The best countries to retire in – complete with retirement incentives

best countries to retire in
Great healthcare, a low cost of living, and adventure in your golden years. Source: AFP

It’s never too early to start thinking about where you’ll spend your golden years. Even if retirement is a long while away, it’s great to plan ahead and work towards a goal of retiring comfortably – and perhaps even early.

That’s where the idea of retiring abroad comes in.

In recent years, retiring abroad has become popular among people who seek to embrace their potential freedom and pursue long-held dreams. It’s not just older folk but also for those aiming to raise a family in one of the best countries to retire in. 

American Citizens Abroad estimates that, as of 2022, 5.1 million US citizens lived abroad, comprising 3.9 million civilians plus 1.2 million service members and other government-affiliated Americans. 

But what exactly is the allure behind moving abroad and retiring?

best countries to retire in

When you’re getting older and things start getting more expensive, it makes more sense that you should move somewhere more affordable. In this case, it’s overseas. Source: AFP

Why people retire abroad

While the idea of choosing the best countries to retire in seems exciting, it can also be quite daunting. After all, there’s a lot to consider – cost of living, property, quality of life, healthcare, and even the climate. 

But ultimately, many people retire abroad to countries that have more to offer than their home country.

For Americans, financial concerns play a big part in the decision to retire abroad – inflation, staggering healthcare costs, and the high cost of living are just some of the reasons that motivate them to pack their bags and move abroad. 

Healthcare, in particular, is a great concern.

As people get older, they require more assistance with their health, which can be extremely expensive in countries like the US or UK. Assisted living costs are also high, with the median cost for community and assisted living facilities in the US being US$4,300 per month, according to the Cost of Care Survey by Genworth.

So, by retiring abroad, retirees have access to affordable healthcare, a lower cost of living, and a plethora of new experiences. Some countries, like Panama, Costa Rica, Greece, and Colombia, even offer retiree incentives, like visas, tax benefits, health discounts, duty exemptions, and permanent residency options. 

With all these perks, it’s not hard to see why people wouldn’t want to get moving. 

The best countries to retire in

Here are our top picks based on the 2024 Annual Global Retirement Index.

The Retirement Index is a comprehensive and in-depth report designed to be a useful reference tool based on real experiences – in short, it’s extremely reliable.

best countries to retire in

Costa Rica has a rich history with lots to see, and retiring here means you’ll never be bored. Source: AFP

Costa Rica

Cost of living: From US$1,600 a month

Costa Rica is ranked as one of the best countries to retire in. A dream travel destination for many, it’s now a retirement haven, offering expatriates unique experiences, scenic landscapes, and delicious cuisine. 

The country is also home to one of the world’s Blue Zones, regions where people are thought to live the longest and healthiest lives. In Nicoya, many residents are three-and-a-half times more likely to live past 100 than the global average. Combined with high-quality healthcare options, an affordable cost of living, and an abundance of natural beauty, it’s no wonder that many people chose to retire there. 

If those reasons aren’t enough, Costa Rica also offers the Pensionado Visa, which has numerous benefits for retirees. Perks include tax exemptions on foreign income, discounts on many goods and services, national healthcare, and freedom to live and work independently in the nation. After three years, foreign nationals who meet the requirements will be eligible for permanent citizenship. 

best countries to retire in

Portugal is the oldest country in Europe, with the same defined borders since 1139. Source: AFP


Cost of living: From US$720 a month

Considered one of the best countries to retire in Europe, Portugal has plenty to offer for those intending to settle down there. With its breathtaking natural landscapes, beautiful sunny weather and laid-back Mediterranean culture, Portugal is hard to beat. 

The country offers some of the highest standards of living in Europe, with low costs and excellent healthcare. Residents have access to free public healthcare and affordable private health insurance plans. Small copays apply when seeing a doctor or being hospitalised up to a certain age, and then it’s free!

Portugal also ranks as one of the safest countries in the world. Low crime rates and nonexistent gun violence, coupled with comprehensive public transport systems, make getting around easy, even for elderly retirees. Senior citizens, in particular, even have discounts on public transport and tourist venues. 

