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Moving to Panama is an amazing adventure. Depending on where you live, and how you live, you may be able to significantly reduce your cost of living while also increase the quality of your lifestyle! One of the first things you’ll need to do is to determine the best place to live for you. Everyone has different wants and needs so there is not one right answer to the question of where is the best place to live in Panama. There are four main criteria that you need to take in to consideration when looking for the best place to live in Panama include:
2. Your Budget
4. Social activities
In the coastal areas in Panama it is about 90 degrees (32 celsius) during the daytime, all year. Temperatures drop about 10 degrees at night. Panama’s weather is consistent all year because it is only 9 degrees from the equator. If you like warm to hot weather, the coastal areas would be ideal for you. For every 1000 feet increase in elevation, the temperatures drop about 4 degrees. So, if you do the math, you can pick the ideal location based on the weather criteria. I prefer living in a place where I don’t need an air conditioner. My house is at 4600 feet and the day time temperatures are in the mid-70s (23 celsius) every day. If mid-70s is too cool for you, but 90s is too hot, then you need to find a town at an elevation that is about half way between the two.
If you hate humidity then you’ll want to look in the Azuero Peninsula or elevations above 3500 feet. Any other place in Panama will have high humidity levels.
Once you determine what kind of weather you want to experience every day, the next major factor is your budget. Some areas in Panama are much more expensive than others. And some areas are super affordable. You need to determine how much money you will have to work with every month. See this Cost of Living article to help you determine what a typical budget might be. Even if you can afford to spend $1500 on rent you should start looking at rentals in the $900 range if they are available in the area you like best. There is no need to push your rental budget to the limit. If you know that your budget is $2000 a month, that will eliminate living in place like Panama City or Coronado but there are plenty of other places where you can have the ideal weather and stay within your budget.
If you are moving to Panama on a tight budget you can significantly reduce your cost of living if you move about 15-20 minutes outside of the popular expat communities. Today on Craigslist Panama I saw a cute furnished two bedroom two bath for rent for $350 in Dolega. Dolega is about 15 minutes to David or Boquete in Chiriqui province. The same rental in Boquete would be at least $700 a month.
Most rentals in the coastal areas do not include electricity. If you run your air conditioner a lot, you will need to add $150 to $250 to your monthly budget for your electric bill. If you life in the highlands electricity is usually included in your rent but if it’s not you can count on an electric bill that is less than $25 a month.
Before you move to Panama, it’s a good idea to make a list of the things that you “must have” to be comfortable in your new live in Panama. For most that is having hospitals, doctors, grocery stores, restaurants and other amenities within 15 minute drive of their house. If you like to shop, you’ll probably want to have a mall close by too. Some areas have more amenities close by than others. If you live on the western side of the Azuero, Santa Fe, Playa Vaneo, Boca Chica or Las Lajas you will need to drive at more than an hour to the closest hospital or decent grocery store. Some people are ok with driving an hour to go grocery shopping, but others are not. So you’ll need to do some research about what amenities are close to the area where you are considering living.
Some areas in Panama have plenty of organic produce available but others don’t have any organic produce. Some areas in Panama have a large selection of products from North America but others don’t have any. If these a variety of shopping choices are important to you, then you will need to move to a town that has what you need or you’ll quickly get frustrated.
Some areas have fiber options with 100+mbps internet speed, some areas only have satellite internet with 5-10mbps internet. If higher speed internet is important to you, then you will certainly need to investigate that before you move to an area in Panama.
The easiest and fastest way to have a smooth transition to a happy life in Panama is to get involved in social activities so you can meet other expats and Panamanians. Getting involved in social activities like attending live music events, art classes, cooking classes, hiking groups, beach volley ball, pickle ball, theater, golf, tennis, etc etc. are available in some areas but do not exist in other areas. Some areas in Panama have a lot of volunteer opportunities like spay and neuter clinics, handicap foundations, delivering food to needy families, tutoring students, etc. If you’re a social butterfly, you’ll definitely want to relocate to an area in Panama that has a lot of social activities.
Some areas in Panama have a high concentration of expats but some areas don’t have many expats at all. There tends to be more social activities in areas with more expats. Also, if the town has a high concentration of expats English will be more widely spoken If you move to an area that has few expats, like Puerto Armuelles, you’ll definitely need to learn a lot more Spanish fast.
WE CAN HELP YOU DO RESEARCH!
