5 Things to take into consideration when retiring abroad


If you’ve had enough of the long UK winters and have spent the last few years dreaming about retirement in the sun, you’re not alone. Millions of Brits live out their retirement in places like Spain, Italy and France or much further afield.

Property is most certainly less expensive, the cost of living is lower and taxes are likely to be less than in the UK too. That said, choosing where to retire overseas takes a lot of thought and consideration. The things that make a place a good holiday destination, don’t necessarily make it the best place for everyday retirement living.

Here are 5 things you should take into consideration when retiring abroad:

Which country is a good option for retirement?

While it seems that the majority of Brits opt for Spain as their retirement country of choice, recent research has shown some surprising results. The Annual Global Retirement Index run by International Living is the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind. Their editors and correspondents have moved overseas and immersed themselves in the destinations where they live and learned their lessons the hard way. Their final list of top countries to retire to is as follows:

Cost Rica

Surprised? You can find the full details on why each place was considered a great place to retire here.

When considering what country to move to, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Will you need to learn a new language and are you willing to do so?
What are the average living costs?
What are the healthcare services like and how much do they cost?
Will you be able to travel back easily to see friends or family if you want to?
Will you have to apply for a local driving licence or re-take your driving test?
If you have any pets, will you be able to take them with you?

What are the costs involved in moving overseas?

This will be different for everyone and depends on where you go, the property you want to live in and what you take with you. It is advisable to factor in the following:

Costs associated with selling or letting a property you have in the UK.
International shipping costs
Exchange rates in transaction costs. Consider any ongoing income and costs that you have to finance your retirement abroad.
Getting expert advice – both on taxation and legal matters, particularly if you are buying a property overseas.
Any relevant medical costs – look into the healthcare system. Some countries only have private medical healthcare.
For more detailed advice around pensions and taxes you can contact the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), HMRC and Age UK.

Having decided on the country, what area would be suitable for someone retired?

Before committing to an area, it is a good idea to rent a property first. This will help you see what daily life is like at different times of the year.

If you decide to buy a property, think about these questions:

Are there local amenities within easy walking distance?

Are there good public transport links nearby?

Will you have any neighbours? They are often a vital source of support.

Will the property be easy to maintain or adapt if your needs and abilities change over the years?

Do properties in the area sell quickly and easily?

If you decide to go ahead and buy a property, speak to an independent legal advisor and understand local inheritance laws.

How to determine if the property is suitable in older age?

If this is going to be your forever home, then a bungalow where everything is on one level is definitely your best option. None of us knows what is around the corner, especially with our health. It is therefore sensible to review the living space and make adaptations to the home, which will mean you have a home you can stay in forever.

The kitchen is often the hub of the home and it is worth identifying possible issues that the current design has. Think about the positioning of the sink, hob, oven, and fridge. As the most used areas of the kitchen ideally these should be positioned in a triangle shape for convenience. For older people the triangle may need to be smaller, so the appliances are closer together. This means there is less distance to travel around the space, and this is useful if you are carrying a heavy pan of water between the hob and sink for example.

Consider the heights of the appliances and aim to have the microwave and oven installed at a counter height to minimise the amount of bending and stretching needed to access them. If you have deep cupboards, look into pullout racks or even drawers instead of shelves to make sure you can get to the items at the back of the cupboard with ease.

Lighting in the kitchen is really important, so make sure that there is plenty of bright task-lighting above high use areas, for activities like chopping food, as well as more ambient lighting to make sure floors are clearly visible.

The bathroom is another frequently used room and one that can be hazardous for someone with reduced mobility, so it is important that it is well thought through. If you prefer bathing, then choose an accessible walk-in bath with a  fully sealable door that enables the user to walk in and out of the bath. Once the door is shut the bath can be filled as normal. Some of these walk-in baths even have a reclined seat shape built in or in more compact versions the seat is almost fully upright. Some have the option of having a shower screen to one side so that you can enjoy either a shower or bath easily.

If a shower is preferred then a wet room is a modern option that is ideal for anyone with reduced mobility or a wheelchair user. Shower seats are widely available to give more stability while washing and can be removable or attached to the wall to save space.

In addition, grab rails can be fitted to the walls around all bathroom appliances to help with manoeuvring around the bathroom and to minimise the risk of slipping. Care and thought should be given to the positioning of all the bathroom appliances to make sure that everything is in easy reach and the space can be navigated safely. Aquaneed, a specialist in accessible bathroom design and fitting, have further top tips on how you can future proof your bathroom space. 

The garden is often a key feature of the home, which can bring joy, relieve stress, and be a place to relax. Many older people find however, that if they suffer from mobility issues the garden is no longer accessible to them. Difficult steps, uneven surfaces or beds that are too difficult to bend down to are just some of the reason the garden might not be such a welcoming place for someone less steady on their feet. Consider now whether there are garden steps or steps to the front entrance that might be difficult to climb. If so, often steps can be replaced with a smooth ramp, and it’s a good idea to add a handrail for extra support.

If the flower beds are ground level, raised beds can be added to the garden to ensure that they can be tended from sitting-height, saving the stress on the back and knee joints. Pots are also a good addition to the garden for this reason.

Look at the surfaces in the garden, if there are uneven paving stones or gravel paths, these might become difficult to walk on for older people, and can be replaced by smoother options available.

What else is there to consider when retiring abroad?

Your friends and family may love the idea of visiting you overseas, but they may also be daunted by not only how you’ll cope as you perhaps become frail but also how they’ll manage if you need their extra care from a distance.

Moving house, taking possessions abroad, learning a new language, living in a different climate and culture are a big deal at the best of times. Do talk to people who’ve already been through the experience of retiring abroad themselves. Seek out the not-so-happy stories too – they may offer insights you’d not considered previously. Consider all these issues so that you make the right choice. We hope that the 5 things you should take into consideration when retiring abroad have helped you with your list of things to look out for. Moving to another country to start your retired life can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it pays to do your homework first.

Article contributed by Aquaneed, a specialist in aesthetic accessible bathroom design and fitting, including easy access wet rooms and walk-in baths, non-slip flooring, raised height toilets and accessories such as drop down or grab rails. 

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