For some people, retirement can mean a career change. For others, it might mean more time to devote to a hobby or passion. For many retirees, moving to another country is a goal, whether it’s for adventure, a change of scenery, or a reduction in living expenses.

It’s well known that moving outside the U.S. can help keep costs down — particularly if you’re leaving a large city. Just as at home, though, the budget will vary depending on location, lifestyle, and personal needs. However, if the goal is to lower expenses, most retirees can accomplish that and live quite well in a variety of places.

From Latin America to Asia and Europe, retirees are finding homes and plenty of expat communities where living is more affordable. Weather, location, health care access, language, visa qualifications, and income requirements are among the many considerations that go into deciding on a retirement destination. Financial advisers, experienced travelers, and expat retirees can help, and the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, and State Department also have important information to offer.

These are some of the cheapest countries to retire with a comfortable lifestyle. Data from Numbeo, updated as of May 2024, is used here for cost of living comparisons.


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Just south of the United States with warm weather, a wide variety of places to live, miles of coastline, and beautiful cities, Mexico is a popular destination for retirees and vacationers. Staying at a resort is different from living somewhere full-time, though, so if you’re planning to retire in Mexico — or any destination — you should factor in a lengthy stay beforehand to get a better feel for the place as a home.

The cost of living is low overall, and looking at individual cities is important. In Cancún, a tourist area on the Caribbean coast, the cost of living is about 51% lower than in New York, for comparison purposes, and rent is 83% lower. In San Miguel de Allende, a charming city in Mexico’s interior popular with expats, the cost of living is around 43% lower than in New York, and rent is 72% lower. These and other cities offer reduced expenses along with the amenities that come with living in a resort or expat community.

Health care is available through government programs that cover low-income residents or require payment of premiums. Private hospitals and specialists offer high-quality care at relatively low cost, and many retirees maintain private insurance or pay cash for medical services.

There are minimum income requirements of around $4,394 monthly for temporary residents and $7,300 for permanent residents. Bank account requirements are about $73,235 and $293,000 respectively. Applications for visas and residence permits are handled through the Mexican Consulate.


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With miles of Pacific coastline, an active volcano, natural beauty, and several expat communities, Ecuador, the gateway to the Galápagos Islands, attracts retirees from the United States and other countries. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, and many people in the major cities speak English.

The overall cost of living in Ecuador is nearly 54% lower than in the United States. In the city of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular community for expats, the cost of living is about 68% less expensive than New York, and rent is around 91% lower. Located in Ecuador’s highlands, Cuenca enjoys a moderate climate, reducing costs for both heating and air conditioning.

High-quality health care is available at lower cost than in the United States, and all citizens and visitors are guaranteed services. Foreign retirees can join the government system for under $100 monthly for full coverage, or they can provide proof of private insurance. Permanent Residence Visas are available once an individual has lived in Ecuador for at least 21 months under a temporary visa. Minimum income, real estate investments, or bank deposits are required as part of the temporary visa application.

Costa Rica

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This Central American country stretches from the Pacific to the Caribbean, with jungles, rain forests, modern cities, and beaches. Climate, environment, and costs vary throughout the country, but the overall cost of living is about 25% lower than in the United States, and housing is 61% lower on average, based on May 2024 data.

In the city of San Jose, the country’s capital located in the central valley, the cost of living is around 47% lower than in New York, and rents are nearly 83% lower. Retirees can choose to live within the city itself or in the mountainous suburbs, but either way, they have access to the amenities offered by San Jose as a popular tourist destination. Residency programs include the Pensionado visa, which requires a monthly income of at least $1,000 to be transferred to a Costa Rican bank for expenses. The Rentista Program, for those without a monthly pension, requires a minimum of $60,000 or monthly income of at least $2,500 from a guaranteed source for at least two years.

Excellent health care is available through public and private programs. The national medical program, with no co-pays or exclusions, is available to residents along with the option of private health care with out-of-pocket costs that can be self-insured or paid through a private insurance policy.


