Mexico’s Colonial Highlands has long been a popular area with both expats and tourists. The expat havens of San Miguel de Allende and, to a lesser extent, Guanajuato—both located in the state of Guanajuato—have been attracting a foreign population for 60 years or more. They are easily among the best-known expat destinations in Mexico.
But they’re not the only options in the Colonial Highlands.
For gracious, big-city living, Mexico style, it’s hard to beat Querétaro, capital of the neighboring state of Querétaro. This city—which has a population of about 1.1 million in the greater metropolitan area—has one of the highest qualities of life in Mexico. It’s also considered one of the safest cities in the country.
Querétaro has it all: a lovely, well-preserved historic center (which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996); modern shops and malls; excellent medical facilities; concert halls, museums, and other cultural outlets; universities galore; and a strong local economy. If you’re looking for a sophisticated, yet genuinely Mexican destination, look no further than Querétaro.
Retire in Querétaro
Querétaro (official name: Santiago de Querétaro) is well known among Mexicans. Founded by the Spanish in 1531, it was one of the most important cities in Mexico during the colonial period. But for today’s Mexicans, Querétaro is one of their “cradles of liberty”: The city played an early role in Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain, it later served as Mexico’s capital at several points in the country’s history, and all of Mexico’s constitutions (including the current one, signed in 1917) were signed in Querétaro.
This history has left Querétaro with a wealth of beautiful, mostly baroque-style buildings that lend a grace and grandeur to the central city. Today these buildings house government offices, churches, museums, and other public services.
For all these reasons, as well as Querétaro’s many modern amenities, the city is a popular tourist destination among Mexicans. But relatively few foreigners know much about Querétaro. And that’s a shame.
The city’s beautiful, well-preserved historic center is home to restaurants, cafés, markets, and shops. Stroll the shady, tree-lined Plaza de Armas and the streets near it, and you could almost think you were in Europe.
The centro’s wealth of Spanish-colonial buildings also includes many homes. Colorfully painted, flat-fronted buildings line the flagstone streets. Their front doors open to gracious halls and living rooms with high ceilings and ancient wooden beams…but often with modern furniture and amenities, as well. And all within easy walking distance of the centro’s shops.
Outside the center are modern neighborhoods, including a number on the outskirts that offer U.S.-style housing, with garages and front yards. They serve Querétaro’s large middle class and the many professionals who have moved here over the last 20 years. Querétaro has grown tremendously during that time, as many Mexico City companies moved their offices here. (The city is just a two-hours’ drive north of Mexico City.) Other industries have moved or grown up here, as well. Today Querétaro is important in the automotive industry, aerospace, food processing, and several other sectors.
To attract this growth, the city has invested in infrastructure, public services, park spaces, and cultural and sports facilities…all of which have helped make Querétaro a pleasant place to live. Major shopping malls on the outskirts, with stores from around the world, mean that you can find just about anything you’d want, whether its goodies from back home in Canada or the U.S., high-end electronics, first-run movies (in English, with Spanish subtitles), or gourmet food items from Europe and Asia.
For medical care, Querétaro offers a choice of numerous hospitals. These include both public and private hospitals, specialty units, and hospitals affiliated with the respected Angeles and Star Médica private hospital chains. You’ll also find many private clinics and doctors’ and dentists’ offices. (In fact, many expats in San Miguel de Allende, which is just an hour away, come to Querétaro for their specialty healthcare.) Medical services here—as elsewhere in Mexico—tend to run a quarter to a half of U.S. costs.
Lifestyle in Querétaro
Querétaro’s expat community is relatively small. Most expats here are business executives. However, a small number of expat retirees do choose to settle here. They tend to live in Querétaro’s pedestrian-friendly historic center. They also tend to be folks who want to live in a Spanish-speaking environment. (You do need a moderate level of Spanish to manage day-to-day life in Querétaro.)
Querétaro also attracts those who seek a mild climate. The city enjoys spring-like weather much of the year. Temperatures in July, the hottest month, range from an average low of 57 F to an average high of 80 F. In January, the coldest month, the average temperature ranges from 45 F to 73 F. And days are mostly dry and sunny.
Like the other cities of the Colonial Highlands, Querétaro sits at a high altitude—5,970 feet above sea level. However, Querétaro has a lower elevation than either San Miguel or Guanajuato, and it is also less hilly than these cities…its flag stoned streets are mostly flat and level. This can make Querétaro a good choice for those who want a walkable city…without steep hills.
Those looking for culture will find plenty in Querétaro. The centro is filled with beautiful, historic churches and museums, including the Museum of Art and the City Museum. Nearly three dozen universities and institutes are located in Querétaro and its surroundings, as well as numerous research centers. Sports fans can follow Querétaro’s two soccer teams, U.S.-style football, and other team sports. There are also numerous golf courses in the area, as well as swimming pools, gyms, and other sports facilities.
The Querétaro Intercontinental Airport, just outside town, has flights to destinations throughout Mexico, as well as flights to Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Chicago, and several other major U.S. cities. In addition, Mexico City—with its Benito Juárez International Airport, the country’s busiest—is only two hours away.
Cost of Living in Querétaro
Despite it being a major city, Querétaro offers a surprisingly low cost of living. Its mild climate keeps air conditioning and heating costs are low. For shopping, the city offers a range of options at a variety of price points: from local stores to warehouse options like Costco and Sam’s Club, and to department stores like the high-end Mexican chain Liverpool.
Housing, particularly in the centro—where most retiree expats want to live—can be difficult to find. Expect to spend some time looking, especially if you seek a furnished rental. Rates for comfortable, centric, two-bedroom apartments tend to run from around $700 a month. Apartments for sale start at around $170,000, though you’ll find more on offer from about $200,000.
Here’s a sample budget for a couple living in Querétaro:
A move overseas allows you to reduce the cost of retirement as you seek adventure. The best affordable options for retirement overseas in 2019 include six destinations in Europe. The strong dollar makes the eurozone an increasingly realistic option for retirees on a budget. Potential retirement spots were rated based on factors that are important to potential expat retirees, including the cost of living, affordability of real estate, infrastructure, residency options, taxes, health care, recreation, international access, crime, expat community options and whether English is spoken. Consider these low-cost places to retire overseas.
1. Algarve, Portugal
The Algarve region is beautiful, affordable, welcoming, friendly and safe. It boasts some of the world’s best beaches and golf courses, plus a long and interesting history. The area is protected from winter by the movement of the ocean in the Gulf Stream, and, as a result, has an ideal climate with 3,300 hours of sunshine every year, more than any other country in this part of the world. English is widely spoken in the Algarve, so you would not have to learn a new language if you don’t want to. The infrastructure in the Algarve is top-notch, while the health care is world-class and a fraction the cost of care in North America.
