#1: Outside Panama City, the cost of living is affordable. Note my disclaimer. Panama’s capital city is no longer a bargain or a budget destination. However, outside Panama City, Panama can be downright cheap. You could retire to the beach in Las Tablas, for example, on the country’s Azuero Peninsula, on a budget of US$1,100 per month or even less.
#2: The sun shines year-round. Panama City can be too hot and sticky for some tastes, but, again, look beyond the capital, and you find pockets of near-perfect climates in some regions. If you prefer cool mountain temperatures to steamy sea-level ones, consider Boquete or, less discovered and more affordable, Santa Fe.
#3: The expat’s path is well worn. This country has been attracting foreign retirees, expats, and entrepreneurs in growing numbers for more than a decade. Panama offers many and very user-friendly options for establishing foreign residency if you want to live here full-time, and it is home to established and welcoming communities of expats, retirees, and adventurer-entrepreneurs.
#4: You can get by without speaking Spanish. I don’t recommend it, but, in Panama City, you don’t have to learn to speak Spanish if you don’t want to. Outside the capital, at least some Spanish becomes more important.
#5: Health care in Panama is of an international standard, and Panama City is home to Hospital Punta Pacífica, the only hospital in Latin America affiliated with and managed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Small clinics across Panama City offer excellent care on a walk-in basis.
#6: The cost of medical care is a bargain. Like everything, medical costs are higher in Panama City than elsewhere in the country, but, even in the capital, a doctor’s visit can cost US$50 or less. At the clinic we visit for treatment for ourselves and our children, a visit is US$30 (and we never wait more than a few minutes even without an appointment).
#7: Local Panama health insurance (which can be good, comprehensive coverage, all you need living in this country) can cost US$155 per month or less.
#8: The infrastructure is of a high standard. This is a place where things generally work. The internet, cable TV, phone service, etc., are all as reliable as anywhere in the States. The roadways and highway systems are being constantly expanded and improved. In Panama City, credit cards are accepted everywhere, and you find ATMs are on every corner.
#9: The currency is the U.S. dollar, so U.S. dollar-holders have no currency-exchange risk or exposure.
#10: Panama City is an international travel hub, very accessible from North America. The flight from Miami, for example, is about 2 1/2 hours.
#11: Panama’s pensionado program of special benefits and discounts for foreign retirees is the current Gold Standard. Retired in this country, you can save as much as 50% on everything from restaurant meals to in-country airfares, from prescription medicines to closing costs on your new beach house.
#12: This is a nature-lover’s paradise, boasting some of the world’s best surfing, snorkeling, diving, sport fishing, birding, hiking, and adventure-travel opportunities anywhere on earth. In fact, Panama is home to more species of birds, for example, than its better-known-for-its-eco-opportunities neighbor Costa Rica.
#13: This is a safe, welcoming place to call home.
#14: Retirees you meet in Panama aren’t losing sleep over their futures. They’re embracing them.
I could go on, but you get the idea. As everyone from the AARP to The New York Times, from USA Today to, well, me has been pointing out for a long time, Panama is the world’s top choice for where to think about restarting your life overseas.