Right Now Could be the Best Time to Come to Panama...the Hub of the Americas.
Right Now Could be the Best Time to Come to Panama...the Hub of the Americas.
Panama has long been the prime choice for retirees, second-home buyers, and property investors alike. Today you can still find apartments in sought-after areas of Panama City for $80,000 and live well on $1,200 per month.
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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
Panama has much to offer, from mountain havens boasting year-round mild temperatures to colonial towns where the traditions of grand old Spain have shaped and enriched the local culture. But it’s Panama’s sunny beaches that get the most attention…and with good reason.
Living or travelling abroad for extended periods of time is something most only dream of…and for good reason. It certainly was for me seven years ago. However as I write this, I am sitting in a high-rise in Panama, having just arrived from six weeks of sunshine and warm weather on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
Recently, I attended a conference in a college which was introduced by a seasoned media veteran. He acknowledged the advances in technology by describing the whiz-kid students in the audience as “natives of the digital world” while he described his own generation as “digital tourists.”
My first year in Panama City, I started my mornings with a $0.15 cup of strong, dark coffee. (That’s how the locals drink it, and the only way it’s made at food stalls.) I would also usually buy a little bag of corn fritters, or torrejas de maiz, for $0.25. Very greasy and very tasty.
My husband Gary and I spent a long time researching all of our options for living overseas. We considered a range of countries during our search, including Belize, Argentina, and Uruguay… But as we researched, one country emerged more and more as a clear winner: Panama.
The capital of the Los Santos province, Las Tablas is in the heart of Panama—the provincias centrales or “central provinces.” And in an area known for its traditions and folklore, Las Tablas is as Panamanian as it gets.
A small colonial town with a big party reputation, Las Tablas is considered Carnival Central by fun-loving locals.
To me, there’s something almost magical about the beach. From the peaceful sounds of the surf breaking against the shore to the squawking of the gulls high above, it conjures up visions of simpler times when the only worry in the world was whether or not the water would wash away our sand castle.
Whenever my husband and I have guests who visit us, we make sure to take them to the highland town of Volcan, in the Chiriqui Province in western Panama. Named for Baru Volcano, the only volcano and the highest peak in Panama—reaching 11,480 feet—Volcan is a pleasure to travel to. The drive from our home in the city of David involves driving past some stunning scenery.
What if you were sitting in the shade of a palm tree looking out at coral white sands on a tropical island? Yesterday, you were learning to paddleboard from a hidden cove, and tomorrow you’ll explore surfing spots farther up the mainland coast. Tonight you’ll choose from French cuisine, Italian pasta, or feast on fresh-caught tuna while watching the game at Smileys bar.
After an International Living conference, heads are swimming… That’s because we err on the side of information overload when giving presentations to our attendees. It’s a mixed blessing—nobody wants too little information, but then again, the human brain can only absorb so much so fast. This latest Fast Track Panama Conference was no exception, but three things stood out for me as I emceed the event in Panama City this week.
During our months of preparation, we set about determining the criteria we needed to choose a location. The criteria we chose for ourselves initially were: a good health care system at a much lower cost; a stable government; not wanting a car, a walkable location with a good transportation system; good infrastructure; a Spanish-speaking country because Mike already spoke some but wanted to become proficient; a warm climate year round; and, of course, a lower cost of living.
“We’re looking at retirement options,” she wrote, “and I’ve appreciated your insights, particularly on Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, and Uruguay. I know that seems like a lot of countries, so I’m hoping you can help us narrow it down. We plan to take a trip to at least two of these this year; one country at a time. Which country would you suggest we visit first? And can you please suggest some travel itineraries?”
Standing on a bridge over the Calderas River, watching it bubble and tumble down the valley, it’s easy to see why the Swedes and Swiss who arrived in this sheltered spot in the early 20th century felt so immediately at home. Pure mountain air and forest-green hillsides are something you expect of Scandinavia or the Alpine foothills…not tropical little Panama.