2. Cascais, Portugal
Cascais is spectacularly beautiful with a rugged coastline, white sandy beaches, stone buildings, cobblestone sidewalks, museums and parks. This is a well-heeled, high-end destination that is one of the world’s most affordable places to embrace a luxury-standard lifestyle on the ocean. The cost of living in Cascais is significantly greater than in the Algarve, but it’s a bargain given the standard of living offered. While you could get by here without learning to speak Portuguese, English is less widely spoken in Cascais than in the Algarve region. Just a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon’s city center, Cascais is the best of both city and beach living.
3. Mazatlán, Mexico
Among Mexico’s many attractive lifestyle options, Mazatlán stands out for its beautiful beaches and walkable colonial center. This popular expat choice is an authentic Mexican resort town that manages to feel homey. From December through March, daytime temperatures in Mazatlán hover in the high 70s and there’s little to no rain. But temperatures and humidity levels are much higher between July and October, which makes Mazatlán an ideal choice for snowbirding. Moving to Mazatlán can be as hassle-free as an international move gets. Nothing’s as easy as loading up a truck and driving south. Your moving budget could be gas and tolls.
4. Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca is one of the world’s most affordable places to retire well. A couple could live here comfortably on a budget of $1,000 per month or less. Cuenca is a beautiful city with cobblestone streets and a well-preserved historic center. It is also a walkable city, meaning you don’t have to invest in the expense of a car. The mild climate means no heating or air conditioning costs, another budget savings. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, so there’s no exchange rate risk. Ecuador is part of the developing world, but Cuenca enjoys reliable electricity, modern internet service and drinkable water throughout. Cuenca has a large expat retiree community, so newcomers have plenty of support to help with the transition.
5. Valletta, Malta
The three-island, 122-square-mile nation of Malta, with a population of just over 400,000 people, is a first-world jewel in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. An EU member where English is almost universally spoken by the multilingual population, Malta is a safe, stable haven boasting an excellent overall standard of living and top-notch health care. Malta’s rugged coastline boasts dramatic cliffs alternating with tiny coves dotted with ancient forts and quaint fishing harbors. Inland, stone walls separate fields of olives, wheat and potatoes, and, in season, vines hang heavy with grapes. From its weather and food to its history and culture, Malta is one of your most affordable options for embracing Mediterranean Europe.
6. Occitanie, France
In the Occitanie region of France is a quintessential French country village, Saint-Chinian, where everyday life is like something out of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Its property prices are half those of Provence and the Côte d’Azur, and its wine industry is growing. Saint-Chinian is home to 1,900 inhabitants and 200 winemakers. Over the last dozen years, growers have specialized in producing world-ranking red wines from the original Carignan, Cinsaut and Grenache grapes, with the addition of Syrah and Mourvèdre varieties. Sitting on a hillside in Saint-Chinian, enjoying the idyllic French country scene, you may think you are in the middle of nowhere. However, Spain is near enough that you could pop over for dinner, and Paris is just three hours away by train.
7. San Ignacio, Belize
The wide-open spaces of Cayo appeal to the adventuresome and the independent. This is a land of mountains and Mayan ruins, rivers and waterfalls. Driving along the Western Highway from Belize City to Cayo, the view from your window is of fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. Farmers grow corn, sugar cane, watermelons and citrus. San Ignacio is Cayo’s biggest town and home to a large and growing community of foreign retirees and expats. You could settle in among them easily, as everyone speaks English and Belize residency is easy to establish. Cayo is one of the top choices worldwide for getting back to basics and going off the grid. Amidst Cayo’s virgin rainforest, you can live self-sufficiently in style and good company.
8. Annecy, France
Only a few cities in the world can hope to meet the expectations of a nature lover, a museum aficionado, a foodie, an adrenaline junky and a fashionista. Annecy offers a lifestyle that satisfies all these agendas. Annecy is best known for its skiing and its lake, one of the cleanest in the world. Annecy serves up more than its share of castles, museums, pastel-colored townhomes and other historical sites alongside modern theaters, cinemas and festivals. If France is the country of cheese, Savoy is its heart. Annecy residents lunch on tartiflette (a melted potato and bacon pie smothered in reblochon cheese) and dine regularly on fondue de raclette.
9. Città Sant’Angelo, Italy
Abruzzo has everything Tuscany offers and more at a fraction the cost. The construction of new highways made it more easily accessible from Rome, opening up the area domestically and attracting state and private investment. New development is taking place across the region, and small towns are working hard to attract investment to save their historically significant streets. Yet the area remains affordable and is one of Europe’s greatest bargains. Nowhere is this truer than in Città Sant’Angelo, perhaps the most appealing spot in this welcoming region. This would be an ideal place to embrace the best of traditional Italian life. However, if you’re living in Città Sant’Angelo, you’ll need to learn to speak Italian.
10. Georgetown, Malaysia
Life here is both traditional and 21st century, exotic and comfortable. Beyond the high-rise apartments of modern Georgetown is one of the best-preserved old cities in Asia. Hidden along the winding streets of this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site are old shop houses, guildhalls and clan houses. Thanks to its colonial past, English is widely spoken. Then there’s the great outdoors. Almost on the city’s doorstep are stylish seaside settlements with palm-fringed sandy beaches and a backdrop of lush rainforest. This city is recognized as an Asian culinary capital. Delicious specialties like Char Koay Teow, noodles with shrimp, chili paste and cockles are less than $2 per portion.
If you’re hoping to stretch your retirement dollars further, a move abroad may be the answer. Living in a foreign land offers a chance to see more of the world and can offer a lower cost of living. As of January 2018 more than 674,700 Social Security benefit payments were made to Americans living outside the United States.
But which are the best countries for retirees? International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index highlights the best countries for retirees each year, and this year’s top 10 list features eight Spanish-speaking countries, seven of them in Central and South America (the other is Spain itself). If you’re planning a foreign retirement, it may make sense to add learning Spanish to your to-do list.
Best Countries for Retirees in 2018
To determine which countries are the best for retirees, International Living uses a scoring system that measures a variety of factors, including:
ease of buying and owning property and the value of property investments
cost of renting
benefits and discounts on things such as health care and entertainment
visa and residency requirements
cost of living
fitting in and how easy it is to make friends
entertainment and amenities
development and infrastructure
stability of the country’s political situation
The countries with the highest cumulative average score across all those categories ranked in the top 10, and here they are:
1. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an ideal choice if you value a healthy, active lifestyle. It earned the highest scores in the health care, amenities and healthy living categories, and there’s no shortage of things to do and see. The cost of living makes Costa Rica highly affordable, even on the smallest retirement budget. Consumer prices are 24% lower than the U.S. on average, with rent prices averaging 54% lower. If you’d prefer to buy, you can find homes as low as $50,000, with property tax rates that are a fraction of what you’d pay in the U.S. (For more, see What Does It Cost to Retire in Costa Rica?)
