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10 Exotic, Affordable Retiree Havens

  1. Panama
    1. Panama has the most appealing program of special benefits for foreign residents and retirees you'll find anywhere in the world today. Good-quality health care and modern hospitals are available throughout the country, and many Panamanian doctors are U.S.-trained. Here you will enjoy the benefits of a developing economy where you can still take a taxi across town for a buck or two, get your hair cut for a couple of dollars or enjoy dinner with a bottle of wine at one of the fine restaurants in Panama City for $30. There are also lots activities to enjoy, from jazz clubs to art openings to English-language theater performances.
  2. Malta
    1. Apart from the near-perfect climate, the living in Malta is easy and affordable, crime hardly exists, and the locals are hospitable. In addition, permanent foreign residents can take advantage of a 15% income-tax rate, and nobody pays property taxes. The health care is excellent. And you'll encounter no language difficulties because nearly everybody speaks English.
  3. New Zealan
    1. In addition to its magnificent scenery and an array of activities for keeping busy and fit, New Zealand has a low cost of living, an English-speaking population, great infrastructure and one of the world's highest "healthy longevity" figures. Not to mention the fact that the country imposes no capital-gains tax. The downsides: It's difficult to qualify for permanent residency here -- though you'll have no trouble spending up to six months a year in the country -- and the country's proximity to the U.S. could be an issue. It's a 12-hour flight from Los Angeles.
  4. Uruguay
    1. Uruguay has modern, First World infrastructure, excellent highways, drinkable water, good communications and stunning beaches. During high season, it is fun and lively. During low season, it is quiet and peaceful. It feels like Europe but with Third World prices, thanks to the spillover of the Argentine financial crisis. Uruguay is a country where your dollar still goes a long way. Friendly immigration policies make it easy to live here, and it's reasonably easy to obtain an Uruguayan passport.
  5. Mexico
    1. Besides Mexico's great weather, low prices and rich culture, this country's biggest draw is its proximity to the U.S. This allows you much more flexibility when making your retirement move. And because of great cellular coverage and widely available high-speed Internet, Mexico is also appealing to an increasing number of professionals and business people who semiretire to Mexico, continuing to work from a beach with a laptop. Mexico's health-care system is very good, and often excellent, with many doctors and dentists trained in the U.S. or Europe.
  6. France
    1. For the retiree, France offers a great quality of life along with all the modern-day comforts you enjoy at home. Though France does not have a special incentive visa for retirees, the process of retiring in France is quite simple: You apply for a long-term visa at the nearest French consulate in your home country, after which you would obtain a carte de séjour visiteur. Because Paris is the most expensive place to live in France, you may want to consider retiring in the French countryside, where real estate, rents and the cost of living are cheaper. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization, France provides the best overall health-care system in the world, but North American retirees are advised to buy private medical insurance when they retire in France.
  7. Romania
    1. Along with its diverse and interesting landscape of medieval towns, fairy-tale castles, natural spas, magnificent architecture, majestic mountains and unspoiled beaches, Romania's big appeal is its low cost of living. Health care is free; salaries, drugs and medical equipment are government-financed. Finances are limited, however, so facilities are overcrowded and suffer from a lack of equipment and medicines. Billions of euros will be invested in additional infrastructure now that the country is part of the European Union, so the country is expected to prosper, and tourism numbers are set to increase.
  8. Argentina
    1. The cost of living in Argentina is quite low, so your retirement funds will be able to stretch a long way in this part of the world. The nation is recovering from its past economic recession, so right now you have the best of both worlds: Prices are low, and the economy is improving. This second fact means that there are lots of opportunities at the moment for making investments in Argentina as well, perhaps helping to fund your Argentine retirement. You can live in the gorgeous metropolis of Buenos Aires, which is full of culture, art and museums. Or if you are searching for more tranquility for your retirement, then you can set yourself up on a stunning private ranch in the beautiful Argentine countryside.
  9. Malaysia
    1. Malaysia has a lot to offer the retiree: bustling cities, modern infrastructure, quality health care; inexpensive seafood and cheap spa pampering; and activities such as sailing, snorkeling, diving, fishing, golf and island hopping. Malaysia's retiree program Malaysia: My Second Home provides incentives for foreigners, particularly retirees, to live permanently in Malaysia. Successful applicants initially receive what is, in effect, a five-year visa with unlimited entry and exit privileges. There is no minimum annual residency requirement. After the first five years, visa holders can apply for permanent residency. Though there is no guarantee it will be granted, foreigners can expect automatic renewal of their original visas providing they continue to meet the conditions.
  10. Ecuador
    1. It's hard to pinpoint the best reason for retiring to Ecuador, but this is for sure: It is an affordable and beautiful retirement destination. Ecuador also offers a high quality of life; it's no isolated backwater. It's a land of opportunity where a middle class is forming. After waking from a long economic slumber, Ecuador is preparing to join the global economy. This country's real treasure, however, is its people. Ecuadoreans live their lives in jungle river towns, coastal fishing villages, isolated cattle ranches, the grounds of ancient haciendas and large colonial cities.