Many retirees are looking for the best places to retire in the world and settle down outside their home countries.

Retiring abroad offers a chance to experience new cultures and lifestyles. As the world becomes more connected, many retirees are looking for the best places to settle down outside their home countries.

This guide highlights top destinations for expats to consider for retirement. From Costa Rica’s beaches to Portugal’s historic cities, these locations offer various benefits such as affordable healthcare, lower living costs, and friendly communities.

Through our Global Intelligence Unit’s research into US retirement trends, we’ll uncover the ideal place to enjoy your retirement years and how to make international living a reality.

Why do expats retire abroad?

According to our GIU’s US Retirement Trend report, international retirement is often seen as something only wealthy people do to enjoy their leisure time. However, it also appeals to those who want to make the most of their money. 

Some people move abroad to improve their quality of life by living in places where they can have a more comfortable and satisfying lifestyle with their savings. 

People decide to retire in another country for various reasons, such as a lower cost of living, better weather, or more favorable tax conditions. Political stability is also important, as many people are looking for places with stable and reliable governments and institutions.

Many American retirees are attracted to countries where their pensions can stretch further, tax burdens are lower, and the political climate is stable and predictable. These internal motivations are often complemented by external desires such as favorable weather and the enriching experience of immersing oneself in new cultures and being part of local communities.

However, the best countries to retire in the world also come with challenges. One significant hurdle is unlike most countries that tax based on residency, the US taxes its citizens on their global income regardless of where they live. 

Another common difficulty for American expatriates is accessing banking services in foreign countries as many US citizens face challenges opening and maintaining bank accounts overseas due to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

Read the Global Intelligence Unit's full report on US Retirement Trends

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Best Retirement Countries in the World for Expats

1. Spain

Spain ranked as the best in the world for retirement, scoring 100 points overall in the GUI’s US Retirement Trend report, in addition to coming in first for quality of life and 7th for security, acceptance, and integration. The Spanish Golden Visa is a hugely popular program.

costa rica top 10 speak english over a decade world health organization central america latin america caribbean island canary islands atlantic ocean south china sea passive income emerald isle black sea amazon rainforest west coast new home kuala lumpur indigenous people northern hemisphere iberian peninsula western europe sandy beaches new life schengen area adriatic sea foreign direct investment southern europe world class small island one way financial means ten years rental income easy access white beaches island nation private hospitals first year residence permit portuguese citizenship mediterranean coast per year neighboring countries central american nation two countries clean criminal record maltese government prohibitively expensive public healthcare system dramatic landscapes quality medical services visa free travel monthly pension public system best retirement destinations immigration permit foreign retirees european union middle east small country attract expats barbuda passport welcoming locals mediterranean sea largest city other expats white sandy beaches ultimate guide main reasonsLiving in Spain is generally considered safe, especially compared to many other countries worldwide. In 2023, Spain was the 8th safest nation in Europe for violent crime. While violent crime is uncommon, petty crimes like pickpocketing and theft, especially in tourist areas and large cities like Barcelona and Madrid, are more prevalent.

The cost of living index is an important tool for comparing the prices of consumer goods and services across different locations. It covers categories such as groceries, dining out, transportation, utilities, and rent, providing insights into the affordability of essential items.

Madrid, the capital of Spain, offers a unique combination of cultural richness, historical heritage, and modern amenities, making it an attractive destination for residents and expatriates.

Housing is a significant part of living expenses in Madrid. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city is approximately $1,322.50; in less central areas, it’s around $968.05.

Larger families looking for three-bedroom apartments would find options in the city, averaging $2,321.49 monthly and $1,655.28 in the suburbs. The purchase price per square foot reflects a similar urban-rural divide, costing about $446.54 in the city and $258.77 on the outskirts.

2. Mexico

Ranking second in terms of quality of life, 5th overall and 8th for its economy, healthcare for expats in Mexico is generally of high quality, especially in urban areas.

costa rica top 10 speak english over a decadeThe system consists of public healthcare provided through the Mexican Social Security Institute (MSSI) for employees, and voluntary MSSI enrollment for others. Expats can also opt for private insurance for more exclusive services.

The costs for comprehensive health insurance for expats vary. For Americans, it ranges around $5,900 annually, for Canadians it’s $3,000, and for Europeans it’s $2,750.

