Finding a Plan B: Top 10 Countries to Consider for Secondary Residency

Ecuador has been a favored destination for years in the expat community, but for many, the rising crime rates since the pandemic have put a damper on its appeal.

If you’ve crossed Ecuador off your list, any of the 10 countries we cover here could serve as a good Plan B, especially if you’re not retired yet. They each have a variety of visa options and a lot of great things to offer, including higher safety ratings.

Why a Plan B Country?

Even if you love your current country of residence, it’s an unstable world so it’s a good idea to have geographic diversification, or multiple places you can call home.

Since we decided to leave the United States and move to Ecuador, it has always been our intention to get an additional residency once our dogs were gone and we obtained permanent residency in Ecuador.

After the passing of our beloved dog, Daisy, on August 30th, 2023, we now have the freedom to start that exploration. Thank you to everyone for your heartfelt condolences over the last few weeks.

For us, Ecuador will continue to be our home base, but now that we have permanent residency, we only need to be inside the country one day every two years to maintain it.

That means we have a lot more flexibility to take extended exploratory trips to our Plan B countries.

The Criteria We Used

It wasn’t easy to narrow down our list to a manageable number, so we decided to apply some criteria to help get it down to ten.

  • Visa Options: Qualifying for a visa was the first criteria. Since we’re not retired or rich, we immediately crossed a bunch of countries off our list.
  • Safety: Now that Ecuador has fallen so much in the safety rankings, we want a Plan B that is still considered safe. It wouldn’t make sense to choose a country that’s just as dangerous or even more dangerous than Ecuador.
  • Tax-Friendly: As U.S. citizens, we have to continue paying taxes even if we live on the moon. That means we would like to minimize our tax burden as much as possible by choosing a territorial tax country or at least a country with tax incentives for foreign residents.
  • No Brutal Winters: We’ve been spoiled living in Ecuador with mild weather year round. Neither of us like the snow or overly cold temperatures so we chose countries with winters that are a little more mild.
  • Closer to the US: We have aging parents and may need to return to the US on short notice so we eliminated most of Southeast Asia for this reason. Also, Amelia still works part-time for a company in Colorado so it’s better if she doesn’t have to work in the middle of the night.

Watch Our Video About Other Countries We’re Considering

The Top 10 Countries for Secondary Residency

With that criteria in mind, here are 10 countries that might be a good option for a second residency:

10. Paraguay

View of a colorful park and old buildings in Asunción Paraguay.Paraguay offers a blend of natural beauty and affordability, making it a strong contender for those seeking an alternative home base. With easy residency options and a territorial tax system, it’s worth considering despite its developing status.

  • Visa Options: Easy 2-year temporary residency; Investor residency with a minimum investment of $70k.
  • Tax System: Territorial tax.
  • Pros: Affordable, beautiful landscapes, safe.
  • Cons: Developing, distant from Ecuador, hot summers and wet winters with bugs and humidity.

9. Malaysia

View of a river and colorful buildings in Malacca Malaysia.Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures, boasting a unique blend of modern cities and natural landscapes. Its Digital Nomad and MM2H visas offer flexibility for various financial situations, but its distance from family and hot climate may be drawbacks for some.

  • Visa Options: Digital Nomad Visa requiring a minimum income of $2k/month; Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) 10-year visa with significant financial requirements.
  • Tax System: Territorial tax.
  • Pros: Culturally diverse, English-speaking, developed infrastructure, beautiful beaches, and nature.
  • Cons: Distance from family, hot climate, crowded cities.

8. Costa Rica

Tortuga Island Costa RicaKnown for its “Pura Vida” lifestyle, Costa Rica offers a mix of natural beauty and a relaxed pace of life. While it may be on the expensive side and has seen a rise in crime rates, its variety of activities and scenery make it an attractive option.

  • Visa Options: 12-month Digital Nomad Visa, extendable for another year.
  • Tax System: Territorial tax.
  • Pros: Pura vida lifestyle, natural beauty, and varied activities.
  • Cons: Increasing crime, rainy season, relatively expensive.

7. Malta

View of Marsaxlokk Harbor, Malta with colorful boats in the foreground and old buildings in the background.An island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta offers excellent weather and a developed infrastructure. Despite its population density and some environmental concerns, its Digital Nomad Visa and English-speaking population make it a convenient choice for many.

