Here’s a list of the best countries to move to in 2017 if you’re retired, self employed, or plan to live the laptop lifestyle. In Part 1, we looked at the Americas. Now we’ll move farther afield to Europe and Asia.
While France is not a cheap destination, there are parts of the country that are more affordable for retirees.
In its latest rankings, Live & Invest Overseas recommended Pau, a city on the northern edge of the Pyrenees mountains about 87 km north of the Spanish border, for lower-cost living, and Paris because — well, Paris.
France is consistently ranked as having the world’s best quality of life. In France, you’ll receive the world’s best healthcare, and enjoy food, wine, and culture that’s second to none.
Climate varies with the region. There’s a huge Atlantic coastline, and also a good piece of Mediterranean coast, home of the French Riviera where beautiful people spend their days in warmth and sunshine.
Right now, the Euro is almost on par with the dollar (0.95:1), so France — and anywhere in Europe — is more affordable than it’s been for a long time.
In order to obtain residency in France, you must first live there for five years with a Long-Stay (1 year) visa. There are no special visas for retirees. Keep in mind, also, that the French invented the word bureaucracy, so the red tape is extensive.
Portugal occupies a slice of the Iberian Peninsula to the west of Spain, with extensive Atlantic coast.
Expats — mostly British — have been coming here since the mid-1990s, so English is widely spoken. Live & Invest Overseas has named the Algarve region of Portugal the #1 retirement destination for the past three years.
Portugal has a warm, temperate climate, and boasts 3300 hours of sunshine per year, making it milder than most of Europe. Winters are rainy in the north, and the average winter temperatures range from 55 degrees F in the north to 65 degrees in the south. Summers are warm, and temperatures in some areas can exceed 100 degrees.
Property prices in Portugal are a bargain for Europe (one of the reasons it qualifies as one of the best countries to retire). Currency is the Euro, currently at .94 Euros:1 US Dollar.
Health care in the cities is excellent, and many doctors speak English.
You’ll be able to enjoy a European cultural experience in Portugal, including architecture dating back to the 1500’s and 1600’s, the heyday of the global explorers.
There are a variety of residency options available with a monthly income as low as $1,000.
As with most of Europe, you can visit for up to 90 days without a visa, but your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after. Long-term residence visas are valid for 5 years, and can be renewed automatically for another 10 years. Unlike some countries, you must apply for your residence visa at your home consulate before you travel to Portugal.
You’ll find the list of consulates, as well as they areas they serve, at http://www.embassyportugal-us.org/consulates-in-the-us/.
In common with much of Europe, Portugal loves its red tape.
If you plan to learn the language, be aware that Portuguese, although related to Spanish, is much more difficult.
Spain sits south of France on the Iberian Peninsula, and fronts both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
There are three distinct climates within the country. Best known is the Mediterranean climate area, with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters.
The middle portion of the country also has hot, dry summers, but winters are cold and snow falls at higher elevations.
To the north of the Cantabrian Mountains, the climate is maritime with cool summers and mild winters, and more rainfall than in other parts of the country.
Currency is the Euro, currently trading at .94 Euros:1 US Dollar. There are some parts of Spain where you can still find property bargains, a holdover from their previous recession, but for the most part the property markets have rebounded.
Infrastructure is very good, with excellent public transport in the cities and airports throughout the country. WiFi is widely available.
Cultural opportunities abound, especially in cities like Madrid and Barcelona, which both have thriving expat communities.
Spain’s health care is ranked 7th in the world, and many doctors speak English.
Like Portugal, if you want to stay longer than 90 days, you must obtain a long-term visa before leaving home. You’ll also need a work permit if you plan to work as a freelancer.
Malaysia occupies an isthmus that extends south of Thailand. It’s surrounded by the Andaman Sea to the west, the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea to the east, and the Java Sea to the south. Singapore is at the southernmost tip of the peninsula.
The country also includes part of the island of Borneo.
The climate is equatorial, with average daytime temperatures around 80 degrees F, with high humidity year round. It receives almost 100 inches of rain annually.
Seasons are wet and dry, with the west coast enjoying dry, sunny weather from November-February, when the east coast is having its rainy season.
Malaysia’s currency is the Malaysian ringgit (about 4.45 RM to 1 US Dollar).
Malaysia is reasonably affordable, and they offer a 10-year retiree visa known as the MM2H (Malaysia My Second Home). To qualify, you need to prove income of at least 10,000 RM (about $2,226/month) if you’re over 50.
You’ll find established expat communities, especially in Kuala Lumpur and in George Town, Penang. Health care is world class, and the country is ethnically diverse. George Town is also known as a foodie haven, with top-notch restaurants featuring a wide variety of ethnic foods, including Chinese and Indian.
The country’s official language is Malay, but you’ll find speakers of many languages, reflecting the diverse ethnicities of the population.
Thailand, especially Bangkok, the northern city of Chiang Mai, and beach towns like Hua Hin, have long been popular with expats in search of a low-cost lifestyle.
Situated south of Burma and North of Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand, with Vietnam and Laos on the east, Thailand has a tropical climate. The average year-round temperature is 82 degrees F, with three distinct seasons: hot season from March-May cool season from November-February; and rainy season from June-October.
Currency is the Thai Baht, with 35.31 baht:1 US Dollar, and Thailand is one of the best places to live well on very little. Property prices are a bargain, but foreigners cannot own land here. However, US expats can purchase condos as long as the overall ownership in the building is at least 51% Thai.
Health care in Thailand is excellent, with Bangkok serving as a center for medical tourism. Many Thai hospitals have international accreditation, with English-speaking staff and doctors.
In the north, farmers still use the slash-and-burn method for clearing their fields, causing serious seasonal pollution. (Friends who spend time in Chiang Mai make it a point to be elsewhere at this time.) Also, sex tourism is prevalent in Bangkok and other cities, and human trafficking is a problem as well.
You can apply for Thai permanent residency after you’ve lived in the country for three years with a non-immigrant visa. There are several types of non-immigrant visas, including one for people over 50 who do not plan to work. Once granted, you won’t need to extend or renew your permanent residency, but only 100 per year, per country, are granted.
After achieving Permanent Resident status for 10 years, you can file an application to become a citizen.
So there you have it – our completely non-scientific roundup of the best countries for an affordable overseas retirement in 2017. If you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear them! Just drop a comment below.