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10 Best Places to Retire in South America

With our list of best places to retire in South America, deciding on your retirement destination was never easier.

South America is world’s 4th largest continent by area and 5th most populous one. Although South America isn’t as popular retirement destination as Central America, there are lots of people deciding to spend their golden years here. There are plenty of reasons to do so, including a moderate cost of living, charming culture, colorful cities and lots of natural beauties. Although some of the countries had serious political issues in the past, the situation is mostly stabilized now with the majority of the countries seeing significant development. According to International Living magazine’s Annual Global Retirement Index for 2017, five countries from South America made it in the 24 top retirement destinations in the world. The index was calculated based on numerous criteria including healthcare, cost of living and climate.

10 Best Places to Retire in South America

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The quality of healthcare in South America has seen significant progress in the recent decades. Governments are increasing their efforts into making universal healthcare accessible to everyone, and some countries like Columbia have even put the right to healthcare into Constitution. The quality of medical care has been recognized by the foreigners as well since South America has become one of the top destinations for medical tourism. According to the World Economic Forum‘s Health and Hygiene ranking, Argentina tops all other countries on the continent, ranking 18th overall. For top retirement destinations in this country, check out our list of 10 best places to retire in Argentina.

Unfortunately, safety is still an issue in South America. For example, the WEF rankings for Safety and Security saw Chile ranked in 44th place overall (highest of the countries in South America), while other countries received lot worse rankings including Columbia that was placed dead last out of 136 countries in the world. Scams and thefts have been highlighted as the main concerns, but violent crimes also take place. Of course, the safety situation mostly depends on the part of the country you find yourself in. Large cities will always have an increased criminal activity as well as destinations with touristic attractions.

In order for us to create our list of best places to retire in South America, we took recommendations from British Expat Guide, International Living and South America Travel among others. Then we checked the recommended destinations for average rent cost (Numbeo, Expatistan), hospital to population ratio (Google Maps) and cost of the flight to the United States (Google Flights). After that, we ranked the places and assigned points accordingly. Extra points were added if the country (where the destination is located) found its place on International Living’s list of best retirement destinations in the world. After summing the points into our IM Score, our list took shape. Note that flight cost includes the cost of transportation to the nearest airport, while hospital to population ratio should tell you how many people are assigned to one hospital in a particular location. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the list.

10. Salinas – Ecuador

IM Score: 27
Rent Cost: $350
Hospital to Population Ratio: 14,243
Flight to U.S. Cost: $1,048
Country Global Retirement Index: 3

You may be scared off by high airplane ticket price, but hear us out. The city offers the best beach lifestyle in Ecuador, which says a lot when you have in mind that the country was ranked 3rd best retirement destination in the world. Everything in Salinas is devoted to relaxation and living the life with full lungs. Beautiful beaches, restaurants, recreational facilities and more will make you fall in love with the city in a heartbeat.


9. Cusco – Peru

IM Score: 29
Rent Cost: $340
Hospital to Population Ratio: 26,841
Flight to U.S. Cost: $736
Country Global Retirement Index: 14

Cusco may not have beaches, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a city that used to be the capital of Inca Empire? You’ll always have something new to see and explore while enjoying stunning landscapes and architectural heritage. Just keep in mind that there will be lots of tourists looking to do the same since the city hosts around 2 million visitors in a year.

10 Best Places to Retire in South America

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8. Florianopolis – Brazil

IM Score: 30
Rent Cost: $335
Hospital to Population Ratio: 17,093
Flight to U.S. Cost: $778
Country Global Retirement Index: N/A

Although Brazil isn’t viewed as one of the world’s top retirement destinations, Florianopolis still managed to find its place on our list of best places to retire in South America. Many consider Florianopolis as the best city to live in the country, and there might be some truth to it. The city has a vibrant culture, beaches, developed infrastructure, beautiful nature and is considered one of the Brazil’s safest cities. This is why Florianopolis has become one of the most preferred retirement and vacation destination for people from all of Brazil and the rest of the world.

