For some people, the best place to retire is exactly where they are. If they do go anywhere, they might move back to their hometown, or retire near their children and grandchildren.

For others, retirement is a chance to cast off the shackles of work, spread your wings, and take to the skies in search of fun and adventure. Now you’ve left the office behind, you’re free to see more of the wide and wonderful world than ever before. You can visit your loved ones whenever you want – and in the meantime, you can send them postcards from your exotic new home.

If you have an adventurous spirit and are ready to make the leap, read on to learn which retirement destinations have come out on top of our exhaustive ranking system. This system covers areas including cost, healthcare, crime, things to do, how many other British expats live there, food, transport, and how easy it is to get a visa. You can also fill in the form at the top of the page to get the best deals on shipping your possessions to your new home.

The Best Places in the World to Retire

Retirement is a wonderful time to go on new adventures

The Best Places in the World to Retire: what’s on this page?

Head straight to a specific section by clicking the links below.

01 | Madrid
02 | The Algarve
03 | Valletta
04 | Barbados
05 | Sunshine Coast
06 | Tamarindo
07 | Athens
08 | Tampere
09 | Blenheim
10 | Zurich
11 | Stockholm
12 | Oslo
13 | Reykjavik
14 | Lancaster
15 | Best places in the world to retire
16 | Cheapest places to retire abroad
17 | Summary of the best places in the world to retire

best places to retire madrid

1. Madrid, Spain

If you’re ready to retire but still want to enjoy the excitement and constant buzz of a big city, go to Madrid. People who live there are the world’s least stressed city inhabitants, according to a huge Time Out survey – and no wonder.

The sunny location is relatively cheap, boasts a low crime rate, and has excellent public healthcare that’s available to anyone with a UK State Pension, as well as their family. Also, moving to Spain is a doddle at the moment – all you need to do is apply for residency within three months of living there, and you’re set.

Once you’re a Madrileño, you can submerge yourself in the city’s many delights, including wonderful museums, architecture, sport, music venues, and food and drink. Madrid has 21 restaurants with at least one Michelin star, delicious local dishes, and a solid range of global cuisines. And don’t worry, there are thousands of other Brits there if you need a compatriot – or just want someone to talk to about the merits of Earl Grey.

All of these reasons make the Spanish capital one of the most ideal places to retire in the world, and – as far as we’re concerned – the best.

Madrid, SpainCost/rating*
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£799.79
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£4,502.56
Price of loaf of bread£0.93
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£2.69
Weather (average yearly high)19.75°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★★
Number of British expats10,000
Things to do★★★★½

*All cost, healthcare and crime information has been sourced from Numbeo, and applies to all future tables. The healthcare and crime sections are rated out of 100, with 100 being the best rating for healthcare and 1 representing the lowest rate of crime.

best places to retire algarve

2. The Algarve, Portugal

If you’re after a more relaxing retirement that will also leave you with more spending money, the Algarve is a gorgeous choice. This region on the southern coast of Portugal comes with dozens of top quality golf courses, making it a paradise for golfers who enjoy an afternoon down the links.

And even if you don’t get a kick out of driving down a coastal fairway, the Algarve is a wonderful retirement destination – the sixth most popular in 2018, according to Expat Insider. This makes sense, since access to public healthcare is free for people over 65, crime is incredibly low, and the weather is stunning. The area enjoys over 300 days of sun per year – more than California, according to the Met Office

Portugal is also an excellent place to transfer your pension, with Hong Kong-based experts QROPS Specialists stating that if you do so as a resident in the country, “you will pay no tax on your pension on growth and death.” And just like in Spain, you can apply for a residency within three months of moving there.

The Algarve, PortugalCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£470.41
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£2,141.26
Price of loaf of bread£0.83
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£1.79
Weather (average yearly high)22.10°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★★
Number of British expats40,000
Things to do★★★

3. Valletta, Malta

If you want to crank up the relaxation even more, the tiny island of Malta – located 420 miles to the south of Sicily – is perfect. Its capital city, Valletta, has a population of less than 6,000 people, meaning that you’ll be able to visit the beautiful landscapes and historic buildings without too much hassle.

