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Top 10 International Best Places to Retire

Category: International Retirement

Our friends at International Living Magazine have just published their annual list of best places to retire in the world. In what appears to be a tight contest, Ecuador beat out Mexico for the number 1 spot on the Annual Global Retirement Index. Latin and Central American countries head up the list, with only two European countries (Malta and Italy) making the list. In our minds the list shows an unhealthy bias towards Latin America and a disregard of Europe and Asia. That bias is probably a reflection of cost and familiarity. Go here to read their article and list of the best retirement countries and towns.

Without further ado, here is their top 10 List:
The Top Ten Best Places to Retire (and total points out of a possible

Ecuador 79
Mexico 78
Panama 77
Uruguay 75
Italy 73
Brazil 71
Argentina 71
Costa Rica 70
Malta 70
Australia 70

The colonial city of Cuenca was singled out as the best place in Ecuador. “It’s a place of old-world beauty,” writes Sheridan in the magazine’s cover article, “where you can enjoy the wallet-pleasing prices that deliver a private retreat for as little as $300 a month.”

International Living rates 30 countries in its annual index. Rating factors include real estate costs, special benefits offered to retirees, culture, safety and stability, health care, climate, infrastructure, and cost of living. Tax breaks and special government programs to attract retirees are also considered in the selection.

Caption: Boquete, Panama.

Topretirements Opinions
With more than 200 correspondents helping out, International Living has done a very thorough job of rating these countries. All of the countries selected have outstanding places to live. In fact, all of the towns selected within these countries (see article) seem great.

In our opinion though the list of countries is too heavily weighted toward low cost of living. For example, Mexico as #2 is a bit frightening. Many, but not all, expatriates in Mexico live in safe enclaves inhabited mostly by other expatriates. While that might be a great retirement for some, the lack of significant interactions with the local populace, and the restriction to a fairly small geographic area, make it a less than desirable retirement alternative for our tastes. Hopefully Mexico will overcome its current safety problems and be the welcoming destination it could become. There are certainly towns and cities in Central and Latin America where an adventurous American who is willing to learn Spanish or Portuguese could interact with the locals. You do have those two attributes to be happy though, in our opinion, as well as be comfortable with widespread poverty.

Our favorites in Central America would be Costa Rica and Panama. These countries have the political stability and friendly attitude towards the USA that give them an edge. The only problem with Costa Rica is that only small parts of the country are developed – infrastructure is sometimes in short supply. Panama has the problem of expatriate enclaves.

What’s not on the list
We tend to think more about the countries that didn’t make this list. Ireland or Scotland for example, where just about any American could not only speak the language, but interact with the social fabric. Villages in rural France, Spain, and Portugal where the lifestyle is simple and rich (not to mention the food and wine). New Zealand, Thailand, Portugal, Greece. Countries in the old iron curtain such as the Czech Republic. Some of these countries will be more expensive (and a bit harder to get to), but in our opinion the life experience will be richer than living in a gated enclave or a very poor city somewhere else. Like many of the expatriates who live in Central America, retirement in these countries is generally more of a seasonal lifestyle due to legal restrictions and a desire to spend some time in the good old USA.

Your Thoughts
We gave you our opinion, what’s yours? What countries would make your list of the best places in the world? Please respond to this blog via the Comments section below.

For further reference:
11 Things You Should Know Before You Retire Abroad
Vilcabamba, Ecuador
Costa Rica as a Retirement Destination
What You Need to Know about Retiring in Mexico
Topretirements List of Countries and States for Best Retirement

Posted by John Brady on September 7th, 2009


  1. Well this is an interesting article. I guess a lot depends on whether you agree with the categories used and the weighting assigned to each of them. As with anything else you have to understand what the impact of each result means to you. For example, it’s nice that Cost of Living is low but many times there are reasons for this that aren’t necessarily attractive.

    Also, I happen to have a particular interest in Australia and find it quite interesting that it is ranked fairly high, number ten on this list. But from my research, if you are not a citizen, you better be extremely wealthy and ready to contribute a good deal of that to Australia if you intend to live there as a retiree. So no matter what the rest of the desireables are if you can’t get past this then it really doesn’t matter.

    So it gives you something to think about but is going to require much more investigation if you really are thinking about retiring any place where you are not a citizen.

    by Mejask — September 10, 2009

  2. Looking to retire abroad in the next 5 years. I need all the information you have to offer. Never been abroad, but will consider, France, Greece, or even the Philippines. Not sure yet of where is the best choice. Any suggestions?

    by Deborah — March 22, 2010

  3. I am in love with Belize. Does anyone have any comments? My husband and I have been there 2x for over 2 weeks each time.

    by Robin — April 19, 2010

  4. […] you might want to look at these 2 articles at Topretirements, which also have links elsewhere: Top 10 International Places to Retire 10 Tips to Consider Before You Retire […]

    by » The Best of the Best Places to Retire Topretirements — May 18, 2010

  5. […] Further Reference: Top 10 International Places to Retire International Blog […]

    by » The European View on Best Places to Retire Topretirements — August 9, 2010

  6. Costa Rica… is now too expensive. Europeans have moved in and now the prices are prohibitive. The infrastructure is not stable. If the water goes out it may be 2 days before it is repaired, same with cable t.v. or phone.

