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Daryl Ries of Keller Williams Panama, associate – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Almirante, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingLike anywhere else you’re going to avoid certain things or you’re going to have a preference for certain things. The worst is to put yourself in a situation where you’re surrounded by poverty and there are pockets of Panama that are severely poor. Unless you’re there for some sociological reason, there’s no reason to be there.
 
One of the worst places that I have been in Panama and you cannot help but be there if you want to go to Bocas del Toro because it is the port Almirante, from which you get the boat to Bocas town and Bocas del Toro. People vacation in Bocas from all over the world, but they all have to wait for their ferries to get there at this hideous town. The bus passes through there and it’s terrible to see how the people are living and of course it looks like the only job that really keeps them going is bringing people to the bus and the ferry in taxis. And that whole area coming over the mountain from the west side of Panama over to the east side to Bocas (which is close to Costa Rica), is disappointing. Once you start going down the mountain toward the coastline, there are so many sad looking towns. These areas have been ignored and I am very happy to hear that the present government is now starting to invest and develop these towns that host so  many people from all over the world passing  through en route to Bocas del Toro, unless they fly there. 
 
Other than that, there are pockets throughout the country that will be getting more attention as tourism develops and the economy includes local and indigenous people.  When foreigners see these areas, they speak of Panama as being Third World, but I don’t think of Panama as Third World. I live in one of many fine communities on the coast. Public transportation is great. The roads are great. The infrastructure is great. Panama City has everything. There are pockets that require much more investment and infrastructure but this is not a Third World country by a long shot. I can point out 3rd world pockets in the USA too, as is well known. 
 
Going down the coast on the Atlantic side of the country is Portobello, which is an historic town that draws busloads of tourists but still very poor. There’s not enough work. If you go into the grocery store it’s dark, damp and full of old canned goods. I know this area of Panama is changing, and really needs to.
 
These are key tourist spots that bring many foreigners but they really epitomize the inattention paid to certain communities of Panama that are suffering and their suffering is apparent.  
 
(Almirante, Panama, pictured.)
Kathya de Chong of Alto Boquete Condominios – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Bocas del Toro, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingFinding the worst and best places to live and retire depends on the interest of the person. Some people do not want to live on the beach side because of the heat, others prefer to be closer to the beach, while some may prefer to be in the mountains like Boquete.
 
As an example, I met this woman from Alaska who used to live in Pedasi, a part of Panama very close to the coast and where it is very hot. 
 
Panama offers the opportunity to live in different types of places within the country. For example, you can live in Panama City, a very cosmopolitan city of well over a million people. Some will find Panama City to be a regular city with congestion and high rises, so they can choose to live in little towns along the way such as El Valle, which a little village up in the mountains. 
 
Not a lot of people live in Boquete. If you like living in the city, Boquete wouldn’t be the right place for you. If you want to live in the mountains, on the other hand, plenty of places in Panama let you do that. If you want to live in the beach, there are plenty of beaches in Panama. There are people who want to live at the beach so they wouldn’t like the mountains. 
 
Panama offers lots of choices and opportunities. It’s a lot different from the Pacific side to the Caribbean side. For example, Bocas del Toro is a typical Caribbean town where on the Pacific side of Panama it’s a lot different.  
 
(Bocas del Toro, Panama, pictured.)
David Bayliss of KW PACIFICA – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Darien National Park, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe Internet is a lovely thing and this could get me in all sorts of trouble but if someone says that they came on a cruise ship to Colon and would like to move there, the first two blocks of Colon are lovely because that is where the cruise ship comes in but that moving would probably be a bad idea. The problems in Colon started many years ago when the bad behavior was in Colon and the good behavior was in Panama City when they were building the Panama Canal. Once the Canal was finished then all the good activity was in Panama City and they left all the bad activity in Colon and it just continued on that path. They are trying to fix that now and they probably will but right now, there is just too many bad people and too many bad places in Colon.
 
