Escaping the daily grind and retiring to an exotic locale where you can spend your golden years exploring and enjoying a new setting might actually make your retirement nest egg go a lot further.
To assist in your retirement planning, GOBankingRates used Numbeo, an online pricing database, to identify 50 countries that are the cheapest in the world to live during retirement. The countries are ranked by four key affordability metrics, and each metric is measured against what you would find in New York City:
- Cost-of-living index: Includes the costs of local goods and services, such as restaurants, groceries, transportation and utilities
- Average rent: The typical rental price in the country
- Groceries index: Includes typical grocery prices in the country
- Local purchasing power index: Measures the relative purchasing power of a typical salary in that country; a lower purchasing power buys fewer goods, whereas a higher purchasing power buys more
The study also factored in the following quality-of life metrics for each country:
- Healthcare index: Includes estimates of the overall quality of the healthcare system, healthcare professionals, equipment, staff, doctors and costs
- Safety index: Measures the safety of the country on a scale of 0-100; a higher safety index indicates a safer country, whereas a lower safety index indicates a more dangerous country
- Average temperature: The average annual temperature of the country based on the average annual temperature for major cities in the country
Based on a combination of these affordability and quality-of-life metrics, GOBankingRates’ study found that the most affordable places to retire abroad were in the following 50 top-ranked countries.
Data is accurate as of June 12, 2019, and is subject to change
- Cost-of-living index: 74.83
- Average rent: $1,283.19
- Groceries index: 58.80
- Local purchasing power index: 83.49
Although the Netherlands can’t claim the title of lowest cost of living for retirement, it definitely has perks. Its healthcare system, for example, ranks eight points higher than the U.S. healthcare system. Certain work-related activities can get you a long-term residence permit, while putting at least 1.25 million euros into a Dutch company can secure residency for investors.
- Cost-of-living index: 72.08
- Average rent: $1,358.34
- Groceries index: 66.90
- Local purchasing power index: 70.69
Australia doesn’t have the lowest cost of living, but it can make sound financial sense for retirees. Besides a local purchasing power nearly 30% higher than that of New York, Australia has a healthcare index of 76.38 that outranks the U.S. by seven points, according to Numbeo. The Australian government has an excellent website outlining a path to permanent residency for eligible retirees.
- Cost-of-living index: 72.82
- Average rent: $1,084.76
- Groceries index: 60.02
- Local purchasing power index: 77.91
Although Finland doesn’t enjoy the lowest cost of living, it’s one of the cheapest places to live in the Nordic states. Should you choose to retire there, you’ll have to apply for either a first residence permit, an extended residence permit or a permanent residence permit on the government website.
47. United Kingdom
- Cost-of-living index: 65.28
- Average rent: $1,152.44
- Groceries index: 51.85
- Local purchasing power index: 72.37
The U.K. can certainly be expensive, but nothing beats its sense of pageantry and history. Benefits for American retirees include a familiar language and culture. You’ll have to visit the U.K. government website to determine if you are eligible to settle in the country, a process that the country in its quintessentially English manner dubs “indefinite leave to remain.”
- Cost-of-living index: 81.38
- Average rent: $1,145.93
- Groceries index: 63.62
- Local purchasing power index: 95.14
With the exception of Iceland — which is a much more expensive country — Denmark gets top billing for the safest country in the world, making it a great place to consider retirement. However, it can be difficult for Americans to stay longer than three months in Denmark. Still, there are paths to residency, including marriage to a Dane or an employment contract — if you plan to continue working.
- Cost-of-living index: 27.94
- Average rent: $650.51
- Groceries index: 22.47
- Local purchasing power index: 22.14
Dense forests, Baroque architecture and a picturesque coastline along the Black Sea promise leisurely days of retirement in Ukraine. Even better, you can save more than 77% on rent and groceries when retiring in the country. Staying longer than the short-term visa allowance of 90 days requires applying for long-term residency with the correspondent regional State Migration Service of Ukraine.
