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Survey Reveals the Best Countries to Retire

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Pensioners are beginning to choose to retire abroad at ever-increasing rates. 12% of people aged over 50 in the UK wish to relocate in retirement, move closer to family and friends, pursue a better quality of life or even move abroad, according to new research.

As searches for ‘best country to retire to from the UK’ have risen 94.1% in the last 12 months, there’s an ongoing, ever-increasing demand for inquiries surrounding moving abroad from UK pensioners. This trend is expected to continue.

With this in mind, pensions experts Penfold researched the top 15 countries to retire in by considering multiple factors, such as the cost of living, exchange rate, average flight cost, and more.

Top three Countries to Retire 


Croatia tops the list of the best countries to retire in. The top benefits of moving to Croatia in retirement include the exchange rate, with one British pound equaling just shy of 8.5 Croatia Kronas.

The cost of living, including rent, is also exceedingly attractive compared to staying in the UK. Croatia scores 28.47 on the Cost of Living Index, compared to the UK’s 46.42, meaning that rent costs and the price of day-to-day living are nearly half that of living in the UK.


Spain is well known as one of the most popular countries that UK ex-pats choose to retire in.  With cheap flight costs and a relatively short flight time to get there, it is one of the most ideal destinations to retire in.

Spain also ranks highly in terms of happiness, scoring highly on happiness surveys while also being one of the safest countries in the world to settle in, with a score of 83 out of 100 on the World Safety Index. 

Republic of Ireland

The third best country to retire in for citizens of the UK might be surprising. What Ireland lacks in its moderate climate, it makes up for in its phenomenal healthcare, bountiful green spaces and proximity to the UK.

To relocate to Ireland, pensioners will only require €7000 in their bank accounts, meaning that this country opens up its green gates to a much wider range of people, regardless of their financial position. 

Reasons why people are retiring abroad

There are many reasons UK citizens opt for a new life abroad in their retirement, but ultimately, the main element is seeking a better quality of life. Some of the most dominant factors influence a move abroad for retirement.

Cost of living

  • Better exchange rates: Philippines
  • Cheaper cost of living: Philippines, Thailand, and South Africa
  • Healthcare costs and qualitySpain

The Philippines has the best exchange rate of over 63 pesos to the pound. Many countries require you to have a certain amount of money in the bank to be eligible to apply for a visa.

The Philippines allows you to apply with less than €3000. Countries like the Philippines, Thailand and South Africa top the list regarding the comparative cost of living, with costs halving that of those we’d expect to pay in the UK

Spain can offer a combination of good healthcare, at a moderate cost, with facilities ranking number 24 in the world for their quality of care. 

Living Environment

  • Green spaces: France, Croatia, and Australia
  • Better weather: Spain, Italy, Greece

Countries like France, Croatia, and Australia rank the highest in their Environmental Performance Index scores, making them exceptionally attractive to retirees who wish to escape British city life for greener pastures.

The most desirable countries for pensioners moving abroad are those sunny weather, escaping the clouds of the UK for a more comfortable quality of life. Spain, Italy, Greece and even further afield in locations such as Dubai are some of the key chosen locations, settling for an average yearly temperature around the 20 degrees celsius mark. 


  • Highest population of people aged 65+: Greece
  • Distance and cost of travel from the UK: Ireland

Croatia, Greece, France and Italy have a huge number of citizens over the age of 65 at over one-fifth of the population, whereas the likes of Spain aren’t far off. Combining the enhanced quality of life with a desirable climate and opportunities to enjoy a social life makes these countries the most appealing globally. 

While countries such as Ireland aren’t drastically different to the UK in terms of climate, this is made up for in the short travel time and low cost of flying. Even hotter countries such as Spain can offer an average of £72, with flights as quick as two hours or less.


  • Safety levels: New Zealand
  • Happiness ratings: New Zealand

While the UK is considered relatively safe as worldwide nations go, matching that of Italy, the following ranked countries are considered to have higher safety ratings. The list includes New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Spain and more.

Looking at happiness surveys for each country is important in the decision-making process when moving abroad. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the Republic of Ireland score more highly than the UK regarding overall happiness, making them ideal locations to settle in.

Chris Eastwood, co-founder at Penfold, a digital pensions provider: ‘While many people who retire overseas worry whether they will be able to access their state pension, it is possible to claim State Pension abroad if you’ve paid enough UK National Insurance contributions and are within four months of your State Pension age.’

‘Personal or workplace pensions can be paid to you wherever you live, and you’ll be entitled to any scheduled annual increases in the same way as if you were living in the UK. Before moving abroad, it is important to figure out what pension scheme and provider is best for you. Some providers may only be able to pay into a UK bank account, so be wary of providers who will apply extra charges.’

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