With the high cost of living today, many retirees are choosing to pack up and move out of the United States and Canada, finding that their pensions and retirement funds will go much further in other areas of the world.
We’ve compiled a list of the World’s best places to live, and it just so happens you can live in each one for under $2000 a month:
Many people think of Europe as an extremely expensive option for expat living, and the truth is: it is costly in many areas. Still, there are some hidden gems that are both affordable and lovely, granting the European standard of living on a budget that retirees can handle.
While not all areas of Portugal are affordable for the retiree on a limited budget, there is one golden little town that some are calling the “best place in the world to retire”, and that is the coastal town of Algarve.
Home to over 100,000 expatriates in retirement, this region boasts the best of old world charm along with some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches. Ranked the 17th safest country on the planet, Portugal also offers good infrastructure and international standard health care. According to a report by USA News, a budget of as little as $1500 (€1198) per month will suffice for a retired couple to live comfortably. With great weather and easy residency programs for retirees and ex-pats, you can’t ask for much more than Portugal.
For relatively short visits, citizens of the U.S. do not need a visa to enter Portugal. However, if you want to become a resident, you must apply for a residency visa that corresponds to the reason why you’re staying in the country. You can then request a residence permit from the Foreigners and Borders Service.
Once approved, you will be issued a temporary residence permit valid for one year, which can be renewed for subsequent periods of two years. You can request permanent residency once you have been in the country for five years.
Health care in Portugal is available to all occupants. Residents get free basic health care, including doctor’s visits and medicine. As a retiree, you must be in possession of form E121.
The native language is Portuguese, but with the amount of expats living in Portugal, a retiree should have no trouble communicating in English.
If you’re worrying about transportation in Portugal, no need. Many foreign drivers’ licenses are valid until they expire. You can also apply for an International Driver’s License in English. Exchanging your license for a Portuguese license is another option.
If you don’t want to drive in Portugal, there is an extensive bus and railway network that will get you where you need to go.
Head over to the Portuguese visitation website to see more of what this retiree’s paradise has to offer.
If you’ve always dreamed of living in Paris, but can’t afford the high cost of living, the South of France is a good place to consider. Surprisingly affordable, small rural towns like charming Carcassonne offer those who love good food, wine, old world charm and a laid back atmosphere a lot to consider.
The city of Pau, also in rural, southern France, is another great expatriate retirement choice, with terrific weather and verdant slopes filled with rich vineyards. A university town, the young culture will help keep those in their golden years feeling youthful and lively.
Once you acquire your long-term visa, you must register to the French Office of Immigration and Integration to obtain your carte de sejour (residence permit).
France offers some of the best health care in the world. For expats, joining the national health insurance system is advised. If you join the CMU (Couverture Maladie Universelle), pre-existing conditions are not taken into account (Telegraph).
As English isn’t a preferred language in France, learning at least basic French will help tremendously.
France has a great public transportation system, so living in the city without a car is quite doable. However, if you’re planning to stay in the more rural areas, a car can make your life much easier. Make sure to add this cost into your plans.
With gorgeous beaches and nearby mountains, Abruzzo is one of Italy’s best kept secrets; peaceful and reminiscent of old-world Italian days gone by, a couple could easily retire here on less than $2000 (€1598) a month and enjoy a quiet, gentle lifestyle.
Italy ranks number 2 on the World Health Organization’s list of health services. If you pay taxes, you are entitled to public health benefits. Otherwise, private health insurance is also available. Retirees will typically go for the elective residency visa, which requires proof of income.
Learning Italian is a huge plus for making the most of the lifestyle, but fluency is not required by any means.
The famous delicacy of Italian cuisine, beautiful landscape, and the historic culture of Italy await retirees from all walks of life.
Those looking to retire in a big city may want to consider Istanbul, which touches the shores of both Europe and Asia. The weather in Istanbul is reminiscent of a Mediterranean environment, with warm summers, rainy winter months, and mild spring and autumn weather. Exceedingly affordable, a retired couple could easily live here on less than $1500 (3441 lira) a month, enjoy world class city living with access to café’s, parks, culture, and river-walks; for those looking for a “euro-chic lifestyle” Istanbul, Turkey is the place to think about.
For long term stays, one must apply for a residence permit by filling out a Declaration of Intent form. These are usually valid for five years.
Health care is relatively cheap in Turkey compared to the rest of Europe. Most medical staff members speak English, as well. Public health care is available to residents who have been there for more than a year and have a valid permit, but expats may want to consider higher quality private health care.
Turkish is the official language, but expats will find that many people speak English.
Housing in Turkey is relatively cheap compared to the U.S. A two bedroom apartment goes for $440.31 (1,000 lira) per month. However, maintenance fees may not be included in the rent cost.
Buses will get you around the city for a cheap fare. Buying a car is also an option, but the cost of gas is quite high.
There are a number of great destinations in Asia where folks can retire on a shoestring budget. Here are a couple of our favorites:
Welcoming and friendly, the English-speaking people of Dumaguete are inviting to expatriate retirees. With a warm, tropical climate and plenty of culture, those who choose to retire in the Philippines can enjoy the best of both city life and outdoor adventures.
Good medical care and a big expat community make this an attractive destination for many North Americans, who can expect to live here on as little as $1500 (67,425 Philippine peso) per month.
