6 surprisingly inexpensive places to retire abroad

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6 cheap places to retire abroad
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6 cheap places to retire abroad | anibaltrejo/Getty Images

6 cheap places to retire abroad

While most retirees gravitate to sunny destinations like Florida and Arizona, or states with low tax burdens like Wyoming and South Dakota, a new trend has developed. These days, many retired Americans are moving out of the country to enjoy their new life at a low cost. Foreign countries that are eager for an economy boost have taken notice.

With so many nations interested in attracting retirees from abroad, Americans are spoiled with several choices. Bankrate uncovers six great destinations where retirees can easily live on an income of $2,000 a month. In some cases, retirees are already living there for far less. Read on to discover the affordability of housing, food and medical care at these retirement destinations.

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Chiang Mai, Thailand | Prachanart/Getty Images

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thanks to its weather and low cost of living, Thailand has been on retirees' radars for years, and Chiang Mai is cheap, even by Thai standards.

"For under $2,000, I live like a king," says Barry, a Canadian who relocated to Chiang Mai in early 2009. Since then, he has rented a 1,200-square-foot condo for a little more than $400 per month. Groceries are no big concern, usually running him about $50 per month. Restaurants cost about twice that at $100 per month -- and he goes out to eat almost every day.

Barry says that Chiang Mai has just about everything he needs. "There are Western-style restaurants, entertainment venues and social events," he says. The city has several modern hospitals. "I had an emergency spinal fusion two years ago at a cost of 280,000 baht (about $9,300 at the time). In Canada, medical coverage is free, but the waiting time is long. Here, the service is almost instantaneous and very professional."

More routine medical issues are so inexpensive, Barry says, that he doesn't need insurance to cover them. "Going to a dentist for a checkup and cleaning is 500 baht," or about $17.

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Guam | EDWARD TIAN/Getty Images


Guam is an often-overlooked alternative for American retirees, despite its many benefits. Because it's a U.S. territory, English is spoken everywhere on the island, and its currency is the U.S. dollar. And, at least on the surface, much of the country's culture and politics will seem familiar to many Americans.

Situated 3,700 miles southwest of Honolulu, Guam is a lower-cost alternative to Hawaii -- while sharing the same climate. For an average studio apartment in Guam, you might pay $684 in rent versus $1,404 for a studio apartment in Honolulu, according to, a site that lets you compare the cost of living between cities around the world. American citizens can buy property on the island; three-bedroom houses often sell for between $75,000 and $600,000.

Since the territory is a small, remote island, most items have to be imported, which means groceries can be more expensive than on the U.S. mainland. Meats, most vegetables and some dairy products can cost twice as much. Restaurants, however, are usually comparable in cost to their American counterparts.

Besides enjoying the weather, retirees in Guam can use both American and Guam-based insurers -- including Medicare -- to cover their health care costs. All major medical services are available at Guam Memorial Hospital, which is certified and accredited by several federal agencies in the U.S.

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Valencia, Spain | Maylat/

Valencia, Spain

The subprime mortgage crisis caused property values to plummet everywhere, including Spain, making the Mediterranean nation suddenly affordable for a number of retirees. According to Expatistan's cost of living calculator, you can get a furnished studio apartment -- in an expensive part of town -- for $480, and $330 for the same sized studio in a normal part of town.

Groceries sold in traditional open-air markets cost the same or less than supermarket prices back in the States, while low property taxes keep the cost of living affordable for expats in Spain. The country offers free public health coverage and prescription medication is often a fraction of what it would be in America.

Valencia is a great option for retirees who want to spend their golden years traveling. Its airport offers direct flights to France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Morocco and Norway. Round-trip flights to the rest of Europe often cost less than 150 euros (or $195).

Buenos Aires, Argentina | Daniel Korzeniewski/

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Although Buenos Aires is pricier than most parts of South America, it is still a bargain compared to most American cities. According to, a site that collects user-contributed data about cities and countries worldwide, for less than $500 per month, you can rent a one-bedroom apartment. Internet, cable and electricity combined costs less than $150 per month. The city's comprehensive subway system and buses make transportation cheap: For a monthly pass, it costs less than $16.

Health care in Argentina is a bargain, thanks to the country's public health care system and surplus of doctors. The quality and affordability of Argentina's medical services has led to a booming medical tourism industry.

For most expats, the costliest part of Buenos Aires is dining in the city's European-style cafes, restaurants and night spots. For two movie tickets, it costs less than $15, and you’ll spend about $8 on a cocktail downtown. Grabbing dinner for two in a neighborhood pub costs around $30, or if you want to go a little fancier, you might spend $60 at an Italian restaurant.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala | Philip Mowbray/

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Lake Atitlan is about 75 miles away from Guatemala City and is surrounded by volcanoes and villages where Mayan traditions still thrive. The area has perennial spring-like temperatures ranging from the 60s to 80s Fahrenheit. Several waterfront houses are available for rent on the lake; a studio apartment with a lake view costs around $300 per month to rent.

Other expenses remain extremely low in this retiree-friendly part of Guatemala. For an inexpensive meal, Numbeo estimates that it costs as little as $5 at a restaurant, or two people might enjoy a three-course meal for $22. The cheapest foods are also the healthiest; fresh fruits and vegetables cost about a third less in local markets than they do in the United States.

For those who require assisted living, a full-time personal nurse can be hired for $15 to $20 per day, says Andy Lee Graham, founder of "A maid is about $4 (to) $10 per day."

Graham recommends using taxis or tuk-tuks in Guatemala, which he notes are very cheap. Tuk-tuks are three-wheeled motorized versions of rickshaws. "Tuk-tuks will go between cities for about $3 (to) $5 per city. Inside metropolitan areas, they cost 75 cents for one trip." He warns that, "Driving a car is dangerous, but taxis are safe."

According to, an independent travel guide, you can spend as little as $700 on rent, groceries, dining out and transportation per month.

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