9 Most Popular Places for Britons to Retire Abroad

Estapona - Spain
9 Most Popular Places for Britons to Retire Abroad

Find your ideal retirement hotspot

This is where to retire abroad for a better weather, healthier lifestyle and in some cases a bit more cash in your pocket.

Retirement overseas is as popular a sport for Brits as ever. Every year a bigger proportion of Britons going to live abroad for a better life is made of retirees seeking a dream retirement overseas.

International Currency Exchange (ICE) has surveyed 1000 respondents to find out the main considerations behind people’s decision to retire overseas.

Consideration number one is the weather – no surprise here. About 76% of all the respondents cited the desire to live in a better climate as the main reason to retire overseas. Who could blame them? Last year the Met Office recorded only 1,432 hours of sunshine across the UK with an average temperature of just 9°C, – no wonder people are looking for warmer places in retirement.

Other aspects ranked as significant were cost of living, property prices, a slower pace of life and health.

So quite predictably the main three factors when it comes to retiring abroad are the weather, money and a lifestyle.

Very often the choice of the retirement destination abroad is a compromise between the lifestyle you desire and the money it takes to provide it. So, if you are one of those thousands thinking of retirement abroad for a better life after job, here is the list of nine most popular countries for Britons to retire to, which takes into consideration the weather, the financial aspect, and lifestyle choices.

1. Spain

Despite Brexit fears and economic concerns, Brits’ favourite European retirement destination is managing to maintain its appeal – all because of its proximity to the UK, fantastic climate, a great lifestyle and a big sense of familiarity that Spain represents for Brits.

Indeed, for many of us it’s become a habit to spend holidays in various locations in Spain; so, when it comes to retirement, moving there permanently doesn’t really feel like a big change.

Spain has long been one of the best-loved retirement hotspots for Britons.

The country has it all for that very retirement you have dreamt of all your working life: sunshine and beaches, leisure and lifestyle, amazing food and dining out, entertainment and a vast British community.

It is also just a short hop on a plane from a family and friends.

Expats and especially retirees are valuable addition to the country’s economy: there is a whole bunch of businesses and services aimed at expatriate communities – from taxi services, to car hire, to property management and domestic help, not to mention famous golf clubs and other traditional retirement entertainments.

Many of these businesses are created and managed by fellow Brits. It means that although you will definitely benefit from learning Spanish, there is no big push to become proficient in it or to learn it as soon as possible. There are enough English speakers around to manage your day-to-day life for a start.

For now, Britons in Spain are still protected by the EU regulations – their pensions are indexed in line with inflation and they can use Spanish healthcare and the hope is it will stay this way after Brexit.

Spain is a truly spectacular country: its climate is sweet, its landscapes diverse, its lifestyle a festival celebrating life.

From the gentleness of the Mediterranean coast to the dramatic scenery of the Atlantic the country is full of wonders: rocky peaks of the Pyrenees, sweet lush-green river valleys and even dry arid areas like the Baetic Cordillera which are swept by hot winds from North Africa.

Spain is a country of sun, passion, great food and wine, and friendly people.

It is easy to envisage your retired life under the Spanish sun: a glass of rioja on the terrace of your Mediterranean villa, a pan of sizzling paella at a café on the beach, passionate flamenco dancers, lazy afternoon siestas – what’s not to love? Spain can generously provide you with a lifestyle of your dreams.

2. France

For many Britons France is a top considered country for living abroad because it is within touching distance of Britain and yet it is so different and so much more appealing on almost every single level!

France has absolutely everything anyone could want from the perfect retirement destination: a fabulous climate, a dramatic landscape of huge contrasts, affordable property, accessible healthcare and arguably the best cuisine and wine in the world.

Retiring to France couldn’t really be easier: it is right on our doorstep after all, and Britons can move to live in France in retirement with minimal fuss.

The country is so diverse and versatile, that you can choose any lifestyle and any climate you want – from very much like the UK lush, green and somewhat wet Brittany, to fabulous and bathed in sun Mediterranean shores. Yes, in France they actually have long, hot summers EVERY year!

Walks, cycling routes and healthy food is in abundance, and the friends and family are just across the channel, so it’s easy to meet up every weekend if you wish.

These are all benefits you can tap into if you move across the Channel in retirement.

What’s more, the French property market has remained far more realistically priced and stable than our own, and you can still buy the dream in France – i.e., you can buy that rurally located barn with outline planning permission that you’ve always longed for, and turn it into your perfect pad in the sun.

Relocation is easy and as a retiree you can have access to the healthcare system locally, although most people have top up insurance to cover the gap that exists when you access treatment.

The downside is pretty hefty taxes. However, if you retiree to France as an expat, you can take your pension pot in one lump-sum and pay just 7.5% of tax on it. This perk works only for a lump-sum, any regular income will be taxed much higher.

There is also the language problem. Oui, unfortunately they do speak French in France and prefer to be spoken it, too.
You won’t be sorry a single minute if you take an effort and learn the language. it’s easy to access lessons online, through the local library or nearest college to you.

