The International Living Podcast

Episode 57: The World's Best Places to Retire in 2024

January 03, 2024 International Living
Episode 57: The World's Best Places to Retire in 2024
The International Living Podcast
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The International Living Podcast
Episode 57: The World's Best Places to Retire in 2024
Jan 03, 2024
International Living

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When it comes to your overseas retirement, you don’t want to go in blind. That’s why, every January, International Living publishes the world’s most in-depth, detailed resource on the subject. Put simply, it ranks the top destinations on the planet to retire to, based on the factors that matter most.

How much does it cost to rent a two-bedroom home in a pleasant expat area? What does a bottle of local beer cost? Will you be able to meet other expats?, is the weather good?, will you be able to get quality medical care at a price you can afford?

These are just a few of the questions that International Living puts to its team of overseas contributors every year. And that team consists of expats who live overseas, who experience that lifestyle, and who know first-hand exactly what it is that makes the difference between a successful overseas retirement and an unprepared disaster.

Make no mistake, International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index is not some throwaway listicle compiled by some bored intern scraping Google results; it’s a solid piece of invaluable research compiling countless hours of experience and judgement.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

When it comes to your overseas retirement, you don’t want to go in blind. That’s why, every January, International Living publishes the world’s most in-depth, detailed resource on the subject. Put simply, it ranks the top destinations on the planet to retire to, based on the factors that matter most.

How much does it cost to rent a two-bedroom home in a pleasant expat area? What does a bottle of local beer cost? Will you be able to meet other expats?, is the weather good?, will you be able to get quality medical care at a price you can afford?

These are just a few of the questions that International Living puts to its team of overseas contributors every year. And that team consists of expats who live overseas, who experience that lifestyle, and who know first-hand exactly what it is that makes the difference between a successful overseas retirement and an unprepared disaster.

Make no mistake, International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index is not some throwaway listicle compiled by some bored intern scraping Google results; it’s a solid piece of invaluable research compiling countless hours of experience and judgement.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Jim Santos 00:10 
Hello, everyone.

I'm Jim Santos, and this is the International Living podcast. In this podcast series, we introduce you to a bigger world full of communities that are safe, welcoming, beautiful, and sometimes undiscovered. A better world, too. A friendly, warm, great value world where you can live richer, travel more, invest for profit, and enjoy a better life. So let's get started. 

Hello, everyone. Happy New Year, and welcome once again to the International Living podcast. I'm your host, Jim Santos. And today we're starting the new year right with a special topic, wake the kids and phone the neighbors. Because today we are talking about one of the more popular planning tools brought to you by IL, the International Living Annual Global Retirement Index, just updated for 2024. 

Joining us today for a look at the index are Jennifer Stevens, Executive Editor at International Living, and lifestyle editor Sean Keenan, who also wrote the feature article in the January 2024 edition of the magazine entitled The World's Best Places to Retire. Jen, Sean, welcome to the first international living podcast of the new year.

Sean Keenan 01:27 
My brain was just filling that out as being my first podcast of the year, and I'm sure I'm going to be on some more of them over the course of 2024. But anyway, Happy New Year to you.

Jennifer Stevens 01:36 
Happy New Year all around.

Sean Keenan 01:38 

Jim Santos 01:39
Our big topic today, of course, is the 2024 International Living Annual Global Retirement Index. Now, I know this is the time of the year. As one year ends, another one starts, that you are bombarded with these listicles on the Internet. What's the top ten places to live, the top ten places to rent, the top ten countries, all of this. 

But you get the impression that these are just bare lists. You get the impression that it's written by someone that looked through Wikipedia and just kind of put a list together based on their own criteria. But this global retirement index is really much different from that. This is really a researched piece of information. Can you give us a little background on how this is put together and the kind of time frame it takes to do this?

Sean Keenan 02:21 
Yeah, I would start because the first thing you mentioned was this is the time of year where these listicles start coming out. And it's interesting because for me, actually at this point, the 2024 index is something that's been going since… around about August I started putting together. This is kind of the culmination of it all for me, rather than just where it all starts. 

I think for Jen, probably this is where it all sort of starts and the whole kind of process of getting it out to people and explaining it to people starts. But for me, it's kind of where we wrap up. Yeah, we started way back in the summer and it's one of those things, you're sitting here piecing together questions and so on for our correspondents and our contributors who are actually around the world. 

