Inspired to retire abroad?

Posted on April 15, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Mature couple looking at retirement spots

Did you watch a series on BBC2 called The Real Marigold Hotel? It finished mid-February, but you may still be able to see it on BBC iPlayer, or a similar service. A band of celebrity ‘pensioners’ led by the irrepressible Miriam Margolyes set off to explore what it would be like to retire in India. And so, in the manner of the cast of the wonderful films The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, this group made up of a ballet dancer, chef, singer, newsreader and a darts player settled into a very charming ‘haveli’ in the stunning city of Jaipur. Haveli is Hindi for a traditional townhouse or mansion, although by our standards some of them verge on the palatial.

It was fascinating to watch them get to grips with India, and to watch chef Rosemary Shrager throw herself into shopping for food and then cooking in high temperatures. Jan Leeming, the now 74-year-old newsreader made friends with a British woman resident in Jaipur and darts player Bobby George invited his wife over to look at properties to buy or rent. So, at least two of them could see an advantage to retiring in a place where they felt that older people were respected and where they could enjoy a more comfortable life.

Excellent medical care

The excellent medical care was also a point of discussion, especially when they discovered that a private hip replacement in India is a fraction of the cost in the UK. I went to a dentist in Mumbai during a trip to India and was shocked in a delighted way to only pay the equivalent of about £2.50 for an X-ray and £12 for a full clean and polish at one of the city’s smartest dentists. And I know there is quite a demand for combining a holiday with Indian dental work, because the fees are so attractive. India is quite a distance to travel, but it has a lot to offer British people, especially as English is widely spoken and it is incredibly economical. Of course, there are places closer to home.

Spain and Portugal

For many years, Spain and Portugal have been popular retirement spots for British people and it’s not hard to see why. They are within easy travelling distance of the UK, there’s no jet lag to get over and because so many English-speakers have congregated in these parts, they have created demand for an infrastructure that makes life easy. The English breakfast and Sunday roast is widely available and because so many northern Europeans speak English as well, in preference to Spanish or Portuguese, local businesses and services such as medical centres and dentists are all geared up to serve the Anglophones. Plus, there are buckets of sunshine, golf courses galore and yes, gallons of wine.


Mature expat sailing

The Global Retirement Index

Where else could you retire? Fortunately, a company called International Living has been publishing an annual Global Retirement Index for some years, so they have the lowdown on the top spots for 2016. The analysis and ratings are based on things such as cost of living, affordable healthcare and Internet speeds available. For some people, climate is the most important factor.

First prize goes to Panama! Well, that’s partly because International Living is a U.S. based publication, and the proximity of Panama to the USA makes it an excellent alternative to Florida. But, Florida does attract many British people, so maybe Panama is worth thinking about if you’re looking for the same level of infrastructure but with some more exotic cultural flourishes. It’s also handy for exploring South America while you’re there. In fact, South and Central America takes all the top spots with Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia in the Top 10 alongside Malaysia and Thailand for those who prefer to head east.

Closer to home

The Telegraph also publishes The 10 Best Places to Retire Abroad and for this newspaper “douze points” goes to Malta. It has many advantages for British people although its compact size may make it less desirable once you’ve explored it all. Portugal and Spain both score highly and Barbados and the USA make up the remainder of the Top 5. Ah, the Caribbean! And the 27,000 British expats already living there will make you feel at home. Jamaica is also in the Top 10, as is Thailand and Australia. Well, that’s even further away than India. Interestingly, Morocco and Greece also make the list, and memories of “Shirley Valentine,” as well as the light on the water and the islands, make Greece a rather attractive proposition.

There’s a lot of choice and clearly there are many British people who have already taken the step of leaving the cold behind for a more relaxed, outdoor life in the sun. I’m still very keen on the ‘haveli’ in Jaipur – perhaps I’ll be a neighbour of Jan Leeming and Bobby George one day. Or, perhaps it will be you!

If this expat lifestyle is for you, then consider what you might be liable for abroad.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.