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
Today, the best restaurants in Panama City aren’t necessarily the fanciest (and the most pretentious tend to have impressive “barks” but may fail to deliver when it comes time to bite).
In early 2001 we were on our first visit to Panama, our first research visit of any kind, in fact, on our journey to relocation outside the U.S. Our guide that day was Sam Taliaferro. A former Coloradoan married to a Panamanian, he had picked the little mountain town of Boquete in Panama’s Chiriquí province in which to build his version of paradise. And what a pick it was…
When Robert Cook sold his house and car, quit his job and took off for Panama, his friends and family asked him if he was on drugs. That was six years ago and things have changed since then. “They say they envy me now,” Robert laughs.
After five years of writing about Panama for International Living, you’d think writing about the best places to vacation in Panama would be a cinch. The more you know, the easier it should be…but the opposite is often the case. I know so many great places to vacation in Panama that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few.
Looking to do business in Latin America? Panama and Chile have the best business climates in the entire region, says the Latin Business Chronicle (LBC).
Luckily, starting a small business in Panama can be easy. In some cases, you can have your business up and running in a matter of days. If you just don’t have the time for that, there’s an even easier route: buy a business that’s already operating.
Some of the best places to retire to in Panama also happen to be the most beautiful places in the country. A happy convergence of natural beauty, convenience, low cost of living, and more makes these places ideal for the would-be expat…of any age.
In this video, Eric Trump, son of Donald Trump, sits down with International Living Panama correspondent Jessica Ramesch. Mr. Trump was in Panama City, Panama, promoting the Trump organization’s new project, Trump Ocean club (international hotel and tower).
In this video, IL editors Dan Prescher and Suzan Haskins take the drive up past Volcan in Panama’s Chiriqui Province to see the fertile farmlands in the higher reaches. On the way they stop at a strawberry shop, where the owner wastes no time in giving them a guided tour of his vivero and the many things he grows.
It’s easy to see why, in Panama, the Pacific coast is generally more desirable. The region is accessible and it gets half the rainfall of the Caribbean coast. That’s why the Pan-American Highway is where it is.
In this video, IL editors Dan Prescher and Suzan Haskins explore the inlets, bays, and islands of Boca Chica in Panama’s Chiriqui Province—a wonderland best explored by boat.
Chiriqui is Panama’s western-most province. It’s well known as the location of two of Panama’s favorite expat destinations – Boquete and Volcan. But an easy drive from Chiriqui’s capital of David is a beautiful stretch of Pacific Coast, and along this coast is a spot called Boca Chica.
Retiree Al Fine is originally from Orlando but now lives in Panama City. Al is 85 and, frankly, the way he’s treated in Panama means he could never be happy anyplace else. Every time he steps in to a restaurant, hospital, or bank, he has people falling over themselves to help him.
Sixty-two-year-old Neil Sander knows how to get things done. Throughout his seven years in Panama’s island-rich Bocas del Toro region, this Oklahoma-born pioneer has taken the bull by the horns more than once. The key to his success? “Respect,” he says.
If you’re looking for a beach home near Panama City, expect real estate agents to steer you toward Coronado—where property on the beach costs $250,000 or more. Buyers in the know seek out homes or condos in towns like Gorgona (less than 15 minutes by car from Coronado).
Building a home overseas is one of the greatest challenges you can take on. But ask Doug Mannell, 66, and his wife Linda, 63, and they say: “Sure, we’d do it again.”
It’s not for everyone, but building your own home can be immensely rewarding.
It’s a flashy bustling city, filled with high-rises that rim the deep blue Panama Bay. This modern capital has so much going for it…but perhaps more important than the culture and the nightlife is the health care in Panama City.
I’ve been writing about Panama for International Living for nearly five years. Interestingly, more and more expats are asking me about business opportunities. They don’t want to “just retire”. Our Facebook page is peppered with questions and comments about making a living here.
Anyone can own property in Panama. Because foreigners have the same property rights as Panamanians, capitalizing on the opportunities here is easy.
Rental regulations are pretty straightforward in Panama. However, keep in mind that Panama does not have a well-organized rental market.
Outside of special investment zones, Panamanian companies are generally allowed to hire foreigners up to 10% of their work force. If you have a special skill set, it might be easier for you to work here legally as the government or corporations often make special allowances.
Panama’s dollarized economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for three-quarters of GDP. Services include operating the Panama Canal, banking, the Colon Free Zone, insurance, container ports, flagship registry, and tourism.
Dan Prescher reports from Cotacachi, Ecuador with your weekly wrap-up of International Living postcards for the week ending April 23. Read on for all the benefits of living in Panama.
Looking to do business in Panama? Recent news bodes well for potential importers and exporters. International news media are reporting apparent progress on a long-awaited Panama-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
In this video, International Living’s Panama correspondent, Jessica Ramesch, shows us a glimpse of an upscale community in the highland town of Boquete, in Panama’s Chiriqui province.
That ease of life for expats in Panama was backed up by what we heard from our Panamanian presenters at the Live and Invest in Panama Conference… building contractors, mail service providers, insurance and medical services providers… all seems to have an intuitive understanding of what North Americans were after in Panama and how to give it to them.
If you think that International Living paints only rosy pictures or only tells you about the opportunities and goody-goody side of expat life, you haven’t been paying attention…and you surely haven’t attended an International Living live event.
If you’ve an interest in Panama (or as my husband Dan Prescher says, you just want to be able to cross it off your list with impunity), you need access to the information being shared over these three jam-packed days in Panama.
Retirees Stephen Johnson and Linda Murdock had some very specific location and lifestyle requirements…not least of which was Linda’s surf habit.
I’ve been visiting Panama for over a decade now. And every year the city amps up its “wow” quotient…more cosmopolitan, more manageable, more beautiful, more impressive… a city that’s left the rest of Latin America behind in its climb to First-World status symbol of shiny, glittering growth and economic prosperity.
Michael scoured Panama from top to bottom, searching for the perfect place to open his yoga business. In the end, El Valle was a clear winner.
I’m speaking at International Living’s Live and Invest in Panama Conference. One of my presentations is an overview of the real estate market in Panama. It’s not a pretty picture…
If you plan to move to Panama for clear blue waters and long stretches of sandy beach, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of places to choose from. After all, most of Panama consists of coastal areas. Below is my top pick for the cheapest beach destination in Panama.
If you’re looking to save some money on your “experimental rental,” one city in Panama offers comfort and convenience on the cheap. Nowhere is Panama’s low cost of living more apparent than in the rental market in the town of David. Properties for rent in David are listed regularly from as low as $250 a month.
It’s likely prices will begin to rise here soon. Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli recently announced the site of Panama’s new international airport will be Rio Hato. The government has long been studying the viability of a new international airport in the Pacific coast region. The idea is to make it easier for travelers to head straight to the beach.
If health care is at the top of your priority list, a visit to Panama may well ease your mind. Just ask the many expats who are moving here. The personalized attention… inexpensive procedures…and quality care in Panama presents a winning package.
According to the Panama Bank Superintendancy, this country is well on its way to becoming the region’s chief financial hub.
An international airport on Panama’s Pacific coast would make it easier for travelers to head straight to the beach without having to go through Panama City.
Panama has what some call the “world’s best retirement program.” If you qualify (and it’s not difficult…you just need prove you have the means to support yourself—$1,000 a month), you are eligible to retire in Panama under the pensionado visa program.
We’re gearing up to host hundreds of IL readers in Panama next month, who plan to review and pursue every opportunity this country has for starting a business, retiring, living, relaxing, banking, having fun, and making money.