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Have plans to relocate for a better quality of life? Discover the top 10 countries to retire abroad for Americans!

Last Updated on January 31, 2024 by Maryam Siddiqui

When you are finally ready to lay down your labor cap and start your retirement, sometimes moving to a new destination might give you the fresh lease of life that you need. Thankfully, the prospect of packing your bags and relocating is more feasible in 2024 than it was before. This guide will focus on the top 10 countries to retire abroad for Americans! 

10-Countries-to-Retire-Abroad-for-Americans-in-2024

Retirement abroad for Americans has become so popular that an estimated 5 million are currently spending their golden years overseas. People choose retirement destinations for different reasons; some are drawn to coastal regions because of the appeal of long walks in the sand. Others choose to immigrate to big cities with thriving nightlife and other urban town attractions.

Picking a destination to call home for the rest of your life is often easier said than done because of many reasons. But here’s your complete guide to help make the best possible decision in 2024. Happy reading!

Why do Americans retire abroad?

Americans choose to retire abroad for a variety of reasons, and individual motivations can vary. Some common factors contributing to this choice include the cost of living, healthcare, climate, rent, and safety, among many other reasons. 

When it comes to the cost of living, many retirees find that certain countries offer a lower cost of living, allowing them to stretch their retirement savings further and maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Access to quality and affordable healthcare is a significant consideration.

Some countries provide excellent medical services at a fraction of the cost compared to the United States. This is quite appealing for senior citizens who require frequent medical attention. Another common reason for relocation is the climate.

Let’s face it: most regions in the US are quite cold during the winter, and seeking a more favorable climate is a common motivation. Warmer or milder weather can be appealing, especially for those looking to escape harsh winters or extreme temperatures.

Now let’s take a look at the best countries for Americans looking for a better life overseas.

#1 Portugal

Portugal has been a hot topic among travel enthusiasts for several years now. This coastal nation, located at the western end of the Iberian Peninsula, is a top choice for expats for a few reasons. One of the main draws to this country is the relatively lower cost of living. To put this into perspective, consumer prices in Portugal, including rent, are about 45% cheaper than in the US.

Something else worth mentioning is that the Portuguese government has put in place several business incentives that make it easy for foreign nationals to set up businesses and thrive. For business-minded folks, the cities of Lisbon and Porto are often favorites because they are the main financial hubs of the country. 

On the other hand, for those who would love to have a good time by the beach or participate in different sea sports, the Algarve is a good option. Concerning healthcare, Portugal excels with its elevated standards, English-proficient medical personnel, and a national healthcare system that addresses most fundamental healthcare needs and accidents. This is why it’s a fantastic option for Americans to retire abroad.

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#2 Costa Rica

Right after Portugal, Costa Rica is another expat favorite when it comes to the top countries to retire abroad for Americans. To begin, Costa Rica is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including rainforests, beaches, and mountains. 

The country enjoys a tropical climate, making it attractive to those seeking a pleasant and varied environment. Although this country is among the most expensive of other Central American countries, it is far cheaper than most countries in Europe and North America.

Costa Rica is about 54% less expensive than the US, and consumer prices, inclusive of rent, are about  41.9% lower as well. Something else worth noting is that this country offers affordable healthcare services, including dental care. Many healthcare professionals speak English, making it accessible for American expats.

Also, Costa Rica has an established, politically safe environment ideal for setting up businesses and thriving. Lastly, Costa Rica is known for its laidback and relaxed lifestyle, often described as “Pura Vida.” This philosophy aligns with the desires of many seeking a more relaxed and stress-free environment.

#3 France

Let’s begin by acknowledging that France might not be the cheapest nation to live in. However, this nation still made the list of the top 10 countries to retire abroad for Americans for a few reasons. 

The French are known for prioritizing a healthy work-life balance. This cultural emphasis on leisure and personal time can be appealing to Americans seeking a more relaxed lifestyle. Think about it: nothing spells out work-life balance more than a two-hour lunch break from work while still enjoying two glasses of wine for your troubles.

