Top 10 retirement destinations in the world

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Cape Town - South Africa did not make it onto the 2017 list of top 10 retirement destinations in the world as compiled by Live and Invest Overseas.

The Algarve in southern Portugal came out tops for the 4th year in a row. Valetta, the capital of Malta, took the 2nd spot the second year in a row.

Mazatlán in Mexico is in 3rd place, followed by Abruzzo (Italy), Saint-Chinian (France), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Lisbon (Portugal), Budapest (Hungary), San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) and George Town (Malaysia).

James Bowling, CEO of international residency and citizenship by investment facilitator Monarch&Co, explains that these destinations all "tick the right boxes".

The top ten aspects he believes should be on every retiree’s checklist:

  • Cost of living;
  • Crime and safety;
  • Economic and political stability;
  • State of infrastructure;
  • Language barriers;
  • Culture and religion;
  • Tax laws and the implications thereof;
  • Residency and citizenship requirements;
  • Real estate affordability and restrictions;
  • Recreation and entertainment.

Algarve (Portugal)

The Algarve, for instance, places no restrictions on foreign ownership and offers retirees a number of locations to acquire prime real estate situated further in or along its coastline.

Valetta (Malta)


Portugal has actively encouraged new arrivals by offering favourable tax breaks through the "non-habitual residence regime" (NHR). Qualifying for the NHR means one enjoys tax-free foreign income – like pensions – for the first 10 years of living in Portugal.

Mazatlán (Mexico)


“To be eligible for NHR, you cannot have been resident in Portugal within the last five years and need to meet the usual residency requirements, such as spending at least 182 days in Portugal or having your primary residence there,” explains Bowling.

Abruzzo (Italy)


He adds that this year the Global Peace Index rated Portugal the third safest country in the world, next to Iceland and New Zealand.

According to Bowling, Portugal and Malta both get the thumbs up for the overall state of healthcare facilities and infrastructure essentials such as internet speed and reliability, the cost and reliability of electricity, the quality of the roads and the availability of public transport.

Saint-Chinian (France)


“Another aspect that counts firmly in the Portuguese and Maltese citizens’ favour is their fluency in English, and that expat retirees regard them as helpful and friendly people who easily engage in casual conversation,” says Bowling.

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)


In Portugal, foreign nationals can obtain residency, which leads to citizenship without any permanent stay requirements, by investing in real estate through the country’s Golden Visa programme.

Lisbon (Portugal)


Malta offers foreign nationals a choice of programmes, including two residency programmes and a citizenship programme. While the investment and qualifying criteria differ, all the programmes require the acquisition of real estate in either Malta or Gozo.

Budapest (Hungary)

“Residents of Portugal and Malta enjoy visa-free travel within the Schengen zone, while citizens enjoy visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 198 and 194 countries or territories around the globe,” explains Bowling.

San Miguel de Allende (Mexico)

“When a person decides to retire abroad, the size of their retirement nest egg, personal preferences, general outlook on life and lifestyle requirements play a decisive role in the country they choose. What works for one person may not work for another,” he says.

George Town (Malaysia)

“For this reason, good due diligence and thorough research on the key aspects that matter most to you are of paramount importance as it will eventually outweigh your initial sense of adventure.”

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