February 28, 2021
Reading Time: 6 min

The best countries for a comfortable retirement in 2021 according to International Living

25 countries around the world rated the living conditions of retirees: the quality of health care systems, the availability of urban infrastructure and social policies.

We tell you how states support retirees and which countries in International Living magazine’s rankings offer residency or citizenship by investment.

Alevtina Kalmuk
Alevtina Kalmuk

Author and editor of articles about investment citizenship and residency

Residence permit or second citizenship by investment: the rating of countries for retirement living

The best countries for a comfortable retirement in 2021 according to International Living

International Living is a magazine about living abroad. It tells which places in the world are the safest, freest and most comfortable to live in. More than 200,000 people visit the magazine’s website every day.

The Global Pension Index is compiled annually. Journalists poll their editors, correspondents, and emigrants about social events, prices, and impressions of life in another country.

Countries are evaluated according to 10 parameters:

  • climate;

  • political system;

  • urban infrastructure;

  • health care system;

  • business support;

  • affordability of buying or renting real estate;

  • cost of living;

  • benefits for pensioners;

  • diversity of leisure time;

  • possibility of obtaining a residence permit or visa.

A country is given a score from 1 to 10 for each parameter. The final score of the country and its place in the ranking is the total of all parameters. Full rating of countries on the website of the magazine.

Top 10 Countries for Retirement Living






Costa Rica






































Costa Rica won first place for its natural beauty, warm climate and low cost of living. Costa Rica is called the "Switzerland of Central America": the country has a high standard of living, affordable education and health care. Almost every citizen has its own home.

Costa Rica cares about the environment: a quarter of its land are national parks and nature reserves. The country has many equipped places for recreation: golf clubs, horse farms, yoga centers. The local population is conscientious about shopping and consumption, and tourists admit they come on vacation to "become a better version of themselves."

$1,000 is enough for one person to live in Costa Rica for a month. That amount includes rent for a one-bedroom apartment, food, transportation and medical care.

Emigrants say that in Costa Rica responsive people who share experiences of life, talk about the traditions and culture.

Panama has a mild climate, with a rainy season from May to December. The average annual temperature in the country is about +29 ° C, while in the mountain towns, such as Boquete, 10‑15 degrees lower. The country is well located on the mainland: hurricanes and other natural disasters here a rare phenomenon.

The transport infrastructure is well developed. Pensioners travel by public transport: buses, trains and planes.

Foreigners can get a retirement visa if they receive a pension of $ 1,000 or more a month. They enjoy benefits on a par with local pensioners. For example, pensioners have a 25% discount on electricity, airfare and meals at restaurants and cafes.

About $2,600 per month is needed for one person to live in the country. This amount is enough to rent a two-room apartment in the central city, pay for transportation, go to cafes, restaurants and movies.

Mexico was ranked third for the hospitality of the local population, comfortable transportation to the U.S. and distinctive culture and food.

Mexico celebrates various holidays, organizes ca ivals and theatrical performances, gathers in clubs and themed events. Locals talk about their culture and treat immigrants to traditional foods.

The wide variety of foods and goods in supermarkets is provided by the country’s proximity to the United States. Mexican homes have modern amenities such as high-speed Internet, satellite and cable television, cell phones, and appliances.

Mexico’s roads are well maintained and well paved. You can get to the U.S. in a couple of hours on a comfortable road.

Mexico has affordable health care for retirees. State clinics treat citizens and residents free of charge. There are private clinics where the cost of treatment is 20‑30% less than in the U.S.

A retired couple can live in Mexico on $2,000 per month: this is the cost of living and leisure.

Tourists are allowed to stay in Mexico for 180 consecutive days. To stay legally in the country, you must obtain a residence permit. Mexican law allows retirees to get a permanent residence permit if their pension is more than $2,000 per month. Another option is to open a bank deposit of $102,000 or more.

Which countries in the ranking grant residence permits or citizenship by investment?

Portugal was named the best country for the sociability and hospitality of the local people. People are helpful and smiling. Many speak English, so it is easier for foreigners to integrate into society.

Portugal is near the Atlantic Ocean. The country has many sandy beaches, promenades and marinas. Cities have lots of greenery, parks, and recreational areas.

Journalists from International Living advise starting a trip around the country from Lisbon and Porto. The cities have a well-developed public transport system and good intercity communication.