Something else that France has to offer is a variety of experiences. Whether you fancy the intrigue of large cities like Paris or want to live a slow and quiet lifestyle away from all the chaos in smaller towns, you can have all that in France. 

While language barriers can be a problem for most Americans, you should keep in mind that big cities have a good number of expats and locals who communicate in English.

Lastly, France is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, including art, literature, music, and cuisine. Many Americans will appreciate the opportunity to immerse themselves in a culture with a deep appreciation for the arts and history.

#4 Spain

Spain is not just warm and sunny; its cultural appeal is second to none. It boasts a rich cultural heritage with a deep history, diverse traditions, and a vibrant arts scene. Spain will be ideal for anyone interested in immersing themselves in a different culture or experiencing something totally traditional and authentic.

This destination is also among the cheapest destinations in Western Europe. But remember that being cheap doesn’t always mean being bad. This is particularly true since Spain boasts a well-regarded healthcare system that provides quality medical services. Access to healthcare is often more affordable than in the United States, contributing to Spain’s attractiveness for retirees and expatriates.

The Spanish government has also made it easy for legal foreign nationals to get various visas. For instance, the Spain Digital Nomad Visa is perfect for digital nomads or freelancers. When it comes to the actual cost of living comparison between Spain and the US, you will be delighted to find out that with everything the former has to offer, it is considerably more affordable. 

For the sake of context, consumer prices, including rent, in the United States are 74.3% higher than in Spain, while rent prices in the United States are 130.6% higher.

#5 Italy

Other than Spain, Italy is also steeped in history and boasts a rich cultural heritage. Retirees can immerse themselves in iconic art, architecture, and historical sites, fostering a unique and enriching retirement experience. A big part of the rich Italian culture is the cuisine. The emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients contributes to a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle.

Access to healthcare is important for retirees, and Italy’s healthcare infrastructure is well-regarded. Italy has a universal healthcare system known for providing high-quality medical care. 

Something else that qualifies Italy as a suitable place to retire is the cost of living. The United States is 44.8% more expensive than Italy. Consumer prices, including rent, in the United States are 53.5% higher than in Italy. Rent prices in the United States are 151.3% higher than in Italy.

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#6 Greece

Greece is one of those small European countries that needs no introduction. It is a good option to retire abroad for Americans because of a few reasons. First, the appeal of all the history packed into such a small country is motivation enough. 

Often considered the birthplace of modern civilization, retirees immerse themselves in ancient history, explore archaeological sites, and enjoy a vibrant cultural scene.

Living in Greece means easy access to historic sites such as the Acropolis in Athens, ancient theaters, and temples. This country is made up of three islands with stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches, and charming villages. The Mediterranean climate enhances the overall appeal, providing pleasant weather for much of the year.

Like the countries mentioned above, Greece often offers a more affordable cost of living than the United States. This includes housing, daily expenses, and leisure activities, making it attractive for retirees looking to stretch their retirement savings. 

#7 Panama

Another good destination for Americans looking to retire in central Portugal is Panama. This destination offers a relatively low cost of living compared to the United States. Data from Numbeo details that consumer prices, including rent, in the United States are 75.4% higher than in Panama, while rent prices in the United States are 124.7% higher. A family of two can live comfortably with $2,000 per month.

Panama has a special visa program for retirees called the Pensionado Program. This program offers various benefits, including discounts on healthcare, entertainment, transportation, and more, making it financially advantageous for retirees. 

Also, the fact that Panama uses the US dollar as its official currency eliminates the need for retirees to deal with currency exchange, providing a sense of familiarity for American expatriates.

It doesn’t stop there; Panama also offers tax incentives to retirees, including exemptions on import duties for household goods and tax breaks on retirement income earned outside of Panama. 

Lastly, when it comes to healthcare, Panama has a well-developed healthcare system with modern medical facilities. Many healthcare professionals are trained in the US, and medical care is generally more affordable than in the United States.

#8 Canada

Canada is a good option for retirees who want to live in a destination that is not that different from the US This proximity allows retirees to easily visit friends and family in the US. 

Other than that, Canada shares many cultural similarities with the United States, including a common language, similar legal systems, and comparable lifestyle norms. This can ease the transition for American retirees.

