Q and A on Best Places for Single Women Retiring Overseas
“Kathleen, I was wondering which locations overseas are the most ‘women-friendly’?”
–Naomi C., United States
I would say that every destination on our Retire Overseas Index list qualifies as “women-friendly.” That said, I also admit that I can be a little cavalier on this point.
I’ve spent time in all the places on our survey list, as well as dozens of others, as a woman, traveling on my own and also, at times, with my children, including when they were very small. That experience makes me comfortable as a woman abroad, but I understand that a woman considering setting off overseas for the first time, on her own, can wonder just how realistic (or foolish) the idea might be.
First, do not let the fact that you are a single woman interfere with a plan to retire or relocate overseas. There is no reason it should.
Second, here’s a short list of destinations I’d say would be especially welcoming of a woman on her own:
“Kathleen, I am a single woman retired. Where would be the best place for me to retire out of the country? I have been looking at Panama and Belize any comments for me to consider?”
–Darlene W., United States
I generally recommend that a single woman considering the idea of reinventing her live in a new country focus on city options—Paris, Medellin, Barcelona, or Cuenca, for example. It’s easier to establish a personal infrastructure and to make friends in a city than in a small beach town or a sleepy mountain village.
That said, over the years I’ve known hundreds of single women who’ve made this kind of move, and, while many of them have focused on city choices, others have taken more independent paths. It’s more about who you are and what’s important to you than where’s best for a single lady.
“How safe and feasible is it to consider moving overseas if you are a single 63-year-old woman. Does that change my options? I have a US$3,500 monthly pension income and see myself in a small house in an area with mild temperatures but low humidity where I’d feel safe.
“I’ve been looking at various places in Ecuador and Panama but would also consider the Algarve in Portugal if it is not out of reach.
“How can I best focus my search? I find the more places I learn about the more confused I am getting!”
–Marilyn G., Canada
It can be daunting for anybody, regardless of gender, to take the step of moving overseas alone. But we know plenty of folks—including single women of retirement age—who have happily settled into a new life in a foreign country.
In most of the countries we write about, you’d be just as safe—if not safer—than in North America. And, you could enjoy a great lifestyle on half (or less) the budget you mention. So, yes, your options are many.
Don’t forget our Retire Overseas Conference is coming up soon in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a great way to help focus your search—and meet with experts and expats who can help you follow through.
“Kathleen, this is a comment for the 63-year-old lady who asked about the safety of retiring overseas. I’m 80 years old and have worked overseas since 1990. I get medical care overseas, travel in countries I don’t work in, and only return to the United States to visit friends and family.
“I have always felt safe overseas, made friends, and enjoyed my work and life. I think other cultures respect gray hair more than the United States. The flip side is you often get help you don’t need. But when you do need it, it’s readily available.
“This lady can enjoy a rich and beautiful life overseas. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge.”
–Renee S., Indonesia
“Kathleen, I really enjoy your site. I am currently living in Thailand. I am over 50. Trying to find a good place to retire where there may be some single men available. I think it would be a good topic for you to cover, as there are many places suitable for couples or for single men looking for Asian ladies, but what about us single girls looking for safe, cheap destinations where there may be hope of a nice dinner companion or for that matter a companion for old age!
“I have so many friends wondering where to go. So I thought I would turn to you for help. Where is good place for older single women to retire to find men?”
–Annie G., Thailand
We have received hundreds of emails from single women all over the world asking about the same thing. You are not alone.
It is harder on your own. Between my first marriage and my second (current) one, I was a single woman moving around the world a lot. I do understand that it’s easier with company.
Where, specifically, might a single gal consider? I wouldn’t approach it that way. I’d approach it as a married woman might. That is, start by identifying and prioritizing what’s important to you. What kind of lifestyle do you want? What kind of weather? What kind of neighbors? What’s your favorite thing to do on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon?
Start there. Allow the answers to those questions to back you into the kind of destination you should target. Once you’re clear in your own mind of the place where, ideally, you want to relocate, then, yes, you could (should) consider the options in that locale for male companionship and romance.
If you prefer city living and your budget allows, Paris could be a top option. A single woman in Paris would have many opportunities for connecting with interesting people of the opposite sex through expat clubs, language courses, arts societies, etc.
Any city with enough population to support those kinds of groups, clubs, and memberships could be a good choice. Puerto Vallarta, for example, could be a great coastal city choice and more affordable than Paris.
The burden, frankly, though, is going to fall to you. You’ll have to muster the courage, first, to make the move on your own…and, second, to get out and about in your new home once you’ve made it.
“Kathleen, I know this is a lot to ask, but if I retire abroad, I will be retiring alone. I need to know about the normal things–good inexpensive health care, safety, etc.–but, as a woman alone (not looking for a mate), my highest priority would be a community where I could make a lot of woman friends with whom I have a lot in common. Do you know of any such place?”
–Lisa O., United States
Indeed. Ajijic in Mexico is a well-established expat community where you’d likely find lots of like-minded (and like-sex) companionship. Boquete, Panama, could be a good choice, as well, for the same reasons. Both Ajijic and Boquete are also places where you could retire without having to learn a new language (if that’s a concern).
