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A Mexican chapel at sunset. Photo from Pixabay

Thinking of retiring or moving overseas? It’s a huge step, but one that has been successfully negotiated by many expats searching for mild climates, lower costs, and simple changes of pace and cultural experiences.

The editors of International Living have compiled a list of five good-value countries that currently accept American travelers — and might make good retirement havens to boot. They also suggest specific locations/cities that welcome retirees.

Of course, it’s wise to do a number of scouting expeditions first. If you’re serious about relocating, they’re a must. But even if you’re “just browsing” and not buying, you’ll at least have a chance for a nice vacation.

As the editors stress, the current COVID situation is volatile and situations can change, so before buying your tickets be sure to check the websites of the U.S. State Department and the other countries’ embassies.

Also note that entry may come with some restrictions, such as quarantining upon arrival; again, check with the countries’ embassies.

With all that in mind, here is the International Living list of welcoming, affordable countries, some of which offer special incentives to seniors. If you can’t travel now, you can certainly put them on your wish list — possibly even for relocation and to enjoy the expat life.

Mexico

As many as one million U.S. and Canadian citizens already call Mexico their home, with more joining them all the time.

Mexico has a lot to recommend it. Convenience, for one thing: From the U.S. and Canada, folks can drive to Mexico or fly there in a few hours, in most cases.

Mexico offers many of the First-World conveniences—including good highways, plenty of airports, reliable telephone service, and fast internet connections.

Mexico’s lower cost of living means a comfortable, fulfilling life will likely cost a fraction of what it would back home.  

A spot to consider: Take Merida, for example. A couple can live well here on a monthly budget of $1,434 to $1,740.

Near the northern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, about 22 miles south of the Gulf of Mexico, Merida is a regal colonial city, home to some one million people.

It offers culture, sports, modern infrastructure, world-class affordable medical care, and handy access to the Gulf of Mexico.

It is also among the most historically significant cities in all of Mexico. Capital of the state of Yucatan, Merida’s ancient roots go back to what was formerly the Maya city of Tho´, also known as Ichkaanziho´.

Merida’s rich history and current indigenous influences — mixed with a modern lifestyle, and a reduced cost of living — make it an attractive option for expats.

Colombia

Located in the north of South America, Colombia sports coastline on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, borders the Darien jungle to its west, and has the Amazon to its east.

Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country in the world: with 1,889 species of birds, it’s home to 20 percent of all species on earth. Tucked away in the eastern part of the country is Caño Cristales, the river dubbed a “liquid rainbow.” This river of five colors is one of Colombia’s many natural gems.

All this gorgeous scenery is a backdrop to one of the best things about the country: its warm, accepting people.

Expats report that Colombians welcome folks into their communities with music, dancing, interesting local food, and of course festivals. Nearly every city and town has a festival to celebrate some aspect of Colombian life—and everybody is invited to participate.

(My note: Don’t be put off by Colombia’s previous reputation for violence; it’s now generally considered safe.)

A spot to consider: Nestled into a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains, lies one of the top expat destination: Medellin. The City of Flowers enjoys a spring-like climate year-round, which attracts retirees looking for an active, outdoorsy lifestyle with all the benefits of a lively city.

A couple could live well in Medellín on a budget of $1,400 to $2,000 per month.

Ecuador

Ecuador, the Land of Eternal Spring, is an increasingly popular destination. It uses the U.S. dollar as its currency and offers a low cost of living as well as a variety of communities welcoming for expats.

With mountains, beaches, rainforest, and everything in between, it offers an amazingly diverse range of comfortable climates and relaxed lifestyle opportunities.

Ecuador also offers special benefits to residents aged 65 and older — public transportation is half price, airfare (even when flying internationally) is significantly discounted, and seniors receive a monthly refund of sales tax paid. Plus you get to go to the front of the line at the bank and grocery store.

A spot to consider: One of the most popular destinations in Ecuador is Cuenca, a firm favorite among expats.

Ecuador’s third-largest city and the economic center of the southern sierra, Cuenca has long been known for its rich intellectual, artistic, and philosophical tradition as well as its lovely colonial architecture — earning its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site.

Although near the equator, Cuenca sits high in the southern Andes at an altitude of 8,300 feet, and its residents enjoy year-round spring-like weather.

Temperatures rarely go beyond highs in the 70s F and lows in the 50s F, so a sweater or light jacket is sufficient all year long. Rainfall averages around three inches per month.

A couple can live well here on $1,680 a month.

Belize

Belize offers many options to expats—the beauty of the Caribbean Sea and the Mesoamerican reef complements the lush, wild jungles of the Maya Mountains, with tumbling rivers, mysterious Mayan ruins, and awe-inspiring rainforests.

A small country barely the size of Massachusetts, it’s easy to travel from one part of Belize to another. As a British Commonwealth country, English is its primary language, making it easy for expats to transition.

This little country is also well known for its open-arms attitude toward expats who wish to become residents, or to open a business.

A spot to consider: One place attracting a growing number of savvy expats is Placencia, a charming seaside town found at the tip of a long peninsula off the coast of mainland Belize.

It’s fast becoming Belize’s most desirable location as it fronts the turquoise Caribbean Sea to the east and a resplendent freshwater lagoon, full of wildlife and, to the west, with a view of the gorgeous Maya mountain chain.

A couple can live well here on a monthly budget of $1,760.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches, dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife, towering volcanoes, lush green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes and rivers.

The country also offers a great climate year-round, neighborly atmosphere, no-hassle residence programs, excellent healthcare, a stable democracy, and safety and security.

For these reasons, as well as the welcoming locals who are warm and friendly to new foreign neighbors, Costa Rica has been an expat haven for more than 30 years.

A spot to consider: The country offers an array of beach towns to relocate to, but many opt for cooler-weather alternatives like the town of Atenas in the Central Valley. A couple can live well here from $1,518 a month.

At 698 meters above sea level, Atenas boasts the “best climate in the world,” a slogan that is printed on local buses and signs. Compared to hotter beach communities and cloudier, much cooler towns, Atenas has become a popular spot for foreigners to relocate.

Details on the necessary steps to move out of the U.S. can be found here: How to Move Out of the U.S.

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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