Great places to retire can be found outside of Florida and Arizona. In fact, many can be found outside of the U.S. entirely. Safe, attractive and affordable places to retire are scattered across the globe, from Latin America to Asia and even Europe. We've narrowed our list to eight overseas retirement hot spots.
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Two factors critical to retirees (and their wallets) shaped our choices: cost of living and health care. To make our picks we consulted several experts on travel, tourism and overseas retirement, including Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of International Living, and Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of LiveandInvestOverseas.com. We also gave added weight to the cost of living, real estate and health care components of International Living's Global Retirement Index of the top 25 countries for retirees.
A note on cost of living: Monthly budgets for overseas retirees will vary widely, depending on country, lifestyle and housing type. There's no one-size-fits-all dollar amount. The estimates provided for each retirement hot spot offer a ballpark figure, including housing expenses, for how much a "typical" retired American couple would need to live comfortably.
Climate: Tropical. Temperatures range from the low 80s to the mid 90s. Risk of hurricanes.
Proximity to major airport: Merida has an international airport with some nonstop flights to the U.S. Mexico City is less than two hours by plane.
Access to health care: There's a slew of quality medical facilities, including the highly regarded Clinica de Merida. Some retirees may qualify for Mexico's low-cost public health insurance program, known as IMSS. Mexico ranks 14th out of 25 countries on International Living's Global Retirement Index for health care.
Cost of living: Mexico tied for third (with Colombia and Thailand) on the Global Retirement Index for cost of living. A retired American couple can live comfortably in Merida on $1,700 a month.
The draw: City living meets colonial charm. Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan, is a world away from Cancun, its touristy cousin across the peninsula. Sitting 22 miles inland, Merida has a European feel, thanks to its Old World architecture and abundant culture. There are opera houses and cathedrals to explore, and foodies rave about the dining scene. There's a growing population of retirees from the U.S., as evidenced by an English-language newspaper and library. Merida has escaped the violence that has plagued Mexico's border towns.
Climate: Temperate. Summers can stretch from April to October, with temperatures from the mid 70s to low 90s. In winter, it's in the 50s and 60s.
Proximity to airport: Major airports in Pisa, Genoa and Parma are all about an hour's drive from the Lunigiana region. There's very limited nonstop service to the U.S. Expect to make a connection.
Access to health care: Italy ranks second (tied with Spain) out of 25 countries on International Living's Global Retirement Index for health care. Towns in the Lunigiana region with hospitals include Aulla, Fivizzano, La Spezia, Pontremoli and Sarzana. Pharmacists are found in most villages. Italy offers residents, including U.S. citizens legally residing in Italy, access to its national health plan, though many Americans opt instead to use private hospitals, which tend to provide better care than public ones.
Cost of living: Italy tied for 11th (with Uruguay) on the Global Retirement Index for cost of living, but 18th for real estate. A retired American couple can live comfortably on about $2,500 a month.
The draw: Tuscany on the cheap. The Lunigiana region of northern Tuscany is home to a network of villages connected by well-marked hiking paths. The Mediterranean coast is a short drive away, and Florence, Lucca and Pisa are all manageable day trips. Lunigiana isn't on the radar of too many retirees yet, which means the region is more affordable than areas farther south in the heart of Tuscany. Italy has a Social Security agreement with the U.S. that can benefit people who've worked in both countries.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
Climate: Warm and tropical, with temperatures ranging from the low 70s to high 80s. Rainy season can stretch from May to January.
Proximity to major airport: It's a one-hour flight to Panama City, where connections are available to the U.S.
Access to health care: There's a public hospital on Isla Colon, the main island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. It's adequate and cheap, but most expats head to David or Panama City for checkups and planned treatments. Panama tied for 12th (with Portugal) out of 25 countries on International Living's Global Retirement Index for health care.
Cost of Living: Panama tied for 13th (with Costa Rica) on the Global Retirement Index for cost of living. A retired American couple can live comfortably in Bocas del Toro on $1,500 a month.
The draw: Laid-back island living. Bocas del Toro province, on the Caribbean in western Panama, boasts miles of sandy beaches, turquoise waters and sprawling rainforests. The currency is the U.S. dollar and, while Spanish is the country's official language, English is widely spoken. Panama has a "pensionado" program for retirees that provides discounts on public transportation, entertainment and health care.
Climate: Hot and sticky. Temperatures span the 70s to the 90s, with humidity often high. The wettest months are May to October.
Proximity to airport: It's 45 minutes by car to Managua's international airport, where you can catch nonstop flights to the U.S.
Access to health care: Nicaragua tied for 22nd (with Honduras) out of 25 countries on International Living's Global Retirement Index for health care. In addition to local medical facilities, close proximity to Managua, the capital, gives retirees access to several specialized hospitals.
Cost of living: Nicaragua tied for sixth (with Brazil, Malta and Malaysia) on the Global Retirement Index for cost of living. It tied for second (with Colombia) for real estate. A retired American couple can live comfortably in Granada on $1,250 a month.
The draw: Rooms with a view. Granada, a picturesque colonial city that dates back to the 16th century, sits on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. Brightly painted buildings liven up the architecture, and volcanoes are visible in the distance. There are local restaurants, shops and access to freshwater activities. Nearby Managua has shopping malls, movie theaters and other entertainment options. Look into the government's incentive program for foreign retirees, which offers duty-free imports and other tax breaks.