of each other, very different from each other and have differing immigration requirements.

The Caribbean as a place to retire

This will vary enormously from island to island, but the Caribbean as a vague destination is so popular because of its relatively low cost of living (in some places – places like the Cayman islands are out if you’re on a tight budget) and its warm climate. Many islands have the added bonuses of good healthcare,  low tax regimes, thriving expat populations and the opportunity for an active lifestyle.

If you’re an American citizen, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin islands might be especially attractive as you will not need any special visas.

Look also at the “other” Caribbean – Honduras & Costa Rica (below), both very popular with US retirees in particular.

Links

Retire in the Caribbean (an excellent website with overviews of all the islands you might wish to retire to)

International living: 5 Best Caribbean Islands to Live On… and 2 to Avoid

Costa Rica

Retirement Visa

To live in Costa Rica, you will need to establish legal residency. Costa Rica is very open to new residents and usually only requires that you prove sufficient resources to live there. There are two visas used very often:

  • pensionado is a person receiving a lifetime pension such as state retirement benefits or a military pension or someone who has a lifetime annuity guaranteeing an income (for life) of no less than US$1,000 per month. There is no age limit. You must stay in the country for four months of every year with this visa, and it needs renewing after two years. After three years, you can apply for residency.
  • rentista is a foreigner with a guaranteed income stream of US$2,500 per month (fairly rare) or who makes a deposit of US$60,000 in a Costa Rican bank (more common). This deposit remains the rentista‘s money and is then re-paid to him at $2,500 per month for 24 months. This, of course, adds up to US$60,000! This residency is only for two years, after which it must be renewed (another US$60,000) or you must leave the country.
  • A residency by investment visa is a popular option. In Costa Rica, you can get Investor Status by investing US$200,000 in any business or property (or, far more rarely, US$100,000 in an approved reforestation project). Please note that the Costa Rica Investor Visa gets you residency, not citizenship.

Costa Rica as a place to retire

Retirement to Costa Rica gets mixed reviews from the (exclusively American) people I know who have done it.

Most love it.

They say they can live there comfortably for US$2,000 per month and very happily for US$3,000 per month.

They love the climate and the lifestyle and think the infrastructure is good – at least for the area. Healthcare is also considered good and affordable.

More broadly, it is also consistently ranked as the number one, two or three international retirement destination for Americans.

However, nationally, over 50% of those who retire to Costa Rica go home within a year. Their account tends to be different. They can’t stand living in such a small place – especially if they live outside San Jose (the capital). They find limited social life outside whatever expat communities might exist in their area, few restaurants etc.

Horses for courses – or know yourself. Preferably before you go. If you like the idea, either visit as a tourist (90 days) or get a rentista visa to make sure Costa Rica is for you.

Links

Retire in the Caribbean – Retire in Costa Rica

Real Costa Rica

Ecuador

Retirement Visa

Pensioner Visa (9-I)

This visa is intended for retired persons who receive pensions from their own countries. This includes Social Security or other government or private pensions or their equivalent, an annuity or an income from a trust. The only requirements are:

  • Retirement documents showing a stable income of at least US$800 per month, certified to be correct by the source of the funds and authenticated by the Ecuadorian Consul in your country of origin.
  • If you are using an annuity to apply for the 9-I visa you will only need a statement from the annuity company, usually in the form of a letter, describing your monthly payment, and certification by the Ecuadorian Consul that the funds are no less than US$800 per month for the applicant, plus an additional $100 for each dependent.
Investor Visa (9-II)

This visa is for real estate and securities investors who are investing at least $25,000 in Ecuador. It is often used by retirees. Requirements include:

  • A certificate of title to any real estate used as a basis for the investment, showing no mortgages or debts registered on the property
  • Certificated of title to any stocks, bonds etc used as a basis for the visa
Absence from Ecuador

These resident visas will grant you permanent residency. That means you’ll be allowed to come and go from Ecuador as you wish. However, you can’t be absent from the country for more than 90 days per year during the first two years of your residency, nor for more than 18 consecutive months after your second year of residency.

Ecuador as a place to retire

Ecuador is a popular retirement destination for people from North America

It is a stunningly beautiful country with some interesting historic cities and a good climate. The cost of living is low: a couple can live easily on US$1,500 per month, probably less. Over-65s also get a lot of benefits including tax breaks and money off utility bills.