- Cost-of-living index: 35.52
- Average rent: $576.82
- Groceries index: 29.18
- Local purchasing power index: 37
Use your retirement years to explore the largest country on Earth. The average apartment rental in Russia is more than 80% cheaper than what you would spend in New York City. Regardless of the intended duration of your stay, the Russian Embassy recommends all Americans apply for a multiple-entry, three-year visa for business, private, tourist or humanitarian reasons.
- Cost-of-living index: 67.62
- Average rent: $1,021.89
- Groceries index: 54.27
- Local purchasing power index: 63.56
Germany is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, full of charming villages, historic monuments and lush green valleys. To retire in Germany, it’s best to visit your local consulate before you visit. You may be granted a one-year residency permit that can be renewed; after five years of residency, you can apply for a settlement permit, but you’ll need to brush up on your German language and culture if you intend to qualify.
- Cost-of-living index: 72.97
- Average rent: $979.05
- Groceries index: 60.86
- Local purchasing power index: 83.40
In addition to decadent chocolates, Belgium has a top-rated healthcare system, with an index score of 79.44 compared to 69.41 for the U.S., according to Numbeo. If you plan to live in the country for the long haul without working, you’ll need to apply in person at a U.S.-based consulate. Bear in mind that you’ll need to complete a language form that is in French, German or Dutch, which makes things difficult for English-only speakers.
- Cost-of-living index: 69.25
- Average rent: $987.01
- Groceries index: 58.34
- Local purchasing power index: 75.72
The language, the culture, the history, the food — who wouldn’t want to retire in Italy? Your first step is to apply for an elective residency visa at your nearest Italian consulate. Once you’re in the country, demonstrating proof of passive income and residency via a rental contract are essential steps toward acquiring a long-term permit.
- Cost-of-living index: 71.79
- Average rent: $987.06
- Groceries index: 65.63
- Local purchasing power index: 70.08
Austria is a beautiful country with lower costs compared to the U.S., but getting a residency permit requires Americans to jump through a few hurdles, including proof of German proficiency. You should start your application process in the U.S. before you visit. Permits are granted for specific reasons, such as education, research or employment.
39. United Arab Emirates
- Cost-of-living index: 56.16
- Average rent: $1,417.47
- Groceries index: 43.16
- Local purchasing power index: 53.88
The UAE grants five- and 10-year residency visas to foreigners who invest either 5 million dirhams or 10 million dirhams in the country, respectively. Visas are also granted to those with specialized talents, such as doctors, scientists or inventors.
- Cost-of-living index: 51.45
- Average rent: $1,089.64
- Groceries index: 48.21
- Local purchasing power index: 47.06
To file a residency application for Panama, use an immigration lawyer in the country. In addition to some simple paperwork, all you need to demonstrate is a verifiable pension income of at least $1,000 per month from a government program or private corporation. If you qualify for the Panama Pensionado program, you’ll get numerous government perks, from a 25% discount on airline tickets and utility bills to a 50% discount on tickets to movie theaters and sporting events.
- Cost-of-living index: 50.39
- Average rent: $817.64
- Groceries index: 40.20
- Local purchasing power index: 43.13
Portugal’s idyllic location on the Iberian peninsula — along with its famous port wine — make it a popular destination for retirees. You can get an appointment with a Portuguese consular officer for a Type 1 permit by providing proof of financial means and passing a criminal background check, in addition to other paperwork. The so-called “golden visa” is for those investing at least 500,000 euros in Portuguese real estate.
- Cost-of-living index: 33.98
- Average rent: $500.27
- Groceries index: 29.85
- Local purchasing power index: 23.85
Romantic visions of Casablanca entice many retirees to consider Morocco — and the very low cost of living is another attraction. You can apply for an extended stay in the country at the nearest Moroccan police precinct.
