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Tips for travelers, retirees seeking foreign utopias

Travel and Retirement Edens Abroad, by Peter A. Dickinson. New York: E.P. Dutton Inc. $12.95.

If you're thinking of retiring outside the country, have you considered that:

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* Antigua is among the least expensive of the Caribbean islands?

* It is possible to live comfortably in Greece on little more than social security?

* Luxury flats in the Alps were recently going for as little as $50,000?

These are the kinds of facts with which retirement-planning expert Peter Dickinson bombards you in his new book, Travel and Retirement Edens Abroad.

From Latin America to Europe to the South Pacific, Dickinson covers everything from tax havens and investment opportunites to the local food and the prevalence of English-speakers in the area. And he presents this mass of information - as well as lists upon lists of where to get more - in a very readable style.

The book is of interest even to those who choose not to retire, or who still have a number of years to consider it. For a traveler who goes abroad a few weeks each year, or someone who is interested in spending several months in one area, the book is a useful and lively compendium of facts and figures about the living costs and social and cultural characteristics of many well-known, and not-so-well-known, spots.

The Social Security Administration sends 313,262 checks overseas every month to retired Americans and their dependents, according to Dickinson. This, of course, does not indicate the size of the total American population in a given city. But the breakdown by area of this group reveals that some of the most well-liked retirement areas include Mexico, Canada, Italy, and the Philippines.

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Dickinson does not restrict his analysis of retirement possibilities simply to the most popular. For those who are interested in one of the last frontiers, he devotes a chapter to Australia, illustrating the youth and the openness of the country, but pointing out as well the high costs of living.

Farther north, he discusses Singapore, which, although chock full of social and cultural possibilities, is a difficult spot in which to establish permanent residency. It also can be costly, due to very expensive rentals or homes.

One country which receives high scores from Dickinson is America's northern neighbor, Canada. Many Americans, he notes, choose to move north because of Canada's extensive open lands and unspoiled nature, low crime level, and proximity to home. This, besides allowing more frequent visits to children or grandchildren, also reduces culture shock when crossing the border. Of course, the favorable exchange rate is another strong incentive.

Dickinson's armchair tour of Canada, from a senior citizen's point of view, moves east from British Columbia right over to Ontario and the Maritime Provinces. He stops, as many do not, in Saskatchewan, pointing out the many benefits in the area, including tax reductions for elderly citizens with low incomes, educational opportunities, and an abundance of senior centers for those who wish to join them.

And for those who think Saskatchewan is only a sea of wheat fields - or home to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - he takes a look at Regina, the provincial capital, pointing out the presence there of 154 parks and eight golf courses, as well as the Saskatchewan Centre of Arts.

Besides looking for a more favorable climate and lower cost of living, Dickinson suggests that those considering a move abroad review a ''desirability of residence'' index put forward by Douglas R. Casey in his book ''The International Man.''

The points for consideration include: taxes on foreign residents; presence of amenities such as movie theaters, hotels, and restaurants; communication and transportation, i.e. the reliability of the phone and mail systems, as well as the proximity of an international airport; financial freedom, or the ability to do as you please with your money; and civil freedom, the ability to move about as you wish, associate with whom you wish, and be reasonably assured that you will be treated, as Dickinson says, ''fairly (or at least with courtesy) by the courts, police, and bureaucracy.''

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