Best Countries to Retire To: Your Guide in 2024

If you’re on the hunt for the best countries to retire to, you want clear answers. This article cuts to the chase: find out where your retirement funds will stretch.
April 23, 2024
Best Countries to Retire To: Your Guide in 2024
Ana Fankhauser
April 23, 2024

If you’re on the hunt for the best countries to retire to, you want clear answers. This article cuts to the chase: find out where your retirement funds will stretch, where healthcare systems are reliable, where safety is a priority, and where the expat community is welcoming. We’re here to guide you through these choices with simplicity and honesty, helping you pinpoint your ideal retirement haven.

Key Takeaways

  • Portugal, Spain, and Thailand are top destinations for American retirees seeking affordability, rich cultural experiences, quality healthcare, and welcoming communities.
  • Retirees need to navigate various visa options, such as the Golden Visa and Non-Lucrative Visa programs, which can offer residency rights with or without significant financial investment.
  • Affordable living is paramount, with some countries like Colombia and Thailand gaining popularity due to their low cost of living while providing a comfortable lifestyle for retirees.

Top Countries for Retirees: A Comprehensive List

Top Countries for Retirees

Retiring abroad is a dream for many, and with the right destination, it can turn into a delightful reality. Portugal, Spain, and Thailand have emerged as the top retirement destinations for American retirees, offering a blend of affordability, a high quality of life, and excellent healthcare systems.

Portugal receives an impressive 87.43 out of 100 points from US expats. This high ranking is due to its friendly locals, appealing weather, superior healthcare, and reasonable cost of living. Spain, on the other hand, offers a rich quality of life marked by its historic towns, beautiful beaches, and abundant opportunities for exploration. It’s not hard to see why these two countries are among the ten best countries for retirement.

Thailand, the land of smiles, is another favorite among American retirees. Known for its warm and respectful culture, Thailand offers an incredibly affordable lifestyle. Some reasons why Thailand is a great place to retire include:

  • Premium apartments in bustling cities can be rented for as little as $350 per month
  • The cost of living is significantly lower compared to the United States
  • The healthcare system is of high quality and affordable
  • The country offers a wide range of activities and attractions for retirees to enjoy

These factors make Thailand a paradise for those seeking to retire abroad.

These countries merely represent a fraction of the possible destinations, but they give insight into the thrilling possibilities of living internationally. Each offers a unique blend of:

  • affordability
  • rich cultural experiences
  • quality healthcare
  • a welcoming community

These locations, with their proximity to national parks, are considered some of the most popular retirement destinations, making them ideal for settling down after a fulfilling career.


Portugal, though small, captivates American retirees with its:

  • welcoming locals
  • pleasant weather
  • superior healthcare
  • cost-effective living conditions

The country’s rich cultural heritage and stable, tranquil lifestyle make it the best country to experience, with these aspects being just the cherries on top.

According to the 2022 Global Peace Index, Portugal is considered extremely safe for American retirees, ranking as the sixth-most peaceful country in the world. Retirees may also be eligible for a government retirement pension, further supporting their lifestyle in this Atlantic Ocean gem.

The country’s Golden Visa program is another enticing factor, especially for those planning to retire abroad. It offers the opportunity to secure long-term residency in Portugal, a European country, through the Non-Habitual Residence Tax (NHR) system and the D7 Visa programs.


Spain, another European country, is a popular retirement destination that offers a rich quality of life. Some of the reasons why Spain is an ideal retirement destination include:

  • Its historic towns
  • Vibrant markets
  • Leisurely pace of life
  • Favorable climate
  • Beautiful beaches
  • There are abundant opportunities for exploration

The cost of living in Spain is also quite attractive for retirees. With a budget of about $2,000–$2,200 per month, retirees can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Additionally, retirees who become permanent residents in Spain have the opportunity to access the public healthcare system, which offers comprehensive coverage.

