I love living in Panama. But it’s not right for everyone. Some people move to Panama and then realize it’s not right for them, so they move away. It’s not always a “bad” reason that people want to leave Panama.
This article has the reasons why people LEAVE Panama. It’s based on talking to people I know who have moved away from Panama.
We strongly recommend renting for at least the first year when moving to Panama. This gives you time to make sure you like living in Panama. It gives you time to ensure you like the microclimate you have moved to. Living in Panama for a year gives you time to experience the dry and rainy seasons, which can be dramatically different. Living in Panama for a year gives you time to understand the “right” price if you follow the real estate market.
In June 2023, I reorganized the list based on why people leave Panama. The #1 reason currently is the need to get a good-paying job in a different country because good-paying jobs are extremely hard to get in Panama.
The Top 10 Reasons People Leave Panama are:
1. Money problems is the #1 reason people are leaving Panama. It’s very hard for a foreigner to get a job in Panama. If people can’t find a job and their money runs out, they leave Panama. Even retirees leave Panama because of money problems because an unexpected expense comes up that they cannot afford because they have not saved some of their income every month. When expat teenagers start looking for a job, they are shocked to find out that they will be lucky to make $2-$3 an hour.
A family with a 19-year-old son recently moved back to the United States. They are not retirees. Their savings had run out, and the husband’s online job was canceled. There were no decent job prospects in Panama. The husband was offered a job in Panama, making $1200 a month. The son was making $2 an hour washing cars in Panama. Instead, the family signed up for long haul truck driving school with all expenses paid and a $20,000 signing bonus. They will make $150,000 a year driving trucks in the United States. They hope to move back to Panama someday, but for now, they need to live where they can get good-paying jobs and build up their savings account again.
Another example is a couple who came to Panama hoping to start a business. But after a year, the business was unsuccessful, so they had to leave Panama to get jobs in the United States. They had never been a business owner before and had no idea how to start or run a business…especially in Panama.
In Panama, most companies must hire at least 90% Panamanians for their workforce, so it’s hard for foreigners to get a job in Panama.
2. Health Problems – Some may develop serious health problems, or their health problems worsen, so they want to return home to be close to family. Or they leave Panama to use Medicare or other health insurance that does not cover them in Panama. Sometimes, a close family member may become very ill, so they leave Panama to help take care of them.
3. Prescription drugs – It’s important to find out if your medications are available in Panama and what they cost before you move to Panama. Some have left Panama because they could not get their medications or because they were too expensive. Panama insurance may not cover the cost of medications, so you must pay out of pocket. You may be able to get drugs shipped to Panama from your country. During a Panama Relocation Tour, we take you to several pharmacies so you can check the availability and price of your prescriptions.
You may be able to order medications through Amazon pharmacy and then get them shipped to Panama.
4. Unscrupulous real estate agent – Most agents in Panama are honest and ethical. But some do a net listing, where they charge more for a house than it is worth for houses for sale or rent. Just this week, three different real estate agents showed a couple the same house with three different prices. Another lady was quoted a sales price of $100,000 more than the seller was really asking. When things like this happen, people feel like they have been taken advantage of (which they have) so they leave Panama in disgust. Some people have had a bad experience with a builder. Or they bought land and then discovered later that they could not build on it even though the agent told them they could. Unlike North America, Panama does not have a widely used MLS (multiple listing service) in Panama. Hence, getting a good comparative market analysis on a property is impossible to know the “right” price to pay. I have a file full of testimonials of people who have encountered problems with real estate agents in Panama. Remember that these unscrupulous things can happen anywhere in the world; they are not exclusive to Panama.
5. Next Adventure – Many expats are adventurous people. They like to live in one place for a few years and then move to another country for a few years to experience their next adventure.
6. Language barrier – Even though English is spoken a lot in some areas in Panama, English is not spoken everywhere in Panama. The official language in Panama is Spanish. Some people leave Panama because they get frustrated with not being able to communicate with everyone or not being able to hear English everywhere they go.
7. Cultural differences -almost everything you do in Panama will be done differently. Something as simple as opening a bank account can take days if you don’t know the right way to open an account in Panama. Repair people might not show up on time. The frustrations are enough to cause some people to leave Panama. If you move to the wrong rental, you could get stuck next to people with barking dogs, neighbors who love to party until the wee hours, or who own roosters who make noise all day.
8. Politics – Some people move to Panama because their candidate did not win the election. Once their party gets back in power, they leave Panama. (note, it’s better to move to Panama because you want to experience Panama, not because you are running away from something)
9. Newly Retired – a couple spent most of their time working before moving to Panama. They were together for a few hours in the evenings and on weekends. But when they move to Panama, they are suddenly together 24/7. Some people realize they don’t like living together 24/7, so one might leave Panama, or they both leave Panama and then go their separate ways. To avoid this problem, getting involved in separate activities when you move to Panama is good. Plenty of volunteer opportunities, hiking groups, cooking classes, and other things get you out of the house. Volunteering is a good way to meet people too.
10. Move to Different area in Panama – Some people move to the beach area and then discover that it’s way too hot and humid for them, so they move to the mountains. Some people move to the highlands of Panama but feel it’s too cold for them, so they move to the beach. It’s not just the weather…some people discover that the area where they live is not a good fit because the expats are too cliquey or the values/lifestyle are not a good match.
Recently a lot of people have been moving to Panama City after living in other areas in Panama for a year or more.
11. Rainy Season Blues. A couple move to Boquete. But every rainy season, she had horrible congestion and a cough. For 3-4 months out of the year, she felt miserable and depressed. So they moved to a different country with less rain and drier weather.
12. Visa Denied! If you have a criminal record, you probably will not be able to get a residency visa in Panama. If you can’t get a visa, you can’t live in Panama for more than 180 days as a tourist (90 days if you want to drive). If you have a criminal record, it’s better to determine if you can get a visa BEFORE moving to Panama to avoid the costs of moving again outside of Panama. Do NOT buy real estate until you have a permanent visa so you know you can live in Panama.
Some people made some very costly mistakes when they moved to Panama. It created such bad feelings about Panama that they moved away. Don’t let that happen to you!!
Before you sell everything you own and then move to Panama, it’s a good idea to visit first. To avoid costly mistakes, before you move to Panama, you must get a thorough education about what life is like in Panama, how to get things done, and who you can trust. Do your research.
Join us for a 6-day all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour or for a Private Tour of the areas you are most interested in.
Then, after visiting Panama, you may want to give Panama a 3-6 month test drive before you decide to relocate to Panama. When you move to Panama, rent a furnished house/condo for at least a year before buying. Many people decide to rent the whole time they live in Panama so they can leave whenever they want.
Our Online Panama Relocation Guide has all the information you need to know for a smooth, easy relocation to Panama. If you follow the advice in the Online Panama Relocation Guide, you will be able to avoid mistakes that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. The Online Guide has recommendations for reliable immigration lawyers, honest real estate agents, buying health insurance for 40% less, buying a car, getting pets in to Panama, and much more.
Watch this video to learn what Queen Victoria Kavanaugh says about the Online Panama Relocation Guide.