Best Places to Retire in the World: 15 Countries for American Retirees

Best Places to Retire in the World: 15 Countries for American Retirees

While US citizens have traditionally lagged behind other countries in moving abroad, the trend seems to be shifting. As they reach retirement age, Americans seek to stretch their monthly pension and social security. They want to find affordable countries with high quality medical care that won’t bankrupt them. Retirees want to embrace local culture or find retirement destinations that aren’t so politically divided.

Health care ranks high among those exiting America, but it’s far from the only aspect leading them abroad. Many spent more than three decades in the workforce or raising children (and sometimes grandchildren!) and want a low cost place to call home. Slower life in warm coastal towns could be calling. The rich cultural heritage of Central America might have beckoned them for years; retirees may hear the invitation from nations like Ghana, welcoming them to our ancestral home. Ancient cities in Asia and Europe offer thriving expat community paired with affordable cost of living. All of these reasons and so many more lead Americans to leave the US late in life for new adventures.

With their needs in mind, we’ve compiled this list of 15 countries where American expats can retire abroad. We believe these are the best places to retire in the world for our audience. Cost of living and retirement visa requirements will vary, though most of these are accessible on just the monthly income from social security. Which foreign country ranks among your best retirement destinations?

Africa

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Our first continent on the list takes us to the cradle of civilization. Humanity rose out of Africa long ago. Here are two countries that may be calling you back home.

Ghana

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Ghana has beckoned Black Americans home since launching its Year of Return campaign in 2019. Its relatively low cost of living allows retirees to live comfortably on a monthly income of $2000. The rich African heritage shines through in its cuisine as much as its clothing and natural beauty. English is widely spoken here—no pressure to learn a foreign language to get by! Healthcare, infrastructure, and safety all rank in the top 50% of countries, providing tremendous value in this tropical climate. Capital Accra ranks among the most popular retirement destinations here, though Kumasi and Koforidua also welcomes those who retire abroad.

Related: Black Expats on TikTok, Expatsi playlist: Countries for POC

Mauritius

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Mauritius offers that island life off Africa’s eastern coast. English is widely spoken in this tropical climate. Like Ghana, Mauritius ranks highly for safety and infrastructure. Its universal healthcare system covers your every medical needs, while private health insurance can handle more serious conditions and keep out-of-pocket costs low. An affordable cost of living puts this among the best places to retire in Africa. Showing a monthly retirement income of $1500 USD can grant a 10-year residence visa to retirees over 50. Add in a 7-year path to citizenship and world-class beaches to find a retirement destination that’s second to none.

Related: Black Expats on TikTok, Expatsi Guide to Travel Tools & Resources

Asia

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We leave Africa and head to the largest continent on Earth—Asia. With so many countries here to choose from, we’ve highlighted two that US expats find are most welcoming.

The Philippines

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With over 2,000 inhabited islands, foreign retirees are sure to find a reason to retire abroad in the Philippines. Combining public health care and private health insurance keeps medical care at a low cost, making an attractive home country to establish permanent residency. Those who value the island life and a warm climate find abundant opportunities to soak in the Filipino culture. On top of that, foreign residents find the cost of living is half the US average, carrying your monthly income even further. The city centers of Manila and Makati City host the most expats, while a comparatively small town like Baguio may be more your speed.

Related: How to Leave America, Expatsi Guide to Travel Tools & Resources

Vietnam

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For expats seeking the beauty of mainland Asia on a pension income, consider Vietnam. Its low cost of living makes an attractive offer to expats on a fixed monthly income. Vietnam is also LGBTQ-friendly, according to the 2022 Expatsi Report. High humidity and language may be barriers for some, though you’ll find many people in the major cities speak English. Vietnam’s natural beauty beckons many, and an affordable healthcare system keeps them here. Major cities like Saigon and Ho Chi Minh see the most expats, though you’ll find plenty more on permanent residency in Da Nang and Can Tho.

Related: Expatsi Guide to Language Apps, Expat Scouting Trips

Europe

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We move back west to examine Europe, a continent more diverse than you may think. From sunny beaches to massive cities and snowy mountains, there’s plenty to entice US expats to retire abroad.

Austria

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Between the stunning mountains and Old World architecture, Austria is the place for Americans retiring abroad. Participating in the national medical program here provides high quality medical care and the rest of the European Union. Expats who retire abroad here receive visa-free access to the Schengen Zone, allowing easy travel to 30 foreign countries across Europe. The higher cost of living does stretch the monthly budget more than previous countries, which may deter retirees on a lower monthly income. Austria ranks highly for women and LGBTQ looking to retire abroad. English-only speakers might stick close to Vienna. Learn a little German and embrace the local culture in Graz, Innsbruck, and Salzburg.

