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
“We decided we needed another start,” says expat Hellmut Pedersen. “Our lives in Washington were becoming too complicated. Prices kept going up, bureaucracy became more difficult, and the stress was too much. So we sold just about everything and arrived in Panama in 2005 with five suitcases.”
Prepare to buy in Panama. I first scouted real estate opportunities here nine years ago and since then there has been a lot of changes. The canal is being expanded with a $5.25 billion investment and an investment of $1.9 billion investment in a new city-wide metro. Balboa and Colón were two of Latin America’s busiest ports last year.
Right now, real estate values in Panama’s highland country around Boquete are perhaps the best they have ever been—certainly the best in seven years.
Eight years ago, I decided I wanted to live in Panama full-time. And though I’ve sometimes toyed with the idea of living in the cool mountains of Chiriqui or even on one of the Pacific Coast beaches, I can’t seem to tear myself away from Panama City. From the steely, spiky skyline of the city…
It may be your lifelong dream to live in the grand old cities of Europe…cities with a foot in the past and another firmly in the present. Or maybe you’d rather be closer to home in the Americas, enjoying the sultry Latin lifestyle of Panama City or Buenos Aires.
During the decade since I first published my popular Passport Book, now in its 10th edition, rarely have I seen so many countries at one time willing to trade official access for foreign cash.
Call me old-fashioned if you will. But I’ve never seen why embracing modern times should mean you have to leave behind all the good things about…well, the good old days. I suppose that’s what I enjoy most about life in Panama—the good old days live on.
When it’s time to retire, you won’t find Ann Roess sitting on the porch with a pair of knitting needles, or her husband Mike puttering around the yard with pruning shears.
I recently returned from a scouting trip to Panama City. This was my first visit in four years. Over the previous five years, I was a regular visitor. Then the market got frothy: Too expensive and too much construction. There were grand plans for even more condo buildings along the bay. The city seemed set for a correction. Since then I have been tracking the market closely. I’m waiting for a buying opportunity.
What happens to Panama if the U.S. dollar dies? I have heard this question many times—and with good reason.
It may be your lifelong dream to live in Paris, Rome, or London…the grand old cities of Europe with a foot in the past and another firmly in the present.
This is the Caribbean as it should be—clean, white-sand beaches; the freshest fruits and seafood; colorful wildlife; and smiling, laid-back locals. You won’t find the huge resorts of other Caribbean destinations in Bocas del Toro, Panama…just an easygoing, water-lover’s paradise, where snorkeling, island-hopping, and beach-combing are the order of the day.
I grew up in Eugene, Oregon—a fantastic place because of its cool, artsy people and green, lush landscapes. Later I lived in Richmond, Virginia—a city with an exciting restaurant scene.
A short stroll up the hill from Boquete town center is the exclusive neighborhood of Santa Lucía. Here I saw a 1,900-squarefoot home on a corner lot. I met the seller who wants out now. I reckon he would accept an offer of $152,000. Before the economic crisis he would have easily gotten $210,000. Close by, in Volcancito Village, for just $95,000 you can own…
Right now, real estate values in Panama’s highland country around Boquete are perhaps the best they have ever been—certainly the best in seven years. I’ve scouted Boquete many times in the past decade. Now, for the first time in over six years, I’m seeing deeply undervalued…
One of the reasons my husband Clyde and I chose Panama as our retirement home is because it offers high-quality health care, at affordable prices.
Right now, real estate values in Panama’s highland country around Boquete are perhaps the best they have ever been—certainly the best in seven years. A short stroll up the hill from Boquete town center is the exclusive neighborhood of Santa Lucía.
It’s not difficult to see why so many expats are drawn to El Valle, Panama, a mountain town built in the crater of an extinct volcano.
Even before heading into the doctor’s office, I had come to a decision. If surgery was an option to prevent pre-cancer from turning into cancer. . . I was ready. My story is no different from that of thousands of other women going for a Pap test. Except that the hospital I stepped into was in Panama City.
This is the Caribbean as it should be—clean, white-sand beaches; the freshest fruits and seafood; colorful wildlife; and smiling, laid-back locals.
Sunday morning breakfasts, poker nights, backyard barbecues, book clubs, church groups, happy hours…expats all around the world know that a sense of community is what truly makes you feel at home.