I mean one of the things that it really has to be pointed out about the retirement index is that for our case, we are actually having this filled out by people who live there. This is not happening by somebody in their bedroom in their pajamas, working from home, just looking through Wikipedia or Numbeo or whatever.

Those places that you just mentioned, these are being done by people who are living in-house, in-country. And I think that's really important because there's no way to get a sense of these places unless you're there. And there's not even any way to get a sense of these places even if you're just there for a vacation. You really truly have to live there to be able to comment authoritatively on what we ask.

Jim Santos 03:47 
Yeah, I remember in my Ecuador days walking through the grocery store with a list from IL, putting down the prices for various commodities.

Sean Keenan 03:55 
Correct. And as you'll remember, there's quite a few of those commodities as well.

Jim Santos 04:00 
It took a while..

Sean Keenan 04:02.50 
And it goes, everything from, we're quite specific about it. What does a pound of ground beef cost from the supermarket? And then we'll also say something like what's twelve free range eggs from the market cost you? And we'll go through a whole series of questions like that. 
There's a questionnaire goes out to each of the people who contribute to this and that's just looking at cost of living. But there's a whole series of questions that we ask about cost of rentals, cost of accommodation. And the reason why it's so important that we have people doing it out there is because of course there's going to be a value judgment along the way there. 

I could ask Google what's the price of a rental in Colombia? And it could tell me anything from $150 a month through to $3000. So what you need is a little human interaction there along the way where you've got an expat out there and we say, look, a nice place, two-bedroom place where expats will live in an expat area. It doesn't have to be super luxurious, it just has to be something you would be happy to live in. And that's what I think is one of the value addeds that we can bring to this, is that it's got judgment.

Jim Santos 05:15 
I imagine what complicates your job, too. Is that countries like Portugal or Spain or Greece, you have such a wide variety of lifestyles within that country in different parts of that country.

Sean Keenan 05:26 
Yeah, exactly. Which is why we put it over to humans and not to AI, not to artificial intelligence or something like that. Because you do need somebody to have that judgment and that experience to be able to say, well, yeah, it's super cheap to live in Cali, Colombia, for example, but you wouldn't want to.

Jennifer Stevens 05:46 
And that's the, that's the point I wanted to make, too, that while we do do this list as a list of countries, we really are focused on the specific places within the countries that we recommend. And we don't recommend every single community in every country on our list. Right? 

We are talking specifically about places that we dive into in great detail in the magazine and on our website about specific communities that we like. And it's in those places where expats that feel safe and comfortable and there's a community that they can connect with. And in those places, what is life like? Right? 

And so this index is really meant to be a tool for people, a place for them to be able to compare and contrast and begin to see, okay, for the things that are important to me if I come to this list, and I think, oh, I'd love to live overseas, I don't know where to go. What are my best options? For me, I have a limited budget. So maybe you would then want to look at that cost of living category first and say, what are the best value places?

All of the places on this list are places where you can live for less than it would cost you to live in the United States. But some are more affordable than others. Right? And so the idea is that we're giving real-world, as Sean said, really practical real world and up-to-date data. Right? We're not just pulling this out of a hat. We're asking for what's really happening on the ground in these places. 

And then we're letting you, as if you are somebody who comes to this to come and look at this and say, okay, well, if the cost of living is most important to me, then I might focus in first on these countries. Or if, gosh, the ability to go easily and quickly and not have a whole bunch of visa hoops to jump through, if that's important to me, then these other countries might be the ones that are most important and you can kind of cross reference. And so it's meant to be truly a useful tool for people to begin to see the places that would be most logical or make the most sense for them.

Jim Santos 07:51 
We keep using the term list and index, but this is a lot more than just a list of countries or a list of options. There's a lot of information that comes with the index. Correct?

Sean Keenan 08:02 
I think what's really cool about it is that you can use sort of a lot of that information. And I would specify that it's information, not data. This is informed opinion rather than just mashed numbers that came out from some aggregator. 

