World's top 25 retirement destinations revealed

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Ask many Australians and they’ll tell you Australia is a pretty good place to live. It’s home to two of the world’s most consistent liveable and friendliest cities award winners and the third best pension system in the world.

But is it a good place to retire?

You would think so, but‘s 2021 Global Retirement Index suggests otherwise.

For 30 years, the annual index has determined the world’s top 25 retirement destinations across 10 categories, including cost of living, governance, retiree benefits, climate, healthcare and more.

“Three decades have gone by, during which our scouts have scoured every corner of the globe many times over,” says International Living’s Jason Holland, the roving Latin Americas editor.

“The result is a much bigger and ever-growing selection of outstanding destinations where you can live a healthier and happier life, spend a lot less money and get a whole lot more.

“The retirement index is the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind. It’s the best way we know of to sift through the wealth of opportunity the world offers, bring some order and help you pinpoint the best destination for you.”

The index investigates safe, good-value destinations and has found many idyllic countries where a retired couple can live a comfortable, carefree life on as little as $2000 a month.

It’s constructed not only with statistics but also through real-world, practical, on-the-ground intelligence, experience and opinion and is designed to be a useful tool for potential expats trying to find the place that’s right for them. 

Destinations are judged on 10 categories, and with the index, wannabe retirees can compare and contrast countries in terms of their cost of living, housing, healthcare, retiree benefits and more.

“All 25 destinations are worth your attention,” says Jennifer Stevens, International Living executive editor. 

“But this index is most useful when you come to it with an idea in mind about what your ideal destination might look like. What’s most important to you – the cost of living, proximity to home, having a beach or lots of cultural activities close at hand, the climate? 

“Whether you’re looking for a friendly, good-value city, a tropical beach, a cool, highland retreat, a historic colonial enclave or a quiet lakeside getaway, this index can help point you to your best options on the planet today.

“Our choice of countries reflects a huge range of lifestyles and locations – they’re the places we think you’ll find the best combination of factors to suit your overseas retirement. We’ve got people on the ground in each of them, reporting facts and figures, and sharing their insights about the places they’re proud to call home. 

“These are locations where – as the expats on the ground regularly report – it’s easy to feel healthier, happier and less stressed. As expats Tom and Diane Brown, originally from Washington State, put it, speaking from their new home in Costa Rica’s Central Valley: “We live very comfortably on our two Social Security checks and my pension. We can easily live on $3000 a month here, including a gardener and a maid. We also put away $500 each month for travel.” 

This year’s index has the world’s top 10 retirement destinations as:

1. Costa Rica

2. Panama

3. Mexico

4. Colombia

5. Portugal

6. Ecuador

7. Malaysia

8. France

9. Malta

10. Vietnam

Simple living, in a society where you are cared for, with a cost of living that you can easily afford – those are all reasons Costa Rica is the leader in the Annual Global Retirement Index for 2021, says International Living.

“One of the things you hear often from expats is how warm and welcoming the ticos (Costa Ricans) are,” says Kathleen Evans, International Living’s Costa Rica correspondent. 

“They are wonderful people, eager to share the magic of their culture, food and traditions with foreigners. 

“You will also find engaging international communities of expats who will help you through the process of acclimation. The vast majority of new arrivals say it is very easy to make friends and fit in here.

“A couple can live comfortably, but not necessarily extravagantly, here for around A$2500 a month. This includes renting a two-bedroom home with amenities, air conditioning, plus groceries, entertainment, transportation and healthcare. If your monthly budget is closer to A$3200 or A$3800, you will find a relaxed lifestyle with every comfort you require. 

“Like everywhere in the world, the pandemic has dealt the Costa Rican economy a harsh blow and put strains on the healthcare system. Even so, the country remains a good long-term bet as we move towards a post-COVID world, given its natural beauty, resilient population and progressive vision.”

So, where did Australia end up on the list? Well, only the top 25 are published and Australia did not crack the list.


