Tucked in between North America and South America, the 20 countries that make up Latin America cover an enormous range of landscapes, climates, cultures, and traditions. Not all of the countries have a great reputation when it comes to crime (El Salvador, Honduras, and Venezuela have the highest murder rates in the world, with Brazil not far behind), but if you know which places to avoid and which to gravitate to, the region offers endless possibilities for travel and living. If you're considering packing up and heading there yourself, don't move a muscle till you read our 20 best places to live in Latin America.
20. Antigua, Guatemala
Widely considered to be one of the best-preserved Spanish colonial cities in Latin America, Antigua is a gorgeous place packed with cobblestone streets, peaceful parks, and more local businesses, restaurants, cafes, and shops than you could visit in a year. Nature lovers aren't left out of the picture either, with superb hiking available in the volcanoes and mountains that overlook the city. Despite the attractions on offer, the cost of living is delightfully low: expect to pick up a very decent, three-bedroom apartment for just a couple of hundred dollars a month.
19. Cuenca, Ecuador
As transitionsabroad.com notes, over the past few years, Ecuador has "hit the scene," becoming one of the most popular places in Latin America for both traveling and living. Thanks to a friendly, welcoming culture and widespread knowledge of English, transitioning into the culture is smooth sailing. Although the country's increasing popularity as an expat destination has seen a sharp rise in property prices, the cost of living is still pleasantly low. In Cuenca, a very reasonable cost of living is accompanied by an excellent way of life. Amenities, health care, and other services are easily available and of a high standard.
18. Heredia, Costa Rica
Described by internationalcitizens.com as one of the best cities for expats in Costa Rica, Heredia is a bright, lively city located just a short drive from San Jose. Big, bustling, and packed with things to do, it's a great choice for people who like to live right in the heart of the action. First-class schools, a comfortable climate, and some incredibly pretty parks complete the attractive picture.
17. Mendoza, Argentina
It may be an overstatement to say that wine always accompanies a great lifestyle, but in Mendoza, it's certainly the case. Nestled in the heart of wine country in the Argentinian interior, Mendoza is blessed with a relaxed way of life, a unique culture, friendly locals, and, of course, great food and drink. The surrounding landscape is a dream, with endless opportunities for white water rafting, kayaking, bird watching, skiing, hiking, and more besides.
16. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
If you're over the age of 45 and retired, Nicaragua makes a great destination. Providing you have an income of at least $400 per month, you'll be treated to some great little perks like tax exemptions on all foreign sources of income. If you'd like to combine those benefits with the joy of living in a small, very attractive coastal community, look no further than San Juan del Sur. Along with a lovely beach and a relaxed, laid-back lifestyle, the town boasts excellent amenities and very attractive property prices.
15. San Ignacio, Belize
Set in the heart of Belize's rain forested interior, San Ignacio is the perfect destination for world-weary expats looking to escape the rat race and get back to basics. The wide-open spaces of the surrounding landscape are the ultimate respite from the noise and congestion of the big city, while the cost of living is low enough to enjoy life to the full. English is widely spoken, while the growing expat community provides plenty by way of support to newcomers.
14. Roatan, Honduras
If you want to live on the beach but are worried about the effects on your bank balance, Honduras may have the answer. Roatan is a beautiful, lushly vegetated island with dramatic peaks, peaceful valleys, and some of the most heavenly beaches in the country. The cost of living is just as appealing as everything else, with around $175,000 being more than sufficient to snap up a two-bedroom beachside home in a desirable neighborhood. The infrastructure is modern while the healthcare service and amenities leave little to be desired. The laid-back, welcoming vibe is the icing on the cake.
13. La Barra, Uruguay
Of all the countries in Latin America, Uruguay ranks as one of the most liveable. Corruption levels are low, as are poverty rates, the infrastructure is modern and well maintained, the government is stable and democratic, and the standard of living is generally high. If you want to benefit from some of its attractions yourself, you'd do well to consider La Berra. Located midway between Montevideo and the Brazilian border, La Berra is a small, walkable town with more than enough bars, restaurants, shops, and recreational opportunities to keep you entertained. The surrounding beaches are a delight. The accommodation options are extensive, high quality, and despite all the comforts and conveniences on offer, not at all badly priced.
12. Florianopolis, Brazil
With its chic neighborhoods, gorgeous beaches, and colorful historic center, Florianopolis ranks as one of Brazil's most desirable places to live. Described by intrepidtravel.com as being in many ways like Rio and Sao Paulo, but on steroids, the town is safe, fun, and packed with attractions. The seaside boardwalk is cheerful, bustling, and always packed with joggers, rollerblades, and strollers. Throw in some pristine white-sand beaches, glorious year-round weather, a high standard of services and amenities, and affordable property options, and it's easy to understand why so many expats have decided to make it their home.
11. Isla Colón, Panama
According to Forbes, Isla Colón ranks as one of the cheapest dream destinations in the Caribbean. Lapped by turquoise waters, ringed by white-sand beaches, and blessed with gorgeous weather, it's unquestionably a great place to visit. Thanks to its low cost of living, excellent property options, and high-quality services, it's not exactly a bad place to live, either.
