Retirement Abroad: 5 Unexpected Foreign Cities

Retiring abroad has appeal: You get a change of scenery (maybe even someplace exotic), the chance to live in a different culture and, in many cases, a lower cost of living. Combine these with the proven link between travel and healthy aging – travel delivers physical, cognitive and social benefits – and the case for spending at least some of your retirement abroad becomes even stronger. See Retirement Travel: Good And Good For You.

Once you've made the decision, though, it can be a challenge to decide where to move. Some of the more well-known destinations include Costa Rica, Thailand and Spain, but there are plenty of other lesser-known – sometimes surprising – spots worth considering. In addition to scenery, culture and activities, we also looked at medical care. You don't want your new home to be that over-the-top exotic. Here are five destinations that should top your relocation research list.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik is located directly across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. A medieval walled city known for its Old World charm, culture, history, architecture and stunning geography, Dubrovnik offers serene beaches with secret coves and calm, turquoise water. Although it is more expensive than other Croatian cities, it’s affordable by typical Mediterranean standards: A couple could live comfortably on about $2,700 a month. Dubrovnik is home to a full-service hospital, and many U.S. insurance companies offer health insurance for expatriates living in Croatia.

Kuching, Borneo

Borneo is the world’s third largest island, and the relaxed yet cosmopolitan city of Kuching, capital of the state of Sarawak, is situated just inland on the banks of the Sarawak River in the island’s northwest region. About 15,000 species of flowering plants, 221 species of mammals and 420 species of birds live in Borneo’s 140-million-year-old rainforest – the world’s oldest. There are beaches, golf, shopping and museums. Borneo offers incentives for permanent residency, and a home-owning couple can get by comfortably on about $600 a month. Kuching is a popular medical tourism destination, and medical care is considered modern and very affordable.

Salinas, Ecuador

Ecuador is home to the Amazon basin, the Andes Mountains, modern cities, quiet villages, beaches, whitewater rivers, and, 600 miles from the coast, the Galapagos Islands. The country’s westernmost city is Salinas, the largest coastal resort town in Ecuador, with oceanfront living, open-air markets and great food. Ecuador came in fourth for the lowest cost of living, according to International Living’s Global Retirement Index, and a couple can retire well for about $1,500 a month. Health care is affordable, and expats can choose from several local clinics, or travel to Guayaquil – about a two-hour drive – for a modern hospital.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Expats from Australia and New Zealand have been heading to Cambodia for years, and recently the country’s beautiful beaches have begun to attract Americans as well. According to International Living’s Reirement Index Cambodia tops the list for the lowest cost of living. It’s possible for a couple to live comfortably on $700 a month. About $150 a month gets you a furnished 2,000-square-foot beachfront house, including utilities and high-speed Internet. Foreigners are unable to purchase property, but they can obtain leasehold rights for up to 99 years. Health options are limited, so most expats receive medical care in nearby Thailand.

Tagaytay, Philippines

Tagaytay sits in a mountainous region of the Phillipine’s main island. The town, known for its beautiful scenery and cooler climate – a function of its high altitude – rests on the shores of Lake Taal, in the center of which sits Taal Volcano Island. A couple can live comfortably for about $800 a month. Numerous incentives are offered to expat residents, including discounts for the 60+ crowd, and the duty-free import of household goods. Good, affordable healthcare is available in nearby Manila.

The Bottom Line

Before settling on a retirement destination, make every effort to visit the area  – preferably over multiple trips to experience the different seasons – to see if you can picture yourself living there. You need more than just beautiful surroundings: Be sure the location offers other activities you enjoy, whether that’s rich culture, adventure sports or bird watching.Consider whether you'll be comfortable in the climate and whether you can manage living in another language, if English isn't widely spoken.

Rules and regulations vary by country, including visa and residency requirements. In addition, taxes for those retiring abroad can be quite complicated. Work with a qualified attorney and/or tax specialist when making plans for retiring abroad.