Top European Countries for US/UK Expat Retirees

Expat Retirees or UK pensioners and US retirees living on a fixed income often look abroad for alternative options to live out their golden years.  Factors such as access to affordable healthcare, cost of living, visa considerations, climate, and convenience of transportation, among others, can play a key role in deciding where to retire.

With the current cost of living crisis, more people than ever before are looking for alternative living arrangements. The US Social Security Administration lists more than 700,000 Americans already receiving their monthly payments abroad and searches for the “best country to retire to from the UK” have risen by more than 90% in the last 12 months.

Recently, many of these senior expats have been eyeing European states – with their high standards of living at affordable costs – among their top choice destinations.

With so many attractive options in the EU, where to retire?

 Not surprisingly, Portugal, already a renowned hot spot for holiday seekers from around the globe, placed at the top of many lists for retirees moving to Europe.

Forbes says Portugal, with its low cost of living, easy residency, tax incentives for foreign residents, cosmopolitan cities, whitewashed cobblestone villages, miles of beaches, some of the best golf courses in Europe, pleasant climate, and friendly people, is a top spot for senior expats.

Investment migration firm Global Citizen Solutions says the best place to retire in Portugal by far is the Algarve, as it has some of the best beaches in Portugal, pleasant weather all year-round, and a large English-speaking community.

Travel and Leisure Magazine (T&L) also says the Algarve, Portugal is one of the best places in the world to retire, citing its healthy lifestyle, Mediterranean diet, affordable healthcare (legal residents are able to register with the National Health Service to receive an SNS card granting access to public hospitals and health centers, paying for services as they go) and low cost of living.

An investment in Portuguese real estate will gain senior expats residency permits for a family plus visa-free access throughout the Schengen Area of 26 European countries.

Spain also ranks highly on the list for Expat Retirees.

UK online social platform Mirthy ranked Spain as the best place to retire overall. With over 100,000 retired Brits already living there, it says Spain is attractive for its lower cost of living (up to 30% lower on average than living in the UK), and retiring to Spain will require a pension pot that provides an income of around £15,000 per year on top of the state pension.

Global Citizens says the best cities to live in Spain are Madrid and Barcelona – offering a dynamic and diverse lifestyle, cultural activities all year long, excellent transportation systems, and high-quality restaurants and cafes.

According to fintech pension firm Penfold, which analyzed 12 different lifestyle factors, Spain, with its warm weather, beautiful beaches, and close proximity to the UK, was the second-highest scorer among British pensioners for happiness and safety.

Malta, Croatia and Greece round out the top five overall.

T&L also selected Malta as an attractive and affordable retirement option – a one-bedroom apartment just outside the capital city of Valletta rents for as low as $750 (£629) a month and groceries and restaurant dining are also reasonably priced.

Private healthcare in Malta is recommended for non-EU expatriates and is both highly rated and inexpensive compared to US options. Additionally, Malta and the US have a treaty in place for relief from double taxation on income.

The International Living’s 2022 Global Retirement Index described Malta as, “If someone were to take Southern California and mix it together with a blend of Tuscany, Spain, and more than a sprinkling of the Greek island of Crete … that person will have created a pretty good analog for Malta, a tiny little speck in the southern Mediterranean, just a geologic stone’s throw from Sicily.”

Further east, Penfold crowned Croatia at the top of its list, citing that the price of rent and overall living expenses are almost half of what they are for Brits who stay in the UK. Additionally, it says the financial requirements for visa applications are one of the lowest (about £2,839 or €3,276) and healthcare costs are also lower.

T&L says Croatia is also quite attractive as a retirement location – boasting almost 3,600 miles (5,800 km) of coastline, warm and dry summers and mild winters along the coast that create a desirable climate, especially in Split – its second-largest city.

Greece also appears among the most affordable countries to live in Europe and has an established golden visa program that grants five years of permanent residence to non-European Union citizens who invest at least €250,000 (£218,600) in local real estate, according to Forbes.

Global Citizens says the Greek cities of Chania, Athens, Thessaloniki, and Corfu are seniors’ top choices for their large English-speaking Expat Retirees, excellent healthcare facilities, rich histories, and overall lower cost of living.


The views expressed in this article are not to be construed as personal advice. You should contact a qualified and ideally regulated adviser in order to obtain up-to-date personal advice with regard to your own personal circumstances. If you do not then you are acting under your own authority and deemed “execution only”. The author does not accept any liability for people acting without personalised advice, who base a decision on views expressed in this generic article. Where this article is dated then it is based on legislation as of the date. Legislation changes but articles are rarely updated, although sometimes a new article is written; so, please check for later articles or changes in legislation on official government websites, as this article should not be relied on in isolation.


Chris Lean

Chris is a Chartered Financial Planner who writes blogs and articles to simplify and explain some of the financial issues that affect UK expats. Subjects include; hot topics, regulation and the ever-changing world of finance.

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