While they both have so much to offer right now, Panama and Colombia couldn’t be more different.
We’ve been alerting you to the opportunities on offer in these countries for years. I first recommended Panama for retirement and investment more than 20 years ago, and we began heartily endorsing Colombia, specifically Medellín, a decade ago.
Thinking specifically, how do these top-tier overseas havens stack up against each other? Here’s how I’d lay this out…
- World’s top offshore haven
- Bona-fide tax haven, taxing income on a jurisdictional basis
- Uses U.S. dollar
- Specific Countries visa program (which can mean a work permit)
- Best infrastructure in Central America
- Strong economy
- Quality, affordable health care
- Diverse lifestyle options, including Pacific and Caribbean coasts, islands, mountains, and Panama City
- Top choice for entrepreneurs
- Super accessible, with many direct flights daily to and from North America and Europe
- Hot and humid in Panama City and on coasts
- Traffic congestion in Panama City
- Poor service standards
- Panama City not suitable for walking
- Strong mañana attitude
- Top investment haven with enormous upside
- Best health care in Latin America at a cost that can be 90% less than U.S. costs for comparable care
- Politically stable
- Strong economy
- Welcoming locals
- First World, even luxury lifestyles
- Working hard to compete for foreign attention
- Easiest and cheapest residency option in the world today; pensioner option requires income of only US$820 per month at today’s exchange rate… and, unlike in Panama, where an attorney is required by law, you can process the application yourself
- Many lifestyle options on offer, including sophisticated, Euro-chic city living, Caribbean beach, world-class colonial towns, rural landscapes, and the finca lifestyle
- Necessary to learn some Spanish
- Less existing expat infrastructure (though this is changing quickly in Medellín)
- Not a low-tax jurisdiction
- Air pollution in Medellín and Bogotá
In the context of the issues most important to the would-be investor or retiree, here’s how these two countries stack up against each other…
Cost Of Living
Remember the exchange rate. Right now, Colombia can be the greater bargain by far.
Cost Of Real Estate
Again, thanks to the exchange rate, real estate in Colombia can be 60%+ cheaper, apples to apples.
Also note that, while it’s possible to own luxury in both Medellín and Panama City, Panama City luxury now comes at a much higher cost.
Way more comfortable in Medellín than Panama City, for example, but both countries offer many different climate choices.
What are you looking for? Both countries offer city, coastal, mountain, and rural choices.
Ease Of Residency
Again, Colombia today is perhaps the world’s easiest place to establish residency. No lawyer is required, and I’ve known people to go through the process in one hour.
On the other hand, Panama’s Specific Countries visa program is the best option in the world today if you want to work.
Banking And Doing Business
Panama is the clear winner, thanks to:
- Banking infrastructure
- Lack of exchange controls
- No currency risk
- Much more English spoken
- Available labor pool and possibility to acquire work permits for non-local labor
Panama is the screaming champion on this score, a true tax haven, while Colombia qualifies as a high-tax jurisdiction, with, for example, a corporate tax rate as high as 34%.
However, if you’re a retiree making a move with retirement income, you probably don’t have to care about this.
Top-quality, international-standard care is available in Panama City. Outside the capital, the standard of care in this country falls.
Eight of the top 35 hospitals in all Latin America are in Medellín. Other cities in Colombia have similarly top-standard facilities.
Costs of health care are lower in both countries than in the United States… but Colombia is the greater bargain (especially right now, thanks to the exchange rate between the Colombian peso and the U.S. dollar).
Ease Of Settling In
Panama City is a kind of halfway house for expats, a very easy and comfortable first step overseas. Medellín is one of the world’s most important emerging expat destinations, though more discovered and therefore easier to navigate as an expat or foreign retiree all the time.
Bottom line, though, Colombia is more challenging in this regard unless you speak Spanish.
Which Is Right For You?
Depends on your circumstances, personal preferences, and agendas…
I say: Why choose?
Spread your life around a little. Live or invest in both!