Where is the ideal place in the world to retire to? There’s such a wealth of choice when it comes to countries with great weather, good standards of living and relatively affordable costs of living where foreigners are welcome, so how does one choose?
In this article we’ll be looking at the best countries to retire abroad; each one of them is unique and has something special to offer to those who chose it as a retirement destination.
Table of Contents
The advantages of retiring to France far outweigh the main reason for not choosing the nation – which is of course the language, which we’ll come back to in a minute! France has to be a top considered country for retirement abroad because it is so appealing on almost every single level!
Think of the climate – in France they actually have long, hot summers EVERY year!
Think of the cuisine – in France every café and restaurant you visit serves quality food every day and you can eat out for a fraction of the price you can in the UK!
Think of the quality of life – the French have a much healthier attitude to life, and enjoying the finer things in life is second nature to a French person.
These are all benefits you can tap into if you move to France in retirement.
What’s more, the French property market has remained far more realistically priced and stable than our own, and you can still buy the dream in France. You can buy that rurally located barn with outline planning permission that you’ve always longed for, and turn it into your perfect pad in the sun.
Relocation is easy because France is in the EU, as a retiree you can have access to the healthcare system locally – although most people have top up insurance to cover the gap that exists when you access treatment. Travel between the UK and France is easy and affordable, meaning that you can keep in touch with the family and friends you leave behind.
There is still an abundance of paperwork to handle when it comes to registering your permanent presence in the nation.
French taxation is far from favourable, however the highest rate of tax in France is 40% compared to 50% in the UK.
The country has just revised its inheritance laws however, so now it is easier for spouses to inherit from each other – but do seek legal advice when you make your will just in case.
Downsides include the fact that there is a wealth tax in France for those with assets over a certain value.
The public health care system is over subscribed and therefore it can be important for retirees to take out private medical insurance which can be very expensive.
However, you do have to learn French if you want to fully enjoy your life in France.
All we can say on this subject is that it’s easy to access lessons online, through the local library or nearest college to you, French is one of the easier languages to learn.
Once you immerse yourself in French culture you will pick up and improve upon what you already know, and if you really want to go and live in one of the best countries on this planet, learning a new language to do so is hardly that great a hardship is it?
If you would like a more affordable cost of living, or perhaps an even more attractive climate, then Turkey’s emergence as an attractive place to holiday, live, buy property and retire will be music to your ears.
The nation has gone out of its way to achieve strategic alignment with Europe on many fundamental levels, and as a result it is far easier to integrate into life in Turkey nowadays.
The most popular retirement destinations tend to be along the southern and south western coastlines where the weather is at its best for at least 10 months of the year.
Developed international tourism means that foreigners are very welcome, English is widely spoken and general standards of infrastructure are high.
Property prices in Turkey remain realistic and within reach, the fact that the nation is not in the eurozone means that affordability remains a positive factor in Turkey’s favour, relocation is relatively easy and getting easier all the time, and you’re only a short hop from the UK still with average flight times in the region of 4 hours.
Turkey is a nation’s whose popularity star is rising – therefore whilst you may find elements of the country rough around the edges, (such as the immigration and importation rules and regulations), you can also watch as month by month ‘things’ improve for would-be expats who want to make this culturally rich country their new home abroad.
For a more detailed info read Pros and Cons of Living in Turkey.
Belize is a popular choice with retiring Americans – but despite the fact it’s a former British colony and English is widely spoken, Belize is still not as popular a choice with expat Brits.
The number one thing that puts people off about the country is its relative inaccessibility. Flight times are long, routes are indirect and costs are high – but hey, if you’re moving permanently you only have to manage the flight once right?
Belize has so much in its favour that we’re convinced greater promotion of the nation will eventually result in more Britons exploring it as a possibility for a new home-from-home abroad. For a start there is the Belize retired persons’ incentive programme which allows qualifying individuals to move to the country and live there 100% tax-free! What’s not to love about that?
The climate is favourable – although during the tropical storm season when hurricanes occasionally hit, the weather is less in Belize’s favour!
The rest of the time you’re in for heady days with humidity, and a climate that never gets cold. The landscape is vibrant and verdant, the fauna is as abundant as the flora, the people are as colourful as the environment and the cost of living can be exceptionally cheap.
You can buy well priced real estate in Belize – and you can enjoy tropical beaches and a very laid back lifestyle. You can access relative sophistication quite easily by heading North to America or just by heading in to Belize City.
Perhaps you have to have a bit of an adventurous spirit to make Belize home as it is not quite the same as our old European destinations! But if you’re willing to pioneer and explore pastures very new, Belize has an awful lot in its favour for retirees!
4) New Zealand
The number one issue with New Zealand – and probably the number one reason why it isn’t higher up our list – is immigration. But the good news is, it just got easier!
A new investment class visa has been released which has no upper age limit, making it perfect for retirees. However, you have to be prepared and able to invest 10 million NZ dollars for 3 years – which does make this a visa class for the super wealthy.
If you fall into that category, or you fancy ‘retiring’ early and moving your business to New Zealand or you have family already living there who will sponsor you, then you have a chance at residency.
