Retiring in Panama – Still One of the Best Places to Live In Retirement
Recent changes on the world scene, from political to economic, have altered how we view virtually everything, from what to invest in to where we choose to live. Most of these changes, admittedly, have been negative. However, there is one place that has come out of the recent flux and uncertainty even better than before. We’re talking, of course, about the tried and true haven for the global individual, and still one of the best places to retire – Panama.
Panama has certainly always been present among the thoughts of many retirees, primarily for their low cost of living. Recent changes among the rest of the world, as well as some exciting developments in Panama itself have conspired to make it the ideal destination for any who value their financial freedom.
Table of Contents:
- Cost Of Living In Panama
- Different Types Of Panamanian Visas
- Why Retire In Panama?
- The Best Places For Retirement In Panama
Cost of Living in Panama
Variety is key in Panama. Whether your interests lie in small mountain cabins or high-rise executive apartments downtown, there is something to meet every taste and every budget.
Consider the colourful El Cangrejo, where you can experience the best of Panama City life, palm-lined streets dotted with restaurants, for an average of a cool US$2,000 a month, which includes rent, utilities, groceries, and a US$300 entertainment allowance.
The cost of living can; however, vary greatly. Generally, the real value-for-money (as well as beauty) lies in Panama’s rural areas. It is possible to live off as little as US$1,000 – US$1,200 per month in one of the many idyllic rural villages in Panama. For those who prefer a more luxurious lifestyle in Panama City, expect to spend in excess of USD$3000 per month for a couple (still a comparative bargain nonetheless).
Once famous for its low cost of living, Panama remains the best value for your lifestyle dollar. Another benefit is that the US dollar is the country’s primary currency, eliminating the hassle of exchange rates.
Different Types of Panamanian Visas
Thanks to recent legislation, Panama now has a variety of visa options available for any who want to travel, or relocate, to the country.
Panama’s Pensionados, or retiree, program allows those who qualify (among a few other minor requirements) to experience many of the significant benefits available to resident retirees in Panama. Topping the list of benefits are major discounts on entertainment, utilities, and hospital bills. Besides a few other minor requirements, the main condition is the need for applicants to have a minimum pension income of at least US$1,000 a month. There is no minimum or maximum age for qualification, and those who acquire the visa are able to attain permanent residency in Panama which is guaranteed for life.
Whereas recent changes in countries around the world has resulted in long-time retirees being stripped of their residence, Panama pledges that once approved, pensionados will never be at risk of losing their prized status.
Person of Means or Forestry Investor Visas
Those with the financial reserves to make investments may find the Person of Means or the Forestry Investor Visas to be the ideal opportunities for obtaining residency in Panama, for US$300,000 and US$60,000 respectively. A wide variety of investment opportunities are made available for those qualifying for these options.
Executive Decree 343
A new decree has opened the doors with a new type of visa for those professionally active expats and investors who don’t qualify for Pensionado status and are citizens of one of about 70 different countries known as the friendly nations visa (with whom Panama maintains cordial diplomatic relations).
Known as Executive Decree 343, the program requires merely a simple application form, the formation of a Panama company and some sort of business plan unless a successful job application is foreseen, US$5,000 deposited in a bank account, and an additional US$2,000 deposit per applicant. Once approved, obtain your work permit, and you’re ready to start living the dream as a productive member of Panama society.
Of course, one thing that hasn’t changed is the easy-to-obtain Tourist Visa, which lasts up to 90 days. Even that can be beneficial, though, with the time limit extending to accommodate any who are actively applying to more permanent status.
Why Retire in Panama?
Obviously, Panama is opening wide its doors to the citizens of the world. So, besides the lower cost of living, just why would one want to relocate?
Health Care and Safety
Health care is certainly a hot topic both at home and abroad. Panama offers cutting edge medical treatment, in modern technological surroundings, for a fraction of the cost you’d expect to pay in most countries. Due its affordability, many expats don’t even bother buying medical insurance; however, insurance plans can be obtained for under USD 100 per month.
Panama’s top-quality international health services are regarded by many retiree expats as one of the best things about living in Panama. And having affordable and quality healthcare is obviously an important consideration for retirees heading into their twilight years.
Panama is also well-known for its safety, both personal and economic. At a personal level, Panama has an extremely low crime rate, and retirees feel very safe living there. At an economic level, you can rest assured that your assets are just as safe, if not even more secure, than in your home country.
