In this report, we share the Best Places to Retire Early for Cheap in Latin America for 2021
I am going to show you pictures I took of my best places to retire early for cheap in Latin America for 2021 as I discuss each place. But there is no need to take notes. Full retire cheap in paradise reports are available for most all destinations at VagabondBuddha.com.
I left the United States in 2007. Since leaving the US 14+ years ago, I have lived in and visited 67 countries. I am on a mission to find the best place in the entire world to retire cheap in paradise. As I visit each country, I write reports about the good, the bad, and the ugly for each.
I started keeping data about my favorite places in the world when I thought I would retire in one place. But what I learned along the way, is that I could retire early for cheap as I continue to travel slowly around the world. I don’t actually have to settle down in one place.
So, I will continue slow traveling the world, creating retire early for cheap reports about my favorite places, while I am still physically able. I also make these videos comparing my favorite places around the world as I travel with you. Subscribe so you won’t miss out on my comparison videos and reports.
You see, if you want to retire early, it is smarter to live in beautiful places that are cheaper than your home country. If you are smart about your expenses in retirement, it is less likely that you will run out of money as you age.
Many of my listeners are interested in investigating retirement in other parts of the world. But much of Latin America is open now. So if you investigate Latin America now, you will be able to choose your favorite place with confidence later, because you will already have knowledge about Latin America under your belt.
How do I pick my favorite places?
It is important to understand my methodology for ordering my favorite places. You see, my ranking of locations is based purely on my gut reaction from when I was in each place. I simply ask myself when comparing two places. Which one would I rather retire in right now if I had to quit traveling? I use this to bubble the best ones to the top.
My method only works if you have spent considerable time in each place. I have had my feet on the ground in all of these places I am about to tell you about. In my opinion, boots on the ground is the only possible way to rank locations. You have to know what it feels like to be there as compared to how it feels in other places.
I will cover my top 15 places in Latin America for 2021, in reverse order so you have to stay until the end to hear my top 3. I will show you the video that I took with my boots on the ground in each place as I discuss places. Okay, here we go.
Best Places to Retire Early for Cheap in Latin America 2021
Granada, Nicaragua (15th): My mother loved to watch TV shows about Americans, Canadians, Brits, and Aussies who were retiring overseas. In one episode, there was an American couple that had retired in a little colonial-era town in Nicaragua called Granada. It had cobblestone streets, a colonial-era city center, where horse-drawn carriages toured people around the historical center. The couple had purchased a home with a courtyard and fixed it up and called it home. I loved the look of the place, so visited the town the next time I was in Nicaragua, just a few months later. I fell in love with the place. I could easily live in this beautiful little town so I ranked it 15th on my list for Latin America. On that same visit to Nicaragua, I visited a little island in the middle of the Caribbean sea called Little Corn. A frugal single person would be able to live in Nicaragua in the range of about $700 to $1000 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more. Make sure to visit Little Corn Island when you are in Nicaragua. Little Corn was one of my favorite islands in the world. Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. No cars, no roads, no airport; no worries.
Medellin Colombia Retire Cheap Report (14th): Medellin is a gorgeous place surrounded by green luscious hills, beautiful people and things to see, a rich and interesting history, workable Internet speeds, and a reasonable cost of living. Medellin has been called the city of eternal spring by both foreigners and locals alike. It is almost never too hot or too cold. Laurels is a beautiful neighborhood of people who are Colombian. You can watch Colombians, eat with Colombians, and have fun with Colombians in a safe, beautiful neighborhood. The people of Medellin are proud and they should be. It is a lovely place. Like much of the world, the people shine even while their government pays far too little attention to creating an environment that fosters a middle class. Two hours from Medellin is Guatape, one of the most colorful villages I have ever seen. Each home has a painted mural on the front in vibrant colors, that tells you who lives there based upon the kind of work they do. A frugal single person would be able to live in Medellin in the range of about $900 to $1200 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more.
