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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- 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
Runner up of the 2014 Global Retirement Index, Ecuador offers sophisticated historical cities…miles of unspoiled, sun-kissed beaches…fertile farmland…and temperate mountain hideaways…and all of it for pennies on the dollar. You can live well for a fraction of the cost of living back in the U.S. And with Ecuador’s official currency the U.S. dollar, you needn’t worry about complicated currency calculations or exchange risks.
You might not “get” Coronado, Panama’s fastest growing beach town, immediately. There’s no main square or plaza, and at a glance it looks rambling and unremarkable. But trundle down its mansion-lined lanes, and you’ll find there are many hidden gems.
It’s easy to see why Penny Barrett was so enamored with Boquete when she visited in 2003. Located in the highlands of Panama, near the border of Costa Rica, this town is a shock of color and natural growth: rich green mountains and valleys, bougainvillea and other flowers growing wild, and plantations and farms growing everything from coffee to bananas and pineapples.
I have discovered my favorite way to view a property for sale. First, you get an hour-long massage costing just $45. Then you eat your fill of fresh-off-the-boat tuna for just $8. And finally, you take a five-minute walk through the streets of Pedasi, Panama and take a look at this house on the left. For sale for $80,000, it’s a two-bedroom, 743-square-foot home currently renting for $600 a month unfurnished.
The cost of elective procedures such as dental and cosmetic surgery is cheaper in these four countries than in the U.S., even when you take the cost of travel into account.
When my husband first proposed the idea of retiring early outside of the U.S., I thought he was being unrealistic. Could we really afford to retire in our 50s if we found a place where we could live on less? I was skeptical…but I’m happy to report that we’ve been living that dream in Panama for over two years now and have never looked back. Here we could actually afford to retire, live comfortably and even travel. The little country of Panama is fast becoming a haven for retirees.
Low cost of living…stunning natural beauty…warm, friendly people…and the best retiree discount in the world. There are so many good reasons to live in Panama that it’s easy to see why Americans are choosing this country as their retirement haven. It’s a country that has something for everyone. Want to live by a white-sand beach, gazing out at miles of clear-blue Pacific Ocean or Caribbean Sea? You can here. More of a quiet mountain town kind of guy or gal? You’re in luck. Panama has a range of little mountain towns to choose from.
Are you sick of the rat race? You know the routine…get up, shower, have breakfast, leave the house, get stuck in traffic, put in long hours at the office. Get home, go to bed and do it all again tomorrow. Are you ready for retirement…but looking at your savings you know retirement is out of the question? Here’s how to survive a retirement crisis. You can live a richer lifestyle for less overseas. Many expat couples can live a very comfortable life on a budget of between $1,500 and $2,000 a month…
In the following five countries you will pay less for health care than you do at home. And the quality is at least as good…in fact, many expats say it’s better. Affordable health care isn’t the only reason to move overseas—but it makes the move more attractive. You can get great quality health care for less abroad, lowering your monthly expenses. Panama offers excellent quality health care and modern hospitals in Panama City and other large towns or cities…
A metropolis like Panama City or Paris or Montevideo has its advantages. In large, cosmopolitan communities, you have a wealth of choice in restaurants, museums, and parks. The hospitals tend to be better, the cultural offerings more varied. But a big city has its downsides, too. It can be loud, frenetic, disorganized. You may gain a measure of anonymity you enjoy, but it can be difficult to meet your neighbors and make friends.
There’s no other retirement destination quite like Panama. Whatever you’re looking for in a retirement, you’ll find it here. Do you prefer living by the ocean? In the mountains? In ranching country? Big city? Small town? Would you prefer the mainland or a nearby island paradise? Well, Panama has it all so the choice is yours.
When you move overseas, most things cost less. Health care is cheaper, beachfront property is cheaper and flights are cheaper when you qualify for a retiree program. You can even enjoy a symphony performance for far less than in the U.S., and have a better quality of life for less. Here is a list of five items that are cheaper overseas.
