Panama is truly a land of contrasts! While you expect to see forests and the jungle, big lakes, and a tropical climate, you will be amazed at big modern Panama City! Much like any big city in the world, you will find sky scrapers, modern buildings with all the comforts of home, luxury apartments and amazing cultural events. Those who retire in Panama will also find a very low cost of living, a favorable tax structure for retired people and moderate crime.
English is spoken in many of the larger cities. Learn 100 words of Spanish and it will get you a long way! If you are going to stay, plan on being bi-lingual.
In addition to the Panama Canal, the major source of the local revenue, Panama has become a major banking, commerce, tourist and trading center. The unemployment rate is 2.7% and the country is experiencing an economic boom. It is one of the fastest growing economies (and best managed) in Latin America. With the expansion of the canal and a free-trade agreement with the U.S., Panama’s economic future looks bright for quite some time.
Sooner or later, prices will catch up with Panama. In the meantime, home rental and purchase prices are low. The cost of living for food, utilities, and transportation are all well below what you will find in the US. In addition, the government has developed the “Pensionado Program” with huge discounts for seniors including 50% off entertainment, 30% off transportation, 15% off hospital stays, and lots of other things. There are major airports, hospitals and shopping venues in Panama. The good news about buying a home – if you buy a newly constructed home, it is exempt from property taxes for twenty years! This benefit is transferrable so if you buy or sell a 10 year old home, there is still 10 years on the deal.
A word about safety. It is not recommended that you travel very far south of the canal zone. The territories near Columbia are notorious for drug trafficking and all that entails. As always, be aware of your surroundings, protect your wallet/purse, and ask about neighborhoods before walking around at night. Every place on the face of this beautiful earth has bad neighborhoods – just don’t be the gringo who wandered into one.
There is so much to see and do in Panama! There are wildlife sanctuaries, whitewater rafting, world class sports fishing and sporting events. There is a huge cultural diversity and history in the area with many historical sites and museums. The beaches are wonderful.
The weather! Most of the low-lying areas around the coastlines see 90 degrees F every day. It is much cooler up in the mountains. We’ve been told that 300 feet up can be a world of difference.
A couple of interesting things about Panama:
Panama City is a six hour flight from Los Angeles, CA.
Short-shorts, short skirts are for the beach and resort areas. Panamanians dress rather conservatively and you are expected to be well-dressed to enter banks, official buildings, churches.
It may seem that there are absolutely no traffic rules in Panama! When there is a backup, drivers may drive up on the sidewalk or down the wrong side of the road avoid the traffic. There are no roads that go through to Columbia.
American money is the currency, but they have their own coins (minted in the US!) with different faces, but the same denominations. Do not take US $50 or $100 bills as there has been a lot of counterfeit money and merchants are leery.
The water is safe except in some areas on the outer northern islands.
Panama is definitely on our recommended places to retire! It is estimated that between 20 and 30,000 Americans live in Panama. One of them could be you!
But. Here’s some advice from the U.S. Embassy in Panama:
“Hire a reputable lawyer and perform due diligence before you buy. While most American citizens buy and sell property in Panama without incident, the Embassy frequently hears claims of fraud and corruption in connection with property purchased by U.S. citizens. Complaints include broken contracts, demand for extra payments, fraud, corruption and occasional threats. Americans should exercise greater due diligence in purchasing Panamanian real estate than they would in purchasing real estate in the United States. Engaging a reputable attorney and licensed real estate broker, both with credible references, is strongly recommended, as is including the option for mediation in any contract.”
Living in Panama
Pros: Many speak English, American money, warm climate, thriving economy.
Cons: Consistently hot near the coast.
Best Places to Live: If you like the city: Panama City. If, not the northern towns of Boquet and David
Favorite Did You Know: Panama City has a downtown rain forest!
Once you have started looking at living outside the U.S. or Canada, you might want to consider retirement in Panama's retirement communities. With world class golf courses, fabulous club houses with pools and restaurants, these properties have a lot going for them. ...read more
We can't very well talk about retiring in Panama with out pointing you towards Boquete (Bo-ke-te). In the northern hills, about 40 miles south of Costa Rica, you will find this hilly little town with a huge expat population. At almost 4,000 feet, Bouquet is much...read more
Those who choose to retire in Puerto Armuelles, Panama will find a beach town in the north region of Chiriqi - quite close to the border with Costa Rica. Puerto is an old Chichita Banana town with a deep water port. The company departed years ago and left a...read more
If you are a city dweller and would like to retire in a more metropolitan area, you might want to retire in Casco Viejo, Panama. Panama City's old town, Casa Viejo is an pocket of the old world just south of the new. The town has dozens of beautifully preserved...read more