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Panama Fast Facts

a tree lined street in Panama's upscale costa del este neighborhood

Population: 3,753,142
Capital City:Panama City
Climate:Tropical Maritime

aerial view of the horseshoe shaped beach in Venao

International Dialing Code: 507
President: Laurentino Cortizo

Panama: A Retirement And Business Haven With Still-Emerging Pockets Of Opportunity For Real Estate Investment

Reviewed by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen is the Live and Invest Overseas Founding Publisher. She has more than 30 years of hands-on experience traveling, living, and buying property around the world.

A view of Cinta Costera in Panama City, Panama
Adobe Stock/Sylwia Brataniec

Panama could arguably be called the world’s best offshore haven. There is no doubt that Panama has serious advantages for those looking for a country with a cheaper standard of living than the United States and Europe.

Also, Panama is blessed with beautiful islands, ample coastline beaches, mountain retreats, and colonial towns.

Even before the Panama Canal was built, everyone wanted a piece of the golden pie. It was as if this little country’s growth was strangely predicted, pushing the Spanish, later the French, and then the Americans to dwell and build here.

It was the Canal, though, that really pushed Panama onto the global stage.

Christopher Columbus colonized groups of indigenous people here, each with their unique traditions and culture. A few hundred years later, the survival of these groups was challenged by the gold rush in the 1800s, along with the construction of the Panama Railway Company.

Later on, the construction of the Canal brought people from all corners of the globe—the Caribbean, Asia, Europe, and Africa—in search of a better life.

Today Panamanians are made up of mestizos (indigenous and white European), mulatos (black mixed with white European), Chinese, and a hodgepodge of everything in between.

The country’s strategic geographic position, and the significance of the Panama Canal, mean this destination is an important point on the world map. In short, Panama’s economy has always been strong especially now due to the canal and the massive amounts of wealth that move through it (and earn Panama revenue).

Largely as a result of its crossroads positioning, but also thanks to its reputation worldwide as a top retirement, offshore, and banking haven, Panama is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world, and the fastest-growing market in the region.

Living In Panama

Boquete, Panama.

The Panamanian people are friendly, and outside of the city, the atmosphere is generally quite laid back and easy going. With a total population of only 4 million people, the country does not feel overly crowded.

Panama has a tropical climate and the weather is hot all year. In low-lying areas, the temperature is reliable. Almost every day will be above 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Panama is close to the equator, so the weather does not change much. Panama has two seasons.

The dry season lasts from December to April and the rest of the year is the rainy season which peaks in October and November.

During this time, you can expect heavy downpours every day. In the mountain regions, the temperature is cooler. You can live comfortably without air conditioning. Panama is not affected by extreme weather, and hurricanes are almost unheard of, so Panama is generally a safe place to live.

Like anywhere, it has places that are best avoided, however, most areas are fine. The popular expat locations have low crime rates. As a result, in day-to-day living you’re unlikely to feel uneasy.

Panama has a strong police presence and it’s not unusual to see police checkpoints on the side of the road. In tourist areas, take the usual precautions to avoid pickpockets or muggers.

E-Business In Panama

Panama is also our #1 pick for where to base your e-business.

When trying to find the best place to base a new business, Panama stands head-and-shoulders above any other choice. With a strong sense of growth within the economic front, it looks like the country will remain one of the best places in the world to base an online, international business for a long time to come.

[Read:Why Starting A Business In Panama Made Perfect Sense]

The reasons entrepreneurs thrive in Panama include:

  • Developed infrastructure
  • Talent-rich labor pool
  • English is widely spoken
  • Lower overall business expenses, including labor
  • Invoice and pay bills with U.S. dollars

Panama City is home to a half-dozen or better international and bi-lingual (Spanish/English/French) school options. That’s a key consideration if you’re thinking about making an international move with young children.

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Moving To Panama With A Family

Panama also makes good sense for a family looking for a new place to settle, thanks to its parks and playgrounds, its pool of talented (and affordable) tutors for everything from piano and guitar to Spanish and horse riding, its natural recreational offerings (beaches, rain forest, jungle), its cosmopolitan population, (your kids could attend school and make friends with kids from all over the world), and its international-standard medical facilities which are important if you’re a retiree but also if you have kids.