- Cost-of-living index: 39.24
- Average rent: $903.80
- Groceries index: 39.93
- Local purchasing power index: 28.18
Home to magnificent cultural treasures and a wide variety of culinary options, China is also a cheap place for Americans to retire. There’s a range of Chinese visa options, but if you intend to reside there permanently, you’ll be looking for a D visa, which you can apply for in the country or at a Chinese consulate. Within 30 days of arrival, you’ll then apply for a 10-year permanent residence permit.
- Cost-of-living index: 55.57
- Average rent: $769.17
- Groceries index: 44.32
- Local purchasing power index: 59.76
If you’re dreaming of retiring to a lush Mediterranean island, Cyprus might be one of the best places to live. Considering its location, rents are surprisingly affordable. If you’re staying for longer than three months, you’ll have to apply for one of the three types of long-stay visas — residence visa, work permit or student visa.
- Cost-of-living index: 44.98
- Average rent: $660.69
- Groceries index: 38.50
- Local purchasing power index: 33.64
Slovakia may not be on many people’s radar, but it ranks more than 10 points ahead of the U.S. in safety ratings and is a member of the Schengen Area of the European Union. For a residency permit lasting between six months and six years, apply at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Washington, D.C.
- Cost-of-living index: 42.03
- Average rent: $526.13
- Groceries index: 32.36
- Local purchasing power index: 33.43
Boasting an underappreciated European capital with a gorgeous Parliament building, Hungary is a safe country with a cost of living far below that of the U.S. You can get an extendable five-year residence permit to Hungary with proof of financial means, a residence and health insurance.
31. Costa Rica
- Cost-of-living index: 50.89
- Average rent: $660.15
- Groceries index: 47.91
- Local purchasing power index: 42.58
If you’re looking for a pure or simple life in retirement, try Costa Rica, where the motto is “Pura Vida.” A lush, tropical nation with no standing army, Costa Rica offers temporary and permanent residency visas through the Immigration Office of Costa Rica.
- Cost-of-living index: 52.51
- Average rent: $571.36
- Groceries index: 43.27
- Local purchasing power index: 43.83
Enjoy affordable outdoor living surrounded by Slovenia’s mountains, lakes and rivers. Once you’ve achieved at least five years of continuous legal stay in the country, you can apply for a permanent residence permit.
29. South Africa
- Cost-of-living index: 42.49
- Average rent: $624.46
- Groceries index: 33.88
- Local purchasing power index: 40.79
A cost of living less than half of that in New York makes South Africa one of the cheapest places to retire. Qualify for a temporary or retired persons’ visa in the country by proving a guaranteed monthly income of 37,000 rand, or about $2,500.
- Cost-of-living index: 49.23
- Average rent: $481.81
- Groceries index: 36.65
- Local purchasing power index: 45.47
A former member of the Soviet Union, inexpensive Latvia boasts amazing beaches and the widest waterfall in Europe, among other natural and man-made attractions. A Schengen nation, Latvia requests foreigners applying for visas to contact the Latvian Embassy, Consulate or Consulate-General.
- Cost-of-living index: 51.01
- Average rent: $562.92
- Groceries index: 37.06
- Local purchasing power index: 51.24
Estonia is one of the cheapest places to retire, with a cost of living about half of New York’s. The country offers both temporary residence permits — with durations of up to five years — and long-term permits. As with many other countries, you’ll need to provide proof of income and demonstrate language proficiency.
- Cost-of-living index: 59.84
- Average rent: $752.37
- Groceries index: 69.61
- Local purchasing power index: 26.88
Taiwan boasts the highest healthcare rating in the entire study — a full 17 points above the United States. Overall costs are about 40% cheaper compared to New York City, making Taiwan one of the best retirement values for your money. You’ll have to apply for a Chinese visa to become a resident of Taiwan. As a retiree, your best bet to qualify might be as an investor.
- Cost-of-living index: 29.83
- Average rent: $385.48
- Groceries index: 23.75
- Local purchasing power index: 29.83
Rent and groceries are ridiculously cheap in Kazakhstan, which has an overall cost of living more than 70% below that of New York City. You can obtain visas for educational or work-related purposes, as well as a visa for humanitarian efforts or reunification of family members.
