Best Places to Retire in the World

Key to Retirement

I can only imagine how many people have ask themselves the question of where best to retire. I'm no different. In fact, I've been asking myself that question many times over the years. It has been my dream to not necessarily not work, but to simply have the option to not work. And, for me, part of that equation means finding a suitable place to retire.

Unfortunately, not even the likes of Google can answer the question correctly for everyone. The best you can you expect is a list of places which you can use as a basis for your own research. At least, that's the approach I took and I'm now zeroing in on some locations that sound great. How'd I get to this point? Read on...

Search Online

Yeah, Google is as good a place as any. Or Bing if you're so inclined. Beware though that sites peddling retirement services are out there ready to capitalize on your dream without necessarily caring if your dream actually comes true. Always remember the adage that if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Still, even these peddlers are going to be smart enough to pick countries that have something good going for them so they're helpful in pulling your initial list together.

Quick Elimination

I'm sure that, like me, you have some must-have criteria that you can use to eliminate most of the countries that come out of your initial online research. I had already decided that Europe, Africa, and Asia were out. Or to put it another way, I was interested only in North, Central, South America. This is my personal preference that isn't necessarily based on anything factual. In fact, I'd argue that many people could be quite happy in some parts of Europe which I've eliminated without a second thought.

The second pass at eliminating retirement countries was still pretty easy. Most of Canada was out because of the crappy weather. Only Vancouver was an option, but the cost of living on Canada's west coast is too high. Next up was the US. Like Canada, the west coast was of interest and based purely on weather some southern states seemed like potentials. Regardless, the costs in the US are typically too high or, where they are lower, there are other compromises I'm not interested in make e.g. living in the boonies. As for Mexico, just read the news for why it was tossed without much fanfare.

That left Central and South America. Now we're getting somewhere! Within Central America, Guatemala goes out because of safety concerns. Belize has just 340,000 people which to me suggests they don't have enough people to reach critical mass for the sort of infrastructure I'd like. El Salvador and Nicauragua don't get much attention on the net so out they go. Honduras is talked about, but too undeveloped for me. That leaves Panama and Costa Rica for my list.

In South America, I had no interest in Brazil or Venezuela (sometimes you just have to go with your gut). Columbia is obviously out for a gringo. Uruguay got plenty of mention in my research, but I wasn't impressed with the weather -- still it may be that some areas could be good. Chile sounded promising in part because of its good corruption score, but the cost of living was quite high. Other countries were also quickly eliminated leaving just Ecuador at the top of the list which also happens to be getting a lot of coverage in the best places to retire lists.

The Research Begins

So my top 3 countries ended up being Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador with Uruguay possibly a fourth. I've been to Costa Rica and I can attest to it being a good fit weather-wise. The west coast was particularly good. While planning the trip I learned that the capital, San Jose, wasn't a great place to be. Also, Costa Rica seems to have been "discovered" years ago and as such the cost of living has increased significantly. So out it went.

Panama City, the capital of Panama, was quickly removed from consideration with just a little research. It's a big city with big city problems including crime levels that weren't acceptable to me. However, I discovered a really strong contender, El Valle de Anton. This town is the destination of choice for many affluent Panamanians looking for a reprieve from the heat and humidity elsewhere in the country. There was also Boquette; another location at elevation with better weather than many other locations in Panama.

In Ecuador, the obvious place to start is the capital, Quito. Like Panama City, it suffers from too many negatives, especially for a gringo, that I wasn't willing to deal with. However, the third largest city, Cuenca, sounded attractive. Being up in the Andes, the weather would be even cooler and drier than El Valle, but from the initial research it would be within the acceptable range for me (plenty of sun, no snow).

How long did it take me to get to this point? A few weeks of occasional searching and reading. Now the really in-depth research is needed to ferret out the myths from reality and to pick the first country to visit for some on-the-ground observations.

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3 Comments

  1. Great points here. I consider social isolation alot. I suppose you'd have to get up to speed with the local language and make friends with the neighbours, locals and expats. My then boyfriend & I took our mountain bikes to costa rica, the bus to Arenal and cycled around Lake Arenal towards Puntarenas via Monteverde. Somewhere before we got to Monteverde we arrived in a small town and we ran into a group of US expats who invited us to a party. They all were super nice but I felt they were kind of insular too, and sensed a certain isolation. It made me realize that the social structure is very important. I also know people (an ex IBM programmer) who "escaped" to Invermere (Jumbo Glacier/Panorama area...good skiing) ... and his wife couldn't handle the isolation. They split up. I need to figure out where to jump and just do it, otherwise analysis paralysis.

  2. Marios, your fast track elimination is very short sighted. You are doing what everyone else does, so you will end up with the herd. The best places are those that are not promoted as retirement havens. Wherever the herd flocks, those places get ruined. Inflation kicks in, more regulations, more restrictions and less freedom... it becomes similar to where you left, but in a negative way. Something to consider.

    • That's a fair perspective. However, I'm pretty mobile and I actually have no qualms moving around as things change. I think the first move will also be the most enlightening and I actually see it as advantage to go somewhere that expat support from locals or other expats. If you can't make the move with support, good luck making the move elsewhere.

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