    Mexico…. is still well in the ball park as long as you stay a minimum of 100 miles south of the U.S. border. (drug wars) Lake Chapala/Ajijic (south of Guadalajara) is a large U.S./Canadian expat. Inexpensive, friendly with English spoken everywhere.

    Philippines… well yes is very inexpensive and friendly if you stay out of the main cities like Manila or Cebu. Batangas and Butuan are wonderful retirement areas, safe and live a good life cheap.

    Thailand….if you stay out of Bangkok it is ok. The problem overall is the instability of the government. Each 3 years or so they have a coup and overthrow the PM. Can be violent in Bangkok. Chaing Mai wonderful. Stay away from expensive areas like Phuket.

    Panama…. well I’m heading down there next… will let you know… taking a 10 day tour to get a feel for the entire country. i will report…

    john garretson
    bakersfield, ca u.s.a.

    by John Garretson — August 12, 2010

  7. Costa Rica and Boquete, Panama are already too expensive. I suggest to check Caripe, Venezuela for retirement. It has same natural beauty as Boquete, however land, housing and cost of living are unexpensive. On negative side, erratic utilities and limited Medical facilities. Political situation in Venezuela may scare some foreigns.

    by Jonathan Romero — August 14, 2010

  8. I have fallen in love with Aruba although I was there only once for a week long vacation. The biggest problem is the distance to the mainland. I was not thrilled with Belize, and Costa Rica is nice, but not a bargain. And we had trouble finding English speaking people in San Jose.I also loved the Grand Cayman, but it too is very expensive. Any other suggestions??

    by Bruce Metchnek — September 7, 2010

  9. As a follow up to my previous post, last week went to Caripe and visited the famous Guacharo Cave, discovered by Alexander Humbolt in 1801 and its great. Caripe is 1200 m
    M high and temperature is 66-74 deg F all year round and land is fertile. Lots of 550 – 1300 M2 are for sale, contact for details. Tourism in Caripe is booming and there many nice Bed&Breakfast (Posadas) for less than 40 $/day.

    by Jonathan Romero — September 24, 2010

  10. Well, if anyone is financially stable and interested in investing in a project to turn a 5 star restaurant into a boutique hotel located in Nairobi – Kenya; we will show you how Africa (of course not all) can also be a top destination. This project has a very good return on investment and you will still be retired but enjoying. Kenya has some of the best beaches in the world, the wild life is amazing and the people are friendly. We are originally from Switzerland.

    by Jayne Stoecklin — January 9, 2011

  11. Move to Thailand,been here 5 years. I live in the North Eastern part of Thailand and have had no problems. A very cheap place to live.

    by David — March 4, 2011

  12. I live in Thailand,Bangkok, and its the safest big city I have ever been in. Still cheap in many ways, with an amazing social life, a new monorail and underground, plus great food.
    Many of the places listed on retirement websites are for very old couples, who don’t go out much. For singles Bangkok is #1 on the planet. Crime is a big negative in Brasil, the Philippines, Cambodia and many other low cost destinations. Not so in Bangkok.
    Mexico, you must be insane. It’s racist, dirty, lacks modern facilities and who wants to be in the middle of a drug shootout.
    Just remember being on holiday somewhere & living there are two very different realities. Plus, living and not having to work vs. working abroad may change your destination.
    Thailand is great place if you don’t need to work here.

    by Kevin Reily — June 6, 2011

  13. Curious about Eastern Canada, Prince Edward Island, and the environs. Although Canada is an inexpensive country, it seems there are many positives to this area: moderate temps; great culture and music; and golfing. Also, I like the idea of Scotland. Any thoughts?

    by cdimauro — August 16, 2011

  14. We love Eastern Canada (NB, NS, PEI), but especially Newfoundland (the island … not Labrador … never visited there): REAL fishing villages rather than tourist trap “model” villages, FIORDS!, and less crowds … even a French island at sounthern tip (i believe IT is still part of France!). Now, reality: that was 20 years ago; we only visited the western end (eastern has Provincial capital and probably more crowded); we were there in the summer (winters are COLD); cod fishing industry was already in triouble back then and can only be worse now (perhaps driving them to more tourism or just poverty). However, our memories are of a place we truly loved VISITING (the climb up Gros Morne with two young children will last a life-time).

    by The Mad Monk — August 18, 2011

  15. I have enjoyed living in Rosarito, Mexico 45 minutes south of San Diego for 6+ years and the social life here has been truly amazing. We have interesting neighbors here from all over the world. Everyday of the week you can go out to lunch, a day trip, or evening cocktail party within our large circle of friends. For links on this area check out

    by Baja Pete — February 8, 2012

  16. Gee, Baja Pete, you wouldn’t be selling anthing at that location, would you? I beleive that just today (perhaps yesterday), the U.S. State Dept. issued yet ANOTHER travel warning in Mexico for U.S. citizens … it actually drastically enlarged the area of threats. Hmm, think I’ll head north (just love those Canadian Rockies and Quebec).

    by Mad Monk — February 10, 2012

  17. Well, Mad Monk, I also live in Rosarito, 45min from San Diego for the last 12 years. It is all the things and more that Baja Pete has said. Don’t know why the US is so down on Travel (might have something to do with trying to keep the tourist dollar in the US.) But Baja is safer than alot of big US city.

    by CC Baja — February 11, 2012

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