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Announcing 10 New Country Mini-Guides to International Retirement

Category: International Retirement

November 19, 2013 — Note: Since this article was written we have added more country guides to the original 10, and will continue to add them here.

There is an intrepid group of people out there whose dream for retirement involves moving far away to an exotic location in a foreign country. For citizens of the US and Canada, that often means retiring to Mexico, Costa Rica, Central America, or a country in South America. Retirees in Europe and the UK tend to favor southern Europe or even Southeast Asia. Such retirements bring with them a number of challenges, along with advantages. Today we are pleased to announce new mini-guides to international retirement in 10 countries. We plan to add more country guides in the coming months.

Like the Mini-State guides we’ve developed to all 50 U.S. states, each guide follows a consistent format: each has the same sections with helpful information and data. Samples include: overview of expat retirement in that country, rules for visas and buying property, crime and security, cost of living including property, medical, weather, and pluses and minuses.

You can find all of the Topretirements mini US State and Country guides in this Directory. Just select the state or country from the list on the right (each guide has links to reviews of towns and cities in that country)

Here are the country guides:

Belize. This tiny country is tucked on the Caribbean coast of Central America between Mexico and Guatemala. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second longest in the world. There are pluses and minuses to retiring here.

Costa Rica – A Stable Ecological paradise surrounded by the sea

Ecuador. Located on the Pacific Ocean Ecuador is an up and coming retirement spot with about 5,000 – 10,000 American expats living here. The cost of living is exceptionally low, although there is some crime and violence.

France – Beautiful cities, hilltop villages, and idyllic Provence

Greece – This nation of islands in the Aegean Sea has a mild climate and beautiful setting. While the country’s economy has been battered, it still makes for an idyllic retirement.

Ireland – The Emerald Isle from which so many of us came to America

Italy – Food, wine, and country villages in the hills

Lucca, Italy

Mexico – A huge country where the dollar goes far and preconceived stereotypes can be wrong

New Zealand – It’s easier for people from the Commonwealth to retire here, but there are some programs that might let you move to this safe and beautiful country where they filmed “Lord of the Rings”.

Nicaragua – This fairly poor country in Central America is just above Costa Rica. There are several towns popular for expat retirement.

Panama – A stable country where the official currency is the U.S dollar

Portugal. This warm weather country with a huge coast on the Atlantic Ocean is more affordable than most other countries in Europe.

Puerto Rico. Living in this U.S. Territory is much easier for U.S. citizens than most other non-mainland locations. It does have its pluses and minuses, however.

South Africa – The most developed country in Africa with a beautiful coast line and many attractive cities and towns for retirement.

Spain – Extremely popular with Brits and northern Europeans looking for a warm winter destination.

Thailand – Tropical and exotic beauty along aqua beaches or alluring Chiang Mai

Uruguay. This stable and safe country near Argentina has become a very popular place for expatriate retirement.

Not for Everyone
In our opinion a lot of people choose an expatriate retirement for the wrong reasons. Living out of your home country is definitely not for everyone. Doing it for the money should not be the only reason. See “The Darker Side of International Retirement – 6 Reasons Not to Do It“. Beware of promises from organizations that want to take your money in exchange for reckless promises of life abroad. The good life exists there, but all is not roses.
Comments: Have you been affected by the Biggert-Waters bill and subsequent changes? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.

Suggestions? Please let us know what other countries you would like to see reviews for – we’ll put them on our list. Also, please use the Comments section below to share your experiences in retiring abroad, including the search for the perfect country.

Further Reading:
10 Best International Places for Retirement

Posted by Admin on November 19th, 2013


  1. Spain and Portugal are two countries I could be very interested in. I know that in 2012 Spain considered giving residency with sale of property over a certain dollar amount, in an effort to reduce their bloated real estate inventory. Not sure where this stands or what other countries offer it, besides those listed in the article. Some, like Portugal, are well over our budget.

    “Non-Europeans seeking a fast-track route to EU residency now have a new option – buying cheap Southern European property. As of this year, Portugal is offering super-speedy residency applications to anyone who buys a property over €500,000. Cyprus is offering the same deal with a €300,000 threshold. Both these countries are being undercut by Greece, however, which is giving speedy residency to buyers of any property from just €250,000… ”

    by Julie — November 20, 2013

  2. Some more Googling got an article with more info: Sadly looks as though Spain is out of our budget as well at 500,000 Euros. Originally they were talking much less.

    by Julie — November 20, 2013

  3. Be interested in a review of Puerto Rico

    by Glenn — November 20, 2013

  4. I’d be interested in a review of the feasibility of the west coast of Ireland. Residency not a problem since I carry a European passport. Are expats welcome?

    by Dan — November 20, 2013

  5. After recently spending a wonderful month in Turkey, very interested in retirement possibilities

    by Christine — November 20, 2013

  6. I would be interested in learning about Antigua, Guatemala

    by Brian — November 20, 2013

  7. Does anyone have any information on retiring in Israel?

    by Connie A — November 21, 2013

  8. We recently added our country review of retirement in South Africa. There are several hundred thousand Brits retired there, and the country is welcoming.

    by Topretirements editor — December 9, 2013

  9. To Dan
    My brother and his wife wanted to buy a home and retire there. Although Irish are welcoming to tourists, it seems for several reasons, price, encouragement negative they are unable. They still visit yearly.

