Why Do Americans Move to Panama?

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.

It’s a country with culture, too. In Panama City—one of the most developed and First World cities in all of Latin America—you can visit the opera, see the ballet, join a class to suit any interest, and much more.

Or if you’d prefer to live in a remote, rural community, spending your days tending to your organic garden or small farm, you can do that here, too.

But the real beauty of living in Panama is that you’re not faced with an either/or situation. Say you decide you’d like to live in a beach town but you want to have a night out in the city. You can have that here—easily.

Panama is so small and yet diverse that every kind of scenery and lifestyle is available to you when you want it. Take the beach town of Coronado, for example. If you lived there, you could spend your days walking the unusual black-and-white sanded beach, splashing your toes in the Pacific waters.

And when you wanted a change, you could hop in your car and be enjoying the natural hot springs in the mountain town of El Valle de Anton, within the hour. Or you could drive or take a bus for an hour and 15 minutes to enjoy a theater show in Panama City.

It’s the sort of lifestyle many of the expats I spoke to when I visited said they enjoyed. And these weren’t mega-rich retirees either. On Social Security and pension incomes, those expats are living a dream lifestyle for a fraction of the price they paid back home.

Those who want a cosmopolitan lifestyle will find they can live comfortably on $2,000 and up per couple in Panama City. Or if you go outside the city, you’ll likely find costs lower.

The expats I talked to—in places like El Valle and on the Caribbean island of Bocas del Toro—were living on less than $2,000 a month. A few of the more frugal even told me they lived on budgets of $1,000 a month (excluding rent).

The frugal ones weren’t sacrificing the nicer things in life, though. They’d just learned to enjoy what the locals do: farm-fresh, ripe produce from the local markets costing less than $10…or an ice-cold cervezas for a couple of dollars in restaurants…or from as little as 50 cent from the store…or a nice meal out for two for less than $40…

(Those prices don’t include the pensionado discount, by the way. That’s the discount Panama gives to all qualifying retirees, entitling them to substantial reductions in the cost of everything from the weekly shopping to movie theater tickets, flights, hotel stays and more.)

Besides all that, Panama:

  • is close to the U.S. (just a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Miami)
  • uses the U.S. dollar as the official currency meaning there’s no calculating exchange rates to see if you’re getting a good deal
  • has a wealth of English-speaking expat communities
  • and much more besides…

Given all that, it’s not surprising that so many expats are moving to Panama; it’s surprising that more people haven’t made the move yet!

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