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Retire In Panama

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Retiring in Panama

Retiring in Panama offers incomparable advantages for the potential retiree or foreign resident. This country has great weather, a low cost of living, a foreign-resident-friendly tax system, and one of the best banking systems in the region. Plus, Panama has the world’s best program of discounts and perks for foreign retirees.

This is a multifaceted tropical country. You can choose to settle in cosmopolitan Panama City, a calm sunny beach like Coronado, or in a cool mountainside town like Boquete. Your options are limitless.

This is a nature-lover’s paradise. Some of the world’s best surfing, snorkeling, diving, bird watching, and hiking are here. You’ll also have a variety of adventure-travel opportunities.

Panama is a safe, welcoming place to call home.

Panama is the world’s top retirement choice for the following reasons…


The Cost Of Living Is Affordable

Outside Panama City, it remains downright cheap. You could retire to the beach in Las Tablas on the country’s Azuero Peninsula on a budget of US$1,200 per month or less.


The Sun Shines Year-Round

Panama City can be too hot for some retirees’ tastes. But, look beyond the capital and find pockets of near-perfect climates. For instance, if you prefer cool mountain temperatures, consider Boquete. Less discovered, and thus more affordable, Santa Fe is also a good choice.


The Retiree’s Path Is Well Worn

Panama has been attracting foreign retirees in growing numbers for more than a decade. It offers many options for establishing residency if you want to live here full-time. Plus, it’s home to established and welcoming communities of expats and retirees.


You Can Get By Without Speaking Spanish

In Panama City, learning Spanish isn’t a must. However, we recommend you do.


Health Care In Panama Is Of An International Standard

Panama City is home to Hospital Punta Pacifica. It’s the only hospital in Latin America affiliated with and managed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International.

The cost of medical care is a bargain. Like everything, medical costs are higher in the city than elsewhere in the country. Still, a doctor’s visit costs about US$60.


The Infrastructure Is Of A High Standard

The internet, cable TV, phone service, etc., are all as reliable as anywhere in the States. The roadways and highway systems are constantly expanded and improved.

Furthermore, Panama City is an international banking center. Here, you’ll find banks from all over the world and ATMs on every corner.


The Currency Is The U.S. Dollar

U.S. retirees have no currency-exchange risk or exposure.


Panama City Is An International Travel Hub

Panama is very accessible from North America. The flight from Miami, for example, is about two and a half hours.


Panama’s Pensionado Program

This visa offers special benefits and discounts for foreign retirees. This is the current Gold Standard. Save as much as 50% on restaurant meals, in-country airfares, and prescription medicines.

Cost Of Living In Panama

Panama offers a luxury lifestyle at a low cost.

Panama, housing is still relatively inexpensive compared to the States and Canada. You can rent a nice apartment in Panama City starting at about US$700 a month—and a really nice place with an amazing view is about US$1,800 a month. You can find just about anything you want in grocery stores in Panama, but you’ll save big if you shop in the open markets. Many vendors compete in the local market plazas and prices, especially fruits and vegetables, are inexpensive.

As for utilities, water and gas are relatively cheap. Electricity, however, can be more expensive. Depending on your number of appliances, electronics, and use of air conditioning, you could pay up to US$200 a month.

You can hire both a full-time maid and driver for under US$700 a month and a gardener can be hired for about US$20 a day.

Real Estate In Panama

It’s important to do your homework before purchasing real estate in any country. Panama is no different.

Don’t settle on something right away. Take your time and visit different areas of Panama to find out where you would most like to live. View as many houses as possible and try to get an idea of what prices are like. Once you have enough data you can start to work out the price per square meter which is the most useful guide to how much a property should cost.

The process of buying a house in Panama usually takes about 5-8 weeks (assuming everything runs smoothly). Always use a trusted lawyer. Get them to look over all the documents.

Once you’ve settled on a sale price, go through the points below before signing anything.


Check The Title Deeds

Make sure to check the person who is selling the property to you is in fact the legal owner. If they are, then they will have a Property Title (Titulo de Propiedad) confirming ownership.

You also need the certificado de registro from the public registry. This will confirm any liens against the property.

If the property you want to buy is a Rights of Possession (ROP) property the situation is slightly different. In this case, the Panamanian government owns the title to the land. This is often the case for land in rural Panama. Buying this land comes with certain stipulations such as spending a certain amount of time on the land each year. ROP is a complex area and we recommend seeking out a specialist.