With its two well-established Portuguese visa programmes – the Portugal Golden Visa and the D7 visa – anyone can retire peacefully here. Non-European citizens with sufficient savings or passive income to support themselves while living in Portugal are eligible for the D7 visa, while the Golden Visa is reserved for foreign nationals. Both visas allow people to live in Portugal full-time and apply for permanent residency or Portuguese citizenship after five years.

the best countries to retire in

The Petronas Towers are the world’s tallest twin skyscrapers. Source: AFP


Cost of living: From US$500 a month

Malaysia has always been a fan-favourite of the expatriate crowd, with its melting pot of cultures, rich diversity, and amazing food at every price point imaginable. Its geographic central location offers easy access to neighbouring Asian countries, convenient for weekend getaways or extended trips.

The cost of living is relatively low, with delicious meals starting from less than US$1. More importantly, the country has a well-established healthcare system, with both public and private healthcare options. There are also reputable international schools and universities, perfect for expatriate families with children.

The country is versatile, offering foreigners affordable opportunities to settle in various environments. Choose from the rapidly developing urban areas or explore rural regions to enjoy natural surroundings. 

Those interested in purchasing property can refer to the country’s Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme, which allows foreigners to buy homes and settle in the country for an extended period of time. However, do note that Malaysia is making some changes to its Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H), adding new guidelines that require expatriates to purchase and own property for 10 years. 

best countries to retire in

Panama was the first Latin American country to adopt the US currency as its own. Source: AFP


Cost of living: From US$1,500 a month

Panama’s popularity as one of the best countries to retire in is rising fast, and for good reasons. The country promises a rewarding and colourful retirement, perfect for those looking to settle down in a safe, tropical paradise. 

Panama is one of the most versatile countries in Central America, offering many options for comfortable lifestyles in various environments. From cosmopolitan lifestyles in the city to breezy mountain views in Highland towns or sunny beaches along the coastal regions, Panama has something to offer everyone. 

Its retirement incentives are particularly good, with the Panama Retirement Visa (Panama Visa Pensionado) being the main attraction for those looking to settle down in the country. Citizens will enjoy import-tax exemptions on household goods and a new car every other year, as well as savings on healthcare, flight tickets, hotels, entertainment, and transportation, which are all already extremely affordable. 

the best countries to retire in

Could she be reading Percy Jackson? Source: AFP


Cost of living: From US$870 a month

Not only is Greece a dream vacation destination, but it is also one of the best countries to retire in. Beautiful islands, verdant alleys, gorgeous scenery, excellent cuisine and ancient history lie in every corner, complete with a gorgeous Mediterranean climate and a richly diverse mainland. 

While housing and accommodation prices vary depending on location and proximity to a city or the sea, it’s still much cheaper than prices in the US, even in tourist-heavy locations like Santorini and Mykonos. On the other hand, Crete especially has a very affordable cost of living, being one of the only Greek islands that can support itself independently without tourism. 

For those interested in retiring and investing in property, consider the Greek Golden Visa programme. Perks include a discount tax rate for all rental income, pensions and other transferable investments for 15 years, as compared to the normal 10-37% range for US tax brackets. 

The programme also provides a five-year residency visa in exchange for a real estate investment, with the opportunity to renew every five years as long as the investment is maintained. Foreign nationals can apply for citizenship after seven years. 


Cost of living: From US$735 a month

For adventurous souls, Columbia is one of the best countries to retire in. The country has a rich, complex and colourful history, a result of the Indigenous, European, and African cultures merging together to form the vibrant local scene. 

Choosing to retire in Columbia promises plenty of outdoor activities, festivals, nature preserves, eco-tours, exciting flavours and more – perfect for those looking for some excitement in their golden years. The year-round warm weather and low cost of living make for it a welcoming choice for seniors looking to retire here. 

You’ll find that Columbia’s healthcare system is comparable to those of the US and even Canada. Regardless of whether you live in an urban setting or part of the expatriate community up north, you’ll have access to healthcare experts and specialists, as well as preventive care professionals offering acupuncture, massage, and alternative care services. 

For those looking to settle down here, the Colombian Retirement M-11 Visa provides plenty of local perks, such as tax exemptions, discounts on cultural and recreational activities, and access to Columbia’s healthcare system.