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Best Places to Retire in Panama

My friend, Jackie Lange, who runs Panama Relocation Tours, gets to take people on her boots-on-the-ground tour to many of the best places in Panama to retire.  She sees them all and knows expats everywhere.  The plus of Jackie’s tour is that nobody is selling or promoting anything!  It’s just a great opportunity to get an honest view of Panama and hear un-rehearsed, un-coached stories of expat life in Panama from people who are actually living in Panama.  Here’s one of Jackie’s posts about THE BEST PLACES TO RETIRE IN PANAMA …

Did you know that Panama is the only country where you can watch the Pacific sunrise and the Atlantic sunset?

How cool is that?

Dubbed as the Crossroads of the Americas, Panama, like the rest of Latin America has that laid-back, relaxed kind of vibe. The people are welcoming, warm and friendly. In the past few decades, Panama has been one among the top countries best for retirement. Many people have been searching for the best places to retire in Panama because of one good reason: it is cheaper to live in this tropical country than in most parts of the world.

There is a perfectly good reason why this is indeed the crossroads. You can use Panama’s airports to travel either to Central or South America or hundreds of destinations around the world.

Panama is categorized as a tropical country but the weather is not hot, it is warm. From May to the end of the year, expect a much cooler air as the wind from the mountains come flapping down to the lowlands, cooling and relaxing people on the beachfront. Much like its people, warm sand beneath your foot is an indication that you are in beach paradise. Beaches are only part of the Panama scene. The nightlife is also vibrant here that every night you can go to different clubs and bars to your heart’s content.

It is not just the geographic location or the innate natural beauty that fascinates people to live and retire in Panama. There are many perks that one can come across an expat in this amazing country.

Panama is really made for retirees. With health care a fraction of the cost when done in the US, be rest assured that you have high quality health care provided to you. With certain hospitals affiliated with top hospitals in the US (like Johns Hopkins), you can get results but may cost you cheaper. Many of the clinicians are fluent in English so it won’t be difficult for you to communicate. In addition to this, Panama has adopted the US dollar as its national currency. If you’re from the United States, you don’t have to worry about exchange rate reductions in your spending power!

One of the perks you can enjoy after relocating in this country is that you can become a legal resident here. Retirees who chose to become residents can avail of the pensionado program which entitles one to discounts, even when owning your own real estate property. Women over 55 and men over 60, qualify for these discounts:

One time Duty tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000.
Duty exemption for importing a new car every two years.
50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports)
30% off bus, boat, and train fares
25% off airline tickets
50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday
25% off at restaurants
15% off at fast-food restaurants
15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)
10% off prescription medicines
20% off medical consultations
15% off dental and eye exams
20% off professional and technical services
50% reduction in closing costs for home loans
25% discounts on utility bills
15% off loans made in your name
1% less on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence

The consistent efforts of the government of Panama at positively improving and engaging retiree policies ensure retirees that they made the right decision to live and retire in Panama.

What are my relocation options?

Boquete
Located in the Chiriqui, one of the most fertile provinces in the country, relocating here means you get to experience a cooler climate, ranging from 70-80 degree Fahrenheit. This may be up in the highlands but you would not really be living bucolic. Boquete has a developed expat community so you settling right in is not hard.

What makes Boquete unique is its fog-like rain that creates an ethereal blanket over the area. Actually, this has a purpose – keeping everything fresh and sustainable. With coffee as one of its produce, be enticed in your sensorial feels.

If there is one lace in Panama where you don’t have to learn Spanish, it is this place. Majority of the people here can speak English fluently, partly due to the foreigners calling this their home

Activities You Can Do Here

With the Volcan Baru at the backdrop, and the waters of Rio Caldera running through the city, feel free to enjoy water rafting, if you are the adventurous one. If you miss hiking, feel free to go horseback riding or bird watching. There are plenty of outdoor activities to do here.

