With health care and other costs skyrocketing in the U.S., many soon-to-be retirees are considering what once might have been unthinkable: taking their retirement savings and moving overseas for their senior years.
Numerous countries across Central and South America, Europe and Asia boast not only lower living costs and great climates but also modern amenities and advanced medical care.
We've reviewed travel advisories and the very latest information on living costs, visa requirements and other factors to find 2019's best places for an affordable, safe retirement abroad.
Follow along as we count down our top picks: 15 nations around the globe where retirees might easily get by on savings of $200,000 — or less.
Slovenia is a gem of a retirement destination in central Europe. It shares Italy’s eastern border and is perfectly positioned as a base for European travel.
Alongside medieval castles and churches nestled into mountain cliffs, you’ll find great skiing and beautiful lakes — and the beaches of the Istrian Peninsula are just a short car ride away. Slovenia's four-season climate is mildest in its coastal towns by the Adriatic Sea.
Life is affordable in Slovenia: A one-bedroom apartment in the capital, Ljubljana, rents for about $600 a month, according to the cost-of-living website Numbeo, and restaurants, entertainment and groceries also are reasonably priced.
All residents must pay for compulsory state health insurance, which provides access to good health care. It's common to add on private, local health insurance for additional services.
How to retire in Slovenia
Slovenia doesn't have a retirement visa for noncitizens of the European Union, so an Ameican retiree will have to apply for a one-year temporary residence permit before leaving the U.S.
And, you'll need to choose a "purpose" for your visa. U.S. seniors can apply for the purpose of study — such as to take language classes — or for the purpose of becoming a self-employed worker.
You must show you have an income at least equal to the "basic minimum income" in Slovenia, which was less than $450 a month in August 2018.
The temporary permit must be renewed every year. After five years in Slovenia with this visa, you could apply for permanent residency.
Malaysia offers retirees warmth and culture at a great price. Kuala Lumpur, the capital, has a low cost of living and lots of free activities, like strolling through the Perdana Botanical Gardens and admiring the views of the soaring Petronas Twin Towers.
Temperatures range between 77 degrees Fahrenheit and a humid 95 throughout the year. Note that there is a monsoon season from October to March.
An inexpensive local meal goes for $3 in Kuala Lumpur, while a three-course dinner for two costs just $18. Average rent for a one-bedroom condo in the city center is less than $600 per month, Numbeo says.
The cultural melting pot of Penang is even cheaper: A one-bedroom there rents for only about $230 a month.
How to retire in Malaysia
For retirees over age 50, application to Malaysia’s "My Second Home" (MM2H) program requires proof of about $86,150 in offshore liquid assets and a monthly income of $2,500.
Once you’re approved, you’ll need to open a Malaysian "fixed deposit" account and hold $37,000 in it for a year. Then, the government will require you to maintain a minimum balance of $24,600 for as long as you stay.
Although Malaysia is generally very safe, it’s a good idea to invest in home security, avoid carrying valuables in tourist areas and stay out of the eastern Sabah region.
The nation offers world-class health care and efficient private clinics at low prices, and English is widely spoken in major cities.
With its rich culture and history, gorgeous natural landscapes and affordable cost of living, Vietnam is a truly special retirement destination.
Two people can live on about $1,500 a month in major cities — and if you head to the beach towns of Nha Trang or Da Nang, you could live happily on less than $1,000 per month.
Nha Trang is home to plenty of expats and Western restaurants, while Da Nang is a modern city with a beach and a temperate climate. A one-bedroom in either city rents for under $400 a month.
At those prices, you’ll have plenty of funds left over to explore Vietnam’s sunny coasts, Buddhist pagodas and French colonial relics — and enjoy the tasty street food and unique cuisine, blending French, Cambodian and Chinese flavors.
How to retire in Vietnam
If you’re not married to a citizen or have family in Vietnam, you’ll need to apply for a visa to stay in the country long term.
Vietnam doesn’t have a specialized retirement program. Instead, you can apply for a one-year multiple-entry visa, which requires you to leave the country once every 90 days.
While Vietnam offers perfectly adequate health care, you might have to fly to Thailand or Singapore for a serious medical situation.
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With its sandy beaches and beautiful colonial cities, Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula — which includes the tourist hot spot Cancun — is considered one of the safest areas for international retirees.
If small-town life appeals more than city living, you might settle in Ajijic in western Mexico, which offers stunning lake and mountain views and easy access to Guadalajara Airport.
