I’ve been living in Panama full-time since 2005, and one of the best things about life here is the medical care. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. Over the years I’ve met dozens upon dozens of expats who were deeply impressed by Panama’s healthcare. International Living editor Dan Prescher was able to experience Panama’s modern, affordable healthcare for himself when he visited an eye doctor in Panama City. Dan liked the doctor and the modern facility, so he signed up for laser eye surgery. He estimates he saved up to 50% by having the procedure in Panama instead of back in the States.
In central Panama, 30 miles west of the capital, at an abrupt crook in the Río Chagres where it slips into Lago Gatún, is the small town of Gamboa. Originally designed to house Canal Zone personnel and their families, today Gamboa is a town of natural beauty and understated charm. Although only a half-hour from Panama City, Gamboa has an atmosphere of remoteness and tranquility. Here you can wander through lush rainforest, surrounded by a menagerie of exotic animals.
While sitting on a shaded terrace in Santa Catalina, you may hear a voice calling out over a loudspeaker. It’s a vendor selling fresh, organic produce—watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, onions, tomatoes—from the back of his truck. Nearby, young surfers carry their boards to the beach for a day on the waves. Fiberglass boats bob in the water, waiting to carry passengers to the nearby islands to snorkel, scuba dive among colorful corals and exotic fish, whale-watch…or catch the marlin and tuna this region is famous for. This little beach town knows how to chill.
“We have dropped an incredible amount of weight,” says expat Armand Brodeur, who lives with his wife Joyclyn in Las Tablas, Panama. “And we’re not even eating as healthy as we ought to.” The Brodeur’s story is not unique. They’re just two of the many expats who come to Panama and lose weight without even trying. “I didn’t realize I was losing weight” is a constant refrain here. The outdoors beckon…there are produce stalls, fish markets, pristine beaches, and rainforest parks to visit. In much of the country, walking is the preferred method of transportation. So much so, that many expats here don’t even have cars. Imagine the effect on your waistline…
I am a bad traveler. That may seem like a strange admission to make for an expat. Travel is, after all, part of the deal…you can’t really live abroad without traveling—at least to the country in which you plan to settle. And to be sure, I love to see and experience other towns, cities, beaches, mountains…the lure of foreign lands and exotic adventures has not diminished for me during my years abroad.
As a young man, Bill was in the Navy and afterward went to work for the airline industry. “Eventually I became a supervisor and thought I had it made—good job, great benefits, nice pension, the works.” But that all changed when the economy went bad, the airline downsized, Bill lost his job…and all his benefits and pension. “We had expected to live on Bill’s pension when we retired, and when that was gone, everything changed,” says Mitzi. “We had to find an affordable place to live.”
A recent British Airways survey of 2,000 baby boomers found that their biggest regrets in life are working too much and not traveling enough. This hit home for me, first because I’m a baby boomer myself. I was born between 1946 and 1961. It also struck a chord with me because, for the past 15 years, I’ve been working for an outfit that directly addresses both these issues.
When you move overseas, you don’t just benefit from the better weather, lower cost of living, and the affordable healthcare…you also open up a world of travel possibilities. During our working lives, we’d take those one- or two-week trips, and were lucky enough to see a few highlights.
But when you live in a foreign country, you have the opportunity to use this new location to travel to other countries as well as to explore the place you’ve chosen to live. This happened to me when I moved to Nicaragua.
“From our front porch, we watch dolphins play, and howler monkeys cavort in the trees all the way around the house,” says Mary Heckrotte. “Sloths ease along tree limbs. Parrots, toucans, and hundreds of other colorful birds flit past or nibble seeds in bushes growing right next to the porch. We never tire of watching them. We live in a nature-lovers’ paradise!”
“When you get here, I’ll pick you up from your hotel and show you my favorite parts of the city”…this was a message I got from IL Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch when I told her I’d be visiting Panama City last week. I’m off the plane having spent 10 days exploring all that Panama has to offer. And it offers so much…the cost of living is affordable; I know couples who are enjoying life on $1,600 a month. Good-value real estate abounds…you can pick up a three-bedroom house, with a swimming pool, in a Pacific coast beach town less than an hour from Panama City, for $150,000. And then there’s the stunning beaches, picturesque mountain towns, and the best retiree benefits program in the world…all reasons why we picked Panama as the world’s number one retirement destination for 2016. And the reason I came here.