French is one of the easier languages to learn, once you immerse yourself in French culture you will pick up and improve upon what you already know.
If you really want to go and live a happy and full life in one of the best countries on this planet, learning a new language is hardly that great a hardship is it?

3. Italy

Although definitely not a budget option, Italy can become a perfect retirement destination for those who can afford it.

la dolce vita (the sweet life) is exactly what one can have when one retires to Italy – a lifestyle of culture and sophistication in an enviably beautiful country with a fabulous climate, sumptuous cuisine and fantastic wine.

A country that is conveniently within reach of the UK, where property for sale can match any budget and where the pace of life is as laid back or as fast paced as you choose, – Italy is one of the best options for those who can afford to choose lifestyle over money.

It depends on the location of course, but mostly the cost of living in Italy is not really much cheaper than in the UK and taxation is quite high, unless you are a high-net individual.

For wealthy retirees Italy can be a perfect choice financially as well, as their foreign income can be free from Italian tax in exchange for €100,000 a year. This tax break can be used for up to 15 years.

4. Malta

The fact that Malta is so popular with expat retirees, especially Britons, doesn’t come as a surprise considering the country’s beautiful climate, its historic connections with the UK, its proximity to the continent and the fact that everyone (or at least 88% of the population) speaks English there! Together with Arriva buses and three-pin plugs it makes life there much easier for British expats.

Malta’s climate is splendid: the country can boast of more than 3,100 hours of sunshine a year with an average temperatures of 19C. Summers are hot and dry, autumns – warm and short, and winters – quite mild. Daytime temperatures rarely fall below 10ºC and summer temperatures are usually above 30ºC.

But it’s not just the weather… There is also an opportunity save a bit on your tax bill thanks to Malta’s Retirement Programme.

The Retirement Programme

Those EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who are in receipt of a pension and wish to retire to Malta can get a special tax status through the Malta Retirement Programme, which allows them to keep 85% of their pension.

There are certain requirements that you need to meet to qualify for the programme:

1. To purchase a property for a minimum of €275,000 or rent a property for minimum of €9,600 per annum. If the property is situated in Gozo or in the South of Malta, the minimum purchase value is €220,000 and the minimum rental value is €8,750 per year;

2. To have adequate health insurance covering the EU territory;

3. Not to spend more than 183 days in any one foreign jurisdiction in a year (i.e., to spend the majority of time in Malta);

4. To satisfy a “fit and proper” test which assesses the applicants’ integrity, competence and solvency;

5. Under this programme you will be charged a flat 15% rate of tax in respect of foreign income remitted to Malta. The minimum annual tax under this programme is €7,500, with an additional €500 per dependant. A one-time registration fee of €2,500 is levied by the Malta Government.

After your application has been approved, you can apply for a residence card on the basis of your retirement in Malta.

On the whole Malta is a very beautiful place to retire and has a lot to offer those who choose it as their home. It has a lovely Mediterranean climate, favourable tax regime, no language barrier, short flight time to the UK and back with plenty of airlines to choose from, a moderate cost of living, splendid beaches and historic sites and very low crime.

It is also quite easy to acquire a property in Malta too.

The island offers a chance of a quiet and tranquil life, and if that’s what you seek, it can be an ideal nation to closely consider.

5. Portugal

When it comes to the best retirement destinations in the world, Portugal is definitely rocking it at the moment.

For several years in a row the country has been consistently rated among top ten places for overseas retirement. Live and Invest Overseas, for example, rated the country’s Algarve region as the No.1 retirement destination in the world two years in succession, and International Living gave Portugal an 84.8 out of 100 in its 2015 index of best places to retire.

Last year Portugal topped the Forbes’ list of the best countries to retire abroad. Even Americans, traditionally flocking to South and Latin American countries for retirement, turned their attention to “old-world” culture and great climate of Portugal.

So why is Portugal so attractive for retirees?

The magic is simple: it’s the mix of everything we usually seek in retirement – a great lifestyle, healthy climate, good infrastructure and health services, plenty of various activities, – and it all comes at no extra costs. On the contrary, Portugal is cheaper than Britain or most Scandinavian and western European countries, so on the whole you get a better life for less money.

The Portuguese government is very enthusiastic about promoting the country as a top retirement destination. They actually offer global retirees a 10 year-long exemption from income tax on foreign occupational pensions. As long as a pensioner qualifies for a special expat pension tax regime for non-habitual residents, and the pension is an occupational pension, paid from a foreign source, the pension is not taxed in Portugal.

The result is that Portugal is growing rapidly in popularity among retirees and semi-retirees from all over the world. The Algarve and other regions are filling with happily retired Scandinavians, Britons and other nationals appreciating everything the country so generously offers them.

