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.
Climate: It's hot most of the year. Temperatures hover between the 80s and low 90s. The heart of the monsoon season is November and early December.
Proximity to airport: Cam Ranh International Airport is about 25 miles from downtown Nha Trang. There are no nonstop flights to the U.S.
Access to health care: The 1,000-bed Khanh Hoa General Hospital is located in Nha Trang. International Living didn't include Vietnam in its Global Retirement Index rankings.
Cost of living: A retired American couple can live comfortably in Nha Trang on $750 a month.
The draw: Live like a king for less. Located on the coast of South-Central Vietnam, Nha Trang is encased by miles of beaches and massive mountain ranges. An American couple can get by on less than $600 a month; $1,000 a month would land you in the lap of luxury. U.S. dollars, preferably crisp, clean ones, are widely accepted. There's a small population of foreigners in Nha Trang, as well as many restaurants and bars, a supermarket and a mall.
Population: approximately 70,000
Climate: The average temperature is 81 degrees. January is the coolest month; August, the hottest. Honduras lies in the hurricane belt.
Proximity to airport: There are nonstop flights to the U.S. from Roatan's international airport.
Access to health care: Roatan has several clinics and two hospitals on the island. Larger medical facilities are located on the mainland in San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. Honduras tied for 22nd (with Nicaragua) on International Living's Global Retirement Index for health care.
Cost of living: Honduras ranks tenth on the Global Retirement Index for cost of living, but fourth for real estate. A retired American couple can live comfortably in Roatan on $1,200 a month.
The draw: Life's a beach. Located in the Bay Islands of Honduras, Roatan is home to the world's second longest coral reef, warm ocean waters and long strands of white sand. English is the primary language, the U.S. dollar is accepted, and real estate prices have come down in recent years. There's an established expat community. Retirees looking for a Caribbean experience for less probably won't be disappointed.
Climate: Seasonal. Temperatures range from the 30s to 50s in the winter and the 70s to 80s in the summer.
Proximity to airport: The main airport is in Pau. No nonstop flights to the U.S., but easy connections via Paris, London and elsewhere.
Access to health care: France is tops on International Living's Global Retirement Index for health care. There are several hospitals in the Bearn region, including in the towns of Pau, Orthez, Oloron-Sainte-Marie, Mauleon, Tardets and Mourenx. Private medical insurance is required of non-E.U. residents. The Association of Americans Resident Overseas offers a group plan.
Cost of living: France ranks 18th on the Global Retirement Index for cost of living. A retired American couple can live comfortably on about $2,000 a month.
The draw: Basque in the moment. The Bearn area of southwestern France, near the border with Spain, is influenced by Basque culture from both sides of the Pyrenees (note the berets). The pastoral landscape is dotted with medieval towns, and hunting and fishing are favorite pastimes. There are loads of markets and vineyards to explore, not to mention a fair share of churches and castles. Living in Bearn is cheaper than in better-known parts of France such as Provence, a plus for retirees. France also has an agreement with the U.S. that provides Social Security advantages for people who've worked in both countries.
Climate: Warm year-round, with temperatures mostly in the 80s. Mild rainy season starts in June. Risk of hurricanes.
Proximity to major airport: It's a short commuter flight via San Pedro -- each leg is less than half an hour -- to the country's main airport in Belize City, where connections are available to the U.S.
Access to health care: Corozal Town has its own hospital. More extensive medical options are available ten miles away in Chetumal, the capital of Mexico's state of Quintana Roo. Belize ranks 24th out of 25 countries on International Living's Global Retirement Index for health care.
Cost of living: Belize is second on the Global Retirement Index for cost of living, but 19th for real estate. A retired American couple can live comfortably in Corozal Town on $2,500 a month.
The draw: The best of both worlds. The town, located in northernmost Belize, offers retirees beaches and tranquility in Corozal, and big-city amenities such as malls and museums just across the border in Chetumal, Mexico. English is the official language, though Spanish is widely spoken. The government operates a "qualified retired persons" program that allows non-Belizeans to enjoy perks such as tax-free imports of household goods, cars and even airplanes. One-time application and program fees add up to $1,350, plus another $750 per dependent.