15 Countries That Aren't Cheap But are Truly Great Places to Retire

Where would you retire if money wasn’t an issue? Here are some of the best options.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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While some of the most popular international retirement destinations can be expensive, they also offer unique and desirable benefits that make it worth it.

In the following list of fantastic countries to retire to, we’ll give you the lay of the land and provide their average cost of living compared to the United States.

These countries aren’t bargains, all ranking in the top third of the world in cost of living, but many are cheaper than the United States. Here are 15 great places to retire comfortably, starting with the most affordable.

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Greece

maglara/Adobe santorini island greece

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 24% lower

Share of population aged 65+: 21.8%

Notable cities: Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion

Greece is a viable option for retirees looking for a Mediterranean lifestyle. In terms of affordability, it’s almost 25% more affordable than the United States. Who would have thought you could retire in Greece and keep more money in your bank account?

The country boasts beautiful scenery and a mild climate and is known for its healthy diet. It has a large population of people 65 and older, plus a universal healthcare system that provides quality care.

Portugal

mlehmann78/Adobe Lisbon's Gloria funicular

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 22.3% lower

Share of population aged 65+: 21.8%

Notable cities: Lisbon, Porto, Faro

Pastoral Portugal is one of Europe’s most popular destinations for expats. It has a mild climate as well as a friendly and welcoming population, and it’s super safe.

Portugal’s healthcare system is strong, as is its social safety net. English is spoken widely, as well, making it easy to fit in.

Combine all that with the stunning landscapes, and you’re set.

Spain

basiczto/Adobe Madrid city skyline gran via street twilight

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 15.6% lower

Share of Population Aged 65+: 19.1%

Notable cities: Barcelona, Madrid, Seville

Like its neighbor Portugal, safe and sunny Spain has a pleasant climate and a relaxed retirement lifestyle. It’s also known for its high-quality and affordable healthcare system.

A large expat community lives in Spain, which can make it easier for retirees to integrate. And the food scene is fresh, delicious, and affordable.

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Italy

Nicola Forenza/Adobe cozy street in Trastevere

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 12.8% lower

Share of population aged 65+: 22.8%

Notable cities: Rome, Florence, Venice

Italy has long been a favorite destination for retirees looking for a slower pace of life, stunning art and architecture, good healthcare, and truly mouth-watering cuisine.

While it can be expensive, it’s easy to find affordable living options in smaller towns and villages. Additionally, people in Italy live longer than almost anyone in the world.

Germany

Boris Stroujko/Adobe colorful half-timbered houses in Rothenburg

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 6.7% lower

Share of population aged 65+: 21.4%

Notable cities: Berlin, Hamburg, Munich

Germany has an excellent healthcare system and a stable economy. The quality of life is known for being high; crime, on the other hand, is low.

Germany has a range of social welfare programs for permanently residing retirees, including long-term care and housing assistance as well as pristine infrastructure.

Don’t forget the beer and brats!

France

Ekaterina Belova/Adobe Eiffel Tower and river Seine at sunrise in Paris

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 3% lower

Share of population aged 65+: 20.3%

Notable cities: Paris, Lyon, Marseille

France is famous for its rich history, gourmet food, and wine. It also has a notable expat population that’s quite welcoming and emphasizes living a balanced, pleasurable life. Plus, France’s healthcare system is ranked among the best in the world, which is a huge perk. 

While France is a bit pricey in its major tourist areas, note that the cost of living can be most reasonable in smaller towns and villages and less than in the U.S. (last on our list, that is).

Canada

rabbit75_fot/Adobe Toronto skyline

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 5.8% higher

Share of population aged 65+: 17.2%

Notable cities: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal

Dreaming of a place that offers the perfect balance of nature, single-payer healthcare, retirement benefits, and friendly locals? Canada checks all of those boxes and more.

The climate may be harsh in some areas during winter, but the infrastructure mitigates the issue. The diverse blend of cultures and progressive mindset is the proverbial cherry on top.

Japan

nicholashan/Adobe Mt. Fuji with fall colors in Japan

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 6.8% higher

Share of population aged 65+: 28.2%

Notable cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Okinawa

While retiring in this sophisticated nation may be fairly expensive, it offers a very high quality of life.