We’re going to focus on titled lands only.


Arrange A Pre-Sale Agreement

Once you are satisfied the property is above board, you will be asked to put a deposit down on the property and sign a pre-sales agreement.

The standard amount requested for the down payment is 10%. The pre contract is legally binding and covers all details of the sales transaction. If either party pulls out of the deal, financial compensation will be required.

The contract you receive will most likely be in Spanish. You will need an approved translator to make a copy in English for you.


Work Out Taxes

When buying a titled property, keep in mind you must pay property tax. This is an annual tax and you don’t get a reminder. It is on you to remember to pay each year.

The Panamanian government takes 2% of sale value for a Title Tax. Usually, the seller pays the property transfer tax but it is not mandatory. Be sure to ask the seller. Purchases under US$30,000 are exempt from property tax. Property transfer is also 2% of the sale value. Capital Gains Tax is either 3% of the sales value or 10% of the gain. You will pay the lower amount of these.


Transfer The Title

The transfer of the title comes before payment. Make sure things are in order before paying. The Notary Public will deal with everything including typing up the new title with the buyer’s name on the property details. The buyer and seller both sign the new Property Title contract.

Once all this is done, you can pay the seller.


Transfer Of Funds

If you choose to pay in cash make sure the Notary is there to act as a witness. This is an accepted way of doing business. If you want to pay using a check or by sending a wire transfer, have the Notary witness the transaction. If you’re working with a trusted lawyer, you could have him or her transfer the money.

Another option is to set up an Escrow Account, although not everyone in Panama is familiar with this process.

After paying, you must register your property at the public registry. This last step completes the process of buying real estate in Panama.

Move To Panama

Panama is a convenient port and it’s easy to ship to from the States. A 40-foot container will fit just about everything you might need. It can literally be packed in front of your house in the United States and unpacked in front of your house in Panama.

You’ll need to hire a customs broker to unpack and arrange shipping to your home. Their fees are reasonable.

If you’re moving to Panama and have a pet, moving here can seem like a daunting process. There are only a few steps, but the timing is what will prove difficult.

Follow the guide below and bring your loving pet along.

Dogs And Cats


Step One Is To Set Up An Appointment With Your Vet

Don’t do this step too early. You need to have your appointment with the vet inside of a two week window from your departure date. This is a requirement in Panama.

The vet needs to fill out the required International Health Certificate form. It’s a good idea to call in advance to give them notice that you will be needing the form for international travel in case they don’t have it readily available. This certificate must be sent to the USDA for review and authentication. There will be a fee associated with this that varies from state to state, usually about US$25.

You then need to print and fill out the form for requesting home quarantine once you are in Panama. Certify the form at the nearest Panamanian consulate. There is a fee associated with this and it’s usually about US$30. This step saves you the cost and stress to your animal of spending 40 days in quarantine away from home.

The health certificate, after being authenticated by the USDA, must be apostilled. This can be done at the local Secretary of State office. It must be done for an international document. There will be a fee involved that, again, varies from state to state.

Helpful Hint: When you send your home quarantine request to the consulate, pay the extra for overnight shipping and send your other document (International Health Certificate) with it. Ask them to review and verify that it is correct. You will be glad that you have the extra time to correct any errors that they may find.


Step Two Is To Get Ready For The Flight

You will need to check directly with your airline to make sure that you have everything they require for traveling with a pet. These guidelines are pretty relaxed, for the most part, but it is necessary to operate inside of them. Some airlines have specifications for kennel types and food and water being available for the pet.

Again, check with the airline and they will be glad to provide this information.


Step Three Might Be The Easiest Of All

Take your completed, reviewed, authenticated, apostilled documents with you to the airport. Get on the plane and fly to Panama. Once you arrive in Panama you must provide the documents to the veterinarian on duty. They have lists of all people flying in with pets, and often(not always) stay late to make sure that each pet is taken care of. Give the vet your home quarantine request and the health certificate. He will review it and let you leave once you have paid the US$130 fee.

If you do not have your paperwork with you, or if they aren’t properly filled out, the pet will be quarantined for 40 days at the airport at additional daily costs. For more information on traveling with your pet, visit the Embassy of Panama page here.

Once you’ve figured out how to bring your furry companion along with you, you’ll want to redirect your attention to setting up your household in Panama.

Let’s start with setting up your utilities…

First things first, find a permanent address in Panama and travel here. Utilities cannot be set up while you’re in another country. You need a lease agreement or property title for your residence along with a passport.