Santa Marta Columbia (13th) For a quaint affordable beach town on the Caribbean side of Colombia, check out Santa Marta Colombia. A friend told us about Santa Marta, the white sand beaches, the protected habitat of the Tayrona National Park, the warm breezes, and the natural beauty of this untouched part of Colombia. Santa Marta is so beautiful and tranquil, that Simon Bolivar decided to spend his final years here. Simon Bolivar is the George Washington of South America but on steroids. Simon Bolivar led almost all of South and Central America to their independence from Spain. That is why you will see him honored all over Latin America. He died in 1830 on a beautiful estate owned by a family friend in Santa Marta. The estate is now a museum that you can visit in Santa Marta. A frugal single person would be able to live in Santa Marta in the range of about $700 to $1000 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more. Cartagena is also on the Caribbean side of Colombia just a few hours away, so do visit when you get a chance. Cartagena is gorgeous and amazing but would not generally be considered cheap.
Arequipa Peru Retire Cheap Report (12th): Arequipa is a gorgeous colonial-era city in the Andes in the Southern Part of Peru. Walk along the cobblestone streets and you will find an endless array of both foreign and domestic foods. The central park is a gorgeous place to spend an evening as the sun goes down as the city lights the cathedral which was constructed in 1566. I could live easily in Arequipa and the cost of living is reasonable. It is also a beautiful college town and has one of the highest per capita incomes and a large population of educated intellectuals. The only thing that makes me hesitate at all is its elevation which made it feel a little too cool in the afternoons. In the middle of the day, you can walk around wearing only a single layer year-round. But after about 4 pm, it gets cool fairly quickly, so carry a light jacket or sweater in the evenings. A frugal single person would be able to live in Arequipa in the range of about $800 to $1100 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more. Consider our Cajamarca Peru Retire Cheap Report if you are looking for a more traditional Peruvian experience in a smaller more quaint colonial-era setting.
Cuenca Ecuador Retire Cheap Report (11th): Cuenca is on almost everyone’s retire cheap in paradise list and it is easy to see why. It is a smaller colonial-era city in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador at the perfect elevation. So it stays cool even in the warmest summer. Expats have been coming here for decades because the city center is a colonial-era showpiece with many of the best-restored buildings in all of South America. Somehow the cost of living here has remained relatively low and stable, partly because Ecuador uses the American dollar. There are multiple large public markets where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables from locals and even an ex-pat grocery store where you can get food from Home. A frugal single person would be able to live in Cuenca in the range of about $900 to $1200 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more.
San Cristobal Mexico Retire Cheap Report (10th): Arts and crafts are a big deal here. In the evenings you see not only local indigenous people but also foreign hippie-ish people selling their handmade jewelry, arts, and crafts. This is a hippie’s heaven. If you have liberal social beliefs and consider yourself a bit of a hippie, this place will feel like home. Everyone sings, plays instruments, and dresses creatively. It is a lovely place. The foreign influence on daily life is as strong here as I have seen anywhere in Mexico. There is live music everywhere in the old town, day and night. We really felt safe walking around the old town, day and night. If you are into outdoor sports there are many options for you here like hiking and exploring the beautiful mountains around Chiapas. There are also rivers for other outdoor activities. There is an active nightlife here with foreigners from all over the world, permanent and tourists. A frugal single person would be able to live in San Cristobal in the range of about $800 to $1100 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more.
Puerto Escondido Mexico Retire Cheap Report (9th): Puerto Escondido (PE) is one of the best beaches to retire at on the Pacific side of Mexico, especially if you are a surfer. But if you need a reliable strong Internet connection, take PE off your list. The Internet is terrible. PE has surfing tournaments and one of the largest most dangerous swells in Mexico. People get killed here almost annually so take the undertow seriously. PE serves more eclectic tourists such as backpackers, surfers, and Canadian Snowbirds. The Bacocho area of PE is an upper-middle-class neighborhood, but you may be able to find a small apartment on the fringes for $400 to $500 per month. The central area near the largest locals market is where you go to live like a local among the locals. A frugal single person would be able to live in Puerto Escondido in the range of about $900 to $1300 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more.
Boca Del Toros Panama Cheap Caribbean Island (8th): Neither Qiang nor I had ever been to Panama before. But we quickly fell in love with a territory called Bocas Del Toros on the Caribbean side of Panama on an island called Colon. There are a bunch of islands in this area of Panama, many with white sand beaches and turquoise waters. We loved going on day tours to various islands and enjoying all the beaches and animals. We saw dolphins, sloths, colorful birds, and many different kinds of colorful fish and coral reefs. There was a bunch of restaurants with various foods from around the world and it quickly felt like a place we could live for months and months without getting bored. A single person could live here for about $900 to $1200 per month and a couple could live here for another few hundred dollars per month.
