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Living in Panama: All You Need to Know

Last Updated on September 16, 2023 by Retire in Panama

Panama is found in the middle of the two American continents and acts as the land bridge between North and South. As one of the most rapidly growing Latin American economies, the country is popular with expatriates and retirees. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the friendly retiree policies targeted at people from all over the world that have made this country their home.

If you are thinking of living in Panama, then you will be glad to know it is one of the best places to kick back with its islands, farmlands, rain forests, mountains, and incredible coasts and seas. It also provides a reliable health care system, safety, low-cost living, modern amenities, and an all-year summer climate so that you can maintain a standard of living just as your home country could, just for less money.

Permanent Residency Made Easy

Pensionado Program – This is one of the best programs for retirees anywhere in the World as it comes with many perks, including between 10-50 percent discounts on goods and services and amenities. To qualify for the program, you will need to provide evidence of earning at least $1,000 in monthly income from a pension that will continue throughout your life. This $1,000 a month covers both singles and couples. This visa will get you permanent residency in about four months but can never lead to a work visa.

Friendly Nations Visa – This is more for the non-retired, people who may have retired early, people who want to move here and continue earning incomes from other sources, or people who may want to seek employment in Panama. If you are from one of the 50 countries that qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa, there are 3 options with the Friendly nations Visa.

  1. Receive a Job offer from an Existing Panamanian company with a current government profile, then receive a work permit to work at the company.
  2. Invest $200,000 in real estate in Panama. Real estate can be purchased with cash or a mortgage with a Panamanian bank. 
  3. Deposit $200,000 in a Panama Bank CD (Certified Deposit) locked in for two years.

Other visas you can use to get permanent residency include the person of means visa, the professional employment visa, and the reforestation investor visa, and many others. More information on Visas here.

Climate in Panama

Panama has a mild Tropical Monsoon climate that is warm throughout the year, with four months of dry season and eight months of rainy season. It does not rain all day during the rainy season, as the showers will mostly be confined to the late afternoons. Since it is located below the hurricane belt, you never have to worry about a hurricane passing through. It has very consistent temperatures that average 30° C (85° F) for most of the year unless you choose the mountain weather, which can be 10° – 15° lower.

What most people like in Panama is that you will wake up to sunshine almost every day of the year.

Cost of Living

The cost of living is one of the biggest draws for living in Panama. You can choose from the lush green countryside to the trendiest cities of Panama and find that your cost of living will generally be lower than your home country if you retire anywhere in Panama. Everything from dental consults to medication to health insurance is cheaper than in the US.

Apart from health, other things are also cheaper, as auto insurance is as low as $20 a month, and you can get rent for as low as $300-$500 a month. Of course, you can also pay $1,000 – $1500 monthly for rent, depending on your lifestyle. As for utilities, water bills/trash pickup can be as low as $5 a month; cell phone plans start at $10, and electricity for $20 monthly (if you do not use air conditioning).

Most people coming up on their retirement years realize one thing: when they retire, they will have less monthly income with more time on their hands to spend money, so their plan is to live less in their golden ages, to scrape by. There is a plan “B”. Find a place to live where the cost of living is 50% less than where you live now. That may mean downsizing, but you can live your retirement years “large” rather than scraping by.

For a great reference, read this article, The True Cost of Living in Panama in 2019 .

 

Health Care

Most retirees love Panama for its excellent and affordable private health care. Many hospitals in Panama City and the other large cities provide US standard dental and medical care at 50-75% discounts of what you would have to pay were you living in the United States. In fact, many hospitals, such as the Hospital Punta Pacifica, have affiliations with the best North American hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins. You will also find a good private hospital in most of the big cities, such as David and Santiago, with regional health centers spread across the country.

Even if you have come here from a country with government healthcare, like me from Canada, my monthly 100% medical coverage here is $108 for a 55-year-old, whereas, in British Columbia, where I am from, I would have to pay $50 a month. (Canada’s monthly fee differs from Province to Province; some Provinces do not have a monthly fee). There are so many other savings here that overtake this slight increase in my healthcare that Canadian healthcare does not cover, like prescription medications, which are cheaper, and dental for less than ½ price. Eye care is much cheaper, so less money is spent on healthcare.

Leisure Activities

Panama is a small country, though it offers many leisure activities, which you will most certainly enjoy as a retiree living in Panama. If you love shopping and nightlife, there are all kinds of boutiques, shopping malls, restaurants, a buzzing art scene, bars, and nightclubs. If you are the outdoors type, you will love the mountains and jungles and the small islands that dot the San Blas archipelago. You can also enjoy bird watching, rafting, and hiking. For the beach lover, the country has excellent beaches for fishing, diving, snorkeling, surfing, and all manner of water sports.

In one day, you could eat breakfast on the Caribbean, have lunch up in the mountains, and enjoy a sunset dinner on a Pacific beach.

Established Retiree and Expat Communities

Panama has some of the highest concentrations of expats and retirees in Latin America, drawn by its beautiful landscapes affordable, and vibrant lifestyle. Panama City, Coronado, and Boquete have tons of retirees and expats that will make settling in and the transition period easier since you will get to speak English just like at home. In addition, there are many retirees who will show you around and introduce you to a range of activities you can do together.

The larger expat communities are the most expensive, so some expats choose the smaller ones like El Valle de Anton, Santa Fe, Pedasí or Puerto Armuelles. These communities have a smaller density of expats, and if you choose one of these locations, you will need to learn some Spanish to communicate with the locals. And you will not have all the amenities of home, but you can have a very nice and affordable lifestyle.

Panama Retirement Benefits

Living in Panama is quite the boon for a retiree, especially if you are on the Pensionado Program visa. But also, no matter what Visa you come here on, once a woman reaches 58 and a man 62, you will also enjoy these discounts; these will provide a range of perks that include:

One-time Duty tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000.
Duty exemption for importing a new car every two years.
50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports)
30% off bus, boat, and train fares
25% off airline tickets
50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday
25% off at restaurants
15% off at fast-food restaurants
15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)
10% off prescription medicines
20% off medical consultations
15% off dental and eye exams
20% off professional and technical services
50% reduction in closing costs for home loans
25% discounts on utility bills
15% off loans made in your name
1% less on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence

 

Wrapping Up

Panama is one of the best places to retire as it is a very modern country with all the modern amenities that you would ever need, a low cost of living, a great climate, great pastimes, and landscapes. It is also very retiree-friendly, with great discounts on services and goods and services and an excellent and affordable healthcare system that will make your life as a retiree very comfortable.

So, if you are considering living in Panama, check out our Retire in Panama Tours agenda to spend seven days here, seeing everything Panama offers.

 

It’s more than a tour . . it’s an experience.

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