The town itself is very small, with a population of about 3,200 and a town center dominated by the Catholic church on the main road. There’s a soccer pitch on one side of the church and a park with shaded benches on the other. Across the street the children have a playground and the local hero has a statue.
As the bus winds its way up into the mountains of Chiriquí province, you feel the heat of the lower elevations easing off. A cool breeze seeps through an open window, tempting you to close your eyes and envision the kind of laidback life that awaits you. But in Boquete, it can be quite hard to keep your eyes closed.
Time and again, we hear back from readers looking for a healthier lifestyle overseas. So in this year’s Annual Global Retirement Index, we’ve added a Healthy Lifestyle category. Finding a healthier retirement abroad is a key consideration for many expats. And while many countries on our beat scored strongly in this regard, Costa Rica earned top marks.
The sun is setting, giving the beach a golden glow. Moments ago the water was a cobalt blue, and I could see the tail feathers of the seabirds gliding above. Now a single cormorant bobs close to shore. I kick off my sandals and walk along the surf, letting it roll over my feet. The water is the perfect temperature. A bit cooler than the air around me, it feels refreshing…inviting.
Panama City—Central America’s true First-World capital—offers the perfect mix of old and new, modern and traditional. Here you can eat in a gourmet restaurant, attend a jazz festival, watch a movie (in English)…do just about anything you would be able to do in many of the First-World cities that we all love. But in Panama City, you can do it all for less. A luxury lifestyle in the “Hub of the Americas” is easy.
Each year, my husband and I spend six months of the year living in Panama’s Chiriqui province. One of the many reasons we decided to live our snowbird lifestyle here was the lower cost of living. And it’s something I often hear from expats…affordable and good-value cost of living was one of the main factors in their decision to live here.
Santa Catalina is not one of those cute little towns you’re likely to stumble across as you explore Panama. That’s because it’s literally at the end of the road where the pavement meets the sand of the Pacific shoreline. From Santiago, the capital of Veraguas Province, it’s about a two-hour drive to get to the town of Santa Catalina. But why would you want to go? I visited there myself recently to answer that question.
Imagine a life where you get to travel, earn enough to live, and enjoy doing what you love. Samantha Wei and Yeison Kim are based in Costa Rica and earn a living from blogging about their adventures. Their blog now generates a healthy income averaging more than $5,000 each month in revenue.
I love my life in Panama. Though I travel often, I’m always happy to get back to my home in Panama City, where I’ve been living since 2005. I just don’t know where else in the world you could live in an exciting, cosmopolitan city on $2,500 a month, including rent. I go to first-run movies in English for $6, enjoy $2 beers at trendy restaurants, and have even signed up for language classes at the local university…six hours a week for just $100 a month. In any other world class city, the cost would be triple.
Imagine living within a stone’s throw of a range of beaches, all with warm waters and in pristine settings. Both white and dark-sand beaches, and the water ranges from the clear blue of the sky above to a deep cobalt blue. You can go sport fishing, paddleboarding, surfing, snorkeling, or just splash around and enjoy.
Life, as we all know, is full of contradictions. Even here in Panama City—my little slice paradise. I’ve been living here since 2005, ever since I quit my job sailing the world aboard luxury cruise liners. For my money, there’s no better location and no better value anywhere in the world.
With another Fast Track Panama Conference under our belts, I’m amazed once again by the appeal and the staying power of this magical country for U.S. and Canadian expats. I get to come here every year for our Fast Track conference, and I’ve heard many of our presenters, experts, and expats tell their stories of life in Panama before. But sure enough…with an audience of several hundred folks soaking up the information and opinions about retirement in Panama for the first time…it’s almost as if I’m hearing it for the first time myself.
For many retirees thinking of moving abroad, climate is a crucial factor. The climate rankings in International Living’s annual Global Retirement Index is one of the first comparisons many potential expats and international retirees will make between possible destinations. Here are the top countries ranked for climate on the 2016 International Living Global Retirement Index.
Pedasi is a sleepy kind of town. It consists of a main road, a central park, and several blocks of residences and businesses…I toured the town on foot in a couple of hours. It’s primarily a fishing village but has seen an upsurge in outside interest in recent years, resulting in a small but growing expat community.