However, as almost everywhere, some retirees, after being in Ecuador for a few months, discover “quality of life issues” that bother them so much that they decide to move on. These are generally down to the “dirt and disorder” found in most developing – and a lot of developed – countries, coupled with a lesser range of products than you would find in the US, UK or similar.

Links

GringosAbroad.com – Living in Ecuador (despite the name, a great site!)

Investopedia – How to Plan Retirement in Ecuador

International Living – Ecuador Visa and Residence Information

France

Retirement Visa

Citizens of EU states, of course, need no visas to retire to France – and have the additional bonus of being able to participate “free” in France’s brilliant healthcare system once they are of official retirement age.

Other people wishing to retire to France will need a visa.

France does not have a specific “retirement visa” and so you must qualify to live there on some other basis.

It is fairly simple to do so. You apply for a long-term visa at the nearest French consulate in your home country, after which you obtain a carte de séjour visiteur (long term visitor’s permit) when you arrive in France. To prove you have the financial means to retire in France, you’ll have to provide statements from your pension provider or bank. You will also need health insurance that covers you in France.

France as a place to retire

France offers an excellent quality of life along with all the modern comforts you enjoy at home. Plus that je ne sais quoi that is found only in France: a unique combination of the historic, the infuriating and the ultra modern delivered by a nation who still have lifestyle values that long ago disappeared in the rest of Northern Europe.

The cost of living depends upon how you choose to live. If you live in Paris and want to eat food from your home country, you will find it expensive. If you live elsewhere – or even in Paris – and live like a local, the cost of living is moderate but nowhere near the cheapest in Europe.

Tax can be problematic. France has become a very high tax society. Seek good advice.

You either like France or you loathe it. I am a Francophile. Make sure you spend a few months there – at different times of the year! – before you make a final decision to retire to France.

Links

FrenchEntrée – a massive and well-written site dedicated to life in France

InternationalLiving – a US-focused perspective

Expatica – Financial planning when retiring to France

France Accountants – French Tax Summary 2018

Greece

Retirement Visa

No visas are needed to retire to Greece if you are a citizen of an EU state.

Otherwise, you will need permission to stay in Greece for more than 90 days. You can apply for a visa based on an independent income from outside Greece – typically, a pension or investment income. Other visa types might also suit you: for instance, the Citizenship by Investment visa, which (at €250,000 in real estate) has the lowest threshold of all ‘golden’ visas in Europe.

Greece as a place to retire

Greece is Greece. It sometimes seems like a caricature of itself: passion, “life”, chaos, administrative nightmares, beautiful islands and beaches, tavernas, huge unemployment and one of the lowest costs of living in Europe.

It also has one of the worst public healthcare systems in Europe.

Those who “get” Greece love it and would be nowhere else. For others, it just makes their head hurt.

This is, definitely, a place to “try before you buy”! Preferably for a whole year as some of the idyllic places are deserted and cold in winter.

Links

Transferwise – How to Retire to Greece

expatinfodesk.com – Living in Greece

Italy

Retirement Visa

No visas are needed to retire to Italy if you are a citizen of an EU state.

Otherwise, you will need permission to stay in Italy for more than 90 days. If you can afford to live there without working, an Elective Residency Visa (Visto per Residenza Selettiva o Dimora) is probably for you – though other visa programmes are available. This type of visa is generally used by foreigners who are retired and can collect passive income (at least €31,000) from a retirement or pension plan.

To qualify for this, you’ll need to be able to provide proof of the ability to afford to live in Italy without working. This will, typically, be some type of pension or retirement income that will be sufficient to fund your lifestyle.

Getting such a visa is fairly straightforward.

Italy as a place to retire

Italy is another country where the reality sometimes goes beyond the stereotype. Italians are warm, welcoming people who love to relax, celebrate and socialise: usually around a table, either at home or in a restaurant. Of course, this will usually involve food.

Italians also have a passion for talking, often at high volume: about their family, their work, their neighbours but – more often than not – about politics, food, wine and sport!

The climate varies hugely from place to place but Italy can be cold – the average December temperature in Rome is 6°C and in Sorrento only 8°C. Compare this with 10°C in Nice or 12°C in Marbella.

The cost of living, as ever, depends upon where and how you want to live. In Sorrento, for example, it is significantly higher than Nice (France). Compare the local costs with where you live.

Links

Italian Solicitor – Elective Residence Visa

Understanding Italy

One that didn’t work out… or, at least, not as they expected.

