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The Cheapest Places to Retire Abroad on $1K Per Month


Key Takeaways

  • Retiring abroad on $1,000 per month doesn’t mean sacrificing quality of life. Many countries offer excellent health care, infrastructure and amenities at a fraction of the cost compared to the U.S.
  • The cheapest places to retire abroad include Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, Malaysia, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • Before making the move, consider expenses such as travel costs, taxes and visas, which can vary significantly from one country to another.
  • During your retirement abroad, stretch your budget by embracing local culture, cuisine and lifestyle.

Moving to a lower-cost country does not mean you need to compromise on quality of life. The level of medical care, infrastructure and other important lifestyle factors can be as high as, or even superior to, U.S. equivalents. Many international locations cater to expat retirees looking for an enjoyable lifestyle and the chance to discover new places and cultures.

Before you go, you’ll need to determine how much you can afford to spend. Factor travel costs, such as flights back to the U.S. to visit family, into your overall budget. There are also taxes and visas to consider, which can vary from one country to another.

We spoke with travel and budget experts who have lived in and visited more than 50 countries, tracking living costs worldwide.

Consider these places if you have a budget of as little as $1,000 per month. Locations are listed in alphabetical order.

  • Malaysia.
  • Mexico.
  • Panama.
  • Philippines.
  • Portugal.
  • Thailand.
  • Vietnam.

Malaysia

You’ll find lower costs of living for accommodation, food and transportation in this country. “Malaysia has a rich culture, wonderful food and beautiful scenery,” said George Lagonakis, a travel blogger at WorldTripVibe, in an email. The biggest expat communities in the country can be found on Penang Island and Kuala Lumpur. Boating and fishing are popular pastimes on Penang Island, where retirees can also enjoy swimming and strolling the beaches. In the mountains, you can also hike trails or go bird-watching. Kuala Lumpur is the capital and economic center of the country, as well as one of the largest cities in Southeast Asia.

Mexico

With its warm climate, beautiful beaches and colorful displays, Mexico may be a retiree’s paradise. “Places like Puerto Vallarta and Merida offer a lower cost of living while still providing access to modern amenities and a welcoming expat community,” said Peter Hamdy, founder of Auckland & Beyond Tours, in an email. San Miguel de Allende and Ajijic are also popular places for expats. “Embracing the local culture and lifestyle can help stretch your budget,” Hamdy said. “Instead of dining at fancy restaurants, try sampling delicious street food or exploring local markets for fresh produce. It’s not only more affordable but also a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.”

Panama

Just a short flight from the U.S., Panama offers the chance to explore a new country and still visit home regularly. “Panama has much lower living expenditures than the U.S., especially for housing,” Lagonakis said. Panama offers a favorable tax environment, as it only taxes locally sourced income. The country has a warm, inviting culture and regularly holds festivals and folkloric events. Retirees could also take advantage of Panama’s unique location and travel to nearby Caribbean or South American destinations.

You might look at living in Panama City, which draws in residents from around the world. There’s also Chitré, a town located on the Pacific Coast’s Azuero Peninsula, about four hours west of Panama City by car. It’s a regional commerce and transportation hub with hospitals, shopping options, restaurants and entertainment.

Philippines

If you’re looking for a warm place where you can easily get by speaking English, the Philippines may be a good choice. This country has gained popularity among the retiree community in recent years, according to Sharon Maxwell, chief editor of SmartSEA Travel, who is originally from the Philippines. You might settle in the capital of Manila, which has everything from hospitals to shopping and entertainment. Or you could choose Cebu, an island province popular with expats.

Living in the Philippines, “your $1,000 could go far,” Maxwell said in an email. “It can cover the housing cost, health care and leisure activities. English is spoken widely (and) it’s sunny 90% of the year.” While some areas of the country cater to tourists, the U.S. State Department has issued warnings for certain regions. Check the travel advisory before planning a trip.

Portugal

The warm climate, friendly locals and entertainment options draw many retirees to Portugal. Living here could be a gateway to explore other parts of the region as well. “Portugal has a slower pace of life and lower cost of living than many other European countries,” Lagonakis said. “Retirement is popular in the Algarve because of its magnificent beaches, sunny weather and reasonable homes.” You might try local cuisine, visit the wine country, and explore castles and other historical sites during your time there.

Thailand

Approximately 3 to 4 million foreigners live in Thailand, many of whom are retirees. They are drawn to the country’s natural beauty and affordable prices. “The cost of living is relatively low, which means retirement savings can go a long way,” Hamdy said. “From delicious street food to affordable health care, Thailand offers a great quality of life at a fraction of the cost compared to many Western countries.”

One possible option for retirees is Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, located in the temperate foothills of one of the country’s highest mountain ranges. Or you could head to Phuket, Thailand’s biggest island and one of the most popular destinations for tourists and retirees. It is known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and gorgeous sunsets.

Vietnam

If you’re considering Vietnam for retirement, “beautiful scenery, nice people and a rich culture define the country,” Lagonakis said. You’ll pay less for housing, groceries, transportation and health care. You might enjoy the chance to learn about the country’s culture, people and history. With its warm sands and collection of cafes and restaurants, the beach city of Da Nang is a popular choice for retirees. Another top choice for retirees is Nha Trang, a coastal resort city in the south known for its beautiful ocean views, diving sites and offshore islands.



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