Mexico combines modern amenities with a rustic feel, and it’s well suited to retirees who prefer a balmy climate and close proximity to the U.S. It earned its highest ratings on International Living’s list for both entertainment and amenities and the ease of establishing residency. Retirees can get a temporary resident visa, which is good for up to four years, by meeting minimum monthly income or asset requirements or by owning property in Mexico. If you plan to stay long term, you can apply for a permanent resident visa, which has higher income and asset requirements. Note that five states in Mexico have been singled out for U.S. State Dept. travel warnings, so be careful where in Mexico you choose to relocate.
Between majestic mountains and bustling beaches, Panama offers the best of both worlds for retirees. Locals have a reputation for being welcoming and friendly, and from a cost-of-living perspective it’s highly affordable. Virtually everything is less expensive compared to the U.S., including groceries, restaurants and rents, which are approximately 46% lower. Expats who get a retirement visa enjoy numerous benefits, including deep discounts on entertainment, airfare, local transportation and hotel stays, as well as a one-time duty-tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000 and a 100% duty exemption on the purchase or importation of a vehicle every two years.
Ecuador has something for everyone, whether you prefer the beach to the mountains or the country to the city. It earned its highest score for its climate, which boasts an average annual temperature of 67 degrees. Housing is a bargain, with rental prices notching 70% lower compared to the U.S. Overall, consumer prices, excluding rent, are around 40% lower, allowing you to squeeze more value out of your retirement dollars. Like Panama, Ecuador extends a long list of money-saving benefits to expats, including discounts on your electric and water bills, discounts on entertainment and public transportation, and reductions of certain taxes.
Malaysia is one of three countries included in the top 10 that’s not in South or Central America. Aside from the beautiful landscape, expats are attracted to this Asian locale because of the low cost of living and abundance of amenities. Consumer prices, including rent, are nearly 50% lower than in the U.S., with a one-bedroom apartment renting for less than $400 a month. There are hundreds of islands to visit, and the low cost and wide variety of restaurants make it a foodie’s paradise. (Learn more in 5 Reasons Why Americans Retire in Malaysia.)
Rounding Out the Top 10
The remaining countries in the top 10 all offer a combination of low costs, great amenities and good weather. All but one are Spanish speaking, and two require a European move. In descending order, they are Colombia, Portugal, Nicaragua, Spain and Peru.
Some More Popular Places to Retire
In addition to International Living‘s list, there are lots of sources advising retirees where they should go if they decide to relocate abroad. But where are retirees actually flocking, based on where they collect their Social Security checks? The answers just might surprise you. Here, in order of popularity, are the five countries that are seeing the biggest influx of Social Security recipients who prefer retirement on foreign shores.
We’ve already discussed Mexico’s advantages. As for the others: while life in capitals like Tokyo or London can be quite pricey, housing and other fundamental aspects of the cost-of-living in smaller towns and in the countryside is often lower than in the U.S. – especially when you factor in the universal healthcare many of these countries offer. Familiarity also explains the popularity of some countries: large numbers of U.S. military personnel are stationed in several of these lands, and many often have a desire to “stay on” after their active service has ended.
How to Plan Your Retirement Abroad
1. Check Visa and Residency Requirements
Immigration and residency laws vary from country to country. You can review the Department of State’s country specific information to find out if you’ll need a visa to enter and reside in the country to which you’re hoping to move. Other useful information is listed on the website as well, including passport validity, recommended and required vaccinations, and currency restrictions for entry and exit.
2. Research Safety and Political Stability
The U.S. State Department website provides up-to-date information about how safe and stable various countries are. At times, there will be travel warnings and alerts about specific locations – or, rarely, the U.S. may restrict citizens from traveling to or within certain countries. The information is updated regularly, as needed.
As a foreign national, you may encounter travel restrictions in certain countries. Remember that while in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.
3. Determine Rules of Foreign Ownership
Many countries have rules and regulations as to who is permitted to own property, and how the property can be used (some countries restrict foreign ownership altogether). Before you decide on moving to a country, investigate its restrictions in detail and make sure they work with your finances and plans. Your best information source is a local real estate agent. You can find such agents through the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations (ICREA).
Even if a country does not restrict who buys real estate, it may control what happens when non-citizens sell property. Foreigners are permitted to buy property in Malaysia, for example, but if the property is sold, the proceeds have to be kept in a Malaysian bank account.
Also, be sure that your property rights are protected. In the U.S., homebuyers generally receive a clear title to property when they buy it. Rules may be less clear in other countries. Be sure you hire a qualified real estate agent and local attorney to ensure that you know what you’ve bought, and that all paperwork is handled according to local requirements.
4. Visit Before Moving, Rent Before Buying
Living in a country is very different from being a tourist. Try to stay in neighborhoods and areas you are considering to see what it’s like to live as a local. And visit in more than one season. In fact, try to visit once during the least-pleasant weather your prospective home endures – hot, dry desert winds; monsoon rains; dreary winter days when there’s no sun for weeks. You won’t always be able to escape once you’re actually living there. Also, see whether there is a local American or international association or club you can join to learn more about living in that country or region.
Once you move, start the transition by renting first to make sure the locale is compatible with your vision for retirement. If it works out, let the house-hunting begin.
5. Consider an All-Cash Purchase
Locating a U.S.-based bank or other lender that will fund a mortgage for overseas property is exceedingly difficult. Some local banks abroad do make loans to foreigners, but you could be asked for a massive down payment.
Try to find a property you can afford to buy outright, for cash. You’ll have more negotiating power, a less complicated transaction and, in many cases, you may end up with a better deal.
6. Organize Your Assets (and Taxes)
You may be retiring abroad, but your assets don’t have to move with you. Stocks, bonds, annuities, IRAs and the like can remain in the U.S. where the economy and political situation are known factors.
Unless you renounce your U.S. citizenship (thereby giving up Social Security), you will be subject to the same income tax requirements as if you lived back home. You will still have to file an income tax return with the IRS, and will have to declare any money withdrawn from your retirement accounts. Be sure to consult with a tax attorney or tax advisor before you move, and plan on keeping in touch while abroad to make sure you are in compliance with tax laws at home and abroad. If you decide to move your assets abroad, work with your accountant or attorney to find out if and how they will be taxed.
To cover day-to-day expenses, you can open a local bank account to accept regular transfers from your U.S. account and pay bills. For more information, see Should You Open A Foreign Savings Account?
Online banking and brokerage accounts make it easier than ever to manage money while abroad, but be aware there are restrictions on transfers to certain countries. If your Social Security check is mailed abroad, keep in mind that the local bank may hold the check for up to four weeks before it’s cleared.
Major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are accepted in locations around the world and provide another option for covering daily living expenses and purchases. Contact your credit card company about an auto-pay option.