Guanajuato Mexico Retire Cheap Report (7th) This gorgeous colonial-era city has some of the richest architecture in all of Mexico. Most streets are so skinny or steep, automobiles can’t drive down them. Many streets are underground so the surface feels like a small European Village. The Valenciana silver mine produced two-thirds of the world’s silver for 200 years. I love it here because it is a city in rolling hills. It has the highest walkability factor I have ever seen. After our arrival from the bus station, we have only gotten into a vehicle once. The international food choices for a city of this size are perfectly respectable. There is Lebanese, Chinese, Thai (limited), Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Argentinian, and French. For a town this size, it has a very active nightlife if you like live music, concerts, theatre, modern dance; probably because it is a university town. A frugal single person would be able to live in Guanajuato in the range of about $900 to $1200 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more.
Oaxaca Mexico Retire Cheap Report (6th): Oaxaca is also home to some of the most preserved archeological sites in Mexico such as nearby Mitla and Monte Alban. The Spanish were not as ambitious at destroying indigenous cultural treasures as they were in other parts of Mexico so this part of Mexico has more culture, arts, language and clothing from the various original people that have survived and live in this part of Mexico. So ancient indigenous ceremonial grounds are better preserved for future generations here. The elevation of Oaxaca is also perfect for growing crops in the rolling foothills around the city. So the city just has a feeling of abundance in the air as you walkabout. The locals seem happy and healthy here. There is live music everywhere in the old town, day and night. We really felt safe walking around old town, day and night. The old town is well lit up at night. There are many bike lanes here but not as many bike riders as you will see in Europe or the USA. We saw a free symphony while we were in town. There were also posters for live music, cinema, and other activities. A single frugal person could live here in the range of about $800 to $1200 per month and a couple would need a few hundred more per month.
Boquete Panama (5th): Boquete Panama is home to ex-pats from all over the world. It is at a very high elevation so it remains cool, not cold all year long. The weather is so amazing that many homes do not have heating or air conditioning. But the most remarkable thing about it is the lush forest and jungle and hiking trails that people hike for fun, exercise, and entertainment. It is one of the greenest gorgeous lush mountain sceneries I have seen anywhere in the world with 13 microclimates with a few miles of each other. Boquete Panama is known internationally as where the most expensive coffee in the world is grown, Geisha coffee. Many families living in the hills around Boquete have become rich by growing and exporting coffee. Many other wealthy ex-pats from around the world have moved to Boquete, so the hills around Boquete are full of homes that would sell for tens of millions of dollars in other parts of the world but can be bought in Boquete for up to 80% less. Yet, there are smaller more local-style apartments and homes that some ex-pats can still find in the range of $300 USD to $500 USD per month. A frugal single person could live in Boquete in the range of about $900 to $1600 per month and a frugal couple could live on just a few hundred more per month.
Queretaro Mexico Retire Cheap Report (4th): The colonial-era center of Queretaro is one of the nicest I have seen anywhere in the world. It is clean, beautiful, and well maintained. You can tell that the per capita income is high in Queretaro just by walking around. As the second-highest state in Wine production in Mexico, wine tasting is available. The city of almost 2 million people can support water sports like water skiing, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, etc. There are many interesting day trips you can take to places within a few hours, like Guanajuato, San Miguel Allende, and Mexico City. There are huge shopping malls stocked with international products at reasonable prices. There is an international airport 45 minutes outside of old town with reasonably priced flights through Mexico and the world. The classical music, theatre, dance, and live performances opportunities are second only to Mexico City, which is only a few hours away. This is now my favorite colonial-era city in Mexico for a retirement destination. A frugal single person would be able to live in Queretaro in the range of about $900 to $1300 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more.
