The Safest Places to Retire Overseas in 2024

Travel tops the bucket list for many retirees, and some take that a step further by permanently moving to another country.

With nearly 200 countries recognized by the United Nations, retirees have no shortage of options. While affordable living is a priority for many people, don’t overlook the importance of safety. Safety extends far beyond a nation’s crime rate and incorporates political stability, potential for natural disasters and access to health care.

“That’s when you feel most vulnerable — when you’re in a hospital gown,” says Andrew Jernigan, CEO of Insured Nomads, which offers travel medical insurance for periods of seven to 364 days. Poor health care can make some popular countries less than ideal for retirees, he notes.

When taking a holistic look at what constitutes a safe country, experts suggest that Americans who want to retire abroad consider these nations and territories, listed in alphabetical order.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica tops many lists as the best place to retire overseas, and for good reason. The country is known for its natural beauty, stable government, affordable cost of living and quality health care.

“Retirees can use the excellent public health care system and participate in national discount programs,” said Jen Barnett, co-founder of Expatsi, a website that matches people to countries that fit their preferences, in an email. But not everything is perfect in Costa Rica. “Drug violence has increased over the past two years, but most of that crime doesn’t affect civilians,” she added.

The Central American country offers temporary residency to retirees who have a pension income of at least $1,000 a month and meet other requirements, such as passing a background check. Residency approval is good for two years but can be renewed.

[See: The Cheapest Places to Retire Abroad on $1K Per Month]


This popular European country is a top choice of Jean-François Harvey, founder of Harvey Law Group, a global immigration law firm that specializes in helping clients obtain residency or citizenship by investment. “France is notable for its relative stability and great health care and pleasant weather — especially in the south,” he says. “And once out of Paris, cost of living is quite low.”

Though France is a safe country, those who choose to live in Paris should be aware of the possibility of petty crime as they would in any large city. “We had our first crime last August in Paris on the metro from the airport to the train station,” said Norm Bour, a retiree who shares his experiences on his website TravelYounger, in an email. A team of thieves distracted Bour while someone pulled a money clip from his cargo shorts. “They used a ploy of dropping a Bluetooth earpiece on the floor and pinched me,” he noted.

Retirees may be eligible for a long-stay visa that will allow them to remain in the country for up to one year at a time. To receive this visa, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have the financial means to support yourself.


For some retirees, living in a country that offers access to good health care is crucial to feeling safe.

“Health care (is) extraordinarily good in many countries — even some you might not expect,” according to Bour. Malaysia is one of those countries. “We got full body scans in Malaysia, along with blood work, cancer markers and a 90-minute review with a doctor.” All that set Bour and his wife back $500.

While original Medicare will not pay for medical expenses overseas, the costs in some countries are so low that retirees may be able to easily pay out of pocket, Harvey says. For added protection, Medicare supplement plans or global health insurance policies may also be options to cover the cost of care.

The Malaysia My Second Home program is designed to make it easy for retirees and other foreign nationals to remain in the country for an extended period. However, you’ll need to meet certain income and investment requirements, which vary depending on your age.

[How to Retire in Africa for $1,200 a Month]


If you’d like to get off the beaten path, Barnett suggests Mauritius as a safe destination for U.S. retirees. The island country in the Indian Ocean has a democratic government and enjoys temperatures in the 70s year-round. “About half of people in Mauritius speak English and public health care is free for all,” according to Barnett.

More than 1,000 miles away from Madagascar, this is an isolated country that might leave some retirees ill at ease. Climate change has also affected the small island.

However, for those ready to make the leap, Mauritius offers a 10-year residency option for people age 50 and older who have a guaranteed monthly income of at least $1,500 and $18,000 in funds available annually from their country of origin.

New Zealand

New Zealand is another option for those who aren’t put off by the thought of being very far from their home country. “It’s quite a long flight to come back,” says Harvey. Direct flights to the U.S. from Auckland are commonly between 13 to 17 hours, depending on your destination.

Still, New Zealand can be an appealing retirement spot, and Harvey says there has been an uptick in interest in the country ever since tech billionaire Peter Thiel made headlines by becoming a citizen. “It’s a quiet place with good health care,” Harvey notes, adding that once you get outside the city, New Zealand becomes more affordable.

Those who are 66 or older and have at least NZD $750,000 to invest — about $450,000 at current exchange rates — can apply for a two-year temporary retirement visitor visa. The visa also requires that retirees have an additional NZD $500,000 to live on and an annual income of NZD $60,000 or more.


Located in Central America, Panama is closer to the U.S. and a popular choice for expats. “Panama City is a generally safe place,” according to Harvey, but it falters when it comes to health care. “I would not say the health care is as similar as European countries,” he says. The city street system can seem chaotic and confusing, he adds.

Despite these drawbacks, Panama offers safe and comfortable retirement options in both its cities and coastal areas. Many Americans choose to settle in Boquete where there is a large expat community. A monthly pension income of only $1,000 is the only financial requirement for those seeking a Panama retirement visa.

[Read: Where Retirees Can Buy a Home Overseas for Under $100K]


While Portugal has been a popular retirement destination in recent years, don’t overlook its neighbor. Spain has a pleasant climate, quality health care and a robust public transportation system.

“Spain is a full democracy that’s very safe,” Barnett said. “Expats love living on the southern coast from Málaga to Barcelona, and homes can be had at any price point.”

The country can be especially appealing to Spanish-speaking retirees, and Americans from Puerto Rico can become citizens after living in Spain for two years thanks to its citizenship by descent option. Retirees from all other states and territories can apply for a nonworking residence visa so long as they can provide proof of financial means.


Harvey has worked with clients who retire overseas knowing they will need additional medical care or in-home assistance. “Thailand often comes into play in those types of situations,” he says.

In addition to inexpensive health care, this Southeast Asian country has a low cost of living, tropical environment and a population known for being respectful. While English speakers can be found in tourist areas, retirees may encounter a language barrier elsewhere in the country.

Thailand retirement visas are extended for periods of one year to those age 50 and older. To qualify, you’ll need a monthly pension or income of at least 65,000 Baht (approximately $1,750) or a Thai bank account balance of at least 800,000 Baht (approximately $22,000). The visa is renewable.

U.S. Virgin Islands

Retirees who move to the U.S. Virgin Islands won’t be expats, but life in the Caribbean may make them feel like they are in a whole new world. With sandy beaches, a warm climate and numerous outdoor activities, this U.S. territory is both safe and easy to access. Just don’t make the mistake of confusing the U.S. Virgin Islands for the nearby British Virgin Islands, which are a foreign territory.

American citizens don’t need a visa or even a passport to move to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Their original Medicare coverage will also pay for medical costs on the islands, which is one reason why Jernigan recommends it.

More from U.S. News

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The Safest Places to Retire Overseas in 2024 originally appeared on

Update 05/23/24: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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