7. Settle Your Healthcare
Most U.S. health insurance policies will not cover you while living abroad. And even though Social Security will follow you as you travel, Medicare coverage does not extend outside of the U.S. Depending on your retirement destination, you may find that healthcare is so affordable that you don’t need insurance. If the country offers subsidized care for citizens, for example, make sure foreign residents have access to the same care and costs. If not, find out what coverage you will have as a visitor and plan accordingly. Depending on where you plan to live, you may find American or international companies that sell health insurance to Americans living abroad.
In some countries, the healthcare may be affordable but not up to the standards you are used to. If that’s the case, your plan could include adding X amount of dollars to your annual budget for health-related travel and care – either back to the U.S. or to a larger city abroad than where you’re living.
If you are currently under the care of a physician at home, ask if he or she can recommended a colleague in your new destination. Having this connection can make it much easier to deal with existing medical conditions and ensure you receive the appropriate care.
8. Get a Driver’s License
Depending on where you go, your new country may not recognize your U.S. driver’s license. Many countries will accept an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) issued by the American Automobile Association or the National Automobile Club. These permits, which usually have to be accompanied by a regular driver’s license, typically expire in a year. If you plan on driving abroad, you need to get a local driver’s license as soon as you can.
9. Think About Working During Retirement
For some, retirement doesn’t mean not working. Many retirees enjoy volunteer opportunities and part-time jobs. Others are more entrepreneurial, interested in starting a business abroad.
If you plan on working, check ahead of time to make sure the country has no restrictions that could prevent you from either finding a job or starting your own business.
10. Plan to Stay Connected
Many people – whether or not they’re retired – find the most difficult part of living abroad is missing friends and family. Have a plan in place to keep in touch with the people you care about. Modern technology – smart phones and online video-conferencing software (such as Skype) makes it easy to stay in touch virtually – but having a strong, reliable connection is crucial. Having a connection where you live is preferable, but if that’s not an option, nowadays you can access the Internet in most public libraries and cafés.
You also need an emergency plan: Leave your contract information and a copy of your passport with family, and carry contact information for your family back home with you when you travel. Also, know how to reach the closest U.S. embassy or consulate and give that information to your friends and family.
Citizen or Resident?
Almost any country that you would want to live in welcomes American retirees, as long as they can prove that they have a certain minimum income from some combination of Social Security, a pension and investment income. It varies, and, reasonably enough, countries with a higher cost of living require a higher income.
Generally, there’s a three-stage process, from tourist to resident to citizen, though the wait time and red tape differ in every country. The U.S. State Department keeps track of the specifics regarding short-term visits. The website of each nation’s U.S. consulate is the best source for facts on residency and citizenship requirements.
Here’s how it works for most countries:
An American with just a passport typically can stay in a foreign country for up to 90 days. Some expats residing in Canada or Mexico stay on for years, taking a bus across the border and back again every three months to restart the clock.
Long-term stays generally require a residency visa, which may need to be renewed yearly for several years before permanent residency can be applied for and awarded.
A citizenship application, in most countries, requires a longer period of residency, varying from as little as two years to as long as 10 years. Some have fast-track programs that cut the wait for people who make a substantial investment in the country.
All of the above is relatively straightforward in most countries for retirees, assuming they don’t want to take a job and can prove they have a steady income. “Relatively” meaning that some countries make it tougher than others, with onerous requirements and plenty of paperwork.
And that raises the question whether you want to be a permanent resident or a citizen of your adopted country. The benefits and drawbacks vary for each country. Note that citizenship in any European country gains you certain rights as a citizen of a European Union member nation.
The more common choice for a retiree expat is between permanent residency and dual citizenship. Remember that neither dual citizenship nor residency gets you out of filing a U.S. tax return every year. It is both unusual and burdensome, but Americans have to pay income taxes wherever they live, and they owe it no matter where their income was earned. You may also have to file an income tax return in your country of residence, although most deduct the amount American residents pay to the U.S.
In case you’re wondering, you can relinquish your U.S. citizenship – and with them, your U.S. tax bill – but that step is irrevocable and uncommon. In 2014, a whopping 3,415 people did so, and that is an all-time record. According to Forbes.com, some were very wealthy Americans who found they could no longer hide assets in foreign bank accounts. Since a new U.S. law requires those deposits to be reportedto the IRS, the banks either do so, or flatly refuse to do business with Americans. For the rest, the sheer aggravation of filing in two countries every year was a likely factor in their renunciation of U.S. citizenship.
If you’ve always dreamed of living abroad, now may be the best time. Today, there are around 400,000 American retirees residing outside the United States, with that number expected to grow over the next few years. Cost of living is often cited as one of the main reasons for the move. For example, in places like Mexico and Costa Rica, it’s possible to live off of a Social Security check, while enjoying a relaxing lifestyle in the process. Other retirees cite rising health care costs as a contributing factor in their decision to move out of the U.S.
If you’re drawn to the idea of living out your retirement years as an expat, experts suggest you spend some time in the area that you’re interested in to see if it’s a good fit. Renting for about six months will expose you to both the good and the bad that the country has to offer, and you can make the commitment to stay long term or move on to another location if the first one doesn’t feel right.
Once you do make the commitment, be sure to brush up on current international banking regulations. It’s a good idea to hold on to your current state side bank, though it’s important to note that some banks frown on maintaining an account for those without a current U.S. address. Keep in mind that if you choose to open a bank account in your new country of residence, you’ll likely have to file an annual report with the U.S. Treasury Department, depending on the balances maintained in the account throughout the year.
It’s also important to brush up on the residency requirements of the country of your choice. Different countries have different requirements, such as a minimum income requirement, so make sure that you can qualify for the requirements of the country where you wish to retire.
Don’t become attached to owning. While the American dream remains home ownership, chances are that you may not be able to purchase property in the country where you wish to live. There are no real benefits for owning in many countries, and you may find that you prefer to live where you’re required to do no maintenance, and are free to travel at your leisure – exactly what retirement is for. You’ll also want to obtain adequate health insurance in your new country, since most U.S. plans do not cover services in a foreign country.
Be aware of crime. Spend some time educating yourself regarding crime statistics, which are readily available. Learn where the high-crime areas are and learn to avoid them when possible. It’s also important to remember that foreigners, particularly Americans, can be a target, so plan travel accordingly.
Keep in mind that your move may mean foregoing some of the conveniences that are so prevalent in the U.S. Things like cheap gasoline, convenience stores on every corner and central air conditioning can be a rare commodity in some areas, so be sure that you can live without those things prior to taking the final plunge.
While not for everyone, retiring outside the U.S. can be exciting and financially rewarding, should you take the leap.
Mexico’s winter season begins on or around December 21 each year, and although the seasonal change does not feel as marked as it does further north in the hemisphere, if you’re living or visiting here during this time of year, you’ll feel a distinct change in the air and its temperatures from early to mid-December.