I think what's really cool about it is if you've got certain things or you're not entirely sure of. If you look at say for example, cost of living, that can be very important to a lot of people. If you look at the cost of living of Costa Rica, Roatan and let's see another one, Malta for example, three places on that list and they're all within a point or two of each other, percentage point or two of each other when it comes to cost of living, which means you don't have to make, even if cost of living is super important to you, you don't have to make that the driving choice for where you go. 

Because if you've got those three places that have got very similar cost of living, then you can look at the other factors. You've got Malta there versus Costa Rica, two incredibly different places. Which one suits you best?

So you can go then and go through the rest of the categories and sort of go, well, you know, narrow it down a little bit. Which climate fits me better there? So I think that's why that huge amount of numbers is useful to us.

Jim Santos 09:13 
How many categories are in the evaluation?

Sean Keenan 09:17 
Seven. So we've got Housing, we got Visas/Benefits, then we've got Cost of Living, Affinity Rating, Development/Governance, Climate and Healthcare. So there's more than enough ways of shredding that particular cabbage. As such, if I can just invent a silly metaphor, there's lots of different angles of attack that we can use to narrow down the places that are most interesting.

Jim Santos 09:43 
Affinity Rating sounds interesting. What exactly is that and how is it determined?

Sean Keenan 09:48 
Affinity Rating is very interesting, very important as well in that what I really like about the affinity rating is it brings in the opinion of the International Living subscriber as well as our experts. So it's actually based on a couple of questions. It's the most subjective of all the categories. So for example, when we've got something like cost of living, those are very hard and fast numbers there because essentially, like you referred to earlier, you've got a list of things. What do they cost? We get a total at the end of it, and that's a very hard number that we can just compare one country to another. Affinity Rating is the other side of the thing. Now, when I talked about, you could go and live in Cali, but you wouldn't want to, well, that's a piece of information.

Jennifer Stevens 10:39 
So the idea behind the affinity rating is essentially it's taking in people's opinions about countries, not just the information and the data, but also sort of we're asking not just our experts in our world, but also our subscribers, our International Living members, where are the places that you're most interested in going? 

And so we're trying to infuse the index with a little bit of what amounts to sort of trends that we're seeing, and it's a way for us to answer what people feel like they're most interested in. I think that there are times when, for example, last year Portugal won our index, and it was, part of the reason that it did is because it was so in the news. It was a place that people were, there was a certain amount of buzz about. And this year we're seeing some more of that about Costa Rica. And so it's sort of a way for us to gauge what the feeling, if you will, out in the world as well.

Jim Santos 11:48 
Yeah. In 2023, at the Atlanta conference, it seemed like everybody was talking about Portugal. I guess that was a 2022 conference in Atlanta. Then 2023, in Denver, seemed like everybody was flocking over to the Costa Rica table.

Jennifer Stevens 12:02 
Yeah, exactly. And so, I mean, I suppose you could argue it's a little bit of the chicken and the egg. Are people talking about it because we're talking about it or we're not? Sure? It's a little bit of both, I suppose. But that affinity rating just allows us to kind of put in a little bit of the feeling that people have around the world. It also helps us to adjust for trends, for geopolitical influence and that kind of thing. It allows us a little bit of flexibility in our feeling for the countries that are worth your attention now.

Sean Keenan 12:35 
And it's really easy to narrow it down exactly for why people are talking about Costa Rica so much at the moment compared to last year. Because just in the last year, Costa Rica started issuing 180 day tourist visas just on arrival. So you can turn up now and get six months, essentially, of time spent in Costa Rica without even having to go through any sort of application process or anything like that, which suddenly makes Costa Rica… people's ears start to pick up at that point and go, hang on, we could really spend a lot of time here with the minimum of fuss and, yeah, an affinity rating will track that sort of thing.

Jim Santos 13:13 
What I thought was interesting about this year's list is I was looking over past lists, and it seems like the top five or six countries all are kind of jockeying for position all the time, just kind of bubbling around over each other. But last year, Costa Rica was rated number five, and this year it's number one. And in my radio days, we used to call that number one with a bullet. That's quite a jump. Do you think it's that affinity rating that had the big deal to do with that, making such a change?

Sean Keenan 13:43 
Yeah, it's part of the affinity rating. The other thing that needs to be pointed out as well at these points. It's like, although the list is in sequential order like that, when you look at the top five places, you've got Panama down in fourth, for example, with 82.85%, Costa Rica wins the thing at 83.57.Scores are really marginal. That's such a small amount of difference that it really just could be something from one of the categories that just tipped it over.

