After visiting 70 countries and hundreds of cities all around the world, it’s about time to list and describe our top 10 locations to live or retire abroad. (Go to this link if you would like to watch a video with the same information: 10 Great Places To Live Abroad)
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
San Miguel de Allende sits right in the center of Mexico and is one of the country’s most famous colonial towns. It’s located at a higher elevation, giving it pleasant climate all year long. It has a very developed and established expat community (mostly Americans and Canadians, but there are people from other parts of the world too). And the food here is just amazing. We of course love the Mexican food the most, but there’s also a wide variety of international food to choose from. One negative to San Miguel is that it’s got a higher cost of living. But that’s because it’s so popular, and these great features about the town might make it worth a few extra pesos.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and is surrounded by the country’s northern mountains. This is the place to come if you want to live somewhere it’s easy to meet fellow expats. The expats organize a breakfast where they will match up the newcomers with the long time residents so that it’s easy to get connected. There are so many activities in Chiang Mai, including volunteering with elephants and the amazing Yi Peng lantern festival. Chiang Mai is also a great place for excellent health care. One down side to Chiang Mai is the air quality during the season the farmers burn the fields. But many expats get around this simply by packing a suitcase and heading off on an extended vacation that time of year.
Uruguay is a fabulous little country located between Argentina and Brazil. We spent six weeks in the capital city of Montevideo our favorite thing about it was the malecon, which is the walking path that goes along the coastline for almost the entire length of the city. The weather is terrific all year, never too hot or too cold. Uruguay is probably the most economically stable country in the area. But that economic stability does come at a price with a higher cost of living than its neighbors. But it might be worth the extra cost to get that bump up in the quality of life.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap is located in the center of Cambodia near the famous Angkor Wat temple and archeological park. One of the great things about living here is the low cost of living. And it’s very inexpensive even by Southeast Asia standards. One of the things that we personally liked best about Siem Reap was the volunteering opportunities through several different organizations. And Cambodia has one of the easiest immigration procedures, through either extending an ordinary visa for up to 12 months or you can check out their new second home program. On the downside, Cambodia is less developed than other countries in the area, although it seems to be modernizing quickly and I don’t think it will be too long until the country catches up.
Fethiye, Turkey (Türkiye)
Fethiye is located in one of the country’s most beautiful coastal areas. The beaches in Fethiye are fantastic, especially the blue lagoon, which is just a little bit south of Fethiye. This town has a very established English speaking expat community, making the transition to living abroad quite a bit easier than some of the other places in this video. The value of the Turkish lira has weekened recently, making Fethiye possibly the least expensive location of the places in this list. But there is a trade off. There is enormous inflation here. But as long as the exchange rate keeps up with the inflation rate, Fethiye should continue to be a bargain for foreign expats.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
There are many good reasons why Buenos Aires is known as the Paris of South America, including its European style architecture, wide boulevards, and monuments throughout the city. The city shines in its art culture, including various forms of tango performances in small theaters around the city, up to the concerts in the enormous Colon theater. The city’s transportation system makes getting around the city a breeze, and of all the places mentioned in this video, Argentina might very well have the easiest immigration requirements, with just a few hundred dollars of monthly income required for residency. The language barrier can be a little frustrating, as English is not widely spoken, but learning just a few words and phrases in Spanish can go a long way here.
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Cameron Highlands is a resort town right in the center of Peninsular Malaysia and is a popular weekend getaway for residents of the nearby big cities. We spent three months stranded here when Malaysia first went into lockdown due to covid. It’s in Southeast Asia so it must be stinking hot here, right? Wrong. The town is at an elevation that gives it pleasant temperatures all year long. The mountains and tea plantations surrounding Cameron Highlands provide a natural beauty that is not matched by many places in this world. The people we met here far surpassed our expectations for friendliness and hospitality. The roads in Cameron Highlands can struggle to keep up with the traffic demands on the weekends, but the weekdays are much quieter.
Merida is the largest city in Mexico’s Yucutan Peninsula. There are an abundance of activities here, including visits to some of Mexico’s most famous archeological sites, fabulous swimming opportunities in the cenotes or underground caves, and it’s got plenty of beautiful beaches that can be visited on day trips. Merida has a large community of expats so it will be easy to make friends. And the top reason we would consider living here is because of its great safety and security rating; it’s actually one of the safest cities in the Americas. There is one big downside to Merida, and that is the summer heat. It is atrocious, but the winter months are pleasant. We spent one month in Merida in November and the heat had subsided enough to make our time there enjoyable.
Never heard of Arequipa? It’s not as well known as other locations in Peru such as Machu Picchu or Lima. But Arequipa may very well be Peru’s most liveable city. The natural beauty in and around the city is stunning, with the magnificent volcanoes dominating the city’s skyline. And just a few hours away is the magnificent Colca Canyon (think the Grand Canyon in Arizona times two). The weather is sunny and mild all year, and the cost of living is hard to beat compared to the rest of South America. Peru is still a developing country, but it’s quite possible that it will catch up in the years to come.
We spent six months living in Penang, and what a fabulous six months it was. Penang has some of the most fabulous food in all of Southeast Asia, if not the world, with both local and international culinary offerings. Almost everyone speaks English here so it’s very easy to become friends with the amazing people who live here. And Penang has some of the world’s best health care, both in quality and in price. The main downside, and this applies to Cameron Highlands as well, is the country’s new strict immigration requirements. Unless you are insanely wealthy you probably won’t qualify to live here. However applying for through the Malaysian state of Sarawak makes residency more achievable. We would probably be living in Penang right now if the residency process was easier.
There are a few more places that I’ll mention only briefly because it’s been more than 10 years since I visited them.
Lisbon Portugal provides excellent health care, it’s one of the safest countries in the world, and it has top notch infrastructure. But Lisbon is more expensive than the other places we have talked about.
Cuenca provides fantastic mild climate and has a developed expat community. And like Cambodia it uses the US dollar as its currency so you don’t have to worry about exchange rate volatility. But Ecuador is still a developing country, power outages are common, although it’s improving.
Central Valley, Costa Rica
This is the place to come if you’re looking for an enormous list of outdoor activities, a very relaxed and low stress lifestyle, and it is one of the world’s most environmentally sustainable countries. The cost of living has creeped up over the years, but it’s not impossible to find bargains if you look hard enough.
Thanks for traveling with us!