10. Mazatlán, Mexico
Mexico has long been one of the most popular destinations for American expats in Latin America, and not just because of its proximity. Mazatlán is a prime example of what makes the country such a great choice. Located on Mexico's Pacific coast, it offers mile upon mile of unspoiled beach located just a short walk from the shops and the amenities of the very attractive downtown. The weather is ideal for sun worshippers, while the low cost of living guarantees an excellent way of life on even the smallest of budgets.
9. Taboga Island, Panama
If the crowds and congestion of city living have left you with an upside-down smile, Taboga Island could be just the place to turn it right side up. Blissfully quiet, charmingly low key, and imbued with a unique culture that's positively infectious, it's the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of modern life. Even better, the tiny cost of living won't blow a hole in your budget.
8. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Dotted around the shores of Lake Atitlan are numerous communities that rank as some of the most attractive and appealing in Guatemala. Despite the laid back, traditional charm of the area, the conveniences and comforts are resolutely 21st century, with excellent health care services and more amenities than you'd expect of a place this size. If all that wasn't enough to tempt you, the low crime rate and affordable cost of living just might.
7. Viña del Mar, Chile
Liveandinvestoverseas.com considers Viña del Mar one of the best places in Latin America for retirees. It's not just the gray brigade that stands to benefit from its attractions though. With gorgeous beaches, an active social scene, mild temperatures, top-notch dining options, and unparalleled shopping and cultural opportunities, the city has something for everyone.
6. Dominical, Costa Rica
Dominical is a lovely city that manages to combine rustic charm with 21st-century conveniences. Its surrounding landscape with its mountains and beaches is a nature lover's dream. The city itself leaves little to be desired, with enough amenities to keep you well-stocked in the essentials, but not so many as to be overwhelming. The cost of living is relatively low by Costa Rican standards, with plenty of very affordable properties to choose between. The job market may be slightly limited (the economy is heavily based on fishing and tourism), but if you're a digital nomad who needs no more than a WIFI connection to earn a living, it's a superb place to call home.
5. El Valle de Antón, Panama
Thanks to its low cost of living and high living standards, Panama City was for years considered an expat haven. But as the costs started spiking, so more and more people started looking elsewhere. One of the places they found was El Valle de Antón. Located a convenient 90-minute drive from the capital, this gorgeous little community is everything Panama City isn't: low-key, peaceful, clean, and utterly affordable. Its mineral springs and mud baths have long made it a popular destination for spa tourists: if you decide to take advantage of its healing waters year-round, you won't be disappointed.
4. Medellín, Colombia
Safe, clean, and relentlessly pleasant, Medellín is a gorgeous little city packed with parks and flowers, universities, and culture. Considered one of the most progressive and innovative cities in Colombia, it boasts a distinctly European vibe that stands in delightful contrast to the lushness of the surrounding landscape. Thanks to its mountain setting, the climate is wonderfully springlike all year round, keeping utility costs down and air quality high. Accommodation options are extensive and typically of a high standard. The cost of living, meanwhile, is likely to appeal to even the most budget-conscious.
3. Bocas del Toro, Panama
Panama consistently ranks as one of the countries with the highest well-being in the world. If you're ever lucky enough to experience Bocas del Toro, you'll understand why. A relaxed pace of life combines with one of the most scenic locations you can imagine (think miles of white sand beaches and lush, tropical rainforest) to create an outstanding destination for both visitors and residents. The cost of living is affordable, with a wide selection of property options available to suit any budget and taste. The town's location on the gorgeous Azuero Peninsula, meanwhile, puts you in a prime location to explore the charming little communities and scenic beauty of the landscape.
2. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Ranked by mavericktraveler.com as one of the top cities to live in Latin America, Buenos Aires is a big, sprawling delight of a city with a rich culture, a strong economy, and a distinctly European vibe. Packed with attractions, surprisingly affordable, and blessed with some outstandingly gorgeous architecture, this diverse, vibrant city is an incredible place to spend a day, a month, or even a lifetime.
1. Montevideo, Uruguay
Finally, we come to our top choice of places to live in Latin America. Deemed by Mercer to be one of the most 'liveable' cities in Latin America on the basis of factors such as access to public transport, traffic congestion levels, the cultural scene, housing availability, and school reputation, Uruguay's capital and largest city of Montevideo is unquestionably a great place to live. Vibrant, cheerful, and blessed with a rich, eclectic cultural life, Montevideo would convert even the most committed rural lover to the joys of the city. The beach neighborhoods of Punta Carretas and Pocitos look straight out of Miami. Even the dingy skyscrapers of the historic downtown business district have a certain kind of rough charm, especially when you see them nuzzled up to the art deco and neoclassical buildings that sit alongside them. Culturally, it's a joy, with a theatre, a tango bar, a museum, a music club, and a gallery on almost every corner. Add to that a strong international flavor lent by the city's status as the HQ of Mercosur, South America’s trading bloc, and you can well understand the appeal.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn