For some, retirement is a time to sit back and relax after a lifetime of hard work. You might start spending more time with the family, catching up with old friends, or even get a dog. However, if you’re not one to sit idly by, there’s a good chance that you’ll be itching to get out in the world and appreciate your newfound freedom.
If relocation is on the cards, then it’s worth considering going abroad — but moving to another country is a big commitment, and you’ll want to pick a destination that suits your interests. During the golden years, many pick up new hobbies or return to old favorite pastimes — and for the trainspotters among you, this is where we can help. Read on for our top picks of countries to retire to that do railway right, and what you need to know before making the move.
1. St Kitts & Nevis
The Caribbean paradise of St Kitts & Nevis has a scenic railway that runs along its coastline. Originally laid as a sugar cane transport route, the tracks now provide a passenger service that shows off the breathtaking natural beauty of the islands — from tropical rainforests to sky-scraping mountain ranges. The “Last Railway in the West Indies” features hydraulic locomotives and ornate double-decked carriages with open-air decks. This nickname is slightly misleading, however, as there are still running tracks on other nearby islands for the intrepid explorers among you to find.
Relocation to St Kitts & Nevis is a unique process. For those without family, land or property in the country, the government grants citizenship via the Citizenship by Investment scheme, whereby individuals pay a donation in exchange for their family’s rights to live and work on the islands. Payments go toward initiatives such as the Sustainable Growth Fund, investing in climate-resilient development of the nation’s infrastructure, education and healthcare. As a result, your relocation helps the island community to thrive, and secures a tropical trainspotting future for yourself.
2. Czech Republic
Europe is known for its well-connected rails, and the Czech Republic is no exception. The country boasts the densest network in the world, with 121 km of rails per 1,000 km². Train transport in the country has a rich history, and large stations in cities like Prague feature impressive Art Nouveau designs. Ongoing modernisations to the network have resulted in a varied rolling stock operating on the tracks, making the country a popular getaway destination for trainspotters.
As for relocation, the Czech Republic has similar entry requirements to most European countries: EU citizens can move there freely, while residents elsewhere in the world will need to apply for the relevant living permits. In addition to its beloved rails, the nation boasts high ratings of public safety, education, and healthcare satisfaction, making it a more than worthy contender to be your new home. We’ve not yet even mentioned the biggest factor contributing to Czech people’s quality of life: they have the largest beer consumption per person of any country in the world!
Time and time again, Japan has been named the world’s most technologically advanced country. It should come as no surprise, then, that the nation offers its people a variety of modern rail options to get between major islands and cities. Across Japan, there is a culture of punctuality valued by the many commuters that rely on rail services, and a wide variety of trains that operate as part of its slick rolling stock — the fastest among them reaching speeds of up to 320 km/h.
If the Land of the Rising Sun sounds like the place for you, however, it will take some preparation to retire there. While several visa options are available, most require you to work or study. Otherwise, short-term visas must be renewed until you’ve stayed long enough to be considered for a long-stay visa or permanent residence permit. Most expats living in Japan would probably argue that it’s worth it, though — its healthcare system consistently ranks among the top 10 in the world, and there is a bounty of iconic destinations to explore, from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to the majestic Mount Fuji.
Germany is home to the Deutsche Bahn railway network, running fast InterCity Express trains up and down the country. The capital Berlin is a central hub for tourists and freight alike, moving visitors around and linking cargo yards with industrial enterprises. Elsewhere, busy commercial rails connect Germany with the rest of Europe and beyond. Recently, a new line was launched from Mannheim to China’s Qingdao, spanning 12,300 km between the cities. Don’t be in a rush to see which cars are running the tracks, though — the journey between the two can take up to 22 days.
Yet again, a big move like this will take some organization. If you’re coming from a non-EU state, you’ll need to be approved for a residence permit by the German authorities, which may depend on your income and health insurance circumstances. Once you’re in, however, you can enjoy the cultural offerings of cities like Munich, Hamburg and Cologne. Especially popular with retirees, Germans also have a wide network of registered associations known as ‘Vereins’, catering to fans of specific sports, arts and other activities. These clubs are ideal for meeting like-minded individuals and picking up new hobbies to fill your time.
Hopefully, this list has given you the inspiration you need to pack your bags and get trainspotting around the globe. Though it can take some fiddly paperwork, there’s a whole world of rails waiting to be seen — don’t keep retreading the same tracks!