Panama is without a doubt one of the world’s top expat destinations thanks to its solid infrastructure and first class amenities. From lush mountains, beautiful beaches to a rich biodiversity, Panama is indeed an excellent living or retirement haven when it comes to value and variety. With less money, you can buy a lot of luxury whether you are living on a pension or not. However, like any country, there are some pros and cons to consider before settling down in Panama. If you are contemplating living or retiring in Panama, we have compiled a list of living in Panama pros and cons to help with your decision.
And here is a switch, we are starting with the Cons. Panama has really been pumped up in the media in the last years, with articles in all the major news sources putting Panama as the #1 retirement destination to Panama being listing #1 for happiness in the Gallup 2019 Global Emotions Report, and even on this blog, we tend to pump up the positive, as Oscar and I love it so much here.
If you are making the decision to move to or retire in Panama, it is important that you look at each of these cons, to see if they are something that you can live with.
1. The Weather is Hot and Humid
For some of you, that is why you are moving here, the sit on a beach 12 months of the year, and you are looking for that heat all year round. For others it may be a bit much, 30° C (86°F) plus every day of the year with humidity lows of 40 – 50% in the dry season to 80 – 90% in the rainy season.
Panama is in the rain forest and receives 60 – 140 inches of rain annual, depending on where you live. That sounds like a lot, but remember, most of the rains come in heavy 1 – 2 hour downpours, late afternoon, only in October and November will you see rain every day.
2. A Weaker Infrastructure then North America and Europe
Many of the sidewalks around panama are in bad shape, big holes, crumbling concrete and very unlevel. This is par for the smaller centers around Panama, but even in the City, there is no “pedestrians have the right of way” rules in Panama, crossing a major street in the city, can be very challenging, even if there is a crosswalk, which is unusual, you do not have the right of way.
Both the electrical grid and water grid are not in very good shape. Expect power outages, maybe one a week, especially in rural areas. Usually these outage as short lived, but I have been through some 12 – 24 hours one. And the water, the same thing. In the smaller communities, you will see on the sides of the roads, white pvc piping exposed, which are the homes waterlines, and there are a lot of breakages, and leaks which can lead to low water pressure, or complete outages.
You will see many homes with back up water tanks, with pumps to maintain strong water flow, and we highly recommend when renting your first place, look for one with a back up water system, which is very popular in Panama. This will eliminate any water problems for you. For the electrical problems, you can solve this problem with battery backups or a generator.
3. Nothing Move Fast in Panama
There is a real laid back atmosphere in panama, with it’s population and service sector, and especially in government. A great example, is waiting in line at the bank. If you go anywhere near a payday, you will be spending a lot of time there. What I do notice though, is the extreme patience of the Panamanian people, they just wait and do not complain. In government offices, doing things like renewing a drivers license, going through the immigration process, everything takes time, way more time than you think it should, and the procedures, many of them you will find really silly, but that is the way it is done here, and you cannot change it, you will need a lot of patience.
- 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
Panama provides one of the best healthcare delivery systems so if you intend to move to panama, access to high-quality healthcare will not be a challenge. Panama has both private and public healthcare systems but most expats opt for private facilities where they can get better services. Even in these private facilities, medical costs are still relatively low.
Some expats get private health insurance, some decide to self-insure, some a combination of both, you will have to decide what is best for you. I will give you a personal example. I did a combination of private insurance and self-insurance, let me explain. I am a 54 year old male, and I selected a plan with $1,000,000 full coverage, with a $1,000 deductible in Central America and Colombia, and $10,000 deductible elsewhere in the world. My monthly health insurance costs $108.
Basic medical care in Panama is very inexpensive, like seeing a Doctor, $12, blood tests, $10, x ray, $15, so some people decide to self insure the small stuff and just carry “disaster type” insurance, which will cover accidents, heart attack, major stuff. There are many options in health insurance in Panama, so know the right companies and plans is very important, and on our Retire in Panama Tours, we will introduce you to the right people, so you can make the right decisions.
I know you saying, I had the weather as a con in Panama, well that depends on the person. Panama’s tropical, rain forest climate, to many is great. Warm temperatures every day of the year, and in the rainy season, an eternal spring like climate that many could ask for nothing more.
And also, in the country you can chose your climate for one extreme to the other. If you like it hot and dryer, you have the area of the Azuero Peninsula with the communities of Chitré, Los Tablas and Pedasí, where you have warm temperatures, ocean front, and the driest area of Panama. Or, you can move up to the mountains in towns like Valle de Anton, Santa Fe or Boquete, and get cool temperatures, and the eternal spring like rains.
Then you have the micro climates, that you find especially up in the mountains,. In my town of Boquete, there are 10 different micro climates, that vary quite a bit, for you to choose from.
So now it is your time to decide, after reading about living in Panama pros and cons, if the pros out weight the cons, and the best way to do this is to come on one of our Retire in Panama Tours, and see for yourself. Most people that I know that have moved here, the cons really disappear in a few short months and they do not really think about them, they adapt. The pros for them are just to strong to even care about the cons.
That being said, this is not true for everyone, I have seen couples sell everything they have back in their home country, move here, buy, and within a year of two, they cannot adapt, the cons are just too much for them, for what ever reason, so they end up moving back, which was a very costly move for them. That shows the importance of taking a relocation tour before making any decision on a move, so you will be able to make an informed decision.