The other areas that aren’t really bad places are just more remote than people thought and so it can be a perfectly wonderful place with a great view and pretty houses, but when it is 35 miles away from the grocery store, which begins to wear on you after a while. Some of the choices that people make are not because some place is bad but because they didn’t consider what the whole experience would be living in that place. Quite often, some of the mountainous areas or some of the more remote beach areas don’t really lend themselves to the lifestyle people think they were going to get because there are just not enough people, not enough services. We all like to think that we don’t need a grocery store and we don’t need to be near the doctor and we don’t care where the cellphone is and we don’t think we want a bank but when you’re too far away from all of those things, and you’re too far away from the good restaurants, and the people that go to them, then those places would be some of the bad places to pick.
 
In summary, I can easily say Colon as a city would be one of the worst places to live in Panama, but if somebody says, “Oh, I love the jungle, I want to live in the Darien jungle…” that would not be a good idea. It’s not because of the normal things one would think to be just bad. We really want people to know the lifestyle they’re looking at and Panama is a growing country but there is still a lack of people in some of these areas that otherwise look great.  
 
(Pictured: Darien National Park, Panama, a World Heritage Site.)
 
 
David De Franco Levi of DEFRANCORP- Business Consultants – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Costa del Este, Panama City, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThere can be a lot of bad neighborhoods here in Panama City but there's not really a “worst place.”  However, if I were a foreigner, I wouldn't go to Chorrera or Arrajan area of Panama City because the area is relatively low income, very little English is spoken there, and they see outsiders as an opportunity rather than as people.
 
However, I should point out that these are not the kinds of places that an expat would even ever consider living or retiring, so it' not like they have to be warned that this would be the wrong spots. It's very obvious to everyone that these are not good areas, just like every city has good and bad areas.
 
Alternatively, I would recommend sticking to the better known areas, such as Volcan, Boquete, Panama City, Costa del Este, etc.  Also, Coronado is a well-known expat destination.  The Buenaventura area, which is generally thought of as towards the end of the Coronado area would probably be my number one choice if I were to retire in Panama.
 
(Pictured: Costa del Este, Panama City, Panama; definitely not one of the worst places in Panama to live.  It would be one of the best!)
T Rob Brown of Panama Helpline – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama tourist police – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingI have been asked where is the most crime in the beaches area?
 
The answer may sound trite - but criminals go where the rich people are.
 
Gated communities do not mean guaranteed safety.  Take care of your own safety and security - don't let the gates fool you. Bars on windows and doors, having a dog, installing security systems and alarms, cameras, get to know your neighbors - and most importantly - join community safety groups like The Panama Helpline.
 
That said - we have had more reports of home invasions from Bejuico, Rio Hato, and San Carlos than anywhere else. The Malibu Beach area of Gorgona flared up for a while, but seems to have calmed down over the past four of five months. Consult the Panama Helpline website for for ongoing crime reports.
 
(Panama tourist police, pcitured,)
T Rob Brown of Panama Helpline – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
We are Canadian - we moved here to get warm. So the mountains were out - too rainy and too cold. Nice places to visit.
The city was out - but again - great to visit. The city has it all - theatre, shopping, great restaurants - but the traffic, noise, rain, garbage and stress are too much after 2 - 3 days - So the beaches were it - 90 minutes from the City - and as for too hot - isn't that why you're here? We are seven steps to our pool. We have air conditioning at night if we need it. But walking with our four dogs on the beach, having a poolside cocktail - that is living! Surfing, sailing, and the fishing is awesome - remember - give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day -  but teach a man to fish and he will spend years drinking beer in a boat.
Linda Jensen – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Dr Reina Torres de Arauz, panamanian anthropologist in the Trans Darien expedition in 1958 – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingLiving anywhere near the Darien forest would be a negative because they still have problems with drug trafficking through those areas. Many of the bigger cities such as Panama City, David, and Santiago are cities where there is some crime with gangs and with drugs. The drugs are typically from Mexico or Colombia. So people are a little bit more worried in those areas. It is not like something you see when you go out, but there are just some areas of town that you just do not want to live nearby. Especially if you are a gringo or an expat, you should be cautious about that.
 
