More people each year choose to retire abroad to find a change of scenery, new experiences, and a lower cost of living. Even if staying within a tight budget is your biggest retirement focus, safety is likely to be another top consideration.
To help you find the best of both worlds, below are 10 of the cheapest countries for retirement that scored well on the 2018 Global Peace Index, which ranks 163 nations—covering 99.7% of the world’s population—according to their relative peacefulness.
Our other figure, the 2019 Cost of Living Index, an indicator of consumer goods (excluding rent/mortgage) relative to costs in New York City, was developed by Numbeo.com. If a nation has an index of 80, it means that consumer goods there cost 20% less than in N.Y.C.
The listing here is in order of each country’s peacefulness index, from lower to higher.
- The Global Peace Index ranks 163 nations according to peacefulness.
- Austria is ranked one of the cheapest and safest places to retire.
- It's important to check the U.S. Department of State’s Alerts and Travel Warnings for updated safety travel information.
- Global Peace Index Rank: 3/163
- Cost of Living Index: 71.79
- Retirement Visa: You’ll need a residence permit if you’re staying longer than six months, plus proof of sufficient financial means.
Europe may not be the cheapest continent for retirees, but it has much to offer. For example, considered by many as the “Swiss alternative,” Austria offers all the stunning natural beauty of Switzerland at a price that’s easier on the budget. Expect an excellent infrastructure and high living standards.
- Global Peace Index: 13/163
- Cost of Living Index: 72.08
- Retirement Visa: Fast-track permanent residency programs require high net worth. Otherwise, apply for a visitor visa and reapply as needed. After four years, you may qualify for a permanent residency visa.
Thanks to a strong U.S. dollar, Australia is gaining traction as an affordable retirement destination. Expats enjoy the rugged natural beauty, vibrant cosmopolitan cities, and laid-back culture.
3. Czech Republic
- Global Peace Index: 7/163
- Cost of Living Index: 45.12
- Retirement Visa: No retirement visa scheme, but a long-term residence permit is awarded in certain situations. You’ll need proof of health insurance regardless of trip length.
The Czech Republic has more than 2,000 castles scattered across the country, including Prague Castle, the largest medieval castle in Europe. The expat community is growing but still fairly small: About 6,000 Americans have permanent or temporary residency here.
- Global Peace Index: 4/163
- Cost of Living Index: 50.39
- Retirement Visa: You can apply for a permanent residency visa if you have proof of financial means.
A low cost of living attracts expats from around the world to retire to Portugal’s sunny shores. The country might be a good choice if you look forward to relaxing on the beach, dining on fresh seafood and drinking wine—especially port, the country’s signature spirit.
- Global Peace Index: 11/163
- Cost of Living Index: 52.51
- Retirement Visa: If you stay longer than 90 days, apply for a residence permit. You’ll need proof of health insurance, sufficient income, and a permanent address.
In 2016 the capital city of Ljubljana won that year's European Green Capital award, which acknowledges a metropolis’ record of high environmental standards and sustainable development practices. Expect incredible scenery—mountains, lakes, and emerald-green rivers—plus plenty of medieval castles, including one on a small island in the middle of Lake Bled.
- Global Peace Index: 30/163
- Cost of Living Index: 54.70
- Retirement Visa: You can stay in Spain for up to 90 days without a visa; after that, you’ll need a residence visa from your home country’s Spanish embassy or consulate.
Spain is an expat’s paradise, with 3,000-plus miles of sunny coastline, snow-capped mountains, mild weather, and friendly locals. The Spanish cuisine is pretty easy to get used to, too. When you’re not at the beach or drinking wine, 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites will keep you busy.
- Global Peace Index: 35/163
- Cost of Living Index: 39.38
- Retirement Visa: To live permanently in Malaysia, you can apply for the “Malaysia My Second Home” (MM2H) program, which grants visas for up to 10 years as long as you meet financial requirements.
Southeast Asia includes some of the most affordable retirement destinations in the world, but very few rank in the top 50 in terms of safety. Malaysia is one of those that do. This multicultural island nation has good housing options for retirees, excellent health care and, of course, miles of beautiful beaches.
- Global Peace Index: 28/163
- Cost of Living Index: 47.73
- Retirement Visa: You can apply for a retirement visa if you have proof that you can support yourself (e.g., Social Security, pension).
An established community of expats enjoys Chile’s high standard of living, natural beauty, cosmopolitan cities, and welcoming locals. One consideration: While Chile scored well on the Global Peace Index, it is in a major earthquake zone. Still, this highly developed country is better prepared to deal with quakes than many places.
9. Costa Rica
- Global Peace Index: 40/163
- Cost of Living Index: 50.89
- Retirement Visa: Apply for a Pensionado visa to stay long term. You’ll need at least $1,000 per month in qualified pension income.
Costa Rica was one of the first countries to offer a special benefits package specifically aimed at expat retirees. Other perks include good healthcare, rich biodiversity, a tropical climate, and a healthful diet. Adventurous retirees can enjoy the same activities that attract tourists: whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, jungle hikes, and canopy tours.
- Global Peace Index: 37/163
- Cost of Living Index: 57.31
- Retirement Visa: Several residency visas are available that come with the same rights you would have as a resident.
Uruguay is South America’s second-smallest country. Expat retirees enjoy the stable economy, mild climate, sunny beaches, and colorful culture—plus a national health system that entitles everyone, including foreign residents, to quality medical treatment.
The Bottom Line
No matter where you want to retire, it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons of living abroad before making any decisions—including what it would be like to actually settle there as a long-term resident, rather than visit as a tourist.
See the U.S. Department of State’s Alerts and Travel Warnings for up-to-date travel information. U.S. citizens visiting or living overseas are encouraged to enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides security updates and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you and/or your immediate family in case of an emergency.