Retirees across the United States are discovering inventive and unique ways to enjoy retirement on their own terms. This has led to an exodus of senior US expats moving abroad to foreign countries for a better quality of life through a lower cost of living, better weather, and access to a high-quality healthcare system.

Countries from Caribbean islands to Western European countries are catching on quickly, with many nations attracting American retirees by offering enticing retirement visas. As more Americans consider an international move, many are searching for the best countries to retire in for Americans in 2024.

If you’re among the many Americans seeking retirement abroad, keep reading to find the best retirement destinations for your lifestyle choices and aspirations. There are plenty of excellent foreign countries, so that could be challenging.

The Ten Best Countries for Americans to Retire Abroad in 2024

According to a study released by International Living in January 2024, Americans are retiring abroad to pursue healthier and happier lives, stretch their monthly budget through a lower cost of living, and maximize their retirement goals in ways that wouldn’t be achievable by staying in the United States.

An extensive survey was conducted, where a pool of US expats ranked the top countries to retire abroad. As such, a list of the top ten countries for Americans to retire abroad was born.

American retirees enjoying retirement abroad ranked their experience across ten categories:

  • Housing
  • Benefits and low-cost perks
  • Visas and residence ease
  • Cost of living
  • Cultural assimilation and entertainment
  • Quality and accessibility of healthcare
  • Development
  • Climate
  • Government stability
  • Opportunity to semi-retire

Each category scored up to 100 points, with sub-categories enabling expats to rank each country better. For example, the housing category looks at the value of real estate, the cost of rehabilitation, property taxes, and money loans. Each country then gets an overall score out of 100.

Starting from the top, here are the top ten countries to retire in the world.

Portugal

Portugal has ranked as the best country to retire to in the world for four years in a row, with this year scoring a staggering 87.43 out of 100 points.

new zealand getty images part time job us dollar health care panama city canary islands good food kuala lumpur sunny days iberian peninsula urban areas public transportation free timeIn addition, the following categories scored:

  • Housing: 74
  • Healthcare: 92
  • Cost of living: 85
  • Climate: 88

Portugal is well renowned for its welcoming environment for American retirees, with many US citizens of retirement age and earning a monthly pension already living in cities like Porto, Lisbon, and Cascais. The Algarve on Portugal’s south coast is also a hotspot for foreign retirees.

With its world-class beaches, beautiful stretch of Atlantic coastline, sunny and warm climate, excellent records for safety, and rich cultural heritage, it’s no wonder why Americans move to Portugal from the USA. 

Benefits of Americans retiring in Portugal

There are many benefits of choosing Portugal as a foreign country to retire abroad. These include:

Quality healthcare services Quality healthcare services
Rich culture  Rich culture
Stable and tranquil lifestyle  Stable and tranquil lifestyle
Affordable cost of living Affordable cost of living
Peaceful country with stable governance Peaceful country with stable governance

How are Americans retiring in Portugal?

Thanks to Portugal’s attractive Golden Visa Program, American retirees can become legal residents of Portugal by investing in the Portuguese economy.

The program starts with a minimum investment of €250,000, and potential applicants can choose investment options such as contributing to an investment fund or a donation to the reconstruction of national heritage in Portugal.

Investors can maintain their investment to renew their retirement visa. After five years of residency, American retirees can apply for Portuguese dual citizenship. Key Portugal Golden Visa benefits included:

  • Visa-free travel within Europe’s Schengen zone
  • Affordable investment options with high return potential
  • The opportunity to live as a resident in Portugal

Another way Americans retire in Portugal is through Portugal’s D7 Visa. The D7 Visa is effectively a retirement visa, allowing foreign citizens with a monthly pension or passive monthly income to retire and live in Portugal.