There are still places in the Darien that are still dengue fever. You want to definitely make sure that you had all your vaccines, but you can still get dengue fever, but just in those places where mosquitoes are more prevalent. Most places that we have been, I have not seen a mosquito, with the exception of Bocas Del Toro, and it was just when I was outside under some trees.
 
Anywhere in the world where some people have things that other people don’t, there is a tendency to break into a car or a home that has something in it that the younger generation people want. If they see that opportunity, they are going to take it, but we don’t see a lot of crime here except the sort of instant gratification kind of crime, “I want it, I’m going to take it.”
 
But Panama is not full of crime. It is not full of drugs. I have not seen that side of it. The place that you stay away from is just because of the crime and some dengue fever, that is pretty much it. There are missionaries and some other people who go to those places that are considered not welcome to most people (even Panamanians), but they go there and they try to help the natives who live in those areas. I think that is a good thing. Where you have the proximity to the ocean and to the mountains and trails, you will always have drug dealers trekking through, so those are places to avoid. Here in Boquete, it is highly recommended not to go hiking way into the mountains alone. You need a guide and you need to let people know where you are, which is just common sense.
 
(Dr Reina Torres de Arauz,  A Panamanian anthropologist during the Trans Darien Expedition in 1958, showing a native woman a copy of the National Geographic magazine, pictured.)
Bill Hamilton of Bill Hamilton – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Mother and daugher on horseback, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe worst place to retire in Panama is Boquete. I personally hate Boquete. It’s too cold and it has too many expats. The expats are trying to change Boquete. There is a bit of a conflict among them. They’re trying to run Boquete like America, and it’s not well received by the locals. The expats want everything in English. I will qualify that, as not all of them are the same!
 
My own personal perspective is not wanting to change the place that I moved to and accepting the locals and the culture. Therefore, the worst places for me personally are Boquete or Coronado.
 
The thing is my wife and I are weird people. We’ve always lived in villages and we’ve always gotten to know local people. That’s just the sort of people we are. Some people can’t handle that. They have to be amongst all the other expats. We’re not like that. Funny enough, the other couple we know in Pedasi are like us. They used to live in New Orleans and have been here for over a year. They moved out of the downtown area in Pedasi to get away from the other Americans, and they’re American.
 
The worst places if you want to stay and get away from fellow ex pats would be places like Boquete and Coronado and certain areas within Pedasi, like in the center.
 
Here is an interesting fact. We had about three or four people move back to the States from Boquete. The reason was they didn’t like the backstabbing there. They had a close-knit community and cocktail hours and God knows what, but everyone talks behind each other’s backs.
 
“Did you see what Mary did the other day?”  “She was with so and so.” And that is the reason why they moved out of Boquete after a couple of years.
Terry Bradford of Origen Real Estate Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Horses in El Valle, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn order to determine the worst place to live or retire in Panama for any individual, and for people who have not been to Panama yet, they have to find out first if they are beach people, mountain people, or city people because Panama is different all over. There are nice areas everywhere. (The picture to the right is of El Valle.  In addition, they are building many new developments up and down the coast.)
 
You would want to avoid certain communities that are nearly 100% Panamanian, not because they are bad people (we love Panamanian people and we have hundreds of Panamanian friends), but if you would move into a typical Panamanian community, the homes are very close to each other, and they like things loud. So, if you lived in an area that is 100% Panamanian, you could be surrounded by people who turn up the volume until the wee hours of the night.
 
The similar pattern is also existent in some newly-developed beach areas. The areas with 100% Panamanians homes near the beach tend, by North American standards, to be too close together, which you could think is because you are near the beach. Then, when your neighbor moves in near your house or next to you, all you hear is loud music. So if you don’t like a lot of loud music, I would avoid these places.
 
Gated communities are of course preferred because of the security, just like in the US. Generally, I would avoid a place that is not a gated community out in the middle of a country, which we call “the interior.” Security can be an issue and there are other issues relative to ownership and maybe culture, where if you leave your house unattended for long periods in a non-gated community, when you come back, you may find people who used your things. This only usually happens in non-gated communities.
 
