Panama has become one of the most popular retirement heavens. It is considered to be one of the best retirement destinations in the world and ranked first or second in 2018 to 2020 in the International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index, and #1 in Business Insiders 10 Best Countries to Retire in 2019. Many choose it for the beautiful nature, the wonderful beaches, the amazing climate, and the affordable cost of living. You name it, there are many reasons why more and more people are choosing Panama as the destination for their retirement.
Of course is not all perfect and fairy tale-like. Like with many things, there are some pros and cons of retiring in Panama that you should consider.
Before making the decision to move there you should know some information not only about the benefits, but also about the disadvantage of moving there as an expat.
One of the Pros: The Cost of Living
One of the main benefits of retiring in a low-cost country is definitely the opportunity to achieve higher standards of life with less. Depending on your personal preferences and your lifestyle choices, it is both easy to live simpler with very little or to enjoy some luxuries at economic prices compared to Europe or North America. In general, however, the prices are often a lot lower than in other countries.
Here are some personal examples. I am from Canada, and where I lived my monthly average utility/expenses, electric, water, gas, phone, cable, internet, and cell, was just over $600 a month. Here in Panama, it is $125. My rent back in Canada, was $1,300, and here $500, 2 bedroom, 2 bath 1200 sq ft home.
The benefits of having the “Pensionado Visa”
To obtain a residency visa for retiring in Panama is pretty easy and brings several additional benefits. To qualify for the Pensionado Visa you must have a lifetime pension with a monthly amount over $1000. There are no age requirements.
To be a “pensionado” in Panama brings discounts in many areas, for example you can have:
• 50% off of entertainment
• 30% off public transportation
• 25% off both domestic and international flights
• 25% off restaurants
• 25% off water, electricity and telephone bills
• 15% on loans
• 10% off medications
• and more . . .
BUT, Bureaucracy is very big in Panama
So far, everything sounded pretty appealing, but what you have to know is that dealing with government offices might be pretty depressing. The efficiency of public employees and the general service offered throughout Panama is often criticized among many who retired in Panama.
Overall, the atmosphere is pretty laid-back for workers as well, which makes it awesome to live in Panama, but which also means that some problems might arise when you need to solve some issues fast and efficiently, and the customer service person you are speaking with, does not have the same fast and efficient goal as you do.
The Healthcare is good and affordable
Panama offers both private and public (the Social Security System called in Spanish “Caja de Seguro Social”) healthcare. Usually private healthcare provides better services and at pretty affordable prices compared to countries like the United States for example.
A lot of information is available in different forums and expat guides on what are the best hospitals and where are most of the specialists located in Panama.
Compared to other Latin-American countries, Panama offers modern and well-maintained infrastructure. You can read more about the healthcare system in Panama here.
As mentioned before, if you are in a hurry about everything, and require good and fast service, Panama might not fulfill your requirements. What you have to understand is that the lifestyle and the way of working are probably a lot different compared to what you are used to. Delays in prescriptions are pretty common and don’t get bothered by assistants that might seem as if your urgency is not important at all to them.
It might take you a while to adjust to life in Panama
The different language, the fact that not many people are able to communicate in English well, the different culture might mean that it could take a while for you to get accustomed to your new life in Panama. (After the first month of excitement for finally being in a paradisiac place, wears off, you could go into culture shock for a while).
This is why you need to come here first, before deciding that you are going to live here. By taking on of our relocation tours in Panama, you will learn the culture of Panama, from you guide who is a Latino, and you will see virtually every location in Panama an expat would want to retire in.
The Locals are very Friendly
The difficulties you might find however, will be offset by the enormous friendliness and open-mindedness of the local people. Most of the locals will be more than willing to help and it will be very easy to get to know them. The strong focus on family and friends that the Panamanian people have might mean that they will make their best for you to feel accepted and to enjoy their country to the fullest.
BUT NOT When Driving!
Driving in Panama might be one of the worst experience you can have in this country. Drivers are usually very aggressive and the common rules are not always followed. To get a car in Panama might be stressful, especially in the biggest cities. You have to be very alert to anticipate the moves of the drivers in front of you. But having a car is quite handy if you want to travel around.
If you can, to avoid the stress of driving, you should make use of the good public transportation system, taxis or Uber.
Inconsistency of the Infrastructure
Panama’s electrical grid, and water delivery systems, are not to the standard of North America. All electrical is run overhead, and some of the water systems are actually exposed, leading to problems. You will experience frequent Power outages, usually for just a few minutes, but sometimes for several hours.
Depending on where you live, water can be an issue, with water outages. Many homes have water storage tanks to help solve this problem, and some back up batteries for power are also an option.
There are many options from where you can choose your “base” in Panama.
Panama is experiencing a pretty big influence from the many expats it is receiving, especially those from North America. Of course, there are some places that are more “americanized” than other.
In general, if you are looking for a cosmopolitan vibe, Panama City is the place to go. It offers a diverse and wide variety of culture and food. One of the downsides is the eternal traffic jam.
Twp of the most popular expat destinations, outside of the city, include Boquete or Coronado. These towns are definitely closer to the European or North American type of lifestyle, and the cost of living might be slightly higher than in smaller towns.
The perks of a smaller rural town is to experience the culture in a different way and to enjoy lower cost of living. Popular options are Pedasí, Las Tablas or Valle de Anton. The cons of choosing smaller towns is definitely the less availability in healthcare service, and the more need to speak Spanish.
These were some of the pros and cons of retiring in Panama. However, to read out a list is not enough, the best way to take a decision is to come and see with your own eyes if Panama suits you!
It’s more than a tour . . it’s an experience.