  • Visa Options: Digital Nomad Visa with minimum gross annual income of $35,200, valid for 1 year and renewable up to 3 years.
  • Pros: Great weather, English widely spoken, developed, safe.
  • Cons: Crowded, pollution, lacking public transport, island isolation.

6. Albania

Main city promenade in Saranda, Albania.Albania provides an affordable and safe environment, coupled with a stunning array of locally grown food and natural beauty. Although it’s still developing and has somewhat of a language barrier, its strategic location in Europe adds to its appeal.

  • Visa Options: 1-year tourist visa; Long-term stay visa valid for 1 year, renewable up to 5 times.
  • Pros: Very affordable, safe, locally grown food, natural beauty, good European location.
  • Cons: Developing, lacking services and infrastructure, language barrier.

5. Croatia

Dalmatia region of CroatiaCroatia combines rich history with a convenient European location. While bureaucracy and language could be challenges, its affordable living, safety, and robust healthcare system make it an attractive destination.

  • Visa Options: Digital Nomad Visa with income or savings requirements, valid for 1 year.
  • Pros: Affordable, great location, historical architecture, good healthcare, safe.
  • Cons: Bureaucracy, economic challenges for locals, language barriers.

4. Spain

Panoramic View of Gran Via, Madrid, SpainSpain offers a vibrant culture, excellent healthcare, and the added benefit of being Spanish-speaking. However, frequent changes in Digital Nomad Visa requirements and a higher cost of living may deter some from making it their Plan B.

  • Visa Options: Digital Nomad Visa with $2,500/month income, valid for 12 months and renewable up to 5 years.
  • Pros: Spanish speaking, safe, excellent healthcare, vibrant culture, efficient transport.
  • Cons: Changing visa requirements, higher cost of living, high taxes, bureaucracy.

3. Greece

Beautiful panoramic view of Assos village in Kefalonia, Greece with vivid colorful houses near blue turquoise colored and transparent bay lagoon. Greece is a land steeped in history and natural beauty, from its islands to its mainland. Despite its bureaucratic nature and the difficulty of learning Greek, its variety of visas and cultural richness make it a strong contender.

  • Visa Options: Need at least $3,800/month; retirement visa with low tax rates.
  • Pros: Delicious food, rich history, friendly locals, beautiful beaches and islands.
  • Cons: Higher cost of living, language barrier, bureaucracy, wildfires.

2. Panama

Panama City, Panama at night.Panama offers the advantage of being close to both the U.S. and Ecuador, along with good healthcare and solid infrastructure. While it has seen a rise in prices and political protests, its territorial tax system remains a significant draw.

  • Visa Options: 6-month tourist visa; Digital Nomad Visa valid for 9 months, extendable for another 9 months.
  • Tax System: Territorial tax.
  • Pros: Close to the U.S. and Ecuador, good healthcare, solid infrastructure.
  • Cons: Rainy season, rising prices, political protests.

1. Portugal

Streetcar in Porto, Portugal.Portugal emerges as a top choice for many, owing to its safety, excellent healthcare, and pathways to permanent residency and citizenship. Learning Portuguese and navigating housing prices could be challenges, but its overall benefits are compelling.

  • Visa Options: D8 Digital Nomad Visa; D7 passive income visa.
  • Pros: Excellent options for permanent residency and citizenship, excellent healthcare, safe.
  • Cons: Need to learn Portuguese, expensive housing, bureaucracy, many foreigners.

Final Thoughts…

For us, Portugal emerged as the standout option, but the beauty of earning online income gives us the flexibility to explore multiple countries before making a decision.

The future holds a lot of exploratory trips for us, and perhaps for you as well. Whether you’re looking for a temporary getaway or a permanent change, these countries offer a broad spectrum of possibilities.

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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!

2 replies
  1. Kerry Plancon
    Kerry Plancon says:

    I like the list and one of the criteria I had in looking was access to healthcare. Given your story, I’m surprised that’s not a criteria you’re focused on. Do you have insurance that works in other countries?

    Reply
    • JP Stonestreet
      JP Stonestreet says:

      Healthcare in other countries is not a big issue. Even if we self-insure and pay for everything out-of-pocket, it’s still a fraction of the cost compared to the US. Now that we’ve experienced healthcare in Ecuador and researched it in other countries, it’s no longer a major factor in our decision.

      Reply

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