Malaysia

Retirement Visa

The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme was launched a few years ago by the Malaysian government. It offers a renewable, ten-year, multiple entry visa for qualified applicants who would like to come and live in Malaysia or, at least, spend extended periods in the country. The programme is primarily attracting people who wish to retire in Malaysia. So far (2015) some 12,000 people have been approved.

Applicants are required to show they have sufficient financial resources to live in Malaysia without seeking employment or other assistance from the government.

  • Applicants under 50 are required to show liquid assets above RM500,000 (around US$120,000 in 2018) and a monthly income of over RM10,000 (US$2,400)
  • Applicants over 50 have show liquid assets over RM350,000 (US$85,000) and monthly income of RM10,000 (US$2,400).

Acceptable liquid assets for people over 50 include cash in the bank, bonds and securities.

There are other requirements too.

Successful applicants will receive a ten-year visa which allows them multiple entry and exit from the country. This visa does not lead to official Permanent Residency, though it does allow you to stay in Malaysia indefinitely. Obtaining Permanent Residency in Malaysia is a difficult and lengthy process.

Malaysia as a place to retire

Culturally very different from Europe, the US and the Asian mega-centres of Singapore & Hong Kong, Malaysia is attracting increasing numbers of retirees who spend all or part of the year there. The appeal lies in the exotic, multi-cultural community and the tropical lifestyle.

The climate is wet (250cm/98″ of rain per year) and warm (daytime temperatures averaging 27°C (80.6 °F)

Healthcare is excellent in the private hospitals in the cities but problematic in the public hospitals in rural areas. However, Malaysia can boast of high-end hospitals that provide excellent services.

The cost of living is relatively low compared to neighbouring countries such as Singapore but quite expensive when measured on a worldwide scale.

Links

MMH2 – official government portal

MM2H.com – immigration advisers

ExpatArrivals.com – Malaysia

Malta

Retirement Visa

No visas are needed to retire to Malta if you are a citizen of an EU state – but it is worth looking into the Malta Retirement Programme, which gives certain benefits to EU citizens wishing to retire there. You’ll need to own or rent a property above a certain value, and receive your pension in Malta.

If you are a citizen from outside the European Union, you will require an entry visa to retire to Malta. This is most commonly obtained under the Global Residency Programme. To qualify for this you need to show that you can support yourself in Malta without having to rely on social assistance: this includes being able to own or rent a property over a certain value, and having good health insurance.

Once you’ve got your visa, you will need to apply for a residence permit.

Malta as a place to retire

Malta has long attracted retirees: mainly British but with some other northern Europeans and a few Americans too. The reasons: the combination of sunshine, proximity to home, its overwhelming sense of history, its warm and friendly people and the fact that English is an official dual language.

The climate is typically Mediterranean, with temperatures in December of 13°C – 16°C (55-61°F) and in July of 27°C – 32°C (81-90°F)

Healthcare is excellent.

The cost of living is moderate – similar to the UK.

Links

Malta Inside Out – Retire to Malta: Expat Insights

Moving on, up and away (an entertaining and informative expat’s blog)

Mexico

Retirement Visa

The Visa de Residente Temporal (Temporary Resident Visa) is intended for people who wish to live in Mexico for more than six months and not longer than four years. It is a renewable long-term permit which gives non-immigrant temporary residency status to the holder. The visa is issued for one year, and can then be renewed for a further one, two, or three years, giving the maximum of four years. It allows unlimited entries to Mexico and gives a person the right to live in Mexico for up to four years on terms as set out in the visa.

One of the criteria that the Mexican authorities require for the issuance of a Temporary Resident Visa is that the applicant prove that they have ‘sufficient funds to sustain themselves while in Mexico’ and/or a proven steady income.

Note that you can no longer apply for a Temporary Residence Permit from within Mexico (for instance if you’re there on a Visitor’s Permit). You need to apply from outside the country.

The Visa de Residente Permanente (Permanent Resident Visa) is intended for people seeking permanent residence in Mexico.

To obtain a permanent resident visa on the basis of retirement, the applicants must prove they have sufficient monthly income (or substantial assets) to support themselves. If you can do this, you don’t have to go through living in Mexico on the Temporary Residence Permit beforehand.

Mexico as a place to retire

Mexico is very popular as a retirement destination for people from the US and Canada. It is close – very close to the US. It has the good roads, high-speed communications and quality healthcare close to what you’d expect in the US or Canada. Even the infamous Mexican bureaucracy now (sometimes) draws praise.

