Reasons to Consider Panama 2017

A lot of what is written online about moving to Panama is either just plain hype
[See my blog on “Blowing Smoke”] or hopelessly outdated [including some of my stuff that’s over 8 years old and still out there. It’s far easier to put stuff up on the Web than to take it down and make it disappear.]

Since in Panama we’ve just completed our month of national, patriotic holidays … which by the way put everyone in a positive, happy, optimistic mood for the upcoming Mother’s Day celebration and Christmas. [It’s OK to say “Christmas” in Panama! And you can say Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or talk about Passover, Easter and Ramadan or .whatever else, and no one is going to threaten to report or deport you because of your religious beliefs.]

So, it’s high-time to take an updated look as to why you might consider relocating to Panama in 2017. I offer these based on my own experiences and not in any particular order. You will notice that some of these aren’t the typical reasons given by the “promoters” of Panama … those businesses that make money off selling Panama to expats. And, some of the reasons these folks push aren’t on my list because I don’t consider them either that important anymore or even factors worth talking about.

“It’s the lifestyle stupid!” All of the items on this list add up to a wonderful lifestyle for expats! Make no mistake: Panama is not perfect, but no place is, however for all these reasons, and more, Panama is a great place to call home.

No military to support!  No trillions of dollars spent on wars.  No military-industrial complex to support.  Panama is a neutral country and BTW the US, which does have an enormous military, pledged in the second Carter-Torrijos Treaty to maintain the neutrality of the Panama Canal in perpetuity.

Strong infrastructure of bridges, roads, Tocumen Airport [“The Hub of The Americas”], shipping ports on both oceans and the newly expanded Panama Canal.  Panama City has the region’s first Metro … beautiful, safe, efficient and spotless … and Line Two is now over 25% complete and contracts are being let for Line Three.  And that ugly tangle of utility wires in Panama City are all going underground.

Optimistic future planning … Panama is no more the “Banana Republic” but a dynamic, future-oriented country.  The country is aggressively pursuing a defined plan for transparency, improving education, building a stronger and larger middle class, enlarging business opportunities and not just the Canal, increasing the already burgeoning tourist industry, building cruise port facilities on the Pacific side, enlarging Tocumen International which is already the major airport of the region,  building new convention centers in Panama City and Boquete, constructing additional giant bridges over the Canal. And there is even talk of building a high speed rail connection between Panama City and David, Panama’s second largest city.  Of course they’ve been talking about a high speed rail connection in California between LA and San Francisco for eons, but you have to be careful about talking about giant projects in Panama … because they happen!

Panama has enjoyed democracy for 27 years since the removal of the dictator Manuel Noriega. Learning from that experience Panama has a vibrant political tradition with multiple parties, not just one or two choices, with elections campaigns fought with local participation and involvement, not just by billionaires and lobbyists with expensive television campaigns.  People have strong political alliances but are not as ideologically divided as in many countries. The last election was a close competition between three very similar slightly right of center businessmen but no wild swings or rutting in the mud.  Once a new president was elected, by a genuine popular vote everyone rather quickly got onboard to move the country ahead.  Presidents by law can only serve a single 5-year term of office, then must sit-out at least 10 years.

Panama is an economic power house with one of the strongest economies in the region. Economically strong.  The Panama Canal, although significant, is just one arm of a multi-faceted economy.  Panama has consistently enjoyed strong GDP growth, often the strongest in the region and stronger than many of the giant world economies.

Panama uses the US $ which most of the world views as the strongest and most secure currency.  We call it the “Balboa” but it is in fact the US $.  It’s not a currency pegged to the US $ but is the US $.  Except for a few week period Panama has never printed its own currency.  Our coins look different, but work in the same vending machines as US coins and are used interchangeably.  Because of this Panama does no have to worry about the wild swings in currency values that plague many of our neighboring Latin American countries.  There are many non US citizens and companies who want their money in US $ but do not want to hold the US currency in the US and have the US government as a partner in their affairs. US citizens are stuck with the US government as a partner for life … and in death as well.

Panama is accepting and diverse probably in large part because of its geographical position at the crossroads of the world and the history that was determined by that geographical location.  Of the many Indigenous groups that were in Panama before the Spanish arrived, seven Indigenous groups still remain and in many ways are preserving their traditional lifestyles.  After the Spanish and French the US Americans came and brought a workforce of people from Europe and the Caribbean to build the Panama Canal.  And Panama’s famed Canal still links the world together.  So most Panamanians are a delightful mixture of peoples, races, and cultures from around the world.  No way could you attempt to identify and export or exterminate any one particular group, race or religion.  Although officially a Roman Catholic country, people are free to worship as they wish, or not at all.  There are large Evangelical, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, Indigenous and other religious groups who are not just tolerated but accepted as part of the wonderful Panamanian mix.  The strong traditional Roman Catholic background has caused Panama to a bit slow to accept the LGBT community, although it has always quietly existed and even thrived.  Panama law forbids discrimination.  Period.  Panama City now even celebrates with a gay Pride parade.


