Every day I get emails asking questions about moving to Panama and international living. Following are some emails I received from real estate investor friends, plus some other questions I get asked often. You may have some of these same questions, too, so I thought I’d share the Q and A…
If you have a question about moving to or living in Panama, email me at [email protected]
Here are a few recent random questions:
Q. We are looking into the possibility of living overseas. I know you have raved about Panama, and that is a country on our consideration list. As we are doing more research and due diligence, I am wondering what you did for your research.?
A. You will LOVE an expat lifestyle. I sure do. I live in the mountains in Panama where it is spring-like weather year-round. It looks like Aspen without the snow. You can learn more about Panama at my website www.PanamaRelocationTours.com. Lots of articles.
When I was building my list of possible places to move to, I was primarily considering places in Central and South America because they are closer to the USA. My first round of investigation was how stable the government and economy are. Belize defaulted on its debt and has constant financial problems. Mexico still has cartel problems, so those places were quickly marked off the list.
Then I decided, if I’m going to move to another country, I should pick a place that has the one thing I want the most.. which is Spring weather, so I never need an air conditioner or heater again. That also means a lower utility bill.
I made a list of places where I could live and where I’d never need an air conditioner again, then I visited those places over 18 months of exploratory trips.
Panama won… hands down! The natural beauty is amazing. It’s a small country, so you can completely change your scenery with a short drive. The economy is one of the strongest in Latin America, and the government is stable. The Panamanian people are the friendliest you’ll ever meet.
Q. Thanks for all the information, Jackie. I have looked over a great deal of it and feel better informed. I am now curious as to what has been your challenges in relocating. What do you miss? Did you end up buying a house? The rental for $600 seems like a fantasy and a dream come true at the same time! I like that you got property tax relief for so many years . Where else (counties) did you look to expat to? What was your second runner up? I am not saying there are not lots of positives to Panama just other choices.
Truly appreciate your input and insight. We just want the unvarnished truth – the good, the bad and the ugly. Nothing is perfect – we just want to know the potential challenges.
Here are the answers to your questions
Q. I am now curious as to what has been your challenges in relocating.
A. The challenge has been learning how to do things a different way. That’s one reason I started the tour business… to help people make the transition easier. My tour guests know exactly what to expect before they relocate, so it takes the stress away.
Q. What do you miss?
A. I miss good Mexican food. There are Mexican food restaurants, but it is not the same as good TexMex because Panamanians don’t like spicy food.
Q. Did you end up buying a house?
A. I bought the $ 600-a-month house I was renting about a year after I moved to Panama. Then I bought some additional land and another house next to it.
No property taxes for 13 more years! YOU SHOULD SEE MY VIEWS!!!!!
Q, Where else (counties) did you look to expat to?
A. Over 2 years, I researched a lot of countries, visited Ecuador, Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile… and some of the Caribbean islands but ruled out anywhere that gets hurricanes. No hurricanes in Panama!
Many places got marked off the list before I visited them, like Guatemala, Colombia, and Nicaragua. I visited all the other countries to find the place that “felt right” to me.
I lived in Germany for 3 years as a teenager. I like Europe, but I would never consider living there. It is too far away, too expensive, and the economy is a mess.
I could achieve my desire to live in a place without air conditioning or a heater in other countries, but they all have economic and/or government problems.
Costa Rica has had 10% inflation every year for 10 years. Many people from Costa Rica come to Panama to buy stuff because it is cheaper. In Costa Rica, you can live in the Central Valley, have no air conditioner or heater, and still have a $300 utility bill because of their graduated billing system. Crime is a problem in Costa Rica.
My last electric bill in Panama is rarely over $25!
Panama’s strong economy and true democratic government were extremely important too. Panama has good drinking water sources, a 365-day growing season, and fresh fish. The people are so friendly in Panama.
Q. What was your second runner-up? I am not saying there are not lots of positives to Panama, just other choices.
A. Honestly, no place came even close to all that Panama has to offer. Mexico was my second choice. There were many places where I could live in Mexico without needing an air conditioner. It was a plus that it was so close to the United States.
