safety, cost of living changes

Hi, my husband Tom and I are just catching on to the moving wave to other countries to retire.  Panama is standing out right now, as close enough to family, climate choices and lots of Expats!  I'm just finding myself wondering about safety. Also, I worry that all of these Americans moving there, could eventually increase the cost of living, big time! 

We are planning on visiting and using a tour company to show us the country and all of the climates.  Any recommendations?

Thank you all!  I look forward to meeting you when we visit!
Nancy Waller
Cincinnati, Ohio

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Just my thoughts -

- Whether you need a guide is dependent on your willingness and capabilities (such as whether you're familiar with the language and the adventure associated with driving in Panama).  I think a guide could be beneficial so long as it is not a hidden real estate tour.  Assume plenty of properties of all sizes and shapes and price ranges are available everywhere and just focus on the area you're touring.  Some folks have used individuals to drive them around and have had great experiences.  I don't have any recommendation and am not even in Panama - just been there a lot and did the same extensive search (more or less) you're looking to do.  You might give thought to your goals (mountains, urban, beach, Caribbean, etc.) and needs (community of expats, isolation, medical facilities, cushy vs "off the grid") and you could probably rule out some areas. 

- Cost of living may be less, may not be.  It depends on how you live now and how you expect to live in Panama.  Some live on less, some don't.  The biggest factor I see on a lower cost of living is how people actually adjust their lifestyle in Panama (one practical car vs. two, less on entertainment and eating out, less on travel, etc.).  There is no land rush going on and no need to worry about expats raising prices.  Frankly, they already pay more than locals but that's an entirely different topic.  Good luck.

Personally, I would imagine that such a tour would be somewhat a waste of money with minimal returns, but each to her own. I suppose a tour might give you an idea generally as to whether you think you could enjoy Panama in the broad sense.  Panama is very diverse geographically, so IMO if you are really intending to focus in on where you would enjoy living specifically within Panama, the tour wold be of minimal help compared to spending some time - weeks at a minimum - in a locale.  My choice would be to research online the pros and cons of various places, then vacation in the likely spots over the course of a few years in advance of making the final move.

I agree - skip the tour if that refers to a group activity.  I was thinking of an individual guide and believe having a knowledgeable driver could be beneficial. Yes, for gosh sake, skip the tour bus.

on my first visit I met a nice cab driver
he showed me all the areas stores and malls
after this experience I always rented a car

Thanks all for your advice. The tour is 4,000 each so you've saved us a bundle! Will it be pretty easy to meet expats while vacationing?  Also, where can I find more active sites to talk to expats. Some of them haven't seen activeity since 2013!!

nancy1948 :

Thanks all for your advice. The tour is 4,000 each so you've saved us a bundle! Will it be pretty easy to meet expats while vacationing?  Also, where can I find more active sites to talk to expats. Some of them haven't seen activeity since 2013!!

Wow!  What a ripoff!  No, this forum is not very active. SunsetSteve contributes and is going through what you're doing (probably landing in Boqete as I recall but still considering mountain areas including Altos del Maria.)  He sounds like he's done quite a bit of investigation and will have far more ideas for interior areas than I could offer.  I focused my search on beach locations - quite different in terms of humidity from mountain areas and typically quite different in terms of housing options.  In the end, I was not able to locate the beach community I was hoping to find and then began considering Panama City simply because of all the fun we had staying there over the years.  In the end, I did nothing.

You can find other forums, including Yahoo! ( … anama/info) but you'll get as many opinions as there are people.  Reading International Living lies it all sounds idyllic, but it's not.  Regardless, at best after one or two trips and two or three weeks, you'll figure out where you THINK you'd like to live.  Then, rent six months to a year to figure out whether you still do.  Funny, but it takes a while sometimes to notice aspects of the country one blocked out when wearing the IL glasses, particularly outside Panama City: the crappy roads, the roaming dogs, the crowing roosters, not-so-honest folks, the rash of home invasions, the continued vigilance needed to protect property and person and the trashy roadways and public areas.  Panama City has drawbacks as any urban center, but I found them a lot more obvious.  You just need to visit and see for yourself.  You'll get a better idea of what is important to you and what's not, you'll have a few "Aha Moments" and realize "Oh my gosh I could never live here!" or "Oh my gosh I could see  myself living here!"  Good luck!