Spain’s Golden Visa program is a fantastic opportunity for non-EU citizens to apply for residency permits through a qualifying investment. It’s amazing how quickly it can be processed, making it a popular choice for many retirees.


Thailand, an overseas country, is a wonderful and safe choice for retirement. It offers:

  • Stunning beaches
  • Lively cities
  • Cultural heritage
  • Delicious cuisine

The living costs in Thailand offer a range of options, from a basic monthly budget of $1500 for necessities up to $5000 per month for a truly indulgent experience.

Retirees in Thailand have access to top-notch healthcare facilities with private health insurance providers like:

  • Pacific Cross
  • Luma
  • AIA
  • Thaivivat
  • April International

Those holding a Thai retirement visa or work permit can also benefit from the perk of free Thai healthcare, making it an attractive alternative retirement option abroad for American retirees.

Navigating Retirement Visa Programs

Navigating Retirement Visa Programs

Although mastering the intricacies of retirement visa programs may seem overwhelming, it’s an essential step towards realizing your dream of retiring overseas. There are numerous visa options available for retirees, each with its own set of requirements and benefits. These can range from Golden Visa Programs, which require a qualifying investment, to Non-Lucrative Visas, which often require proof of income or savings.

Many countries offer Golden Visa Programs, including Portugal and Spain. These programs present an incredible chance to make a significant investment in a country, leading to obtaining European residency.

On the other hand, Non-Lucrative Visas offer retirees the opportunity to reside in a country without the need to work or engage in professional activities. This type of visa is particularly appealing to Americans retiring abroad who wish to focus on leisure and personal interests.

Whether you choose a Golden Visa program or a Non-Lucrative Visa, it’s essential to understand the requirements and benefits of each. This will ensure you make the best decision for your retirement years, allowing you to fully enjoy and embrace the exciting journey of retiring abroad.

Golden Visa Programs

Golden Visa Programs, offered by countries such as Portugal and Spain, entice many retirees by requiring a qualifying investment that leads to European residency.

The minimum investment for a Golden Visa in Spain is just €500,000, and in Portugal, the required investment starts from a reasonable €250,000, following recent program amendments. This allows retirees to invest in the capital city or other regions of their choice, depending on the specific program requirements.

It’s important to note that while Golden Visa programs can provide a pathway to residency, they also require a significant financial commitment. Therefore, careful planning and consideration are essential when exploring these alternative retirement options abroad.

Non-Lucrative Visas

Non-Lucrative Visas are an alternative option for retirees who do not wish to make a significant investment. These visas often require proof of income or savings.

Many countries offer non-lucrative visas for retirees, including:

  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Thailand
  • Belize
  • Panama
  • Indonesia
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Nicaragua
  • The Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Cyprus

This provides a wide range of options for foreign retirees looking to retire abroad.

The requirements to obtain a non-lucrative visa can vary between countries. For example, in Spain, applicants need to prove financial means of at least €2,400 in income per month or equivalent in savings. Meanwhile, in Portugal, applicants can apply by proving a passive income from outside of the country, based on Portugal’s minimum salary.

Affordable Living: Low-Cost Retirement Destinations

Affordable living in retirement destinations

One key factor to weigh when contemplating overseas retirement is the cost of living. Affordable living is a major draw for many retirees, and certain countries stand out in this regard. Colombia and Thailand, for instance, are known for their low living expenses, making them excellent choices for affordable retirement destinations.

In Colombia, retirees can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle with an average cost of living ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 per month. Some cities that are popular for retirees include:

  • Bucaramanga, known for its lower cost of living
  • Medellín, known for its comfortable climate
  • Santa Marta, known for its coastal beauty
  • Cartagena, known for its appeal to retirees and digital nomads

These cities offer diverse experiences for those who choose to retire in Colombia.

