The best places to retire for international luxury

Thanks to our strong dollar, you won’t believe the lifestyle you can afford in these new retirement hotspots.

Where do you want to spend your golden years? According to the latest census data, Peterborough, Ont., is one of Canada’s hottest retirement destinations. But let’s face it, there comes a time in life when pushing a snowblower stops being fun. While Florida and Arizona remain classic escape routes, some Canadian retirees are casting their gaze at the low cost of living in many Latin American and Asian countries. The Top 5 countries on International Living magazine’s 2012 Global Retirement Index are Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, Malaysia and Colombia. Sure, there may be language and cultural adjustments, but luxury condos and beachfront living for less than a Winnipeg walk-up sounds pretty persuasive. Here are five cities where you can enjoy luxury for less.

Chiang Mai, Thailand


This historic northern capital among the mountains has always been a must-see destination for tourists visiting Thailand. The second-largest centre in the country, Chiang Mai is a modern city that’s become a popular retirement destination for westerners, thanks to its low cost of living, low crime rate, quality health care and warm climate. It’s a place you can stroll out of your $500 a month furnished luxury condo and have dinner for two at a restaurant for less than $20. Become a regular at one of the regions many golf courses (green fees as low as $30) or use Chiang Mai as a base camp for visits to Thailand’s beaches, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Average February Temperature: 23.4°C

Lake Chapala, Mexico


Expats have been moving to the shores of Mexico’s largest lake for more than 50 years. In fact, Lake Chapala is second only to Florida in the number of Canadians living there. What they know that most don’t: it’s only 45 minutes from Guadalajara (Mexico’s second-largest city), it has an average year-round temperature of 24 degrees, and it features the low cost of laid-back living Mexico is known for, with loads of access to retiree favourites like golf, tennis, cycling and swimming. Here, lakeview or lakefront homes can be found for under $300,000.
Hourly tennis court rental at Cristiana Park: $2

Panama City, Panama


With its cosmopolitan population, summery climate and easy access from anywhere in North America and Europe, Panama City has become one of the world’s most popular retirement destinations. According to International Living, you can live comfortably on $1,500 to $2,000 a month, and beachfront condos can be found for $180,000. Best of all, the national senior discount program is open to expats, and includes 30% off public transport, 50% off movies, 25% off restaurant meals and 15% off in hospitals and private clinics.
Ticket to a los Diablos Rojos baseball game: $5

Salinas, Ecuador


Just 90 miles from Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, Salinas features some of the country’s best beaches. With a population of about 40,000, it’s home to a thriving tourism industry, but beachfront condos can still be found for as little as $60,000, and there are no restrictions on foreign real estate ownership. A couple can live comfortably on less than $1,500 a month, and national retirement benefits include 50% off transportation and utility bills. Expats pay $57 a month to access the national health care.
Cost of three-course dinner at Big Ralph’s Fish and Chips: $10

Traverse City, Michigan


That’s right, Michigan. It may not be exotic, but this gem of the Upper Peninsula puts a Midwestern spin on the beach retirement dream. There’s about 300 km of Lake Michigan shoreline on offer and more than 100 smaller lakes around this city of 15,000 people where the average house price is under $160,000. The area’s known as much for its golfing and hiking (nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is beautiful), as its vibrant arts scene, of which the Traverse City Film Festival is an annual highlight.
Jug of beer and pizza at Kilkenny’s Pub: $11.