Dear Darwin

New PictureI received this email from Darwin, sent at 1:45am his time …

Richard, Aloha. I saw on your website some prices for farms and other properties. Are those typical prices in Panama, or might it be like Costa Rica used to be, years ago? (That is, is it really less expensive, once you are local, or are those typical prices?) Have a great day. Take care, Darwin

So I replied, at 3:35am my time … please, don’t ask! The dogs were up and hyper and so was I …

Just like anywhere else, prices are all over the board, depending on location, size of property, amenities, etc. You can buy just “farmland” quite cheap in big parcels, probably far from electric lines, developed areas, etc. Panama has a booming economy, Costa Rica does not. Costa Rica is really a Central American country and Panama, in part because of its history, is really a South American country. Costa Rica used to have advantages for expat retirees, today Panama does. Some things are much cheaper in Panama, depending on where you are from. Bottom line: you can live better for less in Panama. Regards, Richard

2:47am his time, I get this from Darwin …

Hey, thanks, Richard. I really do appreciate it.

BTW, my wife has been doing all of the research, since I have been crazy busy with work, etc. However, from here research, she believes that Boquete might be one of the most temperate places to live. According to the research that I have done, Colon seems to have a nice climate, as well, but according to her research, Colon is a high crime area. The farms that are advertised for sale in Boquete seem quite pricey.

Are there any areas that you would recommend where the temperature stays down around 80 degrees Fahrenheit or less, are not too pricey and are safe?

Also, if you believe that the best climate is near Boquete, do you recommend flying into David and renting an apartment somewhere near there in order to explore that area, or do you recommend renting a car in Panama City and driving up there?

Thanks, again, for your valuable advice, and I do understand if you are too busy to deal with all of these sorts of questions.

Have a great weekend. Take care, Darwin

Well, Darwin, yes, I am busy. And seriously contemplating retiring from retirement! But let me give you, and everyone else some words of wisdom.

Fly over Panama from David to Panama City and you will see that most of the country is mountainous jungle, rain forest, farm land of all altitudes. 99% is quite safe. We’re about 9 degrees off the Equator so … it is hot and tropical. But as you go up to higher altitudes it gets very temperate and, at least for my taste, pleasant. There are tons of properties you can buy in the mountains, quite safe, great for grazing cattle or farming, and cheap … however they may be hours on dirt roads from any real center of civilization. Just depends on what you want … what you are looking for … and what you are willing to pay.

I no longer “sell” Panama as cheap, because in many ways it isn’t cheaper, although in other ways it is cheaper, depending on where you are coming from. The message is YOU CAN LIVE BETTER FOR LESS IN PANAMA! Again, how much less depends on where you are coming from and what your expectations are for your standard of living.

So, my advice, dear Darwin …

1. Don’t leave the research to your wife! Get involved and do the research. The people who move here, and leave rather quickly, are folks who got this whim, or dream to go to Panama and never bothered to take the time and do the research.

2. Start right here with my blog. Drill down. Start with Thinking of Relocating, take a look at costs of life in Panama, get a feel for what life is actually like.  Check out what medical care is like and if you need to speak Spanish.

3. Get my book!  THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING & RETIRING IN PANAMA.  If you don’t want to plunk down some money or invest some time in researching Panama, just forget it.

4. Come on the Panama Relocation Tour.  This is NOT a real estate sales tour: nobody is selling anything.  But it’s a chance in a small group of around 20 people to explore the real Panama, boots-on-the-ground, meet with real expats who will tell you the un-rehearsed, un-coached real story of expat life in Panama.  You’re not going to spend days in a fancy hotel ballroom in Panama city having folks blow smoke offering you “investment opportunities” from folks who’ve paid to participate.  The Panama Relocation Tour will give you an overview.  Plan to spend some additional time before the tour to explore Panama City, and then time after the tour to revisit some of the areas that seemed appealing.

Mar 15 Relocation Tour 5

5. Go home and do a lot of reflection, have a lot of late night discussions, run the numbers, do more research and homework.  If you haven’t already done so, figure out what it is that you really want, what your finances are and what alternatives are available.

6. Plan a two or three-week trip back to Panama just to explore.

7. If everything still looks good, rent a place in the area you think you’d like to live, and actually spend 3 to 6 months “test driving” life in Panama.

You asked … that’s my final answer.