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El Valle, Panama

Moving to Panama

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 04, 2023

Summary: Expats and digital nomads move to Panama for its low cost of living, warm climate, and friendly people. Additionally, Panama offers a variety of activities and attractions, making it an attractive destination for those looking to explore a new culture. People can find a place to live in Panama by searching online for rental properties, or by contacting a real estate agent. The most popular cities for expats and digital nomads in Panama are Panama City, Boquete, and Bocas del Toro. These cities offer a variety of amenities, activities, and attractions, making them ideal for those looking to experience the culture and lifestyle of Panama.

What do I need to know before moving to Panama?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Panama, they said:

"- Learn some Spanish: Although English is widely spoken and is the first foreign language taught in local schools, mastering some of the local Spanish language will make your transition much smoother. - Research housing and transit options: Housing in Panama can vary greatly depending on where you are looking. Also consider carefully what type of transportation is available in your area, and make sure it's suitable for your lifestyle. - Find the right neighborhood: Panama is a huge country, and each neighborhood has its own distinct cultural feel. Be sure to research crime rates, public transportation, and accessibility to schools and other facilities when choosing a neighborhood to live in. - Secure a work permit: If you plan on working in Panama, you need to obtain a work permit from the government. The cost and complexity of the work permit process will depend on the type of work you plan on doing and whether you are a foreign national. - Obtain health insurance: Healthcare in Panama can be quite expensive, so it is important to make sure you have the necessary health insurance coverage. The government has a national health system, called the Seguro Social, that is available to residents and allows them to access basic health care services. - Know the legal system: Panama has its own legal system that is based on civil law. It is important to familiarize yourself with the laws so that you can avoid any legal complications in the future. - Consider cultural differences: Panama is a diverse country with a rich culture and history. Learn as much as you can about the cultural norms and customs, and try to adopt them while you are here. This will help ensure you have a good relationship with your fellow citizens," commented one expat who made the move to Panama.

"RENT FIRST before you buy. Rent for several months in several areas before you buy," remarked another expat in Nueva Gorgona , Panama.

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How do I find a place to live in Panama?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"Looking for a place to live in Panama can be quite a daunting task. There are a variety of options available, including hotels, hostels, apartments, and houses. Depending on your budget and needs, there are numerous websites and real estate agents that can help you find exactly what you are looking for. Most cities in Panama offer an array of 3-4 star hotels with competitive rates, so finding a place to stay shouldn't be difficult. For those looking for longer-term accommodations, apartments are usually the most cost-efficient option and can be found in most cities. Rental rates in Panama vary, so it is best to shop around and compare prices and amenities to find the best option for you. Additionally, listings can be found through local newspapers and classifieds websites, as well as rental agencies and rental sites such as expat.com. If you are looking for the comforts of home, you can find houses for rent throughout the country. Houses typically come fully furnished and will require a minimum month-to-month or yearly lease. It is important to remember that most landlords and real estate agents will require a deposit, guarantors, and other documents. Lastly, you can find properties for sale in Panama, by using online listings or real estate agencies. This is an option for those looking for a long-term solution or an investment property," remarked another expat who made the move to Panama.

"We live in Costa del Este because we wanted to be very close to services without being in a noisy city and we also like to walk and Costa del Este is a beautiful place with wide sidewalks and beautiful landscaping," explained one expat living in Panama City, Panama.

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Panama Relocation Tours

If you're thinking about moving to Panama and haven't narrowed down where you would like to live, consider taking a tour with our partner, Panama Relocation Tours. The tour will take you from large metropolitan areas to resort beach areas that have every amenity and luxury you'd ever need, and funky beach areas with a laid back atmosphere. You'll also visit popular highland towns where thousands of expats live, and rural areas teeming with opportunity.

Learn MoreVIEW UPCOMING TOURS

Panama Relocation Tours

If you're thinking about moving to Panama and haven't narrowed down where you would like to live, consider taking a tour with our partner, Panama Relocation Tours. The tour will take you from large metropolitan areas to resort beach areas that have every amenity and luxury you'd ever need, and funky beach areas with a laid back atmosphere. You'll also visit popular highland towns where thousands of expats live, and rural areas teeming with opportunity.

Learn MoreVIEW UPCOMING TOURS

What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Panama?

"A typical expat home or apartment in Panama will typically be well-furnished and often modern in style. Many expats choose to live in stylish residential complexes, which are usually secure, offer amenities such as a pool and have a central clubhouse. Most apartments feature a balcony or terrace, providing views of the mountains, ocean, or city. They tend to be well-equipped with appliances and modern amenities such as air-conditioning and luxury bathrooms. Expat apartments may also provide a washer/dryer, kitchenettes, and good-quality furnishings and decor. There may also be nearby shopping centres and supermarkets, and regular public transport links to make life easier," remarked another expat who made the move to Panama.

