The 10 best places to retire overseas today, as reported in our just-released 2014 Retire Overseas Index, are:
#10: Istanbul, Turkey
Megacity Istanbul straddles the shores of both Europe and Asia and is the only city to have been a capital to both Christian and Muslim empires, as evidenced, inside its great Roman walls, by an architectural legacy like nothing else anywhere on earth. Though not the country’s capital, Istanbul is Turkey’s beating heart, offering the best of any European capital city, from lattes to the latest Hollywood releases in English, but with an edge and an energy that can be lacking in Continental Europe. Istanbul is a place to watch the world go by beneath a skyline of minarets and modern office blocks while ships from across the globe pass up and down the Bosphorus.
The best part is that this world-class city is also exceedingly affordable, perhaps the best place in the world to enjoy the best of city living on a budget. A couple could retire here on a budget of as little as US$1,100 per month.
#9: Panama City Beaches, Panama
The most developed, established, and fully appointed beach community in Panama is what’s referred to as the “City Beaches” area, those Pacific coast beaches that lie one to two hours west from Panama City. This fast-growing region offers a high-quality beach lifestyle with all the amenities and services you could want. Coronado town has developed into a busy commercial center that makes for a turn-key retirement choice, and, indeed, this is the direction this former weekend retreat is evolving, into a full-fledged retirement community with an established population of full-time foreign residents supported by a developed infrastructure, including good medical facilities.
Plus, Panama uses the U.S. dollar, international-standard health care is nearby in Panama City, and Panama’s pensionado retiree residency program is one of the world’s best.
#8: Abruzzo, Italy
It’s hard to think of a lovelier corner of Italy than the Abruzzo. The beaches are golden, and the sea rolls out like a giant bolt of turquoise silk. There are mountains, too, meaning that, living here, you’d have both skiing and beach-combing on your doorstep, depending on the season.
This region is one of Italy’s secret treasures. No overcrowding, no heavy industry, only castles, vineyards, and villages made of stone. Life in the Abruzzo hasn’t changed much over the years, and exploring here is like wandering into a gentler, kinder yesterday.
This region of Italy is also one of Europe’s best bargains. A couple could retire here on as little as US$2,000 per month or less, including rent.
#7: Medellin, Colombia
Medellin is a city of parks and flowers, pretty, tidy, and, despite its checkered past, safe. It’s also architecturally consistent and pleasing. Most every building is constructed of red brick and topped with red clay roof tiles. The overall effect is delightful.
Medellin is both an industrial, economic, and financial center for this country and a literary and artistic one. Newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, an annual book fair, and, back in 1971, Colombia’s answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon, all have chosen Medellin as their base.
Thanks to its mountain setting, Medellin is another of a handful of cities around the world that bills themselves as lands of eternal springtime. The cost of living is affordable, though not super-cheap. The medical care is excellent, with 5 of the 35 best hospitals in Latin America located here.
The European undertones in Medellin are strong, from the way the women dress to the way people greet you in passing on the street. This is South America, not Central America, and the differences between the two regions can be striking.
Medellin was named 2013’s World’s Most Innovative City and is finally beginning to shed its bad-boy image from Pablo Escobar days and to become appreciated for the romantic city it is, with good wines, great coffee, outdoor cafes, and open-air music venues.
#6: Pau, France
The city of Pau, also known as the “Green City” and the “Garden City,” has one of the highest ratios of greenery per square meter per person of any European city. Further, Pau’s greenery is tremendously diverse and includes trees and plants from Japan, the Caribbean, Mexico, Lebanon, the Mediterranean, Chile, and California, this huge variety in part thanks to the English settlers who came here after the Napoleonic wars and brought with them their love of gardening and parks.
Pau’s is a landscape of accessible woodlands, the steep slopes of Jurançon wine country, the history-packed Plaine de Nay and its main town of Nay, and the pretty rolling countryside and ancient towns of the Gaves de Béarn. Pau is a university town, with close to 12,000 university students living on and off campus, helping to keep it lively.