- Cost-of-living index: 57.31
- Average rent: $572.40
- Groceries index: 45.11
- Local purchasing power index: 56.28
Uruguay is another under-the-radar country for American retirees that want to retire near the beach, as it has both a beautiful coastline and a low cost of living. The country has an extensive roster of visa options. To apply for a permanent visa, you’ll need to file a written request at a consular office within the country.
- Cost-of-living index: 45.91
- Average rent: $465.10
- Groceries index: 35.36
- Local purchasing power index: 43.95
Lithuania is another former member of the Soviet Union that borders the Baltic Sea. American citizens can visit this Schengen nation for up to 90 days. If you wish to retire in Lithuania, the consulate recommends you apply for a residency permit before you travel to the country.
- Cost-of-living index: 39.13
- Average rent: $548.69
- Groceries index: 30.66
- Local purchasing power index: 32.72
With one of the lowest costs of living, Poland has retirement-friendly rents that are 82% lower than what you’d pay in the Big Apple. Groceries cost nearly 70% less. If you want to settle in Poland and enjoy all of its Old World charm, you’ll first need to live in the country on an uninterrupted basis for several years.
21. Saudi Arabia
- Cost-of-living index: 47.61
- Average rent: $482.69
- Groceries index: 39.06
- Local purchasing power index: 30.93
Saudi Arabia has fairly extensive residence visa requirements, and a visa can be difficult to obtain unless you are hired to work in the Kingdom. With rent about 85% cheaper than that of New York, however, the payoff may be worth the effort if you’re hankering to live in the Middle East.
- Cost-of-living index: 54.70
- Average rent: $849.22
- Groceries index: 44.02
- Local purchasing power index: 54.13
Spain is the romantic land of flamenco music, Gaudí architecture, wine country and so much more. Spain is also in the top 20 when it comes to the most affordable places to retire. You may be able to get a residence visa for retirees in about two to three months if you can prove that you’re earning an income of at least 25,560 euros annually, plus 6,390 euros for each additional family member.
19. Czech Republic
- Cost-of-living index: 45.12
- Average rent: $627.77
- Groceries index: 38.08
- Local purchasing power index: 33.25
A dozen romantic UNESCO sites in the Czech Republic offer plenty to explore during retirement, but the country also ranks No. 12 in terms of healthcare quality, versus the U.S. at No. 29. While you can get long-term visas for the Czech Republic, permanent residency is normally reserved for former Czech citizens or for humanitarian reasons.
- Cost-of-living index: 56.66
- Average rent: $419.46
- Groceries index: 43.69
- Local purchasing power index: 54.76
Lovers of antiquities — or island life — may think of Greece as their dream retirement destination. Even better, rents are nearly 89% cheaper than those in New York City. You may qualify for retirement residency if you can demonstrate a monthly income of at least 2,000 euros.
- Cost-of-living index: 42.80
- Average rent: $433.52
- Groceries index: 31.30
- Local purchasing power index: 34.85
Brazil has lush rainforests and a beautiful culture — as well as grocery and rent costs that are 88% cheaper than those in New York City. You may be able to get a visa in four to eight weeks if you are retired and can demonstrate a monthly income of $3,500, plus $1,500 for each dependent.
- Cost-of-living index: 47.54
- Average rent: $651.57
- Groceries index: 50
- Local purchasing power index: 24.63
Thailand’s sunny beaches and misty mountains are reason enough to retire in the country. The cost of living is nearly half of that in Manhattan, and you’ll enjoy rent that’s 77% cheaper and groceries that are 69% less expensive. If you’re over age 50 and not working, you may get a one-year retirement visa if you can show 65,000 baht per month in income — a bit over $2,000 — or 800,000 baht in a bank account, which is north of $25,000.