Many condos and apartments already have gas connections hooked up and running, included in the HOA fees. No work is needed on your part. For homes, gas tanks can be ordered from a local gas company, and they usually show up two to five days after being called. When your tanks are empty, simply call the company and request a refill. Your two options for gas companies are Tropigas and Panagas.

To set up your electricity, take your lease agreement or property title as well as your passport to the electricity company (likely Union Fenosa). An appointment will be set for them to come to your residence and make the connection, but it usually takes a week or two for them to show so be prepared for that. The bill will be left near the front of your apartment building or front gate every month. Electricity bills can be paid online or at an E-Pago kiosk in a mall or supermarket. After two months without payment, the service will be cutoff, so don’t fall too far behind. Electricity rates vary depending on where you are living, and even rates in Panama City can change neighborhood to neighborhood.

For water service, contact IDAAN (Instituto de Acueductos y Alcantarillados Nacionales)a government owned company. Bring your lease agreement or property title as well as your passport to their office, pay the deposit, and make an appointment for them to come to your place and get the water flowing. If you live in an apartment, your water connection may already be included in your HOA fees––same as you gas.


  • IDAAN:
    • 523-8570
  • Union Fenosa:
    • 315-7222
  • Tropigas:
    • 206-0000
  • Panagas:
    • 800-5111

Health Care In Panama

Although the state-run hospitals are basic, the standard of health care provided by private hospitals is some of the best in the world. Whatever your medical needs, you can find the health care treatment you require in Panama. The prices are hugely competitive and the time and attention spent on you by doctors is a world away from the frantic feel of the United States.

Panama City is home to Punta Pacífica Hospital, the only hospital in Latin America affiliated with and managed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Other renowned hospitals can be found in the city, for example, Punta Paitilla Hospital, which is generally less expensive than Punta Pacífica.

Like everything, medical costs are higher in Panama City than elsewhere in the country, but, even in the capital, a doctor’s visit costs about US$60. In Panama City, clinics provide value (US$30 per consultation) and offer excellent, full-service care.

In the interior of the country, medical care is not as reliable or easily available. However, Hospital Chiriqui in David is one of the best and improving rapidly. This is partly due to the high number of expats in the region. Other large towns like Coronado and Pedasí have clinics providing more than adequate care for day-to-day ailments, but for anything major, you’d need to go to Panama City.

It’s safe to say Panama has the best deal for health insurance in the hemisphere. Many doctors are trained in the U.S., can speak English, and are well-versed in all prescriptions and ailments. Private health insurance and prescription drugs are readily available and much less expensive than their U.S. equivalents. American private health insurance policies are accepted in some Panamanian hospitals.

If you can afford it, the standard of health care you will receive going private is excellent. Panama does have options for public health care, though. The public institutions are run by the Caja de Seguro Social (Social Security System) or the Ministerio de Salud (Ministry of Health).

Dial 911 if you are unable to make it to a hospital and an ambulance will be sent to collect you. The ambulance service is not big however and they can often take a long time to arrive. This is especially true in Panama City where the heavy traffic plays a big part in long journey times. Depending on where you live a private ambulance service may be available to you.

As for health insurance in Panama, it’s basically divided into two major types: Local HMOs, which provide coverage only for Panama, and international policies working through an established network of doctors, labs, and hospitals.

In Panama, health insurance is sold by brokers. The broker can explain what each company offers and the various rates of coverage. You can expect to pay from $50-$200 for private health insurance. The insurance will pay about 70%-90% of your  bill and you will pay the rest.

Most pharmacies in Panama (farmacias) are privately owned. Many pharmacies are open late at night and many grocery store pharmacies have begun opening 24-hours. Prices for prescriptions drugs are relatively low. Many drugs requiring a prescription in the U.S. are available over-the-counter in Panama. It is extremely helpful to know the name of your medicine in Spanish.

Dental Care in Panama is among the best in the world. Panama City has facilities which are comparable with anywhere in the States. The prices are far less than in the United States and the dentists take time with each appointment and are not hurrying to get people through the door. Most of the dentists throughout Panama speak English, and many were trained in the States.

Panama is a hot and humid country, especially in the lowlands. Take precautions against sunstroke and heatstroke.