Panama For Singles

Panama is also a top choice for singles making a move on their own because it’s one of the most user-friendly overseas havens you’ll find. In Panama, the expat’s path is well-paved. Arriving here as a single person (of any age), you’d find many opportunities for making friends and connections. Panama City is home to thousands of expats and dozens of welcoming expat groups.

In addition, Panama offers two other regions where a single person can tap into a well-developed and friendly infrastructure of support: Coronado (on the Pacific coast about an hour outside Panama City) and Boquete (in the highlands, one of the world’s biggest communities of expat retirees).

Cost Of Living In Panama

Cost of living is important, but it’s not everything, which is why it’s worth noting that Panama also makes great sense for the would-be overseas retiree for many other reasons too.

First, the cost of living in Panama has increased in recent years. However, it is still a bargain compared to the States. You can find local produce, which will save you money and help you to eat more healthily.

It’s not uncommon for people moving to Panama to lose weight., if they don’t eat too much arroz con pollo.

This country is still among our top-ranked retirement choices, regardless of the size of your budget. Panama City is no longer a bargain retirement destination, but elsewhere in Panama, specifically Las Tablas (on the coast) or Santa Fe (in the highlands), can be.

Public transportation is cheap. Tickets for Panama City’s modern metro cost 35 cents per journey.

Buses are 25 cents per trip. Traveling longer distances by bus is cheap and Panama has an extensive bus network.

Taxis are inexpensive but be warned. Taxi drivers sometimes charge tourists extra. Uber is a popular alternative.

Utility bills and gasoline prices are lower than in the States.

You’ll need to budget for the air conditioning, which can be expensive. You can find a more detailed breakdown on the cost of living in Panama here.

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Healthcare In Panama

Hospital Nacional Hospital in Panama City entrance
myself, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Panama has the best and most modern hospitals in Central and South America. Many hospitals in Panama City are at the cutting edge of medical technology.

Prices are far lower than you would pay in the States and most doctors speak English. In fact, many doctors went to school and trained in Canada or the United States.

One drawback to health care in Panama is the lack of options in rural areas. Panama City and David (close to the Costa Rica border) have the monopoly on modern hospitals. If you are someone who may need emergency treatment from time to time, this is an important issue.

Beyond having top-notch healthcare facilities, other benefits include using the U.S. dollar, local health insurance is a bargain, it’s easy to get a retiree visa, and retirees living here enjoy lots of special discounts and perks.

Panama offers a multitude of visa options to suit anyone’s needs, including the “Specific Countries” visa that grants work permits.

Getting To Panama

Called the “Hub of the Americas,” this country is ideally located for travel to the United States and Canada. The flight from Miami, for example, is direct and takes about two-and-a-half hours. Plus, Panama makes a great base location from which you can easily explore the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Best Places To Live In Panama

Panama has it all. Where you choose to live will depend on what you want and need to do.

Panama City’s Casco Viejo neighborhood, the oldest European city on the Pacific coast of the Americas, continues the renaissance that began here in earnest about a dozen years ago. Businesses are renovating and moving into what were once crumbling colonial structures, and residents are slowly following.

The Streets have been repaved with shiny new red brick and this peninsula is the current hot spot for nightlife. The tourist areas are safe—and patrolled by police on bicycles—but the neighboring slums are still no-go zones.

On the other side of the country, in the western region of Chiriquí, lies the world-renowned Boquete. This mountain town north of David, the provincial capital, has been touted as a retirement haven for foreigners going back to the 1800s.

You hear more English than Spanish on the streets here. Nestled between two rivers at the end of a narrow valley, Boquete is known country-wide for its mountain vistas and spring-like climate. It’s a small town, however, with none of the amenities of the capital (most residents do their shopping in David, a half-hour away) and a central business district that rolls up the sidewalks fairly early every evening.

If you are looking for coastal living, look north of Boquete to the Bocas del Toro archipelago on the Caribbean coast, with its white-sand beaches, idyllic tropical islands, and shimmering aqua water. Bocas Del Toro is populated largely by tourists, so you would live in a place surrounded by people who were always on vacation.

