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Daryl Ries of Keller Williams Panama, associate – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Howard and Daryl Ries, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingI am so looking forward to going to Panama when it gets cold in New York. It’s been 10 years, so far, of beautiful, warm winters walking on the beach and enjoying Panama and the region.
The first time I moved to Panama, my main reason was the weather. I just hate winter. Many people have many different reasons for moving to Panama but weather is a primary one. Second is the lower cost of living, and finally, as an investment.  Ownership of a house or a condo as a vacation home and also as a rental brings income on your investment. Panama is only 5 hours away from the northeastern part of the US, so it is very accessible to Americans. It is a great investment.
At this point in my life I do not want to fly more than 5 hours. I knew that in 5 hours I’d be in Panama and that the service of buses, taxis and other modes of transportation would be easy and affordable. I knew that I could easily furnish my place and have help etc., all  very cost effective. It was a savvy move, keeping me not too far from my family in NYC, who do come down for a respite from the winter. 
After living in Asia and Europe for over 35 years, it’s nice to be closer.  
(Howard and Daryl Ries, Panama, pictured.)
Kevin Garcia of Panama Sol Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Typical Panamanian meal of patacones with shrimp – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingMost recently, I lived in Montreal for 5 years, but I had lived in Panama for 15 years prior to that. Last year, I was very happy to come back to Panama and see my family, my friends, and the beaches. I love the weather in Panama and the food in Panama is amazing. The food is 100% better in Panama than in Montreal.  
(Typical Panamanian meal of patacones [fried plantain] with shrimp, pictured.)
John Gilbert of PanamaKeys – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Gilbert Boys Hanging Out and Having Fun At Home,Volcan, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe answer to the question of what it’s like to move to Panama is going to be different for each person you ask. For me and for my family, it was a very emotional thing to move to Panama. We didn’t have to say goodbye forever to all our family, but we did say goodbye for now to many members of our family. That’s the most painful part of deciding to move abroad. 
We’ve been blessed with members from both sides of our family being able to visit us here in Panama. We’ve been back to the United States a couple of times, but it’s not the same as being able to drive a mile down the street to see Mom, or go over to the next mailbox and see my brother. Those things are the most challenging part of moving away. 
On the day we moved to Panama, we got on the plane when it was below zero degrees in Kentucky, and when we landed in Panama it was 82 Fahrenheit. It hasn’t changed- it’s been 82 Fahrenheit every single day of the year in some parts of Panama since we’ve been here. That’s one of the better things about moving abroad.
Where we moved to Panama at first, it was on the beach where it was in the 90’s every day of the year. Where we live now it’s in the 70’s every day of the year. We don’t get all four seasons like we did in Kentucky. Here in Panama, we get a rainy and a dry season, which we far prefer than the subzero weather. As I was getting older, it got harder and harder for me to be in subzero temperatures three months of the year. It would numb my feet, hands, and mind. I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Here in Panama, we don’t have to worry about that at all. I don’t own a heavy jacket, a sock hat, any mittens, or insulated boots. You won’t find those here, and there’s no reason for them to be found here. That has been a beautiful part about moving to Panama. Things are green all the time, and things are sunny most of the time. Even in the rainy season we experience sun every single day.
There are birds here in Panama I still can’t pronounce the names of that are the most colorful things you could ever imagine. There are fruits here in Panama that I can’t pronounce the names of that the tastiest and most beautiful things that I’ve never seen in the United States.
Here in Panama, there’s far more wildlife, fruits and vegetables than I was ever exposed to going to the name-brand grocery stores in the United States. 
I have six children. We were homeschoolers in the United States, so from my children’s standpoint, it was easier for them to move than most because being from a homeschooling environment made it easier on our children to adapt and move to a new country, because their schooling was exactly the same here as it was there. As far as their schooling, and as far as what they can expect from their teacher who are just Mom and Dad, none of those things change. 
We moved in to a community where there are many expats and many who homeschool, so it was very easy for my children to make quick relationships and friendships with the people who are here. I would say that our friendships both from my standpoint, my wife’s, and our children’s are far more diverse here. 
In Kentucky, the instance of knowing someone who was from another country was far and few between, and most of the people you would meet and become friends with who weren’t from Kentucky were usually from Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, or somewhere close. 
Coming here to Panama, we have very good friends from Canada, Spain, Costa Rica, Panama, the United States, Mexico, and many other places around the globe. Panama seems to be the new melting pot for the world.  
