The Best Places to Retire Overseas
The Best Places to Retire Overseas

At the end of 2019, more than 430,000 Americans chose to collect their benefits while living overseas. If you’re keen to be one of them, planning for retirement opens up a wealth of opportunities. Nevertheless, pinning down where to relocate can feel overwhelming. If you’re hoping to make that move abroad, you’ll need to take into account factors such as visa options, affordability, health care, security and the kind of lifestyle you can expect to enjoy. It’s not a decision to be undertaken lightly, but if you’re open to suggestions, here are our picks for a few of the best places to retire overseas.


View of beach in Carvoeiro town with colorful houses on coast of Portugal.
Credit: DaLiu/ Shutterstock

Portugal boasts a slew of characterful towns and cities, unspoilt countryside and endless glorious beaches. Together, these attributes make the country a tempting choice for those with time on their hands. Though the weather varies by region, overall it has a warm and sunny Mediterranean climate. You can expect winter temperatures into the low 60s Fahrenheit along the Algarve coast; even further north in the capital Lisbon they hold up well into the 50s.

Americans hoping to retire to Portugal need to investigate the D7 visa. Applicants need to be able to prove sufficient passive income (for instance, from a pension, rental portfolio or investments) to be able to independently support themselves. Currently, the Portuguese government sets that monthly figure at €820 ($890) a month though you’ll also need to meet other criteria such as proof of savings. Retirees will need to commit to spending six to eight months in Portugal to qualify. The country also offers the ARI, more commonly known as the golden visa, which requires a significant financial investment to the tune of at least €250,000 ($270000).


Small harbor and baroque church in Sliema, on the island of Malta.
Credit: FredP/ Shutterstock

More than a third of Americans that retire overseas find themselves in Europe meaning safe, welcoming and affordable Malta is also a strong contender. English is widely spoken in the country and as a consequence, navigating everyday life is relatively straightforward. Like its Mediterranean neighbors, this nation enjoys mild winters and hot summers. It’s a characterful place, with a long line-up of historic towns and cities such as Valletta, the Three Cities and Mdina, prehistoric temples and attractive fishing villages such as Marsaxlokk where colorful boats bob in the harbor in view of quayside eateries. When you’re ready for a change of pace, getting over to sleepy Gozo is easy thanks to regular ferries.

To qualify for the Malta Retirement Programme, you’ll need to be at least 55 years old and be in receipt of a pension. There’s also a requirement to rent or own a qualifying property – for example, exclusions apply in the south of the island and there’s a minimum spend – as well as other documentation such as health insurance coverage and a police good conduct certificate.


Aerial of the modern skyline of Panama City, Panama.
Credit: Gualberto Becerra/ Shutterstock

If you’d prefer to stay closer to home, Panama packs a lot into a relatively small space. Whether you crave the buzz of the country’s lively capital or the chilled out beach life on its Caribbean coastline, you’re sure to find an environment in which you feel comfortable. A plethora of excursions and days out await, from leisurely cruises along the Canal to hikes through verdant rainforest. There are other advantages too: Panama uses the U.S. dollar as the official currency making life easy and you’ll encounter a large expat community to help you settle in.

The benefits offered to retirees are also first-rate, such as discounted health care, medicines, dental treatment and utility bills. As well, you’ll qualify for money off flights making it cheaper to go back to visit friends and family – Miami, for instance, is just a three-hour flight away. So what’s the official welcome like? Potential retirees need to engage a Panamanian lawyer to complete the process in person. Gathering up the required documentation is straightforward but takes a little time; the necessary paperwork includes your birth certificate, a police record check and notarized proof that demonstrates a monthly income of at least $1000.

Costa Rica

Hiker on steps overlooking waterfall.
Credit: Galyna Andrushko/ Shutterstock

Nature lovers might consider retiring to Costa Rica, where around a quarter of the land area is protected as national parks. Ticos are proud of their eco-credentials and conservation heritage. As a resident, you’ll have more time to explore and a better chance of seeing some of the rarer species that elude transient tourists. Take your pick of breathtaking landscapes: active volcanoes and hot springs, broad swathes of sand framed by swaying coconut palms, and biodiverse cloud forest where you might spot sloths and monkeys.

U.S. retirees can apply for temporary residency in this stable Central American country. Applicants for the Pensionado visa must demonstrate they receive an income of at least $1000 each month as a pension and meet other requirements including health and background checks. It’s also possible to enter Costa Rica on a tourist visa and pay $200 to apply to upgrade your status if you prefer to try before you buy.

U.S. Virgin Islands

Island coast with boats in inlet.
Credit: Achim Baque/ Shutterstock

If you dream of retiring to an island paradise, the U.S. Virgin Islands could be a good fit. It boasts some of the best beaches in the world and typical temperatures ranging from 77°F in winter to 82°F in summer. Rent water sports equipment or swim and snorkel alongside sea turtles and tropical fish. On land, hike to sugar plantations and Taino petroglyphs. According to the latest census data, around 21% of the population are over 65 years of age, meaning that its towns are geared up to this age group. As a U.S. territory, the same legal system applies as back home and there’s no sales or state tax. Pets can come too, with no quarantine requirement to contend with if coming from the U.S. mainland.

Retiring here doesn’t come cheap, however. Though the cost of accommodation seems reasonable – there’s a median home value of $290,600 and a median monthly rent of $926 – everyday items can be expensive as most manufactured goods have to be imported. If you’re happy to simplify your life and adjust to island time, then why not see out your days under sunny Caribbean skies?

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