Antigua Guatemala Retire Cheap Report (3rd): This is a beautiful colonial-era city with a large diversity of restaurants, arts and crafts stores, and coffee shops. There is Yoga, salsa dancing, martial arts, gyms, visiting Caoba Organic Farms, visiting the chocolate factory and Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint, visiting Mercado Central, hiking mountains and volcanoes, visiting Lake Atitlan, visiting Semuc Champey, visiting Flores and Tikal, visiting the Pacific and Caribbean oceans, photographing ruins of Churches in Antigua, visiting nearby countries in Central America. Antigua is one of my favorite places in all of Latin America. The people are very friendly there and it is just a very friendly and beautiful colonial-era town. The food choices are above and beyond what you would expect in a town this size. And the ex-pats in the area seem to be well-traveled before showing up in Antigua and are willing and able to integrate into the local environment and are less interested in importing their home country culture into Antigua. A frugal single person would be able to live in Antigua in the range of about $900 to $1300 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more. If you lived in Antigua, you could take long weekend trips to one of my favorite lakes in the world, Lake Atitlan.
Puerto Morelos Mexico Retire Cheap Report (2nd): The white sand beaches and the slow and easy life in Puerto Morelos make it ideal for your early cheap retirement. Puerto Morelos is one of my favorite places in all of Mexico and I have lived all over Mexico. When I first started visiting the Riviera Maya in the early 1990s, I loved places like Tulum and Playa Del Carmen the most. But they have become a little too crazy, expensive, and touristy for my taste. Luckily I discovered the laid-back atmosphere of Puerto Morelos. I love the Mexican Village area just 2 kilometers west of the beach with all of the family-owned local restaurants and stores. Plus it is just a short bicycle ride to the beach when the mood strikes. The local’s village side of Puerto Morelos, also known as the Colonia, has remained largely insulated from the high cost of living on the beachside. We stayed in an apartment that could be rented for 7000 Pesos a month ($350 USD) plus utilities on a long-term contract. That is really cheap in the Riviera Maya. Plus the groceries and the restaurants on the village side are typically much cheaper than those on the beachside. The village side also has a real Mexican feel to it whereas the beachside has a tourist vibe. So we stay in the local’s area when we are in town. A frugal single person would be able to live in Puerto Morelos in the range of about $900 to $1200 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more.
Buenos Aires Argentina (1st): Buenos Aires is one of my favorite places in all of Latin America. Additionally, the Argentine Pesos has been devaluing compared to the dollar steadily for the last 6 years, so you can live in one of the favorite cities in the world for peanuts. Buenos Aires is often called the most European city in all of the Americas and I think that is an accurate and fair characterization. It has many of the amenities you will find in very large cities but has maintained a quaint and charming feel it over the years. There is an amazing assortment of foods from all over the world and the prices are excellent both in restaurants and grocery stores because many of the foods are grown locally and have not experienced the full brunt of the falling conversion rates of the Argentine pesos. The architecture indeed will remind you of France and Italy as will many of the political and artistic sensibilities. Plus, the medical is excellent and cheap and the public transportation is quite good. Plus, many neighborhoods in Buenas Aires are very charming and walkable so you will not need a car to really enjoy the city. A frugal single person would be able to live in Buenos Aires in the range of about $700 to $1000 USD per month, so a couple could live there for a few hundred dollars per month more.
At this point you may be wondering, I am not talking about Costa Rica? I was last in Costa Rica 9 years ago in 2011. At that time, it was the most expensive place in Central America. And it wasn’t the most culturally interesting place in the world.
It certainly had physical beauty and the locals were very friendly, but it seemed a little Americanized for my taste and too expensive. At the time I thought, “Why are all these people leaving the USA and moving somewhere that felt very similar?”
Now I am thinking, maybe I missed something. So I will reserve my ranking of Costa Rica until we visit there again. Let us know in the comments below your favorite places in Costa Rica and we will give it another go on our next visit.
You may also be wondering why some countries that you love do not appear on this list. For example, I love countries like Brazil, Ukraine, Estonia, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, Nepal, and Turkey. Although I have visited and love these countries and many more, I mostly only use data I have collected in the few years. But do look for reports on these as more of the world opens in 2021 and 2022.
Okay, thanks for considering my Best Places to Retire Early for Cheap in Latin America 2021. Make sure to grab a copy of my free eBook, “How I Fired My Boss and Traveled the World for 14 Years.”
This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the Youtube Channel for VagabondBuddha.com. The world is your home, what time will you be home for dinner?