When I hear people talk about Boquete, in Panama’s Highlands, I’m reminded of the parable of Plato’s Cave. In that allegory, people sit in a cave watching shadows going by from outside.
“My typical day starts with a steaming cup of excellent Panamanian coffee,” says Jade Wills. “I settle down at my desk and work for a few hours then I take a smoothie break using fresh papayas from our yard. “Later, I’ll ride my bike to the vegetable truck or maybe spend some time gardening. I’ve plenty of time for things like yoga and pilates, and some days I’ll pack up my laptop and work from right on the beach. Life is good.”
If you’re going to do business in Panama, you’ll need a local bank account to facilitate the day to day operations of your business. Any legitimate business can open a bank account in Panama, and you’re not required to be a Panama resident.
Panama is a great place to start a business. It’s easy, everyone uses the dollar, and you can tap into a well-educated English-speaking workforce. That last point is crucial if you want to start a tourism-based business—and you should.
So many interesting things to do—so little time…Living in Panama for only six months of each year is simply not enough for my husband, Gary, and me.
It feels like the highland town of Boquete is Panama’s fastest-growing relocation destination. There are a lot of “new things” around here…a new market, new theater, new library, and a new hospice are just a few
When Elizabeth Ballard Slagle and her husband swapped Florida for rustic Panama five years ago, they wanted to extend their youngest son’s childhood and give him a different perspective on the world. She and Larry—an ex-bartender—run a restaurant called Big Daddy’s Grill in “downtown” Boquete.
Here in the Azuero Peninsula, paradise overlooks the Pacific and the fishing is renowned worldwide. The eastern region is more developed, with a mix of old cities and new developments.
The market opens daily, but Sunday is when it’s at its busiest with buses bringing tourists to check out the bargains on offer. But after the last vacationer leaves at 5 p.m., the town returns to its usual state: quiet, easy and relaxed.
Panama is well known for its friendly people…and that includes both expats and locals. It’s easier than ever to find like-minded people who are willing to make friends, include you in their activities, or support you in starting something new.
No matter your taste in lifestyle, Panama has something to suit you. You could choose to live in a sleepy mountain town… or by a tropical beach listening to the calls of parrots and toucans.
It feels like the highland town of Boquete is Panama’s fastest-growing relocation destination. There are a lot of “new things” around here…a new market, new theater, new library, and a new hospice are just a few. In fact, there’s little that can’t be found in Boquete these days.
Comfortable retirement. That’s an oxymoron for anyone living in the U.S., Canada, or Europe these days. If that’s you, listen up: there’s a tiny little country where all your retirement dreams can come true: Panama. That’s right. Panama… the squiggle of a country that connects two continents…
When John and Robyn Cole married in 1990 their 12-year age difference wasn’t a big deal. But as they started to age together, the difference became more apparent… and they started to think about the future. “I began to see what life would look like if I worked until age 65,” says Robyn. “John would be 77.”
Our plane approaches the city just before sunset. Through wispy clouds, the sea below takes on a silvery shimmer… the sun strikes the sparkling water so that it appears to be a sea of white. We could be flying over Antarctica. Except for one thing I know to be true: it never, ever snows in Panama.
I’ve hosted a lot of International Living conferences and seminars, but this is the first time I’ve heard one of our events rated in this particular way. An attendee at our Fast-Track Panama Conference came up to me after the final presentation. “You know how I can tell if I’m getting something out of a conference?”
Last night we had cocktails overlooking the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. For various (perhaps obvious) reasons, I can’t remember exactly how many ships passed through the canal, traveling in both directions. But there were a lot. Non-stop. I’m sure you know that the Canal is currently undergoing a massive expansion.
I’m Suzan Haskins, reporting from International Living’s 2013 Fast-Track Panama: Lifestyle and Opportunity Conference in Panama City.
“Pase al frente”… “Go to the front.” That’s the phrase I hear most when I’m with my Dad, who is 75 years young. When I was a kid in Oregon, I don’t remember there being a particular emphasis on respect or special courtesies for our elders. Now we live in Panama, where I’ve discovered that locals have very specific notions about how to treat mature citizens.