The Catch

Depending on the location, accessibility to utilities, cost of property varies. If you are in the outskirts where there is no line for water, electricity and the likes, real estate property can be cheaper. If you wish to be in the town area, expect land prices to soar.

Also, don’t look for the roaring waves of the beach. This province perches 3,400 ft high up the mountains. Also, Boquete is not readily accessible from the capital city. You need to drive to David then fly for 40 minutes to get to Panama city.

Santa Fe

With hills teemed with luscious green, Santa Fe in Veraguas is another highland city great for retiring in Panama. You don’t need to acclimatize to be in this city. Somewhat lower than Boquete in altitude, you can still duck the humidity of the lowlands yet experience warm days that seems to make breathing much easier.

Activities You Can Do Here

Because the biggest draw of Santa Fe is its outdoor appeal, there are many activities you can enjoy. Wild orchids and exotic flowers are abundant. Visit the Santa Fe National Park to check the various species for fauna to marvel at. Butterflies and toucans can also be found in this part of Panama.

The Catch

Although there is a flourishing expat community in the area, you still need to learn Spanish. If you are used to having the modern amenities, Santa Fe might not suit you as you might soon find out that you have to adapt to the true Panamanian way of living.

Expect a lot of changes in Santa Fe. If you like the simple life here, it might soon change as new roads are being created to connect the city with the coastal areas.

Volcan

Each country has its own fountain of youth. Panama has Volcan. With similar climate as Boquete, you can enjoy the wafting of cool breeze day in and out. Nestled by Tizingal Mountain, Volcan is like the other places that boast of longer life expectancy. Blame it on natural food and great weather all year-long.

Volcan only have a few thousand inhabitants, including expats. This means you need to still study Spanish. Nevertheless, this city has the basic amenities you can find in a world-class city plus incredible views.

Down in the Lowlands …

Las Tablas

Las Tablas PanamaAlong the coast of the Azuero Peninsula, Las Tablas is a more laid back place compared to other beach side locations in Panama. It is also very affordable compared to other beach communities. I know expats who are renting a 3 bedroom house for $400 a month and a single expat lady who is renting a small one bedroom house for $80 per month. The actual town is about 5 miles to the beach.

The Catch

Since the Azuero Peninsula is considered the Gold Coast of Panama, opportunities are coming in. While this has not been fully realized, you can still enjoy the serenity the place offers for only $1,200 a month. It may be far from the capital city, having to travel or four hours by car, but those fine-paved roads leading to the capital city makes your travel lighter. As you would be living mostly with the fisher folks, you also need to learn Spanish.

Chitre is north of Las Tablas. About a 30 minute drive. Chitre features more shopping opportunities plus a movie theater. About an hour south of Las Tablas is Pedasi.

Panama City

Panama CityWho would have known that there is such a phrase inexpensive metropolis. In many cases, a metropolis tantamount to having high cost of living; however, slash Panama City from that list. Major corporations may be in the city but living within the city does not entail having to expensively. You can marvel at the world-class infrastructure and services without really denting your pocket.

With museums, premium shows and performances, and first-rate dining experience, you’d be surprised how affordable these can be in the capital city. Where else can you find a piece of the rain forest in a metropolis like this but only in Panama City.

The Catch

Relatively, Panama City has a bit expensive property prices, nevertheless, still cheaper compared to cities of the same calibre in the Americas. The El Cangrejo district in the city offers your picturesque neighbourhood with thriving expat community may not come as cheap but still affordable.

Bocas de Toro

Lying in your hammock tied between to palm trees and viewing the stunning coastline seems like an image out of a postcard. Situated in the Caribbean part of the country, Bocas del Torro offers island hideaways and a more tranquil uptake on the beach life.

Bocas del Toro is actually a province in Panama. Bocas Town, is a town on Isla Colon island which is in the Bocas del Toro province.

The Catch

Bocas is not easy to get to. You either have to fly from Panama City to Isla Colon or you have to drive from western Panama near David over the Continental Divide about 3 hours to get to Almarinte. Then take a 40 minute water taxi ride to Isla Colon.

