After thousands of miles of boots-on-the-ground reconnaissance, decades of experience, and countless feedback from retirees, here are the top countries I’d like to put on your radar if you are truly looking for the best places to live overseas.
These are all affordable, safe, and, frankly, incredible places to spend time.
Beach haven, Old World village, exotic escape—no matter what kind of lifestyle you seek, you’ll find the world’s best places to live abroad among these countries…
An English-speaking Caribbean escape that values independence… this is an adventure wonderland with rain forests, reefs, Mayan ruins, rivers and waterfalls. Belize also offers a lot of what many tourists, retirees, and investors are looking for: sandy beachfront, both along its mainland coast and encircling its offshore cays. Prices for a bit of sand on quintessentially Caribbean Ambergris Caye, are very affordable by Caribbean standards, and there is an active and vibrant community, trendy restaurants, expat-run cafes, and lively beach bars.
Belize offers one of the best residency programs you can find.
A sunny and surprisingly affordable European destination, and home to our #1 choice for World’s Best Retirement Haven. This is one of the most popular expat destinations in the world, meaning you could easily get by on English alone. Portugal ranks as the 17th safest country in the world.
You’ll enjoy beautiful white-sand beaches throughout the country… almond trees in the African-looking Algarve region… fields of golden wheat in Alentejo, ranches in Ribatejo… ox-driven carts across Minho… and vineyards in Douro. The country is rich with artistic and cultural treasures, tasty cuisine, and a unique architectural style (called Manueline).
A quintessential Caribbean, sand-fringed island nation with a low cost of living and the best values in the region… It’s the best of island living with the opportunity to take in an opera, go to the game, get in a round of golf, or indulge in some retail therapy. This country also boasts one of the best residency and citizenship programs we’ve ever known. The Dominican Republic residency program is as good as you can find anywhere. The process is simple and fast. The pensionado visa can be obtained in under two months and comes with tax benefits and other perks. It’s affordable too. If you can prove an income of more than US$1,500 per month, plus another US$250 per dependant, you qualify.
After years of an unfair stigma, this country is finally emerging as one of the great expat and investment destinations… Specifically Medellín—a European-feel city with a Latin American cost of living… a personal favorite and part-time home for me and my family.
If you are looking to improve your health and overall well-being, then you should consider relocating to Colombia for many reasons—specifically, high-quality food and produce, readily available gyms, yoga studios, and public parks, extremely affordable health care, access to inexpensive alternative medicines and treatments, great climate, and lower stress.
The cost of living in this country is likewise very diverse. You could live here, comfortably, on less than US$1,000 a month… or you could live on US$6,000 or US$7,000 per month or more in Bogotá, for example. Depending on whether you live like a local or not, Colombia offers a standard of living that competes with the best available anywhere, including a truly First World, luxury-standard kind of living.
France is the perfect place for retirees. Moving here takes an adjustment to a much slower pace of life. There are vibrant expat communities in many parts of France, including Pau, Bordeaux, and Saint-Chinian to name a few. These communities are welcoming and make the transition to the other side of the world much less daunting.
The world’s best health care, the world’s most beautiful city, and more affordable than you might think, especially thanks to a weak euro.
France isn’t a budget destination, but it doesn’t need to be as expensive as you may expect. Living in the center of Paris is going to cost you, but in certain arrondissements, renting or buying an apartment is cheaper. Venture out of the capital into other cities or towns, and the cost of property drops dramatically.
Taxes in France are high, which adds to the cost of living here. In return for these high taxes, you are rewarded with (almost) free health care and some of the best infrastructure in the world. Utilities and day-to-day living in France can be a bargain compared to the States. Enjoying high-quality, locally produced food and eating out in restaurants is affordable.
Your dream of la dolce vita is more affordable than you think. Our top regions here are affordable, coastal, and nearby to nearly everything. Relocating to Italy means regularly dining on homemade pasta, delicately folded tortellini, fresh cheese, organic produce, and excellent local wine. The cost of living in Italy is impressively low, especially compared to the States or Canada. The exact cost depends on where you decide to settle. Bigger cities like Rome, Milan and Venice are the most expensive destinations. Do a little bit of research, and you will find other regions which you may never have heard of before, such as Popoli or Puglia, which can offer a higher quality of life for a much lower price.
Although Italy has one of themost highly ranked health care systems in the world according to the WHO, it is not uniform across the country. Foreigners with valid visas are entitled to the same public health care access and treatments as Italian citizens. Private medical insurance is mandatory if you are a non-EU citizen applying for residency. Read our article on health care in Italy for a more detailed account of how the health system works for foreigners.
Accessible, affordable, and home to an array of diverse lifestyle options. Mexico offers lots of options and opportunity for the expat. This is a big, extraordinarily diverse country that offers two long coasts, mountains, and colonial cities… not to mention Mayan ruins, jungle, rain forest, rivers, and lakes. This is the most popular overseas haven for Americans, and well more than 2 million U.S. and Canadians live here at least part-time (and for a good reason).
Retiring in Mexico has always been a top choice for North Americans. Mexico offers many of the benefits of back home, without much of the hassle. The need to be close to children and grandchildren might detract some from Europe, Asia, and even South America, but not Mexico. Trips back and forth to the U.S. are quick and easy.
You can retire in Mexico whether you are on a budget or trying to live out your dreams on a well-established nest egg. The average Social Security retirement check for is still less than $1,400 per month. So, even at the high end of the spectrum, many couples can live in Mexico on one person’s Social Security.
A would-be retiree would have no trouble enjoying life here… there is a large and established expat community, plenty of golf courses, and all the services and amenities that an expat could want. Beyond these attractions, Thailand boasts excellent health care (sometimes one-fifth the cost of U.S. health care) and easy retirement visa options.
The real kicker though, is the price. Thailand is arguably the cheapest place on Earth to live well. While affordable luxury is available, you can live on a very modest budget, thanks to US$1 pad thai lunches and US$11-a-night hotels (including breakfast and free WiFi).
An established haven for foreign investors and expats with great beaches, markets, restaurants, attractions, and fiestas… we’ve got the intel on the best places for expats and investors. Spain tops the list of the most popular destinations for relocating, investing, and retiring overseas.
Spain could be your Old World dream come true… especially if budget is a concern. You could live or retire well in this country on a budget of as little as US$1,500 per month.
The world’s #1 haven when considering lifestyle, retirement, and investment altogether. The cost of living in Panama has increased in recent years. However, it remains a bargain compared to the States.
Beyond having top-notch healthcare facilities, other benefits include using the U.S. dollar, local health insurance is a bargain, it’s easy to get a retiree visa, and retirees living here enjoy lots of special discounts and perks. This is truly a “do-everything haven,” and it’s where I’ve chosen to call home. From the modern capital city to the Caribbean archipelago, this place has something for everyone. Panama is blessed with beautiful islands, ample coastline beaches, mountain retreats, and colonial towns.
The trouble is, if I’m being honest, this list doesn’t help you.
Overseas Opportunity LetterSincerely, Kathleen Peddicord Founding Publisher,