The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2019

By on January 14, 2019
Coronado beach Coronado Panama

Using International Living’s vast network of on-the-ground contacts and correspondents, this year’s Index—the most extensive over the last the last 28 years—has several key highlights for the “Best Places to Retire”. 

Opportunity is a new category; Thailand is now in the top 10; and Sri Lanka appears on the Index for the first time.

The 2019 Index itself is more comprehensive than ever, including evaluations in 13 categories (one more than last year’s): buying and investing, renting, benefits and discounts, visas and residence, cost of living, fitting in, entertainment and amenities, healthcare, healthy lifestyle, development, climate, opportunity, and governance.

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The main goal of the Index is to help retirees find locations where their dollar goes further—where they can get the best value for money in terms of cost of living, housing, and overall quality of life.

A huge amount of solid data goes into the Index. International Living employs a worldwide network of experts who live in the locations they write about and the Annual Global Retirement Index brings together all that local knowledge and research into one indispensable document. The scores across the individual categories are then calculated, and a total score is determined for each country.

“This Index is designed to be a cheat-sheet of sorts, to help point people toward the spots that might make the most sense for them overseas,” says Jennifer Stevens, International Living’s Executive Editor. “It’s most useful, however, if you come to it with some sense for your own priorities. Ask yourself, ‘What’s most important to me in a haven overseas?’

“Maybe it’s good weather year-round. Maybe it’s proximity to the U.S.. 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.

“It is—by design—subjective,” Stevens says. “Yes, we tap a lot of solid data. But we rely, at the same time, on the informed judgement and real-world experience of the magazine’s contributors and editors in the field as well as that of additional in-country expats.

“Think about it this way: Macro-economic data that reflects the state of affairs across an entire country isn’t nearly as useful as the actual cost to rent an apartment that an expat would like in a safe area of a town or city we recommend for retirees. Now that’s a useful, practical piece of data. And when we compare specific data like that across communities we recommend in different countries, a useful picture begins to emerge.

“This Index is a unique tool that allows potential expats to quickly and constructively compare and contrast their best options abroad and give their search some smart direction,” Stevens says.

According to‘s 2019 Global Retirement Index, the world’s top 10 retirement destinations are:

#1 Panama

#2 Costa Rica

#3 Mexico

#4 Ecuador

#5 Malaysia

#6 Colombia

#7 Portugal

#8 Peru

#9 Thailand

#10 Spain

Panama, the winner of the International Living 2019 Global Retirement Index, has been a constant in the Index, but this year marks the 10th time it’s reached the #1 spot—climbing from third place to scoop the top prize.

The Central American gem packs a lot into its small area—a fast-paced eclectic capital city, palm-fringed beaches, and forestd valleys where the temperature is spring-like all year. And what makes it truly special is its Pensionado program. To entice retirees to the country, the Pensionado visa is available to anyone with a lifetime pension of over $1,000 a month. The program also grants discounts to seniors on a wide range of goods and services, from medical consultations to movie tickets.

Panama City is a world capital that’s coming into its own—that’s why it’s so exciting for me to be here now,” says IL Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch. “It’s a well-established business destination, with top-notch infrastructure—especially when it comes to cellular and internet connectivity. It’s the region’s busiest flight hub, the only city in Central America with a metro line, and the only city in the region with its very own rainforest.

“But what few people know is that this is also a cultural capital. Panama City is home to active, vibrant communities from all over the world, and every art form is celebrated here.

This is a cosmopolitan capital where you can rent an ocean view condo for as little as $1,500 a month. Where else can you get so much for so little? Consider the pros. This is the only First World city in Central America. We’re relatively close to the U.S. and Canada (Miami is about three hours away by plane). Panama is warm and tropical, but completely outside the hurricane belt. The currency is the U.S. dollar. The tax burden is low. There’s a large English-speaking population—including a cadre of excellent doctors.”

Each year, the editors at International Living re-evaluate the methodology used to construct the Index. And this year is no different. Having listened to readers feedback over the past year, the IL team has taken on board a number of suggestions. The upshot of this is that a new category has been added into the index calculations: Opportunity.

“Our readers have been telling us that they have big plans for their retirement, and it’s not all about winding down,” says Stevens. “In fact, some of our readers are positively fizzing with ideas they’re eager to pursue when they give up the daily grind and start concentrating on their own projects.

“They’re freelance writers, photographers, hostel owners, and property managers. Or at least, they plan to be, when they take an active retirement abroad.

“So we’ve asked our correspondents and editors whether it’s easy to open a business on their beats. Is the system supportive, or does it slow everything down with bureaucracy and red tape? Can you work remotely with ease? Is the internet reliable?”

The answers have boosted Panama into the top spot in 2019. Panama’s a global hub with a booming economy, brimming with energy and opportunity. It all adds up to a location that’s ripe with business potential, and a worthy winner of International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2019.

“But regardless of the winner, all 25 destinations are worth your attention—even the 25th on the list may be ideal for you,” says Stevens. “It just depends on what your priorities are.”

The complete 2019 Global Retirement Index, including more information on the winner and the other nine countries that made it in to the top 10, as well as the individual rankings in all 13 categories for all 25 countries included, can be found at: The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2019.‘s 2019 Global Retirement Index scores the world’s top 25 retirement destinations across 13 categories, including cost of living, governance, retiree benefits, climate, healthcare, and more. This yearly Index examines safe, good-value destinations beyond the U.S. or Canadian borders—comparing, contrasting, ranking, and rating them to select spots across the globe where a retired couple can live a comfortable, carefree life on $1,800 or less a month, all in.


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The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2019