On the Pacific coast west of Panama City, you will find the so-called City Beaches. Less than two hours from Panama City, these beach towns—Chame, Coronado, Punto Barco, Vista Mar, San Carlos, Bijao, and Buenaventura—are the favorite weekend hangouts of locals and have drawn the attention of expatriate settlers, as well.

Coronado has become particularly popular, with some stunning oceanfront developments. Expats who live there say they live quite comfortably on US$2,500 a month.

Situated near the southeastern-most tip of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, the small town Pedasí has a character that you’ll feel it as soon as you arrive. The relaxed, friendly village vibe seems to seep through your skin and settle deep down inside you, filling you with something… something that can’t be explained even by those who call the place home.

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Why Panama Is My #1 Expat Haven
By Victoria Harmer

The beautiful Red Frog Beach, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Adobe Stock/Daniel

Whether you’re a long-time reader or you’re new to the Live And Invest Overseas world, I’m sure it’s clear by now you’ve set upon the world’s savviest, most experienced, and most trusted source for information on living, retiring, and investing overseas.

We’re here to help you take advantage of the world’s best opportunities. And it’s a responsibility we take seriously.

We promise to give you the full story from firsthand experience of traveling to, living in, working in, and investing in the many and varied destinations on our beat.

In short, if you want something sugar-coated, grab a donut. But if you want to know the full story of what life overseas is like, then you’re in the right place.

There’s simply no point in us giving you a rose-tinted view of a destination only for you to land there and discover all the reasons it might not be right for you.

Most importantly, we want to arm you with all the on-the-ground knowledge we have in order that you find your perfect fit overseas.

And so, we do.

We look at every destination we cover with a critical eye. And we look at them from every angle… from the big stuff like cost of living, health care, climate, taxes, and real estate to the smaller but often equally, sometimes more, important individual factors that can make or break a destination for you…

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Can I get my favorite peanut butter and if not, can I get it shipped?

Is there a movie theater showing English-language films?

Great, there’s a gym…but does it have air conditioning?

And what about my one-a-day avocado habit…?

Whatever you might be looking for… or looking to get away from (so long, snow shovel) … we’re on the case and ready to deliver the unvarnished truth.

But I have a confession to make…

There is one place on the map where my critical eye and unbiased opinion get left at baggage claim… where the sunshine, smiling locals, and swaying palm trees render me a hopeless optimist… where everything, myself included, just feels better.

That place is Panama.

Falling in love with a country is a lot like falling in love with a person. When they’re right for you, all the things that might annoy others, and might typically annoy you, suddenly take on a unique charm.

So this place has clerks that make you wait in line while they shoot the breeze with other customers… Back home, it might have made you apoplectic but here, somehow, it makes you smile.

On the flipside, land in a country that just doesn’t work for you and what might have seemed like the greatest of traits on paper inexplicably start to bug you…

It’s too sunny… every local you meet wants to hear you story… the choices at the farmers’ market are too overwhelming…

It’s a bit like dating a supermodel and lamenting the fact her legs are too long or his feet are too big… no matter how good things might look from the outside, if deep down you’re not feeling the connection, you’ll find a reason to make a break for it.

My point is, when it comes to an overseas move of course it makes sense to go where you’re treated best, but more key is to go where you feel your best.

And like I say, for me, that’s Panama.

Putting Heart Aside For A Moment

When it comes to health care, Panama is home to some of the best and most modern hospitals in Latin America. Most doctors speak English—in fact, many trained in Canada or the United States—and most Panama City hospitals are at the cutting edge of medical technology.

Prices are also far lower than you would pay in the States.

On the subject of costs, no matter where you live in Panama, the average monthly budget will likely be much lower than what you’re paying back home. What’s most impressive though, is the bang you get for your buck.

In Chitré, our #1 pick for living or retiring in Panama, an unfurnished, three-bedroom house typically rents at about US$400 per month. Furnished homes are less common but rent for slightly higher, about US$550 monthly.

