Top countries for retiring abroad in 2015

expat retirement spots

Top expat retirement destinations for 2015. Image: Bench Under A Parasol On The Beach by Ken Teegardin (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The new year is here and with it comes International Living’s report, The Best Places to Retire in 2015. The report, targeting North American expats, features 25 countries all of which offer advantages to retiring expats. We will take a look at which countries offer the best healthcare options for retirees.

The countries making up the top five retirement havens are all in Latin and South America apart from one. Ecuador comes in first place, followed by Panama, Mexico, Malaysia, and Costa Rica. Of these five destinations, Malaysia scores the highest in the healthcare category with 94 points out of 100.

The countries are scored across eight categories including climate, housing and rentals, cost of living as well as healthcare. All 25 countries in the report scored above 70 for healthcare, we’ve mentioned Malaysia, the top scorer with 94 points. The other high scoring countries in terms of healthcare were Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, and Thailand, all with 89 points.

Malaysia (94)

A top medical tourism destination, Malaysia offers excellent standards of healthcare for expat retirees. Private facilities found in the larger cities are of the same standard as Western hospitals, with modern equipment, excellent facilities and many English-speaking staff. A doctor’s appointment costs as little as $15, according to the report.

Panama (89)

Another popular destination for medical tourists seeking cheaper treatment without compromising on standards, Panama is home to five world-class medical facilities and many smaller clinics. In Panama City, the John Hopkins-affiliated Punta Pacifica Hospital offers facilities and standards comparable to those found in the US. Due to Panama’s size you’re never far from a reputable healthcare facility, and care is very affordable.

Costa Rica (89)

Pura Vida is a common expression in Costa Rica, literally translated as ‘pure life’, it is used to mean ‘full of life’ or ‘this is the life!’. Indeed, both the lifestyle and climate in Costa Rica encourage healthy living. With excellent medical facilities, the CIMA Hospital in San Jose is JCI accredited, and affordable prices, expat retirees needn’t worry about health care. Retired expats on the pensionado residency visa (those who have a minimum pension of $1,000 a month) can pay a small monthly fee to the social security system in order to receive free access to all public healthcare.

Uruguay (89)

Many doctors in Uruguay studied abroad in the U.S., Germany or Brazil. They often speak English and standards in private hospitals are high. Expats who are resident in Uruguay can use the public system but you are more likely to encounter long waiting times and a language barrier in public facilities. A popular option is to join a mutualista, this is a membership scheme with a particular hospital. You go there for all your healthcare needs, just paying a small co-pay when you see a doctor or receive treatment. Unlike insurance plans there is no lifetime cap or deductibles with a mutualista, making it a good option for retirees.

Thailand (89)

Excellent and affordable healthcare can be found throughout the country but is focussed on urban centres, particularly Bangkok. Dental treatment is famously cheap and highly sought after by medical tourists. A dental treatment such as filings or cleaning can cost as little as $30, says International Living. In addition, a local health insurance plan can be as little as $300.

One thing nearly all the countries in the report have in common is a warm climate and an emphasis on fresh, local produce in their diet. If you are thinking of moving abroad, retiree or not, don’t forget simply having more hours of sunshine per year and eating locally sourced food can improve your wellbeing and overall health.