Right Now Could be the Best Time to Come to Panama...the Hub of the Americas


Why do so many expats choose Panama? Often the intangibles…the feel of a place…play a big role. But there are also a lot of concrete, quantifiable reasons Panama is so appealing, starting with its modern infrastructure.

Panama’s cosmopolitan capital, Panama City, is the only true First World city in Central America. The beautifully maintained Pan-American Highway runs the breadth of the country, making travel easy. High-speed Internet and cell coverage are remarkable…as are the power, air, and water quality.

For expats from the U.S., Panama is also convenient because the currency is the U.S. dollar. No matter where you’re from, you’re likely to appreciate the fact that there are many English speakers in Panama, especially among the well-trained medical community. The hub that is Tocumen International Airport makes it easy to fly from Panama to nearly anywhere in the world…often with no layovers.


Choose From a Varied Landscape


Many of the expats here also cite Panama’s geographical diversity and location, with proximity to North America being a major factor. In a country roughly the size of South Carolina, you’ll find mountains and beaches within an easy striking distance—no matter where in the country you are. Wake up on the Caribbean and have lunch overlooking the Pacific…they’re a couple of hours apart at the isthmus’ “skinniest” sections. Choose your preferred climate, topography, population density and more in Panama’s varied landscape.

And then there are factors the lists and indexes can’t quantify. For instance, the people of Panama are beautiful, inside and out. Get to know them just a little and you’ll see they have big hearts and an even bigger zest for life. They’re welcoming to foreigners, who in turn feel safe here. Increasing numbers of North Americans, Europeans, and others are moving here and contributing to the burgeoning economy.


Panama: A Convenient, International Hub


Some expats come in search of adventure or a quality retirement destination, while others seek to take advantage of all Panama has to offer as a business destination. There are well-established expat populations (and many clubs and organizations) in Panama from all over the world.

And though Panama has always been a busy little hub (thanks in large part to the Panama Canal), it’s experiencing something of a heyday. In 2007, Panama’s economy was hailed as the fastest-growing in the hemisphere. Despite the 2009 global financial crisis, Panama’s economy has continued to grow faster than nearly any country in the region. Mega-port projects and major investment in infrastructure will continue to fuel the economy into the next decade.

There’s a palpable excitement as the country is coming into its own. You can see it in the exciting food and culture scenes and the flashy, innovative architecture and the new industries that are adding to local offerings. New laws to encourage filmmaking paved the way for Panama to get its very own International Film Festival. The annual jazz festival is a renowned event. Major international summits are held at Panama’s large, modern convention centers.

You’ll find golf, tennis, sailing, fishing, surfing, birding and every other activity imaginable—with the exception, of course, of snow-skiing. With so much going on, expats here will tell you that it is extremely easy to make friends, regardless of age, gender, or marital status.


Moving to Panama is Easy


For those looking to move to Panama or live here part-time, two new residence options make moving here even easier than it was before. (Quite a feat, as the Pensionado residence program has already helped thousands move here with relative ease.) These days, there's a visa for everyone.

The international community here has always been strong, but thanks to the new residence programs, it’s growing faster than ever. And new arrivals are introducing locals to new foods, activities, methods and more. It’s been great for Panama.

These days, you can get trendy food items like kale and chia seeds…indulge in clothes from Banana Republic and Gap…and buy specialty items, from kitchen and barbecue gadgets to sports and hobbyist gear. What other country in the region can boast such convenience?

Then there’s the cost of living. Panama is not the cheapest country in the region, but it is often cited as the best overall value for your money.

If you daydream about sunshine, tropical beaches, and welcoming locals, then Panama may be for you. A couple can live well here for $2,500 a month or less, including rent.


