“The world is my oyster,” but I’m just not sure yet. You’ve reached this blog post because you’re curious about Panama and want to see if it is a good match and good timing for you to move.
There are many beautiful and fascinating aspects about Panama as a country and place live. I, myself, came here from Venezuela after my brother, Pedro Andrés Rojas Chirinos, came for business purposes and eventually we opened Financiera Finangente, I moved here, married and have led a happy life.
I will answer the basic questions that most people ask regarding stability, safety, economy, finances, health care, etc. and speak on things that attract expats about international living, such as the cultures in Panama, events, growth, travel and expat communities.
Firstly, Panama is one of the most stable countries, politically, socially and economically in the region. The president is democratically elected, and these high profile elected positions are not contested as fraudulent.
If you speak to Panamanians they might raise alarm bells on crime due to a slight increase in robberies and violence, but when compared to other countries they must admit the isthmus is relatively safe. Immigrants flee from more violent countries to Panama and only in “zonas rojas” of Panama (areas known for pickpocketing and muggings, mostly) does anyone claim to feel unsafe.
Robberies in taxis, where the anonymity of a driver picking up passengers on the street was a problem. In the past the public had no other transport options, however, ride sharing apps seem to have ameliorated some of these dangers by knowing the identity of the drivers and passengers and has somewhat forced delinquents out of the taxi business.
An assuring tendency is that cruise lines and airlines are betting on Panama, making it a destination stop in their Caribbean tours and different countries are testing cheap flights to the newly expanded International Tocumen Airport in Panama City.
The World Bank predicted that Panama would be the Latin American country with the strongest economic growth in the region this year. Strong economic growth can usually equate to political and social stability.
The expansion of the Panama Canal is a leading factor in this economic growth, however, and on the ground for everyday residents the economic situation does not look feel as strong as the national economy is faring.
Because job creation and economic activity on a micro level is not at its highest level, as you will read in all of the newspapers, rents and apartments for sale have decreased in price. Immigration has slowed down, both as an effort on the part of the government to avoid being overwhelmed as well as the simple supply and demand pressures: if there are fewer jobs anyway and immigration is also tightening, then migrants will prefer to go elsewhere.
With less immigrants to fill up rental apartments, you can be sure to find a medium-range apartment at a lower price now than you would have when there was a lot of economic activity on the street years ago.
Read more on real estate as an investment or for retirement in Panama. There are multiple benefits, including zero taxes for 20 years, for purchasing a new residence.
Many of the doctors in the larger hospitals in Panama have studied in the U.S. Because most Panamanians rely on the public healthcare system, the private insurance system is not as widely used as in the U.S., however insurance here does follow almost all of the same precepts. The differences might be that you must provide documentation on preexisting conditions and conduct health exams before an insurance company will accept you, but there are many international health options that will give you access to the top, private hospitals in Panama.
Mostly these hospitals and clinics are in the capital, Panama City, however there are some communities that have attracted many expats and quality hospitals have opened to cater to them.
In local parlance, El Interior is anywhere a couple hours outside of the capital city. The capital is a microcosm of Latin America. Here you’ll find in great majority Venezuelans and Colombians, but you’ll also find some Mexicans, Argentines, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, etc.
Of course there are some U.S. citizens, many Canadians fleeing the cold and attracted by cheap flights, but there is also some European representation, including French, Spanish and Italians.
Outside of the capital you can find expat retirees as well as energetic entrepreneurs who open a business.
Note that most of these areas are connected by internal flights operated by Air Panama, reducing the longer trips to 1 or 2 hour rides. They mainly fly out of a smaller international airport called Panamá Pacífico that you may or may not find listed in flight vetting websites.
Rarely do you find such an interesting mix of modern and indigenous cultures in such close proximity. Occasionally you can spot someone, mostly females, in full indigenous attire on a street lined with glass skyscrapers constructed within the last 10 years in the heart of the banking district.
Visit a comarca (indigenous reserve) and you’ll see that most of the residents are also dressed in their wear and go about their day using both modern and traditional methods for everything you can think of: using Whatsapp to laugh with their family members, and washing their clothes in a creek.
The city is busy with activities and events, everything from gastronomy week, wine tastings, international book fair, various kinds of industry conventions, new restaurants, drum circles for families, yoga and fitness events on the famous boardwalk and equine competitions.
In the Interior you’ll also find that there are events to attract internal and external tourism, from film festivals to flower parades and much, much more.
Panama truly has so much to offer, as expats living here can attest. There are a couple local newspapers in English that can give you a sense for the larger things going on in Panama.
It truly is worth coming to visit before deciding to move here. For that we’ve prepared a blog post comparing pricing with two other countries in Latin America where people consider moving to or investing in.