It’s relatively cheap there, practically everyone speaks English, and the weather is in the same ballpark as the Algarve, pulling in 300 days of sunshine every year. There’s not much to do on the island in the way of activities, but it’s the perfect place to unwind and appreciate the finer things in life.

Malta also has a public healthcare system, and while prescriptions aren’t free, pensioners are eligible for a 90% discount. If that all sounds good to you, all that’s left is to move there and apply for residency within three months.

Valletta, MaltaCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£815.94
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£3,520.14
Price of loaf of bread£0.77
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£1.18
Weather (average yearly high)22.75°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★★
Number of British expats12,000
Things to do★★
best places to retire barbados

4. Barbados

Welcome to the retirement of your dreams – if your dreams involve sitting on a beach in 30°C heat, with delicious drinks and food that you can afford, because you saved money on your home by moving to Barbados. This is the place for you, since the Caribbean island has some of the best beaches to retire on in the world.

And that’s not all Barbados has to offer. You can go snorkelling, go on a safari, and play cricket with the locals – or even other expats, since 27,000 of them live in the country.

One of the only drawbacks to life in this island paradise is that the crime rate is high, meaning that some parts of the country are best avoided. Also, public healthcare is available, but serious conditions will require your evacuation to the US for treatment, so make sure you have insurance which covers that possibility.

Applying to live in Barbados will cost £400, but should be simple enough if you have a decent pension. Then, after five years, you can apply for permanent residence.

1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£554.82
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£1,493.02
Price of loaf of bread£1.66
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£1.59
Weather (average yearly high)30.20°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★½
Number of British expats27,000
Things to do★★★
best places to retire sunshine coast

5. Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

If you really want to get away from it all and start a new life on the very edge of the globe, then the eastern edge of Australia is the place for you. After all, 33% of all British expats in 2017 lived in Australia or New Zealand, according to the ONS – and that many people can’t be wrong.

The Sunshine Coast lives up to its name, with its warm weather complemented by some of the best beaches to retire on in the world. It’s a great place for active adults, and especially for golfers. There really is no better way to appreciate the scenery here than to play a round (or fifty).

The crime rate is low, property and groceries are affordable, and there are British expats wherever you go – plus Australia is a good place to transfer a pension to, with no tax on income or death. 

Treatment at public hospitals is also free, and Australia is among the countries with the best healthcare – though you’ll still have to pay for treatment at most doctors’ surgeries, as well as prescriptions, ambulance travel, and dental treatment.

If you’re convinced, you can apply for a four-year temporary visa – you just need to be in good health and have no previous criminal convictions. This visa can be renewed on a rolling two-year basis, or, after the first four years pass, you can apply for Australian citizenship.

Sunshine Coast, AustraliaCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£735.89
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£1,951.23
Price of loaf of bread£1.39
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£4.46
Weather (average yearly high)24.00°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★★
Number of British expats160,000
Things to do★★★½

6. Tamarindo, Costa Rica

If being surrounded by British expats or English speakers doesn’t matter to you, then this small region on Costa Rica’s west coast should be your first port of call. Prices are low, the weather is hot, and it’s one of the easiest non-European Union countries to retire to.

And really, where better to retire than a country which has the unofficial slogan “Pura Vida” –  translating to “pure life”, and encapsulating the national culture of happiness and relaxation.

This is also a fantastic option for active adults, with countless exciting activities. Experience a zipline canopy tour, a scenic horseback ride, a river tubing excursion, and a volcanic mud bath – and then the next day, you can choose between sailing, scuba diving, surfing, and an ATV tour of this central American landscape.

Once you’re done with all of these more energetic pursuits, embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle on some of the best beaches to retire to in the world. After all, there’s a reason why Costa Rica was rated the seventh most popular place to retire on Expat Insider’s list. And don’t worry about getting around – you can walk the length of Tamarindo in half an hour, so public transport is close to unnecessary. If you desperately require wheels, taxis are easy to get.

You can access public healthcare once you’re a resident, which is a pretty simple process. As long as you have a monthly pension of at least £800, you should be eligible for a pensionado visa. These cost £200, and must be renewed after two years for another £80. After three years, you can apply to live in Costa Rica permanently.