Jennifer Stevens 14:18 
Right. And I would point out, too, it isn't just that Costa Rica gets more points, it's sometimes that other places get fewer points. Right. Because Portugal suffered in its score a little bit from an increase in cost of living in certain areas, and also the fact that the visa situation got less attractive.

Jim Santos 14:37 

Jennifer Stevens 14:38 
So it falls, and as it falls, other things rise. And so it's a little bit of…there's a certain amount of jockeying that goes into the top there. But I mean, all of these places really are within close proximity to each other by scores. And all of them, all the way down to the bottom of the list, are worth your attention, or they wouldn't be on the radar to begin with.

Jim Santos 14:59 
Right. There was less than a point difference between the top four this year.

Sean Keenan 15:04 
I say every year that… I just used the term winner as well, or wins. I'm never terribly comfortable about the idea of using the word winner. I much prefer using the word leader, because the thing being the winner implies that there are losers. But to be on this table at all, to be even right down there at the bottom of it, it's the bottom of our table, but it's not the bottom of the countries in the world. 

There are 250 countries in the world, and these are our handpicked choices for where we think are really good retirement options. Well, I was just going to reiterate the point: To be at the bottom of this list is still to be in the top 5% of the countries of the world.

Jim Santos 15:45 
Yeah. For instance, Uruguay is fairly far down in the list, but we're hearing more and more people talking about Uruguay as an option because they like the stability of the government and the mild climate.

Jennifer Stevens 15:56 
Yeah. And not only that, the ease with which you can get permanent residency there, the ease and speed. So there's a lot of reasons that Uruguay can make very good sense for folks. It just depends on what your priorities are. 

Essentially, it's not the most affordable place on our index. On the other hand, you could argue that it offers perhaps even the best value in terms of bang for your buck, because while you might spend a little bit more than you would in, say, Panama, it's very much a first-world, if I can use that term. It's very developed. It's very… I think you have to kind of take into, when you come to this index as a user, you have to take into account, again, I sort of mentioned this earlier, what's important to you. 

If speed, if you want to put yourself on a path to a second passport, for instance, or you put yourself on a path to permanent residency someplace else quickly, Uruguay may be the place you should go first. So I think to reiterate, all of these places make sense. You, as someone coming to this, need to think about …what am I actually looking for?

Jim Santos 17:13 
Right. And then you can kind of go across the list and see what places would be most worth my attention.

Jim Santos 17:19.89 
So the best exercise would be to use this as a tool to rank them yourself based on the categories that are most important to you.

Jennifer Stevens 17:28 
Yeah. And we do do that in our index report, too. We have a giant, I don't know how many pages, 180 pages 170 pages, something like that, big report that helps you do that.

Jim Santos 17:40 
So are there references included with the report too, places you can go for more information?

Jennifer Stevens 17:44 
Well, we have lots of coverage of all of the places that we recommend, including the specific communities that we recommend within the countries that are in our report and also on our website and in our magazine. And so the report is a great place to start. 

We talk about the index itself, and you give you the chart that allows you to compare these places quickly at a glance. But at the same time, we then kind of dive into each of the categories and help you focus in on those categories on climate, which countries top the climate list, and why and what communities within those countries have these different climates. And so we do that for all of the different categories. 

And then, of course, we have in depth coverage of all of these countries in the magazine and on our website, too. And so we kind of encourage people. We always think of the index as sort of an introduction. It's a way for people to come into our world that makes sense. Right? It's a useful way to introduce them to what we do. But we have a depth of resources about all of these places.

And I would say, too, we don't recommend every single country or every single community in every country. We really do home in on specific communities where we believe people will feel safe and comfortable and can live really well for less. That kind of micro coverage, that coverage that takes you on a deeper dive, that's going to be… it starts in our big report, but then it goes into the magazine and the website, and we have lots of books and conferences and online events that take you on a deeper dive and to explore those countries more specifically.