(Gilbert Boys Hanging Out and Having Fun At Home,Volcan, Panama, pictured.)
Neil Flemming – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Buildings and playground in Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIt was great to move to Panama! It’s got it all: mountains, beautiful forests, and jungle. You’ve got a fabulous city to live in (Panama City), great shopping, fantastic restaurants, and good nightlife. It’s safe. It’s clean, great beaches, over 1,500 islands, good air connections from here to anywhere. You’ve got direct air connections from Panama City to 62 other major cities around the world.
What’s not to like? They use the dollar, which right now is stable. Living in Panama ticks all the boxes. I absolutely like it here. 
In general, Panamanians are very friendly. If you make an effort to speak a little bit of Spanish, they’ll love it, like anywhere else, I suppose. They’re very obliging. They’re a very cheerful, upbeat people here. I never feel like they make me feel unwelcome, shall we say. There’s no culture shock.  When I came to Panama, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
I chose Panama because I got the job before I came here. I came to work here. I already have friends here who were settled here. I spoke with them at length about the place. They loved it; also the fact that the economy here is doing so well. It’s a fantastic place. It’s a great place to bring up a family, good place to move to, they don’t tax you heavily.  Definitely, there are a lot of positives. 
(Pictured: buildings in Panama, with playground in the foreground.)
Duncan McGowan of Punta Pacifica Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
kyaking Panama Canal – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIt’s very easy to move to Panama. The government has great incentives and immigration policies in place that make it extremely easy to move down here relatively inexpensively and to get your residency and to settle in the country.
The fact that we’re using the US dollar makes it very easy—there’s no currency exchange, there’s no trying to figure out what it’s worth when you’re trying to buy something in US dollars. The immigration policies are fantastic and very easy to work with and for people who are coming down here as retirees there’s a large list of incentives the government offers to retirees, everything from bringing in your household goods and vehicles is tax free, to special discounts on your utility bill / cable bill.  As a retiree if you go to restaurants you get a discount off your bill.  If you go to the movies you get discounts off your movie ticket.  If your purchase is tourist related—travels, hotels, etc., as retirees you get discounts on these as well. 
If you’re not a retiree Panama has recently come out with what they call the “Friendly Nation Visa” for people from countries that they consider friendly nations to Panama.  If you come from one of these countries it’s very quick and easy to get residency and a work permit. So if you’re not thinking of coming down to retire and you’re from the US or Canada or one of the European countries, all these countries are classified as friendly nations, you can come to Panama and in a couple of months have your residency and work permit. Unfortunately, when you do have a work permit you are working for Panamanian wages, which would be considerably lower than what you would expect to get or receive in the US. But if you’re coming down here to do some sort of a part-time work or as an entrepreneur to start your own business, it’s fantastic that you are legally a resident and have legal status to be in the country.
(Kayaking the Panama Canal, pictured.)  
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
fruit in basket with machete – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingMoving to Panamá is very simple and extremely convenient.
By personal experience, I can tell you three things:
1.  You can take all the time in the world to do your research, before you even think to travel.
2.  Once you move, take only the items that you treasure.  The rest, you do not need.
3.  You will highly enjoy the benefits in your new country, as follows:
  • Terrific and wonderful weather all year round.
  • Choose between beaches or mountains on a daily basis.
  • Outstanding outdoors adventures:
    • scuba diving
    • snorkling
    • fishing
    • whale watching
    • bird watching
    • an extraordinary variety of pools, spas, resorts and entertainment.
    • water rafting
    • horse back riding
    • hiking
    • mountain or regular bike rides
    • surfing
    • beautiful natural resources
    • golfing
  • and much more.
All this, in addition to excellent discounts for seniors (with legal permanent resident visa) that goes from 50% to 10% in airlines, restaurants, movies, metro, among others.  Or, take advantage of the ridiculously low prices for fresh cut, seasonal fruits and vegetables, all year round.  You can have a very nutritional diet at vey low cost.  And, you can have your very own home help in your house, or garden.
If you compare prices in Panamá with a town in the south-east US with which I'm familiar, you will see the big difference.  Your cost for the water meter, for example, in Panamá is free or a minimum of $50.00, while in certain areas in the south-east US, it is over a thousand dollars... yes, you heard well.  In addition, the minimum electricity bill is $3.50 in Panamá, while in a town in the south-east US, it is $35.00.