- Cost-of-living index: 36.45
- Average rent: $354.67
- Groceries index: 29.88
- Local purchasing power index: 32.26
If you want to whittle away your retirement days by poking through old castles and churches, Romania may be your ideal location. It’s one of the cheapest places to live, with rents that are 90% cheaper than those in New York City. You must reside in the country for at least five years to qualify for a long-term visa, and even then, you may not qualify unless you have Romanian family.
- Cost-of-living index: 41.98
- Average rent: $480.80
- Groceries index: 37.87
- Local purchasing power index: 29.43
Ecuador is attractive to many American retirees because the country’s official currency is the U.S. dollar. To apply for a visa, you can communicate with the Migration Support Service offices in the country or get an application form via the government website. You’ll need a source of income and health insurance, among other requirements.
- Cost-of-living index: 49.18
- Average rent: $431.80
- Groceries index: 40.33
- Local purchasing power index: 40.36
Gothic and Renaissance architecture peering over the Adriatic Sea make Croatia a stunning, affordable backdrop for adventures in retirement. The country’s association with the “Game of Thrones” television series has also made it quite popular among tourists. Gaining permanent residence can be difficult, however, unless you or your family members are already nationals of a European Economic Area member state.
- Cost-of-living index: 35.21
- Average rent: $283.71
- Groceries index: 30.45
- Local purchasing power index: 23.65
Imagine shelling out just over 7% of what you would pay in Manhattan to rent an apartment in Turkey. Unlike many other countries, however, Turkey doesn’t have a retirement visa for foreigners, but you may be able to qualify for a family reunification visa.
- Cost-of-living index: 37.17
- Average rent: $340.61
- Groceries index: 31.15
- Local purchasing power index: 29.86
Rich in culture, folk crafts and music, Bulgaria is the best place to sway to “The Blue Danube” waltz on the shores of the actual river. Rents that are 92% cheaper than those in New York may set your toes tapping. Although short-term visas are easy to get, long-term Bulgarian visas are generally issued for employment or educational purposes, not foreign retirement.
- Cost-of-living index: 35.39
- Average rent: $312.45
- Groceries index: 26.30
- Local purchasing power index: 27.84
Serbia offers some of the lowest rents for retirees, at about a 92% savings over New York City prices. Skiing or exploring the country’s picturesque mountains is a draw for many visitors. In addition to filing mounds of paperwork with the City of Belgrade Police Directorate, you may qualify for a permanent visa if you’ve lived in the country for five years or married a citizen.
- Cost-of-living index: 37.70
- Average rent: $500.73
- Groceries index: 37.87
- Local purchasing power index: 18.89
Vietnam is a land of beauty and mystique, with fantastic food and rock-bottom prices. You can apply for numerous types of visas with the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Although the longest you can stay with any type of visa is five years, you can also renew any type of visa you receive.
- Cost-of-living index: 32.71
- Average rent: $414.16
- Groceries index: 30.30
- Local purchasing power index: 30.23
You don’t need to be a millionaire to retire south of the U.S. border, which boasts warm weather perfect for outdoor activities. In fact, an income of $2,000 per month — or a bank account with $80,000 or more — may qualify you for permanent residency. In Mexico, rent and groceries are nearly 90% and 70% cheaper, respectively, compared to New York.
- Cost-of-living index: 35.09
- Average rent: $437.35
- Groceries index: 32.61
- Local purchasing power index: 19.67
As the country’s tourism board proclaims, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” due in no small part to the smiling faces of the locals as well as the archipelago’s white sand beaches and turquoise waters. You can get a special resident retiree’s visa if you have a monthly pension income of at least $800 and deposit $10,000 in a bank. If you don’t have a pension, you may obtain a visa with bigger bank deposits.
- Cost-of-living index: 36.24
- Average rent: $397.46
- Groceries index: 38.14
- Local purchasing power index: 18.02
Dramatic volcanic islands provide a wealth of outdoor activities in Indonesia. If you’re over age 55 and have at least $1,500 per month in retirement income, insurance and accommodation, you may qualify for an Indonesian retirement visa.