If you can gain a visa you will also gain a fantastic quality of life in stunning surroundings where everything feels sufficiently the same so that integration is smooth – but where actually, everything is different enough to make the move so worthwhile!
Healthcare standards are high, infrastructure is good and improving, economically and politically the country is strong and in a good position globally – and of course, English is the first language and Britons are 100% welcome!
5) Cyprus (North or South)
What’s not to love about retirement in Cyprus!
The sun-kissed Mediterranean paradise is also a tax haven for retirees with many legally paying no income tax and others paying just 5% income tax on their pension pot.
The standard of living in Cyprus is exceptional and the way of life is just perfect!
The island nation has scrapped IHT (although this may not apply to retiring Britons who should always seek legal and financial advice about their inheritance tax situation).
On the downside the cost of property is quite high. The flight time to Cyprus makes it a medium haul destination rather than a short haul. Although 4.5 hours to Cyprus is more palatable than about 24 hours to Australia if you’re simply comparing the accessibility aspects of your retirement location!
In the south you have the benefits of a low tax rate on pension income (as low as 5%), excellent healthcare, a high standard of living and good infrastructure. English is widely spoken and understood, you have strong and established expat communities and even British shops such as Debenhams!
In the north you have cheap property, a cheap cost of living, an untouched feel to the island and arguably the more attractive natural landscape.
There is a small British retiree community well established in Northern Cyprus already, you will be able to get by if you don’t speak Turkish, and if you can afford to pay for it, the private healthcare available is excellent.
Downsides are – in the south the cost of living is very high and in the north you’re living in a part of the world where there are embargos in place which can make elements of life frustrating at times.
Of course, both sides of the island benefit from a fabulous climate, stunning natural landscape, a laid back way of life and friendly and welcoming people.
Despite the fact that one needs a visa to go and live down under, Australia remains a top choice for British retirees because the pace of life is laid back, the people are down to earth, the quality of life is relatively good and the weather can be nigh on perfect depending on which part of Australia you move to.
The downside is that as a retiree – or someone over the age of 55 – you need to be able to prove to the Australian government that you can support yourself in retirement before they will allow you to become a permanent resident.
To add insult to injury, when you do become a permanent resident the British government will stop your state pension being index linked.
However, there are opportunities, and if you dream of retiring to Australia read how you can do it in our How to Retire to Australia guide.
The evergreen choice for Europeans and especially Britons, Spain never seems to fade in terms of its alluring fortunes. More and more people choose to retire to Spain in pursuit of healthier lifestyle and sunnier weather.
Moving to Spain in retirement is easy – it is only a little further on than France, and Britons benefit from the fact that it is in Europe and therefore they can move there unrestricted by visas, and they can have their state pensions index linked.
The cost of property is falling fast, and away from the main areas of urbanisation you can actually find affordable property for sale in Spain nowadays.
On the plus side of things you also have the weather, but on the downside of things – look at the laws of succession and inheritance taxes, take advice and take action otherwise you or your spouse could end up in all sorts of trouble upon the death of the other.
Canada is an increasingly popular choice among foreign retirees seeking a high standard of relatively affordable living overseas.
Canada is appealing to those who love the great outdoors, who want access to world-class health care facilities, who like space with their real estate but who are eligible for a visa to move to live in Canada.
Yes, a downside is the fact that you have to prove your eligibility for permanent residence status, added to which the weather can be harshly cold during the long winters, British state pensions are not index linked and the cost of real estate in most urban areas is quite high.
la dolce vita (the sweet life) is exactly what one can have when one retires to Italy.
It’s a lifestyle of culture and sophistication in an enviably beautiful country with a fabulous climate, sumptuous cuisine, affordable living costs and no visas to worry about.
Italy is affordably within reach of the most European countries.
Property for sale there can match any budget and the pace of life is as laid back or as fast paced as you choose.
However, there is still more bureaucracy in Italy than in any other country in the world (probably) and taxation is quite high – both of these factors may put you off.
Malta is a stunning island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, it is blessed with a near perfect climate and the architecture and geography of the island make it fascinating as well as beautiful.
Malta is in Europe, its currency is the euro, (making it expensive for Britons at the moment, but hopefully not for the long-term), and it is packed with history, heritage and culture.
Malta is also home to a large number of British expatriates, and what’s more, because the island was once under British rule, expatriating to live on the island is a very smooth transition for most people.
Because the island is a popular holiday destination there are affordable year round flights, making it very accessible – and the popularity of the nation also means that if you do retire to Malta you will be assured of plenty of visitors!
Taxation for permanent foreign residents can be low – meaning that a pension can go far further in Malta, there are also no property taxes.
The healthcare system is good, English is widely spoken, there is tonnes to do and see, therefore all in all Malta is well worth considering as a great place to retire overseas.
Hopefully the above list of our current top five favourite places to retire abroad will give you some ideas and some new places to explore and research. Of course, any list is purely subjective on some levels, and relative to the person compiling it! So, if you don’t find your current favourite nation listed, don’t let that put you off your relocation abroad!