Whether you’re dreaming of starting a new chapter in a pretty rural village or on a white sand beach, the idea of retiring abroad can be tempting.
While there are plenty of lovely places to retire in the UK, moving abroad can sometimes mean better healthcare and a lower cost of living…and of course, much more sunshine! But if you’re thinking about retiring abroad, how do you go about choosing a location?
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best places to retire around the world. From European destinations to more exotic retirement spots, here are seven of the best places to retire abroad.
Portugal is one of the most popular places in the world to retire in – and no wonder.
As one of Western Europe’s most affordable countries, the cost of living is low here, and property is generally cheaper than in the UK. For example, you can buy a lovely two-bedroom apartment in the Algarve for under £200,000.
The crime rate is low here too – Portugal is ranked as one of the safest countries in the world – and the quality of healthcare is excellent. Once you’ve got a Portuguese ID number and residence permit, you can access the public healthcare system or choose private insurance, which costs somewhere between €40 and €100 per month.
Getting back to the UK is easy, with flights being quick and cheap, and the motorway network is one of the best in Europe. Unlike other European countries that require expats to take a new driving test, in Portugal, you can simply swap your UK driver’s licence for a Portuguese one.
Plus, the locals themselves are warm, welcoming, and most speak English, which makes settling in easy.
Then there’s the weather. Portugal enjoys a glorious Mediterranean climate, with the south being particularly warm and sunny. Cities like Porto and Lisbon are packed with cultural hotspots, but if you fancy a slower pace of life, the beaches of the Algarve or the vineyards of the Douro Valley make the perfect home. Fans of seafood will be spoilt for choice – and the excellent wine is another bonus!
To find out more about how to retire in Portugal, head over to Global Citizen Solutions.
Malta may be the world’s tenth smallest country, but don’t let that fool you. It’s considered by many to be one of the best places to retire in the world – particularly if you’re into history, culture, and fabulous weather.
This small yet spectacular group of islands, located about 50 miles south of Sicily, boasts some of the best features of Italy, North Africa, and even England, and is a wonderfully unique place.
One of the things Malta has going for it as a retirement destination is that while it has the gorgeous warm climate of the Mediterranean (and some of the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen) English is one of its official languages, alongside Maltese. Around 90% of the population speak English, and 15% of the residents are expats, so, chances are, you won’t find it difficult to make friends.
Malta is also known for having one of the world’s best healthcare systems. While you can’t access it until you’re a resident, once you obtain permanent residency you can take advantage of the national healthcare options.
Malta isn’t the cheapest country in Europe, but the cost of living is less than in the UK and houses are often more affordable, especially if you venture inland.
Most people live in the capital Valletta, which is a cheap three-hour flight from the UK, although the cities of Victoria, Birgu, Mdina, and Rabat are lovely places to retire too. If you like being outside, there are gorgeous hiking trails, swimming and snorkelling spots, and foodies will love the fresh seafood and aromatic spices. Tea is big here too, so if you miss home, you can always have a cuppa!
To find out more about how to retire in Malta, head over to Malta Guides.
Spain has long been the most popular retirement destination for Brits – and when you look at what it has going for it, it’s really no surprise.
With a wonderful climate, mouthwatering food, a welcoming culture, and a relaxed lifestyle, Spain is ranked as the healthiest country in the world for both physical and mental wellbeing.
Luckily, it’s pretty healthy for your finances too. While the Spanish cost of living isn’t quite as low as Portugal, and you need to show higher income levels to qualify for residency, Spain can be surprisingly affordable. Property prices vary based on location – for example, small towns in the Costas are vastly cheaper than Madrid or Barcelona.
Spain also has a great healthcare system, although, for the first five years of residency, you’ll need private health insurance. However, after five years here, you’ll become a permanent resident and automatically enter the public system.
Factor in the abundance of English speakers, dependable infrastructure, and cheap flights to the UK, and you have a very desirable retirement destination.
But that’s not all Spain has going for it. Its cuisine is fresh, healthy, and delicious, and tapas is a delightfully social affair. It’s also a safe country with plenty of cultural offerings, from authentic flamenco shows in Andalusia to the breathtaking architecture of Barcelona. Society as a whole is open-minded and creative, and it’s a country that places special value on life’s simple pleasures.
To find out more about how to retire in Spain, head over to Immigration Spain.
Italy is another country that’s known for its slow living and delight in simple pleasures. After all, this is the country that coined the phrase la dolce vita – the sweet life.
Despite being known for pizza and pasta, the Italian lifestyle is pretty healthy, with locals eating plenty of vegetables and olive oil, and leading active lifestyles – factors that mean most people live well into their 80s.
Italy is also famous for its historical and cultural treasures, sunny climate, and fabulous food and wine.
The main drawback of retiring in Italy is that it has a higher cost of living than other countries on this list, and the visa income requirements are also higher.
Property is more expensive too – but like anywhere, prices vary considerably based on location. The south (for example, Abruzzo and Sicily) is cheaper than the north, and if you avoid tourist hotspots you can buy a two-bed apartment on the coast for around £140,000.
Italy also has an excellent train and bus network, and older adults usually get discounts. Plus, flights to the UK are cheap and take just over two hours.
