Retirement Planning, Elder Law, and Senior Finance

5/28/2021 | By Annie Tobey

As we get closer to retirement, many of us as baby boomers ponder the possibility of living abroad. As the commitments to career and childrearing ease, the sirens are calling! The world is chock full of desirable places to retire, so we’ve narrowed the list to 10 best places to retire abroad.

Choosing the 10 best places to retire abroad

Individual preferences vary as widely as the culture, climate, and geographic highlights of the world. With that in mind, we’ve isolated the essentials – safety and cost of living – while offering a diversity of distinctive destinations. Two requirements were safety and cost of living.

Safety: Few want to live in a fortress and worry about safety during retirement years. With one minor exception, noted below, these countries all rank as very safe, according the U.S. State Department. If the State Department warns against terrorism, kidnappings, civil unrest, armed conflict, or significant crime, that country is not on this list!

Cost of living: We chose moderately priced destinations, not the absolute cheapest (which often have issues with crime) or the most expensive.

Deciding Where to Retire Abroad: Choosing the Best Option for You

Our choices: 10 best places to retire abroad

New Zealand: Land of contrasts

Untamed wilderness, towering mountains, mist-cloaked fjords, thriving wildlife, golden beaches. Rich culture, small towns, hospitable locals, laid-back charm. Indigenous Māori tradition, museums, and performing arts. This South Pacific country is diverse, beautifully rugged, and outdoor-loving with a generous dose of culture.

Weather varies from warm subtropical weather in the north to frigid alpine areas in the south, with coastal areas offering mild temperatures year-round. New Zealand’s southern hemisphere location makes it an ideal snowbird retreat, offering eternal summer (or winter, if that’s your jam).

Cost of living is equivalent to the states and British English, with a sprinkling of Māori, is widely spoken.

Taiwan: Affordable, exotic, and welcoming

The contrast between Asian and American culture can make the transition thrilling – or intimidating. If you’re open to the differences, you can find plenty of Asian destinations that are affordable, exotic, and welcoming – including Taiwan.

For a big-city retirement, the country’s capital, Taipei, presents a mix of the Jetsons meet the Flintstones, innovation and history. The city’s technology reflects the future. Architecture and culture reflect the city’s long history.

Taiwan is clean, safe, and attractive. The comforts, cost of living, accessible medical system, friendly locals, and amenities will quickly win you over.

Vietnam: A thousand miles long, and even more opportunities

The exuberance is palpable in Vietnam, and living is affordable and safe. The French fingerprint from years of occupation can be seen in architecture, sidewalk bistros, tree-lined streets, and cuisine. People are polite, friendly, and welcoming; the country has the most progressive LGBTQ laws in Southeast Asia. This gorgeous country boasts 2,000 miles of beachfront, plus scenic mountains, stunning karst towers, fertile rice paddies, and bustling cities.

Many Vietnamese speak English. Expats can be found in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang, Vung Tau, and Hue. The country stretches 1,000 miles north and south, so climate varies from four distinct seasons to tropical.

Thailand is one of the Best Places to Retire Abroad
Floating market in Thailand

Thailand: Bustling, laidback, historic

Are you looking for a beautiful, bustling seaside resort or tropical island to call home? Thailand has your number. How about a small coastal village, with reasonable prices and a slower pace of life? Thailand has that, too. Or a big city, bustling with life and activities? Bangkok is for you. Or an affordable historic walled city that embraces local traditions and culture plus modern amenities? Chiang Mai, in Thailand’s mountainous north, is a favorite of expats.

Especially in urban areas, the people are tolerant, including gay friendly. And the food, popular worldwide, is already familiar to most visitors.

Tropical Thailand is affected by summer and winter monsoons, with six months of wet season, three months of dry and cooling winter breezes, and three months of summer heat.

Greece: Classic and inspiring

While the country oozes with ancient history, modern Greece affords a relaxed lifestyle of amazing year-round weather, delightful food, and friendly locals. The country’s beauty includes dazzling, whitewashed buildings and Mediterranean architecture, rugged coastline, mountain grandeur, and sparkling beaches. Greece also offers an array of diverse activities: swimming, skiing, wildlife spotting, forest hiking, and city exploring of museums, cafés, and shops.

Tourists flock have long flocked to Greece – especially Athens and historic ruins. However, plenty of countryside and off-the-beaten-path sites lie removed from the bustle of wandering visitors and offer more affordable living.