If low cost of living is not a big priority, Paris would be a great choice as many single expat women seek out new lives in the City of Light.
In the Caribbean, Belize, particularly Ambergris Caye, has a very close-knit, welcoming community of expats, including many single women and offering many options for ways to get involved and make friends.
“I am a 72 year old female, and I’m by myself. Where could I go and not worry being alone?”
–Louise C., United States
Paris is an ideal choice if your budget allows. You’ll find many retired Americans and plenty of English speaking groups to hook up with.
Avoiding the tourist areas can make Paris affordable, but if your budget still doesn’t allow it there are plenty of places in France that fit the bill. I recommend Languedoc.
A popular place for expat retirees, Languedoc also happens to be the home of the Languedoc-Roussillon Women’s International Club, likely a great place to meet friends.
If Europe is too far, and assuming you’re looking for plenty of fellow expats, you could also check out Boquete in Panama, or Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. Both places are teeming with North Americans, and you’d have no problem finding friends. Plus, you wouldn’t even need to learn Spanish.
“Kathleen, I arrived in Montevideo about six months ago, from San Francisco, California. I am 65, single, female, and am having a great adventure here. I really enjoy my new life, and I have found that since I took the plunge this first time that I am much more confident about doing another move and exploring another country at some time in the future.
“I have long been fascinated with Spain, Greece, and Italy. At least what I think are the lifestyles there. I also am aware of all their current troubles…which can bring opportunities, too.
“I love the absolutely wonderful people in Uruguay and the smallness of the country, but I find it to be more costly than I anticipated for everyday living…rent, electricity, restaurants, etc.
“I’m just so curious. It’s a big world, and, thanks to your newsletters, info, etc., I found the courage to move here. Thanks for that!”
–Caroline M., Uruguay
“Kathleen, thank you for your fine work. I enjoyed your Medellin conference very much and met some great people.
“I was impressed with Alice Doers’ recent comments published by you about single older women retiring overseas on their own. We could be twins. I was very surprised about the raw milk! I identified with all she said. She is very brave. We are in the same age bracket, as well.
“At home here in New Hampshire, there is no one to commiserate with about living overseas. No one understands. This is why your information is so very valuable.”
–Marie D., United States
“Kathleen, I am looking for a low-cost country to semi-retire in and was wanting to ask a few questions that haven’t been addressed in the Live and Invest Overseas publications.
“I have often thought of Ecuador or Uruguay. The few questions that came to mind were these. If I decided I wanted to pass some time with work, is an expat able to work part time in these countries and, if so, what are the requirements to do so? What is the minimum wage?
“Are there reputable real estate agents that would be able to give this newbie some suggestions or websites to look at properties for rent or for sale and where the safest and most economical locations would be for a single lady to relocate to, or is it not safe for a lady to consider this alone?
“I look forward to your advice for me. It would be greatly appreciated.”
–Diane W., United States
Ecuador and Uruguay are both good choices for a single lady considering a move like this.
These are also two countries where you could, in fact, find work. In Ecuador, you can work as a resident. You can in Uruguay, too, except that many positions are unionized and you’d need to join the union to take a job. A friend had to join the musicians’ union to play in the theater, for example.
However, remember that taking a local job you’d earn a local-level salary. You could make more money working for yourself, as a consultant, for example, or a freelance writer, if that’s something that interests you, or by setting up your own Internet-based business.
Our recommended real estate contact in Uruguay is Paul Reynolds. Our recommended real estate contact for Ecuador is David Morrill. Both are guys we’ve known and worked with for years and who have a lot of experience helping expats, especially Americans and including single lady Americans, shop for and purchase property in these countries.
“Where would you recommend I retire as a single woman on my own?”…
“We have two young children, both in elementary school. Which countries do you think would make most sense for us?”…
“We’re not ready to retire, but we are ready to make a move out of the United States. We’re in the market not for a retirement haven but for a place with opportunity for the entrepreneur. Any suggestions?”…
“I’m recently divorced. I want to take this change of status as a chance for a change of scenery, as well. I’m looking for a place where a middle-aged newly single guy like me could find companionship. The truth is, I liked being married, and I think I’d like to try it again. Given that, where do you think I should consider going?”…
“I’ll be retiring at the end of this year. I’ll have a small pension and Social Security. In total, about US$2,500 per month. My wife and I have been reading your writings for years, and we’ve decided that we want to give this a try. We’re going to do it. We’re going to retire somewhere outside the United States. But we don’t want anything too exotic. We appreciated your comments during your opening remarks about considering whether we want to retire among the locals or in a place where lots of other expat retirees are already living. Definitely, we want to be among other expats. Given our budget, what would you recommend?”…
Responding to these recent reader questions, I’ve recommended, in each case, two or three or four different choices that I thought could be worth considering, given the circumstances described. Along the way, I’ve noticed something: Panama has been among my suggestions every time.
Panama could be the closest thing right now to a one-size-fits-all haven.