How marked the temperature change feels depends on where you are in Mexico: areas situated at low-lying levels and near the coasts lose their high humidity and heat to become pleasantly warm, whereas the central highlands and some areas along the Gulf Coast are cooler and also become subject to temporary cold fronts from Canada and the US which can bring gusts of icy wind and even overnight frost for a few days at a time. Cold spells tend to pass surprisingly quickly and on most winter days daytime high temperatures can reach pleasantly-warm 21-23 degrees centigrade (70-74 degrees Fahrenheit).
As we outlined in a related article, Mexico is a land of three lands—with low-lying coastal plains, central highland towns, and smaller settlements situated high-up in the mountains. A direct correlation exists between the altitude you’re situated at and the temperatures you’ll feel year-round, although in winter the higher altitudes can feel distinctly cooler, even cold.
Enjoy Mexico’s long daylight hours, even during winter!
A big attraction of Mexico’s climate is that, temperatures aside, it offers long hours of daylight all year-round. During winter, daylight hours do shorten a little, and while most of the country observes Daylight Savings Time, most places in Mexico enjoy between ten and eleven hours of daylight every day of the year—in contrast to Canada and the northern US and Europe, where you can experience as little as five hours of daylight in the depths of winter.
The climate in Mexico begins to turn during the Autumn when temperatures at higher altitudes will feel generally cooler from late September. By late December, towns and cities situated in the highlands can feel chilly or even cold after sundown.
The Monarch Butterflies begin to arrive in Mexico from around mid-November. The highland oyamel fir-tree forests where they overwinter are coldest during December, causing the insects to cluster together on the trees for warmth, so if you want to see the butterflies in a more active state, then the ideal time to visit them is from mid-January to the end of March—the peak viewing season—when the daytime temperatures are warmer.
For guaranteed warmth during December, January, and February, you’ll need to be situated at or near Mexico’s coasts. Los Cabos and Baja California Sur, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, Cancún and the Riviera Maya, Manzanillo, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, Huatulco, Mérida and the Yucatán peninsula—places which can get very hot during the summer months—tend to enjoy gloriously comfortable and warm temperatures during the winter, which is why they are so popular with part-time winter residents (“snowbirds”), as well as residents of Mexico’s highlands who may repair to the coast for a few days’ dose of sweet warm air, especially if a cold front lingers.
Winter climates in Mexico’s central highlands range from temperate to cool, and can turn cold on occasions. Mexican states situated in the central region of the highlands and northwards (including Mexico’s Copper Canyon) can experience snow and sub-zero temperatures through the winter months; but as you journey south — the highland states of Zacatecas and Aguascalientes the central colonial highland region which includes the popular cities of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Querétaro; Mexico City; the western highlands of Guadalajara and the popular retirement enclaves of Chapala and Ajijic; Morelia and Pátzcuaro in the state of Michoacán — winter temperatures can oscillate between being comfortably warm during the afternoons, to freezing overnight; these places are also subject to cold spells brought by intermittent weather fronts from the north.
South of Mexico City, colonial cities including Cuernavaca, Puebla, Taxco and Oaxaca tend to enjoy spring-like climates through the winter months, but they too are subject to cold snaps brought by weather fronts causing temporary spells of chilly weather for up to a few days at a time.
Winter months in the highland mountain town of San Cristóbal de las Casas tend to be quite cold overnight and during the early mornings; mountain fog in this area can linger until the early afternoon, or all day if a cold front is present.
By late January, you can begin to feel the climate shifting again, and by late February temperatures in the central highlands can return to feeling quite warm as winter yields to spring in Mexico, ushering-in some of the driest days of the year before the rain season begins in May or June. Temperatures near the coasts begin their transition back from warm-to-hot during the spring, which is also when the coastal humidity returns.
Retiring abroad, and launching a new life in a new country is the adventure of a lifetime. But with an endless array of choices, from white-sand beaches to mountain living, and from Old World culture to ultra-modern metropolises, how do you decide what’s best for you?
We are here to make that decision a little bit easier for you. We have spent the last year compiling the information you need to make an informed decision. Our editor and writers have travelled to the four corners to enable you to more easily decide which retirement location best suits your needs.
We believe you are never too old to learn, and we never rest on our laurels. This is why we have spent months on-the-ground throughout 2019, ensuring our 2019 recommendations are up-to-date and comprehensive. As for the result, we believe this country-by-country comparison is the best we have ever produced.
As with everything we do, it has been written with you in mind. We don’t tell you what to think. Instead, we give you the information and let you draw your own conclusions and come to your own decisions. After all, the retirement you are seeking is unique to you, with your own personal preferences, lifestyle, and needs.
Our dedicated team has been working overtime this year to compile this report for you. All the data, and all the facts and figures are the work of real people, on the ground in the countries we report on. With you in mind, we have asked the questions you want answering to find the top retirement locations. Our local experts and expats have helped us to ensure no stone was left unturned in our quest to deliver an index offering true value and practical advice.
21 Countries (And Two Bonus Reports)
This year we have 21 destinations, including 10 new entries, covering the spectrum of every lifestyle option. Are you on a budget and concerned with keeping a low cost of living? Or is a warm and sunny climate your top priority? For many people healthcare or moving to and English-speaking destination are the most important things. Whatever your benchmark, we have you covered.
We’ve added 10 new destinations, from across the globe, to our list this year. We have new entries from South America, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. Many of these destination are not well-known and not yet on the mainstream radar. As ever, we are exploring new locations in our quest to give you the best retirement options.
This does mean we have had to pass on some old favorites. Although most remain great options, the rapid rise of some of our new destinations left us with no choice but to leave them out. Gone but not forgotten, we will be continuing to report on them throughout the year at www.liveandinvestoverseas.com.
For the sake of precision, we concentrate on cities (and a couple of regions), rather than countries as a whole. No country is a perfect fit. A vast, diverse country can offer hugely different lifestyles. By concentrating on cities, we can provide the more specific information our readers demand.
Unlike some other publications, we don’t pull any punches when it comes to mentioning the potential downsides. If the pollution is bad, health care substandard, or cost of living expensive, we will tell you.
Each report in the Overseas Retirement Index is divided into categories which our readers have told us are important to them. The categories are cost of living, climate, health care, entertainment, recreation, whether English is spoken, expat community, infrastructure (broken down to include, internet, electricity, and domestic access), international access, environmental factors, crime, affordability of real estate, residency, and taxes.
We’ve been researching, compiling, and publishing indexes rating and ranking the world’s best places to retire overseas for as long as we’ve been covering this retire-overseas beat… and that’s been over 30 years. However, please keep in mind this whole process of retiring overseas is about you and what your retirement will look like, no amount of data can replace that feeling you get when you know you’ve found the place that is just right for you.
Before we get into it, it is worth making a special mention to our number one Overseas Retirement option, the Algarve, Portugal. At the risk of contradicting what was said earlier, the Algarve scores highly across the board. For this reason we have it as our standalone winner, the place which will appeal to the most people.
