Fancy retiring overseas? Central American countries are your best bet

See which destinations top the 2019 Global Retirement Index, which ranks places where retirees' money stretches further

03 January 2019 - 14:00 By AFP Relaxnews
Bocas Del Toro in Panama, the country that tops International Living's 2019 Global Retirement Index.
Bocas Del Toro in Panama, the country that tops International Living's 2019 Global Retirement Index.
Image: iStock/vilainecrevette

It's proximity to the US, the use of American currency, large English-speaking population and tropical climate make Panama the world's best place to retire. 

It's the 10th time the country in Central America has topped International Living's annual Global Retirement Index, which aims to help retirees settle down in destinations where their money stretches further and which offer the best quality of life. 

For the first time, Thailand also cracked the top 10 list while Sri Lanka made its first-ever debut. 

To compile the list of top 25 retirement destinations, editors consider 13 criteria:

  • Buying and investing;
  • Renting;
  • Benefits and seniors discounts;
  • Visas and residence;
  • Cost of living;
  • Fitting in;
  • Entertainment and amenities;
  • Healthcare;
  • Healthy lifestyle;
  • Development;
  • Climate;
  • Opportunity; and
  • Governance. 

Destinations that made the list denote places where a retired couple can live comfortably for $1,8k (about R26k) or less a month, all in. 

International Living's executive editor Jennifer Stevens points out that retirees should consider their priorities when shopping for a new home. 

"Ask yourself, ‘What's most important to me in a haven overseas?' Maybe it's good weather year-round. Maybe it's a low cost of living. Maybe it's the ease with which you can fit in. Maybe it's access to top-notch healthcare at a low price. Those are among the many qualities we consider when we produce our annual Index," she said in a press release. 

When it comes to the overall winner, Panama is described as a "Central American gem" that packs a lot into a small area: fast-paced eclectic capital city, beaches and forested valleys.

The country also offers a special retirement visa for those with a lifetime monthly pension of at least $1,000 (about R14,5k) and grants special discounts to seniors on everything from medical consultations to movie tickets. The climate is also warm and tropical  but lies outside the hurricane belt. 

Here are the top 10 places to retire, according to International Living: 

  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Mexico
  4. Ecuador
  5. Malaysia
  6. Colombia
  7. Portugal
  8. Peru
  9. Thailand
  10. Spain 

For the full list, see