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Fast Facts About Panama

  • Population: 3,559,408
  • Capital City: Panama City
  • Climate: Tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)
  • Time Zone: GMT-5
  • Language: Spanish (official), English 14%; (many Panamanians are bilingual)
  • Country Code: 507
  • Coastline: 2,490 km


Santa Fe

The 5 Benefits of Living in the Mountain Towns of Panama

Many expats and retirees are attracted to the mountainous areas of Panama, known as the highlands. From west to east, these are the towns of Volcán, Boquete, Santa Fe, Sorá, El Valle, and Cerro Azul. While each has its own distinctive features, they all share common traits that benefit those who live there. Here’s a look at the top five advantages of life in Panama’s highlands:


Boquete—Celebrating 10 Years of Culture

One of the things folks love about Boquete is there’s always something to do. It may be an art display, live musical performance, photography exhibit, or live stage production. Since expats and retirees began moving to this rural town they have transformed it into the cultural Mecca of western Panama.


Three Must-See Cultural Sites in Panama City

With a vibrant cultural scene, Panama’s capital is a wellspring that’s well worth exploring. In Panama City, you have so much to choose from that whether you’re into art, architecture, gourmet cuisine—or anything else—you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied. Best of all, this surprising city is filled with contrasts. Small colonial gems and skyscrapers with cutting-edge designs…hidden galleries and state-of-the-art museums…centuries-old ruins and more modern wonders, too.


Panama: How a Condo by the Beach Could Make You $123,000

It feels likes standing in a virgin wilderness. In front of you are some of Panama’s finest white-sand beaches. Tropical birds call from the trees behind you. The land is undeveloped and quiet. You won’t meet many people here. Occasionally, you’ll see a kite surfer or someone walking an almost-deserted beach.

Sora, Ecuador

Five Magical Mountain Towns in Panama

You can’t help but feel happy in Panama’s highlands. The views are inspiring, with verdant pines and bougainvillea bursts covering the hillsides. Hidden gems include streams, waterfalls and even hot springs. Not to mention some of Panama’s best flora and fauna…including hundreds of species of colorful birds, orchids, and more. To be sure, Panama is known for its stunning Caribbean islands and popular Pacific beaches.


Where to Buy in the Hong Kong of the Americas

I first came to scout Panama City 11 years ago. Back then, the city was on the cusp of a massive growth spurt. It was primed for big things—set to transform into one of the commercial hubs of the Americas. That growth played out just as I expected. Since then, I’ve watched the city change almost beyond recognition.


Swim with Golden Jellyfish, Hidden Guatemala, and much more…

During the second Chinese Opium War, in the 1850s, a penniless teen named Cheong Fatt Tze fled from China to Southeast Asia. There he would make his fortune as a merchant. He became so wealthy that he earned the moniker of “Rockefeller of the East.” Tze owned many fine houses throughout Southeast Asia, but none was as extravagant as the Blue Mansion, on the tropical island of Penang off the coast of Malaysia. It’s a colossal beacon of 19th-century Chinese extravagance


Live Where It’s Spring-Like Year Round

As the savage North American winter begins to bite and the snow and ice pile up, many of us find ourselves yearning for warmer climates elsewhere. Imagine a place that’s never too hot or too cold—just perfect. Outside, the birds are chirping, while gardens and wildflowers bloom in multicolored glory. You can walk around in a light tee-shirt at any time of year. Throw out your coat and boots. Forget about heating and air-conditioning bills and suffering through sweltering heat and humidity.


Is This The Best Place for Americans to Bank?

Not that long ago, you could buy a CD in a U.S. bank and get a decent rate of return…4% or 5% annually was typical. Sure, you wouldn’t get rich this way. But it was a safe and affordable way to build a nest egg. Today of course, times are very different. For nearly a decade, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates at zero. And instead of paying 4% to 5% annually on CDs, now you’re lucky to get 1%.


Swapping an Iowa Farm for Life on Panama’s Pacific Coast

Each morning, from the wraparound porch of her tropical beachside home Bonnie Birker watches the waves caress the soft sand as she enjoys her cup of freshly brewed coffee. But this isn’t the retirement she had planned for herself… Bonnie originally decided to retire to her father’s farmhouse in Iowa. After all, it’s where she grew up, and after traveling the world she was ready to settle down near family. But the reality didn’t live up to expectations.


