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.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 2.67 out of 5)


  1. I do not understand why so many articles on the internet crow about sunny, tropical places to retire. I am looking for a place to semi-retire, but I hate hot weather and have no interest in living somewhere that has the typical insect life you find in tropical environments. Give me four seasons! Although I do not ski, I love snow! I'd love to see an article on Best 4-Season Places to Retire in the World. I guess I'll keep looking... [sigh].

    • Hey yeh NB,

      I imagine there are more than a few folks who agree with you. I do, mostly. I live in a few different countries and am always traveling to investigate new locations. Many resources online (International Living, for a prominent example, is a terrible resource for anyone wondering) are fixated on Yanks moving to Central and South American locations, so I've checked out several of them and will continue to do so. To my taste, they're nothing like cities in former-communist (I don't call CZ or HU eastern Europe) for value and quality of life. What's more, from Budapest or Prague, I can fly cheaply to Morocco or Israel or Dubai for some winter change of scenery. English proficiency even in, say, Montenegro is much higher than just about everywhere in Latin America. I do speak some foreign languages, but it's unlikely that my Hungarian will ever get so good that I can discuss news events, and so having friends in Budapest that speak English is helpful for me.

  2. How can this article live up to its title if you eliminate 5/7 of the continents before you even start? Then you quickly eliminate all but the smallest fraction of another 7th with prejudice before beginning your research?

    You should have called it "Three or Four Places that Might be Nice to Retire"

  3. Hello, I am looking for somewhere to retire. I have limited funds and would like to hear from anyone who has retired to Bali or chaing Mai in Thailand. I was wanting a place not too far from Australia where my family are. Any tips would be very valuable

    • I live in Thailand, and have done for many years, but I live in Bangkok, and honestly don't like Chiang Mai much. That would be a personal preference really, as I have heard from loads of people that love it.
      Cost of living in Thailand can be very low, depending if you are willing to integrate and eat local foods as well as western - the reason I say this is that western foods, imported from Oz and other places are not cheap, so a balance will allow a good range of foods while maintaining budgetary control.
      Housing is not expensive in comparison to Australia, and I would recommend that you rent for a while before attempting to buy - that gives you the option of trying a couple of different places, and also of seeing how well you like living here.
      One important point - Thailand, like several other places in Asia, does not allow foreign ownership of land. You can buy a condo, in a high rise, but not a house and land. There are ways to overcome this, but you need to speak to someone versed in this aspect of purchasing a home. I believe there are options to do long term leases as an alternative to buying a house, but check with people who know... I am only mentioning it so you are forewarned.
      Also there are some immigration requirements that need to be taken into account nowadays, as there is a retirement visa that you can get (over 50) but you need to have a verified minimum income from overseas each month of not less than 65,000 baht OR deposit 800,000 baht in an account in Thailand IN YOUR NAME. Without going into more details, again this is something you need to check out. Depending on how much you can afford, there is also a very special visa program called "Thailand Elite", which may suit. You will also need an approved health insurance cover too - which in any case is a good idea.

      Not trying to put you off at all - but better that you know some of the things to look out for first.

      All the best - Sawasdee Krup!

  4. i'm seriously considering a move to most probably central america, although i do hear the yucatan/guadalara parts of Mexico are fairly safe and stable. i also want a safe place and one where my partner can get the dialysis he needs. i'm going back and forth from one country to another.

    Most important
    1.Health care
    2. Safety
    3. Easy to fly to USA and of course, see my kids and grandkids

    i'm also thinking Panama, although other locations seem lovely.

    i'm also getting very, very confused.
    i guess i have to do a lot of travelling around before deciding on a permanent place. it will also give me time to learn the language.


  5. Uruguay legalized pot a few years ago, and cost of living is cheap. btw, I'm an expat with permanent resident visa in Europe. I visit the US and will until Mom dies, but it is not a country to raise kids in or retire in. I'm never returning, and my life has been great for the last 20 years. My kids don't have to wear Kevlar vests to schools, and cops are not ready to shoot me or them. I now tell strangers I am Canadian. I just have an aversion to police states and fascism.

    • I've been focussed on South America, but I'm glad to hear you've found Europe to your liking. Do you get by with English or have you picked up another language?

    • Hi Dleet,

      I'm considering Portugal, Eastern Europe, and Italy. How easy is it to get a permanent resident visa?


    • I like your comment. Where do you live in Europe? I am interested in finding someplace with a low cost of living, and I am thinking Portugal is worth a look. I also think about Denmark but I am sure that is very expensive. So if I live in Portugal or someplace like that, I can visit Demark, Sweden and Finland to taste the good life there.

  6. I have recently visited China and found it an amazing country. I'm considering retiring there. I do have a few incentives, but I will leave that private. Do you know of any blogs or websites I can find information to make such a move?

    • Sorry, but I don't know of any blogs specifically for China. Good luck with your search though and happy retirement!

    • Ben, you can check on youtube, where there's plenty of expats posting their experiences.

  7. When was this article written. For all I can tell, it could be 30 years old and woefully out of date.

    • The article is current in April 2015. Nothing has changed since it was first written not too long ago.

      • Well, I think Columbia is supposed to be safe now, so I too thought the article was out of date. Also, I was wondering why you didn't consider Mexico in your lists of places to retire? Thanks for posting.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.