The Annual Overseas Retirement index – Revealed
For this year’s results, we compared each destination across 15 categories, creating our most complete Index to date.
Below you will find a breakout of the categories, as well as the locations we rate best for each.
1. Cost Of Living
“How much money do I need to retire?”
This is the probably the most frequently asked question we get, year-in and year-out.
As ever, the answer is “it depends on you”. To find out, imagine your ideal lifestyle and make a list of what you want from your new life. Then look at the numbers in that context. Where will your budget allow you to buy the lifestyle you’re looking for? The important thing to remember when thinking about your retirement is, don’t compromise. Don’t tell yourself you can live without the things you love. If the place you had in mind doesn’t fit with your ideal lifestyle, keep looking. Be honest with yourself and move for the right reasons to a place where you will be happy.
Leading the way for good cost of living is Da Lat, Vietnam. Although many Americans still associate Vietnam with the stigma of the earlier conflict, a lot has changed. Vietnam is a forward looking country with a fast growing economy. The people are welcoming and Vietnam offers you the chance to stretch your dollars without much in the way of sacrifice.
A couple’s basic budget comes out at under US$1000 per month. Dinner at a local restaurant costs between US$1 and US$4; a Coke costs 50 cents; a loaf of bread is 45 cents. The food sold in small cafes and food stalls is so good many people simply never cook. However, it’s worth pointing out that Da Lat is a regional town in Vietnam. Imported goods are hard to come by, and expensive. If you can’t do without imported goods, your cost of living will rise rapidly.
Proving not all of the Caribbean is expensive, one of our best options for a low cost of living is Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. A couple can live here for less than US$1,800 (about 90,000 pesos). By Caribbean standards this is a bargain. It’s possible to live here on your monthly Social Security Check. This alone would allow you to live well, without the need to count every penny as you might at home. A budget of US$2,500 per month would allow you to live very comfortably. You could afford to spend more on entertainment and have some money for household help.
Buying a property in Santo Domingo reduces your monthly living costs even further. You can buy an apartment for under US$100,000.
Charles Fritz, a full-time Santo Domingo expat adds “For only US$660 per month, we have a huge three-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath seventh-floor apartment with beautiful marble floors, crown molding, and wonderful woodwork, as well as a balcony view of the Caribbean. We enjoy the sea breezes from our comfortable Dominican rocking chairs every day.”
Da Nang somehow manages to feel like a small-town, despite having a population of over a million people. Da Nang is very cheap by U.S. standards and a couple’s basic budget for a month will be about US$950. Like Da Lat, avoiding imported goods is the key to keeping your costs down.
2. Health Care
From the cost of treatment to the ease of access, health care is something you don’t want to take any chances with. In this category Portugal, France, Italy, Malta, and Colombia, shine.
Public health care in Portugal is available to legal foreign residents, who are registered with their local medical center. The standard of public health care is good in the Algarve, and WHO rates Portugal 12th in the world. As with many European countries, the public hospitals are better equipped to deal with medical emergencies than the private hospitals. Still, private health care is world class and the Algarve has two large private hospitals. Faro Hospital, its cardiology unit in particular, has a reputation for excellence.
France comes out top of WHO’s International Health Care rankings. Paying into the French Social Security system covers most of your health care needs. Doctors still make home visits and the feeling of being rushed out the door is not one you will experience in France. Private health care is perhaps slightly better, but most people choose to pay into the Social Security system. It is cheaper and the benefits of going private are negligible.
Malta has one of the best health care systems in the world. The Knights Templar opened the first hospital in 1372, it was used to care for the pilgrims making the long voyage to the holy land. Malta has modern public and private facilities. All of the staff are highly trained, and most are fluent in English. These factors have contributed to Malta becoming a popular destination for Medical tourism.
Foreign residents are required to have private medical insurance, but premiums are lower in Malta than in the U.S. House calls are available and cost around US$15.
Health care in Colombia is the best in South America, and compares with anywhere in the world. No matter how complex the procedure, you will be able to get treatment in Colombia. If you are looking for dental work or cosmetic surgery, Colombia is a world leader. Medical tourism draws people from the United States and beyond. Attracted by the low prices and high standards, this medical tourism boom is helping to keep Colombia at the forefront of pioneering medical treatments such as stem cell treatment.
3. Residency Options
In our residency options category, we start off with: Where are the easiest places to become a resident abroad? Why would anyone want to become a legal resident of another country? Where should you do this? How do you do this? And how much will it all set you back? All of these questions and more we cover in our residency options for retiring overseas.
Portugal and its Golden Visa still top the list for easy residency. Once you meet the minimum spend threshold for your Real Estate investment, you qualify for a Portuguese Visa. A European Passport is a valuable commodity and investing in Portugal is one of the easiest ways to obtain one.
Central America and the Dominican Republic score strongly here.
Belize’s Qualified Retired Person (QRP) visa is one of the best retirement programs you can find. The visa is easily upgraded into permanent residency and available to anyone over the age of 45. The Belizean government is keen to attract overseas retirees and there are a host of incentives to make Belize attractive.
The Dominican Republic’s residency program is straightforward with fast turnarounds. The biggest benefit is the naturalization-through-residency program that has one of the shortest times to a second passport anywhere in the world. A second passport can take up to 10 years or longer in some places. In the Dominican Republic you can apply for citizenship after only two years of permanent residency.
How do you picture spending your time in retirement overseas? Do you crave museums and café culture…? Or perhaps taking dance classes or learning how to fly fish? Is a trip to the movies part of your weekly staple? Or do you prefer a trip to the theatre or opera?
Whatever you’re after, it’s hard to look beyond Paris.
Paris has been the paradigm for world culture for hundreds of years.
From the countless churches and cathedrals, to the dozens of museums and hundreds of galleries, to the universities and varied classes of all kinds you could enroll in… Paris caters to your every cultural need. There is always something new in town and it is safe to say you will never be stuck for something to do.
A big part of Malta’s popularity is its rich history. There are nine UESCO World Heritage sites along with churches, cathedrals, museums and galleries. Unsurprisingly, there’s a thriving arts scene which encompasses everything from Opera to hip-hop dance festivals. The April firework festivals which pit the different firework factories against each other in a dazzling display competition are an annual highlight.
Is your idea of keeping busy more outdoorsy? Do you long to go hiking in the crisp, cool mountain air, or take a yoga class on the beach under the early morning sun? Do you want to relax at sea, sailing or surfing?
The two Abruzzo destinations, Città Sant’Angelo, and Popoli, can offer this and more.
Città Sant’Angelo is perfectly located to offer superb mountain and beach options… The nearest ski slope is an hour away. There are several places perfect for paragliding and hang-gliding. The popular seaside town Silvi Marina is just 15 minutes from town. During the summer months the beach is perfect for swimming. Sailing and fishing are popular throughout the year.
