Brazil may be the spiritual home of carnival, but neighboring Argentina proves that it’s got what it takes when the Gualeguaychú Festival comes to the town of Gualeguaychú. Kicking off on January 10, the festivities draw thousands of enthusiasts to savor the festive atmosphere and enjoy the ornate costumes, flawless choreography, and magnificent floats. Costa Ricans also get into a party mood each January as the Fiesta Palmares descends on Palmares de Alajuela, just north of the capital, San José. More than 500,000 people are drawn to the festival, which focuses on Tico-style bull fighting (the bull isn’t killed) and a horse parade in which cowboys abound. That’s not counting music, dance, and copious beer consumption. All told, it’s a great two weeks, kicking off on January 9.
It’s that time of year again, when International Living calls on its extensive and ever-growing network of correspondents the world over to help us assemble our Annual Global Retirement Index. This is the most comprehensive list of retirement havens around the world. These are places where the weather’s good, the costs are low, and the life you’ll have is comfortable and full of adventure. Each year we require more and more information from our editors and contributors in order to put together these rankings. We draw on data from across the world, we plunder the stats of international organizations, and we bring it all together to crunch and mull over in-house.
"Chinese stocks have the potential to deliver triple-digit returns within 24 months,” I explained in a recent CNBC interview. That was a bold thing to say on camera… but I believe it’s absolutely possible… In fact, twice in the last decade, Chinese stocks have soared by triple digits within two years. When China goes up, it can soar… In China’s 2006-2007 bull market, Chinese stocks soared by 500%. It soared by more than 100% in its 2009 bull market as well. Importantly, Chinese stocks today are just as cheap as they were when they started their last two triple-digit runs in 2006 and 2009. They are hated, too… Investors have been avoiding them for the last year. Meanwhile, Chinese stocks are now in a definite uptrend. This is the ideal setup for big gains… So how can you trade it?
If you dream of a place where you can live a cosmopolitan lifestyle in a gorgeous setting, yet pay rock-bottom prices for everything from food to rent, Cusco—Peru’s most historic city—is unbeatable. This 500-year-old colonial gem reminds some folks of Florence, Italy, with its abundance of domed churches and ancient, pedestrian-only cobblestone streets. But it offers a quality of life and price point that is unheard-of in Europe. And the expat population is growing by leaps and bounds. “It has definitely gotten more populated recently. A lot of that has to do with the popularity of the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and the local culture,” says Scott Englund, who has lived in Cusco for the last four years with his wife and their two daughters.
Foliage presses up against the perfect, charcoal gray road. Though this time of year is known as the “rainy season” in Panama, the sky in this region is a powerful blue, and the sun is shining hot and strong. It’s quiet, and I pass very few cars…and perhaps just as many horses. For my recent scouting trip I drove the five hours from Panama City to Pedasí, a town of about 2,500. It’s a place that’s been growing in comfort and convenience— slowly but surely—since 2004. Over the past couple years in particular, it has become a burgeoning expat hub. Still, it remains a place where a couple can live on $1,300 a month including rent, and as little as $950 if they own.
With its tropical climate, low cost of living, and beautiful surrounding countryside, Chiang Mai is Thailand’s best-value retirement destination. In fact, it’s among the best “bang-for-your-buck” destinations in the entire region, attracting thousands of North American, Australian, and European retirees. Among them are Nancy and Roger Lindley, who never looked back after moving to this northern city, home to nearly a million people, six years ago. “We came over for a month in 2006 on a reconnaissance mission and threw ourselves into all the expat activities,” says Nancy. “We decided it could work, went back to the U.S., and proceeded to unwind our lives there. We returned in 2008 and have been here ever since.”
Do you dream of spending time in the Old World? If you’re not ready for a full-time commitment to Europe but would like to give its medieval market towns and historic cities a try than I have a hop-in/hop-out solution. Maybe you don’t want to give up ties in North America and prefer to live abroad only part-time. Some folks don’t want to take on the tax burden that can come with residence in some European countries like France and Spain. Still others just don’t want to fill out the paperwork. But part-time living in Europe, on a simple tourist visa, is pretty much obligation-free for North Americans. The only trick: You can’t overstay your welcome. So like other North Americans who spend part of the year in Europe, I’ve learned to count how many days I can legally stay, and I plan out my trips like a battle marshal.
I’ve lived in David, in western Panama, for five years. My husband Al and I came for the great climate, the easy living and affordable costs, and the rich variety of things to keep us busy. But as we get older that’s not enough…we also need access to good health care. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can find the best of care at a fraction of what you’ll pay back in the U.S. Your doctors will often speak English, and they are far easier to access than back home, too.
Latin America is home to many scenic colonial towns with a low cost of living. But every once in a while, a location crosses our radar that truly stands out. Bolivia’s southernmost city, Tarija, is just such a place. Tucked away in a mountain valley, with vineyards stretching to the south, Tarija is one of the continent’s hidden treasures. For a start, there’s the cost of living. A couple can live in Tarija, including rent, for $1,000 a month. For $1,200 to $1,500 a month, you can live in a centrally-located apartment, dine out, buy wine, join a gym, go to the movies, and get manicures. You’ll find places where you can enjoy a delicious and filling three-course meal for less than $4.
With spiraling costs compelling more and more North Americans to retire overseas, retiring abroad has never been more attractive. But finding the right location among the myriad options available can be daunting. That’s what our Annual Global Retirement Index does. Using input from our team of correspondents on the ground all over the world, we combine real-world insights about climate, health care, cost of living, and much more to draw up a comprehensive list of the best bang-for-your buck retirement destinations on the planet. Keep in mind that, even though only 25 countries feature on our list, all of them are worth your attention. We selected them from among all the countries in the world for their qualities as retirement hot-spots, so even the lowest-ranked nation on our index is still very much an option worth considering.