Dedicated to providing you with credible information about living overseas
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroad

Questions & Answers

Q & A Menu Q & A BY TOPIC
To navigate, use menu bar to the left
Mirhanna Sandoya of Lucero Homes, Golf & Country Club – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Aeronaval, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIllegal drug traffic in Panama is something that bothers me, as it does any hardworking Panamanian, and foreigners who are trying to live decently and follow the laws. We have had many foreigners coming into Panama using the “Friendship VISA”, which was approved by a previous president. The government granted these “Friendship VISAS” to citizens from Colombia and many other countries. 
Yes, Panama does have a lot of problems internally with drug cartels, and Panama used to not have a military, but because of all these illegal drug traffic problems with Colombia, Panama had to create a specific military force called the “aeronaval”, which in English means “monitoring both air and water.” 
The Aeronaval is stationed in little islands very close to the border between Panama and Colombia, and they are the ones who have helped the drug problem from Colombia decrease. Some Colombians have been illegally entering Panama, so the Aeronaval has been controlling the border very strictly, and thanks to that, the illegal drug traffic problem has decreased a lot. The drug traffic is still there, that’s no lie, but it’s being controlled.
I do not think that the illegal drug traffic problem in Panama is something that a foreigner can really perceive, especially here in Boquete. Here in Boquete, you do not see any illegal drug trafficking. It’s much more of a problem if you’re in the capital city, and if you go to “Red Areas”, where you see that illegal immigrants in Panama are and where they even try to build a home. 
There is a place in Panama between David (the third largest city in Panama, and the closest large city to Boquete) and Boquete called Caldera, which is a small town, and in that specific intersection, there are always going to be police cars and police motorcycles, and the military- they’re always checking the flow of cars coming and going just to make sure that Boquete will always stay safe, because that’s our tourism spot. We need Boquete protected no matter what, so from Caldera to anywhere in Panama, burglary and things like that are being addressed, even though it still exists. All in all, everything is so peaceful in Boquete. 
The Red Zone is what we call “Zona Roja,” which are known as areas within Panama City, just like any large city, that are the worst areas in terms of crime. Many Colombian citizens, due to the very high rates of drug cartels and murders in Colombia and other problems that they are having in their country, enter Panama using the so-called “Friendship VISA”, and they go to these “Red Zones” because it’s cheaper to live there, and that’s where they start building homes illegally. Even though they are not the source of the problem, they become a source of the problem if they’re not regulated.
(Aeronaval, Panama, pictured.)
Jesahely De Janon of Panama Property Attorneys – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Native hut in the Darién Province, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingWe have divisions in Panama. There are some places that are more dangerous than the others. If you are an expat and living in a red zone or what we call a zona roja, you should be worried about illegal trafficking. I personally do not think that an expat would be in any red zone or close to a red zone.
Panama is in negotiations with other countries such as Colombia to fight against the drug traffic between Colombia and Panama. Because drug traffickers are coming to Panama nowadays, the government realizes that there are lots of Cubans coming through  Darién. Darién is a province that is in the border of Colombia. It is a sparsely populated area which is in the far east corner of Panama. Lots of Colombians and Cubans cross the border to come to Panama for drug trafficking. Years ago, the Panamanian government was not aware of the drug trafficking that had been going on.
However, the expats live in areas far away from Darién, so there is very little chance that any expats would have any interaction whatsoever with any illegal drug traffickers.  
(1870 Native hut in the Darién Province, Panama, pictured.)
Jonathan Stolarz of COSTA LINDA RESIDENCE CLUB – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
harbor in Panama City, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingI never had a problem with illegal drug traffic in my 5-year stay here in Panama. Maybe it’s not like New York where you can go walking at 3 AM on the streets but in general, there is no problem. It depends where you go, but inside the city (Panama City) and the places where Americans are, everything is okay and in order.
A typical North American would not be involved in any way with whatever issues there are with the illegal drug traffic in Panama unless he went to certain areas which there would be no reason to go to unless he was involved in illegal drug traffic.
(Harbors in Panama City, Panama are watched for smuggling, pictured.)
Charles Conn of The Visitor – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
the office of general revenue ( tax collection) Panama City – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIllegal drug trafficking is one of the invisible driving forces of the economy of Panama. You do see violence that comes as a result of illegal drug trafficking, but it usually does not affect the expats or tourists.  Usually, it is the gangs that are involved in this type of activity. They will have internal disputes, and then you will hear about some shooting somewhere. That happens nationwide, from coast to coast and from border to border. But again, I have never heard about that affecting tourism or expats at all.
When people arrive here and see Panama City for the first time, many feel it is obvious that these buildings and the real estate have something to do with money laundering, which is the end product of the drug trade. So while there is an effect, it is sort of an invisible driving force and it is a reality that exists. I do not think it is something that would affect anybody living in Panama or visiting Panama unless you are looking for trouble.
(The Office of General Revenue ( tax collection) in Panama City, pictured.)
Michael A. Martinez of B & B Real Estate Nicaragua / Panama Real Estate Information – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
There is no doubt that up and down the Americas from the Canadian border all the way to South America, there is drug trafficking. I am sure closer to the capital and closer to the border of Colombia, those things do happen. Where we live here in Veraguas in the western Azuero Peninsula, I have only heard of one boat that got stranded and they parked on our island eight years ago. They sent someone to town and later they left. Who knows if that was true, but really here, where we live on the western Azuero, drug trafficking is non-existent. You don’t see it here.
The only illegal use here is recreational, probably because one town here – Morillo Beach, is fast becoming the upscale surfing spot for wealthy Panamanians and tourists. It has a beautiful break. It has an incredible and beautiful hostel right on the water. That is where you surf, drink, and probably, I wouldn’t doubt, that there are some green herbs being smoked.
Terry Bradford of Origen Real Estate Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

drug cartels drug raids Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThere are drug cartels and money laundering around the world, including a lot in Latin America.