While the pandemic exposed some of the shortcomings of Italy’s healthcare system, it still ranks highly according to the World Health Organisation – and after six months of living here, with a permanent visa you can access the public health system. Many towns and provinces are using financial rewards to attract new residents, so if you pick the right place, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome.
To find out more about how to retire in Italy, head over to Immigration Italy.
France is another retirement destination that’s long been beloved by Brits, and it’s easy to see why.
Not only is it just a train ride away from London, but it’s also well connected with the rest of Europe, making it an ideal base for people who want to travel in their golden years.
A big perk of living in France is that you can access its healthcare system, which is ranked as one of the world’s best by the World Health Organisation. You can use the public system after three months of living here, and because costs are fixed, they can’t be increased.
French culture emphasises prioritising your well-being, whether that’s taking two-hour lunch breaks or appreciating good food and wine.
France’s food scene is globally renowned, and foodies can enjoy losing themselves in the country’s culinary magic. Just like Italians, the French pride themselves on taking joy in life’s little pleasures, and the concept of art de vivre – the art of living – is entrenched in society. Sharing gourmet meals and wine with friends is part of French life, so if that appeals to you, you’re in the right place!
The focus on decadence means that many people think the cost of living is high, but this isn’t necessarily true. While Paris and the glitzy beach towns of the Côte d’Azur can be expensive, other parts of France are far cheaper. With its affordable housing, hilltop towns, and sunflower fields, the Dordogne region has long been a haven for British expats, so settling in here is especially easy.
To find out more about how to retire in France, head over to French Entrée.
If you’re looking to spend your retirement drenched in sunshine, enjoying a beautiful coastal atmosphere, then Cyprus might be the retirement destination for you.
Located between Greece and Turkey, flights to the UK from Cyprus are often affordable and usually take around five hours. This island is a true jewel of the Mediterranean – and with 3,500 hours of sunshine a year, Cyprus is officially the sunniest place in Europe.
The summers are very hot here, so you’ll definitely need air con. But thankfully, properties here are reasonably priced. For example, you can buy a modern two-bed apartment in the coastal city of Larnaca for around £130,000. Other great places to settle down in Cyprus include Paphos, Limassol, Famagusta, Kyrenia, and the capital, Nicosia.
The cost of living in Cyprus is also on the lower side and is comparable with Spain. Another perk of retiring here is that you can take advantage of a flexible tax system based on your income. Retirees can choose to pay a 5% flat rate or go for the tiered system. If your annual income is more than €25,000, choosing a flat rate can save you significant amounts of money.
Cyprus is a safe country with good infrastructure, healthcare, and life expectancy, and aside from its vast stretches of sand and sparkling blue sea, there’s plenty to keep you busy. This is an island that boasts a compelling culture, and gorgeous landscapes steeped in Greek myths and ancient ruins.
Residents are warm and welcoming too, and sharing heaped plates of mezé is part of the local culture.
To find out more about how to retire in Cyprus, head over to Global Citizen Solutions.
If you’re happy to retire somewhere further away, you might want to think about Mexico.
Long a popular choice with American and Canadian retirees, Mexico has much to offer Brits too – and with a huge expat community across the country, you won’t find it difficult to meet new people and make friends.
A big reason many retirees are drawn to Mexico is the low cost of living; the pound goes much further here than it does in Europe. Everything is cheaper in Mexico, from property prices and rent to healthcare and food. Residents over the age of 60 also get discounts on transport, healthcare, utilities, taxes, and more, so your retirement budget will stretch much further.
Healthcare is of a high-quality and retirees can enrol in the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social healthcare system, which costs around £40 per month for people aged 60 or over. The cost of living varies based on the destination and the type of lifestyle you lead, but single people who are happy to live simply can often get by on under £1,000 a month – this includes rent, bills, food, etc.
Mexico is big and diverse, and you can live in laid back beach towns, colonial cities, or sleepy villages – though places like San Miguel de Allende, Puerto Vallarta, and Mérida are particularly popular with expats.
The transport system is also decent, and while flights to the UK take around nine hours and can be expensive, the allure of Mexico means you might not be short of visitors!
To find out more about how to retire in Mexico, head over to Wise.
While you may have always assumed you’d retire in the UK, there are many benefits to moving abroad. Not only is the cost of living usually lower, and the weather better, but it can be the perfect way to mark a new chapter in your life.
Retirement is a new beginning; it’s a chance to do what you’ve always wanted, whether that’s pursuing new hobbies, enjoying plenty of rest and relaxation, or even starting a new business. And, moving to an exciting new country can be the ideal way to change gears.
Whether you’re dreaming of retiring in a French village, Portuguese beach town, or Spanish city, or fancy heading further afield and putting down roots in Mexico, we hope this article has inspired you to think about the possibilities of retirement.
While many people are understandably apprehensive about the idea of moving away from their friends and family, the countries listed in this article have strong expat communities where it’s easy to meet new people and get involved in the local community.
Plus, the beautiful landscapes and gorgeous weather mean that you hopefully won’t have to work too hard to persuade your loved ones to visit!
Even if you’re sure you’d like to stay in the UK when you retire, you might still like to consider moving somewhere new. For more ideas and inspiration, have a read of our article; 14 of the best places to retire in the UK.
Are you thinking of moving abroad when you retire – or have you done so already? Perhaps you have your own suggestions for the best retirement spots around the world? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.