Popoli has multiple ski options within an hour. Less than an hour away is Campo Imperatore, one of the best ski resorts in the region. And you’re only about 40 minutes from the coast here. You have access to the beach, but are far enough away not to be bothered by the crowds who descend on the area during the high season.
The Algarve is a golfer’s paradise, with some of Europe’s best golf courses in the region. There are 89 Blue Flag beaches, many of which can be almost empty for mile after mile. The sea provides great surfing, windsurfing, and fishing, which draws tourists from all over the world. Inland, there are mountain bike trails, and hiking.
6. English Spoken
For the category of English Spoken it really comes down to two destinations, Belize and Malta. Both countries have English as an official language.
While some English is spoken in most of the countries on this list, there are just two locations who have it as their official language.
In Malta, all business, banking, and legal affairs are all conducted in English. While the locals often speak in Maltese to each other, everyone here speaks fluent English. If you don’t want to, you never need to speak a word of Maltese.
Belize is the only location in Central America where English is an official language. Spanish and Kriol are also spoken throughout Belize but you are not required to learn them.
Bled, the Algarve, and Mazatlanall have areas where you can get by on English alone. The number of English speakers in these places is likely to continue growing in the coming years.
7. Expat Community
There is one clear winner in this category, Mazatlán, Mexico.
If making new friends overseas is one of your priorities, then Mazatlán is the place we recommend you go to. Not only will you find plenty of like-minded friends, but the locals are renowned for being warm and welcoming. You will find art classes, trip to the theater, walking groups, book clubs and lots of other activities. There are also volunteering opportunities.
The Algarve is popular with Brits and Europeans and the success of the Golden Visa program is attracting more American’s and Canadians to the Algarve. There are lots of expat groups and many opportunities for volunteering. The number of expats is continuing to grow as more people take advantage of what the Algarve has to offer.
Mexico, in general, is home to a staggering number of North American expats. Current population estimates from Mexico have uncovered over a million Americans and over 500,000 Canadians living at least part time in the country. According to AMAR, the Mexican association dedicated to retired expat living, North American expats are expected to number more than 2.5 million by 2020.
Eleven-year Mexico expat Jim Hardesty comments, “The large expat community in Mexico is comprised mostly of Americans and Canadians, but there are quite a few Europeans as well. While many are retirees, there are a surprising number of business owners and cyber commuters. There are so many foreigners, and English is so widely spoken throughout the Riviera Nayarit, that many expats don’t even make much of an effort at learning to speak Spanish.”
Belize, Malaysia, Malta, and the Dominican Republic score well. In general, Americans have it tough in this category. If you hold a U.S. passport you are obliged to report to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service of your worldwide income every year. No matter where you reside or where else you might also hold citizenship, you never lose this obligation to Uncle Sam. The only way out is to renounce your U.S. citizenship and relinquish your passport or Green Card.
9. Real Estate Affordability
In Italy’s Abruzzo region, the average cost per square meter is US$869. That is an unbeatable price for what some say is the best place to retire in the Mediterranean. Beyond the price, you get to enjoy all of the benefits that come with having your own home in Italy (think wine, pasta, and friendly neighbors).
Compared to elsewhere in the Caribbean, real estate in the Dominican Republic is a bargain. As a growing market prices are likely to increase in the near future. The rental market in the Dominican Republic is strong, meaning your property can generate income while you are not there.
Cuenca, Ecuador is another area with bargain real estate. Especially good value when you consider what you get for your money. There is a big range of quality properties to suit all tastes and needs. You can rent a furnished apartment for US$400 per month, an unfurnished apartment from US$300 per month, or buy a small condo outright for less than US$40,000.
10. Real Estate Restrictions
In this section, we’re looking at how easy it is for a foreigner to purchase real estate in a given country, looking especially at any restrictions imposed on foreigners.
As a would-be overseas retiree, buying real estate may not be on your to-do list. In fact, we recommend strongly that all prospective expats take their new location for a rental test drive for at least 6 to 12 months before committing to any kind of purchase.
Eventually, though, you might decide that you’d like to own a set of keys in your new home—and it’s hard to ignore that the world beyond North American shores is loaded with opportunity. No matter how bad things look in the United States or Europe, the proverbial sun is always shining somewhere. Investing in real estate overseas is the smartest thing you could do with your investment capital right now; however, buying property abroad is nothing like buying property back home.
Here are the countries that offer real estate with no restrictions placed on foreign ownership:
Recommend destination: San Ignacio
Recommend destination: Santo Domingo
Recommend destinations: Paris and Occitane
Recommend destinations: Popoli and Città Sant’Angelo
Recommend destination: Algarve
For each of these countries, there are a multitude of locations where you could choose to buy, but when you couple them with all the other perks of retirement, we’ve highlighted those that present the best of everything.
Many people think buying property in another country is a risk-filled quagmire that is too complicated to overcome. Certainly buying property in a location you’re not familiar with requires due diligence and research.
For the infrastructure category, we include detailed grading for what we feel are the most important things to consider about the infrastructure in your new retirement destination: Internet speed and cost are combined for the first grade; electricity cost and reliability make the second; the third deals with domestic access—how easy is it to get around within this destination; and the final grade used to be based on access to North America—how easy is it to get here and back home. This year, thanks to feedback from readers, access to North America has its own category.
Among those criteria, the shining stars were: Paris, France; Mazatlán, Mexico, Valletta, and, Malta.
Paris scored perfect across all criteria. It has some of the fastest Internet speeds, roughly 35.1 Mbps, and all for US$30 per month. The electricity is reliable and affordable. Paris is a bonefide metropolitan city with a fully developed public transport infrastructure. No need for a car here, you can get by on foot, with the assistance of bikes, buses, the metro, and taxis. As a large city, navigation may be your biggest initial concern, but once you get your bearings you’ll have no trouble getting around.
Valletta is a World-Class city, with have well-developed infrastructure for residents and for the large number of tourists visiting each year. As a major hub of blockchain and new tech companies, the internet is superfast and well-priced. Valletta is slightly behind Paris though, as electrical outages do occasionally occur. Domestic access is good. Much of the town is pedestrianized and there is a strong public transport network to connect you with the rest of Malta.
George Town scores the same as Valletta. Like Valletta it has superfast internet and a solid intercity links. Like Valletta, George Town also suffers from electrical outages from time to time.
12. Environmental Factors
Everyone wants a clean place to live. Whether it’s a white-sand beach, a hilltop village, or a well-maintained city with top-notch recycling facilities, you want your environment to be tidy and cared for.
Some overseas destinations don’t place the same importance on environmental issues as in America. This could consist of trash, pollution, or any number of factors, but it is an important consideration that can often go overlooked until you actually set “boots on the ground” in country.
San Ignacio, located in western Cayo, is a nature lover’s paradise. It is full of trees and fresh air, animal life is abundant, and its rural setting provides an oasis in a world of environmental degradation. This is purely off-grid land, nearly pristine jungle, and untouched rain forest.
