The World’s Best Retirement Havens In 2016

31589137_sRetiring abroad is easier and more affordable than ever before. These days it really is possible to spend your days relaxing beneath palm fronds on a Caribbean beach, enjoying farm-fresh produce in a mountain haven with year-round spring weather, or wandering the storied streets of a historic and cultured European city … or all of the above.

But with so many choices available, finding the right one can seem daunting.

Enter International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index.

Researched over months with the help of our ever-growing team of correspondents, editors, and contributors all over the world, this Retirement Index is the ultimate resource for helping you find your ideal retirement haven.

Below we reveal the top retirement havens in 2016 and take a look at some of the big hitters in each category. You can read the full article here, which includes the scores for the top 23 retirement havens in the world in the Index.

Panama Earns the No.1 Spot in This Year’s Index.

“We’re healthier and living a better lifestyle here than we ever did in the U.S.,” says expat Mitzi Martain, who has lived on her farm near Santa Fe, Panama for nearly nine years now. “And our Social Security income covers all our monthly expenses.”

Mitzi and her husband Bill are two of the approximately 50,000 U.S. expats who have found their piece of paradise in this year’s winner — Panama.

“We are so blessed to live where we do,” say Connie and Mikkel Moller, who have called Pedasí, Panama, home since 2012. “Our stress level is 10 percent of what it used to be.”

Panama has long been a favorite of retirees. You’ll find them along both Caribbean and Pacific coasts, on white-sand islands, living contentedly nestled in mountain valleys, and along the glittering promenade of Panama City. Panama has hands down the best package of retirement benefits in the world. Pick your climate — tropical or temperate. And it’s close to home, just a three-hour flight from Miami.

“It is definitely cheaper than the U.S.,” says Maureen LoBue, who enjoys a beach life in San Carlos. “Water is included in my rent, so I just pay electricity, which last month was $16. My satellite internet service is just $15 a month. And when I buy produce at the local market down the street, I can fill a bag with fresh veggies for less than $5.”

“In Panama’s capital I have the best of both worlds,” says International Living’s Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch. “There’s a growing cultural and arts scene. I collect flyers of all the fabulous activities there are to do here. Opera showcases, art exhibit openings, and handicraft festivals…there are so many new restaurants every week, I stopped trying to keep track.”

And the healthcare? Panama’s cities are home to world-class hospitals and many medical professionals trained in the U.S. A Pensionado visa can further lower your costs by providing discounts off the already low fees for care.

The 2016 Annual Global Retirement Index — Results by Category

This year, we scored each country across 10 categories used to compile our most comprehensive Index yet. Here’s a breakdown of the big hitters in each category. (We also take a look at some of the criteria used to score each section of the Index.)

1. Buying & Renting
In this category, we look for the best bang-for-your-buck real estate to rent or buy abroad. How easy is it to find a rental? And how affordable is it to buy if you want to settle down?

Ecuador tops this category in the Index. In the colonial city of Cuenca, you can rent a two-bedroom apartment for $500 or less, while the same property in the popular mountain town of Cotacachi will set you back $450 to $600 a month (although you can find rentals for much less if you shop around).

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