The climate is varied. Popular destinations such as Puerto Vallarta have a balanced year round climate, with temperatures in December of 14°C – 29°C (57-84°F) and in July of 21°C – 33°C (70-91°F). by contrast, Mexico City is much cooler, with temperatures in December temperatures of 12°C – 22°C (41-68°F) and in July of 21°C – 33°C (54-72°F)

Private healthcare is, in general, very good and – in many places – it is excellent. However, costs are rising sharply and so are insurance premiums – though still much cheaper than in the US.

The cost of living is low but rising in many areas. However, for example, the cost of living in Puerto Vallarta is about half that in Denver, Colorado. Compare the local costs with where you live.

Links

Mexperience – Visas & Immigration

International Living – Mexico

New Zealand

Retirement Visa

If you have children in New Zealand

If you are the parent of a New Zealand citizen or resident, you may be able to join them in New Zealand under the Parent Retirement category.

  • You must have an adult child who lives in New Zealand and who is a New Zealand citizen or resident.
  • You must not have any dependent children.
  • You must have sufficient and acceptable investment and settlement funds and/or assets.

If you submit an application and it is approved in principle, you will need to transfer and invest your total investment funds within 12 months of being approved in principle.

The parent visa grants permanent residency to applicants who have an equal number or more of their family inside New Zealand than anywhere else. These applicants are, however, also required to meet financial criteria, as they must offer at least NZD$1 million (approximately £500,000) in qualifying investments over four years, as well as NZD$500,000 (£250,000) for maintenance and an income of at least NZD$60,000 (£30,000) per annum.

If you are granted residence you will need to retain your investment funds in an acceptable investment for four years.

If you don’t have children in New Zealand

The Temporary Retirement Visa offers a two-year permit for people who wish to spend some of their retirement in New Zealand, provided that they invest in the country.

It requires at least NZD$750,000 (approximately £390,000 in 2018) in qualifying investments, as well as NZD$500,000 (£260,000) for maintenance, and an annual income of at least NZ $60,000 (£31,000) from pensions and other investments.

At the end of your two years, you can apply for another Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa if:

  • You still meet all the requirements
  • You prove that you maintained your health insurance and kept your funds invested during the preceding two years

New Zealand as a place to retire

New Zealand appeals to lots of people, whether they are going there to work or to retire.

The scenery – beaches, mountains, glaciers, geysers, volcanoes and cities – is stunning. The pace of life sensible. The All Blacks awesome. The white wines the best in the world. Nature is everywhere.

Just don’t say it’s like England 50 years ago!

The climate in the north of New Zealand is subtropical and in the south temperate. The warmest months are December, January and February, and the coldest June, July and August. In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20°C to 30°C and in winter between 10°C to 15°C.

Healthcare is good, efficient and relatively inexpensive. As an expat, you will need private health insurance.

The cost of living is moderate. For example, Manchester (England) is probably about 5% more expensive than Auckland.

Links

New Zealand Immigration (official site) – Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa

Daily Telegraph – Retiring to New Zealand: what you need to know

ENZ (Independent commentary about living in New Zealand)

Live in New Zealand (the Government’s view)

Nicaragua

Retirement Visa

Most people who plan to retire in Nicaragua (as opposed to working there) use one of two standard ways to get a residency permit – you are either retired or you have “private income”.

The Pensionado programme

The “Pensionado” programme is for people who are not working, over 45 years old and who have a monthly income of at least US$600 (plus US$150 for each dependent family member) coming from a pension fund or state pension. Compared to other countries, this amount is still low.

The Rentista programme

This is for people with private incomes. The minimum age is also 45. The minimum permitted income is US$600 per month (plus US$150 for each dependent). The income can come from any legal source: investments, stocks, rents, retirement plans, profits, etc. You can’t work in Nicaragua to generate income.

Nicaragua as a place to retire

Beautiful, cheap and with lots to do: Nicaragua seems to have emerged from the dreadful years of the late twentieth century, when it was a byword for violence and corruption. It is now a very popular retirement destination, especially for people from North America.

Once you retire to Nicaragua you will find a list of benefits that make it very attractive to the expat. These include paying no taxes on any out-of-country earnings.

Current retirement activity in Nicaragua tends to be mainly in just a few places. Granada, San Juan del Sur and Managua – with Managua being more popular with people working in the country. In any one of these three places, you will find significant expat communities.