  • Drink lots of liquids
  • Use sunblock when outdoors even if it is cloudy
  • Carry an umbrella, if necessary, to help block sun rays
  • Carry bottled water
  • Wear bug repellent

Here’s a list of our recommended hospitals for expats in Panama…


Hospital Punta Pacífica

This is a private hospital with the best facilities in Panama. It has a range of specialists. Popular with both expats and locals. This is one of the most expensive hospitals in Panama. The hospital has links with John Hopkins and lots of the staff here are John Hopkins trained.


Paitilla Hospital

Popular with expats as many of the Doctors speak English. The hospital has a specialist cancer treatment ward. A well-equipped and expensive hospital which offers critical care for newborns and adults.


Hospital Santa Fe

Located near the Panama Canal, Hospital Santa Fe is one of Panama’s most popular hospitals for medical tourism. Lots of the doctors trained in the States and provide a similar standard of health care.


Hospital Nacional

Hospital Nacional accepts international care plans and has a nurse to patient ratio of 1 nurse for every 10 patients. The hospital has an intensive care unit and emergency room.


Pharmacies and Prescriptions

El Rey provides 24 hour service. Other supermarkets, Super 99, Arrocha, Riba Smith and Metro X also have pharmacy services during their open hours.

Infrastructure In Panama

The Panama infrastructure is unevenly distributed throughout the country, with capital Panama City receiving the lion’s share and the rest of the country receiving much less. However, plans are in place to improve and build new roads, metro rails, and other bits of infrastructure in the coming years.

The infrastructure in Panama City and surrounding region is of a high standard. Things generally work here—the internet, cable TV, phone service, etc., are nearly as reliable as you’d like them to be. But that’s not to say things work just like they do back home. Internet bandwidth availability is lower here. Occasionally, there’s an electricity outage or the neighborhood water gets turned off and you have to suffer through a few hours without. The city also struggles with litter and garbage-pickup problems.

These hiccups aside, life in Panama City and its suburbs is comfortable and services provided as they should be.

The infrastructure in the interior of the country, though, is another story. Outside of Panama City (or large towns in the interior like Boquete, Coronado, Pedasi, or Santiago), infrastructure of all types is poor. Due to a lack of towers, cell reception comes and goes depending on your region, as does Internet availability and quality.

Taxes In Panama

Foreign residents pay tax in Panama only on money earned inside this country. Regardless of your residency status, personal income tax is only applied to Panamanian sourced income. Americans retirees are not taxed on pensions, Social Security, or similar income earned in the States. Still, the IRS requires that U.S. citizens file U.S. tax returns, even if they’re not living in the States and even if they have no tax liability (as long as they meet the minimum income requirements).

Economy In Panama

Panama has built its economy more on business, banking, and commerce than on tourism. But this is changing, as Panama is making an effort to draw attention to her natural offerings, as well as her financial benefits. These elements comprise the dual personality of this little country that holds such an important geographic position.

Steadily increasing numbers of foreigners looking for inexpensive vacations and quality retirement are moving to Panama. The tourist industry has no doubt contributed to Panama’s economic boom. Special benefits for foreign retirees attract even more visitors and potential residents to the country.

Panama is the most advanced nation in the region, the hub of the Americas, and one of the world’s biggest trading zones thanks to geography and the Canal.

The transformation in this country over the past 15 years has been remarkable. Panama has shown the world that she knows how to put her assets to good use, and, as a result, she stands today as the world’s most appealing overseas retirement and lifestyle haven.

Despite ongoing global economic problems, Panama is a prosperous country that boasts continued stability and growth. This is a young and healthy democracy and a safe and peaceful nation.

Information TypeNotes
GDP (2021)US$63.61 billion
GDP per capita (2021)US$13,821
Inflation (2021)1.6%
Agriculturebananas, rice, corn, coffee, sugarcane, vegetables; livestock; shrimp
Labor force1.9 million
Industriesconstruction, brewing, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling
Natural resourcescopper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower
Exports (2021)US$3.558 million f.o.b.; note – excluding the Colón Free Zone
Export – commoditiesbananas, shrimp, sugar, coffee, clothing
Imports (2021)US$11.558 million c.i.f.; note – excludes the Colón Free Zone
Import – commoditiescapital goods, crude oil, foodstuffs, consumer goods, chemicals
Major trading partnersU.S., Canada, Sweden, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, China

Invest In Panama

The process of investing in Panama is simple and straightforward, but we recommend that you always work with a good attorney. This is smart business practice, but it’s particularly important in Panama where a large part of realizing success has to do with making contacts and building relationships. A reputable lawyer is a good place to start.

