Where’s the best place in the world to reposition yourself overseas in 2023?
The answers are found in our just-released Overseas Retirement Index.
This survey presents our selection of the top choices for spending time and money overseas this year.
It’s the 14th such survey in our history… but this year’s edition features some unprecedented results.
Here’s a sneak preview…
The #1 Place To Retire Abroad
If you’ve been following our publications for any time, you know that our long-time favorite overseas retirement destination has been Portugal… and for good reason.
Portugal checks every box for the would-be retiree overseas. Above all, Portugal features in our 2023 line-up of the world’s best places to retire.
However, this year we don’t rank Portugal number one.
Primarily the cost… both of living and especially of buying property.
Portugal is still a very affordable Old World choice… but it’s not the uber-cheap Euro option than it was when we began shining the spotlight on this country.
So… who has edged out Portugal in our rankings?
This year’s index names a brand-new winner… a place you may never have heard of.
Though Panama is by no means a new retirement haven, Chitré is a new addition to our roster of index destinations.
How is it that this little-known locale has not only been included among our selection of the world’s best places to retire but also surged to the top spot on the list?
Chitré is a small, safe, and community-minded town. It’s four hours from Panama City, located in the “interior” of the country (i.e., anywhere in Panama that isn’t Panama City).
Being anywhere outside of Panama City usually means that you don’t have easy access to the types of things that expats appreciate—great health facilities, banks, American-style grocery stores, nice cafés and restaurants, entertainment options, and so on…
Chitré is an exception to this rule.
All the amenities offered in the metropolitan area of Panama City, not to mention the abundance of casinos, banks, grocery stores, and hardware stores, can be found in this hidden paradise—a remarkable thing considering Chitré’s small size.
It’s part of the reason some people call Chitré “The Biggest Little City in Panama.”
Chitré’s other selling point is its warm, inviting culture. This is El Corazón De Panamá… The Heart Of Panama… and few other towns have preserved their traditions as well.
Folkloric festivals take place throughout the year with cabalgatas (horse parades), bailes típicos (traditional dances), and women dressed in Panama’s traditional attire, la pollera.
The festivals, the Spanish-colonial architecture, and the ranchers working Brahman cattle on horseback give you a sense of what life was like on the Azuero Peninsula decades ago.
About 500 people from the United States, Canada, and other Latin American countries live in Chitré.
They’re not just retirees. Safety and access to exceptional schools make Chitré one of Panama’s best places to raise a family.
The expat lifestyle here is in stark contrast to the one on offer in Panama’s biggest expat haven, Boquete, where foreigners make up a large percentage of the population, prices are sky-high, and the town caters to English speakers.
Chitré is far more authentic. You’ll live side-by-side with locals and become immersed in Panamanian culture. Your neighbors and friends will be Panamanian; you’ll celebrate Panamanian festivals and take part in their traditions.
That’s not to say you’ll have trouble finding other expats or expat gatherings. In Chitré, you can live fully in both worlds.
Because it’s largely undiscovered, Chitré is one of the most affordable places to live in Panama. A couple could get by on about US$600 per month, though we recommend having more than this available for the most comfortable, well-rounded lifestyle possible.
The affordability of Chitré includes its property prices, too. Beachfront property can be purchased for shockingly low amounts—up to 35% less than the value price. This is also a land of opportunity for investors.
The beach is never far—Playa Monagre and Playa El Rompío are only a few miles outside downtown Chitré.
And Chitré is growing steadily, especially in the health care sector, making this an ideal destination for senior citizens, individuals with health concerns or disabilities, families with small children, or anyone else needing high quality medical care within a few minutes’ drive.
Again, Panama’s popularity as a retirement haven is long-standing. It offers a top-tier retirement visa, it uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, it’s about as friendly as it gets when it comes to taxes, and it’s well-connected to the United States and Canada in terms of flights.
Buoyed by revenue from the Canal among other mega-infrastructure projects, Panama stands out in a global context for how stalwart and stable it is.
This is a good place to be during times of economic uncertainty. Some have even called Panama recession-proof.
For these reasons, Panama always features in the annual Overseas Retirement Index…
But despite how long we’ve been covering this country, it still holds surprises.
That’s what Chitré is to us: a happy and welcome surprise.
If you’re looking for a clean, safe, community-minded town with the amenities of a much larger city… where the cost of living is low… and the local culture is inviting and authentic… your dream life awaits you in Panama’s heartland.
Which Other Destinations Came Out On Top?
First Runner-Up: Tavira, Portugal
Tavira is a charming, traditional town in Portugal’s Algarve region. It’s widely known as the most authentic and beautiful in southern Portugal.
The Algarve has come in first place in our annual index more often than any other destination. It offers everything the would-be retiree could want:
- Near-perfect weather and sunshine year-round
- An established and welcoming expat community
- High-quality medical facilities
- An affordable cost of living for a high quality of life
- Rich opportunities for fun and adventure, especially for nature lovers
- English is widely spoken
- Well-developed infrastructure
- Easy access to the United States and Europe
The Algarve is tough competition when it comes to determining the best place in the world to retire, and it was neck and neck with Chitré in this year’s rankings…
Chitré inched ahead by providing a more stable environment in the face of economic uncertainty, among other reasons. But Tavira (the winner of our 2021 Overseas Retirement Index) continues to be an excellent option.
Found in the less-touristed eastern Algarve, Tavira has held onto its authenticity, both in terms of its culture and its cost of living. It features all the trappings of a traditional Algarvean town: cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, lacework chimney pots, and azulejo tiles.
If you want a view of the Algarve of centuries past, before the golf courses and beach resorts were put in, look no further.
Second Runner-Up: Medellín, Colombia…
Medellín is one of the world’s most livable cities thanks to its efficient public transportation system, friendly locals, ample green spaces, and a climate that most people describe as perfect. (An added bonus of the climate is low utility bills because you never have to heat or cool your home.)
With its vibrant art, music, and culinary scenes plus fun-loving locals, Medellín has a special energy that’s hard to resist. For example, there’s opera in season, theater, orchestra performances, major concerts, and festivals throughout the year. There are museums all over town as well as great shopping, fine dining, and nightclubs (even for the silver-haired crowd)…
No matter what your interests are, you’ll never be bored here.
Medellín’s diverse cosmopolitan offerings almost put it on par with the world’s top metropolises… Unlike comparable destinations, though, life in Medellín is inexpensive, particularly for retirees from North America. As a result, the U.S. dollar to Colombian peso exchange rate accentuates the already-low prices.
The Complete Rankings Of The 2023 Overseas Retirement Index
Here’s the complete list, ranked in order from first to last and including the final grades, of our picks for the world’s best places to spend time abroad in 2023.
|4.||Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus||A-|
|6.||Costa de la Luz, Spain||B+|
|9.||Sanur (Bali), Indonesia||B|
|10||Da Lat, Vietnam||B-|
Editor, Overseas Living Letter