Sean Keenan 19:23 
I hate to sound like I'm being a shill here, but one of the things about it is some of that information is just really so much better if you can get in touch, person to person, with someone who can tell you specifically about, for example, you talked about Costa Rica, you talked about climate. And even if we're talking about somewhere like Costa Rica, there's so many different climates across there. One of them will be the perfect climate for you if you can get to the point where you can talk to somebody directly about what it is you're looking for. And for that, I would say conferences. 

One of our conferences is the ideal way to meet somebody who can represent those countries. That's the way to do that because it's so funny to look at a country like Costa Rica, which is so comparatively small and yet be able to say, right, well, in two weeks, I was there just a couple of weeks ago, in two weeks, I could be in three different climates. And significantly different. You know, that's one of the ways that get into that granular detail that Jen was just speaking about.

Jim Santos 20:24 
One of the places you really need to know that granular detail is about the climate.

Now in the article in the January edition of International Living magazine, the world's best places to retire, there's also a breakout section called Behind the Numbers—Countries to Watch. Can you give us a little information about these countries and why you think they're the ones to watch? I know the index isn't just a snapshot. Situations change around the world, as we know, pretty quickly.

Sean Keenan 20:53 
Yeah. Well, I mean, for example, last year was the first time we put Greece on the index because the situation there was starting to look really attractive to us and to expats, and a country that we always knew was there. And we had to occasionally run profiles from people in Greece and done occasional travel reports from places in Greece. And then last year, we, you know, we should send somebody out there, have a really good look at it. I say that referring to myself because it was me who went! 

Jim Santos 21:26 
I was in Athens and Thessaloniki this year also and was really taken with it.

Sean Keenan 21:33 
You know, it's, it's been bubbling around there for a while. For a long time. Until very recently, it always seemed to be slightly ramshackle in terms of its administration and really wasn't a terribly stable place to really consider. 

But lately, in the last couple of years, it's really cleaned up. It's really gotten an awful lot more developed. And so we had a look at it and said, yeah, this really should go into our index. Other things change as well, like Malaysia, for example. Malaysia was always on the index and in fact, always has done very, very well in the index until the COVID pandemic, at which point it made things very, very difficult for expats who wanted to go and retire there in terms of their visa allocations and the price even of the second home visa that they have there now. 

Recently they've addressed that situation, so we've put it back onto the list. Uruguay, for example, again, we just talked about Uruguay. It's a perennial on the index, but the reasons why people might be more interested in Uruguay in 2024 are, frankly, to do with there being a United States election this year. And things feel at home to be a little bit unstable and a little bit, what can we say?

Jen Stevens 22:57 

Sean Keenan 23:00 
Uncertain. Suddenly somewhere like, somewhere as stable and somewhere as certain as Uruguay becomes a lot more attractive. So there are trends, as we talked about earlier.

Jim Santos 23:13 
Now Panama is one of those perennial favorites that's always on the list. And I assume a large part of that has to do with their very generous pensionado program.

Jennifer Stevens 23:22 
I mean, that is one of the reasons for Panama. You know, in a way much like it sort of, I mean like in Panama, you've got access to this big city that is truly, I mean, it looks like Miami. It feels like Miami to a large degree. Right? I mean, it's a very big city. You could live out at the beach and be an hour and a half away outside of the city but anything that you could possibly need, you will get in that city. 

And that's not necessarily the case on everywhere. Belize is lovely, Caribbean and very laidback, but it feels remote, right? Which for a lot of people, that's what they're looking for. But if you want to be in a place where you can have this relaxed life at the beach, but at the same time, if you need really good medical care, you can access it at hand, Panama makes a lot of sense. So Panama, much like Uruguay, is a perennial favorite of ours for lots of logical reasons.

Jim Santos 24:24 
Panama City's airport also has become quite a transportation hub. From Panama City, you can really get just about anywhere in the world.

Sean Keenan 24:33 
Yeah, absolutely. That's definitely the case. And the other thing about Panama, I think, which is interesting, it actually shares this with Costa Rica, is the minimum income requirement to get a retirement visa there. This is something that actually gets missed by a lot of people when you're looking at these places. 

And one of those listicles, many of those listicles that you referred to right at the start of the program, talk about all these places that you can live for $1,000 a month or live at these very low levels. But the little caveat being that in a lot of those places, you can't get a retirement visa with anything less than maybe $2,000 a month for your minimum monthly requirement. 

