If you’ve got a hankering to shake the dust from your feet and look for another country in which to retire—or are considering doing so once you see how November turns out—Live and Invest Overseas has some suggestions for you; 10, in fact.
It’s compiled a list of the 10 best places in the world to retire, and although the strong dollar is responsible for putting some of those places on the list in the first place, the U.S. is not among them.
Still, if you crave exotisme and can’t wait to view the sunset (or sunrise) from beaches on foreign shores, this is the list for you.
For those who aren’t quite convinced about the wisdom of retiring outside their comfort zone—where anything from language to insects to Internet connections may pose unexpected challenges—rest assured that Live and Invest Overseas has considered all these factors, and many more, in arriving at its choices.
In fact, lots of other vital pieces of information informed its selection:
quality and accessibility of health care
affordability of real estate and the cost of living
whether English is spoken in the region
and whether there’s an expat community for those who’d rather fit in than blend in
And for those who might like to dip their toes into the water, so to speak, but then decide after all that there’s no place like home, it might not be quite as simple as clicking the heels of your ruby slippers together three times, but as long as you don’t relinquish U.S. citizenship, you can always change your mind and just come back to the States.
And it’s not so easy to relinquish citizenship—so it can’t happen by accident.
Here are Live and Invest Overseas’ top 10 picks for places around the globe that could turn out to be your very own retirement Shangri-La.
Seaweed dots the waters near a beach at Ambergris Caye, Belize, where the water is warm and the taxes minimal. (Photo: AP)
10. Ambergris Caye, Belize
Another expat community thrives on Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, where you’ll also find plenty of Caribbean beaches and diving opportunities.
And Belize offers visas to Qualified Retired Persons that allow permanent residency.
Holders of such visas can’t work in the country—though you can still work online or do international or entrepreneurial work—but you’ll find a host of advantages come with that visa: you won’t be liable for income tax, capital gains tax, estate tax or foreign-earned income tax.
And you only have to spend 30 days a year here to qualify—although, with all the perks of living on an island in the Caribbean at your fingertips, why would you want to leave?
Real estate's not cheap in Las Terrenas, in the Dominican Republic. (Photo: Getty)
9. Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
There’s an established community of expat retirees here, something that can make you feel welcome when you arrive.
If you want to apply for permanent residency, you’ll need to prove a minimum income of $1,500 (U.S.) per month, but with that will come incentives for you as both a foreign resident and as an investor, if you’re so inclined. In addition, residents can apply for loans and import household goods and a car tax-free.
And while real estate isn’t the cheapest among top 10 countries, prices do get a grade of B.
When it comes to health care, remember that public health services in the Dominican Republic can be iffy: they’re “extremely affordable, but the standard can be poor.” Las Terrenas, for its part, has a new private hospital that “would be able to meet nearly all medical needs locally and inexpensively, but, for specialized treatment, you’ll likely need to go to the capital or another country.”
Ierapetra on the southeast coast of the Greek island of Crete offers beach, town, and mountain scenery. (Photo: AP)
8. Crete, Greece
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has “a huge array of amenities and good infrastructure”—as well as beaches, mountains and countryside.
Health care here is ranked 14th in the world by WHO—the U.S. only makes 31st place, which is a sad commentary on the state of things at home.
There’s a large expat community and plenty of English spoken, and while you’ll have to go to the mainland for such entertainments as the symphony, there are plenty of local festivals and other events to provide cultural enrichment. And the cost of living is low.
Besides its beach and natural beauty, Playa del Carmen has low property taxes. (Photo: AP)
7. Playa del Carmen, Mexico
An hour south of Cancún, on a coast known as the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen was near the site of a Jacques Cousteau documentary about the Great Mayan Reef—and gradually became known as the gateway to Cozumel.
But now it shines in its own right, with the added bonus of a strong U.S. dollar making its market attractive for investors, with 12 percent annual appreciation and rental yields between 5–10 percent. Property taxes are next to nothing, at 0.1 percent per year.
Money aside, there’s plenty of English spoken here in a community welcoming to tourists and retirees alike, including the LGBT community. Good food, good weather and good music also add to the attractions of this safe, pet-friendly town.
