5 Safe, Affordable Overseas Retirement Havens For 2024

By Kathleen Peddicord

If there’s one thing I know after more than 35 years covering the live, retire, and do business abroad beat, it’s that the world is full of excellent options for overseas retirement.

If you’re willing to look beyond the borders of the United States, you’ll find a plethora of welcoming havens that offer better lifestyles, lower costs of living, and safer environments.

There are so many options, in fact, that it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

To help make sense of the breadth of opportunity available, my team at Live And Invest Overseas produces a yearly report that presents a short list of recommended havens for retirement abroad

Known as the Overseas Retirement Index, this report is the result of years of scouting trips and lived expat experience, months of data crunching, and weeks of meetings and interviews.

It takes the criteria that are most important to retirees when it comes to international relocation (things like health care, cost of living, residency, taxes, and more) and uses them as a lens to examine worthwhile destinations.

It’s data-driven as much as possible but also layered with judgement—mine, as well as that of my international network of contacts, contributors, insiders, and expats—since data alone rarely captures the lived experience of a place.

This year, the report pinpoints 13 retirement havens scattered across Europe, Latin America, and Asia. The full results are available at Live And Invest Overseas, but in the meantime, here’s a snapshot of five of the featured havens.

Chitré, Panama

Chitré is a relatively unknown little town on the Azuero Peninsula, along Panama’s Pacific Coast.

It made its way into my favorites list for retirement in 2024 because it offers all the benefits of a small town (community, safety, and a low cost of living) as well as all the convenience of a much bigger town (find amenities like hardware stores, banks, shopping centers, and so on).

It strikes a unique balance that can be hard to find in countries like Panama.

Chitré stands out for being one of the most affordable places to live in Panama. I estimate that a budget of about $2,000 per month is enough for a couple to live comfortably here.

It’s position on the Azuero Peninsula means that it’s close to some of the best beaches in the country as well as a variety of water sports.

It’s also a stronghold of Panamanian folklore and culture, offering a more authentic lifestyle than other, more-famed retirement havens in Panama, like Boquete.

I’ve been recommending Panama to expats for decades, and I’m just as bullish on this country as I ever have been.

Panama rolls out the welcome mat for retirees by offering one of the world’s best retirement visas (with perks and special benefits for older folks) as well as one of the world’s most friendly tax environments.

Crete, Greece

Crete is a massive island in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As the ancient crossroads of Africa, Europe, and Asia Minor, it’s rich in history and cultural significance.

Historic towns like Chania are living museums, offering a heady mix of Venetian, Ottoman, and Byzantine influences, to name a few.

Soaking up this historical ambience as you make your way through the cobbled backstreets is one of the great pleasures of living here.

The other is enjoying outdoor recreation opportunities. Crete is home to incredible landscapes, from gorgeous beaches (including 112 Blue Flag beaches—designated as such for their superior quality), towering mountains with skiable slopes, the Samariá Gorge (the longest in Europe), ancient olive groves, and more.

The weather is mild year-round, with southern Crete getting the most sunshine hours in all of Greece at 3,257 hours per year.

It’s also affordable. Again, about $2,000 per month is enough for a comfortable lifestyle for two.

Greece stands out for being one of the friendliest countries in Europe for investors and retirees. It’s one of the few remaining countries in Europe that offers a golden visa program, and it offers a special tax rate for retirees.

Mazatlán, Mexico

Mexico is one of the world’s most popular retirement havens, and there’s good reason for that popularity.

For Americans especially, it’s convenient—one of the few retirement destinations you can pack up and drive to in your car—and it’s familiar, offering stores that you’re used to shopping at, like The Home Depot and Walmart.

The reason I pinpoint Mazatlán as my top recommendation in the country is that it’s more affordable and less touristed than the other big resort on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Puerto Vallarta.

Mazatlán’s beach lifestyle is top-notch, with sandy shores that vary in style from relaxed to bustling, all reachable from town.

It’s home to a sizeable international community, but it’s also a real Mexican city, not a pure resort town. It’s lived in and enjoyed by about 500,000 people, meaning the local culture is not overwhelmed by the international presence.

I also love Mazatlán for its extensive Spanish-colonial historical center that’s directly on the waterfront. This is the beating heart of Mazatlán, containing a range of restaurants, cafés, museums, boutiques, and more within a warren of backstreets.

Mexico will always make sense for American and Canadian retirees. It’s one of the easiest places to start the expat lifestyle since it’s not necessary to establish residency. You can live here on a six-month tourist visa and extend this indefinitely by leaving and returning to refresh your status.

Braga, Portugal

Portugal has never been more popular among foreigners—especially North Americans.

From 2021 to 2022, the number of North Americans living here increased by more than 34%—the biggest increase of any continent group during that period.

The majority of expat attention on Portugal is focused on the Algarve, Lisbon, and Porto, which have seen cost of living and property price increases in the past few years as a result.

That’s part of the reason I recommend Braga, a little-known town in northern Portugal, instead.

Braga is an elegant, well-appointed town that remains affordable by most people’s standards. I estimate that a monthly budget of $2,855 is enough for a couple to live well in Braga.

With historical significance as a center of Catholicism, it’s known as the Rome of Portugal because of its many churches and cathedrals and the near-constant sound of bells tolling.

Braga boasts an attractive historical center, a dense neighborhood of cafés, restaurants, shops, churches, hotels, businesses, and homes that has a pleasant buzz to it.

Portugal has lost some of its appeal as a retirement haven in the past year, eliminating real estate from the list of qualifying investment classes for its golden visa program and abolishing the tax abatement program it used to offer retirees.

Despite this, it still stacks up as a retirement haven from my point of view.

Valencia, Spain

My favorite choice for retirement in 2024 is Valencia, a vibrant, joyful city found on Spain’s Mediterranean Coast.

This city has so much to offer, from architecture and shopping to the arts and gastronomy, that you’d almost forget that it’s a beach destination.

Sandy Mediterranean shores are available within minutes from the city center, and with some of the mildest weather in Europe, they can be enjoyed year-round.

Valencia is famous for its architecture that spans multiple millennia, blending the ancient with the ultra-modern in fascinating ways. It goes above and beyond the promise that so many European cities make to be open-air museums.

To go along with its architectural prowess, the city has high-quality infrastructure and amenities, including its public transportation system, its health care, and its green spaces.

Its beloved Turia Gardens are one example of the emphasis Valencia places on green spaces. This city-wide park that follows the path of a former river is the largest in Spain.

New expats can slip into life easily in Valencia because of its well-established international community. Yet unlike other Spanish enclaves, Valencia is not expat-dominated and still feels authentically itself.

Spain in general is safe, it has great health care, and it offers easy paths to residency, making it an all-around great choice for retirement in 2024.

Via Forbes

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