World’s Best (budget-friendly) Places to Retire in 2018: Costa Rica takes top spot

While a desire to stay close to grown children and grandchildren may outweigh the desire to escape a chilly stateside climate (meteorologically or politically) and retire like a king in some exotic (yet inexpensive) foreign locale, staying in reality doesn’t mean you (or your clients) can’t dream about becoming an expat now and then.

It’s more than a dream for some. At a time when retirement savings among Americans is dangerously low—a recent study put the median retirement account balance at a mere $12,000 for near-retirement households—an increasing number of American retirees are finding they can live much better overseas in the world’s most affordable locales.

InternationalLiving.com—which bills itself as the leading authority on global retirement and relocation opportunities—recently released rankings of the “World’s Best Places to Retire in 2018,” and followed it up with the “5 Most Affordable Retirement Havens of 2018” and “6 Top Retirement Spots where the Climate is Great.”

InternationalLiving.com’s 2018 Global Retirement Index ranks the world’s top 24 retirement destinations across 12 categories, including cost of living, governance, retiree benefits, climate, healthcare, and more. This annual index explores safe, good-value havens outside the U.S. or Canada—comparing, contrasting, ranking, and rating them to highlight spots where a retired couple could enjoy a comfortable life on as little as $1,500 a month.

This year’s index—the most comprehensive produced over the last 27 years — features several new items worth noting: Costa Rica takes the top spot for the first time. Bali appears on the index for the first time. And Peru makes the top 10 for the first time.

World’s Top 10 Retirement Destinations

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Mexico
  3. Panama
  4. Ecuador
  5. Malaysia
  6. Colombia
  7. Portugal
  8. Nicaragua
  9. Spain
  10. Peru

Costa Rica has been a perennial presence in the index, and this year it climbed from fourth place to the top.

“North Americans have been flocking to Costa Rica for more than 30 years, attracted by the tropical climate; low cost of living; top-notch, affordable medical care; bargain real estate; and natural beauty,” says Jason Holland, IL Roving Latin America Editor.

“I love Costa Rica. You can kick your shoes off on white-sand beaches, hike through lush lowland jungle or mountain cloud forests, and bask in volcanic thermal springs. Rent a furnished two-bedroom home for just $500 a month, buy an oceanview property for under $200,000, spend $25 in the feria (farmers’ market), and come home with a week’s groceries for a couple.

“In an increasingly uncertain world, Costa Rica stands out today as a beacon of dependability. Its not up-and-coming or edgy or the hot new thing,” says Holland. “It has been quietly growing into a model country—a standout in the region. It has a steadily growing economy; dozens of multinationals like Amazon and Microsoft have major operations there. The low crime rate means you can feel safe just about anywhere in the country, day or night. And there is a focus on preserving the environment, with 25% of the country’s territory protected.”

Bali—a new addition—is the only part of Indonesia IL recommends for retirement; Roatán is the only place in Honduras recommended; while in Ecuador, by contrast, there are easily half a dozen hot spots for a retiree to consider. (The full table of the comparative rankings—as well as detailed discussion of the top 10 countries included—is here.)

The complete 2018 InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index, including more information on the winner and the other nine countries that made it in to the top 10, as well as the individual rankings in all 12 categories for all 24 countries included, can be found at: The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2018.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The 5 Most Affordable Retirement Havens of 2018

In overseas locales where the cost of living is low but the quality of life is high, retirees on a modest budget can afford indulgences like a housekeeper, a home steps from the beach, top-quality healthcare, regular meals out, and more—all on a Social Security income alone. This according to the editors at International Living, which after analyzing data from the 2018 IL Global Retirement Index have pinpointed the top five most affordable retirement havens overseas for 2018.

“A budget that would have retirees at home scrimping, eliminating all non-essentials—and many times those essentials, as well—is, by contrast, enough to live well on in the right places overseas,” says Jennifer Stevens, International Living’s Executive Editor.

“In low-cost, good-value communities all across the world—in places like Bolivia, Nicaragua, Peru, Vietnam, or Cambodia, for instance—a retiree’s dollars really stretch. And that equates to a better quality of life. It means it’s possible to ‘trade up’ and instead of sacrificing in retirement, be able to afford a nice apartment in a safe locale (maybe even close to the beach).

The Cost of Living category in IL’s index compares and contrasts all 24 countries based on such hard data as the price for rent and utilities, the cost of milk and beer, flights home to visit family, and what expats pay for local travel, etc.

The data is gathered from expats currently living in the communities that International Living recommends retirees consider. The full cost of living is compared across all the countries, to arrive at a ranking of the most affordable places around the world today.

