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Panama Cathedral in Panama City
Panama Cathedral in Panama City
Panama Cathedral in Panama City

Expats in Panama: Pros and Cons of Living in Panama

By Joshua Wood, LPC

InmoPanama Real Estate Panama
InmoPanama Real Estate Panama

Summary: Expats in Panama talks about the pros and cons of living in Panama. Topics include the lower cost of living, bureaucracy, friendly people. Expats in Panama seem to agree that you'll have to come down and explore the country to find out if it's the right place for you!

If you are contemplating moving to Panama, we've compiled a list of pros and cons of living in Panama to help with your decision. Everything on the list comes from expats who are living in Panama and some who've lived there in the past.

Bureaucracy In Panama

Clearly, expats in Panama have varying experiences getting their visas and otherwise navigating the process of entering Panama.

Pro: Residency visas are well-priced and easy to obtain

An expat noted the relative affordability of getting a visa and her lack of problems in obtaining it, while also adding that, "Panama is welcoming to legal immigrants."

Con: Bureaucracy is a Big Part of Life in Panama

One expat who lives in Panama wrote that "Dealing with government offices... whoa...seems not everyone is on the same page. You get one answer from one person, go the next day and get another answer." Expats all over the world will read this and say... "YES!" This is not unique to Panama!

Another expat advised, "As has been posted here many times, it would complicate things to mention your plans for the Friendly Nations visa to the immigration officials upon entering the country. Panama is also getting 'fierce' about immigration."

Health Insurance and Medical Care in Panama

Expats in Panama Are Eager to Share Healthcare Information

In our guide, Healthcare in Panama, an expat offers his opinion on healthcare in Panama: "Medical-IMO, the doctors here are good, the support staff and administration are so/so. If I needed attention, I would go to Paitilla Hospital (private). Prices are not high, and not low. There is a Social Security system, but it is definitely hit or miss."

If you're moving to Panama, you'll need to decide if you're going to rely upon the Social Security System (Caja de Seguro Social) or buy private health insurance. If you have chronic health conditions or are at an age when access to the best doctors and hospitals is important, this will guide you in your decision.

Here are a few informative discussions about healthcare in Panama that are helpful to newcomers:

Health Care Quality and Price (interesting debate about the cost of the top hospitals in Panama City)

Finding Specialists in David or Santiago (discussion about difficulty finding a thyroid specialist outside of Panama City)

Surgery in Panama (discussion about having hip surgery at a public hospital in Panama City vs. a private hospital)

International Health Insurance in Panama

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.

International Health Insurance in Panama

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.

Deciding Where to Live in Panama

Pro: Panama Has Great Options For Expats

Boquete, Panama: One expat wrote that in Boquete, it is, "very easy to meet others if you are at all outgoing. There is also a newcomers group that meets a couple of times a month. There is always something happening, somewhere to go, something to do. There are many non-profits looking for volunteers, so just find one that speaks to you."

Bocas Del Toro: An expat in Bocas Del Toro advised others that, "Besides the multicultural Panamanians there are people from all over the world here and seven different Indian tribes. For the most part everyone gets along great. There are occasional clashes as in any community and this is a tight knit one where people help their neighbors. Panama welcomes people from many countries with great expat laws and easy residency."

If you are looking for expat life in Panama where you can walk to restaurants and shops, an expat advised that, "Coronado [has a] beach view and is within walking distance to shops and restaurants."

The same expat added, "Boquete has a large number of Canadians because the weather is so perfect. Average 70 degrees with highs into the 80's only, so not super hot for swimming pools, and lows around 60 overnight so perfect sleeping weather."

Another expat wrote, "If you want hustle and bustle, go to Panama City. If you want just bustle, go to David. If you want tranquila, come to Puerto Armuelles. It's a nice size town with infrastructure and the international company of Del Monte. We get things accomplished around here, but we do it with tranquila. I am a psychologist and was a university professor, and I love it here!"

Another expat shared that Pedasi is a clean, charming town with all the requisites for either adventure or rest and relaxation. Just a few minutes to the beach and the gateway to the southern portion of the Azuero, Pedasi and its surroundings offer a great location as a retirement community or traveling destination. Pedasi, along with the eastern portion of the Azuero (Herrera and Los Santos provinces), enjoy less rain and a longer dry season than their neighbors to the west in Veraguas province. This coupled with constant ocean breezes translates into an enjoyable climate even in the wettest months of the rainy season and the hottest months of the dry season.

For more on this topic, read our article, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama.

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.
Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance in Panama

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.
Get a Quote

Con: It Might Take Time to Adjust in Panama

The expat in Boquete, Panama added that "the culture is very different than the U.S. and the systems and structures can sometimes make no sense at all. If you can't roll with things when they go wrong or get frustrating, it may not be for you."

So make sure you are careful and visit for a period of time to make sure you are getting an accurate sense of what each area is actually like.

