Checking out Panama as an expat retirement destination

Checking out Panama as an expat retirement destination

Checking out Panama as an expat retirement destination

American expats discovered Panama a good few decades ago, but there’s no reason why this luscious destination shouldn’t be the perfect hideaway for Europeans as well.

The romantic appeal of a combination of Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, soaring mountains covered in wildflowers and thick jungles hiding slow-flowing rivers would be enough on its own to ensure the good life for many expats, but throwing an affordable cost of living into the mix makes Panama irresistible to expat retirees from across the world. The only way to take it all in is via a visit, as books and videos can’t do justice to all that’s on offer.

From buzzing Panama City’s modernity to sea air and sunshine in its rural areas, it’s all there for those looking for a dream of a retirement. There’s a choice of visas for incomers, starting with one especially for retirees looking for full-time residency. Other options include investment or small business visas as well as work visas for the career-minded. Using a local lawyer familiar with all the options available is the best way forward. If you’re arriving without first arranging accommodation, Airbnb is operative, short-term rentals are easily found outside Panama City, and almost all rural and small-town rentals are on a daily or weekly basis. Searching via word of mouth is the way to bag a bargain and, in order to establish your permanent address with the local authority as well as getting utility services, you’ll need a lease agreement.

Panama City and City Beaches offer a somewhat Americanised culture as regards stores and their contents, whether edible or practical. Quality is available at good prices, making it easy to furnish your new expat home. Getting around the city using public facilities such as the Metro rapid transport system, Metro buses and Uber or regular taxis is convenient and less expensive as well as safer than buying a car. If you’re determined to self-drive, you’ll need a local drivers’ license, easily available from your embassy after a hearing and vision test.

If expat communities are essential, the largest concentrations are in Panama City, Pedasi, Boquete and Santa Clara and include online forums, regular meetings and events all set up to encourage networking and socialising. If keeping fit is your hobby, there’s plenty of choice in Panama, with gyms, soccer fields, walking, jogging and hiking areas as well as pedestrian zones complete with workout equipment. Tai Chi and yoga are practiced in the garden areas. High quality healthcare is cheaper in Panama than in either the USA or Europe, with many doctors and dentists speaking acceptable English.

If you’re determined to learn Spanish, even although it’s hardly necessary, there’s a great choice of tutors and language schools. There’s one adjustment which must be made, described as ‘going with the flow’ and meaning it’s not worth getting annoyed when the power goes off again, a repair man doesn’t arrive or you’re cut up in heavy traffic. Laughing it off is the way to remind yourself you’re where you want to be and having a great retirement as a result.

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