The top winners—the most affordable places to retire overseas in 2018 are…

  1. Cambodia
  2. Vietnam
  3. Peru
  4. Nicaragua
  5. Bolivia

While the cost of living in Cambodia may be one of the lowest in the world, the standard of living is high, IL says. When it comes to bang for buck, Cambodia can’t be beat, which is why Cambodia achieves the top score for cost of living in the index for the third year in a row.

The full report on the five countries with the lowest cost of living in the world’s top retirement havens can be read here: The 5 Top Retirement Havens with the Lowest Cost of Living.

Silanas, Ecuador

6 Top Retirement Spots where the Climate is Great

A new report from the editors at InternationalLiving.com reveals the countries around the world with the best weather—those that score best in the Climate category of IL’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2018.

With great weather year-round, expats in these good-value locales report that they’re able to be outside more, they feel healthier, look younger—and they don’t miss shoveling snow.

The countries that take top honors for Best Climate are:

  1. Ecuador
  2. Bolivia
  3. (tie) Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru and Panama

Ecuador wins the top spot in the Climate category of the index, scoring 98 out of 100. Ecuador lies directly on the equator, so the entire country enjoys 12 hours of direct equatorial daylight 365 days a year. However, retirees are taking advantage of Ecuador’s four distinct geographical areas—the Sierra (mountains), the Oriente (eastern rainforests), the La Costa (Pacific coastal plains), and the Galapagos Islands—and choosing which suits them best.

More details on the top six countries in the Climate category of the Annual Global Retirement Index 2018 can be found here: The Best Climates in the World

About International Living: For 37 years, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Im guessing neither of you have visited Costa Rica before.

    I would choose a nice area of Costa Rica over a crime-ridden area of the US. Costa Rica is a beautiful country that is mostly safe. Just like most parts of the world (including the USA) there are good parts of town and there are bad parts of town. There are more dangerous cities and there are safer cities.

    I always felt safe in Costa Rica… now Jamaica is a different story (though I love Jamaica).

    Now getting back on subject…

    There are a ton of US retirees in Cosa Rica. Certain areas of Panama are becoming popular too.

    Puerto Rico is actually a great place for US citizens to retire. You can live there as a citizen since its part of the US, you dont have to renounce your US citizenship, you dont have to pay income taxes, & the cost of living is low (not as low as Costa Rica though).

    I know a few ex-pats living in the USVI and PR. They love it for the most part.

  2. scagnt83

    Im guessing neither of you have visited Costa Rica before.

    I would choose a nice area of Costa Rica over a crime-ridden area of the US. Costa Rica is a beautiful country that is mostly safe. Just like most parts of the world (including the USA) there are good parts of town and there are bad parts of town. There are more dangerous cities and there are safer cities.

    I always felt safe in Costa Rica… now Jamaica is a different story (though I love Jamaica).

    Now getting back on subject…

    There are a ton of US retirees in Cosa Rica. Certain areas of Panama are becoming popular too.

    Puerto Rico is actually a great place for US citizens to retire. You can live there as a citizen since its part of the US, you dont have to renounce your US citizenship, you dont have to pay income taxes, & the cost of living is low (not as low as Costa Rica though).

    I know a few ex-pats living in the USVI and PR. They love it for the most part.

    No, I have never visited there.. Have supported missionaries that lived there, but that was several years ago and maybe things have changed for the better. My nephew has visited many times and he says as long as you stay in the tourist areas, you are OK but that it can be dangerous for an American in the back country.

    I think Life Hawk was talking about the USA.. :unsure:

  3. scagnt83

    Im guessing neither of you have visited Costa Rica before.

    Notice the sarcasm and alluding to current conditions in our own little pile of dirt on the map.

  4. I spent Christmas break and New Years in a touristy beach area of Costa Rica (Tamarindo) a couple of years ago. Felt safe, climate was great but definitely some third-world aspects – terrible plumbing, lots of trash on the street, fair amount of dilapidated structures. And maybe it was because it was a tourist area and a holiday, but groceries, beverages and restaurants weren't cheap. But we did run into a few expats down there who absolutely loved it. One couple with kids under 10 just up and moved a few years ago and now operate a bar/restaurant on the beach. Livin' their dream, I suppose…

  5. Brian Anderson

    But we did run into a few expats down there who absolutely loved it. One couple with kids under 10 just up and moved a few years ago and now operate a bar/restaurant on the beach. Livin' their dream, I suppose…

    I could understand retirement there. Especially if its a winter getaway for half the year.

    But I wouldnt move there with kids, the education system is not the greatest.

    One major downfall of living there in retirement would be if you needed serious medical procedures or long term care needs. The health system is not what it is here or in other countries.

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