And what to say about all casual clothing... Big department stores in the US will never be comparable to what you can get in all the malls in Panama.  Of course, you can also get all the latest brand names at expensive prices.
You can get groceries at exceptional low prices in Panamá... including fillet mignon, seafood or lobster.
The metro is only $1 in Panamá (and seniors get discount) across the city.  Most attractions and parks are only $2 or $3, and some are just slightly more, like the very interesting ruins of Panamá la Vieja ($6), entrance to the Panamá Canal ($8), or entrance to the beautiful botanical Summit Park ($2).  Where do you get those prices, for such an adventurous treat?
The only thing that I have to agree, is that housing prices in Panamá are more expensive, than certain states in the U.S.
(Fruit in basket cut with a machete, pictured.)
Denise Patrick of Panama Roadrunner Secure Transport – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Neil and  Denise Patrick  – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingMoving to Panama is exciting! There’s good and bad on both sides. You take your whole life, turn it upside down, and start over. You are dealing with a totally different culture, a totally different language, and a totally different environment. So it is a huge learning curve and a lot of people get overwhelmed by it.
I have done this numerous times, moving from city to city and place to place. I moved to places where I didn’t know anybody and it wasn’t overly intimidating for me but for some people, I guess it is overwhelming. If you are a Type A personality, you are definitely going to struggle here because “mañana” doesn’t mean “tomorrow.” It means, “some time in the future.” Wednesday doesn’t mean next Wednesday. It could be some Wednesday in the future.  Things very rarely happen on a tight schedule.
It is wonderful to be in a country where you get up and you know that the weather is never going to change. The sun will shine at some point in the day most of the year. We have learned so much about this culture, about living in Panama, driving in Panama City, forming a company, and making friends. It really has been an adventure and we’ve never had any regrets.  
(Neil and Denise Patrick celebrating their anniversary and successful business in Panama, pictured.)
Karen Walter of Local Travel Excursions – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
3 sets of different types of shoes – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingI am often asked the question about what it's like to move to Panama, and I usually hesitate to respond.  As we all know, each experience is different.
I'll take the easy route and describe three experiences from three Americans who arrived in Chiriquí within six weeks of each other.  I'll call my two friends David and Melissa to protect their identity, as if that were really necessary.  Both older than me (in their upper 40's) none of us came to Panama to retire and all of our experiences in the first six months have been very different.
It was a big challenge for me to downsize before leaving the US. That is a story in itself.  David has lived internationally before and said that getting rid of everything was the easiest part of his move.  Melissa maintains her home in the US and plans to do so indefinitely.  I found a house rental before arriving, which is not usually recommended, but was preferable given my circumstances. Both David and Melissa opted to search for homes after they arrived.  Each of us are happy with our finds.  
Melissa and I have our own businesses and David works remotely for an international company.  We engage in different levels of social interaction but all agree that connecting with both locals and expats is rewarding.  
None of us speak a lot of Spanish, but hope to gain some command of the language.  When it came to turning on utilities, David and Melissa had difficult times with the language barrier.  My very basic Spanish got me through relatively easily and my neighbors, who speak NO English at all, were a big help with connecting me with a gardener and a handyman.  No such luck for David and Melissa.  
David describes his biggest adjustment as the food, which he says is never seasoned enough, and the meats, which are too tough to enjoy.  I guess knowing that the meats are hormone free makes the tougher meat a little easier to accept, but not any easier to swallow.  He also says he really misses a lot of products and conveniences that don't seem to be easily found in our area.  Melissa says that the hardest thing for her to work with and believes she will not get accustomed to, is the "manana attitude" that makes it difficult for her to run her business.  I couldn't agree with her more.  For me, that, combined with what I consider "intense heat," leaves a lot to be desired.  
Although we are all still adjusting to life in Panama, we agree that the move was more than worth it.  We each did our homework and knew what we were getting into. For us, the pros far outweigh the cons.  We are happy with our new lives and look forward to the many challenges that are ahead.
Diana Chacon of SIUMA REALTY – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Moving to Panama was really interesting for me because it is a place that I have never seen before. It is different from what I thought it would be, but I adapted pretty easily. If you move to Panama City, like I did, It is not a huge place so you will get familiarized with the streets really quickly, so you won’t get lost.
Lorna Culnane – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

What's It Like To Move To Panama?

My husband and eleven year old stepson moved to Panama in February this year. Once we had made the decision to move from the UK, we visited Panama three times over the course of the previous year.
