There are a number of Web sites and related e-newsletters whose primary purpose is to sell real estate around the globe. Some of these often tout certain countries as low-cost options for investment or retirement (re: buying a home in another country to retire). When I was researching my move to Costa Rica, I frequented a couple such sites.
These sites are excellent sources of country-specific information such as geography, customs, demographics and sightseeing, for example. Often, the hook for these sites is that such-and-such country has a very low cost of living and low real-estate prices. That was the overriding theme of the Costa Rican-related sites I visited.
The same company behind the Costa Rican sites also now touts other “low-cost” locations for retirement, such as Ecuador or Thailand. Again, the background information you can find here is useful but don’t fall for the low cost-of-living claims. They may be true, or outdated or simply hype to sell property.
Do not believe the claims on these sites! Those claims might be outdated or pure marketing. Do your homework. There are independent sites that offer detailed cost-of-living statistics for hundreds of cities worldwide, for example (here’s one I use: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings.jsp).
There also are country-specific forums where you can pose questions to people already living in a country. These can be very helpful in gaining on-the-ground specifics from people living there about a locale, such as even the nature and quality of the ocean at that location. Here’s an example of one for Thailand: http://www.expatforum.com/expats/thailand-expat-forum-expats-living-thailand/.
Google Maps is also a very useful tool in evaluating a particular city. And for specifics on what you will need to live in another country, check out the country’s embassy or consular Web site. The real estate-related sites also often have immigration/residency information.