World’s top retirement havens

From Super-Cheap To Luxury On A Budget–The World’s Top Retirement Havens For 2011

Our far-flung editors and correspondents are finalizing editorial calendars and travel schedules for the New Year. Here’s how our 2011 World’s Top Havens line-up is shaping up:

Super Cheap

#1: Nicaragua–In 2011, we’re going to re-focus our attention on one of our longtime favorite overseas havens. Little Nicaragua is more attractive than ever for one important reason: It’s a super cheap place to live.

First, Sandinista Daniel Ortega was re-elected to the presidency, scaring away foreign investors. Then U.S. housing markets collapsed, meaning would-be property buyers couldn’t leverage holdings back home to make their purchases in Nicaragua. This led to a collapse of Nicaragua real estate markets. Troubled times all around…leading, now, to renewed opportunity.

I’ve been a fan of this misunderstood country since my first visit nearly 20 years ago. Property values, especially for beachfront along the Pacific, reached bubble status last decade. Today they’re more realistic and more negotiable. Meantime, the cost of living has remained seriously low, and, last year, Nicaragua inaugurated a new-and-improved foreign retiree residency program.

For all these reasons, it’s time to put this country at the top of your super-cheap overseas retirement list.

#2: Ecuador–Well established as a top super-cheap choice. Our Latin America Correspondent Christian MacDonald calls it the “cheapest place in the world where you’d want to live.”

#3: Colombia–This one is borderline super-cheap/moderate. To live an expat standard lifestyle in Colombia, I think you could spend more than you would in Nicaragua or Ecuador. Real estate, on the other hand, especially in certain areas of this country, can be a screaming bargain.

#4: Thailand–Exotic, adventure-filled, and, in parts, extraordinarily affordable.


#1: Panama–Long-suffering readers are well familiar with my position on Panama. You also understand that Panama City no longer qualifies as super-cheap. Elsewhere in the country can be, but the costs of living and of real estate in the capital and other more developed parts of the country (including Boquete, for example) have risen to the point where I wouldn’t include Panama on our list of bargain havens. On many other scores, though, it remains #1.

#2: Uruguay–Safe and stable with a good standard of living.

#3: Argentina–Another country that used to qualify as super-cheap (in the wake of the most recent economic collapse) but that has grown steadily more expensive. Still, this is a country with much to offer in the way of lifestyle.

#4: Belize–Ambergris Caye, for example, isn’t absolutely cheap, but it can be relatively cheap compared with the costs of living and of owning beachfront real estate on other Caribbean islands. Elsewhere in Belize can be far more affordable than Ambergris, and, overall, Belize is one of my favorite total-escape options. It’s also English-speaking.

#5: Malaysia–Most user-friendly and most expat-friendly choice in Asia, the only country in this part of the world that makes it relatively easy for a foreigner to establish (legal) full-time residency.

Luxury on a Budget

#1: Puerto Vallarta–My recently rediscovered top pick for living the good life on a reasonable budget, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is a fully turn-key overseas retirement option that has managed to retain its Mexiconess (unlike Ajijic and Chapala, for example). The charming town boasts great restaurants and nightlife. The beaches are beautiful, and, along them, you have many good options for where to base yourself…plus marinas and golf courses. This is my top 2011choice for five-star retirement at the beach on a three-star budget.

#2: France–World’s best quality of life, world’s most beautiful and romantic city. France is a country of superlatives, the best place on earth to live well.

Kathleen Peddicord

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