Mexico is ranked 133rd out of 168 countries in the GPI, indicating a varied security landscape. Some regions have significant crime risks, but areas where expats usually live are generally safer.

The US Department of State provides detailed travel advisories, recommending normal precautions in states like Yucatán and Campeche, and increased caution in other areas due to crime.

Mexico is well-regarded for its local friendliness, topping the 2023 Expat Insider Report for local friendliness and expatriate welcome. However, its 94th rank in Gallup’s Migrant Acceptance Index suggests a broader divergence in attitudes towards migrants.

The cost of living in Mexico City is lower than in New York City, with consumer prices 51.6% lower and rent 73.8% less expensive. Dining and groceries are also more affordable. However, the local purchasing power is lower in Mexico City compared to New York.

Mexico has diverse climate patterns across its regions. The northern areas experience hot summers over 32°C and cooler winters with minimal precipitation. Central Mexico enjoys a temperate climate with temperatures ranging from 12°C to 25°C and moderate summer rainfall.

3. Portugal

Portugal scored 99.79 in the overall rankings, coming in third place for quality of life and sixth for security. With its stunning coastlines, rich history, and mild climate, Portugal is a top destination for retirees using the country’s D7 retirement visa.

south america social security best countries retiring abroad retire abroad golden years social security best countries retiring abroad south americaKnown for its affordable living, excellent healthcare, and friendly locals, Portugal offers a high quality of life. From the vibrant city of Lisbon to the serene Algarve, there’s something for everyone.

In Portugal, expatriates have the option of choosing between public healthcare provided by Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) or private healthcare services.

Individuals contributing to the Portuguese social security system have access to public healthcare, known for its high standards. However, wait times and service availability may vary depending on the region.

Private health insurance in Portugal provides quicker access to a wider range of healthcare facilities and specialists. This option is particularly appealing due to generally shorter waiting times and the availability of English-speaking medical professionals, especially in areas with significant international communities.

Private healthcare facilities, primarily located in major cities like Lisbon and Porto, offer a wide range of medical services with modern infrastructure.

Portugal is widely recognized as one of the safest countries globally, ranked as the 7th safest country in the world and 5th in Europe. This attracts many US expats seeking a more stable and secure living environment due to growing concerns about safety in the United States.

The nation’s low crime rates and effective law enforcement contrast with the increasing safety worries experienced by many expats in their home country.

There is a significant difference in the overall cost of living and rent between New York and Lisbon. To maintain a lifestyle in New York that costs $4,451.4 in Lisbon, one would need approximately $10,243.5. Consumer prices in New York are 98.9% higher than in Lisbon without rent, and including rent, they increase to 130.1% higher.

4. New Zealand

Ranking 1st for security, 6th overall, and 8th for quality of life, New Zealand is an attractive retirement destination for US citizens due to its high quality of life, universal healthcare, and welcoming society.

personal finance well being pacific ocean income tax well being american standards personal finance caribbean sea white sand beaches family members one third tropical climate best country income sourcesThe country features a diverse climate, ranging from humid, warm summers in the north to colder winters with potential snowfall in the south. The healthcare system in New Zealand is comprehensive, providing free or low-cost services to residents, with private insurance options available for quicker access to specialists.

The cost of living in New Zealand is generally lower than in major US cities such as New York, especially concerning housing and dining. Cities like Auckland and Wellington offer urban conveniences while maintaining a lower cost of living compared to US standards. Additionally, the safety and security in New Zealand are robust, with the country consistently ranking high in global safety indices and having a reputation for being welcoming to migrants.

New Zealand also provides an appealing lifestyle for retirees, with its stunning natural landscapes, outdoor recreational opportunities, and vibrant cultural scene. The country’s efficient public transportation system, combined with its clean environment and emphasis on sustainability, further enhances the living experience for retirees.

For US retirees considering New Zealand, understanding the visa and residency requirements is crucial. The country offers several visa options, including the Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa, which requires proof of sufficient funds and health insurance. Permanent residency options are also available for those looking to make a long-term move.

Overall, New Zealand’s combination of a high standard of living, comprehensive healthcare, affordable cost of living, and welcoming atmosphere makes it a top choice for US citizens seeking a fulfilling and enjoyable retirement abroad.

