After a brutally hot summer in Texas, with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 days straight, I made the decision that I wanted to move to a country where I’d never need an air conditioner again. Ideally, it would be a place where I’d never need a heater either.
Panama ticked all the boxes for me! By moving to Boquete, I could get the weather I was looking for. It also has spectacular lush green mountain scenery all year. And the cost of living is a fraction of what it cost to live in the United States. So, I moved to Panama In 2010.
Panama offers many benefits to those looking for a more affordable, comfortable, and stable lifestyle.
6 Reasons You Should Move To Panama
1. The Weather
Weather was my number one reason for moving to Panama. Because Panama is only 9 degrees from the equator, the weather is consistent all year round. January or July, the weather is the same! There is no cold or hot time of the year. The temperature at the coast is about 90 degrees every day. For every 1000-foot increase in elevation, the temperature drops 4 degrees. So, you can literally pick your ideal weather based on the elevation. I live at 4,600 feet and enjoy temperatures in the mid-70s every day.
No Severe Weather
There are no hurricanes or tornadoes in Panama. Panama has never had a tsunami.
The Dry Season Vs. The Rainy Season
Panama has a dry season and a rainy season. December to April is the dry season. There is very little rain during these months and it can get windier. Then April to December is the rainy season. It does not rain every day, nor does it rain all day. You’ll almost always wake up to blue skies and sunshine, then there could be some rain in the late afternoon. The rains keep Panama looking lush and beautiful all year.
2. Affordable Housing
When you move to Panama, you can reduce your cost of living. Regardless of what your budget is, there is a perfect place to live a good lifestyle in Panama. I’ve included a brief breakdown of a few areas.
Panama City And Coronado
You could live in a furnished two-bedroom high-rise condo facing the Pacific Ocean for $1,500 a month. Coronado is along the Pacific Ocean about 2 hours west of Panama City.
A furnished two-bedroom house facing the Pacific Ocean will run about $650 a month.
You can rent a furnished two-bedroom house for as little as $500 a month in this highland town.
Live in a furnished three-bedroom house, next to the golf course in a gated community for $2,000 a month. There are golf courses in Panama City, the Coronado area, and Boquete.
Bocas Del Toro
On the Caribbean side of Panama, you can rent a furnished one-bedroom with an ocean view for as little as $495!
Interested in retiring in Bocas? Read about why, after visiting 29 countries, it tops retired private investigator David Gibb’s list.
3. Additional Savings
Fruits and vegetables are very affordable in Panama. Because of Panama’s amazing weather, food can be grown all year, which keeps the costs low. A huge super-sweet pineapple is as little as two for $1!
Even eating out can be affordable in Panama. Local restaurants, called fonda, are usually $5 a meal including a drink. Of course, Panama has high-end restaurants too which cost $10 to $20 per meal.
Because I live in the highlands of Panama, my electric bill is rarely over $25 a month. I don’t have, or need, an air conditioner or a heater. I can enjoy fresh air with my windows open every day. It’s just a better way to live! Retirees get a 25 percent discount on their electric bills, too!
Even if you live on the coast, the ocean breeze makes it comfortable so you may not need to run an air conditioner all the time. When you don’t need an air conditioner or a heater, you’ll have much lower electric bills.
4. Easy Visa Programs
Panama rolls out the red carpet for retirees! They offer one of the easiest residency visa programs in the world, called the Pensionado Visa. To qualify, you only need to show that you have at least $1,000 USD in lifetime income, like a pension, Social Security, or military retirement. You’ll need an additional $250 per month for your spouse to get the Pensionado Visa, so $1,250 for a couple. Within six months of applying, you will have a permanent visa.
Once you have a permanent visa, you qualify for these discounts:
- 50% off recreation and entertainment such as movies, theaters, sports, et cetera
- 50% off hotels Monday through Thursday (30% off on weekends)
- 30% off public transportation like buses, trains, and boats
- 25% off airfare to anywhere in the world
- 20% off restaurants (15% off fast food)
- 25% off electrical, telephone, and water service
- 20% off doctors and specialist visits
- 15% off hospitals and private clinics
- 15% off dental and optometry services
- 10% off prescription medications
- tax-free importation of household goods, up to $10,000
All these discounts are one of the many ways you can live better for less as a retiree in Panama.
5. Affordable Healthcare And Health Insurance
Panama has a two-tier health care system. You can go to a public hospital or a private hospital. Or you can go to a doctor’s private office. Many doctors in Panama were trained in the United States and speak very good English.