Take a look at our
D7 Visa Portugal 2024 Ultimate Guide by local experts

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Mexico

Mexico comes in second place for the best places to retire abroad as an American, with a total score of 84.14 out of 100. 

best retirement countriesThe following categories scored:

  • Housing: 70
  • Healthcare: 82
  • Cost of living: 92
  • Climate: 86

Mexico is already one of the most popular retirement destinations for Americans. After all, it’s in the North American continent, and the US has by far the largest population of the Mexican diaspora in the world, which has influenced many aspects of the diverse American culture.

This makes Mexican culture easier to assimilate into for Americans retiring abroad. To top it off, its vibrant life and low cost of living provide the optimal environment for an enjoyable social life in retirement.

The low cost of living and cheap private healthcare system has made it a popular choice for medical tourism, and its warm climate, natural landscape, and proximity to the US further add to its reputation as the ideal retirement destination for retiring Americans.

Furthermore, with it being on the border of the United States, you can enjoy the benefits of a low cost of living while staying within touching distance of your loved ones.

Check out our guide, Permanent Residency Mexico: Your Ultimate Guide.

Panama

The Central American nation of Panama came in third place among the top ten countries to retire in the world for Americans. Its overall score was 84 out of 100.

best places to retire for us citizensThe following categories scored:

  • Housing: 77
  • Healthcare: 84
  • Cost of living: 78
  • Climate: 80

In Panama, American retirees can easily get by on a monthly budget of about $1,400 and under $2,000 for two people, according to Numbeo. This takes into account rent, groceries, utilities, and entertainment.

The low cost of living makes Panama one of the cheapest countries to live in for retirement. Additionally, Panama offers affordable and private health insurance, and a doctor’s visit at a private hospital costs roughly between $20 to $60. Furthermore, the short flight back to the US is around three hours.

For Americans seeking the best warm countries to retire, Panama has a tropical climate and warm temperatures throughout the year. A bonus is the country’s geographical location is outside the threat of hurricanes and destructive adverse weather. The Panama Pensionado Visa is a retirement visa allowing Americans with a monthly income of just $1,000 to enjoy retirement in Panama.

Panama’s long reputation as an ideal retirement destination has established one of the best private systems for healthcare, and those who gain a retirement visa through their monthly pension income access several benefits, including reduced utility costs and discounts on services.

Ecuador

Ecuador comes in fourth place, with a score of 83.57 points out of 100.

ten best countries to retire abroadThe following categories scored: 

  • Housing: 80
  • Healthcare: 81
  • Cost of living: 88
  • Climate: 87

Although a small country on the Pacific coast in Latin America, Ecuador more than deserves its place on the list of best expat countries to retire to for several reasons. Most expats cite the country’s abundant World Heritage Sites and national parks, a wonderful temperate climate, and the most biodiversity of any country of its size, ensuring an adventure-filled life long into retirement.

Perhaps the principal benefit that attracts many Americans to Ecuador for retirement is access to attractive senior discounts and benefits unmatched by any other country in the world. Half-price air deals to the United States mean that a quick trip to visit loved ones is perfectly plausible.

While heavy discounts on utilities and reductions in IVA (value-added) tax prove that Ecuador is one of the best tax-free retirement countries, the Ecuadorian government and its institutions work hard to ensure that its foreign retirees feel most welcome. Furthermore, the country has a national medical program, and private insurance for healthcare is affordable, with few out-of-pocket costs.

Costa Rica

Fifth on the list of the top ten best countries to retire abroad is Costa Rica, with an overall score of 79.28 out of 100.

retired destinations with friendly locals former british colonies real estate agents government run system foreign earned income private sector laid back lifestyle dramatic landscapes self employmentThe following categories scored:

  • Housing: 60
  • Healthcare: 91
  • Cost of living: 68
  • Climate: 80

Among Americans already retired in Costa Rica, the Latin American nation is seen as a haven for those who crave a simpler and more relaxed lifestyle in a peaceful country, with it being one of the safest countries in Central and South America, according to the Global Peace Index. 

Paired with great waves and picturesque beaches with the Pacific Ocean on the west coast and the Caribbean Sea on the east, an amazing tropical climate, and a culture built on community, this Central American country is a true gem to behold.