The first time was to decide roughly where in Panama we would like to live, the second time to bring the kids and check out schools and the third time we stayed a month and actually put the kids in school, aiming to use this time as a 'real life' experiment.
We are not retired, so we work here. We love Panama, the country, the people, the culture, but that's not to say we have not been incredibly homesick, particularly for our family and friends, but also for the conveniences that we miss, like just ordering something from Amazon and getting it the next day or needing a piece of plumbing pipe and not having to drive to five different stores, only to come away empty handed!
We chose to come here and build our own home, something we had never done before and we chose to do it in a country where language was still a barrier to us; so we have had plenty of frustrations.
There are plenty of things we would have done differently, such as rent for six months to a year before taking the plunge to buy land or a home. We did rent, but bought land and started building straight away. We were crazy and have suffered a great deal of stress, something I would not advise anyone to do.
Take your time, relax, enjoy Panama and all it has to offer, visit Panama at different times of the year. This was something we did right. The High Season (dry season) is completely different from rainy season.  It is worth seeing both, as heat and humidity changes an awful lot and you could have a shock.
Think about what you want to do when you get here. Are you a socialite? If so, you will want to be near towns or cities. If you don't plan to learn Spanish, then you need to be near expat towns, You may think you have to have a beach front property (we did), then realize how hot it is living near/on the beach (like we did). You will discover being just a few kilometers away from the beach on the other side of the highway can be five degrees cooler. If you chose the mountains, you can enjoy the stunning views of Panama and the cooler climate and the close knit communities, then you may decide to be a city dweller. There is so much choice here, but until you are living here, you cannot get a true picture of what your lifestyle could or will be.
Panama is a fantastic place to live. And we are here now, despite the challenges and the homesickness, we know we have made the right choice.
Linda Jensen – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Our physical move to Panama was Volcan, Panama field with small lake – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingtransporting eight suitcases, so physically, our move was not that complicated.  However, we had never been to Panama before we moved; we had only researched it.  So, psychologically, coming to a completely new place you’ve never even seen before with just luggage, not knowing what you’re going to get into, not knowing anything about the country other than what you’ve read, is more of a challenge.  Everything I had read told me that I would love Panama and that I would fit in.
Without a car and at our age, I think some people would consider moving to Panama to be a big, major life event, but for us, it felt Restaurant in Volcan, Panama, with flowers outside – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingsmooth as silk; it just fit.  
We landed in Panama City, and got some medicine for what was then my chronic bronchitis without having to see a doctor and without a prescription.  We then rented a car and drove towards Boquete, which is where we believed we wanted to live.
We got to David and missed the turnoff to Boquete because it was at night, we weren’t familiar with the area, and street and highway signage is not one of the strong points of Panama.   We wound up in Volcan, at night.  (Volcan is a much smaller town than Boquete that is only about 10 - 15 miles or so away as the crow flies, but you have to drive a long way to get from Volcan to Boquete, because of the Patio in Boquete, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingcircuitous route on the roads up in the mountains.)  There weren’t many places open, but we found a little lodge that they were remodeling.  They had some room, though, so they let us stay there for the night.  It was beautiful.
When we got to Panama, I was on my third round of antibiotics to treat the chronic bronchitis I had contracted in the States.  I didn’t feel good.  But the longer we were in Panama in general and in the mountains of Chiriquí Province (Boquete and Volcan are in Chiriquí Province), the better I felt. I haven’t had bronchitis since we arrived.  I feel so much better because the quality of the air is better here; you can feel it.  It’s like taking a brick off your chest.  You can breathe.
When you drive towards Boquete and see it from a distance the first time, it looks like an idyllic little village down below and you get kind of a warm and welcoming feeling.  When you go down into the village, you feel every bit as welcomed.  It didn’t take us long to fall in love with Boquete.  
David Whittington of Tucan Golf Club and Resort – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
For us personally, moving to Panama was part of a long transition, with us alternating our time between Panama and Canada.  Also, when we moved to Boquete, we already had friends from Panama who lived there, who then introduced us to many of the friends that they had made over the previous several months.
I don’t think, however, that making friends in Panama would be difficult even if we didn’t have existing friends there.  The expat community, especially in Boquete, was very welcoming, which made it very easy to adjust.  They’ve got bridge clubs, theater groups, hiking groups, arts and crafts, a library to get involved with, etc.  You can be as busy as you would like to be.