We do not personally see these situations here in Panama because we do not have friends or contacts in those rings of people but I am sure they exist here.

We may read in the newspapers about drug raids, but as expats, we do not see them ourselves. Of course they keep very tight networks of people and operate underground.

David Whittington of Tucan Golf Club and Resort – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
From a personal perspective, I don’t have much of a sense of any issues with illegal drug traffic in Panama at all.  I would imagine that people here are involved with it, but I don’t have any personal experience with it.  I’m not even aware of any significant news coverage of it.  I may be naïve, but it has no impact on me at all, or anyone I know.
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Taking drugs is a terrible  disease, especially unfortunate among young people, who are under strong peer pressure...and is spreading all over the world...without control.
Every country has it´s share of drugs problems, and Panamá is not the exception.  Lately, with all its economic growth, Panamá has become more and more attractive for all kinds of great and good things, but bad things as well, including illegal drug issues:
  • In the past, Panamá had been named to the "paradise fiscal list" (refers to countries whose banking and corporate laws can be more easily used to launder money), mainly because of its long-established laws regarding corporations and their share distribution; but very proudly, more recently Panamá, through its highly trained police, has become the number one country in fighting illegal drugs, confiscating large amounts daily.    
  • Due the combined efforts of authorities and donations of high tech equipment from some countries that are working together with Panamá to try to eradicate this "cancer" from the area, Panamá has successfully been declared to no longer be on the "paradise fiscal" list, once and all.
  • Local government has confiscated thousands and thousands of tons of illegal drugs that dealers try to transit through Panama to the US or Central American countries on a daily basis, mainly in the areas of Darien and near the border of Costa Rica.  This is a joint international effort, with the help of some high tech equipment, very modern technological strategies as well as a lot of training.  Our drug fighting efforts get more creative every day, with our authorities constantly training their staff on the highest tech and tactics to fight every new path dealers open up.
Unfortunately, until  people realize that illegal drugs bring just disaster to their lives and consumers discontinue the demand for them, this problem will continue gnawing away every family that has the disgrace of being involved, one way or the other, in this terrible disease.
No, nobody is exempt...but we, as individuals can make the difference.  Say NO to drugs.   Support local authorities and programs that can prevent children and young adults from entering drugs and gangs.  Support educational, cultural and sport programs.  Support  students "hands in" jobs, create corporate training job opportunities, help with seniors volunteer groups.  That´s the best way of keeping children away from drugs and contribute to a great cause for future generations.
James David Audlin of Editores Volcán Barú – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
I eschew all drugs stronger than caffeine. Therefore, the only effect of the drug trafficking on me is that, on longer journeys by bus or automobile it is not uncommon for Panamanian border police (anywhere in the country) to check your identification. Carry your cédula or passport with you at all times, or at least when traveling. It is also advisable to carry not your original passport but a photocopy of the page showing your name and photograph and of the page showing your most recent border entry stamp.
Louis Seldon – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Effect of Illegal Drugs in Panamá: Drugs are in Panamá no doubt but like living in the U.S. or other countries, should be no effect on you unless you go looking for it.  There are areas to avoid and are referred to as "Zona Rojo" (Red Zones).  Red Zone areas include crimes, drugs, etc.
Know that the area known as Casco Viejo, a fancy name for three barrios in the old town which include San Felipe, Santa Ana & El Chorrerro, were slums before the property investors got into it and marketed the area as the Panama Vieux Carre (New Orleans French Quarter).  Today many properties have been sold for exorbitant amounts, but it is surrounded by very poor barrios where crime is present.  Saludos ~~ Panama Lou

Go Here Next

Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadUse the menu on this page to go to categories of Stories.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadUse the menu on this page to go to other categories of questions.
The Best Places In The World To Retire Location Advisor makes personalized recommendations for where to live and retire overseasGet matched to your ideal location to live abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadAnswers about living, working or visiting abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadStories by expats & others about their life aborad.
Best Places In The World To Retire - MarketplaceFind for profit, non-profit and religious organizations.

Our Pledge To You

Best Places will present information from the Community in a transparent way, unedited, except to conform with our Conditions of Use.

You can trust that Best Places does not manipulate content to sell you anything. All opinions in the Community Q & A and Expat Stories are those of its authors, not Best Places.

Get Known To The Community

Those who contribute to the Best Places Community are our heroes! And being a Best Places hero is fast, fun, and easy. Just go to Questions & Answers, find your first question to answer, click on it, and then click the Contribute Your Answer To This Question Button. If you’d rather enter a Story, go to Expat Stories and click the Contribute Your Story Button".


Please contact us. We would love to hear from you! Customer Service
Technical Support
Business Development
Phone: (US) 520-940-0481