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Retiring and moving to Panama

Hello everyone. My name is Don and my wife is Elsy. 8 to 10 years ago I was on this site and others. I eventually retired, moved to Cali Colombia, and married. My wife was a nurse for 23 years in Cali and when learned she was eligible for pension, she wanted to live in America.
I came back to United States and went online for a job. Got one in Beaufort, SC and started immigration process for my wife. I would never wish this process on my worst enemy. 4 1/2 years later, and $10,000.00, she was allowed to come. But not without further problems. We were delayed 4 hours in Miami with immigration, so we missed our flight to Atlanta. We were also detained in Atlanta. A lot of disinformation from agents resulted in 11/2 year delay in her receiving green card.
I'm 64 now and wish to retire again [for good]. My wife has a 4 bedroom 2 bath home in Cali that she wishes not to sell as her youngest daughter lives there with her 2 small children.
When I was on this site in the past, cost of living was much less than here. The sites I've looked at so far are disturbing. Housing costs similar to U. S. and roughly 25% less in cost of living. This is hardly an incentive to relocate there. I'm looking at other countries, although I like Panama's dollar based economy.
I desire any and all feedback and advise. I hope people I communicated with on this site years ago remember me and will respond.
Thanks for any and all help,
Don and Elsy
,

Panama is becoming more and more an expensive and hostile country for foreigners, local people do not like immigrants. They think can live better without immigrants...

Panama is not an inexpensive place where to live.

At least in the city prices are comparable to US, if not higher. And some items is even cheaper to buy them online in US and getting them forwarded than buying them in stores here.

I don't understand why you are not looking to Colombia, which you are already familiar with. The cost of living there is in line with your expectations and the climatic options are unlimited.

Several hours ago I posted on this site. I'm stupid but see no responses.
But see quick post.
Hope to hear from someone

Thank you manper, adriano72, and sunset street for responding.
I was astounded how much things have changed in 10 years.
To answer your question sunsetstreet. I'm perplexed. I loved Cali, the culture, food, music, neighbors, spontaneous get to gathers, and free medical. I miss my friends there. But my wife wants to live here. I want to retire. She wants her home in Colombia for her daughter. I'm researching alternatives. You three have not had good things to say about Panama. Advice for an old man who wishes not to work anymore and desires warm to hot climate...some golf, beach, beer, good friends.

Hello

After reading the negative responses you received from both pre and post movers to Panama I felt I should send you a positive message. My husband (48) and myself (58) are planning a move to Panama in 2 years. I have been studying Panama for the last 5 years with staying current in the political/economical/social etc. offers for retirees. We are Canadians so our prospective are slightly different than Americans since our money is quite a lot lower than yours and Panama takes American dollars evenly. Hence, for us to live in Panama would be more expensive. By saying this (from a Canadian perspective) Panama is a wonderful place to retire. I do not say this lightly. My husband and I have spent considerable time visiting (and searching) countries in Central America with most of our time being recently in Panama. The Panamanians are very nice and friendly to other nationalities and except you as a neighbour without question as long as we don't bring with us the attitude of how our countries are always better than ours. (I'm sorry to say this but having been military in the Canadian armed forces My husband and I have met and worked with several Americans that know very little about the world around them and state that everyone should know that there country is better than everyone else's. It really wasn't a very positive message)
Putting that aside, we travelled to several different parts of Panama that I had looked into to see which part of the country meets our needs from health care, housing and cost, heat/rain/humidity, the local people and population of other retirees in the area, available shopping/banking/medical service etc. and numerous other things on my list. There were 3 locations that met all our needs. The main one being in Boquette, (in the mountains of Western Panama). We have no complaints about this town even though, due to a large amount of retirees pushing the housing cost upward everything else is wonderful. It has everything that you would need for daily shopping and is 25 minutes away from David for more extensive shopping. There are quite a few English speaking people there that can help you along upon your both your first visit and your move. Adding to all that is the great weather and lack of humidity.
My message to you would be don't always believe every message that you receive. Everybody has different perspectives of what meets there needs. If you would like more information about Panama I have A LOT!!! and I could forward them to you if you would like.
We wish you a great future in a wonderful place.....
Alan and Pauline

Well said! My husband and I have lived in David since Oct 2012 and are extremely happy. We came for the lower cost of living but I never imagined it would be such a better life overall. As you said, Different isn't necessarily worse and sometimes it's better.
Boquete is very humid most of the time though....

