8 Things Expats Need to Know About Retiring in Panama

Retiring in Panama

Panama has quickly become the ideal spot for expats, retirees and those hoping to just get away from it all. Expats enjoy the mild climate, political and economic stability, rich culture and laid back way of life. It’s no surprise then, that the number of expats moving to Panama increases every day. If you’re looking to retire and/or settle down in Panama permanently, you’ll need to know a few key things.

Before getting into the list, you should know that the United States exerts a lot of influence on Panama. Hence, you’ll find that Panama City will remind you strongly of places like Miami. There’s the same kind of vibe going on there as in some US beach cities. Moreover, there are high-end shopping centers, malls and people do speak English. However, what really sets it apart from big cities is the low cost of living. Granted, it won’t be the same as if you were living in a place like Mexico, but you can still survive on around $1,200 per month. What’s more, foreigners to want to retire in Panama get special discounts and access to government programs. What’s not to love about living in Panama? As an expat, there’s so much you can do!  They even have a very happening microbrewery!

So You Want to Retire in Panama?

Are You An Expat?

Let’s first talk about what an expat really is. An expatriate, referred to as an expat for short, is someone who resides in a country that is different from their native one. This term often covers workers, professionals, and artists who move away from home and settle down in a new country. It doesn’t matter if you make the move independently or if you’re sent over by your employer: you’re an expat as soon as you start making a life somewhere else. On the other hand, you’re also an expat if you choose to simply retire in a new place by yourself. Some people prefer to do this because they want to retire with lower living costs and enjoy their remaining days in a new country.

The main question on your mind must now be about living costs and how much you should hope to have in the bank before you move.

Living Costs in Panama: What to Expect

If you live in a smaller town or maybe even a rural area, you could easily get by with $1,200 per month. However, this cost would rise significantly if you were to move to Panama City. The average costs for residing in bustling Panama City can go from between $2,500 to $4,000. Of course, this also depends on your lifestyle. Mostly, you will spend on rent which is around $1,500 for a good apartment. If you have more money to spend, you could get a two-bed apartment in one of the city’s massive high-rises. This will set you back by around $3,000 per month.

Better Value and Views in the Countryside

Often, retirees moving to Panama prefer to dwell in the countryside. This is because of two major reasons. One, the views that you’ll see in the rural areas of the country are unmatchable by anything you could find in the metropolis. Two, it’s much lighter on your pocket to live in the rural areas. You won’t have to spend a lot on rent and you get the bonus of fresh air and peaceful surroundings in addition. For example, if you move to the Pedasi region in South Panama, you could rent out a two-bed apartment for around $600-$800. What’s more, you could even buy a home on the waterfront for around $130,000 only. This is why the Pedasi region sees a lot of American expats.

Another great option is the small town of Coronado. This is a quaint town that hosts a line of beautiful beach resorts along the Pacific Coast. You will find a lot of First World comforts here for a better price. Speaking of convenience, you will find a lot of it in David. This town has a population of under 145,000 people and isn’t packed. It is Panama’s second-largest city and is relatively rich. There is a low poverty line and low unemployment as well. You could easily settle here with low costs and high benefits.

Health and Medical Care in Panama

You won’t be able to use Medicare in the country. However, healthcare is generally very affordable throughout Panama. Because of the low rates, many expats choose not to even buy medical insurance. If you still want to invest in it though, you can get plans for around $100 a month. Don’t fear, you will receive international standard medical care services in Panama. There are several gold standard medical facilities available in the country, especially in Panama City. A lot of expats say that healthcare is one of the best things about living in Panama and depending on where you go, you can find great coverage and help. Rest easy and note down the names of these three private hospitals, which are cited as the best in Panama:

  • Pacifica Salud
  • Centro Medico Paitilla
  • Hospital National

5 More Factors You Should Know About Living in Panama

Now that we’ve discussed living costs and healthcare, there are a few other things you should keep in mind when you think about moving to Panama.

The “Pensionado” Program

The government in Panama provides a specific retirement visa called the “Panama Visa Pensionado” and this is the first thing you should be aware of. Foreigners can obtain this visa if they want to get a permanent residency in Panama. You should have a minimum pension income of $1,000 for life if you want to qualify for this. However, there is no age restriction that could bar you from getting this visa.

The retirement visa brings a lot of benefits to it. Some of these are:

  • 50% entertainment discount applicable anywhere in Panama (music, cinema, sports)
  • 30% public transport discount on buses, trains, boats and more
  • 25% discount on airplane tickets
  • 20% discount on medical consultations
  • 15% discount on all eye and tooth examinations
  • A one-time import duty exemption for household golds of a $10,000 value
  • Duty-free import of a car every two years

The “Hub of the Americas”

Panama is often called “The Hub of the Americas” and the reason is its ideal location. You can easily branch out into both Central and South America from Panama. There are endless locations to explore and live in. Panama’s airport, Tocumen International, offers routes to all South American countries and adds new routes constantly. It has over 50 gates so you can imagine the influx of traffic that it receives.

World’s Foremost Banking Havens

While Panama doesn’t have as many banks as it once used to, it still houses over 80 banks which means it’s one of the world’s biggest banking centers. Even after the 2010 exchange-of-information agreement that Panama signed with the US, the country can boast a good banking system available to expats.

No Need to Switch Currencies

Panama uses the US Dollar as its main currency. This is why so many Americans choose to retire in style in Panama. As an American citizen, you don’t have to worry about any exchange rates or risks because the switch from country to country will be seamless.

Living in the Tropics

Panama has a delicious tropical climate and you will get to see the sun almost every day. It’s a wonderful climate in which to retire. However, you should be aware that the weather will stay humid and hot throughout in Panama City. It varies if you move around the country. Around Boquete, for example, the weather is always cool and sometimes gets chilly as well. If you live on the coast, you will enjoy cool breezes carried in by the ocean.

Of course, Panama City has the best nightlife.

Retiring in Panama

This article should have given you sufficient information to be able to make your decision of retiring in Panama. You now know about healthcare, living costs, climate, and other important aspects. Feel free to soak up the rays on a nice beach and take a load off. You deserve it!

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Peter is a digital nomad who largely writes from Asia, Europe, and South America. Always following the "vibe," he sets up shop in hostels and AirBNB's and continues to entertain us with wild stories from life abroad. Ask him anything in our community forum.

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