The Best Places for Island Living in Panama

The island destination in Panama I’m asked about the most is Bocas del Toro—and with good reason. A trickle of adventurous visitors and a tight-knit expat community have transformed insular Bocas del Toro from a sleepy archipelago to a bustling outpost. But if you’re considering island life, you’ll be interested to know that Bocas is not the only exciting option available.


How Thriving Panama Offers Easy Living For Expats

I retired to Panama in 2007 and I’ve seen big improvements in that short time. Getting around the country has become much easier in the time we’ve lived here. For example, the Panamanian government is expanding the Pan American Highway from Santiago to David.


Live Well on $1,500 a Month in Panama’s Most Popular Expat Town

Boquete is the premier expat and retiree destination in the highlands of Panama. The name applies to both the small hamlet resting in an ancient volcanic formation and to the larger surrounding district, home to about 25,000 residents. It’s located in Chiriquí Province in western Panama, not far from the border with Costa Rica, on the eastern-facing side of Volcan Baru, Panama’s highest peak (11,400 feet) and only volcano.


The Day-to-Day Joys of Early Retirement in Panama

Since my husband Clyde and I retired to Panama four years ago, a typical day is anything but that. We awaken each day to the sound of birds singing, roosters crowing, and geckos’ chirping as our peaceful little neighborhood comes to life…wondering what the new day will bring

volcan, panama

A Place of Quiet Beauty and Low Costs in Panama’s Highlands

When I think of country living in Panama, I think of Volcán in Chiriquí Province. It’s one of my favorite places in Panama and offers the ideal blend of rural lifestyle in a small-town setting. Barú Volcano, which gives the town its name, looms to the east and Cerro Punta, where most of Panama’s produce is grown, rises to the north. The town rests at about 4,600 feet in a sloping valley facing toward the Costa Rica border. The open sky is clear blue this time of year. Blooming bougainvillea bushes of bright magenta and deep purple add a splash of color amid the pine trees.


Chiriquí Needs a Handyman and Lawn-Care Service

One almost sure-fire way to succeed in business is to find a gap that needs filling, or a niche that is unoccupied. And right now there’s a great big gap in the Chiriquí Province of western Panama for home maintenance, lawn care, and handyman services. Of course, there are locals who carry out yard work, but that laidback outlook that expats find so appealing in some ways can leave them waiting to have work done. And when it comes to home repairs, it’s hard to find qualified tradesmen with the right tools. With an expat population of around 20,000, Chiriquí Province has a market.


Santa Fe, Panama From $1,000 a Month

“Buenas,” he says, nodding his head as he rides past. Leathery tan on a face framed by a worn cowboy hat, he’s the very picture of a Marlboro Man. Except he’s Panamanian. I’m sitting in an ancient Lada Niva—a Russian 4×4 made for rugged terrain. We’ve stopped so our cowboy (and his herd of cows) can pass safely. It’s a chance to take in the view… In the distance I can see the national park, where hiking trails crisscross hills lush with rainforest. In the treetops above me, I’ve seen monkeys and toucans and several species of birds I can’t name. This is Santa Fe de Veraguas, Panama—a tiny mountain hideaway about 200 miles west of Panama City.


Banking and Social Security When You Move Overseas

“It’s easy to get your Social Security benefits abroad if you wish,” says IL Mexico Editor Glynna Prentice. “Arguably the easiest way to get them abroad is by electronic transfer to your local foreign bank account in the foreign country. However, “not all foreign banks will accept direct deposits of U.S. Social Security checks, so if you want your Social Security delivered to a local bank, make sure to choose one that does,” says Dan Prescher.

Bocas del Toro

Rent on This “Zero Stress” Caribbean Island for $500 a Month

Since I moved to Panama 10 years ago, the islands of Bocas del Toro have become one of my favorite vacation spots of all time. It’s just an hour-long flight from Panama City…though I’ve also driven the scenic seven hours or so to the launch point of Almirante, where you can get a 30-minute water taxi to the main island. I’ve traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean…St. Thomas, Grand Cayman, Martinique…you name it, I’ve probably been there. But for me, none of them can hold a candle to Bocas del Toro.