If you like island like and water sports, (and don’t mind being a bit isolated) then Bocas Town and the other islands in the area would be a good choice for you.

Coronado

If there is one beach community expats have been raving about for the last few years, it is Coronado. Tucked an hour away from Panama City, it presents the best of both worlds. The facilities you can only find in a cosmopolitan city and the unrestricted beach lifestyle that only Latin America offers.

What is unique about Coronado’s beach is that it is not the run-of-the-mill white sand. It is, in fact, a greyish sand, a mixture of pristine white sand and the volcanic sand, remnants of an extinct volcano. Being located in the “Arco Seco” area, aptly named because of the arc-shape of the coastline and the fact that this area does not receive much rain during the rainy season, Coronado has numerous activity-inducing facilities such as tennis courts, golf courses and the likes.

Many options are given to you in case you wish to retire and live in Panama. Its proximity to North America make this your dream destination for relocation.

Come join us on a Panama Relocation Tour to discover what Panama has to offer.

It worked in Dubai, why not here?

I’m not sure whether at this moment Dubai or Panama has the most construction cranes. I do know that a lot of Panamanians think it might be more appropriate to replace our national bird, the Harpy Eagle, with the Construction Crane.

Dubai has a great sail-shaped hotel … and so do we!

Dubai has a gaggle of skyscraper buildings with interesting architecture … and so do we.

In as much as size matters to some people, ours will never be as big as those in Dubai, but maybe size does count in other ways, where I’ll bet Panama has it all over Dubai.  [A friend told me today about a Panamanian friend who is so well endowed that he has five stars tattooed on his organ.  Think about that!]

I hope Panama never reaches the laziness quotient of Dubai where the natives just lend their names to businesses [required, as I understand it, by law in Dubai], and just spend their time collecting money, clubbing and traveling from one giant air-conditioned mall to another, while non-natives do all the work.  I think it’s an arrangement many Panamanians would find appealing, but it wouldn’t contribute much to the improvement of the work ethic of the country’s labor force.

Dubai decided to build islands offshore that would provide barren lots, but then almost everything is naturally barren in Dubai, for mega mansions.  Granted the falling world economy created some glitches in the plan, but at least one of the islands is a reality with monorail service, luxury hotels and resorts,   For a mere 5.1 million US$ you can a 7 bedroom, 8,452 sq ft mansion with a lake view on Jumeirah Islands.  So if this idea of artificial island development works in Dubai, why not Panama?

It just had to happen …

Boskalis Westminster has been awarded a €55 million (US$ 58 million) deal to construct an artificial residential island off the coast of Punta Pacifica, Panama City, Panama.

The project, which is owned by Compañía Insular Americana, follows an initial island scheme developed by the Dutch-based dredging and maritime infrastructure firm in 2013.

For its latest contract, the company will create a 9 ha area of land with 600,000 m3 of rock to form a perimeter. This will be filled with 1.3 million m3 of sand. A bridge will also be built connecting the two artificial islands.

Scheduled to begin in the second half of 2015, barges and tug boats will be used to transport the rock, with excavators used to install its perimeter. The island will be filled with sand supplied by a large trailing suction hopper dredger.

The scheme is due to be completed within two years. [INTERNATIONAL CONSTRUCTION NEWS]

“Plan B” for The World

For people from many countries of the world, Panama is, or should be, their “Plan B”.

Panama geographically has always been at the crossroads of the Americas, and, due to the Panama Canal and shipping patters in a global economy, increasingly is at the crossroads of the world.

The Great Liberator of Latin America, Simon Bolivar, said that if ever the world had a capital it would be Panama.
Panama has always been a multi-cultural and multi-national community.

Mothers Day 5Seven Indigenous groups were here before Columbus arrived, and are still here and make a huge contribution to the life, economy and culture of Panama.

The Spanish came, settled, and many of the country’s oldest families trace their heritage back to the Spanish conquistadores.

