Retire in Portugal, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, or Colombia?

[kkstarratings] This is Dan of Vagabond Buddha.  To save money and enjoy warmer weather, where should you retire in Portugal, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, or Colombia?

I am going to show you pictures of my favorite city in each of these five countries as I speak. But you don’t need to write anything down. Everything I say is in writing. Just click the link in the notes below this Youtube video. I will label a picture when I am switching to a series of pictures of a different city.

I find and share the best places to live or retire cheap in the world, with the highest possible quality of life. I love to think, talk, and share my ideas on the best cheap places to live. But I am not all talk. I personally go to each place and compare them with my own eyes.

A reader recently asked me to compare Portugal, Mexico, and Ecuador? Since I have spent more than a month in all three, which would I prefer most?  What a great idea for a post! These three places are three of the most talked about places for living a high-quality cheap retirement. So this request is valuable for everyone interested in international living.

In this post, I rank my favorite city to retire in Mexico, Portugal, Ecuador, Peru, or Colombia? By ordering my top city to live in each of these five countries, it naturally ranks my favorite cheap country to live of these five, from my recent world tour.

I tour the world and share my favorite places to retire cheap in paradise. We were just in all five of these cheap paradise countries. So how do they compare to each other?

Why do I focus on the cost of living so much? Millions of Americans, Canadians, and Europeans will receive most if not all of their retirement income from the government. Investopedia. In May of 2018, Social Security stated the average retirement check was $1412 USD. Investopedia. That means there are people who need comparative information about living costs to get the most out of their golden years. There are people who research the cheapest places to live in the USA, Canada, and Europe only, but that is not as interesting to me as looking at the whole world.

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I am gathering data for people considering living in cheaper parts of the world. I prefer to live internationally. The fact that many parts of the world are cheaper than the USA or Europe is just a bonus for me. I have been exploring the world for more than a decade and I love this world.

I am from California.  When I go back to the USA, I don’t find it as exciting. I usually go to visit my family for a few weeks each year. Other than my family, there are not many places in the USA that I really miss so much.

I have been all over the USA and Europe.  The parts of the USA that are cheap to live, are not as interesting to me as the cheap places outside the USA. There are many cheap places outside the USA that I rather retire. The cheap places I know about inside the USA are not as fun to me. I have lived in or visited 65 countries in the world. The world is an amazing place.

We just completed a world tour. During the world tour, we visited 6 cities in Portugal, 19 cities in Mexico, 4 cities in Colombia, 8 cities in Ecuador, 14 cities in Peru, 2 cities in the UK, 1 city in Hungary, 1 city in Slovakia, 1 city in Austria, and 8 cities in Morocco.

Along the way, I picked my favorites in each country. However, only Portugal, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru could be considered relatively cheap to live, by my standards. I could happily retire in any of these countries.  I also love SE Asia and Eastern Europe, but this post is limited to Portugal, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.

In fact, there are multiple cities in each of these countries I could happily live. But the premise of this post is to pick my favorite city in each cheap country and rank those favorites, only relative to each other. If you are interested in my favorites worldwide, check out this post.

For example, Oaxaca is my favorite city in Mexico. But I also love many other cities in Mexico. But in this post, I only compare Oaxaca to my favorite cities in other countries. So what are my favorite cities in Mexico, Portugal, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru?

Here are my favorite cities in each of the 5 cheap countries we just visited on the world tour we just completed a few months ago. Yes, these are ranked favorites first.

  1. Mexico: Oaxaca
  2. Portugal: Porto
  3. Ecuador: Cuenca
  4. Peru: Arequipa
  5. Colombia: Medellin

First, I should mention that all of these are amazing places and I could live in any of them without regret. So we are splitting hairs here even trying to pick a favorite. But let us talk about a few categories just to put this in perspective. For example, Qiang Hui would prefer Porto over Oaxaca. She thought the cheap high-quality wines and LIDL grocery stores in Porto put it on top. I give a little more weight to the perfect weather and the locally grown foods in Oaxaca so I put it above Porto. But both places are amazing. All five of these places are amazing.

If you would like to learn how to live all over the world for less than it costs at home, or how people like you and I make money online, please grab a free copy of my Ebook:

How I Fired My Boss and Traveled the World for 12+ Years.

Cost of Living (Per Month)

Country City Low Medium High
Mexico Oaxaca $569 $928 $879
Portugal Porto $1,029 $1,403 $1,590
Ecuador Cuenca $397 $1,254 $1,170
Peru Arequipa $479 $1,488 $1,188
Colombia Medellin $828 $1,409 $1,702

I am not offering you these prices. These are notes I took during my travels. I am not guaranteeing these prices for you. Make sure you understand which expenses the above numbers include, and which expenses they do not include. Go to this page (towards the bottom) to understand what the above expenses do not include.

You should also understand that these are all cities with populations of over 200,000 people. It is generally the case that living in a city like this is more expensive than living rurally. So if you prefer smaller less populated areas, you would likely find lower expenses 60 minutes outside any of these favorites. In some cases, the ‘commute’ savings can be significant.


The following table includes the average highs for the day for various times of the year.