5. Italy

Italy is another popular choice for US retirees. In the US Retirement Trend report, the country came in 7th overall, 10th for quality of life, 8th for security and acceptance, and 11th in terms of economy.

investment options other country taking advantage stop working new people five years temporary residence more than a decade only country southeast asia few countries lower housing costs Italy is a popular retirement destination for US expats due to its high quality of life, rich culture, stunning landscapes, and varied climate. The country’s healthcare system, the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), provides comprehensive care funded by taxes, but many retirees choose to have additional private insurance for quicker access to services.

The cost of living in Italy is generally lower than in major US cities, with affordable housing, food, and utilities. Major cities like Rome, Milan, and Florence offer a mix of historical charm and modern amenities, while rural areas and smaller towns provide a more relaxed lifestyle.

Safety is another attractive aspect, with Italy’s low violent crime rates. However, petty crime such as pickpocketing, can be more common in tourist-heavy areas. English proficiency varies across the country, with higher levels in the north and in urban centers.

Italy’s rich cultural heritage, encompassing art, history, and cuisine, adds to its appeal as a retirement destination. The country’s public transportation system is efficient and widely accessible, making travel within the country convenient.

For expats, understanding the visa requirements is essential. Italy offers several visa options for retirees, including the Elective Residency Visa, which requires proof of sufficient income and health insurance. It’s also important to consider tax implications, as Italy has a double taxation agreement with the US, which can benefit retirees.

Overall, Italy offers a welcoming environment with a high standard of living, excellent healthcare, affordable costs, and a vibrant cultural scene, making it an ideal choice for retirees seeking a fulfilling and enriching lifestyle abroad.

6. Malta

Malta is a prime retirement destination for US expats, offering a blend of Mediterranean charm, a mild climate, and a high quality of life.

southeast asia income tax social security best way roth iras people opt many benefits growing number good reason everyday activitiesWith English as an official language, retirees find it easy to integrate. Malta’s healthcare system is robust, featuring both public and private options, with services being affordable and of high quality. The cost of living in Malta is lower than in many major US cities, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious retirees.

Safety is another strong point for Malta, as it boasts low crime rates and a generally secure environment. The country’s rich cultural history, vibrant arts scene, and numerous recreational activities, including beautiful beaches and historical sites, provide ample entertainment and engagement opportunities for retirees.

When it comes to visas, Malta offers the CES Investment Program, which provides favorable tax benefits to non-EU citizens. This program requires proof of stable income and health insurance. Additionally, Malta’s favorable tax policies, including a double taxation agreement with the US, ensure that retirees can manage their finances efficiently.

Public transportation is reliable and affordable, making it easy for retirees to travel around the islands. The warm, friendly community, combined with the high standard of living, makes Malta a welcoming place for expatriates to enjoy their retirement.

Overall, Malta provides a perfect mix of relaxation, cultural enrichment, and financial benefits, making it an ideal choice for US citizens seeking a comfortable and enjoyable retirement abroad.

7. Greece

Another exciting, and hugely popular, destination is Greece. The country is a highly attractive retirement destination for US expats, partly thanks to the Greece Golden Visa. It offers a warm Mediterranean climate, a lower cost of living, and a wealth of cultural and historical attractions.

Greece enjoys mild winters and hot summers, making it an appealing location for those seeking a comfortable climate year-round. The country’s healthcare system is robust, featuring both public and private options that ensure comprehensive medical care. Many retirees find the cost of living to be significantly lower than in the US, especially concerning housing and daily expenses like food and transportation.

Safety is generally high in Greece, with low levels of violent crime, although petty crimes such as pickpocketing can occur in tourist-heavy areas. English is widely spoken, particularly in urban areas and popular tourist destinations, easing the transition for English-speaking expats. Additionally, Greece has favorable tax policies for retirees, including a flat tax rate on foreign pensions, which can make financial planning more straightforward.

One of the significant draws for retirees is the rich cultural heritage and vibrant lifestyle that Greece offers. The country is renowned for its historical sites, stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, and active social life. Whether you are interested in exploring ancient ruins, enjoying the scenic beaches, or participating in local festivals, Greece provides a fulfilling and enriching environment.

For those considering relocating, understanding visa requirements is essential. Greece offers a Financially Independent Person (FIP) visa, which requires proof of sufficient income to support oneself without working in Greece. This visa is renewable annually and can eventually lead to permanent residency. Healthcare access for expats is facilitated through the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for those from EU countries, but non-EU retirees, like Americans, often opt for private health insurance to cover all their needs.

