Skip to Content

The best countries to retire for same-sex couples

Last Updated on January 1, 2016

There are a lot of good things going on these days. The landslide of states in the U.S. where same-sex marriage is legal is gaining momentum. The UK just saw its first domestic same-sex marriages performed. The IRS now taxes same-sex marrieds at the same rate as heterosexual couples. Okay, that last one is a bit of a mixed blessing. But still, life’s good for you and your spouse.

Globetrottergirls in BrightonWith so many older couples finally getting the chance to legally marry, many of them are already preparing for retirement as newly-weds. Given the dream of retiring to some exotic locale with good food and great beaches it might be worth exploring the who’s who of nations that are friendly to same-sex couples. So, for your retirement consideration, may I present the top three retirement destinations for same-sex couples.

First, the honorable mentions:


Though same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, there are very few protections against discriminatory practices. Coupled with lagging acceptance in the social scene Argentina earns a mention, but doesn’t come close to ranking on our list.

South Africa

The only African nation to provide full legal protection to same-sex marriages, social acceptance is lagging significantly behind, leaving South Africa to be a mixed bag for gay and lesbian couples.


Portugal lags behind many other nations in terms of both legal and social progress regarding same-sex marriages. However, Portugal’s legal system does have one area where it exceeds the standards of our top pick for nations to move to. Portugal is the only nation that permits the marrying of same-sex couples with no consideration of either residency or the legal status of such a marriage in the home countries of the participants. With a pleasant climate and very long coastline, it can be tempted to overlook some of the inconveniences and retire to Portugal.


Canada is hospitable to same-sex couples married within Canada, but has ongoing issues regarding any marriage performed abroad. Add that to the climate and Canada doesn’t quite make the list of ranking nations.chicago gay pride paradeIceland

Iceland’s legal structure is one of the best in the world when it comes to the rights of same-sex married couples, and is currently headed by woman who has been married to her wife since 2002. Unfortunately the population of Iceland is so sparse there is no gay scene outside of Rekjavik.

New Zealand

A new arrival on the scene, New Zealand only recently legalized same-sex marriages. While same-sex marriages share the same rights as heterosexual marriages, the legal system is still struggling with working out many of the kinks. This is only made more difficult by the fact that the law granting same-sex marriage rights does not extend to any of New Zealand’s territorial holdings.


While same-sex marriages are given the full rights that are shared by heterosexual marriages in Denmark itself, Greenland and the Faroes (both belonging to Denmark) share the same problem that is seen in New Zealand by not permitting same-sex marriages.

England and Wales

England is the most recent country to have same-sex marriages established. While it isn’t having nearly the implementation issues that New Zealand has suffered, it shares in the jurisdictional problems seen in both New Zealand and Denmark. Of the English extraterritorial holdings only Wales recognizes same-sex marriages. Jurisdictions such as Gibraltar and North Ireland continue to bar same-sex marriages.

Dani & Jess at Chicago PrideNorway and Sweden

Norway and Sweden are both even more accommodating than Canada, with thriving gay communities in Oslo and Stockholm. However, being located even more northerly than most of the population of Canada, the climate does not encourage long walks on the beach.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands was the first nation in modern times to legalize same-sex marriage, establishing them on the 1st of April, 2001. Amsterdam is often considered to be the most gay friendly city in the world. With a full suite of laws protecting the equal treatment of gay marriages adding to the moderate temperatures and lively culture, the Netherlands is a popular destination for retiring same-sex couples. Only one thing holds the Netherlands back. In order to marry in the Netherlands at least one of the partners must be a citizen. However, as the Netherlands do recognize same-sex marriages legally conducted abroad this is a minor hiccup in an otherwise sterling record.


A newcomer to same-sex marriages, lesbian and gay couples were granted the right to marry within France in 2012. While both legal and social acceptance are high in France, this beautiful and idyllic Gallic country is held back from our top countries list owing to a legal system that does not recognize most foreign same-sex marriages.

And now, the list!

