Retire for Half the Cost in These 5 Countries


If you're getting close to retirement, but you're planning on working an extra couple of years because you just "don't have the money," think again. Retiring in North America is expensive! Why not live somewhere tropical and exotic for at least half the year and cut your expenses down considerably? In this article I'm going to list five destinations where you can do just that. (See also: 5 Incredible Places to Retire Abroad)

Note: Costs of food, housing, transportation, and entertainment are compared to New York City using Expatistan's cost of living index.

1. Mexico

  • Food = 64% cheaper
  • Housing = 83% cheaper
  • Transportation = 72% cheaper
  • Entertainment = 64% cheaper
  • One-bedroom apartment = $300-$500 per month
  • Total cost of living = $1,200+ per month

If you hear "Mexico" and your mind automatically wanders to an American-owned resort in Cancun with a bartender on the beach and jet skis on rent, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Mexico isn't half the price of home.

But this isn't Mexico! The real Mexico's not only extremely affordable, but it's rich in culture, history, and natural beauty. You can rent beautiful apartments in retirement havens like San Pancho, Sayulita, and Oaxaca for under $500 a month.

A dinner out at a nice restaurant with a bottle of wine won't likely cost you more than $10 per person and your grocery bills will be cut in half. Mexico is the perfect place to retire, which is why so many snowbirds head there for half of the year.

2. Thailand

  • Food = 48% cheaper
  • Housing = 68% cheaper
  • Transportation = 54% cheaper
  • Entertainment = 55% cheaper
  • One-bedroom apartment = $300-$500 per month
  • Total cost of living = $1,000+ per month

Who doesn't want to spend their golden years in the land of smiles? Thailand is the ultimate budget friendly destination for people looking for a change of scenery in retirement. The above cost of living indexes are compared to Bangkok, Thailand's capital and most expensive city.

If you choose to live on one of the country's beautiful islands, you could cut these costs down considerably. A nice one or two-bedroom bungalow with a kitchenette, a few blocks from the sea, won't cost you more than $500 and you'd have a hard time paying more than $7 for a local meal.

Big beers at 7-11 only cost a couple of dollars and you can rent a motorbike here for around $3 a day (less if you rent monthly).

Thailand is wonderfully exotic, but it still has a lot of the amenities that you'd hope for from home. Good grocery stores, 7-11s, great restaurants, gyms, malls, and excellent accommodation options. Pair this with some of the best beaches in the world, friendly people, and incredibly low prices, and you've got one of the world's top retirement hot spots.

One downside of Thailand may be that there are a lot of young people and on some of the islands, monthly parties can get out of hand. But aside from the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan and the water festival in Bangkok, most of Thailand still has a slow-paced tropical charm. Who knows, maybe you're looking for a party during retirement?

3. Albania

  • Food = 66% cheaper
  • Housing = 84% cheaper
  • Transportation = 67% cheaper
  • Entertainment = 64% cheaper
  • One-bedroom apartment = $300-$500 per month
  • Total cost of living = $1,250+ per month

Maybe one of the last places you thought you'd visit, let alone live in, Albania has had a turbulent history. Cut off from the world by a brutal communist dictator for nearly a half-century, the country lost much of its reputation as a vacation spot during that time. But today, Albania is moving forward and the people are extremely welcoming.

Again, the cost of living indexes are comparing New York City to Tirana, Albania's capital, but Tirana is the country's most expensive place to live. Instead, head down to the Albanian Riviera along the Adriatic coast and check out towns like Himara, Vlora, and Saranda. You won't find anywhere else in Europe where you can rent an apartment for $400 per month with a stunning view over the Adriatic sea.

In Saranda, there's a huge selection of accommodations in skyscraper-style apartment blocks all along the water's edge, while in quieter Vlora and Himara, you won't find as much variety but you can still find well-priced places to stay.

The Albanian Riviera is known for beautiful beaches, sunny weather, and delicious seafood. You can get a fish dinner at a restaurant overlooking the water for around $10-$15. Albania is definitely affordable and it has a lot of amenities as well.

Note: Driving in Albania can be frustrating and dangerous. If you do decide to buy or rent a car, however, don't miss the drive between Vlora and Saranda along the coast. It is one of Europe's most scenic road trips.

4. Malta

  • Food = 32% cheaper
  • Housing = 66% cheaper
  • Transportation = 47% cheaper
  • Entertainment = 43% cheaper
  • One-bedroom apartment = $685-$1,000 per month
  • Total cost of living = $1,750+ per month

The Brits already know that Malta is the perfect place to retire, but few Americans can even place this tiny Mediterranean island on the map. Located just below Sicily and about 62 miles north of Africa, Malta is the most fascinating country you've never heard of.

Steeped in a rich history, blessed with azure waters and natural beauty, and inhabited by some of the friendliest people in Europe, Malta might just be the most charming place on this list. It's a bit of a stretch to say that it's half the price of most U.S. cities, but you can get a nice one-bedroom apartment here for around €600 ($685). Food in restaurants is considerably cheaper than in the U.S., as is the local produce and alcohol in grocery stores.

There are three islands in Malta that are inhabited, but you'll likely choose between Gozo and the main island of Malta. The main island has many more amenities and more areas to explore, but is a lot more built up than the quieter, more natural island of Gozo.

Whichever island you choose, all are connected by an excellent network of buses and ferries, so you're never more than a couple of hours from anywhere. There are also ferries to nearby Sicily and Malta is well connected to Europe via flights with Air Malta.

Did I mention that Malta is considered to have the best year-round climate in the world?

5. Croatia

  • Food = 46% cheaper
  • Housing = 75% cheaper
  • Transportation = 41% cheaper
  • Entertainment = 52% cheaper
  • One-bedroom Apartment = $500-$700 per month
  • Total cost of living = $1,550+ per month

Another Mediterranean hot spot, Croatia has a few cities that are great for retirement, but in my opinion, Split is the best. The old town has history, a beautiful setting along the Adriatic Sea and great dining options.

The temperature here never gets below 45°F and in the summer, you have your choice of some of the region's best beaches.

For history buffs, Diocletian's Palace is one of the best examples of Roman architecture anywhere in Europe and there are numerous old churches, cathedrals, and basilicas to explore.

Split also has an excellent expat community and there seems to be something going on every week. Whether it's hiking, a music festival, concerts, plays, or beach parties, you'll never get bored in Split. This seaside town pretty much has it all, and you can get it for less than half the price of most cities in the U.S.

Visit First and Check With the Tax Authorities

There's a lot more to consider than just the cost of living when choosing the best place for retirement. You want to make sure that your chosen destination has enough amenities and activities to keep you satisfied.

You'll also want to look into the tax situation to ensure that you don't get into any trouble with the IRS. But this stuff is easier than it sounds. Once you choose the perfect place, head down there for a month or two and see if you enjoy it while staying longer-term.

There are so many places around the world to choose from and luckily for Americans, many of them are much cheaper than home.

What's your favorite vacation spot? Could you retire there? Tell us why in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

What's the cost of healthcare in these places???

Guest's picture

What about the cost/quality of medical care in these places???

Guest's picture

Not only is healthcare a huge concern when living in another country but Medicare does not pay medical expenses incurred in a foreign country. Also, none of these places listed here are on the approved list for Social Security benefits. Which means you will not be paid those benefits if you retire there. While cheap living seems attractive you should do A LOT of research before deciding to live permanently in a foreign country, especially one off the grid of usual travel places for most people. Often these places are plagued by poverty and crime too.