Many expats looking to retire abroad come and spend a week there and decide they want to make the move from the US permanent. When you get your hands on residency, you are eligible for the socialized medicine program for a fraction of the monthly income American retirees earn through Social Security.

The good thing about retiring in Costa Rica is that it’s already one of the more popular retirement destinations among American retirees. So, although you’re immersed in an entirely new culture, the country has a thriving expat community, meaning you’re never too far from familiar faces. If you’re seeking retirement in a green country focusing on sustainability, Cost Rica ranks highly in the Global Green Economy Index (GGEI). 

Spain

In sixth place on the list, one of the most popular countries in Europe, Spain, scored 78.14 from 100 points.

world class retirement destinationThe following categories scored:  

  • Housing: 56
  • Healthcare: 88
  • Cost of living: 79
  • Climate: 72

Living in Spain as a retiree has countless perks. Fine dining and entertainment in Spain are available at a relatively low cost compared to similar countries in Western Europe. The country provides a universal healthcare system along with cheap medical services, allowing those from the United States to stretch their monthly income further.

Spain also has several islands, such as Ibiza in the Mediterranean Sea and Gran Canaria in the Atlantic Ocean, which are home to a large number of US expats of retirement age due to the warm weather and island life, coupled with excellent infrastructure.

Benefits of Americans Retiring in Spain

One of the key benefits of Americans retiring in Spain is its rich quality of life.  

Modern infrastructures Modern infrastructures
Rich history and art Rich history and art
Gorgeous beaches Gorgeous beaches
Cheap living costs Cheap living costs

How are Americans retiring in Spain?  

If you want to retire in Spain, Spain’s Golden Visa program is an excellent option. The program invites non-EU citizens to apply for the program and obtain residency permits in a short timeframe in exchange for a qualifying investment.  

The most common way to get a Golden Visa is to make a Spanish real estate investment of at least €500,000. This will secure you a second home along with a Spanish residency permit. It includes the option of buying a multi-unit property, in which you can rent out the additional units to boost your monthly income or to pay off your initial investment. 

US Social Security is another way to gain residency in Spain through the Spain Non-lucrative Visa, which necessitates a minimum monthly income of just over €2,400. You can then apply for permanent residency after five years and Spanish citizenship after ten years (providing you meet certain conditions).

Take a look at our
Spain Golden Visa ultimate Guide by local experts

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Greece

In seventh place, Greece scores 76.86 out of 100 as one of the best places in the world to retire to.

top nation to retireThe following categories scored: 

  • Housing: 70
  • Healthcare: 82
  • Cost of living: 84
  • Climate: 68

One of the smaller countries in Europe but with profound historical significance, it should come as no surprise that Greece features on the list of top retirement destinations. Adding to the appealing aspect of its profound history, the country comprises three island groups in the Mediterranean Sea made up of stunning islands, offering a more laid-back island lifestyle than other Western European countries. 

The country is one of the few in the European Union offering a Golden Visa. American expats can become legal residents in Greece by investing in real estate in the capital city of Athens, in other major cities, or on small islands.

Furthermore, it’s one of the best tax-free retirement countries to invest in abroad, as you can receive a renewal permit granting permanent residency while paying an annual tax fee instead of income tax through the Greece Non-Dom Tax regime.

You can consult our article on the Greece Golden Visa for more information.

France

In eighth place for the top countries to retire in the world, France scores an overall 75.43 points from 100.

The following categories scored:  

  • Housing: 64
  • Healthcare: 84
  • Cost of living: 56
  • Climate: 82

In France, a slower pace of life is the norm. Rich European culture, world-famous art, theatre, and museums ensure expats never get bored in this European country. On top of this, foreign residents enjoy excellent wine, cheese, and gastronomy, so it’s no surprise that many American expats seeking retirement in the European Union choose to secure second homes for retirement in France.

If you come from a big city and would rather maintain a swift pace of life, major cities like Paris may fit the bill, while regions like Provence and the French Riviera provide an environment and lifestyle that most retirees dream of having.

