For over 17 years I have been advising and assisting ex-pats who want to retire, move or invest overseas, and I have also lived and worked in many countries myself. I know from personal experience how it feels to start from scratch, to live as a newcomer in a foreign country, and to know neither the culture, nor the language of the new host country.
If you are looking for a country to move to, then in my opinion it is not about finding the "perfect" paradise, but to choose a country that meets your wishes and needs.
How these are shaped and what is important to you (or not) is a very individual decision, which, in addition to facts, is always a certain decision of the heart. Whether you are looking for a destination to move to, want to have a "Plan B" on hand, are interested in investing abroad, or want to spend your retirement in the sunny south. Many reasons speak for Panama and make it a unique destination:
1. Moving to Panama is easy: Panama makes it easy for ex-pats to obtain a residence permit. Whether for retirees or investors, there is a suitable immigration category for everyone.
2. Modern Infrastructure: Panama offers a variety of unique places to live in combination with the best infrastructure in the region, fast internet, and a good road network.
3. Sunshine climate, beaches, and two Oceans: Sun and pleasant temperatures all year round, two Oceans (Pacific and Atlantic) miles of beaches, and…the best - often all to yourself. Panama is one of the most unique places in the world, where you can wake up in the Pacific Ocean, have lunch in the mountains and get dinner on the Atlantic coast, all in one day. The climate in Panama is sunny, warm, and tropical, all year round. Even in the rainy season. Average temperatures lie between 29 and 32 degrees Celsius. In the higher regions, such as the highlands of Chiriqui province (Volcan, Cerro Punta, and Boquete), the climate is more humid, but the temperatures are much lower. In general, the Pacific coast is somewhat cooler than the Caribbean coast (Atlantic Ocean). The year is divided into the rainy and dry seasons. The rainy season usually lasts from April to December, but in recent years the dry season has been relatively strong and often lasted until May or June. Expect the heaviest rainfalls from September to October. However, the rainy season does not mean that it rains all day. Usually, there is a short, heavy rain shower in the afternoon, which brings a welcome, refreshing cooling.
4. US Dollar is the local currency: The official currency in Panama is the Balboa. The Balboa is linked to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 1:1. This means that in practice the Balboa is only in circulation in the form of coins. Everybody pays with US dollars. Panama is an international banking center, that offers attractive interest rates on savings accounts or time deposit accounts, and the ability to invest in US dollars as an alternative and diversification to the Euro.
5. Affordable investment opportunities: Foreign investors can easily purchase a plot of land or house as an investment property even as a tourist without a residence permit. There are many opportunities to invest in real estate, be it in Panama City as a dynamic and modern metropolis, or in the quiet and remote interior of Panama such as El Valle, Coronado, Pedasi, and Boquete (where by the way one of the most exclusive coffees in the world is produced - the Geisha coffee). Furthermore, Panama is a favourable place for investments in (organic) agriculture, as the soil is particularly fertile and the climate is growth-enhancing. In addition, there are various tax exemptions for (foreign) investors.
PANAMA IS ABOVE ALL ONE THING: AUTHENTIC, OPEN AND WARM
Let yourself be carried away by the joy of life, openness, and friendliness of the locals. It is easy to see why Panama is considered one of the happiest nations in the world. Panamanians like to strike up a conversation with others, be it in the supermarket, at passport control at the airport, or in a café. Just try it out, even if you speak little or no Spanish your counterpart will always be eager to help you and make small talk.
This is also true when moving around in Panama, whether as a single traveler, with or without children; you can be sure that people are always friendly and helpful. When our daughter was born in Panama, we were often approached by strangers on the street or in stores who congratulated us and wished us luck. One time my wife was stopped by the police asking for her driver’s license. In the end, the official called over his other colleague just to have a look at the lovely baby in the back seat. And this happened more than once.
I will never forget when at the passport control at the airport in Tocumen, an immigration officer held up our family (and the whole line waiting). We were just coming back from a trip to Europe, and of course, we were tired. While in line for passport control, suddenly the official in charge yelled “STOP! STOP! Stop, here!”. My wife and I looked at each other confused. What was wrong? Then the immigration official pointed to our daughter in her stroller. “Now look at this little princess! Everybody, look a the sweet little girl…”
HOW MUCH MONEY DOES IT TAKE TO LIVE IN PANAMA?
Before answering this question there are several important factors to consider: It depends on the location, your standard of living in Panama, and if you need to pay rent. Or as an American client once told me: "Location is everything". The rural areas with their small towns will be much cheaper than the exclusive areas in Panama City or popular ex-pat towns. For example, the rental of a two-bedroom apartment/house in Boquete can cost between $800-$1,500 (“American standard”), whereas renting a property in Dolega, Bugaba or David may cost $180-$800 per month.
Aside from the cost of housing (whether renting or buying), one must take into account one's tastes and preferences. If you prefer local food, enjoy participating in free activities like the locals, and do not require private health care or insurance- your living costs will be much lower. To obtain permanent residency in Panama under the "Jubilado Pensionado" Visa in Panama, the legislator asks for a minimum monthly pension of $1,000 (single person) and $1,250 for a married couple. Generally speaking, the average cost of living in Panama (for a couple) lies between $1,250-$3,000 a month.
In recent years, Panama has become a powerful regional hub. The country is much more developed than most visitors expect. As an international banking metropolis (US dollars) and logistics center, Panama also has several ports, the Tocumen International Airport as an important connectivity point of the region, as well as the Colon Free Trade Zone (among other special economic zones). All the services one could wish for are available.
The Jubilado Pensionado Visa Program: Special Residency Option for Retirees
Pensioners and retirees who receive a monthly pension or annuity from a state or private institution or company can apply for a permanent residence permit in Panama under the "Jubilado Pensionado” visa program.
The main requirement to qualify for this visa program is proof of a lifelong pension of at least $1,000 (or 1,250 for a married couple) a month.
If the applicant buys real estate in his name in Panama with a cadastral value exceeding $100,000, the required monthly pension is reduced to $750 (or $1,000 for a married couple) a month.
In the case of a married couple where both partners receive a monthly pension, the joint monthly income can be used. In this case, the necessary proof and documents must be provided for both pensioners.
There is NO legal minimum or maximum age to qualify for this migration program.
The pension does not necessarily have to be paid out by a state institution. To qualify for the "Jubilado Pensionado" program, the applicant may also submit a private pension plan, paid out by a bank, an insurance company, or a similar institution. However, the private company must be specialized in the payment and administration of pension funds, a private company pension will not be accepted by the National Migration Service of Panama.
Last but not least, one of the best advantages for retirees in Panama is the Jubilado discount program which is one of the best discount programs for retirees worldwide: It includes discounts on restaurants, hotels, theatres, cinemas, airline tickets, medical services, and much more. EG