Where's the best place to retire abroad?

View on Pacific coast of Mexico resort town of Mismaloya near Puerto Vallarta

At this time of year, the thought of moving to sunnier climes is a tempting one, and if you're no longer working, there may be little to keep you here.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office figures show that more than a third of Britons aged 55-plus want to live abroad, with Spain the most popular destination.

But is it the best country to retire to? No, according to InternationalLiving.com, which has just released its annual Global Retirement Index for 2017.

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It has ranked the top 24 retirement destinations in the world in 10 categories, including buying and renting property; benefits and discounts; visas and residence; cost of living; fitting in; entertainment and amenities; healthcare; healthy lifestyle; infrastructure and climate.

And top of the list - for the fifth time - is Mexico: a low-cost country with friendly locals, and plenty of other expats.

"It offers an appealing balance of exotic foreign culture and familiar First World lifestyle," say the report's authors.

"The cost of living offers extraordinary value — expats report living well for as little as $1,200 [£970] a month."

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There's an efficient and affordable health service, and legal residents over the age of 60 are entitled to special discounts.

"I love my senior discount card," says expat Marty Kramer who lives in Playa del Carmen.

"All Mexican citizens, including resident expats, can get one when they turn 60. With it, I get discounts on almost everything: healthcare, public transportation, groceries, restaurants, hotels, and even some airlines. It's up to the business how much of a discount they offer, but it's usually around 10%."

Perhaps because of a focus on US expats, central and south America feature heavily on the list, with Panama, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia making up the rest of the top five.

The best European country to retire to is Spain, the survey concludes, mostly because of its low cost of living, laid-back lifestyle and good weather.

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"Spain's miles of beaches, the warm climate along its coasts, its low cost of living and real estate, and its relaxed, laidback lifestyle all help to make it a top retirement destination," say the authors.

Portugal, for similar reasons, comes in at number nine on the list, while Malta is at number 10, partly because of the large number of English-speaking locals.

InternationalLiving.com's 2017 Global Retirement Index top 10 retirement destinations:
1. Mexico
2. Panama
3. Ecuador
4. Costa Rica
5. Colombia
6. Malaysia
7. Spain
8. Nicaragua
9. Portugal
10. Malta

Dream retirement destinations
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Dream retirement destinations

A study by MGM Advantage discovered that Portugal is the 10th most popular dream retirement destination among Brits.

You get the attractions of the sun, a more relaxed way of life, lower living costs and cheaper property. You can also benefit from pension arrangements that mean your pension rises with inflation.

And if you choose to, you can spend your time with the enormous expat population, feeling like you never left.

In the tradition of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, there’s a large number of people keen to move to India, partly in order to enjoy a much higher standard of living than they would be able to afford in the UK.

If course it’s important to consider that your state pension will not rise in line with inflation - so will halve in real terms during your retirement.

This part of Europe offers a great combination of some of the lowest living and housing costs on the continent, along with a more forgiving climate than the UK.

For that reason Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Greece and Turkey are a big draw for retirees.

However, state pension provision varies across the region, so you will need to check whether retiring to these locations will mean your pension continues to rise in line with increases in the UK, or will be frozen when you move overseas.

Italy is a country of contrasts, so anyone planing a retirement there needs to think carefully about whether they want to call a bustling city home, or whether they would be happiest in the mountains or by the sea.

Housing tends to cost less than in the UK, and in some regions it's incredibly cheap. Living costs are also lower than in Britain, and your pension will rise in line with increases in the UK.

Canada is a big draw for British expats of all ages. This spectacular country is known for being welcoming to people from all over the world, and in many cases has no language barrier for Brits. The quality of life is high, and the cost of housing lower than in the UK.

However, you will need to factor in the fact that your UK state pension will be frozen on the day you leave, and you will need some health insurance if you want to replicate the sorts of things that are available for free on the NHS.

As with India, the Far East offers an exciting and dramatic change from life in the UK, with much lower costs, which can buy you a higher standard of living (although bear in mind your state pension will be frozen).

You will need to consider the cultural and practical differences associated with the move, but you will have the opportunity to live in one of the most exciting places in the world.

The weather, lifestyle, space, and lower cost of living means that British expats of all ages are keen to move to Australia.

Property can be a bit of a stumbling block in some areas, as prices have gone up so much. The currency is also strong, which has posed some issues for those who receive their income in pounds, and there’s the fact that the UK state pension will be frozen if you move. However, if you can overcome these things, then a new life in the sun awaits.

The US offers much more affordable housing, and in many respects a lower cost of living than in the UK.

It appeals to those who don’t want to live with a language barrier, but want more space, possibly more sun, and an American Dream of their own.

There are some important things to factor in before you move, such as the additional cost of healthcare, and the exchange rate. However, one bonus is that your state pension will rise at the same rate it does in the UK.

France is close to home, and yet offers cheaper accommodation than the UK, a lower cost of living, and in many regions there’s better weather too.

Your pension will rise at the same rate it would in the UK, and at any time friends and family are just a short boat or plane ride away. It’s no wonder France is the second most popular dream destination for retirees.

It will come as little surprise that Spain tops the list - largely because it’s already the most common overseas retirement destination for Brits.

Millions of us have experienced the delights of the sun, sea, and the lower cost of living while we were on holiday in the country, so it’s hardly a shock that so many want to experience it on a full-time basis in retirement.

Huge falls in the price of property has made this a cheap place to buy, and the fact that your state pension will keep pace with rises in the UK means you’ll be able to maintain your standard of living throughout your retirement.

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