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If you have read about this blog, you will know that my argument is that there are too many retired couples that struggle to LIVE on the state pension. They can EXIST, but not LIVE.

The financial crisis of 2007/08 impacted on a lot of decent, everyday people worldwide; many in the USA lost everything as they saw their lifetime savings disappear as their house price crashed.

There are now many couples, all over the world, who are a lot poorer than they expected to be as they enter into retirement. And, there are a lot more people who only have their state pension to live off; they don’t own their own home and they don’t have $100,000s saved in the bank / shares earning interest income.

Throughout my travels, I use a standard set of criteria for assessing the costs of retiring in a specific location. Those criteria are based on a couple who have no savings and have few assets:

  • They will need a furnished 2 bedroom rental property to live in
  • That property will need to be to ‘western standards’ and be in a nice area of town
  • They will need to pay the ‘costs of occupancy’
  • Costs of occupancy include phone, gas, electric, water, and waste removal
  • They will need transport to get around (but cannot afford a car)
  • They will need to maintain a ‘comfortable’ temperature within the property
  • They will need a Cable TV and a lot of Internet streaming for their entertainment
  • They will eat out in their cheap, favourite local restaurants every day
  • If they are not entitled to free Healthcare, they will need Health Insurance

The criteria define a set ‘lifestyle’. You can play around with these criteria yourself if you want to; it isn’t critical that you agree with them – nor whether or not you think that they are right or wrong. They define a level playing field and, therefore, allow reasonably good comparisons to be made between locations.

Under these criteria, the GRANDPAcking retirement costs in my home town of Paraparaumu would be:Paraparaumu Retirement Costs

This, effectively, says that a retired couple cannot afford to EXIST at this level of comfort in Paraparaumu. To do so, they would need 70% more money: They would need NZ$137 / day instead of the NZ$80 / day that they are getting as a pension from the NZ Government. They would need to find an extra NZ$57 / day.

This is the point that I am making… if the couple don’t have investments to cover this income shortfall, they would have to find cost savings:

  • Perhaps a worse standard of accommodation; and / or
  • A worse area to live in; and / or
  • Be too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer; and / or
  • Buy groceries instead of eating out; and / or
  • Get a cheaper Cable TV package (with less ‘value’ channels); and / or
  • Cancel their Cable TV and stream TV Programs from the internet; and / or

They have to do this in order to get their costs of EXISTENCE within budget.

If they have to do that, where do they find the money to LIVE? There’s a big difference.

Are these retired couples expected to sit in front of the TV day after day and do nothing but wait to die? I say that is not good enough.

Below, are some nice places that I have found where these people can afford to LIVE on their state pension.

This table is just a summary, go to MY REVIEWS on the main menu for more detail on each of these locations.


I have stopped doing the League Table (below) and started to just list each Retirement Location by Price Range.

Just page down to the Retirement Menu in the Left-Hand-Margin …

… and see what places are within your price range.


PLEASE NOTE: I am not keeping this section up-to-date anymore. See the RETIREMENT MENU instead.

This section contains GRANDPAcking reviews of countries and destinations visited.

So, which destinations meet GRANDPAcking criteria as realistic Retirement Location options for the everyday retired couple?

Here is a Retirement Location League Table which summarises the places found so far (for a better context, please read the notes below the table):

PLEASE NOTE: The, above, exchange rates are up to date as of April 2018.

Generally speaking, the higher the ‘Funds Available For LIVING’ percentage the better. BUT, this is not always the case.

For example, if you drink a lot of alcoholic beverages, then your ‘Funds Available For LIVING’ will be used up much more quickly in Penang or Gili Air than it will be in somewhere like Langkawi or Kampot.

Also, the quality of the accommodation in Gili Air or Kampot is not going to be as good as that in, say, Langkawi or Penang. Even though I try hard to do so, it is not always possible to exactly compare ‘apples with apples’ because like-for-like comparisons do not always exist.

You need to map how you like to live onto each location to get a better idea of what each location means for YOU.

It is best to read my Posts and Reviews to get more information and, of course, go GRANDPAcking to the locations that you like to see for yourself.