Related: 14 Countries with Better Healthcare Than the US, Expatsi Guide to Language Apps

Ireland

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For expats hoping to retire abroad to the Commonwealth, Ireland is the country you’ve been hoping for. It’s an excellent solution for Americans hoping to retire to the United Kingdom, which doesn’t offer a residence visa to expats post-Brexit. Natural beauty of the entire country draws many to its shores, placing it among the top ten countries in Europe to retire. Expats can access HSE, the excellent Irish public healthcare system, after their first year of residency. In the meantime, you’ll want to purchase private insurance to get keep medical costs in check. Ireland requires $4000 USD/month for each adult on a retirement visa; we recommend spending some time here on a tourist visa before you commit to such an investment. Consider making Dublin your new home, but also check out Cork, Galney, and Westport before you settle down.

Related: Discover the Best Countries to Live in 2023, Where Should You Retire for End-of-life Care?

Portugal

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Currently hosting around 10,000 legal residents from the US, Portugal remains one of the most popular retirement destinations for its warm climate and ease of entry. This country’s rolling hills, rugged coastline and sunny breaches keeps its thriving expat community enthralled year after year. A lower cost of living allows expats to qualify for the pensionado retirement visa on monthly pension income or social security alone. Combining Portugal’s public healthcare system with private insurance provides efficient health care that is likely less than what you’d pay back home. Add in ready access to the US and the Schengen Zone to find this retirement destination is second to none. Look into the Algarve, Porto, and Braga for your new home.

Related: How to Get a Portugal Visa, How to Move Abroad

Slovenia

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Nestled between Croatia, Austria, and Italy, Slovenia is the sleeper hit for retirement abroad. It’s one of the countries least vulnerable to climate change. Over half of its landmass is protected or in national parks, reducing overcrowding while increasing access to nature for outdoorsy expats. With universal healthcare for all legal residents and a cost of living that’s 30% lower than the US, monthly income from your social security should be enough to fund your residence visa for a pleasant life here. Start with a tourist visa to visit Ljubljana, Maribor, and Koper; your new home may be waiting there.

Related: 15 Countries Least Vulnerable to Climate Change, Expat Scouting Trips

Spain

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For its warm climate and welcoming citizens, Spain ranks among the best places to retire. Climate zones range from arid to temperate here, with mountains galore and coastal towns along the Mediterranean Sea. Black Americans, single women, and LGBTQ folks claim many of the retirement visas here, coming for Spain’s low housing costs and staying for its affordable healthcare and fair cost of living. An American’s monthly pension is enough to qualify for permanent residency here. Rely on private insurance for at least your first year, then apply for SNS, Spain’s public health care system. Expats favoring major cities choose Madrid or Barcelona for international living, while others move to smaller city centers like Sitges, Seville, and many more.

Related: 10 Best Cities for a Gay Male Expat, Best Sites for Learning Spanish

Latin America

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We finish up our world tour of retirement destinations with Latin America. Cultures may be similar across Central and South America, but the retirement locales are as diverse as they come.

Argentina

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The gem of South America, Argentina boasts plenty of geographical variety, from the snowy Andes mountains to the Patagonia rainforests. Local culture merges European culture with indigenous roots, bringing enrichment to international living. An expat couple can live well in Buenos Aires on $2000 USD in monthly income on the pensionado retirement visa, thanks to a reasonable cost of living and affordable housing costs. Like other countries in this list, combining private insurance with the public health care system keeps medical costs down. Argentina led South America in championing queer rights in recent decades, and it’s long been a welcoming home for Black Americans. More than a resort town, Buenos Aires hosts most American expats. Permanent residency may also appeal to you in Salta or Puerto Iguazu, a city buried deep in the rainforest of South America.

Related: How to Learn Spanish for Latin America, 10 Best Cities for a Gay Male Expat

Belize

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Want the natural beauty of Central America with an English-speaking population? Belize has got you covered. This country of about 400,000 people offers plenty of breathing room while still being accessible to the US, Mexico, and the rest of Latin America. Health care works best when you combine private health insurance with the public plan here; some expats fly back to the States to continue using Medicare for more chronic conditions. Cost of living is low here; local businesses accept US cash alongside the Belizean dollar, saving you money on exchange rates. Belize ranks highly for Black Americans, making this an excellent place to establish permanent residency. Capital Belize City works for some on a residence visa, while other expats choose Ambergris Caye, the Corozal district or the island of Caye Caulker.

Related: Belize Healthcare Report, 10 Countries Where You Can Retire with $2000/month

Costa Rica

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It’s no secret: Costa Rica has been ranked among the best places to retire in Central America for decades. The cost of living is incredibly reasonable, ranking it among 10 best countries to retire abroad on a $2000 monthly pension. The varied terrain grants plenty of flexibility: coastal plains, volcanic mountain ranges, and sleepy beaches along the occasional resort town. Health care in Costa Rica is such a breeze, too: expats who use “The Caja”, the Costa Rica public healthcare system, say its low monthly fee fits easily in their monthly budget, though some still add private insurance. Medical tourism accounts for much Costa Rica tourist visa traffic, largely centered around dentistry and plastic surgery, with direct flights to the US averaging under six hours. Capital San Jose has the most activity in this Central American nation, though don’t sleep on small town life in Tamarindo or near Arenal.