Being a first-world nation and also a big economy country, Canada consistently ranks high in global quality of life indices. It offers a robust healthcare system, excellent public services, and a strong emphasis on social welfare, contributing to an overall high standard of living. The healthcare system in this country is publicly funded, providing universal coverage for its residents. 

This ensures access to quality medical care, which is a crucial consideration for retirees. When it comes to the cost of living, Canada is also relatively cheaper by about 14%. Rent prices in the United States are 43.8% higher than in Canada, while consumer prices are 12.6% higher.

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#9 Ecuador

This small country in Latin America has made this list of top countries to retire abroad for Americans for a few reasons. The first reason has to do with the cost of living. Ecuador is known for its affordability, offering a significantly lower cost of living than the United States, making every dollar stretch further than it would in the US. 

Ecuador has a retirement visa program that is designed to attract retirees. To qualify, individuals must demonstrate a stable monthly income, such as a pension, and commit to spending a certain amount of time in the country annually.

The majority of Americans opting to retire in Ecuador typically seek the Jubilado visa, referred to in English as the retirement visa or pensioner visa. Initially, this temporary visa has a validity of two years, after which it can either be extended for an additional two years or transformed into a permanent residence visa. 

#10 Thailand

Embarking on a journey to Southeast Asia, Thailand possesses an unspoiled history and culture meticulously safeguarded by the country. It is an optimal destination for retirees seeking fresh adventures and novel experiences.  

From stunning beaches and islands to lush jungles and mountainous regions, Thailand offers diverse landscapes. The country’s tropical climate, with warm temperatures throughout the year, appeals to those seeking a pleasant and sunny environment, especially individuals looking to escape colder climates. 

Because Thailand has a long history of expat immigration, specific retirement visa options allow foreigners to retire in the country. The retirement visa is relatively straightforward to obtain, making it easier for retirees to relocate.

Lastly, Thailand has a relatively cheaper cost of living than the U.S. Data from Numbeo shows that rent prices in the United States are 279.8% higher than in Thailand. Consumer prices in the United States are 100.7% higher than in Thailand; all these translate to a difference of 66% as far as the difference in cost of living is concerned.

How can an American retire in Portugal or Spain?

As of now, the retirement age in Portugal is 65 years, and in Spain it is 66 years. Fortunately, there is no age restriction for expats who wish to retire. Individuals from non-EU member states must have a visa to retire in Portugal or Spain. 

The two popular visas among retirees in Portugal are the Golden Visa and the D7 Visa, also known as the passive income or retirement visa. The Golden Visa provides residency through investment, while the D7 visa is tailored for individuals with passive income or sufficient savings. 

For Spain, the top visas among retirees are the Golden Visa and the Non-Lucrative Visa.

The good news is that both types of visas can ultimately lead to permanent residency or Portuguese citizenship, which is the case with the Golden Visa program.

Documents needed

Although the two types of visas are different, the general documents needed are often the same. They include:

  • Valid Passport;
  • Evidence of entry and legal stay in Portugal;
  • International health or travel insurance;
  • Criminal record certificate (duly certified by Portuguese diplomatic or consular representation) from the country of origin or from the country where you have lived for more than one year;
  • Authorization to search for your background by the Portuguese Criminal Registry;
  • Declaration of Commitment of Honor, through which you declare you will comply with the minimum investment time period (5 years) in Portugal;
  • Tax and Social Security clearance records;
  • Receipt of payment of the application fee.

Keep in mind that while these are the general documents needed for most visas in Portugal, you might need to present further documents according to the requirements of each individual visa. Explore more about the Golden Visa and the D7 Passive Income Visa.

Do you need help retiring in Portugal?

Despite all these destinations, Portugal often stands out as a brilliant destination! Join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats and connect with hundreds of American expats that have started their relocation journey to Portugal. 

Relocation can be quite complex, but it is definitely worth it! If this is your first time, we recommend seeking advice from professionals. If you need help navigating the process, book a meeting with professionals from Viv Europe! We’re here every step of the way.

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