In exchange for looking after the house, garden, pets, and pool, my husband Michael and I have saved around $24,000 in accommodation costs. Whether you want a dream vacation or to sample a retirement destination, the trick to being successful is to stand out from the crowd. Competition is fierce, with many homeowners receiving 20 to 60 responses to their “housesitter needed” advertisements. Here’s how you can join this group of savvy travelers and score the best housesitting gigs around the world.
I visit Panama at least once a year, and every time I approach the city from Tocumen International Airport I’m amazed. It’s what Dorothy must have felt as she traveled the Yellow Brick Road and got her first glimpse of the towers of Oz. This is one big, bustling city, and it seems to get bigger and more bustling every year.
When moving abroad, renting a place to stay is an attractive option that offers a lot of advantages, whether you’re headed to Costa Rica, Malaysia, France, Mexico, Ecuador, Ireland…or any country. If you plan to buy or build a home eventually, renting allows you to investigate a region and/or community…or several…before you put down roots. You don’t want to be stuck in a neighborhood, region, or home you don’t like.
People are brewing small quantities of beer in garages all across America….but some of them have taken that passion for “home brewing” overseas and turned it into a livelihood. It seems the whole world is waking up to the higher quality of craft beers, and the market for them is growing. If you’ve been in a bar recently you know about the thirst for craft beers
After 20 years in the restaurant business, working for other people, Kristie Craven wanted to work for herself. So did her friend Rich Littlefield. Having found the right opportunity, they now spend their days running a beach bar on a tropical island off Panama…hosting barbecues, the occasional DJ, and serving up the freshest fish imaginable.
Are you dreaming of a California lifestyle…but think that you’re unable to afford it? If so, you’ll want to consider Coronado, Panama. Just an hour’s drive from the only First-World city in Central America, at first glance you might notice that Coronado isn’t the cheapest retirement choice in the world…or even in Panama. A couple would want a total of $2,000 to $3,000 a month to live comfortably within the Coronado gates (including rent). Monthly rentals can be found for $1,000 to $2,000, and homes sell for $175,000 to $300,000…
Over the years archeological sites across Panama have yielded artifacts used long before the conquistadores came from Spain. Round-bellied clay pots called tinajas kept water cool in the tropical heat. Geometric motifs adorned platters and open bowls used for meals and prayers. Centuries later, this tradition continues in La Arena, known for its pre-Columbian style pottery.
I visited San Miguel de Allende recently while working on a video project, and I had a chance to catch up with an old friend from when my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I lived there back in 2007 and 2008. It pleased me to find him doing well and to hear that his two children were growing into handsome, intelligent young adults. Part of the reason for that, he told me, were the chances they’d had to travel.
We at International Living are sending one lucky winner (along with a friend or spouse) to Coronado, Panama for a full month in 2014—free. The prize includes round-trip flights from the U.S. or Canada to Panama City, furnished accommodation in the beach-resort town of Coronado, plus a living-expense stipend of $1,500.
What are your reasons for visiting Panama? Ask any tourist that question and you’ll get a different answer. Some come for the beaches and the sun, others to explore the jungles or cloudforests. There’s a lot to see, and if you’ve read anything about Panama, it’s likely you’ve felt tempted to hop on a plane. To help tantalize you just a bit more, here are my top four reasons to visit Panama.
Every morning, I wake up and head straight for the rooftop. At 32 stories high, my building is the perfect vantage point from which to check the closest surf break. If there’s no swell coming up, I go downstairs, fire up my computer, and get to work. If there is, well…it looks like I’m not working that day.
We’ve already lived in seven communities in four different countries. We’ve had some time to honestly assess ourselves and what we need to live somewhere for more than just a month or two a year. By now we have some pretty clear criteria for what we really need a location to provide.
The couple to my left, in their mid-70s, was a “good-ol’-boy” Texan and his pretty, soft-spoken wife. Both were raised as the children of sharecroppers. Across from them, the octogenarian of the group was a nuclear submarine engineer in his native Canada. And at the end of the table sat a former automotive repair-shop manager from California and his accountant wife.
Vacation rentals are a great way for an investor to create an income overseas but, unless they’re living next door, anyone who owns a vacation rental needs someone to manage it for them. Property management is a business you can start with absolutely no investment. You are simply trading your time and effort.
