|Affordable living and scenic beauty--the promise of European retirement destinations.|
Consider France--at least outside of traditional tourist traps:
“Outside of high-glamor zones like Paris, Provence, and the sun-soaked towns of the Riviera, the cost of living and real estate in France can be surprisingly reasonable,” says InternationalLiving.com’s France correspondent Barbara Diggs. “Yet the quality of life remains very high.”Spain, too is looking good. Never a big-ticket destination, it's even more affordable now:
But there’s another reason France makes life easy to enjoy: The country treats people as if they matter. France offers universal health care to its citizens and legal residents who qualify (it takes five years of permanent residence to become eligible). Pre-existing medical conditions are irrelevant to your ability to be covered and out-of-pocket costs are extremely low.
Even if you aren’t a part of the national system, reasonably-priced private health insurance is available. For example, at the Association of American Residents Overseas, 50- to 59-year-olds can buy gold-standard medical coverage for about $5,000 a year. Diggs says expats in France she’s spoken to report paying $6 for medications that would cost $180 in the U.S.
Spain has long been one of the least-expensive countries in Europe and today, with real-estate prices at their lowest in decades and the euro weaker than in years, this country is a bargain for full- or part-time living. Along many of Spain’s coasts, one-bedroom apartments sell for under $100,000. More spacious one- and two-bedrooms go for $150,000 or so. Comfortable, furnished, long-term apartment rentals run as little as $550 a month.Italy too is affordable as long as you stay away from the usual tourist traps:
Day-to-day expenses are low, too. In season, many fruits and vegetables now sell for a paltry 50 cents a pound and the quality is superb. Spain’s fixed-price lunch specials — the menú del día — are famous for their good value. Two filling courses, plus beverage and sometimes dessert, a menú generally runs about $10 to $17. If you plan to live in Spain full-time, you’ll need private health insurance to get your residence visa; plans start at under $200 a month. Once you’re a resident, you can apply to join Spain’s public health care system.
“Leaving aside hot spots like Capri and Sorrento, the farther south you go, the more prices fall,” says InternationalLiving.com’s Europe editor Steenie Harvey. “The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Lecce, a flamboyantly baroque city in the Apulia region of Italy’s deep south is $436,” Harvey notes. Utility bills are low is this area of the country too, thanks to its long summers and milder winters, averaging around $76 a month. Apulia is the stiletto heel of Italy’s elegant “boot,” a place of rustic beauty. With around 500 miles of coastline, the area is washed by the Adriatic as well as the Ionian Sea.Potugal is cheaper yet, with an old-world flair to it:
Portugal is the last true bastion of Old World living in Western Europe. It’s small (no bigger than Indiana) but diverse, with each region distinct. You can loll about an olive grove burrowing your toes into daisy-strewn grass, linger in southern beach towns or travel on clattering trains into medieval towns.It's never too late to flee America since retirees are spoiled for choice nowadays with Southeast Asia also making a strong case.
In the whitewashed villages and walled towns of the southern Alentejo region, time is still measured in church bells. That’s not to say Portugal is backward. You can get free Wi-Fi in public places and you’ll find a glitzy mall or two. English is widely spoken. International Living’s Eoin Bassett says: Think of Portugal as life with modern convenience and none of the hassles, stress and traffic.
If you have $1,600 to $1,700 a month, you’ll live well. That includes rent, which can be as little as $300 a month for a centrally-located apartment in a pleasant provincial city.