Granada – brightly painted, sleepy and relaxed yet bustling – was the first town that the conquistadores established in Central America and is at the heart of Nicaragua’s tourism and retirement boom. Nowhere else will you find the colonial architecture and stunning landscape that Granada offers to both tourists and long-term visitors.

San Juan del Sur is very different: a small but rapidly developing fishing village located on the coast, this is being sold as the best remaining real estate on the Pacific coast.

It is well worthwhile spending some time in Nicaragua to decide exactly what you are looking for.

The bad news? Nothing much that do don’t find in other central American and second world countries. The trappings of poverty intrude on your new paradise. The smells. The chaos. The inequality. This can come as a shock to those from rich nations.

The climate is typically Central American, with maximum temperatures an almost rock solid 30-34°C (86-93°F) and minimums of 20-23°C (68-73°F) all year round. As for rain, expect a lot from June to October – especially in June and October.

Healthcare is good in the Managua area (the capital city) and offers high-quality from several highly specialised healthcare centres and hospitals. It is, at best, patchy elsewhere. However, Nicaragua is a small country and Managua is never far away. Costs are less than half of what you would pay in the US – but, of course, the US is uber-expensive.

The cost of living is low – Managua being less than half the cost of a city such as Atlanta in the US and other places much cheaper still.

Links

Escape Artist: 10 Quick Tips for Retiring in Nicaragua

Expat Exchange: 10 Tips for Living in Nicaragua

Panama

Retirement Visa

The Panamanian system is a little different from that in other Central American countries. Anyone over 18 years old can qualify for the Panama Pensionado (Retired) Visa by proving that they will be receiving a minimum of US$1,000 per month payment – for life.

An exception to this minimum is when the applicant buys property (real estate) in Panama valued at a minimum of $100,000. In this case, the minimum is reduced to US$750. But honestly, you don’t really want to be living in Panama on that little income.

If you’re not a pensioner, and you have some liquid assets, the “Person of Means” visa could be a good option for you. To apply, you must be prepared to invest US$300,000 in Panama for about three years.

There are other options too.

Panama as a place to retire

For years, Panama has been recognized as one of the world’s top retirement locations, offshore centres and tax havens. More importantly, it is home to as many lifestyles as you might want to seek: from rural retreat through expat golf community to bustling, sophisticated city living.

The climate is typical of the area. Peak daytime temperatures are about 30°C (86°F) all year round and night times drop only to 23°C (73°F). Panama is wet, especially from May to December when you can expect 15-20 wet days and about 300mm per month of rainfall per month.

Healthcare is amongst the best in Latin America and the private hospitals are world class. Health insurance is cheap at about US$150 per month for a retired couple.

The cost of living is modest – for example, about 30% lower than Chicago – but no longer really cheap. A sensible minimum budget for a retired couple is about US$2,000 per month.

Links

Pols Attorneys – Panama Retirement Visas

Viva Tropica – Panama

Internations – Expat community in Panama

Huffington Post – 10 Things You Should Know About Retiring To Panama Today

Portugal

Retirement Visa

Citizens of EU states do not need any visa to retire to Portugal.

For other people, there is no specific retirement visa. However, the “permanent residence visa” can accommodate retirees with sufficient means to support themselves and many are applying for the so called “Golden Visa” – where residence is obtained by investment of €350,000 or more into Portuguese real estate or an approved investment fund.

Portugal as a place to retire

Portugal has long been a popular retirement destination for people from the UK, Germany and elsewhere in Europe but its popularity is spreading. This is as a result of the Government’s aggressive (well, for Portugal!) approach to attracting retirees who will bring money into the country.

One weapon they have deployed – and something attracting a great deal of attention in the US – is giving compete tax exemption to your pension income.

Add this to the traditional benefits of a laid back lifestyle, lots of sunshine, safety, nice people, wall to wall golf – at least in the Algarve – and a very reasonable cost of living and it becomes easy to see the attraction for the 100,000+ who have retired there.

The climate is typically Mediterranean. Average daytime temperatures in December are 17°C (63°F) and in July 33°C (91°F). Minimum (night-time) temperatures are 9°C (48°F) and 19°C (66°F) during the same periods. Rainfall is concentrated in the period from September to January, with almost none in June, July and August.

Healthcare is at typical European standards. This means good.