Landscape and Climate
Although a large part of Panama is hot and humid, there are actually a wide variety of climates available, from the beautiful Caribbean coastline to the cooler mountain interior and cloud-covered peaks. The hustle and bustle of the city, or the exotic beauty and solitude of lush rainforests, there really is something available for everyone.
Panama has a diverse array of housing options to suit almost anyone’s needs: from high-rise luxury apartments in Panama City, to beachside villas, to country cottages in the mountains. Whatever your budget and desires may be, you will find something to match.
Furthermore, you will be able to purchase your dream for a fraction of the cost as you would back in the U.S. or Europe. For example, in the Pedasí region in south Panama, you can purchase a home by the sea for as little as US$130,000. This is just one example of the affordable, yet idyllic, real estate which is available for retirees in Panama.
Panama is known as the “Hub of the Americas”. This is largely due to its ideal location as a base from where it is easy to travel to all parts of South, Central and North America. Its proximity to the United States makes it very convenient for US retirees who don’t want to venture to the other side of the world for their retirement. It is also perfect for those who wish to still spend their latter years exploring other parts of Central and South America.
Investor and asset protection-friendly laws governing banking, corporations, trusts, and private-interest foundations help Panama to remain a tax haven for financial freedom.
With instability and downright decline ruling the scene of so many countries in the world, it’s becoming imperative to find locations of safety, security, and real freedom. By upholding the principles of individual sovereignty, financial freedom, and personal privacy, Panama has positioned itself as one of those premier locations.
The Best Places for Retirement in Panama
About six hours by car from Panama City (or a short one-hour flight), in the Chiriqui Highlands, lies the small and beautiful mountain village of Boquete. This is not just any hilltop village. In fact, Boquete is undoubtedly the best-known and most sought-after retirement destination in Panama, if not the world.
In recent decades, Boquete has developed a range of top restaurants, hotels, and all manner of outdoor and social activities, which has attracted foreign retirees. The result is that it now holds one of the largest foreign retiree and expat communities in the world. English is now more widely spoken than Spanish on the streets of Boquete, and just 40 minutes away lies the town of David with all the first-world services, hospitals, and shopping malls you could need.
Even with all this development and growth, Boquete has not lost its charm and laid-back way of life. It is also very affordable compared to the capital, Panama City.
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The lush valley of El Valle is located just a couple hours drive from Panama City. It has long been a destination of choice for Panama’s own elite, and in recent years foreign expats and retirees have started to follow suit.
One of its major attractions is its cool and comfortable climate. It has become a popular green tourist destination, with plenty of outdoor activities and sights to see. It is perfect for nature-lovers and those wishing to live a more active retirement. In addition, it has high-quality restaurants and cafés, and a social atmosphere with a very friendly and welcoming expat community.
Bocas del Toro
For those who prefer a seaside retirement, the province of Bocas del Toro, with its famous archipelago of islands, is an excellent option. Bocas has become popular with surfers, boaters, and of course, foreign retirees, for its exceptional beauty. On Bocas island, you will find white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and lush rainforests.
Living in Bocas is not without its challenges. These include having to brave heavy tropical rains, and deal with fewer amenities and commodities than the mainland. However, for those who are willing, the rewards are great. Great food, great company, and great scenery are just a few things that Bocas has going for it. Plus, it is extremely affordable.
If you would prefer a beach retirement whilst still having access to the comforts of a modern city, the well-developed resort town of Coronado is your best bet. Located just one-hour drive from Panama City, it has all the conveniences and first-world services available at an affordable price.
Santa Fe is a smaller, lesser known version of Boquete. Like its more popular counterpart, it is a beautiful and cool mountain village.
Santa Fe is idyllic, safe, and simple. Best of all, it is extremely affordable, and you could realistically live on as little as USD 1000 per month. Santa Fe is only for those who are willing to forgo the additional comforts and 5-star luxury of the cities for a more rural, down-to-earth, and local lifestyle. However, for some, this is exactly what draws them to Santa Fe.
The list would not be complete without mentioning Panama City. Although it has changed a lot over the last couple of decades and is not the relaxed and affordable retirement destination it once was, Panama City still has plenty going for it!
Those who are looking for more luxury, better infrastructure and modern services will be drawn to Panama’s capital. Panama City is bustling with tourists, business people, entrepreneurs, and wealthy retirees. It offers stylish housing and a high standard of living. It is more expensive to live the life of luxury in Panama City compared to the more rural areas, but it is still a relative bargain compared to most other first world cities.