More Retirees Than Ever Drawing Their Social Security Benefits Overseas

According to the latest figures from the U.S. Social Security Administration, U.S. retirees overseas received more than $3 billion in Social Security benefit payments in 2013—an increase of $160 million year-on-year, when compared to 2012. American retirees can receive Social Security benefit checks in almost every country in the world. Statistics reveal that Europe is home to the most U.S. retirees drawing their benefits abroad (154,238), followed by Canada and Mexico (95,767), and Asia (70,586).


We Slashed 75% Off Our Monthly Medical Costs in Panama

When my husband Clyde was working as a firefighter and paramedic in Corpus Christi, Texas he had top-notch health insurance. While he was still working, the city paid a portion of our premium but after he decided to call it quits we’d be responsible for the full amount. With a monthly premium of over $1,200 how could we afford to retire, let alone retire early?


“I Spend 40% Less in Panama City Than if I Lived in the U.S.”

As night begins to fall, strings of lights twinkle above my head. The temperature drops 10 degrees to about 78 F…absolutely perfect. The open rooftop terrace of Panama City’s Tantalo Hotel is a fantastic place to enjoy the cool evening breeze. Not to mention the colonial architecture of Casco Viejo, one of Panama’s oldest (and most romantic) quarters.


Swapping the Corporate Ladder for Laidback Living in Panama

From our new home town of Pedasi every beach seems to offer its own playground. From a launching point for Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, to waves fit for championship surfers and beginners alike. Located on the Azuero peninsula on Panama’s Pacific coast, Pedasi is an ocean-lovers dream. Driving out of town towards the popular beach of Playa Venao offers picturesque views of rolling hills on one side and stunning Pacific views on the other.


“I Spend 40% Less in Panama City Than if I Lived in the U.S.”

As night begins to fall, strings of lights twinkle above my head. The temperature drops 10 degrees to about 78 F…absolutely perfect. The open rooftop terrace of Panama City’s Tantalo Hotel is a fantastic place to enjoy the cool evening breeze. Not to mention the colonial architecture of Casco Viejo, one of Panama’s oldest (and most romantic) quarters.


Gun Laws in Three Expat Destinations

Whatever your personal opinion on gun ownership in the United States, there’s no denying that millions of U.S. residents feel a great fondness for their firearms. So it should come as no surprise that many aspiring expats want to bring their guns with them to their new home. While it’s possible in some places, be prepared for a lot more red tape and tighter controls than you typically face in the States. Bear in mind that gun laws are liable to change, so you need to do your due diligence if you plan to import or buy a gun overseas.


Latin American Havens With Great Retiree Benefits

For many people looking to retire overseas, selecting the right country from the many options available can seem daunting. Fortunately, some countries actively encourage expat retirees to relocate there. They offer excellent retirement benefits that can help you truly enjoy these destinations’ great value. To help narrow your choice, here are the three top countries for retirement benefits on the IL beat.

Page 17    Santa Fe, Panama    Credit Hugo Ghiara

In Santa Fe, Panama, $1,500 a Month is “More Than Plenty”

From our porch we can see down to the river, where we have our own little private beach and swimming hole,” says Albuquerque native Bob Caragol of his and his wife Irma’s new home. “We just fell in love with the area. There’s no crime and no pollution, and my asthma symptoms improved immediately.” Their story is typical of expats living in the scenic mountain town of Santa Fe, located in Veraguas province in west-central Panama.


Three Countries Where Banks Still Welcome American Clients

Worried that the U.S. government seems increasingly eager to get its hands on your money? Frustrated at your limited choices for diversifying your portfolio? Or looking to protect some of your assets in case you are ever on the losing end of a costly lawsuit? You may want to think about opening an account abroad.


Paradise Awaits You in the East

Don’t let Southeast Asia’s “exotic” reputation fool you. Yes, this part of the world is rich with color and unfamiliar culture. But what you may not realize is that Southeast Asia is also one of the easiest places for English-speaking expats to get “set up” and start living very, very well…for a small fraction of what a comparable lifestyle would cost at home.