Whereas in Panama and Costa Rica, with just $1,000 a month coming in on your Social Security or on your private pension or your 401k or whatever it happens to be, that will qualify you for the visa there, for the retirement visa. And that's a very, very low bar to be able to meet, which I think is a detail that sometimes gets missed about Panama and Costa Rica.

Jim Santos 25:41 
Something we noticed as we were looking at Panama because, as you mentioned, things are a little uncertain in the US, and it's nice to have a potential bolthole if you needed one. A lot of the countries, if you try to get a retirement visa there, there's also some very strict requirements about how many days you have to remain in the country, especially when you first get your visa. But Panama is very liberal about that. I think it's something only like two days or one day out of every two years you have to be in the country.

Jennifer Stevens 26:10 
Yeah, that's a really good point. And I think the other thing about Panama's visas is that it isn't just the pensionado visa, that there are lots of different visa options. One thing we are seeing sort of as, I don't want to know if I'd call it a trend, but I suppose maybe you could. Is that because of the flexibility allowed by people working remotely now, younger people are able to go to countries and they might not be fully retired yet, but they've gained that flexibility of movement because their jobs can be so much more remote than they used to be. Right? 

And so Panama is a country that has lots of interesting visa options for you, even if you're not yet of retirement age. Even if you're not collecting your Social Security yet or whatever it might be. If you want to continue to work, you've got various visa options in Panama, and that is the case in Uruguay as well. So those are two countries. If you're not retired but you're thinking about ahead to retirement or you're looking to maybe a semi-retirement and maybe continue to work and do your job part-time or full-time and want to be based someplace else, those two countries can make very good sense, as can others, but particularly those two.

Jim Santos 27:27 
This may have changed since we were in Uruguay because it was several years ago, but at the time, you could just show up with your visa or with your passport, rather, and apply for residency and be issued a temporary residency card almost immediately.

Jennifer Stevens 27:42 
Yeah, that's still the case.

Sean Keenan 27:45 
And you can open a bank account almost immediately as well. I don't know exactly how many days, but it's within a very short time, too, which may sound like one of those details that isn't terribly important, but it is important when you live in a country to be able to have a bank account there, too.

Jim Santos 27:59 
You also can open bank accounts there without being a resident or a citizen. And we find ourselves wishing that we had at the time because it would have earned about 13% by now if we had put our money in there. They're a very strong banking system.

Jennifer Stevens 28:13 
Yeah, absolutely.

Jim Santos 28:15 
Were there any surprises this year on the list for you?

Jennifer Stevens 28:19 
Not really a surprise so much, but a pleasant, maybe. I don't know if I'd call it a surprise, but a pleasant thing is I think how well Greece has held. As Sean said, we added Greece to the index last year because politically and economically, Greece kind of, I don't want to say got its act together, but it did kind of, right? It kind of stabilized. It felt like it was a good add, and it has done really well. 

I think that when you look at, for example, at the golden visas in Europe, which is something that a lot of Americans are interested in, not everybody. You can go and live in Europe without getting a golden visa. And that's a visa that allows, essentially you make an investment of a certain amount, and then in exchange you get a visa, a permanent residency visa. And that in some places can put you on a path to a European passport as well. 

That was basically stopped in Panama, but you can still do it with real estate. I said Panama, excuse me, stopped in Portugal. For real estate, you can still get a golden visa, but you need to make different kinds of investments. 

In Greece, you can still get a golden visa based on a real estate investment. And that real estate investment, the value can be relatively low depending on where you go. And so for as little as about roughly €250,000, you can get one of these visas and you don't have to stay in Greece very long. I don't remember offhand exactly what the number of days is, but it's not very long. And so I think Greece has kind of held up. So that was sort of a pleasant, not really a surprise, but something that I was happy to see.

Jim Santos 30:00 
Yeah, that can also be multiple properties in Greece. It doesn't have to be one property worth that. So that's an advantage if you're looking to buy a place for you to live and then also buy a place that maybe you rent out as an income source.

Jennifer Stevens 30:13 
Yeah, exactly.

Jim Santos 30:15 
Sean, any surprises for you? You've had time to look at the list.

