Most Expat-Friendly Cities to Retire In

Everyone expects and desires something different out of their retirement. For some people, retirement is a start to a second life - this time overseas.

Everyone expects and desires something different out of their retirement, whether it’s luxury, affordability, city-living, suburban sprawl or possibly something more exotic. For some people, retirement is a start to a second life — this time overseas.

But there’s a lot of world out there. There’s the option for familiarity, escaping to European cities that provide a style of living similar to what Americans are already used to. Or there’s the option for adventure, choosing island living or a country that may seem more exotic.

For those a little more adventurous, the Live and Invest Overseas group has featured 21 destinations for retirees in its first annual Retire Overseas Index. The options are new, exotic and affordable for retirees, but most importantly, they’ll provide the things retirees are looking for, such as nice weather, good health care and excellent quality of life.

Worried that you might get there only to find you’re unprepared to live amongst the locals when you don’t even speak the language? Live and Invest Overseas has highlighted the cities that are friendliest to expats.

Ambergris Caye, Belize

San Pedro main street. Photo by Hevan Chan

The country’s official language is English, so American expats should find it easy enough to speak with other residents, who are a mix of Brits, Mexicans, Guatamalans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans.

Belize is very affordable and also is a great choice if you’re interested in being self-sufficient and living “off the grid.” The country is very relaxed and offers a back-to-basics lifestyle.

San Pedro beach. Photo by Greg Westfall

According to the Live and Invest Overseas group, Belize is one of the easier places to establish foreign residency. Plus, it has an incentive program for retirees called the Qualified Retirement Persons (QRP) program, offering duty-free concessions (like importing all personal household affects) and other benefits for official residency. The applicant must be 45 years of age, show a monthly income of $2,000 and provide some basic documentation.

Boquete, Panama

Nearby hills. Photo by Dirk van der Made

Panama seems to hit all the marks for a retiree: warm weather, lots of sun, low cost of living, a tax system that’s friendly to foreign residents, discounts and perks for foreign retirees and a bright economic future.

However, Panama is still in the developing world, even if Panama City is compared to Miami, according to Live and Invest Overseas.

Boquete is a town of about 20,000 where more English per capita is spoken than anywhere else in Panama. Residents are a mix of Americans, Canadians, British, Irish, South African, Australian, Argentinian, Peruvian, Colombian and other Latin Americans.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Domes of the New Cathedral. Photo by Alex Proimos

Ecuador is one of the most affordable places in the world to retire, and one thing that’s great for the American expat with family back home is that Ecuador is very accessible from the U.S.

Temperatures are constant year-round, as is the length of each day. But perhaps more important is that health care is excellent in Cuenca, which boast hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment and specialists in all field, according to Live and Invest Overseas.

Foreign retirees are eligible for discounts on public transportation, national and international airfares; cultural, sports, artistic, and recreational events; electricity, water, and telephone service; and property tax.

Mirrored lakes in Cajas National Park near Cuenca. Photo by Delphine Ménard

George Town, Malaysia

Malaysia is for the discerning retiree who is looking beautiful islands, beaches, cool mountain retreats, great food, a diverse and multi-ethnic culture, excellent shopping, and a low cost of living.

The infrastructure and health care are modern and efficient and English is widely spoken, according to Live and Invest Overseas. Plus, Malaysia actively encourages foreign residents to relocate here with incentives for those who qualify for the Malaysia My Second Home Program.

Kek Lok Si Chinese temple. Photo by Daniel Berthold

Hua Hin, Thailand

Thailand is arguably the cheapest place on earth to live well. Thailand has three very distinctive areas, although most people settle in central area, where Bangkok is located, or in the south, which has hundreds of idyllic beaches, dense vegetation and tropical islands.

The standard of medical care is very high and costs are extremely reasonable, according to Live and Invest Overseas. In fact the country is a popular destination for medical tourists as well as expats.

Market Village