Enjoy Beach Life All Year Round in Panama

With the coming of fall, my family and friends in the States find themselves thinking of the long, cold winter approaching. It’s not just the ice and snow they have to cope with, but the enormous heating bills, and not being able to enjoy the outdoors. But not me…living in Panama I don’t ever have a heating bill and I haven’t seen snow in years. The great outdoors is my playground all year round here in the Chiriqui province of western Panama. And that includes being able to go to the beach anytime I want.


The Panama Highland Towns That Have Everything

I’m fortunate to live in Chiriqui province in a small, quiet Panamanian neighborhood near the tiny town of Dolega. We are centered between our province’s two main urban centers…both of which I love for different reasons. David is the larger of the two and is a 50-minute drive from my house. Although much smaller than Panama City, it’s a busy and bustling place. David provides everything we need—banks, supermarkets, repair shops, insurance agencies, car dealerships, and modern shopping malls.


Everything Costs Less in Small-Town Panama

Morning is my favorite part of the day…it’s cool and the day is new. My wife, Luz, and I sit on our patio, coffee in hand, and watch birds splashing about in the birdbath I made from stained glass shards. When I first moved to Panama five years ago, I lived in the city of David. But after exploring the country I decided to make Las Tablas, on the Azuero peninsula, home. It’s a charming town with a tranquil public park and the locals are a friendly bunch.


The Best of Both Worlds For This City and Beach Lover

Weekends, Rita Sosa tends to spend at her beach house, just over an hour’s drive from Panama City. “Our house is literally on the beach,” says Rita. “When I go up there, I just go to relax and swim. I’m very happy to sit and read a book outside and not do a whole lot of anything. It’s so great to have beach weather 12 months a year, and I love the tropical greenery.


Swapping the Corporate Ladder for Laidback Living in Panama

From our new home town of Pedasi every beach seems to offer its own playground. From a launching point for Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, to waves fit for championship surfers and beginners alike. Located on the Azuero peninsula on Panama’s Pacific coast, Pedasi is an ocean-lovers dream. Driving out of town towards the popular beach of Playa Venao offers picturesque views of rolling hills on one side and stunning Pacific views on the other.


City Living in Panama For $1,250 a Month

People used to ask me what I was going to do with myself all day when I didn’t have to work. Believe me, I haven’t had a problem finding things to do since moving from Florida to the city of David in Panama. I spend many hours biking around the city and exploring the surrounding countryside. I work on my blog, I have more time for my photography and I recently started painting classes.


The Perfect Climate for Business and Fun…in Panama

Moving to Panama was “a bit of an adventure” for expat James Bloomfield. “When I first moved to the capital, I was out exploring nearly every weekend,” he says. He fell for the coastal area of Pedasi, just 200 miles west of Panama City. It’s a region of pristine, uncrowded beaches and abundant waters just teeming in tuna, wahoo, dorado, and more.


Build Your Own Dream B&B Overseas…Before Leaving Home

We knew we wanted to open a B&B, and now we have this beautiful place and a great lifestyle,” says Manzar Lari, 55. In 2013, Manzar and his partner, Terry Richmeier, 48, left jobs in corporate healthcare in Minneapolis to create a new life in the highland town of Boquete, Panama…and a new livelihood in the hospitality business.


Rent For $600 a Month on Panama’s Sunshine Coast

A million shades of green surround me as I drive. Above, the sky is a deep cornflower blue. I’m on the perfectly paved (and newly expanded) National Highway, driving down the Azuero Peninsula’s eastern coast. As is customary in this region of Panama, the sun is shining. A five-hour drive will get you from Panama’s sultry capital to Pedasí, a gem of a village. Banana trees, sugar cane, and countless varieties of palms line the flat horizon. There are no highrises here…towns in the greater Pedasí district are tiny.


Top 5 Healthiest Places in the World

Home to 4.4 million people, New Zealand and its awesome landscapes are admittedly a long way from North America. But as our winter is their summer, you could consider retiring here part-time. In a pollution-free environment, it’s much easier to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

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