"We currently live in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo on the 17th floor at the beach," explained one expat living in Nueva Gorgona , Panama.

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What is the average cost of housing in Panama?

If you are thinking about moving to Panama, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The cost of housing in Panama can vary widely depending on location, type of property and other factors. Generally, housing in Panama is considered to be quite affordable compared to other countries in the region. Prices for a studio apartment in a city can start at around $500 a month, while the typical three-bedroom apartment in a good neighborhood in Panama City or other larger cities could range from around $1,000 to $1,500 a month. In more rural locations, housing is typically cheaper, with typical three-bedroom homes costing from around $400 to $800 a month," replied a member in Panama.

"About rents that is one big advantage of Panama. Rents have sky-rocketed in the USA but they are still reasonable here. You do need to do some looking. I would recommend staying in an airbnb place for a couple of weeks in the area that you like so you can take your time looking for a place to rent, If you are going to rent long term it is probably cheaper to buy your own furniture and rent an unfurnished place," commented one expat who made the move to Panama.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Panama

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

Should I buy or rent a home in Panama?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Panama, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"Buying a home in Panama is an appealing option for many people who are looking to live in the country. It can provide you with a stable and secure living environment, while also allowing you to build equity and take advantage of lower property taxes here than in some other countries. However, renting a home in Panama may also be a good option depending on your particular situation and needs. Renting can provide you with more flexibility to move around or settle in different locations, and you don’t have to worry about dealing with all the responsibilities that come with owning a home," replied a member in Panama.

"We were going to rent but we found a great location and price on a house we really liked really liked and ended up buying. It was a super easy process once we hired a Lawyer," commented one expat who made the move to Playa El Uverito.

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What should I pack when moving to Panama?

We asked people living in Panama to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"Essentials -Clothing and shoes (including rain gear) -Toiletries -Medications -Documents such as passport, visas, birth certificates -Linens, towels, and other everyday items -Basic kitchen items -Electronics and technology -Cell phone (with SIM card) -Power converter -Tools -First-aid kit -Flashlight -Bug spray -Sunscreen -Books -Toys -Pets supplies (if applicable) -Furniture (in some cases)," remarked another expat who made the move to Panama.

"Pack your Amazon Prime membership. And get a good freight forwarder here for deliveries in Miami. You can buy a lot of stuff here when it is available. If you don't live in a large city, Amazon is the way to go. Bring decent lightbulbs. The ones here are sadly lacking. They are all on some sort of wattage deficit. I brought my washer and am glad I did. If you like electric stoves or grills, bring those. Amazon firestick is good. A good fan. Most fans here last about 6 months. A dehumidifier is a must. I think they are cheaper in the states than here. If you live in the mountains bring a portable heater. There are mornings that you will be glad you did. One merchant where I live brought in a handful of heaters. His family laughed at him. In the twinkling of an eye, all heaters were bought. Can't find any here now. The heaters are not only good for providing a little heat, but they also dry a lot of the early morning humidity. You want to lessen the humidity in your house to save your clothes and appliances. Appliances decay rapidly in high humidity. If you can afford to run an air conditioner all the time, then don't worry about humidity. Of course, you will need a generator to keep the AC on when the electricity is off. So bring one or two of those with you. Bring any thing of personal comfort and joy. They will ease your transition by making you feel more at home," explained one expat living in Panama.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Panama?

We asked people in Panama if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"In Panama, some of the cultural faux pas that you should try to avoid making include talking negatively about the Panamanian flag or national heroes, underestimating the importance of family, speaking or dressing overly casually or provocatively, and talking too loudly or dominating the conversation. It is also considered impolite to appear impatient or intolerant, to arrive late or not show up at all to important social engagements, and to use your hands or facial expressions to express strong emotions. Additionally, showing affection in public can be considered inappropriate, as can touching someone’s head, taking photos without permission, and using the “thumbs up” gesture. Finally, it is respectful to familiarise oneself with the local customes, greetings and taboos of the indigenous communities, and to dress modestly in places of religious significance," said another expat in Panama.

"I accidentally stepped off a 2' patio while looking at fireworks in the dark and broke two metatarsals in my foot. Not really funny, but definitely a learning experience," remarked another expat who made the move to Nueva Gorgona, Coronado.

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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.

El Valle, Panama

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

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Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
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