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia offers health care that's sophisticated, yet inexpensive. (Photo: Getty)
6. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Kota Kinabalu, in the Sabah region on the eastern coast of East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo), is regarded by expats as “one of the most pleasant places in Asia to live.”
The medical care is both inexpensive and sophisticated, although there’s a bit less access on Malaysia Borneo, says Live and Invest Overseas, than on the mainland.
Not by much, though, with patients at the public Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Sabah Medical Center, the Damai Specialist Hospital and the Rafflesia Medical Center all reporting excellent service. In addition, the newly opened Gleneagles Hospital was built to comply with Joint Commission International (JCI) standards.
Shopping centers, taxis, and theaters offering Malaysian performances offer their own versions of entertainment, as do festivals and beaches. English is spoken here, along with Mandarin, Malay, Penang Hokkien and Tamil.
Slovenia's mountains, and the architecture in Ljubljana, attract tourists, as well as retirees, to central Europe. (Photo: AP)
5. Ljubljana, Slovenia
“Slovenia,” says Live and Invest Overseas, “is nestled between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia in central Europe, and it’s the second richest of the 13 Slavic countries.”
It’s got mountains (think ski resorts) and plenty of Mediterranean coastline (think beaches), as well as lots of territory that’s still forested.
Diversions here include everything from the sight of farmers bringing their produce to market in wooden carts to plenty of theaters, museums, and music festivals.
The coast is about an hour away from Ljubljana, and Venice just a couple of hours away; with olive groves to the south and castles, golf courses, spas and even a wine region close by, what’s not to like?
Air conditioning is a necessity in Cayo, Belize. (Photo: Getty)
4. Cayo, Belize
You’ll need both a car and air conditioning in Cayo, but the affordability of real estate will win you over—as will the cost of living and recreational opportunities.
Taxes are low, too, which will leave you more money to spend on what you consider essential to retirement. English is spoken here, and there’s a pretty strong expat community to welcome you—as well as a very strong residency program for retirees.
It’s a pretty safe place to live, as well, with a grade of B+ on crime—not perfect, but then, where is?
That said, there are some caveats: infrastructure isn’t the greatest—it only got a grade of C—and health care did worse, making only a D. But Cayo, says Live and Invest Overseas, “is a leave-the-world-behind, embrace-the-simple-life, off-grid paradise.”
The beach resort city of Puerto Vallarta offers good health care for U.S. retirees but the real estate is pricey. (Photo: AP)
3. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta is a little more costly than some of the other destinations on the list, but it has other compensations.
Its infrastructure rated a grade of A-, health care got an A and so did cost of living, but you’ll end up paying a bit more for real estate and on taxes—something you might expect in a beach resort city.
Still, it’s a safe place—it got a grade of A on crime—and has a thriving expat community.
There’s a good, but not great, residency program, but, hey, with the opportunity to live so close to Pacific coast beaches, it’s obviously worthwhile to a lot of folks—hence its high standing in the ratings.
Beautiful scenery and proximity to Europe offer fun in Malta to retirees. (Photo: AP)
2. Valletta, Malta
With English as its second language, the fifth best health care in the world and everything from dramatic, rugged scenery to wine production and olive groves, this tiny country has a lot more to offer than one might think.
One can drive from Valletta, the country’s capital, to the opposite side of the island takes just 45 minutes, but you won’t need a car here; public transportation—buses for on-island travel and ferries for off-island jaunts—will do you well.
The Mediterranean climate compares with that in Italy and southern Spain, while the cost of living is cheap for an EU member state. And if you’re looking for nightlife, Valletta has it in the tourist destinations of Sliema and St. Julian’s Bay.
Sunny Portugal beach life, quality health care -- retirees might want to examine Algarve for their new home. (Photo: Getty)
1. Algarve, Portugal
“Everything the would-be retiree could want,” says Live and Invest Overseas about this sunny haven that has taken the top spot on the list for three years running.
Great weather, a thriving expat community, high-quality medical facilities and health care, a cheap cost of living, “bargain-priced property buys, including right on the ocean,” plenty of English spoken because of a longstanding British presence, and even a new retiree residency program will help you settle in to life in Algarve.