Quick Guide to Moving to Panama
Published by PanamaSimple, July 16, 2013 | By Dennis Smith
Panama is a good place to relocate to and many do every year. Some live permanently and some part
time. The reasons are many, a variety of locations to live in (beaches, islands, mountains, rural) a
mild tropical climate year round and a low-pressure lifestyle. On the climate issue, be aware that it
does rain some most days, nine months a year.
To get you started, we have compiled a quick introduction to some of the major considerations for
moving to Panama.
Visit Panama First
Come take a look around before you do anything else. Currently the most popular places for Expat
relocation are Panama City, Bocas del Toro, Boquete, Coronado and more recently Pedasi.
Visas for Panama
When you first come to Panama, you will need a Tourist Visa. This is good for certain number of
months depending on your home country. It is usually renewable for one time before you need to
leave. The other major long-term Visas are retiree, investor and work. You can get residency here but
it takes years – even if you marry a Panamanian.
Real Estate in Panama
Land prices are relatively cheap. Beware though that buying real estate is not as easy as sellers
promote it. There are two types of land – titled and Right of Possession (Derechos Posesores). Both
can be complicated in terms of paperwork, contracts, squatters and other considerations. Do your
Due Diligence before you buy anything – two or three times if possible. Many foreigners have run
screaming from Panama after losing their land and the money that they paid for it, others are living
happily on their tropical real estate. On the other side, renting is usually easy.
Banking & Money Matters
Prices are probably a lot lower than where you live now. Panama’s currency is the US Dollar. Euros are
becoming easier to convert but mostly in the large urban areas. Credit Cards are accepted but not
everywhere. Forget Travelers Checks completely. Panama’s banking system is one of the best in Latin
America. Due to disclosure pressures from the IRS and the OECD, it has become difficult for
foreigners to open accounts. You will need introductions and help. Also, be prepared to experience
the “You’re Rich” syndrome since in the eyes of the locals, all foreigners are millionaires.
Food & Eating
In the areas favored by Expats, a diverse cuisine should be available. Like US fast food? McDonalds,
KFC and Pizza Hut are everywhere. If you want to eat like the locals, standard meals consist of chicken
or beef, rice and beans.
Services in Panama
Panama has a good tech infrastructure so Internet, WiFi, telephone and cellular services and
electricity are easy to get and are mostly reliable. Water is potable. A note about electricity and
water, you will experience periodic, unannounced down time – no matter where you live.
Medical Care in Panama
Quality medical care is available at reasonable prices in Panama. Local insurance is here as well. Many
prefer to keep their home policy in addition to the one from Panama.
Driving in Panama
Put simply Panamanian drivers are not courteous so driving can be risky. One good thing is Panama
now has a mandatory insurance law. If you are walking, remember that on the streets here,
pedestrians definitely don’t rule.
Bringing Your Things
Depending on your status you can get one-time duty exemptions for your car and other possessions.
There are a lot of reputable relocation services in Panama and it is recommended you hire one of
them to do the import and delivery work. That includes pets.
Education in Panama
This is one area where Panama needs work. The public school system is inadequate so your children
will need to attend one of the many private schools that exist. Fees are comparatively low.
No matter what you are trying to do it will involve paperwork and or waiting in line. Getting impatient
or upset will get you nowhere – fast.
Lawyers in Panama
Legal representation will be part of your Expat life in numerous ways. It may sound strange but
Panama lawyers are immune to prosecution, by law. So get recommendations from other Expats
before you hire any legal help.
That’s the Panama snapshot of moving here. Good luck and enjoy your stay.