Although there are a plethora of investment opportunities in Panama today—namely those in the tourism sector, banking, reforestry, and mining—real estate is the most lucrative place to put your money immediately.

From developments like guest houses and resorts to projects like charter dive operations or guiding trips, there are nearly unlimited options for an investment in Panama’s tourism sector.

You could build a bed and breakfast in the hills of El Valle, start a white-water rafting outfit in Chiriqui, or operate fishing expeditions or a scuba dive shop in Playa Santa Catalina.

Real estate investors from around the world are enjoying the benefits and incentives put in place by the Panamanian government. Opportunities from high-rise condos in Panama City and residential communities in Boquete to Caribbean and Pacific beachfront properties exist for real estate investors, and construction is popping up all over the country.

Many foreign investors starting a business or purchasing real estate in Panama set up a corporate entity. Panamanian corporations and foundations offer flexibility in everything from estate planning and tax management to asset protection.

On the agricultural front, Panama has become a favorable spot for organic agriculture investing. Plantations for limes, mangoes, and avocados provide a stable long-term investment. The only downside is that the opportunities sell out fairly quickly.

Reforestation is also another way to invest in Panama. The government is focusing a great deal of attention on the reforestation of its land.

With all the free zone opportunities in Panama, an export company could make sense for would-be investors.

The great thing about setting up an export company is that you can operate in an Export Processing Zone (EPZ), which is 100% tax-free. Any activity, operation, transaction, license, procedure, transfer of movable goods and real estate, purchase and importation of all equipment, spare parts, raw materials, and all goods and services, are 100% exempt from national direct and indirect taxes, duties, levies, and charges for an indefinite period.

Panama Visa And Residency Information

U.S. citizens may enter Panama without a visa and remain in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 90 days per trip. If you wish to stay longer, you need to seek permission to remain in the country. Tourists must present a return trip ticket or fare back to their home country or next destination upon arrival. Airlines strictly enforce these laws (as they would incur any cost of deportation should they allow you in the country and you remain illegally).


The Specific Countries Visa Program

The Specific Countries visa program was initiated under Ricardo Martinelli’s presidential administration. It is available to citizens of 50 specifically named countries, including the United States.

If you hold a passport from one of the 50 countries on the list, this is the best Panamanian residency option after Panama’s pensionado visa:

CanadaGreat Britain, and the United States, as well as…

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Uruguay.

For further information such as requirements, documents needed, and help with your visa application, we recommend contacting a Panamanian lawyer.


Retirement Visa

Panama’s pensionado program offers special benefits and discounts for foreign retirees. It’s the current Gold Standard.

Retiring in Panama, you can save as much as 50% on everything from restaurant meals to in-country airfares, and from prescription medicines to closing costs on your new beach house.

The government of Panama has historically allowed any adult who could show proof of a monthly pension of any kind to qualify for a pensionado, or retirement, visa. You can apply if you receive a pension from any government entity, social security, Armed Forces, or a private company that pays you a guaranteed pension for a lifetime (US$1,000 per month and an additional US$250 for each dependant).

F.A.Q About Retire In Panama

1. What benefits do I get when I retire in Panama?

As a retiree in Panama, you will have up to 50% discounts on plane tickets, movie tickets, restaurant meals, etc.

2. What are the disadvantages of retiring in Panama?

Panama is hot and humid. In places like Panama City and David, for example, the heat and humidity can become unbearable for many.

If you live in Panama City, traffic can get hectic. There are usually peak hours, but lately traffic jams are unpredictable.

At least basic Spanish is needed to be able to communicate as effectively as possible with locals. You can find a few who do speak English, but these are mainly government institution employees, customer service agents, and some waiters and waitresses. Your household maid and gardener, however, will most likely not speak English.

3. How much should my monthly budget be to retire in Panama?

A standard monthly budget to retire in Panama is US$1,200.

If you choose to retire in Panama City, we recommend you plan for a monthly budget between US$1,600 and US$3,000.

If you choose to retire in Boquete, about US$1,600 a month is enough to live comfortably. Prices in Boquete keep increasing due to its popularity with expats. Boquete is one of the few places in Panama where you can get by on little to no English.

If you choose someplace like Volcan or Santa Fe, however, you can live on about US$1,200 per month. Prices drop here because these aren’t as developed or popular as other destinations.

4. What are the safest places for expats to retire in Panama?

– Panama City
– El Valle de Anton
– Pedasi
– Santa Fe
– David
– Boquete
– Volcan

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