Good comments from Sawman. By way of example, when my wife and I made our first trip we realized immediately that we are unable to bear the heat of Panama City and the coastal areas, so we limited our search to higher elevations. Aside from a number of residential enclaves like Altos del Maria, the investigation is fairly straightforward since it seems nobody ever settled in the higher elevations in locations other than Boquete, Volcan (and Cerro Punta), El Valle de Anton and to some extent, Cerro Azul. Research those places if a moderate climate, a tropical rainforest environment, and spectacular mountain vistas appeal to you more than shoes full of sand, sunburn and full-time AC. :) Is my bias showing? lol

When it comes to time to book a visit, bear in mind that the climate is sunnier in December-April and cloudier and more humid over our summer months - though still pleasant in the mountains. You do want to see the country at its best and its worse.

Be prepared for some wind.

There are a number of facebook pages for Panama expats and individual blogs - google "panama expats" and go to town!

tysm sunsetsteve! We are in Oklahoma- and love South carolina beaches,but can not afford housing there, plus want to get out of the US entirely. yes IL glorifies all countries lol. I want beach house-and you brought up a good point I didnt think of in heat and humidity. that never bothered us, didnt notice humidity at all off Atlantic coast in Seabrook Island, SC.. didnt occur to me climate would be different in Pacific coast, caribbean. SO thanks I will be trying to check that for each destination.we have not settled on country as of yet. I like carribean,but looking for affordable,non-resort quiet,simple  living as retired older couple.  so many countries with coasts, its alot of research to find safe,affordable place..panama was mentioned in top 10, and ecuador-but leary since huge earthquake there,,so still searching. tysm for good info for us all still researching! :)

Steve & Sawman, I'm with you about not needing the sand, sunburn and heat!  70-78 would be perfect for me.  I also forgot to mention that my husband is a golf-a-holic.  If he can't play golf, we won't go! 

And the mention of roaming dogs, dirty streets and crime make me think of our visit to Vieque, Mexico.  They did a pot raid at the next door neighbor's while we were there.  AND, not only are there roaming dogs, there are roaming horses!  Very interesting!  No one owns the horses, unless you want to buy one!

I'm feeling like a pampered American that may just have to stay home and settle for less than we have while we're working!  I'm sure the next President will fix everything, aren't you?!!!!

You guys have been very helpful.  Thank you!
Nancy  :)

nancy1948 :

I'm sure the next President will fix everything, aren't you?!!!!

I doubt Steve cares - he's Canadian!  As far as me, I'm sure they won't but I'm not going to spend my remaining days of my mortal life worrying about what I cannot control.  (Or, at least I'm trying to get to that point!)  Stay in touch!

If you plan on coming to the Bocas del Toro area, I would be happy to have coffee or a drink and give you some pointers.
We love the tropical rain forest weather and these islands and having been coming here for 18 years when we first bought property. We have been living here full time since 2010. I don't write on here much anymore. but wanted you to have some options. I have to warn you I do sell property here but won't do any sales pitches if you aren't ready. I can be an Expat friend too.
Best regards,

I feel safer here than I did in the US but of course, nothing is guaranteed and conditions are different in different areas.
As for cost of living, we need about 1/3 of what we needed in Sarasota FL but again, a lot depends on where and how you live. We're in a Panamanian neighborhood in David. Places with a lot of expats tend to be more expensive, and Panama City is quite expensive (but not compared to major US cities like NY, LA, etc. )
Spanish is the language here, something else to keep in mind. You won't find many English speakers outside of a few areas known for expats like Coronado, Boquete, etc.

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