Buy fresh produce and seafood at the open-air market, with occasional runs to the supermarket, for a monthly grocery bill of less than US$150 for a couple. Shop primarily at supermarkets and your monthly grocery bill will be about US$450 for two.

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If you own a car and use it frequently, you’ll pay about US$100 a month for gas and maintenance.

Air conditioning is a must, and you’ll spend about US$165 a month on electricity.

A domestic beer costs US$1 in Chitré… the cheapest you’ll find anywhere in the country.

If you prefer urban living then even in Panama City’s San Francisco neighborhood, one of the more expensive areas, you can still find excellent value for money.

A three-bedroom, modern home here will run you about US$3,000 a month. Apartments typically rent for US$1,800 a month but shop around and you can find units for as low as US$1,000.

A Lot Of Reasons Why Panama Makes Sense

Depending on your lifestyle, the sky’s the limit here when it comes to what you could spend on entertainment, food, and so on.

As an average, for a couple dining out twice a week, a monthly budget of US$500 is plenty. Shop local and a similar amount will cover your monthly grocery bill.

Budget US$100 a month for transportation expenses if you own a car, and drop it to US$100 a month if you use public transportation (including Uber/inDriver).

Panama is a tropical climate and being close to the equator, the temperature does not change much throughout the year.

In Panama City, the daytime temperature is around 86°F (30°C), dropping to around 75°F (23°C) at night. Different parts of Panama do have different climates though. And, if you’re looking to cool off, my recommendation is to head for the hills…

In the mountain town of Boquete, along with a thriving expat community, glorious nature trails, and some of the world’s best coffee, you’ll enjoy daytime temperatures typically in the low-to mid-70s°F (23°C).

Combine that with soft mountain breezes and the refreshing light afternoon mist, known asbajareque, and you’ve found the ideal retreat from the sometimes sizzling city.

Truth is I could wax lyrical about Panama’s accolades and attractions all day long…

There’s thepensionadoprogram, the current gold standard, which offers special benefits and discounts for foreign retirees…

The booming economy with rich opportunity for entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and investors…

The travel options both in-country—from the archipelago of Bocas del Toro basking in the Caribbean Sea to the surfing hotspot of Playa Venao on the country’s Pacific coast—to farther afield…

From Panama City you’re just a 75-minute flight from Medellín,Colombia and only an hour 25 minutes from Costa Rica’s capital, San José…

Then there’s the food… the people… the festivals…

You get my point.

But before you write me off as a complete Panama Pollyanna let me be clear… I am not blind to her flaws.

Panama’s Downsides

I accept there’s some crime, mostly corruption and low level offending, meaning you take the same precautions here as anywhere…

There’s the language barrier, my Spanish is basic and, although you can get by in a lot of places with English, to really make the most of life here you need a firmer grasp of the local language than I currently possess…

The traffic can be a nightmare. Time a beach escape wrong and you’ll spend far more hours bumper to bumper than you ever will on the sand…

There’s the laidback attitude which, if you’re used to efficiency and tomorrow actually meaning tomorrow, might drive you a little nuts…

And there’s the noise. Panamanians love to party and if that’s down the hall from you at 4 a.m. it’s not so much fun…

For me, the downsides don’t even register on the scales. For you, they might tip the balance entirely.

How will you know?

Well, if you’re ready to dive right in you could take a trip down to this little isthmus and check it out for yourself…

Victoria Harmer's signature
Victoria Harmer
Editor, Overseas Opportunity Letter

Fun Facts About Panama

illustration of person swimming

The lowest toll ever paid to cross the Panama Canal was US$0.36 paid in 1928 by American adventurer-author Richard Halliburton who crossed the canal swimming. His total swim time was 50 hours.


a bright blue with pink crest sspangled cotinga bird

Panama is a bird watcher’s paradise with more bird species than the United States and Canada combined. There are parks and tours dedicated to bird watching but with this abundance you will likely see exotic birds without even trying too hard.


illustration of a tropical leaf

Panama City is the only capital city in the world to host a protected rainforest within its city limits. In fact, 30% of the whole country has been protected for rainforest conservation purposes.

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