But again, the worst places will all depend on one’s preferences so when you decide to retire in Panama, you have to determine what you really want and not want in a certain place.
Bill Brunner of abc realty panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
In my personal opinion, the worst place in Panama to live is Panama City, mainly because of the traffic, noise, and air pollution.
 
Also, certainly in the past, another bad place to live would be Colon. Colon was a “den of thieves” and was unsafe to walk down the street in broad daylight. I used to work in Cristobal which is just right next to Colon and many of the people that I had working for me in the late '70s and early '80s told me that they had coordinated with their neighbors so that they all leave their houses at the same time and go to their jobs in the Canal Zone as a group so that they do not get mugged as individuals.  This was some time ago, and things may have improved, but I understand that it is still not a very safe place to go.  There is, however, some development not too far from Colon on the Caribbean side and the crime rate is probably not so bad, especially if you go to the beach areas. 
David Whittington of Tucan Golf Club and Resort – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Which place is the worst place in Panama to live will depend almost entirely on an individual person’s perspective and wants.  For example, I wouldn’t want to live in Panama City with its big apartments and city living, but plenty of expats do and like it there very much.
 
There are other expats in Panama who like to live at the beach and others who prefer to live in the mountains.  For example, I’ve met expats from Arizona and Texas who just didn’t want the heat any more, so they chose to live in the mountains of Panama in Boquete, where it’s cool.  There are others who hated living in the cold in the US or Canada, and can’t wait to live in Panama City or at the beach.
 
Panama has enormous diversity of climates, so people can pick different areas to live for different reasons.  In Panama, you can make those choices.
Paul McBride – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
To paraphrase Charles Dickens (badly), A Tale of Two Cities Orivinal Cover – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingPanama is the best of places and it is the worst of places to live and retire.  
 
Take Panama City for example.  The traffic is a nightmare, the sidewalks are barely passable, it’s getting increasingly expensive to live there and the noise is overwhelming.  There are a host of reasons why for some people Panama City would be the worst place to retire in Panama.  On the other hand, if you crave a vibrant, metropolitan city, want great shopping, hundreds of quality restaurants and an international airport that can take you to virtually anywhere in the world, Panama City may be the place for you.
 
What about Coronado and the beach areas of Panama?  It’s always incredibly hot and humid, the areas are packed over the weekends with partiers and the infrastructure hasn’t quite kept pace with the booming development in the area.  However, if your idea of an ideal retirement includes lounging on the beach, listening to the waves breaking on the shore and having all the amenities you need to be happy, then Coronado may be the perfect choice for your golden years.
 
Boquete? Rain and lots of it.  With an annual average rainfall of nearly 200 inches, you had better get used to the sound of raindrops on your roof.  And getting there is no easy task either.  If you’re coming from overseas you’ll need to take at least two airplane rides and another drive of 30 to 40-minutes to get there.  Once you get there, there’s not much “there” there.  A sleepy little mountain village, Boquete has a minimum of amenities and you need to work a little bit to get the things you want.  But, if being surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the world with lush, tropical forests climbing up majestic mountainsides and relaxing in a serene, clean environment in a cool and temperate climate with a community of fellow expats is your idea of the retirement life you’ve dreamt of, then Boquete may be the perfect choice.
 
Panama has a wide variety of landscapes, city life, beaches, hot and cool climates and different lifestyles to choose from.  Whether any area is the worst place or best place for you is really up to what you need to live a happy and enjoyable life.
Roy Cannon of Gestoria Cocle - main office in Penoneme – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
In its heyday Colon was a jewel of a city, but since the Americans left, this area has been neglected by a succession of governments.  The colonial buildings are falling down, the infrastructure is collapsing to a large degree, sewage problems abound, unemployment is rampant and street crime is a serious concern.  Not on the recommended list of cities in which to settle in Panama as a North American.

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