I like Cuenca, Ecuador, but it is much colder because it is at 8500 foot elevation causing altitude sickness for some. But…The government is a mess in Ecuador. In Ecuador, they charge 14% sale tax on everything.
Living in a country with the US dollar as its currency, like Panama, makes for an easy transition for US citizens. There is no exchange rate where you can lose buying power.. like Costa Rica, Chile, and many other countries
Q. What’s your average cost of living in Panama?
A. The answer to that depends on where you live and how you live. We spend about $1000 to $1500 a month now that we’re not renting. But I don’t live an expensive lifestyle or drive a fancy car. I do not buy processed or pre-packaged foods. I eat out as often as I want (fresh veggies and fish) and buy whatever I want. That price includes groceries, utilities, a data plan for my phone, health insurance, clothes, plants, things for the house, pet food, and car insurance. By the way, water is $100 a YEAR for unlimited water use. It is not even metered.
Some people live comfortably on much less. Others spend $5000 a month or more. Another investor friend lives near Coronado in a 3-bedroom condo facing the beach. He swims in the Pacific Ocean every morning. He spends about $2500 monthly for rent, groceries, insurance, and entertainment.
Q.What do you miss at Walmart? The convenience of lots of things in one place at a good price or …?
A. I miss the convenience of everything in one place… one-stop shop. There is a store in Panama that is similar to Walmart, but they don’t have a store close to my house. I hate shopping, so I want to get in and get out as fast as possible.
Q. Would love to see your house and views. Send a photo next time you have your camera handy.
A. pictures do not even do it justice. you’ll just have to come see sometime. My house is small but it is all that I need with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths.
Q. Do you grow coffee and sell it or roast it or export it or ?? Tax break comes from the coffee plantation?
A. I grew coffee, but it was too much work, so I let the jungle have it.
Q. How is the internet connection and reliability?
A. Internet is excellent if you live in an area serviced by Tigo fiber optics. I have 250MBpS.
Some rural areas and beach towns have trouble getting reliable internet. So pick your location wisely. Ask who the ISP is before you rent or buy.
See this report about Internet Speeds throughout Panama.
Q, Love hearing about the weather the most. I don’t like or want hot and humid without an ocean to jump into but Eric needs some humidity for his skin.
A. The Pacific ocean is an hour south from my house. The Caribbean/Atlantic is 3 hours north. I’m in the mountains in the middle, so I have the best of both worlds. My average daytime temperature is about 76.
You can pick your ideal temperature based on the elevation. At the coast, it is 90F (+/-5). For every 1000-foot increase in elevation, the temperature drops 4 degrees.
Q. Is everything safe enough for us to be away from “home” for a while if we travel outside the country? Do neighbors watch out for each other?
A. Very safe. I travel to other countries a lot because it is so cheape. With my Pensionado discount, I get 25% off airfare to anywhere in the world. Neighbors do watch out for each other. If I am gone for more than 2 days I always get a pet sitter to take care of the house and my cat.
Q. Is banking easy to use?
A. banking is easy but different. Only a few banks will open an account for you if you do not have a residency visa. You need a bank reference letter from US. And they will interview you. So the whole process takes about an hour. Then it’s easy. Some banks even have online banking in English.
Banking is much easier if you get a residency visa.
Q. Why do some people fail at being an expat?
A. It’s not really that people fail at being an expat, it’s just that their circumstances change. Some people decide to move back to their home country because a grandchild is on the way, or they may have serious health problems and want to be closer to family.
I’ve met some couples who come down right after retirement. He worked all the time. She worked all the time in the US, and they rarely spent much time together. Then all of a sudden, they are together 24/7 and realize they really don’t like each other anymore. So one of them or both of them move back.
Then there is the person who moves to a foreign country, but instead of meeting new people and exploring their new country, they stay inside glued to English TV shows. They never even try to integrate.