Thailand, on the other hand, offers retirees a wide range of living-cost options. Here are some examples:

  • A basic monthly budget of $1500 is suitable for basic necessities
  • Around $2000 can provide a comfortable lifestyle
  • For those seeking luxury, approximately $5000 per month can offer a truly indulgent experience.

These countries offer a unique opportunity for international living while maintaining a comfortable and affordable lifestyle. With lower living expenses, retirees can make the most of their retirement years, exploring new places and indulging in new experiences without worrying about breaking the bank. Some of these countries include:

  • Mexico
  • Costa Rica
  • Portugal
  • Thailand
  • Malaysia

Safety First: The Safest Countries for American Retirees

Although affordability and lifestyle are crucial factors in choosing a retirement location, safety must always be a priority. Iceland, for instance, is considered the safest country for US expats to retire, thanks to its low crime rate and good relations with other countries. Iceland’s safety features include:

  • Low crime rate
  • Small-town feel
  • Unparalleled equality
  • Good relations with other countries

These factors make it an ideal destination for Americans retiring abroad who value safety and a strong sense of community. The country’s crime rates are impressively low compared to other countries, making it one of the safest places in the world.

Aside from safety, Iceland also offers the following benefits for retirees:

  • A state-centered, publicly funded universal healthcare system that is accessible to the entire population
  • The nation is divided into seven healthcare districts, each providing general healthcare services
  • Ensuring retirees have good access to healthcare facilities.

In a world where safety is a prime concern, countries like Iceland provide a safe haven for American retirees, allowing them to enjoy their golden years without any worries.

Exploring Latin America: Top Retirement Spots

Exploring Latin America

It is understandable why Latin American nations like Costa Rica and Ecuador have become popular retirement destinations due to their vibrant cultures and breathtaking landscapes. Offering warm climates, retirement visa benefits, and a lower cost of living, these countries are ideal for those looking to retire abroad.

Costa Rica, a Central American nation, is known for:

  • its stable and peaceful environment
  • high quality of life
  • warm climate
  • friendly people

It offers single retirees an incredibly cost-effective retirement option, making it a popular destination among American retirees.

Ecuador, on the other hand, provides US expats with a range of wonderful retirement benefits, such as discounts for transportation and exciting entertainment options. In addition, retirees can also get a refund of Ecuador’s 12% value-added tax, making Ecuador an attractive destination for Americans retiring abroad.

Both Costa Rica and Ecuador offer a unique blend of affordability, rich cultural experiences, and a welcoming community, making them ideal retirement destinations for those seeking to retire in Latin America.

European Retirement Havens: Uncovering Hidden Gems

Europe is brimming with countries that provide enriching cultural experiences, picturesque landscapes, and a superior quality of life. While popular destinations like Spain and Portugal often steal the spotlight, there are several hidden gems in Europe that are worth considering for retirement. Countries like Cyprus, Malta, and the Netherlands offer permanent residency or citizenship by investment programs, making them attractive options for those looking to retire abroad.

Cyprus and Malta offer fantastic permanent residency options through renewable permanent residence permits. These permits are granted in exchange for investment. Additionally, Malta has an amazing Golden Visa program, which only requires an investment of 30,000 euros.

Another European haven for retirees is the Netherlands. Known for its well-developed infrastructure, high standard of living, and welcoming culture, the Netherlands is a great place to retire. It offers a unique blend of cultural experiences, beautiful landscapes, and a high quality of life, making it an ideal retirement destination.

These lesser-known European retirement destinations offer a unique blend of cultural experiences, beautiful landscapes, and a high quality of life. They provide retirees with alternative retirement options that are worth exploring.

Enjoying Your Golden Years in Asia: Top Retirement Destinations

Asia boasts a multitude of diverse cultures, stunning landscapes, and extraordinary culinary delights. For those considering retiring abroad, countries like Thailand and the Philippines offer a unique blend of affordable living costs and attractive visa programs for retirees.