The most difficult thing for me in the transition to here in Arraijan, Panama (just over the bridge from Panama City, over the Canal) was going in and out of the air conditioning and dealing with the more congested Panamanian traffic in the city (which is like New York City).   This would be the same transition I would have to make if I moved to a warmer, denser city in the US.
Another challenge has been the lack of street signs in Panama City.  My wife jokes that I’ve been lost so many times in Panama City that I know my way around now.
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Many years ago, other countries were considered "lands of opportunity".  These days, Panamá is considered the number one destination for visiting, and retiring.
As always, there are many crucial questions when moving to a totally different country.
  • Will I be happy in my new environment?
  • Is the weather appropriate for my personal needs?
  • What about the people?  Are they friendly....?
  • Will I terribly miss my hometown?
  • And what about my family?  Will they have a good opportunity to visit me?
  • Does this country offer good transportation from and to my home town?
  • Can I use my medical insurance abroad, or can I get an equal or better policy?
  • Most of all, what would be my cost of living?  Can I afford it?
  • Am I willing to change my lifestyle?  And to begin new hobbies and friendships?
If, after answering all these questions and more, you are still certain that moving to Panamá is your best choice, there are hundreds of things that I can think of to describe what its like to move into Panamá.  First on the list are the people of Panamá: kind, friendly and warm.  Panamá has natural beauty everywhere, ready to be discovered by you, if you like nature.  It has thousands of species of birds, animals and plants.  It has exceptional weather, with an extensive history of no disasters like earthquakes, tornados, snow, or tsunamis.  Panamá is covered by two oceans, and has one of the Eight Wonders of the World, The Panamá Canal.  All these, most probably, are good reasons why you would like to move to Panamá.
Roy Cannon of Gestoria Cocle - main office in Penoneme – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
If you have never done an international move, this will be an "adventure".   Apart from the relationship issues of leaving  family and friends behind, you have the adjustments to make to a new culture, language and climate.
On a practical note, you have to decide what to take to Panama and what to leave behind, in storage, or sold in a yard sale.  Some things are not worth taking: lawn mowers, satellite TV dishes, space heaters, winter clothes (except one set for when you travel), snow skis....and your family car is probably not worth the cost (complicated subject).  Remember that the temperatures in Panama do not vary much from the 70-95 range all year (allow for mountain areas that are a bit cooler).
If your appliances are coming to the end of their life, buy new in Panama.  The prices may be 5-10% higher, but guarantees are available in Panama (not on US purchased products) and service people and parts are available for locally sold brands (which are all international).  One thing you might want to buy before leaving is ceiling fans, which tend to be better cost/quality than what you will find in Panama.  Electricity is 110/220 v 60 cycles so US appliances will work fine.
Computers (especially laptops) should be bought in the US as you will not find US keyboard layouts nor English language operating systems available in Panama.  You can leave your printers and modems behind as most major brands are available locally, sometimes at prices equal to the US.
Bulky items like a king size mattress are not cost effective to move unless you are shipping a container of household goods.  If you contact a relocation company they can help you with evaluation of costs for common items in Panama.  Shipping is charged by cubic foot, not weight, so whether you are shipping fine china or books, the cost per cubic foot is the same.  Many people prefer to buy "everyday plates and glasses" in Panama rather than shipping them.  Pots and pans, if stainless are less expensive in the US, while more common items from the kitchen are probably best bought in Panama.  Leave your drapes, heavy blankets and snow shovel behind.
There is weekly shipping service from Miami and  Houston to Panama via Seaboard Marine.  A relocation service can arrange consolidation container shipping, or 20 and 40 ft containers from either city.  The service should include paperwork, customs and local delivery to a Panama City bonded warehouse.  If you are obtaining a visa in Panama you can bring (tax free) $10,000 in household goods PER ADULT PERSON (unless you are married, in which case you are limited to $10,000 per couple).
You should also consider a personal shopper to help you find your way around the best stores for your purchases when you arrive.  Panama has stores from the very economical to the very luxurious, there is little one cannot find, it will depend upon your budget.  In general, things are somewhat more expensive (5-10%) in Panama than in US discount stores, but you save on the shipping and have the protection of local warranties. The personal shopper can also guide you when it comes time to open accounts for electricity, water, internet and telephone services.
Hint: find a good relocation service and your move will be less traumatic.

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