Italy

In seventh place, Italy scored 73.57 points out of 100.

countries with mild winters for retirementThe following categories scored:  

  • Housing: 62
  • Healthcare: 80
  • Cost of living: 88
  • Climate: 70

If Western Europe is your chosen retirement destination, Italian regions like Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany are fantastic for American retirees seeking a cost of living when they retire abroad. Additionally, this European country offers excellent cuisine, a national health service, and a temperate climate for comfortable living.

Every region of Italy has something to offer to suit a wide range of preferences. Tuscany presents the most traditional and classical Italian experience, Abruzzo provides an unspoiled atmosphere for American retirees looking for a quiet and off-the-beaten-path life, while Sardinia transports foreign residents to the Caribbean through its white-sand beaches and azure-colored waters.

Italy is amongst the easiest countries to retire to as well, with multiple options for residency available. Another European country with a Golden Visa program, American retirees can gain a renewable residence permit by investing at least €250,000 through one of a range of investment options.

A pension income and Social Security can also present the opportunity to retire abroad in Italy. The Italy Elective Residence Visa is available to foreign nationals earning a minimum income of around €32,000 annually from US Social Security.

You can read more in our article on the Italian Golden Visa.

Thailand

In tenth place for the top countries to retire in the world, Thailand scored 73.57 points from 100.

top retirement countries with national parksThe following categories scored:  

  • Housing: 62
  • Healthcare: 76
  • Cost of living: 96
  • Climate: 58

Many countries in Southeast Asia are ideal for expats seeking an affordable cost of living abroad. Living expenses, including private health insurance and housing costs, are incredibly cheap and affordable for US retirees in Thailand.

For just $350 per month, you can get a premium apartment for rent in bustling cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with utilities, gourmet restaurant meals, and transport also being very cheap. Living among Thai people is a dream, too, as they’re known to be very welcoming as well as respectful of the privacy of foreign residents.

This adds to Thailand’s reputation as a safe country and one of the best retirement destinations for expats who want a quiet life. The country’s healthcare system is highly rated, and private insurance provides access to technologically advanced medical services.

Thailand is also an excellent base for travel, sporting a diverse tropical ecosystem consisting of many islands with unique landscapes and features.

Being in Central Asia, flights to neighboring countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore can be found for as little as $40. Furthermore, its popularity as a tourism destination provides direct flights to the US.

Our Global Passport Index

top retirement locations for americans

Global Citizens Solutions’ pioneering Global Passport Index measures passports not only visa-free access to other countries but also takes into account investment opportunities and quality of life factors. 

For US citizens looking at retiring abroad, it is worth seeing where each of these counties ranks on our index and other suitable countries that could be excellent retirement options.

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 the Best Retirement Countries for Americans

What study looked into the top ten best countries to retire to as an American?

International Living conducted a study in January 2023, collecting surveys from American expats all over the world. Results, measured by the categories elected, came up with a shortlist of the top ten best countries to retire to as an American.

How can I retire in Europe?

Both Spain and Portugal offer popular Golden Visas schemes where you can get European residency in a few short months, provided that you make a qualifying investment first. For example, you can buy a home in Spain for €500,000 and gain a Spanish residence permit.

In Portugal, investment options start from €250,000. After five years, you can apply for permanent residency or qualify for a Portuguese passport.

What’s the best country for US expats to retire to?

According to various studies, including International Living, Portugal is ranked as the best country for US expats to retire to. Its friendly population, welcoming community of American expats, excellent weather, quality healthcare system, and affordable cost of living are all big draws for American retirees.

You can move to Portugal for retirement by investing at least €250,000 in the country through its Golden Visa program or by applying for the D7 Visa program through a monthly income earned from Social Security.

What’s the best place for us expats to retire in Central America?

The best place for US expats to retire in Central America is Costa Rica due to its warm climate, good safety records, quality private insurance, and renowned retirement visa program providing significant discounts for retirees.

What’s the best place for US expats to retire in Southeast Asia?