Overall, Greece combines a high standard of living, affordable costs, excellent healthcare, and a rich cultural experience, making it an ideal retirement destination for US citizens. The country’s welcoming atmosphere and diverse recreational opportunities further enhance its appeal for those looking to enjoy their golden years in a vibrant and historic setting.

Read our Complete Guide on the Portugal Golden Visa

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St. Kitts and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis is a popular retirement destination for US expats due to its tranquil environment, stunning beaches, and favorable tax policies. The Citizenship by Investment Program allows retirees to gain residency through real estate investment.

With a low cost of living, excellent healthcare, and a warm climate, it provides a comfortable and relaxed lifestyle. The islands also offer various recreational activities, from hiking in lush rainforests to enjoying water sports, making it an appealing choice for retirees seeking both adventure and serenity.

Dominica

Dominica is an attractive retirement destination for US expats. It is known for its natural beauty, lush rainforests, and pristine beaches. The island offers a low cost of living and a peaceful lifestyle.

Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Program allows retirees to gain residency through real estate investment. Healthcare services are accessible and improving, and the local community is welcoming. With numerous outdoor activities such as hiking, diving, and hot springs, Dominica provides a serene and adventurous retirement option for those looking to enjoy a slower pace of life.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, as a US territory, provides American retirees with the advantage of living within US jurisdiction while experiencing a Caribbean lifestyle. Benefits include not requiring a visa, using US dollars, and having access to Medicare. The island offers diverse landscapes, from beaches to mountains, and has a rich cultural heritage, providing a familiar yet exotic retirement option.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda is a favored retirement destination for US expats, known for its 365 beaches, warm climate, and welcoming community. The country offers a Citizenship by Investment Program, making it easy for retirees to gain residency through real estate investment. The cost of living is moderate, and the healthcare system is adequate, with access to private medical facilities. The islands provide a laid-back lifestyle with various recreational activities like sailing, snorkeling, and exploring historical sites, making it an ideal place for retirees seeking both relaxation and adventure.

Grenada

Grenada is known for its lush landscapes, pristine beaches, and friendly community. The island offers a relatively low cost of living and accessible healthcare. Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment Program allows retirees to obtain residency through real estate investment.

The country provides a relaxed lifestyle with various recreational activities, including hiking, diving, and exploring spice plantations. The warm climate and vibrant local culture make Grenada an appealing choice for retirees seeking a peaceful and enjoyable retirement in the Caribbean.

How Can Global Citizen Solutions Help You?

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique migration consultancy firm with years of experience delivering bespoke residence and citizenship by investment solutions for international families. With offices worldwide and an experienced, hands-on team, we have helped hundreds of clients worldwide acquire citizenship, residence visas, or homes while diversifying their portfolios with robust investments. 

We guide you from start to finish, taking you beyond your citizenship or residency by investment application. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Best Places to Retire

What are the best places to retire in the world?

Portugal has been ranked in numerous global studies as the top country in the world for expats. A warm climate, fresh seafood, and stunning beaches make Portugal a popular place for expats looking to retire abroad.

The world’s best places to retire in 2024 are:

  1. Spain
  2. Mexico
  3. Portugal
  4. New Zealand
  5. Italy
  6. Malta
  7. Greece

Which European countries offer retirement visas?

Portugal, Spain, Malta and Cyprus offer retirement visas.

Can I retire in Portugal as a non-EU citizen?

Yes I can retire in Portugal as a non-EU citizen as long as I obtain a visa which allows me to reside in Portugal. The D7 visa and the Golden Visa program are efficient ways to get residency in Portugal.

Is the European healthcare system good? Can non-EU citizens use it?

Yes, the European healthcare system is very good and available to permanent residents and EU citizens. Non-EU citizens should get private insurance prior to obtaining permanent residency status or one of the EU nationalities.

How much does it cost to retire in Portugal?

How much money you need to retire in Portugal will depend on the town you’d like to live in. If you’re in an urban area like Lisbon or Porto, a couple will need at least €2,400 a month to get by comfortably. But in smaller villages, a couple could get by on as little as €1,400 per month.

What is life in the Caribbean like for retirees?

Life in the Caribbean for retirees is very relaxed and enjoyable with affordable prices. With some of the best beaches of the world, lush forests, volcanoes and waterfalls, the Caribbean islands are especially enjoyable to those who love nature.