Expat Advice: Retiring in
Nueva Gorgona, Panama
Nueva Gorgona, Panama
An expat retired in Nueva Gorgona, Panama wrote an extensive report about her experiences there. Everything from cost of living, housing, safety, how it feels to retire abroad, transportation and more are covered. A definite must read for anyone considering retiring in Panama!
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Why did you choose to retire abroad?
We wanted a change and sunshine year round. Living on the beach appealed to us as did a slower pace of life. Once we retired, we didn't want to be in a rut, we craved adventure.
Are you retired abroad all year or part of the year?
Why did you choose the country you retired to?
We visited a few countries that met our criteria (stable government, stable economy, access to good health care, warm year round temperatures) and fell in love with Panama.
Did you ever live abroad before you retired abroad?
How long have you lived abroad since you retired abroad?
Almost two years full time, three years part time.
How many countries (other than your home country) have you lived in as a retiree?
What have been the most challenging aspects of being retired abroad?
Sometimes it's a challenge to find ingredients for a recipe or find a good steak but everything can be worked around. Learning Spanish at retirement age is not easy for us but we plug along one word at a time and we are getting there. In our area [in Nueva Gorgona], there are a lot of expats and a lot of English is spoken and that makes learning Spanish less crucial but we still want to keep learning.
What have been the most rewarding aspects of being retired abroad?
Our stress levels have gone down a lot. We are very relaxed. We also eat better. So much fresh fruit and veggies available and everything tastes so good here. By far, our favorite thing here is living on the beach and going to sleep and waking up to the sound of the waves. It's so tranquil.
What would you do differently if you were just starting the retire abroad process?
We did a lot of research and due diligence. (Here are tips for retiring in Panama.) We sold most everything we owned in the US over a period of a year. The only thing we might have researched better was choosing a lawyer for our residency. It likely could have been a lot easier than what we experienced but we are residents and it's a done deal.
What is life like for a retiree in your city and its surroundings? (Is there an active expat community? Cultural Attractions? Recreation? Nightlife?)
There are a lot of expats in our area in Panama and a lot of opportunities to join groups for fun or community serice. A retiree can be involved in as much as they want here or nothing at all. There is a wide variety of restaurants nearby and some nightlife. Panama City is about an hour away and has everything anyone could want. We occasionally spend a night or two in the city. We have water aerobics, game nights and various group activities. The expats are a good community here. We all help each other and especially help the new people. Paying it forward is part of the process.
What residency documents or visas did you need to obtain to retire in your host country? How difficult was this process? (Please describe)
We needed a number of documents, all apostilled, which I had never even heard of apostilled before. All that means is notarized and presented to the correct authority to certify the notary is valid and current. We needed an FBI report which was the most difficult to obtain. I highly recommend using an expediter. Well worth the extra $$ to get it back in a couple of weeks instead of months. The rest was easy. Copies of bank statements, marriage certificate, letter proving monthly income for life (social security or pension as we got residency through the pensionado program). Everything notarized and apostilled.
Did you buy a home or apartment, or rent one? Is this a difficult process? (Please describe)
We decided to rent. We sold everything we had in the US and want the freedom to move if we are ever inclined to do that. We rent furnished and love not worrying about maintenance or replacement of anything. Buying abroad can be tricky and I would encourage anyone buying to do due diligence. As for us, we are happy renting.
Financially, has living abroad in your host country met your expectations? Exceeded them?
The cost of living in Panama is not as low as it once was (we have heard) but is still lower than the US. There is no way we could afford to rent a condo right on the beach in the US for what we are paying here. We knew there would be adjustments but it has been easier than we anticipated in part due to the strong expat community. No expectations means no disappointment.
What are the most important financial considerations for retiring to your host country?
To retire in the pensionado program you need $1,000 monthly income for a single or $1,250 for a couple of proven lifetime income. You can go out all the time and spend a lot of $$ or live more frugally and live on a comfortable budget. Also, I'm sure living in Panama City is way more expensive than the interior.
How much can a retiree live on comfortably in your host country?
A couple (renting) can live in a condo and a very comfortable lifestyle, eating out a time or two a week, for $2-2.5K/ month in this area or less depending on where you live. We are pretty spoiled!
Do you have access to quality medical care? (Please describe - is it close? Expensive?)
There are several English speaking doctors in our area and clinics. The nearest major hospitals are about an hour away in Panama City but there are small hospitals closer to home. My last visit to the local ER cost $31 in total for X-rays, IV meds and Doctor consult. My ER co pay in the US was $75. You do the math.
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Is there a lot of crime where you live? (Please describe)
We occasionally hear of petty crime in the area, mostly theft but there is little violent crime. We feel very safe here.
Describe available transportation where you live. Do you need a car? Is there access to safe public transportation?
The first year we were here, we relied on public transportation. The bus system is great and inexpensive. We can take a bus to Panama City for $2.50. Taxis are also everywhere and not expensive. In Panama City, we use Uber with good success. Once we got our residency, we decided to buy a car just for the convenience. Used cars are not cheap here but insurance is a fraction of what we paid in the US.
Is there high-speed internet access where you live?
We seldom have internet issues in our high rise. If it goes out, we go swimming or exploring until it comes back. It's a bit sketchier in some of the more remote areas but, for us, it has not been an issue.
Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share about retiring abroad?
We feel like we are on a perpetual vacation. I remind myself that we live where people vacation. For me, there is nothing more relaxing than the sound of the waves lapping always in the background. I have never felt more at peace in my life. Life is good!
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