Best Countries for Expats: Retirees Edition

Xe Consumer Europe

June 18, 2019 6 min read

Are you dreaming of spending your retirement years enjoying sunny days and sandy beaches? Are you struggling to work out where you'd like to spend your twilight years?

We've taken a look at six of the best countries to help make your dream a reality, as well as some resources that could help you to make it happen.

Photo by LEMUR / Unsplash


If you want to retire in a country where the locals are friendly, hard-working, social, and hospitable, you might find you are happy to live in Portugal. If you like to drink coffee, eat seafood, take long walks on the beach, and watch European football, you should consider booking a one-way ticket to Lisbon.

Tourism is a leading source of wealth and revenue for Portugal, so they are generally very accommodating to foreigners that don't speak Portuguese. Portugal could absolutely be the retirement destination of your dreams, either on the mainland or the Azores.  

Photo by John Fornander / Unsplash


Spain is a popular retirement destination for Europeans, UK nationals and many others from around the world. Europeans can retire to Spain with a long term visa. There are many factors that can attract people to Spain, including:

  • Warm climate.

  • Excellent food and wine.

  • An affordable lifestyle by European standards.

  • The Spanish healthcare system is excellent for the elderly.

  • Spain's culture has a more laid-back "vibe" than countries like the UK, the US or other western countries. The kind of vibe you look for when you're retiring, and looking to escape the pressure of life in a city like London or Paris.

You have many options for great locales if you choose to retire in Spain. If you are looking for affordable accommodation, you'll find great opportunities in cities like Madrid and Malaga, as well as in more rural areas. If you are looking for a resort-like setting, cities like Valencia, Seville or Palma on Majorca are more likely more in line with what you are looking for.

Spain, like Portugal or many countries that rely on tourism for a significant percentage of their revenue, tends to be understanding of expats who don't adopt their language, although there are many benefits for expats to learning Spanish and the rich Spanish culture.  

Photo by Holly Mandarich / Unsplash


Many of the same reasons that motivate people to retire in Spain are common to those who retire in Mexico. The country's climate, food, cost of living and improving healthcare services attract many Americans and Canadians on either a full-time basis, or for six months at a time.

Those who are eager to make Mexico their retirement destination may be drawn by:

  • The low cost of living, such as food, housing, and entertainment.

  • The vibrant culture, and music.

  • Relative ease of getting a temporary or permanent visa based on savings and income.

  • Beautiful resort towns, beaches, and availability of oceanside properties.

  • Strength of US and Canadian dollars relative to the Mexican peso.

  • Close proximity of Mexico to the US.

Some of the most popular cities in Mexico for expat retirees include:

  • Mexico City

  • Puerto Vallarta

  • Oaxaca

  • Puebla

  • Acapulco

However, there are some areas of Mexico which have been deemed security risk areas for foreigners. You may wish to consult a guide such as to research the safest locations, behaviours and practices for those going to Mexico for a short or extended stay.

Photo by Kamyab Lotfollahyan / Unsplash


If Mexico or Spain are too "spicy" for your taste, retiring in Switzerland might be more your speed. As a highly-sought after destination for expat retirees, the Swiss government has established a Swiss retirement residency program.

Though Switzerland has high income tax rates and a higher cost of living than the other destinations on this list, quality of life is very high in cities like Geneva, Zurich, and Bern. Only about 40% of Switzerland's population owns their home. Expatica estimates the cost of living in these three cities to be about on par with that of London or New York.

Healthcare in Switzerland is renowned as some of the best in the world. Foreign nationals should be sure to have their health insurance affairs in order, as the country's quality healthcare doesn't come cheap, and basic insurance is mandatory. Low-cost insurance though doesn't cover everything, so be sure to do your due diligence. Swiss banks are some of the most trusted in the world, and the Swiss franc is held in high regard as a safe haven currency during uncertain times.

Photo by Chris Malinao Burgett / Unsplash


Italy's diverse landscapes, from Lake Como in the north, to Sorrento in the south, and other locations like Florence, Venice, and Rome between all offer romantic, rich lifestyles to live out your "dolce vita".

Italy's healthcare is considered excellent. The country's food, wine, art, and music are legendary. Sipping a glass of chianti, and eating a sumptuous Italian meal of risotto and gelato for dessert in a Venice is a memory not soon forgotten.

Photo by Louis Hansel / Unsplash


If you picture yourself retiring in a country with majestic mountains, excellent food, affordable accommodations, friendly people and a "whole lot of llamas", Peru is an ideal place to retire.

Many soon-to-be-retirees take a holiday in Machu Picchu (along with 95% of Peru visitors, according to and then fall in love with the country. The affordable living and 300 days of sunshine per year probably help the cause too.  

Ready to make a move?

If your retirement is on the horizon, and you want to make your dreams a reality, XE Money Transfer could help. You can open a free XE Money Transfer account to start making transfers quickly and easily.

Please Note:

The information, materials, accompanying literature and documentation available on our internet site is for information purposes only and is not intended as a solicitation for funds or a recommendation to trade. XE, its officers, employees and representatives accept no liability whatsoever for any loss or damages suffered through any act or omission taken as a result of reading or interpreting any of the above information.

While we take reasonable care to keep the information on the website accurate and up to date, there may be occasions when this is not possible. Case Studies and articles are not intended to predict future moves in exchange rates or constitute advice.  

XE makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from third party sources. If you are in any doubt as to the suitability of any foreign exchange product that you are intending to purchase from XE, we recommend that you seek independent financial advice first.

For more information about XE, please click here: Regulatory Information

Expat LifestylesMoney TransferRetirementLife Abroad