In Southeast Asia, the best place for US expats to retire is Thailand due to its thriving expat community, warm weather, affordable cost of living, and access to a quality healthcare system. 

What’s the best place for US expats to retire in South America?

The best place for US expats to retire in Latin America is Ecuador. The higher altitude of cities like Cuenca provides a warm climate without the extreme heat. Ecuador is also considered one of the best countries to retire abroad for Americans, as pensioners can access discounted flights to the US through the country’s retirement visa program.

What are some other best countries for us expats to retire in?

Some of the best countries for US expats to live and retire abroad include countries like Cyprus and Malta, and Caribbean countries like Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada. Cyprus and Malta both offer permanent residency through renewable permanent residence permits in exchange for investment. Caribbean countries like Dominica, and St Kitts and Nevis have citizenship by investment programs, granting citizenship to US expats who invest a minimum sum in their economy. 

Where is the best and cheapest place to retire in the world?

The cheapest place for US expats to retire to is Colombia due to its low requirement of just $774 in monthly income to qualify for a retirement visa. Other countries like Thailand have low housing costs with monthly rent under $400.

Where is the safest place to retire in the world?

The safest place for US expats to retire to is Iceland due to its low crime rate and small-town feel, as well as unparalleled equality and good relations with other countries. 

Can a US citizen retire abroad?

US citizens can retire abroad, and many choose to do so for various reasons, such as lower living expenses, favorable climates, or a desire for new cultural experiences. Retiring abroad, however, involves taxes, healthcare, and legal requirement considerations.

American citizens are required to file taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regardless of where they live. Challenges may arise when accessing healthcare, particularly in nations where English isn’t prevalent, or the healthcare system differs significantly from that of the United States. 

Nonetheless, with careful planning and thorough research, many US retirees find rewarding experiences abroad. Several countries extend concessions and streamline immigration processes, facilitating seamless assimilation for US retirees and ensuring a stress-free migration experience. 

What are the downsides of retiring abroad?

Retiring abroad offers many privileges for Americans who take the plunge; however, it can come with potential downsides, including: 

  • Challenges of adapting to a new culture and lifestyle, which can be particularly daunting for those unaccustomed to significant changes. 
  • Healthcare disparities as access and quality can vary, and navigating foreign healthcare systems may prove complex 
  • Being far from family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation and homesickness 
  • Legal complexities, such as residency requirements, unfamiliar legal systems, and remittance of pension income 

What is the best country for retirees?

The Netherlands is often considered the best country to retire due to its ranking as having the best retirement system, according to the Mercer CFA Institute Global Pension Index 2023. The Dutch social security system provides financial support, and the pension system is well-established, offering financial stability for retirees.

Additionally, the Netherlands is known for its bike-friendly cities, well-maintained public spaces, and a strong sense of community, enabling a healthy and active lifestyle for retirees. 

Where do the happiest American retirees live?

The “happiest” place for American retirees can be subjective, as individual preferences vary when retiring abroad. Various surveys and studies, such as the Mercer CFA Institute Global Pension Index and the US News and World Report, have highlighted countries that consistently rank high regarding happiness and well-being for retirees. 

The most popular retirement destinations for happiness include Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, New Zealand, and Costa Rica. 

What are the best retirement destinations for singles?

Countries with vibrant cultural scenes and diverse social activities often appeal to single retirees. Cities like Lisbon in Portugal offer a history, affordable living, and a mild climate with abundant rich cultural experiences and social activities for seniors. Thailand is another popular destination for many retirees with its low cost of living, pristine beaches, expat-friendly atmosphere, and cultural attractions. Costa Rica is recognized for its pleasant climate, good infrastructure, and numerous beach towns with large American retiree communities. 

How do you decide which country to live in?

Many expats living in countries like Canada and Japan prioritize quality of life, while others prefer to retire in the cheapest and safest countries, such as Hungary, Romania, Chile, and Mongolia. Some retirees prioritize affordable healthcare when choosing a place to live.

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