Anyone can enter the Philippines without a visa, but you may need to show an outbound ticket. A 21 day visa will then be given to you. For retirees, the Philippine Retirement Authority provides a plan that will grant you a resident visa.
The government is required to provide national health care service to all of its citizens. Filipino doctors are usually trained overseas, and their nurses are world-famous for their friendliness and skill. Medical costs are also much lower than the U.S.
Tagalog is the national language, but English is the second language. Although an expat will be able to communicate just fine, it never hurts to learn a bit of the local language.
Housing can be extremely cheap in the Philippines. For only $200 to $400 per month, you can rent a furnished two bedroom apartment. Renting a house can go for $400 to $600 per month.
The small city of Chiang Rai enjoys a cozy feeling set against a backdrop of lush green forests, stunning waterfalls, hot springs and tropical jungle. Thai food is known worldwide for its decadent flavor, featuring popular dishes like Pad Thai, Kao Phad (Fried Rice), and Kuay Tiew (Noodle Soup).
For less than $1000 (32,645 Thai baht) a month, a retired couple can enjoy a very comfortable, and peaceful, lifestyle.
Thailand offers retirement visas for people 50 and over with a monthly pension of $2005 (65,000 Thai baht). In order to apply for permanent residency, an expat would have to live in Thailand for three years on a proper visa. They can then apply for a Certificate of Residence, which after five years would allow them to apply for permanent residency.
Growing medical tourism has led to a high standard of health care in Thailand. However, foreigners do require private health insurance.
You’ll be fine in Thailand speaking English, but learning common words and phrases in Thai is highly recommended. Online courses are a great option for conveniently gaining those skills.
$925 (30,000 Thai baht) per month will get you a furnished apartment or small townhouse in Bangkok. Apartments can be rented for $62 (2,000 That baht) and more per month.
Cheap taxis and other public transportation make owning a car in the city an unnecessary expense. Even in the outer areas, trains and busses run through the entire country.
Close to home, Latin America is a favorite for many retirees because of its easy access to North America. After all, visiting the grandkids can be expensive when a plane is needed to get there. Prudent retirees consider relocating to Latin America to help extend their nest egg.
While admittedly the most expensive Central American country to live in, Costa Rica is still a haven for retirees who wish to retire fairly close to home and on a budget. With affordable, high standard health care, great weather and all the amenities you could expect in any developed country, Costa Rica — depending on your lifestyle — is still far below the cost of living in North America.
While housing is decidedly more expensive in the beach cities and in the capital, rural areas are cheaper (and, some say, more beautiful); a retired couple can easily live on less than $2000 (1,064,000 Costa Rican colon) per month.
If you’re a citizen of the U.S. or Canada, you don’t need a visa to enter Costa Rica. As a retiree, you will want to apply for either the Pensionado or Rentista Program. To qualify as a pensionado, you must provide proof that you have at least $1,000 a month in retirement income. To qualify as a rentista, you must provide proof of $2,500 a month in income for at least two years, or make a $60,000 deposit in a Costa Rican bank, according to International Living.
In Costa Rica, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) is responsible for providing public health care. Universal treatment is available to those who pay a small fee based on one’s income. In general, health care costs in Costa Rica are about a third of what you would pay in the United States. Private health care is another, more expensive, option.
The official language is Spanish, but since Costa Rica is such a popular destination for expats, English is widely spoken throughout the country.
If you’re planning to bring your car over, you may want to reconsider that decision. You will incur high import duties, ranging from 45% to 75% of the retail cost in Costa Rica. There are also freight charges to have the vehicle shipped and liability insurance is required. A used car in Costa Rica can cost $7,000 to $15,000; however, public transportation is readily available everywhere so you could easily get by without a car at all.
MSNBC has referred to Nicaragua as “The World’s best kept retirement secret” and other notable magazines and reports have named it among the top ten best places to retire in the world.
No longer the hotbed of political unrest it once was, Nicaragua is beautiful, its people are friendly, and the cost of living is extraordinarily low. All of that, coupled with a comprehensive retiree benefit program and amazing tax benefits for foreign retirees, makes this country an extremely desirable retirement location.
Your passport must be valid for six months past the day you enter, according to International Living. However, citizens of the U.S. do not need a visa. You will be issued a tourist card that allows you to stay in the country for 90 days. To qualify to be a resident pensioner or retiree, you will need to prove that you’re a citizen of your home country, are in good health, that you’re in good standing with local police, and that you have at least $600 per month in retirement income.
You will receive high quality health care in Nicaragua at an affordable cost. International Living states that a doctor’s visit will cost $30, $35 for a house call, $10-$15 for a lab test, $17 for an X-ray, and $150 for a mammogram.
Even though the expat population is large, it’s difficult to assimilate without becoming comfortable speaking Spanish.
A three bedroom apartment costs about $460 per month to rent, and a new highway system makes transportation around the country a breeze.
Retiring abroad is more feasible than many retirees believe. Your nest egg may go much farther in many countries, including the countries listed here.
Beside the natural beauty and friendliness of the people, it’s important to consider every aspect of your lifestyle before deciding to move. This includes health care costs, transportation availability, whether you’re willing (or need to) learn the language, and the cost of housing.
If all of those metrics fit your budget, then there is no reason not to spend your golden years in a beautiful foreign country, soaking in the depth and breadth of the culture.