The Chinese first came over 150 years ago to build the Panama Railroad. Today there is a huge Chinese community and most of the mini-super corner stores and hardware stores are Chinese owned and run. Probably as many people in Panama speak Mandrian as speak English.

The French came and although De Lesseps failed miserably in his attempt to build the Canal, the old French architecture is still evident in Casco Viejo and Colon and today’s Frenchmen still flock to enjoy the Azuero Peninsula.

Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in Spain and Colombia came and took advantage of Panama’s central location for trade. There is still a vibrant Jewish community in Panama City.

The Americans came to support and maintain Panama’s independence from Colombia, to build the Panama Canal, and occupy the Canal Zone for 75 years. Hundreds of US citizens who worked for the US Canal or were stationed in Panama with the US military fell in love with Panama and when it came time to retire, quickly moved back to Paradise. And today North Americans from the US and Canada are flocking to adopt an expat lifestyle in Panama.

To build the Canal folks came by the boatloads from the Caribbean, especially Barbados, and stayed. Today’s Latino Panamanian is a wonderful mix of old Spanish, Indigenous and West Indian heritage.

Workers came from Greece and Italy, and from Europe. There is a big Scottish contingent in Panama City which still celebrates their Scottish heritage in kilts and with bagpipes. One of the first settlers in Boquete was an English sea captain who fell in love with an Indigenous woman, jumped ship, and moved to Chiriqui, and would go by ox cart to David for provisions, a journey which took three days each way. So today in Boquete you have very Panamanian folks with last names like Watson and Colins. Greeks came to work on the Canal and just stayed. Italians, Germans and Swiss were fascinated by the rich volcanic soil and were some of the first settler farmers in Chriqui.

Surrounded by a world increasingly dominated by radicalism, terrorism, and growing government control, folks from many nations have viewed Panama as a “safe haven” to which to escape. Panama is a neutral country, without an army, yet a democracy for 25 years since the dictatorship, and a country which uses the US dollar, still looked upon as one of the world’s most secure currencies. Since the Turnover of the Canal, Panama has leveraged the Canal and it’s central strategic position geographically to create a strong and even booming economy.

Many Canadians have come to escape governmental intrusion and, surprisingly to me, many families from Canada with young children who want to escape the educational system.  Folks from the US have come to escape big government nosing into every area of life and clawing at everyone’s money and net worth.  Many came to escape the Bush-Cheney era, and as many now come to escape Obama.  Both groups shaking their heads at what is being done to their “Homeland.”  Folks from Venezula have been escaping a leftist government getting money, families, and entire companies out of Venezuela and starting anew in Panama.

Chinese, flush with prosperity but uncertain about which way their government will move next, see establishing a presence in Panama as a safe and convenient backup plan.  Folks from the United Kingdom, tired of being taxed to death, are seeing a way out.   Germans, Italians, Spaniards, and Greeks, all concerned about the future of the European Union and the future value of their Euros are looking for a “Plan B” backup.

Folks who in the past may have been fleeing to a US America, are now fleeing to a tiny, peaceful, democratic nation with a booming economy in Central America, a neutral country without an army or a dozen “wars” on this or that, a nation that has always been multi-racial, multi-cultural and where Catholics, Evangelicals, Muslims, Jews, and Athiests can all live and work together and enjoy an ecological paradise.  They’re coming to Panama.

John Le Carré, in The Tailor of Panama, wrote, “We have everything God needed to make paradise. Great farming, beaches, mountains, wildlife you wouldn’t believe, people so beautiful you could cry.”

BUT, before you jump, you need to do your homework, and a great place to start is with my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING & RETIRING IN PANAMA.   “Richard tells it like it is” – the straight scoop.  You can also gain a whole lot by taking advantage of all the valuable information right here!  It’s free!  No salesman will call!  You can even subscribe [over on the right sidebar “Follow This Blog”] without getting tons of email spam!  Such a deal!

Thinking of Relocating?

What’s It Cost To Live In Panama?

What’s It Like Living In Panama?

What’s Medical Care Like In Panama