    by Mary philippus — February 19, 2014

  10. I’d be interested in Antigua Guatemala, or Penang in Malaysia.

    by Mark Terry — February 27, 2014

  11. This question came in from Renee – can anyone advise her?

    Could some one advise me Is worth if retire,move to Mexico with my belonging, furniture house contents, power tools etc,etc in a shipping container how is Mexico custom or Aquinas laws on New immigrants retires???
    Appreciate help
    Rene of Australia

    by Admin — March 27, 2014

  12. Check with the Mexican consulate in Australia.

    by Jeff — March 28, 2014

  13. Ellen had posted a Comment on another TR Blog asking about retirement in Belize. Note that we have just added that Country Guide to this article. We are working on guides that others have mentioned here – Guatemala, Turkey, South Africa, Israel, etc. Note that for Puerto Rico go to or

    by Admin — August 2, 2014

  14. Regarding Puerto Rico, please see my newest additions to the information I provided in 2013.

    Editor’s note: Thanks Glenn!

    by Glenn — August 3, 2014

  15. Australia has quite a well developed retirement village industry, with a couple of thousand retirement villages scattered around the country. They are regulated at the State and Territory level because property matters are generally regulated at that level of government (this contrasts with aged care, which is regulated at a national level). It does make things a little more complicated because different rules and regulations apply in each State and Territory. Retirement villages in Australia are also complicated because of the range of fee structures, which often include a “departure fee” that is payable when the resident leaves the village. You can find information about retirement villages in Australia, including a “departure fee calculator” and a searchable directory of retirement villages, on the It’s Your Life website at

    by Randall — July 5, 2015

  16. This question came in from Joseph:

    Q: We are wanting to retire in SAN JUAN DEL SUR, by this time next year but we are not sure about where to start or how to start the process can you help.

    A: Start by reading our review of the town, if you not already. It has a few links to some Nicaraguan real estate sites, some of which have helpful info. Search on Google or Yahoo for San Juan del Sur Real Estate and you will find more.

    We also have a mini retirement guide to Nicaragua which is helpful. But if you are serious you should talk to some people who have retired there – the best way to do that is to visit.

    by Admin — May 19, 2016

  17. Q: Hi, I am an Englishman (age 66) with a Chinese wife. We currently live in China and I am exploring the possibility of living in a western country with Portugal being my favourite choice.
    Alas, I am poor, my pension is around £1,000pm after UK tax.
    Add brexit to the equation and I don’t know where I stand.
    My ideal location is by the sea as I love swimming, just being in the sea.
    We both want to keep our passports yet be able to live in a modified of comfort without anything fancy.
    Is it possible?
    Fingers crossed you give me a favourable reply!

    A: Thank you for writing. Unfortunately we are a self-service site and unable to provide personal assistance. i am sure though that there are some good places for you to retire. Use our “State Guides” feature (they contain some for many countries as well) to get capsule summaries of what it might be like to retire in places like Portugual. Go to Maybe some of our other visitors might have additional suggestions for you.

    Good luck

    John Brady

    by Admin — February 21, 2018

  18. Dear Englishman Andrew,

    Your leaning towards Portugal is a wise move. Particularly the southern most region of the Algarve. The Algarve has 150,000 English-speaking expats mostly from the UK so you would feel right at home. It is actually possible to live there without learning Portuguese (although I doubt there re any mandarin or Cantonese speakers there for your wife). The have a Golden Visa program that is very financially alluring as it wants to draw foreigners to live (and spend) there. Cost of living is cheap and the year round weather the best in continental Europe (very similar to San Diego, CA in the USA).

    Good Luck, Dan

    by dan — February 22, 2018

  19. important to read the truth. i am interested in living and retiring abroad. international living has not come close to posting these possibilities. after reading comments here for months in top retirements i come across this post. this is why i keep reading peoples comments. thanks to you all!

    by karl — February 23, 2018

  20. Karl,

    I thoroughly enjoy (and learn a lot) from this website but here are 3 other good resources for those looking for an expat experience in retirement:

    With the foreign resident income exclusion you can avoid taxes below about $198K per year and use that savings coupled with a lower cost country to live a greater level lifestyle than possible in the USA. Or, you could split between 2 places (1 domestic/1 foreign) and rent out (VRBO / AirBNB, etc.) when not in either nation.

    I am 47 and my wife 44 and we won’t see much SS as by then it will be broke and we will be “means-tested” out of receiving what is left so no reason to stay in the States from a cost standpoint. Also, healthcare in other places is better and cheaper than the current USA system of inflated prices due to practice defensive medicine to avoid lawsuits (think Portugal).

    Regards, Dan

    by dan — February 24, 2018

  21. Dan – Are you referring to the foreign earned income exclusion? If so, it applies only to income earned in the foreign country (i.e., it cannot have a US source) when you are a tax resident of a foreign country, and the 2017 limit is 102,100, not 198k. Or are you referring to something else?

    by JoannC — February 25, 2018

  22. Yes. However, if your residency during retirement is in a tax-free or tax-friendly state then most of your income outside of deferred income (e.g. 401K/403B/SEP) would be income tax free up to the exclusion level. Pensions, SS, non-deferred savings, etc. Basically, you won’t be double taxed but all income is subject to taxation to minimize all you do is leave/live in a low tax state and move to a low ta nation and you can almost avoid taxes in sum. The trick is very few people do this but if you are not averse to moving then you can live large outside the USA. Many people with blue collar pensions move to Mexico, Belize, etc. and live whereas folks with white collar savings may live in many parts of Europe. I have 3 friends that hve retired in the past 3 years living in 3 separate nations and they are utilizing the below laws to their advantage (Mexico, Belize, Panama).

    by dan — February 26, 2018

  23. Dan – If you are not domiciled in a US state, then of course, you will have no state tax. But even if you are living abroad, you will still be fully taxed by the federal government on ALL US source income that is otherwise subject to tax in the US, i.e., the foreign earned income exclusion does not apply to any US source income. If you are working in a foreign country and meet the tests for a tax resident, then you will be eligible for the FEIE on your foreign earned income. But you would still be subject to tax under the foreign country’s tax law.

    by JoannC — February 26, 2018

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