It’s that time of year again—the birds are singing, love is in the air, and hopeless husbands are trawling gas stations for that last bunch of flowers. It must be Valentine’s Day—that special day when you spoil the one you love, devote your attention to one another, and escape momentarily from the humdrum of everyday routine. It can be a wonderful time, no matter where you are, but it’s undeniable that some locations have a certain je ne sais quoi that adds that something special to the occasion.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I do a lot of traveling. So we often find ourselves on the way to places. We find ourselves in airports. In taxis and shuttles. In planes and buses. In snow-bound cities and towns for holidays and family functions.
“Think globally, act locally.” I’ve always liked that saying, because it sums up so well the attitude of many of the expats I know living abroad. They are obviously thinking globally to get the big picture on issues that most affect their quality of life.
As healthcare costs and complexity in the U.S. continue to spiral upward, more and more retirees are asking, “Can I get high-quality healthcare for less if I move overseas?” The simple answer is yes. The Healthcare category of the 2016 International Living Global Retirement Index ranks the healthcare systems of the 23 most popular retirement locations abroad.
Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, and Belize earn top rankings as the countries with the best retiree benefits and discounts in the newly published 2016 Global Retirement Index from InternationalLiving.com.
The 2016 Global Retirement Index lists the top countries where retirees can live better for less around the world. But as well as offering a lower cost of living, some countries stand out in the category of significant retiree benefits and discounts, including savings on transportation, entertainment, social services, visa costs, and healthcare.
Bill and Mitzi Martain are living the retirement of their dreams. “We have a lovely new home, a beautiful farm, wonderful friends and neighbors, and each other,” Mitzi says. “There’s no way we could have this lifestyle and quality of life in the U.S.” Bill and Mitzi have what they consider an ideal life. They own 10 acres of fertile land in a rural valley, surrounded by hills and mountains. They enjoy sunny, warm weather year-round, with no snow, no ice, no hurricanes or tornadoes.
Where should you stash your rare coins, precious metals, or other long-term investments you want to keep safe and secure? You could hold them in the U.S., in a bank safe deposit box (if it’s big enough) or a private vault. But if you really want to keep them safe, you’ll want to consider storing them internationally, to diversify where you keep your wealth. There are some other great reasons for doing this.
Panama takes the top spot in InternationalLiving.com’s 2016 Annual Global Retirement Index. Months of research goes into compiling this Index and InternationalLiving.com’s editors are helped by their large team of expat contributors based around the world, who help collect the data and offer input used to identify, rank, rate, compare, and contrast the very best retirement destinations in the world.
Imagine a place where sunshine is ubiquitous, a high-quality lifestyle won’t cost the earth, and as a retiree, you’re treated like a VIP…you’ll get a red-carpet welcome and be rewarded for your age and experience. Places like this exist…and they have claimed the top spots in the “Benefits and Discounts” category in International Living’s 2016 Global Retirement Index. In many countries all over the world you can live better for less.
I was tired of working 40, sometimes 50 hours a week as a designer for an international furniture manufacturer. Working on commission only, I often worked on my days off to facilitate clients, and meeting my required goals had become increasingly difficult. Continually declining markets, escalating real estate taxes, and the rising cost of electricity and heating oil were other factors that made me decide it was time for a change.
It’s that time of year again…International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index is hitting the presses. And in the top spot: Panama. I should say: Panama again. Because this tiny powerhouse has topped this index more times than any other country. (International Living’s first Annual Global Retirement Index was published in 1992.)
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel severals time a year to places like Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico. You might wonder how I became so lucky? Well, seven years ago, I came to Mexico to teach English as a second language. This allowed me to fulfill my dream of living abroad and immerse myself in another culture.
Retiring abroad is easier and more affordable than ever before. These days it really is possible to spend your days relaxing beneath palm fronds on a Caribbean beach, enjoying farm-fresh produce in a mountain haven with year-round spring weather, or wandering the storied streets of a historic and cultured European city…or all of the above. But with so many choices available, finding the right one can seem daunting.
“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.”
“We have everything we want here,” Chris Gallimore says of his and his wife Katherine’s new life in Panama. “A nice home in the country, perfect climate, plenty of friends, and a social life. Before we moved to Panama, work just got in the way of our hobbies. Now we do what we want.”
“We’re healthier and living a better lifestyle here than we ever did in the U.S.,” says expat Mitzi Martain, who has lived on her farm near Santa Fe, Panama for nearly nine years now. “And our Social Security income covers all our monthly expenses.” Mitzi and her husband Bill are two of the approximately 50,000 U.S. expats who have found their piece of paradise in this year’s winner—Panama.