A few other destinations are worth mentioning, as well.
In particular, Abruzzo, Bled, and Occitanie, France.
Bled is a picturesque mountain town, where you’ll find lush trees and plenty of fresh air. On sunny days the lake is a bright turquoise and enchanting. During the winter mists shroud the trees like something out of a fairytale.
The Occitanie region (formerly Languedoc) of southern France also needs mentioning. Home to some of the world’s best vineyards, great care is taken to ensure pollution levels stay low, and the environment is well cared for. This keeps the soil levels in top condition for growing wine and leads to happy, healthy people.
13. Crime And Safety
One thing to keep in mind when looking for your next “safe haven” is that no place in the world is completely free of crime. Petty crime is unavoidable, especially in tourist areas. But by taking the same precautions you would at home, you should will be fine. Thousands of expats live happy, safe lives in all these destinations and if you visit them, they will gladly tell you as much.
In the category of crime and safety, it’s no surprise that the Algarve, Portugal is at the top of nearly everyone’s list.
Portugal is known as the fifth most peaceful country in the world. Statistics show that crime in the already-safe Algarve is falling steadily; this can be attributed to a number of factors, including an increase in police during the busy summer months. Portugal suffers very little from serious crime with almost no gang-related activity and a low risk of terrorism
Other places to score well include Valletta, statistically one of the safest places you can visit, and both the Abruzzo towns, Popoli and Città Sant’Angelo. Bled also scores well with the already low violent crime rates continuing to fall over recent years.
We’d never recommend upping stakes and moving somewhere that you’d be in danger. But no city is free of crime, no destination in the world completely safe. Keep your wits about you and use the same common sense you would anywhere else.
14. Access To North America
For the first time ever, we’re giving Access To North America the stage all to himself. Previously lumped in with the infrastructure chorus, this year it gets a solo (grade).
Our first winner in this category, is Mazatlán. Mazatlán has one big advantage over the competition; you can drive here. It’s a 15 hour drive to Tucson and 17 hours to Phoenix. Moving here is as simple as loading your possessions into a lorry and hitting the road. Being able to drive makes it much easier to move pets too.
If you prefer to fly, Mazatlán has an international airport with direct flights across the United States and Canada. A flight to the West Coast takes under three hours and Texas is about five hours.
San Ignacio benefits from its close proximity to the States. You won’t have to travel for too long, no wherever you’re headed. San Ignacio doesn’t have an international airport so you’ll have to travel from the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City. The drive between Belize City and San Ignacio is about two hours.
Paris, Abruzzo, and Medellín, all offer easy access to direct flights to the States. The long-distance flights to reach the States prevent them from getting top scores though.
This is a bonus criterion… We don’t assign grades for climate, it’s just too subjective. Everyone’s idea of perfect weather is different, which makes it difficult to give a location a grade for its climate. So we don’t try. Instead we focus on you and your ideal climate.
What’s your perfect climate? Do you like a change in seasons? Would you love to never see snow again, basking in the sun of the tropics? Or would you prefer to live in a fresh mountain climate? Everyone’s idea of perfect weather is different, which makes it difficult to give a location a grade for its climate.
If you like little annual change in temperature year-round and, typically, a consistent temperature below 80 degrees Fahrenheit… try the Algarve or Medellín.
If four seasons is your preference, give Valletta, Paris, Bled, or Abruzzo a spin.
What about the tropics? If you prefer to spend your retirement basking in the sun, here are your best places to catch rays: San Ignacio, Santo Domingo, and Canggu in Bali.
Ante el aumento de la cantidad de adultos mayores en el mundo, la arquitectura ha venido creando y reestructurando inmuebles que se adaptan a las condiciones de esta población.
Según datos de la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS), entre los años 2000 y 2050, la proporción de personas mayores de 60 años en el planeta pasará de 605 millones a 2.000 millones.
La llamada geronto-arquitectura es una respuesta a este fenómeno demográfico.
Ponerse en sus zapatos
En aras de desarrollar edificaciones aptas para los adultos mayores, algunos arquitectos utilizan métodos poco convencionales con el fin de vivir en carne propia la realidad de estas personas.
En los Estados Unidos, los arquitectos de la empresa D2 Architecture viven al menos 24 horas con aquellos a quienes les están rediseñando su casa o construyendo una nueva, publicó el diario USA Today.
Cada arquitecto lleva un diario, en el que escribe cómo es el espacio y qué está mal. Incluso, han llegado a simular que tienen alguna discapacidad visual, auditiva o de otro tipo, con el objetivo de entender las condiciones particulares que sufren algunas personas mayores.
De esta forma, la empresa ha detectado que los lugares donde habitan algunos adultos mayores presentan problemas que afectan el disfrute de la vivienda o la movilidad de sus ocupantes. Dentro de estas dificultades están el alto y la forma de las ventanas, o el diseño de la iluminación. La luz directa irrita la vista de los llamados “ciudadanos de oro”; por esta razón, lo ideal es que sea indirecta.
Otro problema es la falta de rampas para que las personas puedan movilizarse correctamente. Igualmente, la población de edades avanzadas busca sitios más silenciosos, por lo que es importante trabajar en la parte acústica.
Espacios cómodos y accesibles
El documento Ciudades globales amigables con los mayores: una guía, de la OMS, plantea una serie de condiciones con las que deben contar las ciudades y la infraestructura para ir acorde con las necesidades de las personas de la tercera edad.
En cuanto al diseño de las viviendas, se recomienda usar materiales apropiados y sólidos; además, es aconsejable que haya superficies lisas y niveladas. Esto evitará que ocurran accidentes, como caídas.
Por otra parte, si las personas mayores habitan en un apartamento o condominio de muchos pisos, lo ideal es que cuenten con un ascensor.
Los baños y la cocina deben tener espacio suficiente para facilitar el desplazamiento, y los pasillos deben ser anchos para que pueda pasar una silla de ruedas, en caso de ser necesario.
También es importante que algunos accesorios o elementos de la vivienda sean de fácil manejo –como las manillas de las puertas–, pues las personas de edad avanzada a menudo presentan problemas de movilidad en sus manos.
La revista digital de arquitectura y diseño Freshome afirma que el color es otro aspecto que debe considerarse al diseñar una vivienda, con el fin de mejorar la visibilidad y hasta el estado de ánimo de los adultos mayores.
Por ejemplo, si el servicio sanitario o el lavatorio es de un tono claro, como el blanco, se recomienda pintar la pared de un tono oscuro que genere contraste, lo que permite una mejor visión.
Como se dijo anteriormente, los colores también inciden en el ánimo, y, en vista de que algunas personas mayores pueden sufrir episodios depresivos, los tonos de la casa se deben escoger con cuidado para generar un efecto positivo en su vida.