There is no monthly fee to use the public health care system. It’s $2 to see a doctor or $5 for a specialist like a cardiologist. I recently interviewed a couple whose son had emergency surgery at the public hospital. He broke his jaw in three places after an accident at the gym. The surgery and 10 days in the public hospital was less than $350 with no insurance.
The private, for-profit, hospitals are usually nicer and you’ll get seen faster, but they cost more. But, the private hospitals in Panama are still very affordable compared to North American hospitals.
Last year, I fell down after a mat at a store slipped out from under me. I hit my elbow so hard I thought I broke it. A friend took me to a private hospital where I had several x-rays and two IVs of pain medication, saw an orthopedic doctor, and had a sling made. Luckily, I did not break my elbow. The total bill, with no insurance, was $114.
If you see a doctor at their office, with no insurance, it’s about $20 for a general doctor or $50 for a specialist.
Because health care is so affordable in Panama, many foreigners self-insure, meaning they do not get insurance.
That said, Panamanian health insurance is very affordable. If you can afford health insurance, it’s a good idea to get it. If you’re between 60 and 69, health insurance is only $102 per month with one of the most popular companies. Be aware though, that most Panamanian insurance companies do not cover the cost of medications and they will not insure pre-existing conditions. International health insurance is also available.
6. A Small, Safe Country
If you are looking for a safe place to live, you cannot go wrong with Panama. This Central American country has a long history of stability and is one of the best places to retire overseas.
Panama does not have the violence or cartel activity that you read about in other countries. It does not have a military. It’s a small country with only 4.5 million of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
4 Reasons You May Need To Mark Panama Off Your List
As good as Panama sounds, It’s not right for everyone. I always advise that you come for a visit before you make plans to move to Panama.
There are four reasons why you may need to mark Panama off your list of possible places to retire.
1. You Have A Felony
To get a residency visa in Panama, you need to present a national criminal report, like an FBI report. If you have any felony or domestic violence or assault charge you will not be able to get a visa in Panama. Even if the charge was 30 or 40 years ago, it will prevent you from being approved for a visa in Panama. You should mark Panama off your list.
If you have had a DUI or other misdemeanor, you can get a visa in Panama but only after your immigration lawyer files a request with immigration for a Bueno Visto.
If you know there may be some dings on your national criminal report, it would be a good idea to get a copy of the report now and consult with a Panamanian immigration lawyer about your chances of getting a residency visa.
2. You Take Certain Medications
Most insurance in Panama does not cover the cost of medications. Medications are one of the few things that tend to be more expensive in Panama. If you take medications, you can check the prices here to determine what they will cost.
If you have insurance in the United States, you may be able to get your prescriptions filled at Amazon Pharmacy and have them shipped to Panama using a mail forwarding company. Note, though, that there are restrictions on shipping some medications into Panama.
Before you make plans to move to Panama, you definitely need to research the cost of getting your medications.
3. You Need To Work
It’s very difficult for a foreigner to get a job in Panama. Many professions are protected for Panamanians only. The laws state that at least 90 percent of the workforce at a company must be Panamanian.
For a foreigner to work in Panama, they must have a work permit. Currently, it’s taking 8 to 12 months to get a work permit. Most jobs will require that you’re fluent in Spanish, too.
If you need to work when you move to Panama, you should try to find an online opportunity or see if your current employer will allow you to work remotely. Your chances of getting a job in Panama are very slim.
4. You Have Mobility Issues
If you have mobility issues, Panama is not for you. Businesses rarely have ramps or walker/wheelchair access. Sidewalks are not level, and there is no ramp to get on a sidewalk. Stairs are often steep and the rise is not consistent. Most homes are not set up for handicap access. Panama does not offer any kind of van service for those with mobility limitations.
Moving to Panama was the best decision I ever made. I love living in Panama. Living in Panama is much like living in the 1960s but with internet, cell phones, cable TV, and modern conveniences.
Retiring in Panama offers a simple, safe, stress-free lifestyle. Come see how you can live better for less in Panama. You’ll be amazed!
For more on retiring in Panama, read up on
- 9 Reasons I Decided To Spend My Retirement Years In Panama
- 7 Reasons Panama Is A Perfect Destination For Early Retirees
- 9 Reasons Panama Is Popular With Retirees Looking To Live Internationally
- After Visiting 29 Countries, Panama’s Bocas Del Toro Tops My List
- Retiring In Panama? Everything You Need To Know About Getting A Visa