The cost of living is low by mainstream European standards: for example, about 25% less than in the UK.

Links

Smart Expat – Guide to Portugal

Expatfocus – Portugal

Expatica – A guide on how to retire in Portugal as an expat

Spain

Retirement Visa

Citizens of EU states do not need any visa to retire to Spain.

For others, the Spanish “retirement visa” allows you to reside in Spain as a retiree without engaging in any type of lucrative activities.

You will need to produce proof of sufficient permanent retirement income to allow you to live in Spain without working. The national minimum income required is €2,130 monthly plus extra for each additional family member. The actual minimum income you will need to show will depend upon where you choose to live (and how expensive it is).

Spain as a place to retire

Spain is the most popular retirement destination in the world. It and France lead the race – by miles.

The reasons for retiring there are as valid today as they ever were:

  • The climate
  • Lifestyle, including golf, beaches and nightlife
  • Really good healthcare – at least in the main retirement areas
  • Great infrastructure: road, high speed rail, airports, broadband etc have almost all been built or renewed over the last twenty years
  • Easy access – not just from Europe but also the Americas
  • Low property prices – still suffering the after-effects of the 2007/12 crash

On the Costa del Sol, the climate is – not surprisingly – typically Mediterranean. However, it is very different in the north of Spain.

On the Costa del Sol (in Southern Spain), average daytime temperatures in December are 16°C (61°F) and in July 29°C (84°F). Minimum (night-time) temperatures are 8°C (46°F) and 19°C (66°F) during the same periods. Rainfall is concentrated in the period from September to January, with little from June to September.

Healthcare is excellent, especially in the main areas where retirees settle. This applies to both public and private provision.

The cost of living is mid-range by European standards – for example, Malaga is about 30% cheaper than Hamburg.

Links

 

Expatica – Top 10 tips for living in Spain I don’t normally like this type of article but this one made me chuckle.

The Daily Telegraph (some of the problems) – though mainly for people who are working, rather than retirees.

Spain or Portugal?

For many people, this is the big debate.

After more than 30 years advising clients moving to both locations I have come to the conclusion that this is an impossible question to answer. By and large, the people who move to Portugal wouldn’t be seen dead in Spain – and vice versa.

Objectively, these two countries have a lot in common. Subjectively, they feel miles apart – and those differences drive the decision as to where to settle.

If you are thinking of retiring to either, take a trip to the other. You might be surprised.

Thailand

Retirement Visa

The “Non-Immigrant OA-Long Stay Visa”

This visa entitles the holder a stay of 1 year in Thailand but can be renewed from within Thailand.

To get it, the applicant must:

  • Be 50+
  • Pay a security deposit of THB 800,000 (US$22,500) into a Thai Bank account 2 months prior to the visa application
  • Have a monthly income or pension of at least THB 65,000 (US$1,850)

Strangely, you must apply for a 90-day initial non-immigrant visa from the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country before you can make your application for a retirement visa in Thailand.

When you arrive in Thailand you apply for your retirement visa.

Two further stange points to note:

  • If you plan to travel in and out of Thailand during the year your visa is valid, you will need a multiple re-entry permit to do so. Otherwise your visa will be cancelled.
  • The visa holder is also required to notify the Immigration Office of their current residential address every 90 days. This can be done by mail, by personal visit to the immigration office or using the services of an agent to do this on your behalf.

Thailand as a place to retire

This is definitely a place you will like or loathe. Is it a palm fringed paradise or a squalid brothel? Whichever, there are now thousands of retirees living there: Americans, Australians and Brits amongst them.

Frankly, Thailand only gets a place in this list because I know several people – people who I respect – who think it is fantastic and just misunderstood by everyone else. They would be nowhere else.

Apart from these image issues, Thailand also gives certain legal problems. Not least are the problems associated with owning land or buildings. Even since the rules were relaxed twenty years ago, this is tricky. A foreigner can usually not own land – though they can take a lease over land. A foreigner can own a condo apartment – but only if 51% of the building is owned by Thais. True, you can get round some of these restrictions by setting up a Thai company to own for you – but at least 51% of the shares have to be Thai owned. All this sounds a bit scary! Many are not put off.

Healthcare is improving but still not great – certainly outside the private sector. Within the private sector, have your medical insurance documents with you.If you don’t, you will be required to pay up front for the hospital and other treatment.

Links

Huffington Post – 22 tips for retiring well and happy in Thailand.

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