Sean Keenan 30:18 
Now I'm just going to be circling back and repeating myself here. But the surprise for me actually was the Costa Rica 180 day visa. I'm astounded by that, really, because Costa Rica doesn't really need to make any special effort to bring tourism or international visitors into the country. It's always been very popular. Well, it's very popular as a destination already. 

So there wasn't really any incentive, I can see, for Costa Rica to have to do that. But it's very generous. Doesn't really have a huge impact on what we're talking about here in terms of retirement index, because it's not a retirement visa, it's just a standard visa. But all the same, that is actually bigger news than we're probably giving it credit for.

Jim Santos 31:04 
Well, now that you mentioned it, it's not just a retirement index. I mean, that's what it's called. But for someone like my wife and I, who are looking at just exploring as many different countries as we can, that ability to stay a longer period is really important. A big problem with looking around Europe is the Schengen restrictions.

Jennifer Stevens 31:23 
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And I would say, too, that most folks even though, as you said, we call it a retirement index. And we kind of look at these countries largely based on how you can stay permanently there. Right. Stay long term. 

The truth is a lot of our members at International Living are part time overseas, right? They're looking for a place that they can go for anywhere from three to six to nine months a year and then maybe come home when the weather's nice at home and see family and that kind of thing. And so while we do score our places largely on, and certainly in the Visas and Benefits category, based on sort of how easy is it and convenient and affordable and so on to get a visa to allow you to stay long term, practically speaking, lots and lots of folks don't stay overseas full time, right? They do kind of come back and forth whether they own a place or rent a place. And this index is certainly useful for that as well. 

As you've just said, Jim, like you guys are thinking about where can you go as you travel? And this is a great list, right? These are all places where the cost of living is relatively low and the quality of life is high and the weather is good. And so even just as a list of places to put on your travel list over the next five to ten years, this is a great list.

Jim Santos 32:45 
And beyond the list, the information that comes with it, you can see which countries have the most to offer in different areas and different locations.

Sean Keenan 32:52 
Well, also, we are circling right back to the very moment you started this, which is, what is it that's special about this list? Now, in terms of, if you're not looking at it from the potential of retiring, there's only one category has anything really to do with retiring, which is the Visas/Benefits category. All the rest. But I think all the rest are perfectly applicable to you if you're just looking at it as travel or long term travel. 

But I think what is really, again, to circle right back, the value of this is that it is compiled by people who are out there doing it, out there living it. And it isn't somebody just spinning the globe, pointing their finger at a place and going, that looks like it could be nice. Let's put that up there. You can't make long term decisions about your travel future or your retirement future based on that sort of information or that sort of data. You really need somebody to be out there actually experiencing it. And we have just that.

Jim Santos 33:48 
We've been speaking with International Living's executive editor, Jennifer Stevens, and lifestyle editor Sean Keenan, about the 2024 International Living Annual Global Retirement index. Now, remember, members have access to the full report. And if you're not a member yet, stop by to sign up today. 

Sean, Jen, thanks for taking the time to share with us on the International Living podcast. And almost time to get to work on the next.

Jennifer Stevens 34:11 
Yeah, you're welcome. And it is actually, we're already talking about it, which is crazy.

Sean Keenan 34:18 
Thanks very much.

Jim Santos 34:29 
The International Living Podcast is a production of International Living. If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. If you have an idea for an episode or a question you'd like us to answer, email us at And don't forget to put podcast in the subject line of your email. That's 

We created the International Living podcast to help showcase the ideas we explore in the magazine and our other publications each month, and to grow our community of travel lovers, expats, and experts who believe, as we do, that the world is full of opportunity to create a more interesting, more international life. 

You don't have to be rich or famous to do that. You just need to know the secrets, and that's what we bring you at International Living. If you haven't become a member yet, you can do it today with a special discount offer for podcast listeners. You'll receive our monthly magazine plus a bundle of special extras. You'll find the link in our show notes. Or you can go to That's 

Our next podcast will be coming to you from Panama as Rita and I go back on the road to enjoy that international lifestyle we talk about on the show. This time, basically just to stay warm all winter. Speaking of which, if you're interested in Panama as a destination, time is fast running out to sign up for the Fast Track Panama conference that will be held February 16 to 18th in Panama City. You can get more information and reserve your spot That's 

Until then, this is Jim Santos for International Living, reminding you there's a bigger, better world out there there just waiting for you.

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