Panama is the shopping center of Latin America.  The Colon Free Port is the second largest free port in the world, second only to Hong Kong.  Most buyers from Latin American stores come to the Colon Free Port to shop.  The Mall Culture of Panama City almost rivals the Mall Culture of Dubai, absent of course the Dubai Mall ski slope.  The largest mall in Panama City is the gigantic Albrook Mall and now the same people who developed Albrook Mall are building a gigantic 400 store mall and transportation center in David, 35 minutes from my house and farm in the mountains just outside of Boquete.


Spectacularly beautiful.  At 9 degrees above the Equator, Panama enjoys warm weather and lush tropical forests and abundance of birds, butterflies and wild life year-round.  Forget trees stripped annually of their leaves, snow, ice and slush … we enjoy near-perfect weather all year.  In the lowlands, near the water it can be tropical hot and humid, but up in the mountains, near where I live in Boquete, it is Spring-like year round with a high at noon when the sun is shining of 80 degrees F and at 4 am only  61 degrees F making blankets at night a necessity.  We have spectacular tropical plants year-round and over 1,000 different species of wild orchids plus over 975 species of birds to keep bird-watchers busy.  The water I drink on my farm is filtered through Volcan Baru … the kind of stuff you buy for $3 a bottle in the rest of the world.  And of course I grow my own coffee, bananas, citrus and a bunch of other tropical fruits.

Happy. Although no longer ranked the “happiest” country in the world … money and the pursuit of money has become more and more important in Panama and there appears to be an inverse relationship between happiness and the pursuit and importance of money … by en large Panama is still a happy, and peaceful country where people are optimistic about their future and the direction of the country.

Your are welcome here.  Panama encourages foreign investment.   Anyone can own property in Panama.  And in this time of worldwide upheaval and chaos, Panama is regarded by many as a safe haven, economically, politically, and in terms of personal safety.  Panama throws out a giant welcome mat in the form of Friendly Nation Visas that give you permanent residency and the right to apply for a work permit if you are from one of these 47 nations friendly to Panama. Other nations have other visa options.

My interpretation of "smart casual" dress code when I am at home

My favorite quote about Panama is by one of John le Carré’s characters in “The Tailor of Panama”: “We’ve got everything God needed to make paradise. Great farming, beaches, mountains, wildlife you wouldn’t believe, put a stick in the ground you get a fruit tree, people so beautiful you could cry.”

Blowin’ Smoke Where The Sun Don’t Shine

There is a lot of hype about moving to Panama.

The other day I had a guy on the ship come up to me with a tattered, glossy magazine that he’d obviously devoured all about moving to Panama.  He asked me if it was all accurate or just hype.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of hype about moving to Panama.

Yes, Panama is a great country for expats and retirees, depending on where you are coming from and what you are seeking.  But it’s not for everyone.  How do you know if it is right for you?  Well you have to invest the time, effort, and money in studying, reading everything you can get your hands on but taking it all with a grain of salt, and talking to as many people as possible seeking out folks who will tell it like it is and give you the straight scoop.

That’s what I try to do on this blog and in my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA.  First, it’s our experience.  Talk to a dozen different retirees and/or expats living in Panama and you will likely get a dozen different stories.  Some of those who “package” Panama and make a living off selling the expat lifestyle have a tendency to gloss over some of the realities in order to paint a rosy picture.  Panama hasn’t been perfect for us, but it has been fantastic.  Nikki and I are both mature enough to realize that there is no “perfect” place, but for us Panama, with all of its frustrations, has been wonderful.

When I get comments on Amazon, like this from Keith Dick, I’m delighted!
“No rose-colored glasses here – Panama is not for everyone. If you’ve never lived outside the US before, particularly in a developing country like Panama – don’t even think about making a move without thorough research. Richard’s book is one of the best. Extremely valuable advice – take it to heart!”

Or this from Daniel Bridges …
“An outstanding, insightful book about the author’s experiences in Panama. It is a very sobering look at his and his family’s experiences, both the good and the not so good. The reader can tell they’ve landed in their paradise. My wife and I are considering relocating to Panama and we’re using Richards book as one of our primary sources of information for an anticipated visit to the country next year. Because Richard does not sugar coat life in Panama, rather he tells it like it is, we feel like we have a more realistic expectation of what life is like in Panama. He most definitely has us studying up on the many aspects to be considered.”