The Panamanian People

Pro: Locals in Other Areas are Very Friendly

One expat wrote that the people in Panama are "Good humoured, friendly, contented, [and] open-minded people" and a "family-oriented society."

Con: Women are Often Perceived as a Commodity in Panama

One expat warned a single woman that "Panama is a Latino macho male dominated society" where "As a single woman you could be sexually harassed and perhaps even assaulted by local men who see you as a new toy to use and then toss away after they got what they wanted. The vast majority of people in the country are decent human being[s] but there [is] also a layer of individuals who will victimize you, especially if you have little to no understanding of this dynamics of this environment."

Pro: Experiences in Panama as an African American

An African-American expat inquired about Panama: "I am interested in learning more about the ethnic minority experience in Panama, African-American in particular. Any input will be greatly appreciated."

Can't say much about the ethnic minority experience, as I am white, but at least here in Bocas we have a real diverse population. Black, white red, and yellow. And to my knowledge no one gives color much thought. We're all just living the dream here in paradise.

Cost of Living in Panama

Pro: Relatively Cheaper Living Expenses

An expat from Canada wrote that, "Overall cost of living is lower than in Canada (biggest savings are in services), despite the poor exchange rate for the Canadian Dollar."

Pro: There are Some Affordable Places to Live

An expat in Panama wrote that, "People can live here, and do live here on a salary of $450 a month. The lifestyle is so basic, I would not want to do that. If you cannot have $2000 a month to live on, I would not even consider it. Make it $25,000 a year for a nice round number and you will not be living in a high rise condo in Panama City. Best to come for a holiday and bring your calculator to find out prices. It is cheaper in the west, the food basket of Panama, than in the east, Panama City."

However, as noted above, that is RELATIVE! Cheap to one person is expensive to another. There are also tradeoffs for cheaper living, and that means you need to visit!

According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Panama is lower than in the United States. View Cost of living information about Boquete, Coronado, David, and Panama City.

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.
Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance in Panama

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.
Get a Quote

Driving and Transportation in Panama

Driving in Many Areas Not Necessary

A car is not necessary in our area, but convenient. Buses, taxis, and Uber are plentiful. We have all the needs and wants within 10-15 minutes of our home. Only go to Panama City for social reasons or some off the wall situation.

Driving in Panama Can Be an Adventure

Drivers are very aggressive and think they are the only car on the road. Especially taxis.

You have to drive defensively and anticipate what every driver is going to do. Need eyes in the back of your head!

Getting behind a trolling taxi driver looking for a fare and you can't pass. Then he stops in the road without pulling over to pick up or drop off a fare.

Taxis will jam as many passengers into the vehicle as possible.

Don't do a share ride.

AND when you tell them where you want to go...sometimes it's inconvenient for them and they will refuse to take you even though it is against the law. Always get a fare quote before getting into the taxi...don't like the quote...move on to another taxi.

Some don't know how to use a turn signal.

Seat belts are only required to be used in the front seat.

More Pros and Cons of Living in Panama

The Weather in Panama is Varied

In her article An Honest Panama Weather Report, Casey Halloran writes that "weather in Panama is as varied as the terrain. You can find cooler climates in the mountains of Sora (near Panama City) and already famous Boquete (near David) and the Anton Valley. If you like hot and dry, the Azuero Peninsula's east coast tends to be dry as well as parts of the Central Pacific like Playa Santa Clara. That's supposedly why the Decameron resort chose that area for their mega resort. The weather is not perfect. San Jose, Costa Rica has near-perfect weather (again, my opinion) but the city is unfortunately not so pretty. Life is filled with these cruel tradeoffs. For example, chocolate is tasty, but makes you fat. If you traverse enough of Panama you'll probably find a climate you like, unless you're really into skiing!

If you ask a Panamanian for directions and they will give you some - even if they don't know where to direct you.

Panama Grocery Store "Traffic" Same as on the Road

An expat from Canada noted that, "Locals in the store think they are the only patrons, park carts in middle of aisles and crowd the aisles having conversations with friends.

Annoying Things Happen in Panama Neighborhoods

Stray dogs, barking dogs, loud music, and garbage seem to be just part of the landscape to Panamanians.

Time and Punctuality Not Important in Panama

"The difference in attitude regarding such things as appointment times - even if you agree to meet at a specific day and time, if a Panamanian has a family event, another appointment or just decides not to come, they may show up an hour or two late or the next day. You need to be prepared to schedule and re-schedule without getting too frustrated!"

Moving to Panama Soon?

AGS Worldwide Movers can move you to and from anywhere in the world. Presently the AGS Group has over 141 locations in more than 95 countries and has one of the largest networks in the international removals industry. We relocate 85,000 families every year. Free moving quote!

Moving to Panama Soon?

AGS Worldwide Movers can move you to and from anywhere in the world. Presently the AGS Group has over 141 locations in more than 95 countries and has one of the largest networks in the international removals industry. We relocate 85,000 families every year. Free moving quote!

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Panama GuidePanama Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Panama.

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Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Panama on our Panama forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

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An index of all of our site's Panama information.

