Why Live in Panama
Is Panama the Right Place For Me?
Why live in Panama? If you are thinking about relocating to a foreign country, Panama may be the best choice for you. Many people have chosen to move to Panama, and for good reason. Living in Panama is delightful!
This article will highlight some of the best things about Panama, and why living in Panama is so great. In the interest of fairness, I will also identify for whom it may not be the best choice.
- Easy Immigration
- Foreigners Can Own Real Estate Directly
- Great Banking
- Excellent, Affordable Health Care
- Pleasant Climate
- Generous Senior Discounts
- Low Taxes
- It’s Easy to Get Online Purchases Delivered
- Maid Service is Affordable
- Friendly People
- Beautiful Beaches, Mountains, and Activities to Enjoy
- Lower Cost of Living
- Nice, Modern Shopping Malls
- Large, Active Expat Networks
- Bilingual Schools Available For Your School Age Children
- Healthy, Locally Grown Food
Panama may not be your best choice if you:
- Love an arctic climate – You can find many climate types in Panama, but arctic ain’t on the list!
- Don’t like rain – Panama has regular rain storms half the year (usually only for a couple hours a day, with a generous dose of sunshine for most of the day). The other half of the year is relatively dry with lots of sun and a cooling breeze.
- Love a dry climate – Even though Panama has very little rain for half of the year, humidity never gets very low.
- Have a gun collection you won’t give up – Even though you can buy firearms in Panama, and carry concealed, importing firearms is extremely difficult.
- Plan to make a living by selling internet marketing service to locals – Even though Panamanians have discovered Instagram, most don’t believe much in marketing online very effectively.
- Don’t want to learn any foreign language – Spanish is spoken in Panama. Or at least “Spanglish,” since they do borrow quite a few words from English. Funny story, a taxi driver once told me “Tomamos (We’ll take) un short cut!” I asked him, what is “short cut” in Spanish? He didn’t know. They just always say “short cut!”
Panama has fully realized the benefits of welcoming foreign immigrants and investors – at least those who are financially self sufficient. Therefore they have made an immigration process one of the easiest in the world, much to the benefit of their economy.
One of the processes they have made is called a “Friendly Nations Visa,” where most all the red tape is bypassed. If you are from one of the many countries on the list (most western and European nations), and have at least $10,000 to deposit in a Panama bank, you can gain permanent residency in just a few months with very little hassle, which includes the right to work and be employed.
Panama also has an easy process for a retiree type residency. Although this type of residency does not include a work permit, it does offer generous discounts for many business and service types, including pharmacies and health care.
Panama also makes it easy to get a local drivers license based on the license you have from your home country. It’s also easy to form a corporation, foundation (which provides outstanding legal protection), LLC, or sole proprietorship.
Foreigners Can Own Real Estate Directly
Unlike some countries in Central America, you can own any land, house or apartment outright, or even in a holding corporation.
In general, you have the same ownership rights as a locally born citizen. There are a few exceptions, like you can’t own land within 10KM of a border (which for practical purposes is the border with Costa Rica), or within 100 meters of an ocean beach (no one can). Also, a lot of the land in the interior is owned by indigenous people, through rights of possession. While indigenous people will take your money for some of their land, you cannot get a title for the land, so your rights to it would be on shaky legal ground.
But the good news is that the very desirable real estate, such as apartments in the cities, villas near the beaches, and estates in the mountains north of David are readily available, and at excellent prices compared to similar land in other places. Your property rights are another great answer to the question, “Why live in Panama?”
Why Live in Panama? Great Banking!
Panama uses US dollars, so the local currency is easy to convert to (if at all).
Banks in Panama offer relatively generous interest for savings and CDs. We have seen as much as 5% for a 3 year CD. And 3.5% can be had in a regular savings account. SWIFT transfers are easily done, and local credit and debit cards are easy to obtain.
Excellent, Affordable Health Care
Why live in Panama? Because Panama is a health care haven. Since they have many retirees, the health care industry has stepped up and provides modern, fully equipped hospitals. Many physicians in Panama have trained in North America or Europe, and speak English.
Even better is that the prices are very affordable. You can consult with a general doctor for as little as $15, a specialist for $40-50, and a dental cleaning and checkup for only $30.
