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Panama and Costa Rica Named the Best Places to Retire in 2022

The 'International Living' magazine chooses Panama and Costa Rica as the best countries to retire for the second year in a row

Panama and Costa Rica flags

For the second consecutive year, Panama and Costa Rica have been named the best places to retire in the Annual Global Retirement Index, published by the International Living magazine.

These neighboring Central American countries are enjoying some healthy competition when it comes to their retirement qualities. In 2021, Costa Rica took the number one spot in the ranking, with Panama in a close second place. In 2022, the tables have turned: now Panama tops the Annual Global Retirement Index, while Costa Rica ranks as the second-best country in this regard.

International Living has been ranking the best countries to retire for more than 30 years. The magazine claims that the index “is the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind”. The ranking is done by compiling “hundreds of opinions and real-life experiences” from experts all over the world.

Some of the factors the magazine takes into account in order to choose the countries for their ranked list are housing, availability of visas and residence permits, development, climate, healthcare, cost of living, benefits, and governance. The average score is based on the sum of the qualifications the countries obtain in these categories.

For example, the experts agree that in Panama, the visa and permanent residence processes are so easy for expats that the country deserves the 100 possible points in that category. Costa Rica on the other hand, got an almost perfect score in the healthcare category, which factors into the quality and price of the medical services offered in the country, both public and private.

Let’s see what the International Living experts have to say about Panama and Costa Rica, and why they guarantee that should you retire abroad, your best options are these two tropical paradises, which happen to be home to thousands of our clients.

“Panama is very tough to beat”

Jessica Ramesch, Panama editor for International Living, is not surprised at all about the country taking –once again– the number one spot in the Annual Global Retirement Index. “When it comes to overall benefits and value, Panama is very tough to beat,” she writes. For her, the geographical position (right in the middle of the American continent, the same as Costa Rica) and the climate of Panama are enough virtues for the country to lead the index.

However, –she adds– “the mild climate and incredible biodiversity are just the tip of the iceberg.” The development of the country, powered by its world-famous canal, has led to excellent infrastructure. So good that for Jessica it does not feel like a third-world country. “I have reliable power, water that I can drink straight from the tap, high-speed internet, and excellent cell phone service. For 35 cents I can hop on Central America’s only metro line and zip downtown in 10 minutes.”

Besides the perfect score in the visas/residence category, Panama also had a high score when it came to benefits and discounts for retirees. Expats that are retiring in Panama mentioned that they feel at home because it’s easy to adapt to the local culture and you can reach your  comforts from home when you need them.

“Costa Rica remains a beacon of stability”

Kathleen Evans, International Living‘s Coastal Correspondent, has nothing but beautiful words to describe Costa Rica. “Located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, a region often plagued by political and civil unrest, it is nice to know that Costa Rica remains a beacon of stability, democracy, and that sought-after laid-back lifestyle,” she notes in the article.

Regarding the healthcare system of the country (the category in which it earned the highest score), the journalist explains that foreign retirees can access its public healthcare system by paying between 7% and 11% of their reported income, without copays, pre-existing exclusions, or age disqualifications. But they also can blend it with private medical care, which has incredibly affordable prices for almost everything.

You can live comfortably in Costa Rica with about $2.500 a month, Evans says, but it’s not only the money which will give you a great quality of life in the country. The Costa Rican culture is warm, friendly, and welcoming, and its natural resources provide a healthy and beautiful experience. This country is so popular for foreign retirees that it will not be hard to meet other expats, so you can feel at home.

You can read the whole 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index in this link, and you can also contact us if you want more information about the legal process of living or retiring in Panama or Costa Rica.



Journalist with more than 10 years of experience in the media. In Costa Rica, Alessandro spent five years working in 'La Nación' newspaper. In Spain, he was a journalist for the digital newspaper 'Economía Digital' between 2017 and 2021. He also has experience in radio, advertising and production of live shows.

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  • Randje January 10, 2023

    I’m guessing living away from the dense populated cities is cheaper

    • Rafael Valverde January 16, 2023


      Indeed, as it happens anywhere in the world, living in a city increases the cost of living due to the high demand for real estate which increases the prices for everything. The father away from the city, the lower the cost of living.