Lisbon — a distinctive capital, whose houses are painted in rich colours or decorated with azulejo tiles. The city has many museums, ancient palaces and churches. On the streets of the city are small stores that are as beautiful as art exhibitions.

In the centre of Lisbon is the world-famous vintage tin store Conserveira de Lisboa. It hosts festivals and costume shows, and each can of canned goods is decorated to look like an early 20th-century design.

For beautiful views of wildflowers and old oaks, tourists, immigrants and locals go to the Alentejo region. It has many small historic towns that can be explored in a couple of hours.

The southern region of the Algarve is known for fishing villages, numerous beaches, golf clubs and resorts.

About $3,000 a month is enough for a comfortable life for two people in Portugal.

The best countries to live in retirement in 2021

Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s central old neighborhood, can be explored in a couple of hours

Malta is recognized by the authors of the rating as the most welcoming southern country in Europe with a high standard of living. The islands have a developed infrastructure with quality service in local organizations and companies.

Malta consists of three islands — Malta, Gozo and Comino. The country has a warm climate: the average annual temperature is about 22 ° C, the wind is northwest and northeast, about 300 days a year — sunny. By comparison, in Moscow, there are about 72 sunny days a year.

Malta’s health care is considered one of the best in Europe. The country has developed medical tourism. There are state and private clinics. The government provides discounts and special insurance for local residents and residents of the country.

Public transport runs on schedule, it is possible to get to any place on the islands. A pass for a month costs $26, for seniors there are discounts. A ferry ticket to Gozo and back will cost $6.15, and for people over 60 years old the fare is free.

Supermarkets sell both local and imported goods. And small butcher shops, vegetable shops, bakeries, and village stores are open in the streets. Prices in Malta are 25% less than in the United States. A three-course dinner with a bottle of local wine will cost about $30 per person.

There is always something to see in Malta: the ancient temples and churches, salt farms, tombs from the Bronze Age, museums. On holidays, the local population organizes processions and costume shows.

Malta is ideal for travelling to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Italy, Tunisia and Libya are close by, and with a short flight, you can quickly reach Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, France and other countries.

The best countries to live in retirement in 2021

Top view of the city of Valletta, the capital of Malta

How to obtain a residence permit or citizenship by investment in Portugal and Malta

Both states offer foreigners a residence permit or citizenship by investment. The legislation provides for several investment options.

Residence permits in Portugal are issued by investments from €250,000. The obtaining period is from about 8—10 months.

The government residence permit program in Portugal offers 8 investment options:

  1. Purchase of any real estate for an amount of 500,000 € or more.

  2. The purchase of real estate over 30 years old under restoration for the amount of €350,000 or more.

  3. Investing in the restoration and preservation of cultural heritage from 250,000 €.

  4. Creating a company and 10 jobs for Portuguese citizens.

  5. Opening a business with a capital of €350,000 and the creation of 5 jobs.

  6. Purchase of securities worth €350,000.

  7. Investments of €350,000 or more in research and development.

  8. Opening a deposit in a Portuguese bank worth €1 million.

As long as the residence card is valid, the investor lives, studies, works and conducts business in Portugal, freely travels throughout the Schengen countries. After 5 years, the investor and his family can claim Portugal citizenship.

The conditions of the program will change on January 1, 2022. The minimum amount of investment will grow. Real estate will be allowed to buy only in the Azores, Madeira and inland regions. We talked about it in the article Changes in the law on the" golden visa " of Portugal.

Permanent residency in Malta is issued by an investment of 112,000 € or more. The investor buys or rents property, pays administrative fee and government fee, makes a donation to a local non-profit organization. The investor also confirms that he has an asset of €500,000.

Malta citizenship is granted by naturalization for exceptional services by direct investment of 690,000 € or more. The investor undergoes a due diligence check. First, it receives a residence permit, and after a year or three years, applies for citizenship.

Malta is a member of the European Union, so the citizens of the country have the right to live and do business in any country in the region. With a Maltese passport, the investor can travel visa-free to 184 countries, including Japan, Britain, USA, Canada, Brazil and South Africa.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent that helps cosmopolitans obtain citizenship and residency by investment. If you want to move to one of the best countries to live in retirement, seek advice from expert investment programs.