Spain among the top ten best countries to retire

by Lorraine Williamson
plans to retire

MADRID – If you are considering to retire abroad, you need information. That is why has compiled the annual global pension index for 2023. 

This ranking of good places to retire can help you with the exciting task of choosing which place in the world best suits your needs. Before the first ranking was compiled, International Living had already spent more than a decade exploring all kinds of dream locations. 

The result was an enormous variety of choices and opportunities. Fast forward to 2023. More than three decades have passed in which the scouts have scoured every corner of the world many times. The result is an ever-growing selection of excellent destinations where you can live a healthier and happier life, spend a lot less money and get a lot more. But how do you make the choice? 

What is the annual global pension index? 

The Pension Index is the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind. It’s a good way to create some order and help you decide on the best destination. The index is based on hundreds of real-life opinions and experiences. Information curated by trusted sources in the best retirement destinations around the world. 

Locals map their land 

People living in numerous locations report their insights and information about how the situations really are. They are independent and not affiliated with moving companies, brokers or tourism agencies. The Global Retirement Index is in no way intended as scientific output. Rather, think of it as a useful resource for people, built from realistic, basic information interpreted through a lens of informed experience and educated opinions. International Living relies on the judgment of its sources. When they say that health care is good, or that a meal for two in a nice restaurant costs €40, they believe it. 

The top ten best destinations to retire 

  • Portugal 
  • Mexico 
  • Panama 
  • Ecuador 
  • Costa Rica 
  • Spain 
  • France 
  • Columbia 
  • Italy 
  • Thailand 

Spain is 2nd European destination on the list 

Sally Pedersen writes the following about Spain, among other things. “Year-round sunny weather, a welcoming culture, an incredibly relaxed lifestyle and a relatively low cost of living are just some of the things Spain has to offer. Long a favourite place for Brits, Germans and other Northern Europeans to retire and spend their final years, Spain is also increasingly becoming a choice for North Americans.” 

All of the above come with a relatively low price tag despite the increased cost of living. These costs also partly depend on the location. From 2022 you can live very comfortably for about €26,000 per year. If you opt for a quieter pension in a small provincial town, you can live on €1,775 per month. 

Madrid and Barcelona are the most expensive cities 

The most expensive cities are Madrid and Barcelona. Especially expensive due to high housing costs. However, outside these cities, it is quite easy to find a one-bedroom house for around €750 per month. 


In Spain, the cost of restaurant meals is surprisingly low. A three-course lunch can be found anywhere in Spain for €15 to €19, and even cheaper lunch deals are common. Especially if you opt for a ‘menu del día’ (daily menu). A glass of wine or a beer costs around €3 and there is no local culture of tipping. 


In general, the south is cheaper than the north. Some expats retiring in Spain choose to buy a house, which can be bought for as little as €1,872 per square metre in cheaper areas such as Andalucia, especially outside the city centres. Whereas, double that price applies in Madrid and Barcelona. 


As a retired expat you will initially use Spain’s private health care system. Both the public and private systems are fine by European and US standards. The private options are much simpler, more efficient and surprisingly affordable. Even in 2022, private health insurance may only cost under €100 per month. 


You can choose from several providers: Sanitas, Cogesa, ASSSA, DKV, MAPFRE and Axa are a few providers with many options. For example, at age 70, Sanitas’ minimum stay insurance covers everything with no deductibles or copays, including basic dental care, for the price of €262 per month. 

After five years you become a permanent resident and come automatically into the public system. In many communities, but not all, it is possible to enter the public system after just one year of residency. If you are of retirement age, 65 or older, this program costs about $175 per month. Another bonus is that the public health system in Spain works with interpreters in places with many foreigners. 

Visa for non-EU residents 

There are two main visas for non-European residents: the non-lucrative and the golden visa. The first is a simple visa for those who have the economic resources to stay in Spain without having a local income there. 

Non-lucrative visa 

As of this year, the non-lucrative visa requires a documented income from self-employment, pensions or investments of at least €2,316 per month or an annual amount of €27,792 in your bank account. You will also need about $6,758 per year for each dependent family member you plan to bring with you. 

Also required is proof of private health insurance in Spain, a clean criminal record with fingerprints and a doctor’s note. 

Golden visa 

The golden visa is also known as the “property visa”. To get it, you need to buy property in Spain worth €500,000. This gives you a one-year visa for yourself, your partner and your dependent children, renewable every year. 

Digital nomad visa 

A third type of visa, the “digital nomad visa”, should have been available by the end of 2022, but has been delayed. It requires, among other things, a minimum income and proof that you are a remote worker for a non-Spanish company. 

Related post: New law makes live in Spain easier for startups and digital nomads  

First-class infrastructure 

For its relatively cheap prices, Spain offers a top-notch infrastructure comparable to the best in the EU. In general, everything works well: the tap water is drinkable, the electricity (almost) always works, there is fast Wi-Fi almost everywhere, especially in urban areas, and the public areas are kept clean. Basic groceries are fresh and healthy and at a lower price than anywhere else in North America. 

Public transport 

In larger towns, public transport is cheap (often free these days) and good. If you live in an outlying area, you will need a car to get around. More and more cities are installing infrastructure for cyclists. In addition, Spain has one of the most extensive high-speed train networks in the world. Something that makes domestic travel easier. The advice is to buy tickets as far in advance as possible, then you are the cheapest. 


Spain is one of the safest places in Europe apart from the widespread crime of pickpocketing in major cities. Except for that, crime is almost non-existent and unseen by expats, except in the news when there has been a drug settlement or the Spanish police caught terrorists in time. Hardly anyone owns deadly weapons. 


Spain offers a wonderful variety of climates and environments. With 300 to 320 sunny days a year, it is one of the sunniest regions in Europe. On the other hand, the northwest coast is a green land of wind and rain, similar to Oregon and Ireland. For those who love snow and skiing, Spain’s northern border runs through the Pyrenees and several other mountain ranges have ski-stations. 

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