Do make sure you’re ready to deal with the fact that only around 11% of Costa Ricans speak English. You should also read up on how to stay safe, as Tamarindo has a higher crime rate than you might be used to.

Tamarindo, Costa RicaCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£427.97
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£2,269.37
Price of loaf of bread£1.03
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£1.65
Weather (average yearly high)31.00°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★
Number of British expats4,800 (in Costa Rica)
Things to do★★★½
best places to retire athens

7. Athens, Greece

If you’re looking for the cheapest places to retire abroad, look no further than Greece. The country’s capital is great for saving money – the best on this list, in fact – and comes with the added bonus that your public healthcare will be paid for by the British government, as long as you have a UK pension.

There’s also a huge variety of food available, plenty of sunny days to enjoy on the beach, and a very good public transport system in the capital – as well as plenty to see and do. You can visit ruins from when Athens was the heart of the Greek Empire, and enjoy stars like Florence and the Machine at the Acropolis.

Applying for residence is also pretty simple. As with most other countries, you’ll need to prove you have a pension or sufficient funds, and that you have somewhere to live in Greece. 

When it comes to the best places to retire on a budget, Athens is your number one choice. If that sounds good to you, just fill in this form, and you can get quotes on moving in next to no time.

Athens, GreeceCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£323.63
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£1,408.67
Price of loaf of bread£0.73
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£3.59
Weather (average yearly high)22.60°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★★
Number of British expats18,000 in Greece
Things to do★★★½
best places to retire tampere

8. Tampere, Finland

Maybe sun, sand, and beaches don’t matter to you. Maybe you love them on holiday, but would feel oppressed by year-round heat. We understand. Thankfully, it’s completely possible to enjoy life away from hot weather – as proven by the fact that Finland came top of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report in both 2018 and 2019.

That report was also the first to measure the happiness levels of immigrants – a category which Finland won. The country also came second in French investment bank Natixis’s 2018 Global Retirement Index, which measures wealth, health, and quality of life to judge where the best places are to retire.

What makes this socially progressive wonderland so fantastic? Well, studies have found it’s the safest, most stable, and best governed nation in the world, with the least organised crime, most independent judicial system, and soundest banks. How can you not love a country like that? Plus a huge majority of Finns speak English, so no worries there.

Okay, so why Tampere? We’re so glad you asked. Finland’s second-biggest city is relatively cheap when compared to the rest of Scandinavia, without losing any of the region’s charms. The self-described “Sauna Capital of the world” is also home to the earth’s one and only Moomin Museum, dedicated to the children’s cartoon, and complete with a bronze Moomintroll statue.

The city has huge lakes with a variety of water sports, while on land, you can take part in activities ranging from archery tag, minigolf, and abseiling to snowmobile safaris and husky-drawn sled tours.

As you might expect, it’s a cold location – but that doesn’t stop the locals from flooding to the city’s beaches when the sun’s out. The public transport is also good, though if you live in the city centre, you’ll barely need to use it – especially as there are such good cycling facilities.

Your public healthcare will be paid for by the UK government – as long as you have a UK pension – and the paperwork is pretty simple. Just apply for residency in the first three months, and then after four years, you can apply for permanent residence.

Tampere, FinlandCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£612.17
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£3,535.86
Price of loaf of bread£1.66
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£5.38
Weather (average yearly high)8.33°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★★
Number of British expats2,800 in Finland
Things to do★★
best places to retire blenheim

9. Blenheim, New Zealand

Located on New Zealand’s South Island, Blenheim is a premium relaxation destination for the retiree with a taste for fermented grapes.

The picturesque town of 32,000 is in the heart of wine country, while still being just a short drive away from the beach – plus, it comes with the highly-rated Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. This tourist attraction includes Knights of the Sky, which shows off Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s collection of First World War aircraft and artefacts.

It’s an ideal place for active adults too, with endless possibilities for trips to explore the rugged, stunning New Zealand landscape.

