Why Living in Panama Can be More Than You’ve Imagined
Panama City and its urban outposts, including the Canal Zone, are cosmopolitan and offer all the amenities of big-city life. You’ll see evidence of European and North American influences here, as well as a variety of culture and entertainment options. Generations of foreign settlers have brought new food, styles, traditions, even dress to the city.
Outside Panama’s cities you’ll see more of the rich culture of its indigenous groups and Hispanic tradition. Each province of Panama offers dances, food, and music specific to its region and people. In the Catholic provinces of Herrera and Los Santos, for example, you’ll find quintessential Spanish church squares. In the province of Colón, you might observe such African traditions as congo dances, while in Bocas del Toro you’ll see a European May Pole ceremony.
Reasons for Living in Panama
Panama is a great option for young entrepreneurs, families, expats on the go, and retirees. Here are a few reasons you should be considering a life in Panama:
- Affordable First-World health care
- The U.S. dollar is the legal tender. This makes the transition for expats wanting to invest and live in panama much easier than other countries, as there is no currency-exchange risk.
- Residents do not pay tax on foreign-earned income. If you are planning to live on your pension or funds set up in the States, this is as good as it gets.
- Foreigners can buy and own property in Panama with the same rights and protections as Panamanian citizens. There’s no downside to putting down roots here.
- Tourism investments have exemptions from import duties, construction materials and equipment, income, even real estate taxes. Should you decide to take part in the developing market here, you won’t be taxed to death. Rather, you’ll benefit from Panama’s many tax incentives.
- English is widely spoken in Panama City making living and working here much easier—even if you speak Spanish, too.
- Health care facilities and services are U.S. standard, with many U.S.-trained English-speaking doctors available. Whew. This is definitely a top priority for retirees.
- Politically stable. After many years of getting it wrong politically, Panama is finally getting it right. And that’s not about to change.
- It is safe. Panama would not be an option for expats and retirees if it wasn’t safe. And the government knows this. Panama has a special tourism police force to deter criminals from preying on tourists and foreigners. This country encourages visitors and wants them to keep coming!
- Panama has a reliable and modern communication system. You’ll find fiber-optic telephone lines and Internet in much of the country.
Social Life in Panama
While Panamanians are hard workers during the work week, the weekend is a time to relax with friends and family. Weekends are spent partying, dancing, shopping, or enjoying the beach or mountain escapes. Wherever they are, Panamanians dress very well and will go to work in suits even on the hottest days. Even the poorest families are well-kept. Foreigners are often glaringly obvious by their poor attire. Once you have been living in Panama for a while, it becomes natural to follow suit and “suit-up.” When in doubt, dress to impress.
Families and friends also look out for each other. Favors are generously exchanged and never forgotten. A good friend in Panama is a friend for life—and you can count on them for just about anything. They expect the same of you.
Where to Live in Panama
There’s a place for everyone in Panama…from coastal beachfront on quiet islands to big-city living with fast-paced nightlife…you’ll find the perfect location to suit your lifestyle. We’ve narrowed down your choices to seven towns that all offer some of the best living conditions, location, weather, and cultural opportunities for expats in Panama.
We start with Panama City, without a doubt the most cosmopolitan city of Central America. It offers all the amenities, convenience, and comfort you might ever need. Although Casco Viejo is situated within Panama City and has access to all it has to offer…it is a world unto itself. It reeks charmingly of past French, Spanish, and Caribbean influence.
Beyond the bustling metropolis of Panama City lie rolling hills, majestic mountains, and glorious beachfront. Boquete, a longtime favorite among expats and foreign retirees, offers a laid-back lifestyle, cool breezes, little traffic, and beautiful vistas. The white beaches of the Bocas del Toro archipelago lie north of Boquete on the Caribbean side of Panama.
The undiscovered mountain region of Santa Fe offers flowing rivers, waterfalls, and beautiful views. It’s as nice as Boquete without all the foreigners.
Finally, for those of you who want the real deal—a typical Panama town with few foreigners, we look to the eastern side of the Azuero Peninsula to Pedasí and Las Tablas, two of the best-kept secrets in Panama.
You Can Live in Panama Without Residency
You don’t have to obtain a visa to live in Panama. And you don’t have to get a visa right away. You can buy a home in Panama and enjoy all the rights a Panamanian does on just a tourist visa, which is valid for 180 days. After 180 days, you have to make a short trip to another country and return. Many people come and go like this for years, but this should be avoided since you may be deemed not a bona fide tourist.