Contribute to Panama Network Contribute
Help others in Panama by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Panama.

Expat Healthcare Advice in PanamaHealthcare & Health Insurance in Panama

Expats in Panama offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Panama.

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Expats in Panama offer advice about healthcare in Panama.

Best Places to Live in Panama Best Places to Live in Panama

Panama is a great place to live or retire with easy residency laws, warm people and lots of expats. Whether you want to live by the beach in Bocas del Toro or need to live in Panama City for work and schools, there are many places to explore.

Real Estate in PanamaReal Estate in Panama

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Panama.

Guide to Real Estate in PanamaGuide to Real Estate in Panama

Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Panama.

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Expats in Panama enjoy a relatively low cost of living. However, it's important to do your research to make sure you'll actually enjoy those saving while creating a high quality of life as an expat in Panama.

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Expats in Panama face unique challenges in managing their finances while living there, and that always starts with settling on the right expat financial services. Here are some basic tips from expats.living in Panama - their insights are based on their actual experiences managing their finances while living there.

International-Schools-in-PanamaInternational Schools in Panama

Expats with children who explore the possibility of moving to Panama first and foremost want to know what educational options are available there. Here is a great start on exploring the options in Panama City... and beyond.

Pros-and-Cons-of-Living-in-PanamaPros and Cons of Living in Panama

Expats in Panama talks about the pros and cons of living in Panama. Topics include the lower cost of living, bureaucracy, friendly people. Expats in Panama seem to agree that you'll have to come down and explore the country to find out if it's the right place for you!

13-Important-Tips-for-Retirees-in-Panama13 Important Tips for Retirees in Panama

If you're thinking about retiring in Panama, here are 13 things you must know before you make the move.

InmoPanama Real Estate Panama
InmoPanama Real Estate Panama

InmoPanama Real Estate Panama
InmoPanama Real Estate Panama

Comments

guest
Oct 2, 2017 01:17

I'd like to hear details of purchasing organic foods that are really organic, that is, certified organic by known certifiers. I have specific health needs for such foods and would need to gain an understanding of this before considering a move.

Panaman16
Oct 2, 2017 08:44

Re: Certified Organic Food "Organics" stores in Panama City and Coronado have a limited selection of certified organic packaged foods available, but to the best of my knowledge there is no certifying process in Panama. Most fruits and vegetables are imported, with some coming from Cerro Punta in Chiriqui, but are heavily sprayed and fertilized. Best to grow your own produce at the higher elevations such as Boquete, Volcan, El Valle, Santa Fe, or Sora.

Panama Cathedral in Panama City

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Panama GuidePanama Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Panama.

Panama Forum Panama Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Panama on our Panama forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

Panama Index Panama Index
An index of all of our site's Panama information.

Contribute to Panama Network Contribute
Help others in Panama by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Panama.

Expat Healthcare Advice in PanamaHealthcare & Health Insurance in Panama

Expats in Panama offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Panama.

Expat Talk about Healthcare Advice in PanamaMembers Talk about Healthcare & Health Insurance in Panama

Expats in Panama offer advice about healthcare in Panama.

Best Places to Live in Panama Best Places to Live in Panama

Panama is a great place to live or retire with easy residency laws, warm people and lots of expats. Whether you want to live by the beach in Bocas del Toro or need to live in Panama City for work and schools, there are many places to explore.

Real Estate in PanamaReal Estate in Panama

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Panama.

Guide to Real Estate in PanamaGuide to Real Estate in Panama

Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Panama.

Pros Cons of Living in PanamaPros & Cons of Living in Panama

Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what digital nomads & expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Panama.

Cost of Living in PanamaCost of Living in Panama

Expats in Panama enjoy a relatively low cost of living. However, it's important to do your research to make sure you'll actually enjoy those saving while creating a high quality of life as an expat in Panama.

International-Schools-in-PanamaInternational Schools in Panama

Expats with children who explore the possibility of moving to Panama first and foremost want to know what educational options are available there. Here is a great start on exploring the options in Panama City... and beyond.

Pros-and-Cons-of-Living-in-PanamaPros and Cons of Living in Panama

Expats in Panama talks about the pros and cons of living in Panama. Topics include the lower cost of living, bureaucracy, friendly people. Expats in Panama seem to agree that you'll have to come down and explore the country to find out if it's the right place for you!

13-Important-Tips-for-Retirees-in-Panama13 Important Tips for Retirees in Panama

If you're thinking about retiring in Panama, here are 13 things you must know before you make the move.

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Expats in Panama offer 8 important tips about healthcare and health insurance in Panama. While the quality of healthcare varies, there are world class doctors and facilities throughout Panama. Health insurance is much less expensive in Panama. Doctors visits (with and without insurance) are very affordable. The one negative seems to be that medications can be more expensive that in the U.S. Despite these pros and cons, many expats.mentioned that people have healthier lifestyles in Panama - cleaner air, cleaner water, fresh produce and less stress.

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