10 Best Places to Retire in South America

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7. Medellin – Colombia

IM Score: 32
Rent Cost: $320
Hospital to Population Ratio: 77,000
Flight to U.S. Cost: $440
Country Global Retirement Index: 5

We are continuing our list of best places to retire in South America with Medellin that has had its issues in the past, but now, it is one of the most desirable cities to live in South America. Besides offering low cost of living, Medellin will charm you with street music, architecture, people and perfect weather. You’ll be able to explore parks, botanic gardens, museums and enjoy in numerous cultural events happening almost every week.

10 Best Places to Retire in South America

Pixabay/Public Domain

6. Arequipa – Peru

IM Score: 34
Rent Cost: $325
Hospital to Population Ratio: 17,057
Flight to U.S. Cost: $667
Country Global Retirement Index: 14

If you like the sunshine, Arequipa, next on our list of best places to retire in South America is the perfect choice since the city sees more than 300 sunny days in a year. It may not offer the same historical and architectural heritage like Cusco, but this is the city you can genuinely be excited about. Besides the excellent weather, you’ll be able to enjoy in city’s rich culture and nature. There are a lot of things to see and experience starting from parks, forests, and wildlife, to stunning volcanoes. If you ever feel the need to take a dip in the sea, the beach will also be in the near.

10 Best Places to Retire in South America

Pixabay/Public Domain

5. Cuenca – Ecuador

IM Score: 36
Rent Cost: $290
Hospital to Population Ratio: 16,000
Flight to U.S. Cost: $855
Country Global Retirement Index: 3

Get used to seeing plenty of Ecuadorian cities on our list of best places to retire in South America. Cuenca offers a feel of Spain in the heart of the country thanks to its Spanish colonial architecture. The city is one of the fastest growing in Ecuador, with improved infrastructure and rising number of touristic attractions. Growing expat community, plenty of festivals and other cultural events s that happen throughout the year alongside acclaimed cuisine are just some of the things Cuenca will amaze you with.

10 Best Places to Retire in South America

Pixabay/Public Domain

4. Santa Marta – Colombia

IM Score: 37
Rent Cost: $330
Hospital to Population Ratio: 18,194
Flight to U.S. Cost: $533
Country Global Retirement Index: 5

Santa Marta is quickly developing into a popular retirement destination, so you should hurry up before the prices go up. If your ideal retirement option includes sipping drinks on the beach, eating delicious food, visiting cultural events and enjoying outdoor activities then this is the place to be. There is something for everyone here, and even if you are not a beach kind of person, you’ll get easily sucked into the laid back lifestyle.

3. Loja – Ecuador

IM Score: 38
Rent Cost: $235
Hospital to Population Ratio: 7,541
Flight to U.S. Cost: $901
Country Global Retirement Index: 3

High-quality healthcare and low cost of rent alongside rich cultural life and pleasant weather are the reasons why Loja began attracting more expats in the recent times. Although you’ll have a feel of a small city, Loja offers all the modern amenities you would need. People are friendly, and according to experiences, they will accept you as one of their own.


2. Cotacachi – Ecuador

IM Score: 39
Rent Cost: $290
Hospital to Population Ratio: 4,000
Flight to U.S. Cost: $850
Country Global Retirement Index: 3

The final entry from Ecuador on the list of best places to retire in South America, Cotacachi is a small city that will offer you a peaceful, enjoyable retirement. You won’t have to worry about anything expect to seize the day and soak up all the beauties that surround you. Cotacachi has a large expat community (over 100) that is steadily growing, so you can be sure you’ll have someone to hang out with.


1. Manizales – Colombia

IM Score: 42
Rent Cost: $195
Hospital to Population Ratio: 21,583
Flight to U.S. Cost: $499
Country Global Retirement Index: 5

They say that tradition meets the future in this entry on our list of best places to retire in South America. You’ll feel like you are living in an urban center, but nature will never be too far away. National parks, volcanoes, rivers, and forest all surround Manizales and are there to leave you speechless with their beauty. Inside the city, you’ll find international restaurants and bars, but traditional coffee houses and small diners will be around the corner to win you over. Finally, this is the city that offers the most affordable rent on our list, so you know you will get the full package.