Any list of the 10 best places to retire in the world has to be subjective. You could think that Croatia is one of the 10 best places to retire in the world and your neighbor might think you're nuts. Croatia? Aren't they having a war of some kind over there?
However, if you apply factors such as the cost of living, the climate, housing, taxes, health care, and recreation, it's possible to come up with a list of the 10 best places to retire in the world that is reasonably valid.
It's possible that Panama might be the best place in the world to retire. The cost of living is very low, the people are friendly, the weather is reasonably good and the country offers a variety of interesting things to do and see. One of the best things about Panama is it size. It is just 30,193 sq. mi., making it slightly smaller than South Carolina. The country has several modern hospitals, levies no taxes on foreign income and has a special program for retirees that offer a number of attractive perks.
This friendly South American country straddles the equator-hence the name Ecuador. Because it lies on the equator it gets exactly 12 hours of daylight every day, year 'round. Ecuador's weather is so temperate and dependable is often called the "country of eternal spring." Its economy is based on the US dollar, which gives it good economic stability and makes it easy for Americans to make financial transactions. Ecuador's low cost of living means that a person could live there for only about $17,000 a year. Its major cities have shopping, entertainment, museums and art galleries.
One of the things that makes Panama attractive as a place for retirees is that it's not that much different from the US - there is just a different language. Beyond that, people are much the same as they are here. In contrast, Thailand is an exotic country, far different from our own, with people who have entirely different culture. The country is "newly industrialized" due to the fact that it has become a well-known tourist destination. Thailand's climate is tropical and it has a very low cost of living versus the US. Thai currency, the baht, exchanges at the rate of 30 to a dollar so you can actually rent a very nice apartment in a town such as Chiang Mai for the equivalent of $300 a month.
Argentina is another one of those South American countries you might not immediately think of when evaluating places to retire. If so, you should think again. Argentina has gorgeous landscapes, cosmopolitan cities and a lively culture. It is sort of like the backbone of South America as it stretches almost 3500 km (2,174 miles) from Bolivia to the tip of South America. If you are a nature lover you can traverse the Patagonian steppe, climb South America's highest peak, walk among thousands of Penguins and witness the world's most amazing waterfalls. Its major city, Buenos Aries, is full of opportunities to learn Spanish, dance the tango and interact with the locals. The cost of living in most of Argentina is cheaper than here in the US. Its climate is wonderful, especially if you like sun and sand. Finally, real estate there is much more affordable than in many developed countries, including the US.
If you start a conversation with any travel expert about the best places to live that are also very affordable, he or she will probably start with the country Belize. It is located in Central America and used to be called British Honduras. It is located on Central America's eastern coast and has beautiful beaches along the Caribbean Sea. In addition to water sports, Belize has mountains with some of the oldest Mayan cities to be found in Central America. It has one of the lowest costs of living in the Caribbean and, as a retiree; you can get low-cost or even free medical and dental care, as well as free prescriptions. Belize offers world-class fishing, diving and boating on the world's second largest coral reef.
Our neighbor to the south has had some problems recently but these occur mostly along its border with the US. If you drop down further into Mexico, you can find places to live that are inexpensive and safe. Mexico has a very low cost of living and housing is also inexpensive. You can get an apartment in even a "hot" area like Acapulco for as little as $300 a month. If you want a truer Mexican experience, there are towns such as Oaxaca and Cueravaca that are rich with the Mexican culture and heritage. The country has friendly people, many of whom speak English, and immaculate, sun-washed beaches.
The name Costa Rica literally translates into "rich coast" and this is a good way to describe the country. It is a wonderland of exotic flora and fauna and one of its chief attractions is tours through the country's rain forests. Like Belize, Costa Rica has a very diverse geography that includes beaches, rain forests and mountains. There are plenty of things to do outdoors such as kayaking, swimming, fishing, surfing, hiking, biking and many others. Its major city is San Jose, which is as an up-to-date and cosmopolitan city as you could wish for. The cost of living in Costa Rica may not be as cheap as Belize but it is much less expensive than living here in the US or Europe.
Isn't Nicaragua that country where they had the Contras and all the fighting? Well, yes, that's the country. But that's history. Today Nicaragua has a stable, democratically elected government. It is a beautiful country. Nicaragua's capital, Managua, is a first-class city that plays home to many shops, fine restaurants and entertainment centers. Lake Nicaragua offers excellent opportunities for water sports and fishing. The country's climate is hot and humid with a "summer" dry season that runs from mid-November through mid-May. The "winter" rainy season runs from mid-May mid-November. Nicaragua's cost of living is very reasonable as are its property costs.
While you cannot live in Florida as cheaply as, say, Panama or Belize, it is a very affordable place and offers the added benefit of being in the US. Florida welcomes retirees and offers several perks, including a $25,000 real estate tax exemption. The two main draws of Florida are its low cost of housing and, of course, it's climate. If you don't like winter, you'll love Florida. Towns like Sarasota, Winter Park, Jacksonville and Key West have all different kinds of housing at many different prices. They all offer a great lifestyle, historic buildings, and recreational opportunities and, in many cases senior retirement communities-complete with golf courses, tennis courts and fitness centers.
The state of North Carolina has emerged as one of the best places in America to live-whether you are a retiree or not. Its borders stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Blue Ridge Mountains so there are a wide variety of things to do outdoors, including fishing, sailing, hiking, and bird watching, biking and climbing. Property costs in North Carolina are on the reasonable side-though certainly not as attractive as those of Mexico or Ecuador.
Unlike these tropical countries, North Carolina has a nice four-season climate and not one of them is extreme. There are numerous small towns and cities in North Carolina with much to offer such as Durham, Pinehurst, Hendersonville and Wilmington. The town of Pinehurst is almost synonymous with the word golf and it once hosted the U.S. Open.
Did you have all of these locations on your 10 best places to retire in the world list? Probably not. There is no 'one size fits' all retirement location that will please everyone. Not everyone wants to live in a beautiful tropical weather paradise for the rest of their life.