Thailand, known for its pleasant climate and beautiful natural surroundings, is an ideal choice for retirement. The country offers a wide range of living costs, from as low as $850 for basic necessities to a luxury lifestyle at around $5000 per month.

On the other hand, the Philippines is known for:

  • its wonderful tropical climate
  • affordable living costs
  • friendly locals
  • rich cultural heritage

These factors make it an attractive destination for American retirees.

Both Thailand and the Philippines offer a unique opportunity for retirees to enjoy their golden years in Asia. With affordable living costs, attractive visa programs, and a wealth of cultural experiences, these countries are top retirement spots in Asia.

Retiring Solo: Ideal Destinations for Single Retirees

Choosing to retire solo can be a liberating and rewarding journey. For single retirees, Lisbon in Portugal, Thailand, and Costa Rica are great retirement destinations. They offer affordable living, rich cultural experiences, and American retiree communities, making them ideal for those choosing to retire alone.

Lisbon, Portugal, is an amazing option for single retirees. Here are some reasons why:

  • Excellent climate
  • Reasonable cost of living
  • High quality of life
  • Comprehensive healthcare system

A retiree can live comfortably in Lisbon with an estimated monthly budget of €1,700 ($2,200).

Thailand’s attractiveness to single retirees is due to its affordable living costs, pleasant climate, and beautiful natural surroundings. With a range of living costs and a friendly, welcoming culture, Thailand is an ideal choice for those choosing to retire solo.

Costa Rica, on the other hand, offers single retirees an incredibly stable and peaceful environment, high quality of life, and a lower cost of living. With a warm climate and friendly people, Costa Rica is a cost-effective retirement option for those retiring solo.

Preparing for Retirement Abroad: Important Considerations

In planning for overseas retirement, it’s vital to weigh various factors, including taxes, healthcare, and legal matters. Understanding these factors can help ensure a smooth transition and an enjoyable retirement experience.

Navigating legal considerations such as visa requirements, residence permits, and immigration laws is critical. Some countries offer concessions and streamline immigration processes for US retirees to facilitate their relocation.

Accessing healthcare in a foreign country can also be a unique experience, especially in nations where English isn’t prevalent or the healthcare system differs significantly from that of the United States.

Retiring abroad also offers the opportunity to explore international tax laws and potentially reduce US tax obligations. While navigating tax requirements in two countries may seem challenging, it also presents a chance for retirees to embrace new experiences and opportunities.


Choosing to retire abroad opens up a world of exciting possibilities. From the sun-soaked beaches of Spain to the vibrant streets of Thailand, from the tranquil landscapes of Iceland to the vibrant culture of Latin America, the world is your oyster. With careful planning and consideration, you can find the perfect retirement destination that meets all your needs and expectations. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on an exciting adventure, because the world is waiting for you!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best country to retire to for US citizens?

Portugal is considered the best country for US expats to retire to, offering a friendly population, a welcoming community of American expats, excellent weather, a quality healthcare system, and an affordable cost of living as major benefits.

What is the most affordable country to retire in?

The most affordable countries to retire in include Colombia, Hungary, Portugal, Malaysia, and Spain, each offering a low cost of living and various amenities to enjoy in retirement. Consider these options for a budget-friendly and fulfilling retirement.

Where is the best place to retire in the world on Social Security?

Portugal has been ranked as the best country for US expats to retire to, offering a friendly community, great weather, quality healthcare, and a reasonable cost of living. Consider retiring in Portugal for a fulfilling and affordable retirement experience.

Which country has the best retirement benefits?

The Netherlands has been ranked as the country with the best retirement benefits, followed by Iceland and Denmark, according to the latest Mercer CFA Institute Global Pension Index. This study considered measures of adequacy, sustainability, and integrity.

What are some popular retirement destinations in Latin America?

Costa Rica and Ecuador are popular retirement destinations in Latin America, providing warm climates, retirement visa benefits, and a lower cost of living. Consider exploring these options for your retirement plans.

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