If you make your money online, there are some great benefits to locating yourself in Panama. One of them is gaining residence on the basis of your economic activity. Panama welcomes expats…and if you register your business as a corporation, you can easily apply for a residence visa. Online workers may not have the same need to officially register their business—the way bricks-and-mortar entrepreneurs do—but becoming a legal resident is a good idea.
Although my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I write a lot about retiring overseas, we’re not officially retired. We write for a living, and even after we do reach official retirement age, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t continue our work writing, editing, and traveling. We know more and more folks in the same situation. They have no intention of retiring in the traditional sense and will probably work at something well past any official retirement marker or milestone they may pass.
Figuring out how to make some extra money doing something you love is a wonderful thing. And many of my fellow expats are doing exactly that. If you’re looking for inspiration, I’d like to share some of those stories with you. In fact, we know of so many such stories that my husband Dan and I devoted an entire chapter of a new book we’ve written to this exact topic. (More about that in a moment.)
The retire-overseas experts at InternationalLiving.com will send one winner (along with a friend or spouse) to Coronado, Panama—for a full month in 2014, free. The prize includes round-trip flights from the U.S. or Canada to Panama City, furnished accommodation in the beach-resort town of Coronado, Panama, plus a living-expense stipend of $1,500.
As we approach our lucky 13th year of living overseas, my husband, Dan Prescher, and I are fortunate to have shared so many wonderful, memorable experiences in so many far-flung corners of the world—from Southeast Asia to Europe, and nearly every country of Latin America. We’ve lived in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, and Ecuador… In fact, we’ve lived in more than one destination in some of those countries. We’ve learned to speak Spanish, we’ve bought and sold property…
My adventures in pursuit of stories have taken me to strange and wonderful places. The spice-scented bazaars of Istanbul were memorable, as were the breweries of Dusseldorf on the banks of the German Rhine. I have haggled with gypsies, queried stamp investors, “borrowed” a speed boat to check out real estate, and handled shotguns in London worth $100,000 each.
In the U.S., there’s a simple reason why our medical bills are high: Going to the doctor costs more. Perceptive, I know. But it’s the truth. If we dump the unions, the politics, Medicare, government and any other hot button from our discussion, we’re left with the simple yet disturbing fact that Americans pay more for services than patients elsewhere around the world—even in similar “first world” economies. Lots more.
Panama’s a place of sunshine, 365 days a year. You have hundreds of miles of beach…highland retreats with green valleys where the weather is spring-like, even in January and August…and a genuinely cosmopolitan capital city, too, with one of the world’s largest financial districts. And Panama offers the world’s most generous retiree benefits.
For many, Latin America conjures up images of steamy, wildlife-filled jungles and beautiful people lounging on tropical beaches, sipping umbrella-bedecked drinks. But there’s a whole other side to Latin America…regions where temperate—even cool—climates and jaw-dropping vistas of snow-covered volcanos are the order of the day.
Cynthia West bounced through the door vibrating with the news she was about to tell her husband Robert. He listened with mounting glee as she explained her medical company’s plan to inject some younger blood into the workforce. They were offering an early retirement package—one that would give Cynthia “an avenue of escape” from her high stress, 10-hour-a-day job in Silicon Valley. She grabbed the opportunity. Though Robert, 62, was working part-time…
There’s a big difference between how a tourist sees Panama City and how a potential resident views it. If you come for a visit, you’re likely to note the sparkly, spiky skyline. Even back in the 1990s it was impressive—no other city in the region could compete. And these days there are more than plain old skyscrapers here. There are some true architectural specimens, like the Trump building (sail shaped, like that iconic hotel in Dubai).
Coronado is a relaxed community. Only an hour from Panama City, this coastal town—now popular with expats—was once a vacation getaway for Panamanians, who came from miles around to sun themselves on the black-and-white-sanded beach and swim in the Pacific Ocean.
When I first discovered Sora, I had been looking for someplace quiet to spend a weekend away from Panama City. I wanted a place that was an easy drive from the capital. Somewhere with a cool climate and little noise or light pollution. I wanted to be able to look up and see the stars, maybe wear a light jacket, and have a relaxing weekend.