Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Although located on the Pacific and not Atlantic coastline, the Mexican city of Puerto Vallarta is nevertheless a retirement haven, especially for Americans. Mexico may be more appealing than many Caribbean islands due to the familiar culture, the strong government and economy, and the proximity to the U.S. border. However, Mexico lacks a pensioner’s visa, and retirees must apply for a four-year residency visa instead, which can become a permanent visa afterwards. The minimum monthly income for this visa is $1400, or the purchase of a property worth about $200,000. Puerto Vallarta in particular is a haven for expats and is renowned for its safety, convenience, and above all its natural beauty. Like many other parts of Mexico visited by foreigners, English is commonly spoken even if the national language is Spanish.
Things to Consider
A dream retirement is easier said than done and choosing to retire in the Caribbean means taking into account many factors that affect the quality of life. To some, a specific factor may be minor, while to others, it may make a choice prohibitive. Here are the largest issues that must be taken into consideration.
Getting a Visa in the Caribbean
No country on Earth lets you stay as long as you want and Caribbean islands are no different. Most will require a visa of one form or another. A tourism visa will not allow you stay longer than a few weeks or a few months, but is a usual first step towards giving you time to scope out the locations, investments, amenities, and benefits of a particular location. The next step is one of three visas, depending on circumstance:
- A permanent resident visa allows a person to stay in another country for a longer period, from several years to a lifetime, and is often renewable
- A pensioner’s visa gives a person the option to spend most or all of their time in a country, but requires specific evidence of financial well-being, such as pension or investment statements
- An investment visa gives a foreigner the option to stay in the country long-term, but has the greatest financial commitment, necessitating an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars
Which visa you choose depends on your plans, your financial status, and your need for mobility. Luckily, any of the best Caribbean island to retire has streamlined their visa process, and some are even able to grant a permanent residency visa while a person is in the country on vacation.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in the Caribbean varies drastically. Since most island nations have to import outside goods like food, vehicles, fuel, and luxury items, a major mark-up can create sticker shock for first-time visitors. By contrast, the cost of living in poorer nations like Belize may be refreshing to those who would spend far more money on an American house or apartment than their beachfront property; a one-bedroom apartment in Belize City may cost less than $4000 per year.
Housing in the Caribbean
Most Caribbean islands have zoned off beachfront property for development and, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, have plentiful housing available for retirees to purchase. Even so, the premier housing usually comes with a premier price tag, and anyone hoping to retire on a beach should realize that they’ll be paying the highest costs of housing in the area. Governments may also apply stamp taxes of five to ten percent on property purchases. Even so, housing is often the fastest way towards residency (or even citizenship) in the Caribbean, and is recommended as an investment for anyone looking to retire in the region.
Like other factors, the quality of medical care varies drastically in the Caribbean. Some major cities like Nassau, Santo Domingo, or Panama City have world-class hospitals and doctors. By contrast, St. Kitts and Nevis has just three hospitals. Often an expat may have to leave their adopted country for a home nation or neighboring area to get medical care, especially on more remote islands.
One of the most favorable reasons for many to pursue retirement in Caribbean is the lack of taxes on retirees. Most nations want wealthy foreigners to spend money in their retirement and stimulate their economy, so they withhold taxes on retirement income, investments, and inheritance. This is not always the case, and some retirees may find they need to pay a string of taxes upfront. Furthermore, some nations like the Dominican Republic require residents to pay full tax rates after several years.