2006 Annual Global Retirement Index

By Laura Sheridan

Once a year, every year, we at International Living consider all of the different countries around the globe to determine its Global Retirement Index, which ranks and details the very best overseas retirement destinations in the world.

To create our yearly survey, we first investigate statistics on topics ranging from Real Estate to Special Benefits, from Culture to Infrastructure, and from Climate to Health Care, which come from official government websites and Interpol data.

We use the statistics we have found as a starting point for further research on the Internet. Next, we move from the Internet to the streets…to hear the real-life story. We ask our various correspondents and contributors who are residing and spending time in various nations to review our compiled data…and to give us the real scoop.

The heart of the Med

Malta, which is, in fact, twin islands of Malta and Gozo, together promoted as "the heart of the Mediterranean,” takes silver in this year’s Retirement Index. Steeped in history and tradition, these small islands, with near-perfect climates year-round, offer a simple, relaxed lifestyle. The cost of living remains low on these islands, and permanent foreign residents can take advantage of a 15% tax rate. Plus, property taxes don’t exist. Crime, too, is practically non-existent. The locals are helpful and friendly—and everyone speaks English. You can fill your days with golf, tennis, sailing, and horse riding.

The climate and opportunities for recreation should keep you fit and healthy, but, should you require medical care, you’ll find yourself in good hands. The World Health Organization ranks Malta 10th in the world for its medical standards.

Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t pinpoint Malta on a map. It’s not on everyone’s radar. However, it’s tiny sister island of Gozo is even less well-known. Only a mile of sea separates Malta from Gozo, but the two islands are distinctly different, each appealing to a different type of retiree. If you enjoy people, choose Malta—this bursting-at-the-seams island is effectively a city-state. Home to about 30,000 inhabitants, a miniscule 26 square miles in size, tranquil Gozo, on the other hand, provides a nostalgic escape. This is a world of deep-blue seas and hidden coves…green fields and scattered windmills…church spires and ancient, sleepy villages.

Home prices on Gozo are cheaper than in most parts of Malta, but word is getting out about slow-paced Gozo. Increasingly sought-after by foreign buyers, its flat-roofed, honey-hued stone farmhouses today are changing hands for around $150,000.

Malta—seven things you may not know;

Malta has limited natural water resources—there are no lakes or rivers, and most of the water used is desalinated.
The University of Malta is one of the oldest universities in the world, founded in 1592.
The Maltese drive on the left, like the British, but a little more recklessly.
The second-oldest theater in Europe is the Manoel Theatre, in the capital of Malta, Valletta. In the cooler months, October through May, you can see opera, theater, music, and ballet there.
Malta has perhaps one of the best examples of a bilingual population in Europe, with English and Maltese commonly spoken. Maltese is fundamentally a Semitic language, but it’s written using the Latin alphabet.
Every Sept. 8, in the Grand Harbor regatta is held to celebrate Malta’s survival during the Great Siege of 1565, and, later, World War II. There’s a brightly colored local sea craft, parades, a water carnival, boat races, and a fireworks display.
Although the most visible traces of Malta’s history date from 1800, coinciding with the British occupation, and the 16th century, the time of the Order of the Knights of St. John, there is evidence of human life dating back 7,000 years on the islands


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