New Zealand is also one of the best places to retire financially (there’s a reason 215,000 Brits live there), as you’re able to transfer your pension across, and there’s no tax on retirement benefits or death. You’ll need to undergo medical tests before you can join the public healthcare system, but once you pass, you’ll be entitled to free or subsidised healthcare.

The main issue with becoming a Kiwi is the visa process, which is arduous. If you’re 66 or older, you can stay in New Zealand for two years (at which point you can apply for permanent residence), but you’ll need a fair amount in your bank account. As long as you have £400,000 to invest, £265,000 to live on, and an annual income of £32,000 – making a total of £729,000 in total over two years – then you’ll be fine, but that’s a steep price to pay.

Blenheim, New ZealandCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£425.90
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£1,890.31
Price of loaf of bread£1.12
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£4.24
Weather (average yearly high)13.5°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★
Number of British expats215,000 in New Zealand
Things to do★★½
best places to retire zurich

10. Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich is expensive; there’s no getting around that fact. Property and groceries will set you back more than they will almost anywhere else, with the Economist Intelligence Unit ranking it the fourth most costly city in the world in 2019. But if you can afford the Swiss capital, it’s absolutely one of the best places for the wealthy to retire.

The crime rate is extremely low, while the healthcare system is top quality – and paid for by the British government, as long as you have a UK pension. The city is also home to many of the best luxury retirement communities around.

The public transport system in Zurich is also world class, which will help you to get to exciting activities like skiing in the Alps, chocolate tours, excellent museums, and the 90-year-old Zurich Zoo, which has more than 370 species of animals.

Switzerland is also the best country for retirement security in the world, according to Natixis, and came sixth in the UN’s 2019 World Happiness Report. You can move there with little trouble, too: just register with your local canton office within 14 days of arriving, then apply for a non-working residency permit. After five years, you can get a settlement permit, which you’ll then need to renew every five years.

Zurich, SwitzerlandCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£1,421.63
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£10,469.18
Price of loaf of bread£2.40
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£5.63
Weather (average yearly high)11.33°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★★
Number of British expats45,000 in Switzerland
Things to do★★★
best places to retire stockholm

11. Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden is just behind Switzerland in the UN’s Happiness Report 2019, and Stockholm – much like Zurich – is an expensive city with a cool climate that’s easy for Brits to move to. Again, a UK pension will enable you to access public healthcare paid for by the British government – all you need to do once you’re there is notify the Swedish Tax Agency that you’re staying, and apply for permanent residence after five years.

Once you’re settled, there’s plenty to do in the Swedish capital. After all, it’s home to the ABBA Museum, the Gothic cathedral of Storkyrkan, the Royal Palace, 11 beautiful parks, plenty of music concerts, and three top-tier football clubs – including 2018 Allsvenskan champions AIK.

Stockholm, SwedenCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£1,002.91
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£7,890.05
Price of loaf of bread£1.92
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£5.07
Weather (average yearly high)11.41°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★★
Number of British expats5,278
Things to do★★★½
best places to retire oslo

12. Oslo, Norway

Finishing off this trio of the best places for the wealthy to retire is Oslo, another cold capital where moving is easy and your top-rated healthcare is covered by the British government.

So what makes Oslo different? How about its Viking Ship Museum, National Opera & Ballet venue, and Ski Museum, and the ability to go island hopping? Plus, if you actually want to go skiing, the Oslo Winter Park has 14 slopes and is just 30 minutes from the city centre.

If you’re worried about missing out on international cuisine, never fear. Oslo is home to a plethora of excellent Indian, Thai and Italian restaurants – and, of course, has plenty of fresh seafood. As of 2019, it’s also in the third happiest country in the world, and the third best country for retirement security.

Oslo, NorwayCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£1,105.26
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£7,358.22
Price of loaf of bread£2.65
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£7.86
Weather (average yearly high)10.83°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★★
Number of British expats16,000 in Norway
Things to do★★★½
best places to retire reykjavik

13. Reykjavik, Iceland

If you want to get away from it all, but would rather open yourself up to new wonders than spend your latter decades relaxing on a beach somewhere, Iceland is the adventure of a lifetime. As well as having progressive social policies and a low crime rate, the fourth happiest country in the world in 2019 also contains an astonishing number of things to do.