My favourite country is Vietnam. Vietnam offers everything from beachfront living to quaint colonial towns to modern cities. There are lots of choices for GRANDPAckers (my favourite was Hoi An but Phu Quoc is also worth a look). And, it does so at the cheapest price in South East Asia. I find the Vietnamese culture the most compatible with my lifestyle – I particularly like the fact that they have decent pubs where you can easily meet people and have some fun. In other South East Asia countries you will find it hard to meet people because they just don’t have any ‘focal points’. I found this to be a particular problem in Malaysia.

Cambodia is still a bit ‘raw’. There aren’t many choices for GRANDPAckers. If you want beachfront living you have very few choices – Sihanoukville did nothing for me… it is over-priced, and taken over by Sexpats and ‘Girlie Bars’. The sorts of places that it does offer (such as Siem Reap and Kampot) will appeal to some – but, there are better places in Vietnam. I found Cambodia the second cheapest place to Vietnam.

Malaysia is the most modern and sophisticated of the countries that I went to. It offers a more ‘western’ quality of life than the other countries in South East Asia – but it does so at a price. It is one of the most expensive countries in South East Asia. Food is reasonably cheap but the accommodation costs hurt the wallet. If you like a drink, that hurts the wallet too – and almost forces GRANDPAckers to go to Langkawi. I found Malaysia the second most expensive country to The Philippines.

Thailand is well known but almost all of the islands are now very commercialised. The Thais have become so used to foreign tourists that they have become very business like; you don’t see much natural generosity any more. Many places (like Phucket and Pattaya) have a Sexpat undercurrent – great for single old men, but why would a GRANDPAcking couple want to be there? There are still some ‘gems’ to be found in Thailand if you look. The prices in Thailand are mid-range for South East Asia.

For me, Indonesia really only offers Bali and its surrounds. Gili Air was nice but it is small and will only appeal to more ‘hippy’ type GRANDPAckers. Many GRANDPAckers will like Kuta, Bali because of what it offers but it is getting expensive now and it is over-run by tourists. There are several alternative places for GRANDPAckers around Bali Island worth looking at. The prices in Bali are mid-range.

The Philippines is the most expensive country that I went to in South East Asia; and, in my opinion, there is no good reason for it. Accommodation is particularly poor value for money; you pay twice as much as, say, in Vietnam to get the same quality. Food prices are comparable to other South East Asian countries but many destinations only offer resorts – where food prices are inflated. You will, probably, only find GRANDPAcking facilities in the established tourist areas (such as El Nido, Panglao, and Siquijor). One of the nicest things about The Philippines is that everyone speaks English; this makes integration very easy. The other nice thing about The Philippines is that everyone seems genuinely friendly.


My favourite country is Mexico – in particular, Oaxaca. Oaxaca offers everything from beachfront living to quaint colonial towns to modern cities. There are lots of choices for GRANDPAckers. And, it does so at the cheapest price in Central America. I was disappointed with the Yucatan / Riviera Maya. Places like San Miguel de Allende are worth a look but costs are borderline for GRANDPAckers.

Guatemala is my second favourite – in particular, Lake Atitlan. Each village around the lake has a different ‘feel’ … you can pick the one that suits you best. Places like Antigua are now over-priced. El Golfete (in the north) is worth a look (but NOT Livingston).

Belize was a total disappointment. Over-priced and over-rated. Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are marketed beyond what they deliver. The coastline down to the Guatemalan border (e.g. Hopkins) offers poor beaches.

Nicaragua is cheap but also disappointing. Granada is worth a look. The Corn Islands were totally disappointing – so was Ometepe Island.

El Salvador is not ready for GRANDPAckers. The towns are unsafe and ‘grubby’. The beach towns (like El Tunco) are over-priced and offer poor beach-life compared to other destinations.

Honduras offers the Bay Islands. Roatan is definitely worth a look but GRANDPAckers will struggle to live within budget.

Costa Rica is just too expensive for GRANDPAckers – even on the ‘cheaper’ Caribbean Coast. Period.

Panama offers a couple of nice Retirement Locations (e.g. Boquete) for GRANDPAckers but you need to get away from Panama City and the coast into the hills.

PLEASE NOTE: The whole of the Caribbean Coast from The Yucatan to Panama is disappointing except for the Bay Islands, Honduras. The Mexican Yucatan Coast down through Belize to northern Guatemala is over-priced. This Caribbean Coast from Nicaragua to Panama gets all-year-round rain with only 2-3 months of decent weather. In those ‘drier’ months, you are paying Peak Season prices which puts costs beyond our GRANDPAcking budget.

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