A&P - thanks for your message. As a fellow Cdn who has visited Panama and spent some time in Boquete, I agree with your comments. I think of Boquete fondly. I have also visited El Valle and Volcan.

However the high cost there has sent me scampering to check out Colombia after some initial trepidation based on old-time rep. All my concerns were immediately put to rest. Colombia is a wonderful country as well and with a far wider range of temperate locations and much lower cost of living.  However, there is nowhere near the concentrations of expats in Colombia, so learning Spanish is a more urgent issue, as is the potential for loneliness and isolation. On the flip side, and not to put down Panamanians, but the people of Colombia are open and welcoming to a significantly greater degree. And the many many pueblos are charming beyond compare.

See my lame-ass amateurish vids of both countries at:
Stephen's lame vids - at lest they are short

There are too many strangers in Panama, that have destroyed the atmosphere and the prices in panama. The average Panamanian earns around 500 dollar a month where the strangers are just coming here and have no problem spending several thousand dollar a day. So everything keeps increasing very fast and its almost impossible to live as a normal average person in Panama. If you have the money you don't run into problems but you have to understand the locals do not want you here, they only want your money and that's all. if you ever need help they probably let you die. I just talked to an older couple that are leaving the country because they live lonely in a village and they have health issues and there is nobody that will help them with anything. There is no connection with the locals. Only money or no money. Very bad, especially when you know people from Asia and Africa which are the complete opposite.

My experience has been quite the opposite. I have great local friends, and I have had total strangers come to my aid on more occasions than I can count (and ask nothing in return). I cannot imagine being lonely here if you are friendly and speak the language. The people are what I love most about this country.

Well you have to compare apples-to-pineapples. City living is cheap, if you're comparing El Congrejo to New York City, DC, Boston.  If you are trying to live as an Murican in Panama, and not adjust your lifestyle or expectations or diet, then stay home. I was in a restaurant in the city that sold Campbells soup like it had some sort of cache. That is because USA products cost more in Panama.

Kristc99

It was good to hear from you. Are you Canadian? I have lots of information about the country but am finding it very hard to find the move preparations and retiree/visa process for Canadians. Could you help me on that?

Thanks
Pauline

No, we are from the US but I think the process is about the same. About requirements for visa and residency it would be best to talk with a lawyer. Marcos did a great job for us and has an excellent reputation. He's adding more info on his website all the time but if you don't find something, just email him. Kraemerlaw.com 

The Chapmans :

Kristc99

It was good to hear from you. Are you Canadian? I have lots of information about the country but am finding it very hard to find the move preparations and retiree/visa process for Canadians. Could you help me on that?

Thanks
Pauline

Dear DC:
I don't care what you went through with U.S. immigration, it will be nothing compared to what you go through in Panama.  Most likely, your troubles in the U.S. were caused by a poor attorney.   Medellin, Colombia would be a MUCH better alternative for you than Panama.   Damn near anything would be.  The immigration process for a spouse in Colombia is very streamlined, and costs maybe $100.   You will be scurrying to meet their deadlines, as opposed to waiting years.   Panama, the official cost is maybe the same but the lawyer (and you are REQUIRED to have one now, I believe), will cost you $3000.  Don't even THINK about buying property or a business here, you will get ripped off.   I hope you like viewing dead and abused dogs everywhere, because that is what you will see in Panama.   FOR YOUR OWN WELL-BEING, I beg you not to even think about moving here.   Panama hates foreigners, and loves only their money.   Friend me and I will happily share personal and friends' experiences, as much as you want.