You really need to take all four of these things in to consideration when you’re looking for the best place for YOU to live in Panama. There’s a perfect place for you to live in Panama but sometimes there are trade offs too.
Our Online Panama Relocation Guide will help you do research about the best places to live in Panama. You’ll learn about the weather, the costs of living, amenities and social activities to help you determine the best place for you to live in Panama. The Online Panama Relocation Guide will help you narrow down the place that you want to visit when you come to check out Panama. The Online Panama Relocation Guide has the same information that you’d get on a Panama Relocation Tour including information about where to buy health insurance for 40% less, reliable immigration lawyers, honest real estate agents/property managers, how to get your pets in to Panama, important questions to ask before renting and much much more.
The photo above is the Amador Causeway in Panama City. The bridge that you see in the background is the Bridge of the Americas. Ships go under that bridge to enter the Panama Canal from the Pacific side.
Panama’s borders are still closed to tourists. However, on July 31st President Cortizo announced that he would allow commercial flights to come in to Panama for Panamanians OR foreigners who have a permanent residency Visa. It’s a baby step but at least it is moving in the right direction.
It’s really way too soon for tourists to come to Panama until the economy opens up more.
Those who do to come in to Panama will need to either present a negative covid test 48 hours before arriving or take an antigen test upon arriving. And they will need to self-quarantine in their home for 14 days. Luckily it is easy to get groceries or restaurant food delivered so it’s not necessary to leave your home during the 14-day quarantine.
Panama is still in a lock down situation. In Panama City and Panama Oeste (west of Panama City), they have a very strict quarantine where women can only go out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two hours corresponding to the last number on their passport and men can only go out two hours on Tuesday or Thursday. There is a total quarantine on Saturday and Sunday. But as you can see from the beach photo on the right, it’s not such a bad place to be in quarantine!
However, in most of Panama there is only a curfew from 7pm to 5pm on weekdays. In Chiriqui province where I live, on the far western side of Panama, we are free to go out any time between 5am and 7pm and we can travel anywhere in our province.
Throughout most of Panama, we only have a limited number of essential stores open like grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, gas stations and hardware stores. Some restaurants are open but only for take-out or home delivery.
To try to prevent the spread of the Covid virus, we are not permitted to travel outside of the province where we live. But I frequently see photos of people driving from Panama City to the beach areas on Friday. This is the reason that Panama City and Panama Oeste have such high virus number.
THE GOOD NEWS — the southern tip of the Azuero Peninsula, the Los Santos province, has had the least number of cases of any province in Panama. The secret to their success is that they put up a strict sanitary fence and would not allow anyone from other provinces to come in. Because they have had so few cases, they have been able to open up more economic activity there.
Hopefully the rest of Panama will be able to open up more of their economy soon too. Panamanians are resourceful people. Many of those who have not been able to go back to work yet have started little side business like selling tamales, empanadas, muffins, honey or eggs. Some have started grocery delivery or car wash services.
REPLAY Q & A CONFERENCE CALL
Since Panama closed it’s borders in March, we have been hosting a weekly conference calls to keep you informed about what life is like in Panama. Sometimes we interview someone who lives in Panama and sometimes we do a Q & A Conference call. Listen to the replay of the Q & A Conference Call we did on August 8th.
On Saturday, August 1st, I interviewed Andrea Cook who moved to Panama about ten years ago. During the call, she talked about starting a business and also all the things she enjoys doing in Panama. Listen to the replay of her call below.
Panama has a lot of rules and regulations for travel agents and tour businesses in Panama. You have to jump through a lot of hoops to start or run your business legally. When you sell a product or service in Panama, you also have to pay taxes in Panama.
For these reasons, some prefer to run an online business when they relocate to Panama because it’s just easier. With an online business, you don’t have to pay taxes in Panama if you don’t sell your product in Panama. And, an online business also goes where you go so you’re not locked in to one location or one country.
I started my first business in 1992, a real estate investing business. And started my first online business in 1999. There is such a contract between an online business and a physical business.
Our Online Panama Relocation Guide has information about starting a business in Panama, starting an online business and getting a job in Panama. You’ll get additional tips and advice for starting a business in our private community forum.
The Online Guide has all the information you need to know to relocate to Panama including reliable immigration lawyer and property manager contacts. You’ll learn where you can buy affordable health insurance regardless of your age, how to get your pets to Panama and much more.