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Moving to Panama: Addressing Some Concerns

Last Updated on July 30, 2023 by Retire in Panama

Updated July 30, 2023
So, you have decided to move to Panama or in the final decision-making process. I know you have a lot of things going through your mind, and so did I ten years ago. You have many questions and still many big decisions to make. The good news is that it is simpler than you think, so let’s start with some of these and get you some answers.

Sell Everything or Pack Up a Container

We always get asked this question, but we cannot answer for you. It is a personal decision, depending on your lifestyle and a lot on your personality. I moved here with two huge suitcases and had two large boxes shipped at a later date. I am the type of guy who does not get attached to things, so selling the car, all my furnishings, and donating my books and winter clothes was right for me.

When I got down here, I started by renting a furnished place. More than half the rentals in Panama are furnished. And when I say furnished, I mean not just furniture and appliances, but even pots & pans, plates & cutlery, coffee maker, and toaster; some will even come with towels and sheets. Then I started acquiring a few pieces myself. In about three years, I moved to an unfurnished home and now have all my furnishings. I save nearly $15,000, not bringing my car or home furnishings.

But for some, this is not the answer. Some people have really nice furniture, maybe some antique pieces, and high-end appliances, and if you sell them for less than half price, you will have to rebuy them here, and it will cost you new prices again. A 40-foot container should be enough for most peoples’ worldly possessions and will cost you $5,000 – $15,000 to get down here (plus some taxes and duties), depending on where you live now.

So look at what it will cost to sell everything, buy new, or fill up that container. Suppose you are moving here on a Pensionado Visa. In that case, you get a $10,000 duty exemption on all your belongings you bring into the country.

Your car is a different story. Unless you just bought it, and it’s brand new, selling and buying again used here is a good idea. It will cost $3,000 – $5,000 to ship your car here (from Florida, plus taxes and duties), so sometimes it just makes sense to sell your at home and buy a used car here. Also, some cars here that you have in your home country are not that popular and are built for a different market, so getting parts for them can be a problem.

What About My Pets?

This one is pretty simple. BRING YOUR FURRY FRIEND; it is not too difficult; they are your family. There are a few exceptions; your pet may be old and unhealthy. If your pet has health conditions and requires medication, check with a Vet down here to ensure that medication is available.

Now for other pets, you need to check regulations to make sure it is feasible, you can contact us here at Retire in Panama Tours, and we can see if we can get you more information from pet transportation services that we have connections with, on the importation of animals other than dogs and cats.

For those of you with dogs and cats, you have two options, doing it all yourself; see this article; it is simple but still complicated with many steps that must be done correctly and on time. Or, you can fill out our contact form and ask for more information about hiring a pet relocation service. If you come on one of our Retire in Panama Tours and decide to do it yourself, we will assist you throughout the process.

Health Insurance

This can be taken care of once you have moved here, as if you are over 50, you may require medical exams here in Panama. And international plans need you to be in the residency process to apply for health insurance. In preparation for moving to Panama, make sure you have something temporary, like travel health insurance.

Suppose you have health insurance in your home country that covers you internationally. In that case, you will be fine, as you will be covered while going through the residency process, and you can get your insurance here.

On our tour, you will learn a lot about health insurance and have enough information on what type of insurance you feel comfortable with living in Panama. Once you are here and have selected the health insurance plan that is right for you, the entire process will take from 30 – 60 days, from forms, and medical exams, to acceptance.

There are three main options for Health Care in Panama.

1) Self-Insure 
Many expats choose this option if they have the money. Basic Healthcare is very inexpensive here, with Doctor visits $12, specialists $25, blood tests $12, and even surgeries are much less than in North America

2) Full 100% Coverage International Plans
This is complete peace of mind; it is the best plan if you have the budget. This worldwide coverage will cost you about $2500 – $4000 a year, depending on age, for 100% worldwide coverage, with no deductible or copay in Panama and a small deductible internationally.

3) Local Hospital Insurance
These are lower-cost, private hospital plans with lower coverage. This is ok if you are on a budget, as they will cost between $100 and $150 a month and will cover 70% of the hospital bill.

Staying in Touch With Your Loved Ones

I have heard this concern from many prospective expats. “I will never see my grandchildren, kids, or old friends.” Today we live in a global community with face-to-face online communication available to anyone. And remember, you are living in a tropical paradise; it will not take a lot of convincing to have your friends and loved ones visit you. Make sure you rent your first home with a guest bedroom; you will need it.

If you are good with computers, this is simple. Get Skype, and get your loved ones and friends to get Skype and video conference with them all day long at no cost. WhatsApp is a commonly used communication app in Panama. It provides free texting, calling, and video calls, to anyone worldwide with WhatsApp. 

There are many options to keep your US or Canadian number in Panama. Check out how to handle your Phone numbers here.

Your grandkids are probably already on FaceTime, get them to show you how to use it while you are still at home, and you can speak to them anytime.

Cell phone plans are cheap here compared to North America. As low as $30 a month for unlimited data, with lots of local minutes and even some international minutes. You can also pay as you go for minutes and calling if you are a light user for $10 – $15 a month. If you have an unlocked phone, bring it with you, you can buy a sim card here from a carrier, and it will work here as long as it is a GSM phone. If it is not unlocked, talk to your carrier to see if it can be unlocked. Esims are also used here in Panama.

Getting My Mail and Packages in Panama

Don’t worry; Panama is not this 3rd world country that your friends and family may be scaring you about. We have a solid infrastructure, and international countries are doing business here. One good example of mail forwarding is MailBox Etc. I know you have heard of them; they are a worldwide company that offers mailbox and mail forwarding services in many of the retirement locations in Panama.

Once you get here, you go into MailBox Etc and sign up for one of their packages, either monthly if you want a box or pay as you go for the odd letter or package. They provide you a Florida address that you give to places where you receive letter mail, like banks. Use this address when ordering from sites like Amazon or eBay. Once your mail or package arrives at your new Florida address, MailBox will forward the package to you, and you pick it up at your local MailBox Etc. in Panama. It takes about 4 – 5 business days and costs about $4 – $5 a pound, so go easy on ordering the heavy stuff.

There are many other mail-forwarding companies in Panama, also. I mention MailBox Etc., as I have used them for nine years, and they have excellent service. Read about how to handle your mail here.

There are many other questions that you may be running through your mind as you consider this journey of moving to Panama; all of these above, and many more, will be answered when you join us on one of our Retire in Panama Tours, that will give you all the information you need when moving to Panama.

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

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