A Welcoming Haven for Expats
Panama consistently ranks among the top five spots in the world to relocate.
It’s no wonder.
This Central American nation has written its own success story by becoming a duty-free, low-tax nexus of banking, shipping and commerce.
And because of 30 years of forward thinking incentives – Panama has also developed into a world class destination for digital nomads and retirees.
The list of advantages and benefits – especially for retirees – is probably longer than anywhere else in the world.
- Stable Government
- World Class Banking System
- US Dollar Currency
- Low Taxes
- Good Infrastructure
- Fast Internet in Bigger Towns
- Easy Access to US and Canada
- Easy Visa/Residency Policies
- Extremely Generous Pensionado (Retiree) Benefits
- Established Expat Communities
- Extensive National Park System
- Choice of Climates
Because of all the attractive aspects, the cost of living here is not going to be rock bottom. That’s the trade off.
Even so, Panama has the same problems of other Central American Countries – corruption, crime, frustrating bureaucracy – only to a much less extent than Nicaragua, Honduras or Guatemala.
Plus most of the country is extremely hot and humid with a torrential rainy season.
Panama also has very few lovely colonial towns or villages.
And – aside from the indigenous regions and the Chitre district – Panama is somewhat lacking in culture.
But if you are weighing pros and cons – very few places beat Panama.
Best Places in Panama
For its size, Panama has many different terrains and climates. And the various regions and towns have completely different vibes.
Here’s a short rundown of the best areas to resettle in this Central American gem.
Panama City is a truly cosmopolitan place – skyscrapers, fancy restaurants, high-end boutiques, shopping malls. It’s flashy, bustling and exciting.
It truly has anything a city dweller could desire.
You can probably guess what the main problem is.
It’s not cheap here.
If you’re coming from San Francisco, Toronto or New York, it’s a bargain.
From Huntsville, Alabama? Not so much.
Most expats opt for the more budget-friendly towns outside the capital.
The mayor of Panama City recently proposed building a beach within the city limits.
Until that happens, the closest real beaches are about an hour south of town. There is a string of pretty playas along this patch of Pacific coastline – Coronado being the most highly developed.
If you are looking for a beach lifestyle – and don’t mind weekend crowds – Coronado is for you.
There are tons of amenities, gated communities and country clubs.
This is not exactly a laid back surfer town. And all the conveniences come at a cost.
But it’s a lot cheaper and warmer than La Jolla or Hilton Head.
Pros: Proximity to Panama City, Great Beaches and Golf, Hot Weather, Conveniences, Expats
Cons: Crowded and overdeveloped, Pricey
Boquete is in the western highlands of Panama. At over 3000 ft above sea level, Boquete is much cooler and cloudier than the rest of the country.
Aside from the year-round spring like weather, the rugged hills provide beauty as well as endless opportunities of outdoor activities.
This is the coffee growing center of Panama and much of the town’s activities and commerce revolve around those valuable little beans.
There is a well-established expat community here and you could get by speaking just a little Spanish.
Pros: weather, good amenities, scenery, coffee, expat communities,
Cons: Far from Panama City, lots of rain, housing is not the cheapest
Chitre is one of the few towns in Panama that retains a distinct culture.
Chitre is about a 3.5 hour drive from the capital, but it definitely has a much different feel.
It’s located on the eastern part of the Azuero Peninsula – which is dry and arid similar to West Texas.
And like Texas, this is cattle ranch and cowboy country.
Chitre is the cultural center of the province and some say the soul of the whole country.
It has been inhabited for thousands of years and is still vibrant and traditional. Yet it is developing faster than any other city and has all the services and conveniences of a larger town.
Pros: Proximity to Panama City, vibrant Culture, Festivals,Hot and Dry climate
Cons: Not much English spoken, Few Expats
Bocas del Toro
Like the Island life? Just want to get away from it all? Then this area along the Caribbean coast should appeal to you.
Colorfully painted houses, funky waterside bars, hammocks, surfers, fishermen – these are all standard sights here.
This rather tightly knit cluster of islands is becoming increasingly popular but has a laid back vibe – that feeling that you are a thousand miles from anywhere and nobody cares.
The main means of transport is water taxi and most of the roads are unpaved on the islands. This all contributes to that sense of irie.
Surfing, snorkeling, fishing, sun bathing, and excellent bird and sea turtle watching the Bocas archipelago provides outstanding opportunity for outdoor exploits.
But the favorite pastime seems to be to just chill.
So if you are looking for that Tommy Bahama feel in a safe, stable country – out of the hurricane zone, the islands of Bocas del Toro may just be your next home.
Pros: Island Vibe, Outdoor Activities, Beautiful Beaches, Expat Communities, Can get by with English, nightlife
Cons: Hard to access, housing can be pricey, digital infrastructure lacking.
The country of Panama is an excellent place to consider for relocating outside the US or Canada.
Aside from the being a well-developed, welcoming place for expats, this small nation has distinct regions – one of which should appeal to you.
You owe it to yourself to give Panama a really close look.