The two best things about mornings in Volcancito are the coffee and the view. I’m at the heart of Panama’s coffee-growing highlands—there’s even a bush of red “cherries” in my garden. (They’re surprisingly sweet when you suck one.) And for $600 a month, including all utilities you get a stunning view of the town of Boquete, Panama.
Back in her home state of Nebraska, Judy Eaton worked as a registered nurse (R.N.) for 40 years. So when she told me how impressed she was with Panama’s health care system, I made sure to pay attention. I met Judy for lunch in the small mountain town of El Valle on a visit to Panama earlier this year. I was there to speak to expats about what they loved about this small, stunning country.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I were married in Costa Rica 14 years ago and have been back for business and pleasure almost every year since. We also lived in Panama in 2006 and, like Costa Rica, have returned nearly every year for International Living events, editorial trips, and vacations. So it is inevitable that…
There are many benefits to moving overseas: the weather is better, your quality of life will improve and you will always have something to do. Here are a few quick questions that you should ask yourself before moving overseas. 1. What type of weather do you like? If you don’t like the snow then you should…
Panama City perfectly blends a mixture of new and old, modern and traditional to present a true first world capital. At the hub of the Americas, Panama City is an inexpensive yet cosmopolitan city.
A metropolis like Panama City or Paris or Montevideo has its advantages. In large, cosmopolitan communities, you have a wealth of choice in restaurants, museums, and parks. The hospitals tend to be better, the cultural offerings more varied. But a big city has its downsides, too. It can be loud, frenetic, disorganized.
It’s hard to believe four years have passed since I moved to Panama. It’s even more incredible to think that I left the U.S. almost nine years ago. I live in David, the capital of Chiriquí Province in the west of the country. I didn’t plan to move here; it was never on my “to do” list. But when my husband, Al, and I first saw the rolling hills and slopes lined with rows of vegetable plants, acres of pineapple and rice fields, coffee plantations and orange groves, I said to myself, “This is it; this is where I want to live.”
Winner of the 2013 Global Retirement Index, Ecuador offers sophisticated historical cities…miles of unspoiled, sun-kissed beaches…fertile farmland…and temperate mountain hideaways…and all of it for pennies on the dollar. You can live well for a fraction of the cost of living back in the U.S. And with Ecuador’s official currency the U.S. dollar, you needn’t worry about complicated currency calculations or exchange risks.
You have the full sweep of the city’s coastline below you, from the high-rises of Punta Paitilla to the church steeples and colonial mansions of the historic Casco Viejo district. Walk back downhill a little and you’ll find a viewing platform from where you can see the goings on in the port of Balboa on the Panama Canal.
Advances in technology have opened up the world. Planes, trains and the Internet are all getting faster and—if you know where to look—you can embrace these changes and make your dream of exploring dozens of overseas destinations come true. Right now, living internationally…
For every substantial, bricks-and mortar business set up by an expat overseas, there are hundreds of small enterprises that people operate from their own homes with very little investment. Within a year of starting their micro-enterprise overseas, Jim and Mariellen Wiemann are making a profit and supplementing their retirement income. “The business allows us to purchase the things we might otherwise not have. We are planning some vacations abroad, and the business will support those adventures,” says Jim.
When I asked my Facebook pals what they liked most about working for themselves I expected to get answers about no stressful commute, no office politics and other annoyances they had left behind. Instead the replies looked like this:• “Having customers from around the world; I never realized I could be a global entrepreneur.”
I purchased my first rental property in the ski resort village of Whistler, BC, Canada, when I was 23-years-old with a very small down payment. At the time, I was working as reservations manager for a property management company so I had first-hand knowledge of the strong returns that could be achieved through rentals. Over the following eight years, I proceeded to buy, renovate, rent short-term, and ultimately sell nine Whistler properties.
Panama has always been a top choice for retirees due to its tropical climate and many English-speaking locals. If you are considering retiring overseas, Panama should be high on your radar.Panama has a low cost of living and great retiree benefits. Here are our top five places to live in Panama.