Or this from Dorothy …
“No bunnies and rainbows here, both sides of the coin are exposed. Like any country, Panama has it’s issues and beauty and Richard gives insight to the reader/expat on both so we don’t arrive and end up shocked to find bugs in our paradise. Good job.”

I’m even happy when I get a comment like this one from Ida Freer, a writer who actually helped edit the book …
“You provide a lot of useful information. Overall it led me to decide against Panama, except maybe as a tourist for a month or two. Too bad! I had high hopes.”

Just think, I saved Ida several hundred thousand dollars plus a whole lot of hassle! What if she had moved to Panama and THEN discovered it wasn’t for her?

Here’s my advice …

1. Get my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA. Read it. I’ll show you how to decide what it is you’re looking for and how to evaluate and compare different countries. I don’t sugar coat it. Panama is not for everyone, but it may be the perfect place for you.

2. Scour the Internet and get all the information you can, but take what you read with a grain of salt. Sort through and try to separate hype from fact. Start following the various Internet boards that gringos in Panama post on. You’ll find almost as many opinions about everything as there are expats in Panama. No one, including me, has a lock on everything!

3. Carefully study the offerings and promises of the companies offering tours and seminars. Study the recommendations. Search out the company names on line and see what folks have to say. Weigh the cost and benefits. Anyone who promises to tell you “everything you need to know” is clearly blowing smoke.  You want to meet as many expats along the way as possible and have opportunity to learn from them and listen to their unfiltered comments.  Tour organizers tend to feature expats whose stories are in tune with the story the tour company is trying to tell.  Take everything with a grain of salt.  Some tours are built around selling one thing or another, which is not always made clear up front.  There are real estate tours, carefully designed to allow time for you to see only the developments and properties where they’re getting a commission.  For those of my readers who’ve taken any of these tours, I’d welcome your comments and recommendations for others.

Avoid ones where you are just going to sit and listen.  You need to have your boots on the ground.  If you’re unfamiliar with a place, these may be the way to get started and feel comfortable exploring on your own. Whatever seminar or tour you choose, come early to experience and explore Panama City doing some of the tourist things like seeing the Canal or taking the Hop On Hop Off bus. And set up your return flight so you have time, a week if possible, to visit and explore in depth areas that you think might be possibilities for you. In Panama we pretty much have everything in a tiny country. Big city life, small town living, or life in the country. Mountains or beaches Lowland hot or mountain cool.

4. Once you go back home and sort through your experiences and impressions plan to come back to Panama for an extended stay of several weeks to explore further both as a tourist but also as someone considering living here.  Again talk to as many expats as possible.  You are the visitor so take the initiative: “Pardon me, we’re just visiting here and thinking of maybe moving to Panama.  It sounds like you’ve been here a while.  Can I buy you another cup of coffee (or drink!) and ask you a few questions?”   Most expats are going to be happy to share.

5. If you then still are excited about an expat lifestyle in Panama, arrange to come down for 3 to 6 months, rent a place, and actually experience day-to-day life in the area you like best.

Then, when you are convinced this is the right move, pack up and move here, maybe renting short term until buying.

The Best of Panama: Special Offer

We have always struggled between the ocean and the mountains … we love them both!  So “Paradise” to me would be a combination of the mountain paradise of Boquete coupled with the unspoiled ocean paradise of the Boca Chica waterfront.

Both would truly be “The Best of Panama”!

Now the Best of Panama can be yours!  This special offering includes both our waterfront property in unspoiled Boca Chica and our Mountain Paradise in Boquete.  The best of all worlds can be yours in the beautiful, peaceful, “tranquil” province of Panama.  Enjoy the year-round spring-like climate of Boquete, then escape to the beaches, National Marine Sanctuary with unspoiled tropical islands, of Boca Chica where you can anchor your boat in a protected anchorage or store it at Carlos Spague’s boatyard complete with covered storage, service and everything you might need.

Read all about Boca Chica and Boquete.

special-offer-logoThis special offer is available only from the owners directly and not through real estate agents or anyone else.  The offer is limited and may be withdrawn.  The $1 million price is firm.

It is preferred that payment be in full to our bank in the US, thus in many cases saving you the hassle and expense of transferring money to Panama which has become difficult and costly since the implementation of FACTA.

Asking $1 million firm.

CONTACT THE OWNER DIRECTLY – Skype: richard.detrich – In Panama: Richard  507-6549-4736 or Nikki 507-6381-6166