Related: Transgender Rights Around the World, Expatsi Guide to Language Apps

Ecuador

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Just down the continent from Costa Rica lies Ecuador and its tropical climate on the Pacific coast of South America. The slower pace of life here puts this among the best places to retire. Its easy retirement visa, affordable cost of living and friendly neighbors make Ecuador a destination for transgender folks and Black Americans. Like Costa Rica, Ecuador features sunny coastal beaches bordered by mountainous highlands with interior rainforests, inviting all to enjoy the outdoors. Foreign residents need private insurance for their health care, as there’s no universal health insurance here. Like other countries in South America, US expats should qualify for their retirement visas on annual income from social security alone. Best places to retire in Ecuador are the ancient cities of Quito and Guayaquil, along with Cuenca and Tena.

Related: 10 Best Cities for a Gay Male Expat, Transgender Rights Around the World

Mexico

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Our penultimate retirement visa destination is the Central American nation of Mexico. From its incredibly diverse climate (including polar!) to the range of annual income levels for expats, this country has options in every cost of living bracket. A permanent residency visa is available immediately for those with the bank account requirements, though you may opt for a renewable temporary visa to test the waters. Cost of living is 46% lower than the US, on average. Medical costs stay low, too, with most expats combining public health insurance with private insurance for great coverage and manageable out of pocket costs. Public transportation can be used to move between and within major cities, too. Returning to the US by car or plane is a snap, as well. American expats thrive in a number of cities: Mérida, Lake Chapala, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende, and Mexico City are all worth considering.

Related: 2023 Guide to Moving to Mexico, 7 Safest Cities in Mexico for Expats

Panama

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Our final country in Central America boasts some of the best features for international living. Panama proves incredibly friendly to American expats. Not only does it use the US dollar, it also offers its pensionado retirement visa as young as 18, provided your bank account shows a monthly income of at least $1000 USD. This retirement visa comes with discounts on transportation, utilities, mortgage interest, and more. Affordable healthcare matters, too, which is why the World Health Organization recommends the Johns Hopkins healthcare system in capital Panama City. Private systems for medical care can be found throughout the country. If the cost of living the capital isn’t to your liking, consider other expat enclaves like David and Boquete where your monthly pension may stretch even further.

Related: 12 Great Reasons to Move to Panama, How to Learn Spanish Before Moving to Latin America

10 Countries Where You Can Retire With $2,000/Month

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Are you looking forward to retirement? Do you imagine peaceful days spent socializing with family and friends, pursuing hobbies, and catching up on things you put off during a long career with limited time off?

While we all long for those days, you may look at your bank account and bills and wonder if they’ll ever come. If retiring in the U.S. feels unattainable, there are options for moving abroad that may be within your budget.

10 Countries Where You Can Retire With $2,000/Month

These Medicare Part D Drugs Have Tripled in Price. Is Yours on the List?

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Americans who want to retire abroad often cite the high cost of medicine as a driving factor. In many other countries, prescriptions are available for free or at a low, subsidized cost to residents. These prices are thanks to governments using their collective buying power to drive down the costs of life-saving medications.

Read on to see the 25 medications and how they’ve increased in price compared to inflation.

These Medicare Part D Drugs Have Tripled in Price. Is Yours on the List?

10 Countries Where You Can Retire With Just $150,000 in Savings

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The median amount that Gen Xers have saved for retirement is $40,000, with as few as seven years left before reaching the retirement age of 65. The good news is that with a little hard work, you can still find a comfortable retirement abroad.

In these countries, you can fully retire with $150,000 in savings, or even less if you collect social security payments.

10 Countries Where You Can Retire With Just $150,000 in Savings

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Co-founder at Expatsi | + posts

Brett Andrews is the co-founder of Expatsi, a company that helps expats discover how to leave the U.S. Brett and his partner Jen developed the Expatsi Test to recommend countries to move to, based on factors like budget, visa type, spoken languages, healthcare rankings, and more. In a former life, he worked as a software developer, IT support specialist, and college educator. When he's not working, Brett loves watching comic book movies and reading unusual books.

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bed49dc5d4263d6d37b46cb09574d411?s=150&d=mp&r=g
Co-founder at Expatsi | + posts

Brett Andrews is the co-founder of Expatsi, a company that helps expats discover how to leave the U.S. Brett and his partner Jen developed the Expatsi Test to recommend countries to move to, based on factors like budget, visa type, spoken languages, healthcare rankings, and more. In a former life, he worked as a software developer, IT support specialist, and college educator. When he's not working, Brett loves watching comic book movies and reading unusual books.