You can rent a one-bedroom apartment for under $400 a month near Ajijic, and a few dollars a week will buy bags of fresh local produce and fish. You could easily afford to travel and experience the cultural richness of Mexico’s diverse regions.
Mexico's private health insurance gets more expensive as you grow older, so many retirees hold on to medical coverage plans from their home countries. A specialist appointment in Mexico costs $25 to $30 out of pocket, while a doctor visit outside cities costs just $10 to $15.
How to retire in Mexico
To retire in Mexico, one option is to apply for a temporary resident visa at a Mexican consulate in the U.S. This visa grants a one-year residency and can be renewed for three more years.
As of January 2019, retirees seeking this visa must show a savings balance of $27,000 or proof of income from a foreign pension or investments of $1,620 per month over six months.
Alternatively, you could apply for permanent residency immediately. You'll need to show you had monthly income of $2,700 or savings of about $108,000 over the past 12 months.
Married couples should add another $540 to the monthly income requirements for both visa types.
Indonesia's 17,000 islands are covered in lively cities, beautiful temples and palaces, tropical jungles, and bohemian beaches. You can relax in the sun, or go on safari to discover the country’s spectacular array of wildlife — and all at rock-bottom prices.
A one-bedroom apartment rents for under $400 a month in the capital, Jakarta, or for only around $250 in Bali. A furnished, larger apartment on the beach can cost three times as much.
While locals tend to speak only Indonesian, many businesses and doctors speak English, too.
The best hospitals are in Jakarta, and foreigners must pay for services out of pocket. A general consultation costs about $40, and inpatient care may cost $220 or more daily, so private health insurance is recommended.
Retiring in Indonesia
To retire in Indonesia, you must apply through a local agency appointed by the Directorate General of Immigration. The agency will act as your sponsor and process your temporary retirement visa, or ITAS.
The visa is available to applicants 55 and older who can show proof of pension income of $18,000 a year, or $1,500 per month.
You also will need to carry health insurance that provides coverage in Indonesia, and sign a lease agreement for one year. A final requirement is to hire local domestic help, costing about $2.50 an hour.
The retirement visa can be renewed annually for up to five years, after which you can apply for permanent residency.
Peru was the heart of the Inca Empire, and today it's known for its beautiful section of Amazon rainforest and its majestic mountains, tropical jungles and rich culinary tradition. Its cities, including Lima and Cusco, have long and varied histories.
Thanks to its low cost of living and friendly people, Peru is a very hospitable option for international retirees.
In popular expat destinations such as Arequipa and Cusco, a one-bedroom apartment rents for less than $350 a month, and a nicer three-course meal for two costs between $10 and $12.
Peruvian public health care is affordable, but expats tend to have their own health insurance and use private clinics. The main health concern for newcomers is altitude sickness in Peru's high elevations.
How to retire in Peru
Peru has an accessible retirement visa called the rentista visa, which gives holders permanent resident status. With this visa, you won’t need to renew your residency permit or pay income tax of any kind.
To qualify, you’ll need to show that you have a permanent monthly income of $1,000 for one person, plus $500 per dependent.
To maintain the visa, you must spend a minimum six months of the year in Peru.
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The Mediterranean islands of Malta boast year-round sunshine and a unique mix of prehistoric and colonial history and architecture.
English is the second official language after Maltese, making for an easy transition for North American retirees.
On the island of Gozo, a centrally located one-bedroom apartment rents for less than $500 monthly, on average.
Malta also offers excellent health care at a fraction of the cost in the U.S. To access the system, you’ll need private health insurance coverage, which can cost less than $115 per month for those without chronic health conditions.
How to retire in Malta
Malta offers a renewable one-year visa for retirees and self-employed seniors.
Americans and Canadians may visit Malta for 90 days. Once there, you can apply to extend your stay for another three months. And then, you may apply for a permanent resident visa.
You’ll need to show you have at least 23,500 euros (more than $26,500) in the bank, or 28,500 euros (more than $32,000) if you’re married.
You’ll also need to demonstrate proof of health insurance, a mortgage or rental contract, and a clear criminal record. Finally, you’ll file a Maltese tax return and follow the minimum tax requirements.
Ecuador has become very popular with North American retirees thanks to its temperate climate and stunning landscape of sandy beaches and mountains, metropolitan cities and the famous Galapagos Islands.