Japan has the world's largest population share of people aged 65 or older. They also have a wealth of resources available to support them, and the country’s infrastructure is second to none.

Japan also has a superior healthcare system, though you may need a private plan as an expat.

Finland

jamenpercy/Adobe Aurora Borealis reflected between two fjords in Tromsø

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 9.7% higher

Share of population aged 65+: 21.9%

Notable cities: Helsinki, Tampere, Turku

It may be fairly expensive to live in Finland, but the security is worth it. Like its Scandinavian neighbors, Finland boasts both great healthcare and a high standard of living paired with a beautiful wintery climate.

Finland truly embraces the outdoors, too. It’s a land of pristine lakes, dense forests, and endless hiking trails. Plus, a life closer to nature will be less expensive than in big cities.

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Sweden

Mistervlad/Adobe Stockholm old town (Gamla Stan) cityscape

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 12.3% higher

Share of population aged 65+: 19.9%

Notable cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö

Yes, it’s cold and often dark, but Sweden has so much to offer retirees. Like many countries on this list, it has a high standard of living, universal healthcare, and gorgeous natural scenery.

Sweden also values community and provides retirees with a safe, secure environment. Many people speak English there, as well.

New Zealand

Skyimages/Adobe morning sunrise with bushes and grass

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 13.4% higher

Share of population aged 65+: 15.3%

Notable cities: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch

New Zealand is a diverse country of lakes, great for retirees who enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities.

Retirees enjoy a relaxed lifestyle and healthy, bonded communities. Healthcare is universal in New Zealand, too.

While the cost of living is on the higher end (ranked 16th), with housing and food being fairly pricey, retirees that meet certain residency requirements may qualify for pension plans.

Australia

gb27photo/Adobe Melbourne's central business district

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 17.3% higher

Share of population aged 65+: 15.8%

Notable cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane

Although Australia is known for being expensive, it's still possible to retire there on a moderate budget.

Like in New Zealand, retirees there benefit from world-class healthcare and, if they meet specific residency requirements, pensions.

Australia also has a warm and pleasant climate, ample outdoor sights, and a diverse population. Not surprisingly, it’s more affordable to live in rural areas as opposed to big cities.

Denmark

Scanrail/Adobe nyhavn copenhagen denmark

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 23.9% higher

Share of population aged 65+: 19.6%

Notable Cities: Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense

Denmark consistently ranks among the happiest countries in the world.

While it's not the cheapest place for retirees, Denmark’s high standard of living, world-class healthcare, strong safety net, and hygge (i.e., its pervasive coziness) more than make up for it.

Unfortunately, unless you meet narrow requirements (like being a student or having a partner in Denmark), it’s unlikely you’ll be permitted permanent residence in Denmark.

Iceland

Puripat/Adobe Blue Lagoon geothermal spa

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 31.3% higher

Share of population aged 65+: 14.2%

Notable cities: Reykjavík, Akureyri, Hafnarfjörður

Iceland is blessed with breathtaking natural scenery and a high standard of living. While it can be expensive, the country boasts a low crime rate and a strong emphasis on community.

Despite its small size, Iceland has a rich culture that values the arts. Additionally, its healthcare system is highly regarded. Note that the elderly population is on the smaller side here, though.

Cayman Islands

chrisdonaldsonmedia/Adobe cayman island beach resort

Cost of living (compared to U.S.): 37.9% higher

Share of population aged 65+: ~8

Notable cities: George Town, Bodden Town, West Bay

We had to include at least one super luxe Caribbean island on our list. This is the stuff retirement dreams are made of sun, sand, surf, sea, and 5 o’clock all day, every day.

You have to prove to the government you have enough money to purchase a home and support yourself in the Cayman Islands, but that’s the only stipulation. Otherwise, you’re on island time.

Bottom line

Katleho S/peopleimages.com/Adobe senior couple enjoying quality time at the park

Retiring in an expensive destination might seem daunting, but the benefits can outweigh the costs.

From access to top-notch healthcare to opportunities for outdoor adventure, each of the 15 destinations on this list has something unique to offer.

Just remember that the U.S. can be a great place to retire, as well, from sunny Florida to the paradise that is Puerto Rico. So scope those locales out now, and earn travel rewards while you’re at it.

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Cat Lafuente

Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.