Laying under a palm tree on a tropical beach is a fantasy many people only act out during vacation or retirement. Sure, we would all love to live in paradise long before our twilight years, but, so the thinking goes, it’s far from feasible. Not so. In fact, more and more hard-working North Americans have begun to redefine their life parameters and are moving abroad to exotic locations before retirement. How? By opening businesses that support their lives abroad in the country of their dreams.
Panama’s culture has been molded in great part by the Panama Canal. Attempts to build the waterway brought French and American citizens here. The country, once a forgotten province of Gran Colombia, began to grow into an international hub. As ships from all over the world began to utilize the canal, foreign nationals began learning about and heading to Panama. Today, this tiny country is a true melting pot and has been dubbed the logistics Hub of the Americas.
According to Fidelity Investments in 2012, those aged 55 and older had an average balance of $143,300 in their 401k account. But is this enough to retire on? Maybe not in the U.S., but retiring overseas can be much more affordable than retiring in the U.S.
My friend Sarah Booth is a real estate investor who lives in Panama. She owns various types of property in several Latin American countries that she rents short-term to vacationers and others. These visitors come to spend a week or two…or even a month or more…in one of her seaside apartments in Mexico, or in her longer-term rental in Panama City, or in one of the casitas she has built on the grounds of her home at Playa Coronado on the coast about 70 minutes from Panama City.
Panama has numerous different options that provide great benefits when it comes to securing residence in this tropical paradise. When it comes to the “Special Benefits of Retirees,” Panama does more for both its local and foreign retirees than any other country on the IL radar.
Fifty years ago, if at retirement age you spent a few months in Paris…then moved on to Lisbon for the winter…settled for the spring in Italy…and then steamed down to Panama and Argentina…you were probably either wealthy, eccentric, or running from the law. These days…you’re just a run-of-the-mill vagabond retiree.
There is a tidal wave of opportunity coming your way… Opportunity that could pave the way quickly for your live-abroad move. In fact, whether you want to live in Cuenca, Panama City or Paris, that move could now be financially more comfortable…and you could make it with greater mental satisfaction than you might otherwise expect.
Based in Minnesota, Mike and Ann Roess bought their sailboat in Panama and saved at least 15% on the cost, reports InternationalLiving.com. They found Escapade—a Hylas 49 sailboat, which sleeps up to eight people—on Yachtworld.com, a website that connects boat sellers and buyers. A Spanish mariner owned the boat and docked it in Panama. The Roesses had a gut feeling that it was the right boat for them, so Mike flew to Panama.
What do monkeys, orchids and modern art have in common? You’ll find them all on Ancon hill. At 654 feet high Ancon is an island of natural beauty in the western part of Panama City. Formerly part of the Canal Zone, it’s now a protected area of secondary forest. Flowering Bird of paradise grows on the roadside and tawny-eared neque (think a rabbit crossed with a squirrel) hop into the undergrowth as you approach.
With cries of “you’re too young to retire” still ringing in our ears, we handed over the house keys and flew away from Vancouver, Canada, in search of a new life. Sixteen months and 22 countries later, we are still enjoying our lifestyle as happy vagabonds. Our adventure is also a mission to explore the world in search of the perfect retirement location.
Winner of the 2013 Global Retirement Index, Ecuador offers sophisticated historical cities…miles of unspoiled, sun-kissed beaches…fertile farmland…and temperate mountain hideaways…and all of it for pennies on the dollar.
When my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I moved abroad 12 years ago, we had some decisions to make. We owned a large house and garage full of the usual collection of furniture, cookware, tools, books, rugs, electronics, knickknacks…all the flotsam and jetsam of American middle-class life.
Penny Ripple is perhaps Boquete’s most enthusiastic resident. “The landscapes here just blow you away. I can see Volcan Baru, a dormant volcano and the highest point in Panama, from my window. We’re about 3,500 feet above sea level in Panama’s Chiriqui province, near the Costa Rica border. I love it here,” she says.