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Would you consider retiring to any of these countries?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 8
  1. 1

    No thank you. Just look at the COVID-19 in those countries would turn me off. The economy of those countries is not so fantastic, neither. The health system in Australia may not be perfect, it beats most of the developed countries, not to mention the developing countries in the top 25 list. Australia’s Superannuation Management Fund is the fourth largest in the world. If Australians plan their retirement well, they would have a comfortable life after their working lives.

    Australia is a big Continent, catering for all seasons all year round. Up to the North of Australia, we can find a tropical lifestyle, with the inviting white sand beaches and wildlife as a backdrop. For those who love the cold climate, the South of Australia provides snow for winter sports. The community spirit is second to none. The cost of living in regional cities is a lot cheaper than the busy cities, like the capital cities of the States. Australians are the avid travellers of the world. Why stick to a country for retirement, when you can sample the best culture and lifestyle in your next travel?

    • 0

      I live in rural NSW and while living here may be cheaper than in the cities, you also have to factor in a long distance trip to access most services. Also, where I am, air conditioning is a must for summer as is wood (or similar) heating for winter. Both of which are expensive. As an example, today we have 39 degrees.
      Not everyone has an entitled working life to be able to save for the future. Just having survived it and kept a head above water is considered success where I come from. I have a very small super balance from my years of work as every extra that I had put in over the years was lost during the GFC.

  2. 2

    Semi-Australian Territories! Fly to Indonesia, get on a leaky boat and, after interception by the Australian navy, live on Idyllic Christmas Island or tropical Nauru, and be subsidised by the Australian Government.

  3. 4

    I agree with Curious. But there are a number of issues this article clearly fails to mention. Firstly it is obviously US oriented. How do you get back from these places in South America to see friends and family? Most countries need a Visa to live there long term which even if successful, for retirees means either stumping up a lot of cash or proving you can fully support yourself. Most foreign retirees simply could not obtain visas to retire to Australia and even when they can will have to fully fund their health care. What are the taxation systems in these countries? I could happily live in France but I would not be happy to pay their high taxes on my almost tax free retirement income. Many may complain about the Australian health system but how many would want to undergo urgent complex surgery in most of these places? Similarly, law and order leaves much to be desired here but would you exchange that for drug gangland Mexico?

  4. 1

    I’ve been living in Vietnam as a self funded retiree for 10 years. However,,,they do NOT have a Retirement Visa programme. I don’t know why these articles keep putting vIetnam on these lists.
    Generally, you need to exit the country every 3 months to renew/ extend your visa. That suits me because I like to travel within the region , plus a visit back to Australia once a year at least.
    They have a double tax treaty with Australia , you also don’t pay tax on bank interest, superannuation or govt pensions.
    There are good quality international hospitals here & dental work is top notch.
    If you don’t like moving around often….try Malaysia , Thailand , Bali, etc….they all have retirement Visa programmes that don’t require you to leave on border runs.
    The best Retirement Visa in the region is Cambodia by far.
    Only $300 per year , renewable in country & provided your over 55 , no paperwork .
    But….living in Cambodia isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
    Having said all that…….None of this means anything unless the world returns to what it was.
    Good luck with that.

    • 0

      I agree with all you said, having travelled extensively in SE Asia. I much prefer SE Asia to Latin America. I love the culture, food, friendly people and there is very low crime rates. However I still wonder why Australia doesn’t even get a mention. I live in Far North Queensland where living is affordable, plenty of fresh locally grown produce, clean air, pristine nature, best climate, it’s hard to beat! If I didn’t own my own piece of paradise I would definitely retire in either Vietnam, Thailand or Indonesia.

    • 0

      Australia is a great place. The cost of living however is very expensive compared to Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand.
      I had dental work done in Thailand and Australia. Thailand was much cheaper and much better.

  5. 2

    Most australians who think this is such a wonderful country have never lived anywhere else



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