4 Surprising Retirement Location Hotspots

These exciting and affordable locations could be where you create the retirement of your dreams.

by Nell McShane Wulfhart - December 10, 2018

Choosing an overseas retirement location may seem exotic, but it’s becoming more and more popular: An Associated Press report found that the number of Americans retiring overseas increased by 17% between 2010 and 2015, and the increase was expected to continue. These retirees are finding countries where they can live well as they explore a new culture. Sound interesting? Here, we explore four affordable and unexpected retirement locations, from South America to Europe, where you could experience something entirely new.

A view of Punta del Este in Uruguay

Relax on the beautiful Punta del Este beach in Uruguay.

Uruguay: The laid-back life

This peaceful country of not quite 3.5 million people draws ever-increasing numbers of retirees from the United States and Europe. They choose it as a retirement location because of the beautiful beaches and sprawling ranches, low cost of living, and laid-back way of life. Uruguay makes a great base for travel in South America and offers relatively easy paths to both buying property and obtaining permanent residency (a clean criminal record and a minimum monthly income of around $1,500 are the essential requirements).

Location, location: Many retirees settle down near Punta del Este, a popular resort town, or farther up the coast where there are miles of pristine beaches and complete tranquility. These top spots are all within a few hours’ drive of the capital, Montevideo, which offers plenty of cultural and culinary activities.

The Douro river in Portugal

Enjoy breathtaking views of the Douro river in Portugal.

Portugal: City living in Lisbon

Lisbon is one of Europe’s most appealing and affordable capitals: Its glorious architecture, abundant seafood and wine, and cosmopolitan ambience make it a tempting choice if you’re looking for a lively, culture-filled retirement location that doesn’t cost the earth.

Retirement basecamp: Lisbon is a pleasant train ride from the beaches of the Algarve and the vineyards of Douro (and senior citizens 65 and older get a 50% discount on train fares). And weekend jaunts to other European cities are just a plane ride away, with non-stop flights under three hours from Lisbon to destinations such as London, Bordeaux, and Milan.

San Miguel de Allende in Mexico

Enjoy the Colonial buildings and cobblestone streets San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Mexico: Fellowship in San Miguel de Allende

A favorite of American expats, this charming town in Mexico’s central highlands is a four-hour drive from Mexico City but feels like it’s another world. Colonial buildings adorn cobblestone streets in the city center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and there are readily available amenities ranging from organic farmers’ markets to five-star spas.

Permanent vacation: San Miguel has long been popular with Americans visiting during the winter months, but more are coming here year-round to enjoy the temperate climate, numerous cafes in the lovely plazas, and the increasing number of gourmet restaurants that have popped up to serve the expat community. Excellent private medical care is part of the low cost of living here (some doctors still make house calls).

Panama City's skyline by night

Admire the stunning views of Panama City’s skyline at night.

Panama: Modernity and nature

Panama City offers all the first-world advantages of a big city—it’s modern and exciting, with everything from golf to museums to fill your day. However, nature lovers who choose Panama often go further afield, moving to delightful towns like Boquete, which boasts a lush highland setting and proximity to Panama’s extraordinary biodiversity.

Easy transition: The U.S. dollar is legal tender here, so there’s no concern about exchange rates—and residency for retirees requires a (lifetime) monthly income of only $1,000. Although rent can be pricey in Panama City, most things, including health care, cost much less than they typically do in the U.S.

Nell McShane Wulfhart is a freelance writer based in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Images by iStock

Additional Resources

Follow our advice for cutting through the clutter of planning your next vacation.

Visit the U.S. State Department’s International Travel site for safety and security information about international destinations.