You can pay a visit to various stunning volcanoes, geysers, glaciers, waterfalls, lava fields and caves – and that’s not even mentioning the incredible Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, or the ability to go hunting for the Northern Lights.

There’s also imposing architecture to admire, like the Hallgrimskirkja church, as well as a host of unusual animals. You can go see whales, reindeer, arctic foxes, puffins, and sometimes even polar bears, when they come over from Greenland for a holiday.

Once again, the country’s public healthcare is available to you and paid for by the British government, as long as you have a UK pension. You can apply (for free) to stay in Iceland within your first three months there. 

After four years, you can apply for permanent residence – but you must have taken a 150-hour-long course in the Icelandic language, or an exam on the same subject.

Reykjavik, IcelandCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£1,270.40
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£3,698.03
Price of loaf of bread£2.49
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£7.59
Weather (average yearly high)7.58°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★★★
Number of British expats940 in Iceland
Things to do★★★★
best places to retire lancaster

14. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Where would you guess was the best place to retire in the US? Florida? California? Oregon? Well, as you’ve probably guessed from the heading, it’s actually the small city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

With huge farms situated alongside suburbs and a charming city centre, there’s something for everyone here – plus Lancaster’s homes are pretty affordable for the US, which always helps. The city also boasts a yearly one-day chicken barbeque, which has entered Guinness’s Book of World Records as the largest on earth.

28% of all British expats in 2017 lived in the US or Canada, according to the ONS, and if you’re one of the many coming to North America, Lancaster should be at the top of your list – even if there are a couple of drawbacks to moving to the US.

Lancaster is mostly accessible by foot, though it’s wise to get a car if you want to visit the state’s bigger cities like Harrisburg, Philadelphia, or Reading. 

Expats aren’t required to get health insurance, but you should. Medical bills in America can spiral into hundreds of thousands, as it’s the only extremely developed country in the world without universal health coverage. Thankfully, the healthcare in Lancaster is top-notch, but it’s still costly.

If you want to live in the US for six months out of every year, you can apply for a B-2 visa. For a more permanent stay without relatives who live in the US, you’ll need an EB-5 visa. This requires you to invest $1 million in an American, government-approved business, producing at least 10 job opportunities for US citizens in the first two years.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USCost/rating
1-bedroom flat (rent, centre)£599.80
1-bedroom flat (buy per m², centre)£1,711.35
Price of loaf of bread£1.97
Price of a domestic beer (0.5 ltr)£3.20
Weather (average yearly high)17.42°C
VISA availability – how easy is it to move there?★★
Number of British expats678,000 in the US
Things to do★★

So, there you have it: the 14 places you should consider first if you want to retire somewhere new and exciting. To make things simple, here’s a quick recap.

Best places in the world to retire

  1. Madrid, Spain
  2. The Algarve, Portugal
  3. Valletta, Malta
  4. Barbados
  5. Sunshine Coast, Australia
  6. Tamarindo, Costa Rica
  7. Athens, Greece
  8. Tampere, Finland
  9. Blenheim, New Zealand
  10. Zurich, Switzerland
  11. Stockholm, Sweden
  12. Oslo, Norway
  13. Reykjavik, Iceland
  14. Lancaster, US

And if you’re most concerned about expenses after you retire – and hey, we get it – here’s a run-down of all the best destinations for the cost-conscious among you.

Cheapest places to retire abroad

  1. Athens, Greece
  2. Barbados
  3. Blenheim, New Zealand
  4. The Algarve, Portugal
  5. Tamarindo, Costa Rica
  6. Lancaster, US
  7. Valletta, Malta

Summary of the best places in the world to retire

By now, you should be set to move to one of the best places in the world to retire. Whether you’re after the excitement of Madrid, or the otherworldly adventures available in Reykjavik, there’s every reason to leap into a new life in an unfamiliar destination. Your happiness – and, in many cases, your bank balance – will benefit from the move. And the little ones will love visiting grandma and/or grandpa in their incredible new home. If you’re interested, just fill in this form, and our professional suppliers will get back to you with their best shipping prices.