The U.S. dollar is used as the official currency, and seniors 65 and older qualify for half-price public and private transportation services, plus discounts on utilities, entertainment and even flights.
Ecuador also has one of the most peaceful political climates in South America, especially in communities popular with American retirees, including Quito, the capital, and the smaller town of Cuenca.
The monthly rent on a one-bedroom apartment is only about $430 in central Quito and about $360 in Cuenca, Numbeo says. Ecuador also offers high-quality private health care options.
How to retire in Ecuador
Since visitors can stay in the country for only 90 days, it’s a good idea to apply for the country’s 9-I pensioner visa at an Ecuadorian consulate in the U.S.
The visa requires proof that you will have a monthly pension income of $800 or more. Your Social Security check can qualify as proof of income.
The process costs $500 plus a $50 visa application fee. Once you’re accepted, you’ll need to sign up for public or private health insurance.
Another option to gain residency in Ecuador is to buy real estate costing $25,000 or more (plus $500 per dependent) under the 9-II visa for investors in real estate and securities.
Thailand is home to spectacular beaches, beautiful palaces and ancient ruins. And Bangkok, the country's capital and commercial center, offers all the shopping, arts and other amenities you could want.
The hot season can bring 105-degree Fahrenheit heat — so the best time for outdoor activities is between November and March, when temperatures hover around 86.
You can live comfortably on $1,500 to $2,000 per month in coastal Phuket, where a one-bedroom apartment rents for less than $400 a month. In northern Chiang Mai, a full dinner for two can cost less than $10.
Thailand's health care system is considered one of the best in the world, and prices for medical care are significantly lower than in the U.S. The top private hospitals are in Bangkok.
How to retire in Thailand
Thailand’s retirement visa accepts applicants ages 50 and over with no criminal history.
The government asks to see proof of: about $25,700, either in a bank account or as pension income; or monthly income of about $2,100. To add a spouse to your application, you’ll need to provide a marriage certificate.
You can apply for a one-year, multiple entry non-immigrant O-A visa before leaving the U.S. and renew it each year from within Thailand.
While living in the country, you’ll need to report to an immigration officer or police station every 90 days with your approved documents.
Chile’s temperate four-season climate is perfect for wine production — and for exploring the country’s miles of coastline and beautiful mountains in your retirement.
Urbanites will enjoy the diverse and modern city of Santiago, while those looking for relaxation may find the perfect spot on the shores of La Serena or amid the bohemian vibe of Valparaiso.
You could retire in Chile on about $1,500 a month, which would be easy to cover if you're receiving Social Security or a pension.
Groceries, especially fresh produce, are cheaper in Chile. A nice, three-course meal for two goes for $40 to $45, and a one-bedroom apartment rents for around $400 outside of Santiago or under $300 on the outskirts of Valparaiso, says Numbeo.
How to retire in Chile
If you'd like to retire in Chile, first enter the country on a regular tourist visa, and then apply to upgrade to a retirement or income visa while you’re there.
Once you’re approved for a temporary visa, you’ll need to apply for a Rol Único Tributario (RUT) number, which is similar to a Social Security number. This ID number is necessary to open a bank account, sign up for phone and internet services, and much more.
The government doesn’t specify an income requirement, but you’ll typically need an income of at least $1,000 per person to get by for the first year or two as you settle in the country, says the Spencer Global law firm in Chile.
Permanent residency requires you to live in Chile for 180 days per year.
Given its sunny climate and the freedom of mobility within the European Union, Spain is a dream retirement destination and a convenient base for travel and adventure.
The cost of living varies among Spanish cities, with Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid among the priciest. A more affordable option is Valencia, which has plenty of sun, culture and ancient Roman ruins — and is close to even more amazing historic sites in Córdoba and Granada.
The average rent on a one-bedroom apartment in Valencia is about $675. You’ll find comparable prices in the coastal city of Málaga, known for its pristine beaches and Moorish history, or in the city of Murcia, located in a quiet wine region.
Spain’s public health system offers high-quality health care, while affordable private care also is readily available.
How to retire in Spain
To live out your retirement in Spain, you’ll need to show proof of a minimum income of $2,500 per month or $30,000 per year. You’ll also need to secure housing and sign up for health insurance that will cover you in Spain.
From the U.S., you'll need to fill out the necessary paperwork and submit it to the nearest Spanish consulate.
