Best Places to Retire Overseas
Retiring in another country used to be a foreign concept to most Americans but it’s becoming more common thanks to two main factors: the Internet and the economy.
The Internet has provided some much-needed connectivity and the economy has priced many retirees out of warm-weather cities in the U.S.
“You can live better for less in a tropical paradise,” said Dan Prescher, the special projects editor for International Living magazine. “All you have to do is think outside the border.”
AARP found 10 of the best places to retire outside the U.S., using five criteria: the cost of living, housing costs, health care (both quality and accessibility), cultural and recreational options and if there’s already an expat community there.
Click through to find out where they are!
By Cindy Perman
Posted 3 Feb 2011
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Both scenic and sophisticated, Buenos Aires is often referred to as the “Paris of South America.”
“This falls into one of those fantasy places for people,” said Ken Budd, the executive editor of AARP magazine.
It’s got a lot of museums and restaurants, with beautiful cathedrals and opera houses. And since the country’s economic crisis in 2002, it’s been a very affordable option. Rents start at $700 a month in some popular expat communities, and you can buy a nice condo for a couple hundred thousand dollars, AARP reports. Plus, it’s close the beautiful beaches of Uruguay.
And let’s not forget, Buenos Aires is home of the tango. Ole!
The convenience of Belize sets it apart – the official language is English, it’s very easy to get residency status and they offer tons of special benefits to retirees.
Oh, and it’s got some pretty amazing scenery – lush forests and picturesque white-sand beaches.
“It’s got fantastic beaches,” Budd said. “Classic warm weather, lots of great outdoor swimming, boating and biking – there’s a high pleasure factor there,” he said. “And you get it a lot cheaper than you would in, say, California.”
One American couple built a ranch with a water view for $125,000, AARP said.
Central Valley, Atenas, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has lush tropical foliage and beautiful beaches but there’s one thing that really sets it apart: Health care.
Because the country doesn’t have an active military, they invest a lot in healthcare. Real estate isn’t as cheap as it was 10 years ago, Budd said, but it’s still pretty affordable.
The Central Valley, which is more laid back than some nearby resort towns but still close enough to San Jose, offers a nice balance. Plus, there are about 50,000 Americans living in Costa Rica.
“It’s just a real comfortable place to live overall,” Budd said.
If you wanted to retire in Paris it would cost a fortune – Languedoc-Roussillon offers a far more affordable alternative. It’s in a perfect location: It’s close to Provence, a charming collection of hilltop villages that overlook the Mediterranean Sea, and still close enough for a weekend trip to Paris.
“I think living in France is a dream for a lot of people,” Budd said.
This particular area is known for its medieval towns and castles, with great food, great culture and mild temperatures. And, this area is a real melting pot, Budd said, with many Americans, British, Dutch and Germans calling it home.
Plus, France has one of the best health-care systems in the world.
Le Marche, Italy
Le Marche has vineyards, mountains, beaches, and “some of the best fish dishes in Italy,” Budd said. It’s close to the Adriatic Sea, yet still close enough for a weekend trip to Florence, Milan or Venice.
Many people have been priced out of Tuscany, and Umbria was thought to be the next Tuscany, but then they made that movie and it was just as expensive as Tuscany!
“You want to stay away from those places and find the places that are under the radar… You’re looking for the next Tuscany before it becomes Tuscany,” he said.
And guess what that is? Ding! Le Marche. Budd said you can rent a place for as cheap as $700 a month, though that rises to $1,500 the closer you get to the coast.
Puerto Vallarta Region, Mexico
Mexico is always one of the top choices for retirees because it’s inexpensive, beautiful, the winters are warm – and it’s close to the U.S., a nice convenience for visiting family and friends.
The fact that it’s popular is in itself a selling point – there are at least 50,000 Americans and Canadians living there right now.
The appeal of Puerto Vallarta is that it’s friendly with a nice small-town feel, Budd said.
One retiree told AARP that it reminds him of the U.S. in the 50s, with big plazas where people hang out.
It’s also worth noting that it’s a very safe city, located far away from the crime in Mexico that is rampant along the U.S. border.
“Forget those Reagan-era images you have of Nicaragua,” Budd said. “It’s a lot like its neighbor, Costa Rica — a stunningly beautiful country of beaches and rainforests and volcanoes — but cheaper.”
“Nicaragua is one of the cheapest places to live in the western hemisphere,” Prescher said.
You can live comfortably in Nicaragua on $18,000 a year, AARP says, and dinner for two costs about $30. Plus, there are about 10,000 Americans living there, 1,000 of them in Granada.
AARP says it has the same beautiful rain forests as its neighbors to the south Costa Rica and Panama, “only wilder and less explored.”
This mountain town offers a beautiful retreat, yet it’s a short ride or flight to the city and beach.
The currency is pegged to the dollar, so the weak dollar isn’t an issue. Plus, Panama really rolls out the red carpet for retirees: They offer 20 to 50 percent discounts to retirees on airfare, busses, trains, concerts, movies, medical bills and more, AARP reports.
It’s amazingly affordable: One couple from California bought a seven-acre organic coffee farm for $135,000, AARP said.
Plus, it has a lot of the comforts of home – everything from golf courses to gated communities.
Portugal has everything you could want in retirement – golf, beaches and restaurants – and yet it’s cheaper than most everything else in western Europe. It’s one of those great off-the-radar finds if you can take advantage of it before everyone else gets there.
The nation prides itself on being laid back – the opposite of a bustling city like New York, Budd said.
Cascais is a scenic resort town on the Atlantic coast and the people are very friendly.
It’s just 15 miles away from the capital but extremely affordable: One expat told AARP that she rented a huge apartment/office with a pool for $1,000 a month and that you could buy a nice home for $250,000.
Costa del Sol, Spain
Spain has everything you could want from a European retreat: snow-capped mountains, great beaches, historic towns, mild weather and outstanding food.
And, what really makes it attractive right now is that the economic crisis has slashed real estate prices there by as much as 40 percent. Plus, there’s no sales tax here, and property taxes are low.
The Costa del Sol area is 150 miles of coast – and, like the name says, sun -- in southeastern Spain. Parts of it are touristy but there are also quaint villages.
One couple told AARP they got a two-bedroom house in the village of Torrox, complete with a garden with citrus trees, a terrace and ocean views, for $180,000.
Here comes the sol, little darling… here comes the sol and I say, it’s all right, it’s all right…