Best Places to Retire

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Live and Invest Overseas is out with its 2016 Best Places to Retire Overseas Annual Index and what follows are thumbnail descriptions about each of its Top 10 places. Four are in Europe, three are in North America and the Caribbean, two are in Central America and one is in Asia.
Algarve, Portugal

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No. 1: Algarve, Portugal

Described as “an inexpensive Old World destination” (monthly budget: $1,476) with “more sunny days than almost anywhere else in Europe” and “some of the best golf courses in Europe,” this area on the southwest tip of Portugal is No. 1 on the Live and Invest Overseas annual list for the third year in a row. It’s an all-around winner, snagging A+ grades for health, cost of living, recreation, crime and taxes and A’s and B’s in all the other categories. Nearly everyone speaks English, too. But the nearest big airport is 2½ hours away, in Lisbon.

Valletta, Malta

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No. 2: Valletta, Malta

The safe, tiny capital of the small Maltese archipelago south of Sicily, Valletta offers weather, food, history and culture that are “quintessential Mediterranean Europe,” according to Live and Invest Overseas. And the rankings staff gives Valletta an A+ for health (though they describe the air quality as poor).

Since the country’s second official language is English, the friendly locals speak it fluently. As for weather, think southern Spain. Malta’s Global Residence Program for non-EU citizens lets you obtain residency by renting or buying real estate. One plus: you won’t need a car. One minus: the nearest major connecting airport is a two- or three-hour flight.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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No. 3: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Live and Invest Overseas calls Puerto Vallarta — known locally as PV — “a developed, luxury-level Pacific Ocean resort town with history and charm.” More than 40,000 expats live here; mostly North Americans. As a result, Puerto Vallarta scores an A+ for its expat community. It gets A’s and B’s in all the other categories. The sport fishing haven is convenient, too: there’s an airport nearby with direct flights back to the states.

Cayo, Belize

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No. 4: Cayo, Belize

Cayo is a “leave-the-world-behind, embrace-the-simple-life, off-grid paradise," says Live and Invest Overseas. Belize makes obtaining permanent residency extremely easy and gets an A+ for taxes; it’s also the only country in the 2016 Retire Overseas Index where English is the single official language. Although Cayo is “an outdoorsman’s paradise,” it has two serious drawbacks. The ranking’s editors call it a “culture vulture’s bad inferno” and say that health care isn’t up to international standards here, or anywhere in Belize.
Ljubljana, Slovenia

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No. 5: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Along with another first-time winning destination (Crete, Greece), Ljubljana is described by Live and Invest Overseas as a “bargain choice in the Old World” and “one of Europe’s unknown gems.” A couple could live in the safe Central European capital of mountainous Slovenia — between Italy and Croatia — on under $1,500 a month.

Beaches are an hour away and ski resorts are easily accessible (yes, it snows in Ljubljana). But, with a 22 percent sales tax, the country only scores a C for taxes in this ranking. What you won’t find in Ljubljana: many U.S. expats or any direct flights to America.

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

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No. 6: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

“A breakout destination” featured for the first time among Live and Invest Overseas’ top picks, this laid-back, inexpensive (monthly living cost: about $1,155) and highly walkable beach destination is described as “an incredibly welcoming place.”

And, Live and Invest Overseas says, Malaysia — a former British colony — “actively encourages foreign residents to relocate here” with an “incentive-packed residency visa called Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H).” There’s never snow, but you could run into a monsoon. But getting there or back is not much fun: there are no direct flights to the United States.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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No. 7: Playa del Carmen, Mexico

A longtime favorite of Live and Invest Overseas, safe, affordable, little Playa del Carmen — an hour south of Cancun — offers what the ranking creators call “one of the best choices available today for the Caribbean beach life.” In fact, correspondent Kat Kalashian says the area “feels just like a typical American boardwalk beach town.”

It’s home to more than 10,000 foreigners — about 7 percent of the population — helping to explain why the area gets rated A+ for its expat community. Roughly 65 percent of real estate buyers now are Americans, due to the strong dollar and Playa del Carmen scores an A+ for its low cost of living (estimated at $1,161 a month). Nearly everyone here speaks English, too.

Crete, Greece

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No. 8: Crete, Greece

The largest Greek island (slightly bigger than Maine) with more than 1,000 miles of coastline and three international airports, Crete has “vibrant, picturesque little towns, stunning beaches, mountains and countryside,” according to Live and Invest Overseas. It also scores an A+ for cost of living; a couple can live on under $1,200 a month.

Crete has been a popular retirement spot for British expats for decades. Although health care gets high marks, you won’t find any nurses in hospitals on Crete; families are expected to care for all patients’ needs, say the ranking’s editors. And, the editors say, if you want modern culture, you’ll need to head to the mainland.

Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

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No. 9: Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Live and Invest Overseas publisher Kathleen Peddicord calls Las Terrenas “one of the most interesting expat communities I’ve encountered anywhere in the world. Her data crunchers give this quiet, relatively isolated beach town an A for taxes and an A- for cost living, noting that health care is “extremely affordable,” though “the standard [of quality] can be poor.” Worth noting: American expats are few and far between and the major international airport is about two hours away.

Ambergris Caye, Belize

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No. 10: Ambergris Caye, Belize

Live and Invest Overseas calls the sailing paradise of Ambergris Caye “a bustling tourist destination with world-class restaurants, wine bars, great night life, tons of live music and a broad variety of activities and pastimes.” And Belize has many lures for foreign retirees, including low taxes, an easy system to obtain permanent residency and English as the single official language.

Ambergris Caye gets an A+ for its expat community; roughly 10 percent of the permanent population is expat. There’s no hospital here, however, and Live and Invest Overseas says health care anywhere in Belize “isn’t up to international standards.” One other consideration: you’ll need to travel a couple of hours to the airport.

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