The retiree who has dreamt of France but who can’t afford Paris should consider Pau. A couple could retire here on as little as US$2,000 per month.
#5: Dumaguete, Philippines
In addition to its welcoming, friendly, English-speaking people, Dumaguete boasts a warm, tropical climate and lots of opportunity for outdoor adventures, including world-class diving and snorkeling and whale and dolphin watching.
Dumaguete sits right along the ocean, with attractive beaches to the north and south of town. This is also a university city, meaning an abundance of inexpensive restaurants that cater to “starving” college students. Foreigners have the opportunity to make friends with educated professors and aspiring students, take classes, and enjoy cultural opportunities not typically found elsewhere in the Philippines, including theater, ballet, art shows, and libraries.
Medical and dental care are good, with a new hospital under construction and international-standard health care available in nearby Cebu.
More than 5,000 retirees, including many Americans, have decided to make Dumaguete their permanent home. The primary appeal for the would-be retiree is a super-low cost of living; a couple could retire here on as little as US$1,000 per month.
#4: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai has been luring expats from the West for many years with its low cost of living and great weather. The high-quality health care and health-related services are also big pluses for foreign retirees. Chiang Mai boasts modern infrastructure and an abundance of Western amenities. It’s also a place where it can be possible for foreign retirees to find work if they’re interested in supplementing their retirement nest eggs or simply looking to become involved in their new community; many Westerners are employed in Chiang Mai in language schools, universities, medical facilities, and tourist-related industries.
#3: George Town, Malaysia
George Town is a busy, thriving city with a large expat community that has managed to retain its colonial charm (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The city is affordable, with a tropical climate, an intriguing culture, and gorgeous white-sand beaches.
George Town’s total population is about 740,000, small enough that it’s easy to make friends and meet people, yet big enough to mean health care that meets international standards and easy availability to goods and services most retirees are looking for. Year-round sunshine, First World infrastructure, turn-key permanent residency, and English-speaking locals make the living here easy. This is a paradise for food lovers and, all things considered, one of the most livable cities in Southeast Asia.
#2: Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca is a charming, walkable colonial city in the highlands of Ecuador, meaning the climate year-round is spring-like. The cost of living is low (though rising) and the cost of real estate is near rock bottom for Latin America. The health care is high quality, honest, and inexpensive. Cuenca’s large and growing expat community is one of Latin America’s most established and well integrated with the local community. Ecuador offers user-friendly retiree residency options, and the country uses the U.S. dollar, meaning no exchange-rate risk for American retirees.
Thanks to the big and growing expat community based here, downtown Cuenca boasts cafes, restaurants, bars, and bookshops alongside the traditional butchers, tailors, repair shops, and bakeries. Cuenca is also the country’s center of art and literature; you can attend the orchestra or a play, enjoy a tango show or an art opening, all often free.
#1: Algarve, Portugal
Portugal’s Algarve is top pick for the best places to retire overseas in 2014. This Atlantic coastal region is already home to more than 100,000 resident expat retirees and offers the best of the Old World, from medieval towns and fishing villages to open-air markets and local wine, plus some of Europe’s best beaches.
The Algarve also boasts great weather, enjoying 3,300 hours of sunshine per year, more than most anywhere else in Europe.
Portugal ranks as the 17th safest country in the world. The infrastructure is good and improving, and the health care is international-standard. Medical tourism is a growing industry.
The cost of living in Portugal is among the lowest in Western Europe. A retired couple could live here comfortably on a budget of as little as US$1,500 per month. And the country’s new Non-Habitual Resident and Golden Visa programs mean it is easier than it’s ever been for a foreign retiree to arrange legal residency.
Editor’s Note: To read more, check out the 2014 Retire Overseas Index, which rates and ranks the world’s top 21 retirement havens.