Best Countries to Retire Based on Cost of Living, Safety and Visa Requirements


Retiring abroad is becoming the new trend. People do it for new experiences, to relax and for a lower cost of living. There are multiple things one must keep in mind before actually going and deciding a country or place to retire.

There are few things to keep in mind for various countries before you think or before you decide to travel to that country. The most important ones are as follows –

  • Cost of Living, Renting or buying property
  • Visa Requirements
  • Safety 


Panama topped the 2019 Annual Global Retirement Index. But it is not because of its cost of living index which is at 73. One can easily rent a house with sea views there for less than USD$1,400 a month and it is even more affordable in the outskirts. But it offers much more important and attractive things. 

There are benefits such as one time duty exemption for household items. The limit is set to $10,000. Also, a 100% duty exemption on the purchase or importation of a vehicle every two years is allowed to the expatriate retirees. Besides there are discounts on entertainment tickets and air/transportation fares.

But to be able to qualify for these benefits one needs to have a retirement visa.


The cost of living Index of Malaysia is 39.38 which makes it a really affordable place to live. A one-bedroom apartment’s rent costs less than $400 a month. Two people can easily live on $1990/month (which includes rent) in places like Penang. 

It is one of those few South East Asian countries which is also among the top 50 safest countries list. Also, it ranks really high in the peace index with its index being 35/163.

It does a pretty good job when it comes to healthcare and housing options for retirees. Also, it is multicultural and therefore there is respect for each other’s cultural and racial differences.

The visa suggested for retirees is the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program. It allows one to live in Malaysia permanently for 10 years, but there are some financial requirements that are needed to be met. Besides, it has one of the most beautiful beaches to relax at.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica ranks fairly good when it comes to both the global peace index( 40/163) and the cost of living index ( 50.89).

It is among the first few countries to provide a special benefits package for the expatriate retirees.

There are other benefits too – good healthcare, rich biodiversity, a tropical climate, and a healthy diet.There are various things to do as well, if you are adventurous enough – whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, jungle hikes, and canopy tours. 

One needs a minimum of $1000/month as pension income to be able to apply for the Pensionado visa to stay long term.


This is a South American country known for its high standard of living, beautiful nature, big developed cities and welcoming nature. The cost of living index score for Chile is also quite low at 47.73.

The Global Peace Index ranks Chile higher than Malaysia at 28/163. Even though it is a peaceful country, there is a risk of severe earthquakes as it lies in a seismic zone.

One can apply for a retirement visa as long as he/she can prove that they are financially independent and stable.


It may be a surprise to many as to how Mexico made it to the top 5 list of best countries. It is certainly not considered very safe or even very cheap to live in compared to the other countries in this list, but there are some positives. International Living ranks them 3rd amongst their best places to retire list. 

It has a warm but not too hot climate. There is an abundance for entertainment amenities and it’s easy to settle down and get a house to live in. If one is aged above 60, then he/she can get hold of a national senior discount card which helps one get discounts on goods and services which usually range from 10% to 20%.

Retirees can get a temporary resident visa, which is valid for four years. One needs to have a  minimum monthly income or asset requirements or by own property in Mexico in order to qualify for it. One can even apply for a permanent resident visa, but this has higher income and asset requirements.

Bottom Line 

One may wish to retire at any of these 5 countries or maybe even something out of these choices. But it really boils down to what kind of an environment/place one is looking for, the cost of living and unique individual needs of a retiree. A retiree may not be bothered about the cost of living at all, and is more focused on the quality of life and safety. For those, there are countries like Australia, Canada and Austria which fair pretty well in that case. Whatever may be the choice of country or place for retirement, the retiree should be satisfied and be able to have a happy retirement. 

Written by

Cheryl Toh

Last updated on

November 21st 2019, 5:46 pm

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