6. The USA

Retiring to the USA can be an extremely attractive idea: this is the country that can offer stunningly beautiful beaches, cutting-edge modern cities, a sophisticated lifestyle, all the activities and entertainment one can only dream of, no language barrier and a very familiar cultural background for Brits.

To those who wish to choose the States as their retirement destination, the country offers a great choice of climate zones – from alpine to tropical, to Mediterranean – and can accommodate any preferences in lifestyle from highly urban and sophisticated to relaxing and chilling out beach style living.

Although the States doesn’t offer any retirement programmes for residency, there are legitimate ways to go about it. One has to be particularly careful and thorough while planning finances and healthcare to retire to the USA due to the fact the country has one of the least favourable taxation policies, and one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world.

Staying on a Tourist Visa or Snowbirding

The easiest way is to obtain a plain tourist visa – a B2 Visa which is usually granted to pensioners for 10 years and permits multiple entries. This way, although simple at first sight, has two main limitations: you can’t stay in the States more than 6 months in a year, and you can’t apply for a social security number. Without the latter such day-to-day things as obtaining a driving licence, opening a bank account, getting health insurance etc., can become complicated too.

On the plus side there are some considerable advantages: by not taking up US residency you are effectively not liable to pay tax in the USA.

So, if you are ready to spend winters in Miami (which are gloriously warm and sunny), or Florida, for example, and enjoy the rest of the year somewhere else, it can work perfectly well for you. The snowbird lifestyle can be fun and active, getting you the best of Florida’s winters and UK summers. You can still rent or buy a property, and there are ways to solve other issues like your bank account if needs be.

Other options are buying a business in the states or applying for Investor’s Visa.

7. Australia

Australia is perhaps the best place on earth for us Britons to retire to! It has all the things we’re seemingly seeking such as a great climate, an outdoors lifestyle, decent food, decent healthcare, quality housing, a high standard of western-style living, and it’s English speaking.

It seems to offer almost everything you could want – a better climate, a stronger economy, a better lifestyle, familiarity and many commonalities from language to education and health care systems.

In Australia there is more emphasis placed on enjoying an outdoor, active life. There genuinely are more opportunities to get more out of life than simply sitting in front of the TV night after night. The days are long, the nights are mild, people socialise outside together for longer throughout the year, and later into the evening. Impromptu get togethers are the norm, therefore you don’t really risk being a stranger in a strange land for long.

However, retiring to Australia is not as easy as packing your bags and booking a plane ticket.

For those with families in Australia or for whom the lure of the nation appeals very strongly, there are ways to make the move possible.

The main ways to be able to gain at least temporary residence to retire to Australia are by being sponsored by your child or children who are permanent residents in Australia or by applying under the Investor Retirement Visa category.

Investor Retirement Visa isn’t a cheap option. It is a temporary 4-year visa renewable for further periods of 4 years at a time. This visa category will not lead to permanent residency in Australia or to Australian citizenship and it is for those aged 55 or over (although an accompanying spouse can be under this qualifying age), who have no dependents and are able to fully financially support themselves in Australia. To be accepted, the applicants need to demonstrate a certain level of income and invest a certain amount in government bonds.

8. New Zealand

If you can gain a residency in New Zealand, you will also gain a fantastic quality of life in stunning surroundings where everything feels sufficiently the same as in Britain, so that integration is smooth, but where everything is different enough to make the move so worthwhile.

Healthcare standards in New Zealand are high, infrastructure is good and improving, economically and politically the country is strong and in a good position globally – and of course, English is the first language and Britons are 100% welcome.

Gaining residency is possible through parent retirement visa if you have a family in New Zealand and enough capital. Another option is to buy into existing or start your own business there. Capital of NZ$ 100,000 is required for initial entrepreneur work visa which later leads to entrepreneur residency.

There are also less fussy but more expensive ways through Investor Visa or Investor Visa Plus. There is even a temporary retirement visa for those who want to try life in New Zealand for 2 years before committing.

9. Cyprus

Our final choice is Cyprus, both the South and the North of the island.

Cyprus is a perfect retirement destination for those who appreciate a sunny Mediterranean climate, blue flag beaches and an exciting mix of modern urban life with traditional tranquil retreats and a rich culture.

In the south you have the benefits of a low tax rate on pension income (as low as 5%), excellent healthcare, a high standard of living, good infrastructure, English is widely spoken and very widely understood, you have strong and established expat communities and even British shops such as Debenhams!

In the north you have cheap property, a cheap cost of living, an untouched feel to the island and arguably the more attractive natural landscape. There is a small British retiree community well established in Northern Cyprus already, and most locals speak English, so you will be able to get by if you don’t speak Turkish.

Private healthcare is excellent.

Downsides are – in the south the cost of living is very high and in the north you’re living in a part of the world where there are embargos in place which can make elements of life frustrating at times.

Of course, both sides of the island benefit from a fabulous climate, stunning natural landscape, a laid-back way of life and friendly and welcoming people. Cyprus is only a four and a half hour flight time to the UK too, and there are cheap flights available.