Country City Dec/Jan Feb/Mar Apr/May Jun/Jul Aug/Sep Oct/Nov
Mexico Oaxaca 81F/27C 88F/30C 91F/33C 84F/29C 83F/28C 81F/27C
Portugal Porto 58F/14C 64F/18C 66F/19C 76F/24C 68F/20C 66F/19C
Ecuador Cuenca 72F/22C 72F/22C 71F/22C 68F/20C 69F/21C 73F/23C
Colombia Medellin 82F/28C 82F/28C 82F/28C 83F/28C 83F/28C 81F/27C
Peru Arequipa 72F/22C 74F/23C 75F/23C 71F/22C 72F/22C 73F23C

Cuenca is about 2400 meters 7900 Feet above sea-level and near the equator, so there is very little temperature fluctuation year round. Oaxaca is 5102 feet/1555 meters above sea level so the temperatures are slightly more varied than Cuenca. Porto is at sea level near an ocean current that goes from the cool north towards the south, so the ocean keeps Porto cool year round. Medellin is 1500m or 4900 feet above sea level and remains warm all year. Based upon weather alone, Medellin is perfect. Arequipa averages 300 days of sunshine per year with low precipitation, so it is desert weather. Because of its high elevation of 2100 meters 6700 feet above sea level, Arequipa remains cool, clear, and beautiful.

You will have to decide for yourself based upon the above numbers, but Oaxaca just seems closer to my ideal temperatures throughout the year. I would prefer to never wear anything other than shorts, t-shirts, and flipflops.

Here are some additional observations about each of my favorite cities in these five countries.

Oaxaca, Mexico

  1. Weather: Oaxaca is my favorite weather in Mexico.
  2. Indigenous Culture: Oaxaca has a large indigenous population that still lives its culture of food, clothing, music, and art.
  3. Surrounding Mountains: Oaxaca is surrounded by beautiful mountains that and is very green and beautiful.
  4. Cost of Living: Oaxaca ($20 to $35 day) has a slightly lower cost of living than Queretaro or Guanajuato.
  5. Markets: The markets were some of the cleanest and most beautiful we have seen in Mexico.
  6. Feeling: I just had a really good feeling about the people of Oaxaca. It just felt more like home to me for some reason.
  7. There are about 10 other great places in Mexico I would also love to live.
  8. Land Transfers: Although people mostly fly to Mexico these days, there is a psychological comfort in knowing you can drive or bus to the US border if airfare went through the roof.

Porto, Portugal

  1. Walkability: Porto has a high walkability factor in the central area. Even outside of the central area, Porto has an amazing public transportation system of Buses and Metro. I would not need a car to live here.
  2. Things to Do: High. There are beaches, wine tours, symphony, many food choices, hiking, biking, great day trips, weekend getaways, sports stadiums, sailing, water sports, cruising, parks, nature, etc.
  3. I could see myself living in Porto. It is a little cooler than I normally like but it reminds me of San Francisco weather and I love that place too. It has a beautiful landscape and a romantic and safe feeling to it.
  4. Like San Francisco, it has very warm weather you can retreat to just an hour or so inland. Lisbon is only slightly behind Porto in my mind in terms of livability. I could live in either.
  5. Here are my rankings of the other cites we toured in Portugal.

Cuenca, Ecuador

  1. The old town area of Cuenca is totally walkable. You won’t need a car.
  2. Food prices in the grocery stores are about 30% cheaper than the USA.
  3. Cuenca is a well-known retirement haven for North Americans.
  4. Cuenca is cheap, beautiful, and safe.
  5. The buildings in the old town colonial center have been preserved so it is a treasure to walk around.
  6. There are many different types of food from all over the world here.
  7. Two other great towns we enjoyed in Ecuador were Otavalo and Quito.
  8. We also spent a month in the Galapagos which was amazing.

Arequipa, Peru

  1. Anywhere within a 10 block radius of Plaza de Armas is highly walkable.
  2. There are restaurants, museums, movie theatres, parks, and a river walk all within Old town Arequipa.
  3. The international food choices in Arequipa within the Old Town Area are unmatched in diversity and density of choices.
  4. I could spend years in Arequipa without getting bored. Arequipa even has an international airport so you can travel without going to Lima.
  5. Arequipa has the highest standard of living in Peru, both financially and socially.
  6. The university atmosphere and commensurate money have created a robust economy which has made Arequipa the best place to live in Peru, for both foreigners and Peruvians.
  7. The only thing that makes me hesitate at all is that it felt a little too cool. In the middle of the day, you can walk around wearing only a single layer. But after about 4 pm, it gets cool fairly quickly.
  8. My other favorites for living in Peru were Cajamarca and Barranco.

Medellin, Colombia

  1. 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.
  2. The people of Medellin are proud and they should be. It is a lovely place.
  3. We were told El Pablado was the most desirable neighborhood in Medellin, where most foreigners and expats live. It was a crowded, expensive, and feels much like living in the USA. What is the point of moving to a foreign country if you aren’t going to get the flavor of the place? We did love the Lleras Park area of El Poblado.
  4. Laureles is a beautiful neighborhood full of Colombians. You can watch Colombians, eat with Colombians, and have fun with Colombians in a safe beautiful neighborhood.
  5. In Laureles, you will be surrounded by international and Colombians restaurants, night clubs, discotheques, live music, casinos, family grocery stores, and high-quality international grocery stores.
  6. Medellin has a beautiful sky train that will take you around the city.
  7. Make sure to take the Communa 13 graffiti tour.

This is Dan of Vagabond Buddha. Thanks for stopping by. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner? We make videos of everywhere we go in the world. We post our videos here on our Youtube Channel:

4 thoughts on “Retire in Portugal, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, or Colombia?”

  1. I think I would love live in Oaxaca! I wish it wasn’t such a earthquake hotspot. Anyway, this list is super helpful and thorough. Thanks!

  2. Your photos don’t match your narrative when talking about Arequipa and showing Medellin. Otherwise very informative.

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