The best places to Retire
tropical paradise

So -- where are the best places to retire?

There are several "best places to retire" and for me they all have this in common -- a tropical climate and a low cost of living plus a whole lot more to offer.

The cost of living in these countries is so low that whether you rent or buy it is possible to live very well on as little as $1,200 a month.

The places I picked to focus on fall into one of two categories.

Picture of lovely Guanacaste beach if you retire to Costa Rica

Three of them ( Costa Rica Ecuador ,and Panama ) seem to be the most popular overseas retirement destinations these days. These are the countries that people seem to be talking about if they are looking for the best places to retire.

Best places to retire, Coron Island Palawan

The other three are countries I consider to be even better options ( Malaysia the Philippines and Thailand ). They get a lot less press and attention, probably because they are a little farther away and off most people's radar. Very few of us will have any prior experience of them as vacation destinations.

All of these countries have programs and policies to encourage foreigners to retire there.

A low cost of living is an absolute must from my perspective, and all of these countries have a much lower cost of living than the United States, Canada, or the UK. The trouble is that cost of living is a moving target determined both by the cost of goods in a country and in our case also by the currency exchange rate. For that reason I have kept it out of my criteria list for now.(have a look at the chart on Cost of Living Comparison at the bottom of this page for at least a basic overview).

For any place to be considered one of the best places to retire I would look for the following criteria beyond climate and a low cost of living:

Your Input and thoughts on both these criteria and the countries is welcome
Vote for the country you think is the best place to retire


A nice warm climate. Tropical climate may not be what you like – if that applies to you then let me tell you that all of these countries have significant geographic variation. Even the hottest of them have towns or cities in the mountains where things will be much cooler .

There are some people that actually like cold winters and want to live in places that have them. I'm not sure where to direct those and frankly I don't care.


What about language? Will you be able to communicate in English or will you have to learn a new language?

Many of us have traveled a little through our lives and are used to people being able to speak to us in English wherever we go -- but that is at the tourist destinations where it is part of their job to be able to speak to foreigners. If you're trying to keep your cost of living down it is not likely that you will retire in the tourist hot spots. Those will be too expensive.

How about language in those parts of the country where we potentially WILL retire? Retirement will be a lot more enjoyable if we can talk with the locals and I think is an important factor in deciding the among the best places to retire.

Learning a new language may be doable and even may be fun, but it is not so great if it's something we absolutely have to do almost as soon as we arrive.

English will be spoken by many people in all of these countries and in some of them by most people.

In the Philippines English is one of the two official languages. It is therefore a compulsory school subject starting from Grade 1 and through the entire elementary and high school system.

In fact the Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world.


Have you considered religion?

This one may be controversial. Factors like race and religion ideally should not enter into any decisions that we make but we also need to be aware of reality.

best places to retire Catholic cathedral In the western world the majority of Caucasians will be Christian or at least LOOK like we are. With what has been going on in the world the past decade or so would anyone seriously contemplate retiring in a predominantly Moslem country regardless of the cost of living there? Personally, as a pensioner I do not want to live in a country where a large number of the people could potentially hate and target me for the religion they assume I am. Living in fear is definitely not something I want when looking for the best places to retire.

Religion also exerts a significant influence on both cuisine and what is considered acceptable attire.

Most of these countries are predominantly Christian

The exceptions are Thailand (Buddhist) and Malaysia (Moslem)

The Malaysian Moslem community is exclusively Sunni which is the largest and most moderate faction. In other words -- a slight minus -- not a huge minus for me.


Have you considered the culture of the country you are thinking of retiring to? How do they view older people? How do they view foreigners? Will you be able to enjoy the local festivals and activities?

best places to retire Thailand
Especially in South-East Asia you will find that elders tend to be revered for their wisdom and experience and if you carry a few extra pounds it will be looked upon as a sign that you have led prosperous and successful life.


How friendly are the people? You will probably find an expat community in any of these countries but you ideally want a country where the locals are truly friendly.

Several of these countries have strong reputations for the friendliness of their people -- others less so.

If you are single you may want to consider what the local men or women look like. There are beautiful and ugly people in any country but the people of each country will also have a certain look which can be either a plus or a minus for you. If you are looking for potential bed partners this may in fact be one of the most important criteria in your list of the best places to retire.


How about the local cuisine --- if you can't stomach the local foods then you wont be very happy long term, and importing the things you like to eat is cumbersome and will get expensive in a hurry.

best places to retire great Asian food

Rice is a staple in South-East Asia and you will find it accompanies most meals just like potatoes do in North America or the United Kingdom. Fish will also be widely eaten and, although its not really necessary, if you can enjoy fish then you will have much more variety.

best places to retire - Costa Rica

All of these countries offer a wide range of tropical fruits and the Latin American countries will tend to use use a lot of beans and flatbreads in their cuisine.


best places to retire - beach in Phuket

What about things to do? Retirement for most of us will mean a slower lifestyle but not a completely sedentary one.

Sitting on the beach all day every day will get old in a hurry.

best places to retire - mountain climate What opportunities does the country offer for other things to do? Is there diversity? By this I mean can you choose between at least one big city and several smaller cities or towns? (Every country can offer you a rural environment – the proverbial straw hut on the beach or in the jungle)

How much is there to see and do in and around these countries?


How good and how expensive is medical care in these countries?

best places to retire --health care in Philippines Several of these countries offer medical services AT LEAST as good as Canada or the UK and much much cheaper than the USA

In fact, several of them are actually popular destinations for medical tourism.

Freedom from worrying about health concerns is certainly an important consideration when deciding which are the best places to retire.

Beyond these criteria there are certain potentially VERY important considerations that you should take into account. Things that can be statistically measured and so can be compared across all of these countries.

I have charted those results for you.

These are the things that have statistics associated with them:

Cost of Living Comparisons

Inflation Rate Comparison

Social Stability Comparison

Murder Rate Comparison

Financial Stability Comparison

Ok --- lets take a realistic look at these countries individually --- what would life be like in them? What really are the best places to retire?

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