Moving to a foreign country is a good time to re-invent yourself. Be social!
Q. Do people have animals, like dogs and cats?
A. Most people have pets. I brought my cat with me when I moved here. When my son moved to Amsterdam, he brought his cat to live with “grandma” And when my daughter moved to Panama, she brought two cats. Animal adoption is available in Panama too.
Q. What do I need to know about how to move to Panama?
Of course, I have time to answer many more questions and cover more details during the 6-Day 7-Night All Inclusive Panama Relocation Tours. Plus, nothing beats a real boots-on-the-ground tour of Panama to determine if living in Panama is right for you!
Q. I’m 75 years old with pre-existing health conditions. Can I get health insurance in Panama?
Unfortunately, you will not be able to get Panama health insurance but we have a special health insurance available for the Panama Relocation Tours group that covers even over 80 years old and with preexisting conditions.
If you’re a US citizen and have the right Medicare Advantage plan, it covers urgent care and emergencies in Panama.
You have no idea what you are missing!
Living overseas can save you money and offer new experiences, but you must look at the whole package, not just how pretty the beaches or mountains are. Lower costs of living is important but a stable government and economy are more important even if you pay a little more.
These answers are based on my personal experience of living in Panama. Other people may have a different experience. Some people see the glass as half full. Others see the glass as half empty… and love to complain about every little thing.
Panama is not the USA South. If you want everything to be just like the USA, it is best to stay in the USA. But if you want a new experience and a new adventure in an incredible country.. then Panama is right for you
Thank you for your helpful information, Jackie! Like so many who write to you, my husband and I are seriously considering becoming ex-pats and Panama is on our “short list” of possible new homes. This Q & A covered most of the others that we are looking – the “usual suspects”.
In all of my research and reading so far, there is something that I have not seen discussed, although you hinted at it:
What do ex-pats do when nearing, or at, “end of life” – either from serious/terminal illness, or just advanced age, with accompanying issues of needing some care or assisted living? How does Panama care for its elderly? The quality/affordability of health care is often mentioned, but what about long-term care, hospice, “nursing homes”, etc? Or do most ex-pats return “home” to the US, to be cared for by adult children/other family members? If they’re returning to the US, do they need to keep “long term care” insurance in place while living away? And can they get Medicare/Medicaid when they return to US, even if they have been living out of the country for years or decades?
I hope these questions make sense. Thank you again for your vital information!
Panama Relocation Tours says
Great question and one that Richard Detrich answers in his new FREE BOOK called Living and Retiring in Panama Q & A. You can get the book at https://panamarelocationtours.com/free-book-living-and-retiring-in-panama-q-a
Some expats have international health insurance. I do. So they can get medical treatment in Panama, in the US, or anywhere else in the world. The international health insuarnce covers some home health care.
There are no English speaking assisted living or nursing homes in Panama… YET! Some are in the works.
But there is licensed home health care with English speaking caregivers. And it is very affordable I’ve been told with prices about 90% less than the USA.
Ernie Garcia says
I feel like I know you and have not met you yet. Thank you for this Q&A. We plan to take your tour late 2016 or early 2017. In this Q&A you mentioned something that peaked my interest, your plan to visit Cuba. I want to hear all about it. I am a Cuban-American (never lived in Miami making me a minority of a minority) and want to be an expat upon retirement. My parameters are different because I am fluent in Spanish and share many customs with the Panamanians, a Hispanic heritage if you will. I have not been able to find expat comments and experiences from expats coming from my background. Too early to tell, but I think I want to live almost like a local (not in an exclusive expat community) and at the same time maintain some of my Americanized ways, the best of both worlds. I hope that is doable on a Pensionado’s salary.
I just clicked on the link to the Q&A segment and received a full-page warning from my computer security program that the link contained malware. Has anyone else experienced the same issue?
Panama Relocation Tours says
Several people reported this problem. I reported it to aweber.com who delivers my emails.