Best 3 Retirement Destinations for UK Expats in 2023

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“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else”

Fred Rogers

There are many things you need to consider when planning your ideal long term retirement destination. For example, you should be concerned about the ease of buying and owning property, the standard of local healthcare, the size of the leisure and entertainment industry, and of course (talking to you Brits) – the climate.  It is easy to get overwhelmed with choices when looking overseas, so to help ‘under’ whelm you we have created this blog which explores our top 3 retirement destinations for expats living in the UK…

3. Porto, Portugal

Panorama of old city Porto at sunset.
Panorama of old city Porto at sunset.

Portugal has been a hugely popular retirement destination among UK expats for years. Located in the southwestern corner of Europe, this country offers something for everyone. Check out Lisbon for its worldly historic charm. There are dozens of museums and palaces, all linked together by an efficient and affordable public transport tram system that navigates the steep cobbled roads.

Alternatively, you could head north to Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city. Famous for its port wine and riverfront area, this is the perfect place to relax in a vibrant and friendly culture. With more mild temperatures than other retirement destinations, Portugal can feel more comfortable to those from the UK than perhaps areas closer to the equator.

Although smaller than Lisbon, Porto is packed with services. There is sublime art, timeless architecture, and historical neighbourhoods surrounded by stunning national parks and beaches which subtly blend together a lifestyle suited to all types of leisure and experience.

Despite being seen as one of the more luxurious, architectural cultures, Porto is a surprisingly affordable place to live. The average cost of living is around 40/50% lower than in London, making it a comfortable place to set up. Taken from a blog by international living, “Porto is a beautiful city in perfect disrepair. It is like seeing an elderly person and instantly knowing that, back in the day, they were an elegant stunner”. So, if you like a timeless wander, Porto may be the place for you!

2. Medellín, Colombia

Cityscape of Medellin at night, Colombia
Cityscape of Medellin at night, Colombia

As one of the more developed Latin American countries, Colombia is fast becoming a hugely popular retirement expat community, also enticing people who wish to have continuing income streams. However, given its size (almost 450,000 square miles), it can be daunting when considering which parts are suited for retirement and which are, perhaps not.

Known as the city of flowers, Medellín is one of Colombia’s fastest-growing expat havens and is ideal for nature lovers. Colombia is the world’s second most biodiverse country, and nowhere better epitomises this than Medellín, with colourful flowers lining the streets accompanied by local blossoms dotted sporadically.

The city is surrounded by the Andes Mountains and thus is excellently suited to an outdoor-based, active lifestyle. During holidays and every Sunday, the city closes down large sections of some of the major roads and transforms them into pedestrian walkways known as “Ciclovia’s” – which fill up with walkers, joggers, and cyclists.

Experience breathtaking views from El Poblado which is well known for its high-rise apartments and steep hills. Or if you need something a bit more accessible then check out Laureles, a quieter and more residential neighbourhood which is ideal for nice, flat walks, and a better quality of life.

In terms of healthcare, the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks Colombia’s healthcare system 22 out of 191, with eight of Medellín’s hospitals ranked in the top forty-two out of all of Latin America.

The cost of living really depends on your lifestyle preferences, however, is considered to be just under 200% lower than in London according to expatistan. As Nancy Kiernan says, “Colombia is still world-renowned for its coffee, however, the shadow that Pablo Escobar cast over the country has been lifted to reveal the true Colombia”: a warm and welcoming embrace full of mystic secrecy and stunning scenery.

1. Boquete, Panama

Coffee plantation in Panama.
Coffee plantation in Panama.

And then there was one.

When looking for the best retirement location you usually look for the places that tick the most boxes, and in Panama, you have everything you could want. It has a near-perfect climate, warm and tropical – but completely outside the hurricane belt.

The pure blue skies contrast with the deep-green tropical jungle making for surreal viewing. The city centre is framed by a gleaming skyline which overlooks the sparkling Panama Bay. In terms of location, Panama is one of the easiest retirement places you can access, with direct flights from all over the US, as well as cities in Canada and Europe.

The most popular area for retiring expats is the highland haven of Boquete, with a population of around 23,000. It is a way out from Panama City (a 6-hour drive) but just an hour’s flight keeping it within reach.

This mountain region offers magnificent vistas covered in natural beauty, with breathtaking greenery fit to heal the mind and soul. As it is in the highlands, the climate is significantly cooler than in the south – a big draw for expats from the UK around the world.

The daytime temperatures are generally 15-20 degrees with nights typically above 15 degrees (60 F). This spring-like weather is ideal for an outdoor lifestyle as it isn’t too hot and is balanced with enough rain to satisfy the rich green jungle that encapsulates the best Panama has to offer.

Life in Boquete and Panama is naturally inexpensive. Regardless of your origin, you will likely save on having low electricity use and a general lifestyle with many expats finding themselves spending 40% less than they would in the UK.

You’re never likely to be more than an hour away from excellent hospitals which offer a thorough, personal service which extends to the whole population. Despite all of its glamour and exoticism, it is the Panamanians who make Panama so attractive to UK expats. They are known as extremely welcoming people who embrace foreign cultures as their own. No matter where you’re from and what you seek in retirement – Panama really has it all.


Matt Lambros

Matt Lambros is a Search & Automation Marketer.

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