- Cost-of-living index: 30.15
- Average rent: $331.19
- Groceries index: 24.33
- Local purchasing power index: 22.46
Wake up to a great cup of locally sourced coffee when you live in Colombia. A Colombian retirement visa is fairly easy to obtain, requiring about $765 in monthly income from an approved pension source like Social Security. Best of all, you can apply online for this visa.
- Cost-of-living index: 20.40
- Average rent: $181.83
- Groceries index: 18.25
- Local purchasing power index: 15.42
Pakistan might not be the first country that pops into the mind of the average American looking for great places to retire, but the sixth-most populous nation in the world does host nearly 1.2 million British Pakistanis, and it has the lowest overall cost of living of any country in the study. Generally, you can get a long-term visa in Pakistan only if you have a special purpose or Pakistani background.
- Cost-of-living index: 39.38
- Average rent: $396.59
- Groceries index: 39.70
- Local purchasing power index: 22.75
Malaysia, with the tourism motto “Truly Asia,” is one of the gems of Southeast Asia, boasting exotic beaches, one-of-a-kind skyscrapers and some of the best geological features for exploration. Residence passes are generally limited to those with some type of native or familial Malaysian connection.
- Cost-of-living index: 24.17
- Average rent: $225.30
- Groceries index: 24.20
- Local purchasing power index: 17.15
Cost of living doesn’t get much lower than in India, where rents are an incredible 95% below New York City rates, and the overall cost of living is more than 75% cheaper. India doesn’t offer specialty retirement visas, but you can potentially get a tourist visa that’s valid for 10 years.
1. Sri Lanka
- Cost-of-living index: 30.24
- Average rent: $300.95
- Groceries index: 33.57
- Local purchasing power index: 17.36
Sri Lanka offers a two-year renewable visa known as the “dream home” visa, which requires a $15,000 deposit and a monthly income of at least $1,500. Also, you must be at least 55 years old to get a visa to the country that was dubbed the No. 1 destination in Lonely Planet’s 2019 Best in Travel rankings.
The 50 Cheapest Countries To Retire To
Although there are plenty of safe and affordable places to retire across America, some retirees may prefer the excitement of living in a foreign country. In addition to the benefits of a new culture and a different way of life, many foreign nations offer a surprisingly low cost of living.
Remember, however, that this study was based on a cost comparison with pricey New York City, which is a far more expensive place to retire than many cities across Middle America. And, be sure to consider the negatives of moving to a foreign country. Pakistan, for example, ranks highly among the cheapest countries, but safety issues might overwhelm any cost-of-living savings in the minds of many Americans.
On the other hand, many of the cheapest countries to retire to are prime vacation spots as well, from the beaches of the Philippines to the wonders of ancient Greece. When you broaden the scope of your retirement planning to include affordable places like these countries around the world, your retirement could end up becoming the most exciting phase of your life.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the cheapest countries to retire by analyzing 119 countries and 433 international cities along the following criteria: (1) overall cost-of-living index for each country; (2) the country’s local purchasing power, which measures the local buying power of typical incomes; (3) grocery cost-of-living index; (4) average monthly rent, based on calculating the average cost of (a) a one-bedroom residence in the city center, (b) a one-bedroom residence outside the city center, (c) a three-bedroom residence in the city center, and (d) a three-bedroom residence outside the city center; (5) healthcare index for each country, all sourced from Numbeo on May 20, 2019; (6) average annual temperature, based on calculating the average annual temperature for major cities in the country, sourced from Weatherbase; and (7) safety index for each country, sourced from SafeAround. Each factor was then scored with the overall cost-of-living index weighted double, average rent weighted triple, and all other factors weighted normally.
About the Author
John Csiszar is a freelance writer and article curator. He served as a registered investment advisor for 18 years before becoming a writing and editing contractor for private clients. In addition to writing thousands of articles for various online publications, he has published two educational books for young adults.