Quick Guide to Moving to Panama


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Advice for Expats in terms of enjoying their life or stay, or relocating in Panama

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Quick Guide to Moving to Panama

  1. 1. 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.
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. 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. Waiting
  4. 4. 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.