Individual health insurance is also relatively affordable, with prices in the low hundreds per month rather than thousands per month you are likely to find in the USA.
Why Live in Panama? Lovely Climate!
If you prefer a little cooler temperatures, you can go up into the mountains.
In Boquete, the mid-point between day and night is about 72 degrees Fahrenheit, but daytime highs can still briefly reach into mid-80’s, but often with less humidity than sea-side, naturally. If you’re the type that sleeps most comfortably in 60 degrees, you would probably want to choose Boquete or Volcán to save on the air conditioning bill.
You won’t find either arid nor arctic in Panama, so if you love Alaskan winters, you might want to plan an annual visit or two to the great white north!
Generous Senior Discounts
Seniors in Panama are referred to “Jubilados,” and are given the red carpet in most businesses, government agencies and banks. In addition to getting their own special lines so as to minimize their wait time, seniors also enjoy these discounts:
- 50% off closing costs for home loans.
- 25% off both international and domestic airline tickets.
- 50% off hotel accommodations Monday-Thursday.
- 10% off prescription medicines (which are inexpensive to begin with) and 15% off dental and eye exams.
- 30% off bus, boat and train fares.
- 25% off at Restaurants, 15% off at Fast Food Restaurants
- 20% Doctor visits and Surgery
- 50% off entertainment including movies, concerts, theater everyday.
Like most countries, Panama has a progressive tax. Unlike many others, Panama’s top marginal rate is 25%.
Annual Income Tax Brackets
|< $11,000||$11,000 - $50,000||>$50,000|
So if you net $60,000 annually after deductions, you would pay income tax of:
0% * $11,000 + 15% * $39,000 + 25% * $10,000 = $8,350
That would make the net rate of 8350 / 60000 = 14%
If you are a United States citizen, you can benefit from the foreign earned income exclusion (unless you are working for the government), which means you can deduct the first $107,600 of your income that you earned in Panama. This figure is for 2020, and it increases according to inflation each year.
Why live in Panama? Low Taxes!
It’s Easy to Get Online Purchases Delivered
Online shopping in Panama is easy. There are many mail forwarding services that take delivery in Miami, and then bring it to either a nearby office or deliver to your door.
Fees can vary widely. You can choose a multinational company like Mailboxes, Etc. and pay quite a bit. There are also local options that charge as little as $3 per pound of cargo, or $2.5 per envelope. They will typically not offer tracking or insurance between Miami and your door, but are generally pretty reliable. I use one such discount service, and have only had one package temporarily lost, but later found (after a few weeks and raising a bit of a stink about it).
Expect delivery delays in the week around Carnival (think central American Mardi Gras) and around Panama independence day early November, and of course the week after Christmas.
Maid Service Is Affordable
Why live in Panama? You can hire a maid to cook and/or clean for as little as $30/day, or starting from $300/month for full time service. Most available at that price are Colombian immigrants, and do not know English, so it helps a lot to know Spanish.
If you hire someone full time, you should be aware of and comply with Panama labor laws, which includes paying 13 months for less than 12 months of work (12 months minus required paid time off).
Beautiful Beaches, Mountains, and Activities to Enjoy
Why Live in Panama? Lower Cost of Living
Nice, Modern Shopping Malls
Large, Active Expat Networks
Bilingual and International Schools
Panama offers many options for expat parents, including Montessori, Knightsbridge Schools International, SABIS, Canadian International School, La Salle, St. Mary’s, Lincoln Academy, and more.
Healthy, Locally Grown Food
Panama produces most of its own fruits, vegetables, and meats. Local markets offer produce and fish grown and caught next door. You can get them everywhere from your local supermarket to any of the abundant road-side vendors. Pineapple grown in Panama and mostly ripened on the tree is incredibly juicy and sweet compared to the pineapple that’s picked early and shipped to your North American and European grocery stores. Mangos in Panama grow wild and organic, and are so juicy and sweet they might make your palette jump for joy! Abundant papayas will make you feel like a king or queen!
Panama Sun Realty is Here to Help
Why Live in Panama? Because Panama Sun Realty is one of those great agencies that can help you through every step of the way if you choose to live in Panama. Obviously, not all questions can be answered in a blog. For all those other questions, we’d be happy to talk with you day or evening, weekday or weekend, no matter how unusual the question, so don’t hesitate to contact us.