It Pays Big to Be a Retiree in Panama

I’ve booked my flight to Las Vegas for the Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas Conference in October. I’m looking forward to chatting with attendees, along with my compañera Jessica Ramesch, about life in Panama. I’m also excited about the great deal I got on my airfare, thanks to Panama’s jubilado (senior citizen) discount program.

Instead of $517, my round-trip ticket on Copa Airlines only cost me $437.

The jubilado discount program applies to all residents of Panama. Women over the age of 55 and men over the age of 60 are entitled to reduced prices on many purchases. As a foreigner, all I have to do is show my cedula, an identification card which proves that I am a legal resident and over age 55, and that’s it.

Here are some day-to-day examples of my jubilado benefit.

I got my discount from Copa Airlines by buying my ticket at their office in David, where I live. The 25% reduction applies only to the base rate, not all the add-ons, but it’s still worth it. When I go to Panama City I can take a flight with Air Panama that costs about $275 round-trip. By showing my cedula I pay $211. Or, I can take the bus and pay $15 for my ticket instead of the usual $22. The 30% discount also applies to train and boat fares.

While I’m in the city, if I stay at a hotel I’m entitled to 50% off the room rate during the week, or 30% off on the weekends. We recently stayed at a beach resort and paid $80 for our room instead of the usual $104.

Hotels may alter their quoted rates to minimize the reduction. They may tell you the discount only applies to the published rack rate, which is always the highest, and offer you a promotional rate instead. Still, a bargain is a bargain and I’m always ready to save a little money.

Likewise, restaurant meals are eligible for the jubilado discount. A bunch of us celebrated a friend’s birthday last month at a barbecue place here in David. We all got 25% off the price of our meals (alcoholic drinks are not included) and my total bill for two was about $35, including taxes and tip.

After dinner some of the group went to see a movie at one of the two multi-cinemas here in David. The tickets are already a bargain at $4.40, but with the jubilado discount of 50% on entertainment a movie costs only $2.20 per person. That’s less than Blockbuster or pay-per-view!

Discounts on Medical Costs in Panama

My husband, Al, takes several medications, which I usually buy at the pharmacy in the Rey Supermarket where I shop. The last time I bought them the total was $98.60, and after the 20% jubilado discount of $19.72, I paid $78.88 for a month’s supply of medicines. When we go to Chiriqui Hospital for lab work, x-rays, and such, we qualify for 15% off. I recently had a lipid profile (four blood tests for cholesterol levels): final cost $17.

Al had to have liver function labs this month, a total of five blood tests: final cost $34. (I’m not kidding—I have the receipts…and our insurance reimburses us 70% of that.) The discount also applies to doctor visits and hospital bills.

Utility bills, too, are included in the program. As long as the electric and water bills are in your name and you have proof of residence and age, you’ll get 25% off each month. Since I rent my home the bills are in the home owner’s name, not mine, and I pay the full amount. If I did get the discount my electric bill would cost me about $26 instead of $35 per month.

Some courtesies are called for when using your discount. Typically you need to ask for the discount. A smile, por favor, and gracias, will ease the way. You need to have your identification at hand when it’s requested. It’s best to ask for the discount upfront at restaurants, rather than at the end of a meal. We typically don’t ask for it when we dine at a small, family-owned restaurant.

I hope to see you in Las Vegas for IL‘s Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas Conference and we can talk more about the advantages of living in Panama…

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