#3 Uruguay

Uruguay is the surprising dark horse in our list. A nation that is not on most people’s list, Uruguay found itself in a peculiar position in 2012 when a judicial court ruled that Uruguay had to extend all marital rights and protections to any marriage that was legal in the country in which the marriage was conducted, even though Uruguay itself did not permit such marriages to take place inside its own borders. Legislation was quickly put forth to remedy this by legalizing marriages conducted within the country. Since then Uruguay has been leading the way not just in South America, but throughout the world in its ensuring the rights of lesbian and gay married couples. With a pleasant subtropical climate and lively society, Uruguay is one of the top places to be for retired same-sex couples. It’s only its relative youth in terms of legalization that is keeping Uruguay in our #3 slot.

La Paloma Rocha Uruguay#2 Belgium

Belgium is a leader in same-sex marriage rights and has been for years. While Uruguay has a slight edge in terms of its relationship with foreign same-sex marriages (non-citizen couples may marry only if one partner has been in the country for at least three months) the fact that Belgium has had eleven years of same-sex marriage without any hiccups gives it the higher ranking. Politically Belgium is one of the most accepting nations in the world. The current prime minister had come out as gay long before his election to the top seat of the nation. Socially Belgium is a major contender. With major gay communities in every significant city and 62% of all Belgians believing same-sex marriage should be recognized throughout the European Union there are very few places that can rival the quality of life a retired same-sex couple could enjoy in Belgium. With all these factors going for it, Belgium approaches the top of our list of the top three best countries to retire to, coming in at #2.

Rainbow tile#1 Spain

To the surprise of many people, Spain tops our list of the best nations on earth for a same-sex couple. In spite of continued comments of opposition on the part of a scattering of public officials, Spain provides the strongest legal support of same-sex marriage of any nation in the world. Spanish law exceeds even that of Belgium by permitting the marriage of all same-sex couples, even if both are citizens of nations that do not permit gay marriage and neither has established residency in Spain. Strongly Catholic, the population of Spain recently broke with church doctrine by expressing an 88% support rate for the gay community, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Every significant city in Spain has a thriving gay community enjoying Spain’s welcoming culture, and gay and lesbian couples in the countryside can expect to be given the same pleasant welcome any other couple might. Combined with the low cost of living and housing prices, pleasant subtropical climate, and the extensive Mediterranean coastline Spain tops our list of nations for same-sex couples to retire to.

Spain BeachSo there you have it. Our top three picks of countries to retire to as a same sex retired couple are (from third to first) Uruguay, Belgium, and Spain. All are known for their friendly people, progressive legal systems, engaging culture, and pleasant climates. Pack your sun hats and your sandals and check them out as your dream retirement locations.

About the Author:
Mario Vitanelli is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in international politics and finance, retirement and investment. His areas of expertise include European, Asian and Latin/South American economic policy and overseas pensions. When away from his keyboard, he enjoys photography and appreciates the rest of the Vitanelli family’s endless patience with his football dependence.

Mitch Collins

Thursday 25th of July 2019

Thailand has a lot of LGBT people and it's known for its drag queens and transgender people, but male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal and nothing else. There are no protections against any sort of gay discrimination or unions etc. That's probably why it is not on this list.

As far as the other two comments go...Grow up! Your comment is irrelevant to this post. Plus, if you are gay or gay-friendly, how the hell can you discriminate anyone? Like I said GROW UP!

Wendy Rawady

Sunday 23rd of July 2017

If you are looking for a place to retire and make a bit of money hosting, is now on the market (Nuevo Vallarta just near El Tigre which gives your guests cheap rates on golf and 50% discount on other activities through Vallarta Adventures.). This place is well set up for guests and in a safe, gated street but gives guests the ability to swim all night if they want to do so (unlike the resorts who have early pool closure). Many advantages to our place, currently selling at the ridiculously low price of $260,000 USD. Contact me through the site.


Friday 17th of April 2015

I'm shocked! Shocked, I say, that you have not recognized Thailand's warm embrace and protection of the gay lifestyle. the gay girls scene here is jumping, foreigners and welcomed, streets are safe at night, harassment is almost unknown, and Thailand is one of the most affordable countries on earth. And the most beautiful.


Thursday 1st of February 2018