Malta is one of the Best Places to Retire Abroad
Marsaxlokk, Malta

Malta: Embraced by Mediterranean beauty

“Malta blends the best of southern-European graciousness with one of the best qualities of life to be found in Europe,” says expat Mary Charlebois. “First-world standards of service and infrastructure, a wealth of historical and architectural treasures from its eons of history, and the sparkling Mediterranean.” Plus, Malta’s location provides a perfect launch point for travel to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

The lifestyle is peaceful, healthful, and quiet – perfect for a laidback retirement. Fresh local ingredients are staples, from village markets, bakeries, fishmongers, greengrocers, cafés, and restaurants. Public transit trumps personal automobiles. Most Maltese speak English, simplifying navigation for newcomers.

Malta’s sea-kissed climate is pleasantly sunny. Summers are hot and dry, and winters are typically mild.

Portugal: Old World Europe and modern conveniences

Portugal blends cobblestone alleys and medieval town walls with updated infrastructure, public transit, health care, cultural activities, fine dining, and cafés. Outside of historic towns, the country boasts rugged Atlantic coastline and verdant hills cut with winding roads. The locals are relaxed, friendly, and courteous.

The country boasts 12 Biosphere Reserves, natural spaces that conserve landscapes, ecosystems, and fauna alongside sustainable living for people.

Two favorite relocation areas are Lisbon and Tavira. Historic Lisbon features classic architecture and modern culture. Tavira, in southern Portugal’s Algarve region, offers modern infrastructure alongside picturesque cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, azulejo tiles, and Renaissance architecture along with near-perfect weather. The surrounding region is laced with trails for exercise and exploration, including the Coastal Ecovia cycle route.

Dominican Republic: Peak to coast, deserts to rainforests

For such a relatively small country, the Dominican Republic has much to offer. In addition to more than 1,000 miles of coastline and beautiful Caribbean beaches, the landscape includes mountains, plains, deserts, and rainforests.

The Dominican Republic makes expat retirement easy. The government requires simply a stable, modest income. The low cost of living allows an American retiree to live comfortably. The number of expats eases adjustment to a new home and provides shades of the Western lifestyle. Favorite locations for expats include Santo Domingo and Santiago for city life, Puerto Plata for an affordable lifestyle, Las Terrenas and Samaná in the northeast peninsula, and Jarabacoa in the mountains.

The tropical maritime climate rounds out the country’s easy life; whether you’re on the beach or exploring the rainforests and mountains, it’s among the best places to retire abroad.

Costa Rica is one of the Best Places to Retire Abroad
Tropical jungle in Costa Rica

Costa Rica: A way of life

“Pura vida” – “pure life” – reflects Costa Ricans’ laidback, easygoing attitude. The country boasts stunning Caribbean beaches and picturesque beach towns in the east, mirrored along the Pacific Ocean in the west. Between the coasts, the beauty flows over rainforests, volcanoes, and wildlife-filled jungles, featuring natural hot springs, villages, and resorts. Those in search of big city attractions can find them in the Central Valley and San José.

“The country offers a great climate year-round, neighborly atmosphere, no-hassle residence programs, excellent healthcare, a stable democracy, and safety and security,” reports International Living. The report also touts the country’s affordability and friendly locals.

One of the original “blue zones” was identified in Costa Rica, where people live long, happy, and healthy lives. Given the abundance of fresh seafood and produce as well as the preferences for walking and biking, that’s no surprise. The country’s pura vida can be punctuated with outdoor adventures or simply chilling alongside nature’s showcases. Members of the LGBTQ community find a welcome, too, especially in Tico cities.

The weather is warm year-round, with a dry season (December to April) and a rainy season (May to November). Most Ticos speak only Spanish. Petty crime can be an issue, especially in the tourist areas, but simple, smart precautions keep you safe.

Belize: A little piece of paradise

Beautiful Caribbean beaches, the Mesoamerican barrier reef, and tropical jungles – Belize teems with outdoor opportunities. For outdoorsy lovers, it’s one of the best places to retire abroad! The country boasts distinctive ecosystems, wide biodiversity, and fascinating archaeological sites, including Mayan ruins and temples. The locals place little value on materialistic items, making living in Belize quite affordable.

The country welcomes expats who wish to become residents or open a business, and the people are warm and welcoming.

In winter, the temperature rarely falls below 60 degrees, while the summer is around 86 degrees. May ushers in the rainy season till November, while February to May see the dry season. Languages spoken include English (and plenty of it), Spanish, Creole, and Mayan dialects. Two favorite areas for resettling are Northern Belize and Ambergris Caye.

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey