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Living and Retiring in Panama: The New Expatriate Haven

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Inexpensive real estate, a low cost of living, breathtaking scenery and world-class perks should put Panama at the top of your list if you're considering a life outside of your country.

Home to Central America's most vibrant and attractive capital (Panama City), Panama is slightly larger than the state of Florida. Bordered by the Caribbean Seas and the Pacific Ocean, it is one of those places that can seduce you through its sheer natural beauty. The seemingly endless stretches of picturesque coastline, lush green valleys, near-perfect weather and friendly people make it one of the most livable places in the world. If you like Florida, the Caribbean and South America, you'll love Panama.

Outside of its scenic charms, Panama is one of the best places anywhere for expatriate and retirees today, offering one of the world's best discount programs for retirees. AARP rated Panama "the fourth best retirement place in the world."

When stacked up against traditional retirement havens such as Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, Panama has more amenities, lower costs and less crime, red tape and government interference.

In addition, Panama has put together an impressive list of incentives to attract newcomers. For example:

Expatriates who buy or build a new home won't be liable for any property taxes for 20 years.

Residents pay no taxes on foreign-earned income (including business proceeds, Social Security or pensions).

Investments in the tourism industry are exempt from import duties, construction materials and equipment costs, and income, real estate and other taxes for a period of 20 years.

The pensionado programYou don't need to be retired to qualify for the program (anyone over 18 may apply for benefits). The only requirement is a guaranteed income of $500 per month ($600 for a couple). It must be a pension from a company or government agency (e.g. Social Security, disability, military pay, etc.).

After becoming a Panamanian resident "pensioner," you are immediately eligible for the most comprehensive program of expatriate benefits in the world, including:

50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, theaters, concerts, sporting events, etc.)

50% off hotel stays Monday through Thursday, 30% off Friday through Sunday

50% off closing costs for home mortgages

30% off public transportation (bus, boat, and train fares)

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25% off airfare for domestic travel

25% off restaurant meals

20% off professional and technical services (home utilities, etc.)

20% off doctor's visits

15% off hospital bills (if you don't have insurance coverage)

15% off fast-food eateries

15% off dental and eye exams

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10% off prescriptions

Other perks of life in Panama:

Panama City is only a 2'-hour flight from Miami.

The US dollar is the de facto official currency in Panama.

Spanish is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood in major cities.

Right now, the three best places to purchase real estate in Panama are Panama City, the capital which boasts First-world infrastructure and is home to virtually every large American brand-name chain; Boquette, a scenic and growing expatriate hideaway in Panama's mountainous region; and the Pearl Islands, a chain of over 90 islands and 130 islets in the Caribbean.

For more information about Panama, visit:

(c) 2006 - Author List - Article Index