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Portugal has become one of the most popular destinations for retirees and visitors of all ages from around the world who adore its beautiful scenery, coastal cities, wine, food, and mild weather. The cost of living is about 35% lower than in the U.S., and housing is around 43% more affordable. Those margins widen in the capital of Lisbon, where the cost of living is roughly 50% less than New York and rent is about 66% lower.

Retirees must apply at a local consulate for a residence permit, which is valid for five years, and then for a permanent permit when that expires. The “Golden Visa” program, created to encourage foreign investment in Portugal, requires minimum investments in scientific research, real estate, or monetary transfers. Interested retirees with funds to invest should check current details.

Excellent health care is available, and legal residents are able to register with the National Health Service for access to public hospitals and health centers, paying for services as they go. For others, health care is generally covered by private insurance, which is required as a condition of receiving a residency permit.


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Coming in at number four of the “Best Places to Retire in 2024” on International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index, Panama is a popular retirement destination. Its proximity to the United States and convenient travel options, together with its pleasant climate and low cost of living, have gotten the attention of retirees. On average, housing costs are about 53% lower than in the U.S., and the overall cost of living is about 35% lower. Costs vary depending on location, but for example, in Panama City, the cost of living is 53% lower than in New York, and rents are about 77% less.

The government has made residency in Panama especially attractive with the Pensionado visa, a plan that requires pension income of at least $500 a month with benefits that include discounts on a variety of services and a tax exemption on importing household goods. With a valid passport, visitors can stay for three months, and for permanent residency, a local immigration attorney must handle the details.

Panama has a two-tier health care system with public and private hospitals, clinics, and doctors, both requiring co-payments for services, with lower costs in the public system. Most retirees choose the private system, which offers excellent care and facilities at reasonable prices covered by private insurance or self-pay.


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On the other side of the world, Vietnam has a very affordable cost of living, especially for adventurous retirees who appreciate the country’s beaches, scenery, food, history, and culture. The overall cost is about 59% lower than in the United States, and rents are about 79% lower, depending on the location. In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), home to a large expat community, the cost of living is 70% or so lower than in New York, and housing is about 87% lower.

Since the government owns all the land and foreigners are restricted from purchasing property, most expats and retirees rent, an economical way to go. Obtaining a visa is not as straightforward in Vietnam as in many other countries, but it’s possible to apply for long-term stays or business visas.

High-quality health care is very affordable, with both public and private systems. Most expats carry international health insurance and take advantage of private hospitals. The Hoan My Medical Corporation has hospitals and clinics across the country. City International Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City caters to foreigners and a majority of the medical staff speaks English.


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A popular tourist destination with a coastline on the Adriatic and stunning beachfront resorts, Montenegro is starting to get noticed by expats and retirees. Its beautiful scenery, European location, welcoming populace, and low cost of living make it an attractive place to retire. The average cost of living is around 44% lower than in the United States, and rents are about 75% lower. The capital and largest city of Podgorica runs roughly 62% lower than New York, and housing is about 87% lower.

Visas of various types can be obtained from the government of Montenegro, and there are provisions for becoming a permanent resident. Investment in Montenegro is encouraged with a variety of incentives, and foreigners are able to buy property. Montenegro is a member of NATO and is expected to join the European Union in the coming years.

Both private and public health care are available in Montenegro. Retirees and expats generally purchase private coverage, including medical evacuation, which provides the option of receiving medical treatment in another country if needed.


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This South American country on the continent’s northwest coast has beaches, rain forests, and mountains, including the Colombian Andes. The cost of living in Columbia is about 56% lower than in the United States, and rent is 79% lower. Costs vary among cities and inland communities, and a variety of housing is available. In the city of Bogotá, the cost of living is around 69% lower than in New York, and housing is nearly 90% lower.

Colombia’s health care system features modern public and private hospitals, with high-quality affordable care. The public health plan is available to citizens and holders of a national ID card, including expats, with payment of premiums. Private insurance is also available.

Several visa categories include the Pensionado, most commonly used by retirees. To obtain it, applicants must prove a minimum monthly income of at least three times the minimum salary in Colombia. Income can come from pensions, Social Security, or savings. After five years, retirees can apply for a resident visa. Visa holders can also apply for a Foreign ID Card, which provides access to the health care system and other benefits.

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