Hi... just read your post and am now interested in costs of retiring and safety in Columbia. I am in Thailand now and only paid $300 USD for my retirement visa. Living here is great But I want to move closer to US where my children live. I was planning to move to Panama but the cost of the retirement visa and Friendly Nations visa turned me off. Also I checked rental prices in Panama City and they seem to be inline with prices where i lived in Baton Rouge. If you have anymore advice about Panama vs Columbia please share. Thanks...

Seriously, if you life in Thailand and you want to move to panama... very bad decision. Don't do it
Thailand is much much much much better with everything
Cheaper and better food, nice women, cheaper costs for everything, climate maybe a bit similar to panama depending where you live. But i was even thinking to live in Thailand but the problem is i still need to work and there are not much jobs for strangers apart from tourism in Thailand and to do business there is very hard.
But really forget Panama. Unless you like to get ripped off, spending a lot of money for nothing, lazy people, bad work, bad quality products, problematic people, bureaucracy, slowness, people don't do what they supposed to, For everything you need a lawyer, Even a bank account can be challenging, it took me 6 months to get my bank account and i spent about 300 hours waiting at the bank. I m here almost 2 years and have not been able to get my driving license even though all my documents are ok, i ve been many times to my embassy even my lawyer, i got a new passport new cedula new documents of my license i spent days and hours. I am so tired and sick of all this.

Wow... the international living websites make it sound like paradise... Thank you sooo much for your advice...

Of course they do. International Living is a for profit business. But, many of us are really happy in Panama. You just need to come with your eyes open, and realistic information and expectations.

Here's my advice:  Colombia, Colombia, Colombia.  Panama cost for visa -- about $3,000.  Colombia cost for visa -- about $100.  I would not recommend Bogota, but Medellin, St. Marta, Cali, many, many choices, several big cities.   Better, much better healthcare; better quality products, better at just about anything I can think of.   Still you must be careful not to be ripped off as a foreigner.   You may find it very difficult to rent, if you are buying, new construction or buying on paper might be the way to go.  When you buy on paper in Colombia, your money is held in escrow by the bank, thus preventing the type of fraud which is SO rampant in Panama.  The difference between Panama and Colombia = difference between the sewer and sparkling spring water.

Yes i m hearing so many good things about colombia too. Should have considered that in the first place. now my money is gone.

colombia is great
Llanogrande near MDE is a great place to live
withdrawing money from ATM's is very costly
business taxes are very high
it all depends what you want to do in your new country

International Living should be called International Lying.

The country would have no economy if it wasn't for the canal which the U.S. and France built, they would be nowhere without foreigners.  Ingrates.  They make almost nothing, maybe grow a little coffee.   Now I know why everyone was mad at President Jimmy Carter.

Sorry to hear that you are out of dinero.  When I returned to the U.S., I immediately started my search for investment properties.  My realtor, whom I had known from more than a decade ago, had been paying a mortgage of $12,000 a month, for a dozen apartments in Panama.   The developer claimed that he could not get permits from the government, and he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In Colombia (but NOT Panama), you are protected if you want to "buy on paper".  By law, your money is held in escrow by a fiduciary, so you have not risk of losing it all, like in Panama.

I would love to try colombia, since i have some friends there, but i would go for business. In Panama there are almost no contracts.
I am doing like 10 different jobs at the same time and i am not able to get anything, maybe i have one client in 6 months that is all. Its very bad.

I have been living in Colombia for a year! Colombia is the best country in Latin America for small business with big profit. Columbia is a very large country with many big cities and very important colombia is very attractive for tourists from all over the world! Colombia is much more chaotic than panama, but everything is much easier and the people enjoy their lives!
Apart from Bogotá, the people in Colombia are very friendly and helpful, I think the people from Bogota (Cachacos) have totally different mentalities

If you have a lot of money and want to wash, Panama is the right country, because panama is a huge money washing machine.

Come down to Panama and check things out for a month. Then go to Columbia and do the same thing. We think both places have their plus's and minus. What place does not?

Formulate your own opinion. You will be much happier for it!

Can you also send me some info as well.  I'm also a follow Canadian, planning on retirement in the next 2 years.

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