It's recommended that you make several photocopies of your documentation and buy extra passport-sized photos. You'll need those once you get to Spain in order to obtain a foreign visitor number, known as the NIE.
The ID number is your ticket to getting a bank account, internet, health care and most other services in Spain.
Portugal is even more affordable than Spain, and it has all the castles, beaches, wineries and golf you could want, to fill your retirement schedule.
Public transit and train lines make it easy to travel in and between Portugal’s interesting cities. For longer distances, you can rent a car or use a ride-hailing service like Uber.
Apartment rents start at just $375 a month in smaller cities — although you could easily be charged $1,000 in Lisbon. Restaurants are very affordable, with a meal costing less than $10 per person and a mid-range bottle of wine just $5, even in Lisbon.
Most doctors in large cities speak English, and international retirees will benefit from having private insurance.
How to retire in Portugal
The first step to getting a residence permit is to visit a Portuguese consulate in the U.S. with your passport, proof of income and health insurance, plus the results of a criminal background check.
The next step will be to apply for permanent residency once you arrive in Portugal.
Since the cost of living varies so much between parts of Portugal, the amount of income you'll need to live comfortably will depend on your destination. But to retire on $200,000, you'll probably want to rule out Lisbon.
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Uruguay is a politically stable haven in South America. With its modern infrastructure, lovely mountains and beaches, revelry-filled summers and quiet, temperate winters, you can enjoy your retirement at your own pace.
A couple from the U.S. could live comfortably on just $2,000 per month. For the best price-to-quality ratio, it's estimated you could live on as little as $800 a month in the city of Salto.
If you like the beach, then Atlantida, Piriapolis and La Barra are all affordable seaside towns. In La Barra, you can buy a home starting at $50,000 or rent one for $500 to $700 a month.
Uruguay offers three main health care options: private health-insurance companies; a public health care system; and private hospital membership plans. Those plans, called mutualistas, cost about $100 a month and are popular with expats.
How to retire in Uruguay
One option to retire in Uruguay is to apply for the rentista visa.
To get one, a single applicant should have a monthly income of about $1,500, plus enough money to cover any dependents.
Uruguay also has a retirement visa that will allow you to import a car and household items duty free, and even apply for a Uruguayan passport.
This visa also has some potential restrictions, so it’s best to contact a Uruguayan lawyer to help you apply.
2. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the most popular retirement destinations for Americans thanks to its breathtaking scenery, affordable and healthy lifestyle, and welcoming people.
In temperate San José and the Central Valley, a couple can live well on $2,000, with an airport, shopping and hospitals nearby. The Nicoya Peninsula offers beach life on a budget, while the city of Atenas has all the amenities you’ll ever need.
In Atenas, a three-bedroom apartment rents for a little over $400, Numbeo says, and a three-course dinner for two costs just $25.
Health care also is affordable in Atenas, which has a public health clinic, pharmacy and emergency room. Some expats choose to pay $75 to $150 for full coverage under Costa Rica's national public health insurance system known as Caja.
How to retire in Costa Rica
Retirees receiving pensions of $1,000 per month can gain a one-year residency under Costa Rica’s pensionado program.
A married couple need to receive only $1,000 in pension income under either spouse’s name. After three years of temporary residency, you can apply for permanent residency.
If you don’t have a pension, you might qualify for the rentista program. You’ll need to prove you will receive $2,500 per month of unearned income for two years, so that you won't need a job in Costa Rica.
The most common way to comply is with a letter showing that you have $60,000 in a bank account and intend to withdraw $2,500 per month for 24 months.
Our top choice, Panama, has it all: bustling city life; a beautiful, ecologically diverse climate; quality medical care; and the iconic Panama Canal. Most people speak English as their second language, after Spanish.
Located just a short flight from Miami and close to the Caribbean, this Central American nation is a great base for traveling throughout the region.
Panama City is surprisingly affordable: Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs about $960 a month, while the same size living space farther out goes for about $625 a month.
You can save some money by living without a car. The city is very walkable, and public transportation costs a one-time fee of $2 for a rechargeable card and then just 35 cents per ride.
How to retire in Panama
Panama has an amazing retirement (pensionado) program that subsidizes medical care and expenses, property taxes and car taxes, and offers many other benefits for retirees of any age.
To gain residency, all you need is proof that you're receiving a minimum $1,000 monthly pension from back in your home country.
With all these perks, it’s hard to find a reason not to retire in Panama!
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