If you are looking for a mild climate and low cost of living for your golden years, retiring to Panama might be ideal. But before you start packing your personal shipping from Dublin, you need to make one big decision. Where in Panama would you live? This depends on whether you want a laid-back lifestyle or a luxurious one, and your monthly budget? How close to world-class medical facilities do you need to be?
Your choice initially boils down to whether you would like to live in the capital, Panama City or somewhere else within the country. You’ll find many American retirees here, so the path is well paved and you can socialise with other English-speakers, particularly if you seek out an area with many other ex-pats.
If you want to enjoy meals out and familiar brand-name clothing stores, and you are prepared to pay for that lifestyle, retiring to Panama City is an excellent choice. But be aware that everything you read about Panama being a cheap option is outdated or refers to other parts of the country, not the capital.
Panama City offers all the advantages cities everywhere do, and you can access clinics with ties to John Hopkins University in the USA. Air conditioning is widely available if the climate is warmer than you find comfortable. The problem is that accommodation and electricity offer no real bargains here.
Outside of Panama City, electricity is still expensive, but you won’t have as many mod cons to run so your bill will be lower. You’ll have to bring your designer clothes in your shipping from Dublin. The trade-off is that you can enjoy a much slower pace of life and your housing will cost about a third to a fourth of what it would in Panama City. You’ll have access to decent medical care in most areas, but if something serious happens, you will probably need to be transferred to Panama City.
Basics for Retiring to Panama
Wherever you chose in this stable, secure Central American haven, you do need to speak some Spanish. Yes, you can often find someone to help you who speaks English. That’s fine for a holiday, but to live there full-time, you need a basic level of Spanish.
Catholicism is the majority religion with 85% of the population, while the remaining 15% identify as Protestant. If you decide to retire to Panama, you’ll find a few surprises. One is that there is no military. When the dictator Manuel Noriega was deposed, the country brought in sweeping reforms that included forbidding a standing military.
Instead, police handle all security issues. Panama has close ties to the USA, including linking their currency (the balboa) to the US dollar. You might also be surprised that air conditioning is not universal. Retiring to Panama is probably not your best option if you can’t tolerate heat. The mountains that run down the middle of the country offer some relief. If you are considering one of the mountain towns, be sure to include plenty of jumpers in your shipping from Dublin.