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The Joys of Living in Panama City

by Shannon Steinberg on Apr 5, 2024

Situated at the junction between Central and South America, Panama is a destination for retirees and remote workers searching for tranquility and adventure. Bustling streets, striking beauty, and a seductive blend of Spanish, African, and Indigenous cultures give the country a flavor that both soothes your soul and stirs your spirit. So whether you’re interested in a change of pace or dreaming of someplace warm to settle down, here are a few reasons you ought to consider living in Panama City.

Affordable Quality of Life

Living in Panama City allows you to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle at a fraction of what it would cost in the United States. Depending on where you settle down, a single person can pay for an apartment, transportation, groceries, utilities, internet, and entertainment for as little as $1,700-$3,600 a month. A couple in the same neighborhood can expect to pay $2,300-$4,100, while those willing to venture out into the countryside pay even less.

In order to attract more foreign residents, Panama has exempted remote workers from its national income tax. So long as their income is earned for work done for companies outside the country, U.S. citizens living in Panama aren’t required to pay a dime. As a result, they’re able to afford the same high-value amenities they would at home, but with substantial savings.

Seniors receive even greater benefits. Thanks to the country’s pensionado discounts, they pay less for a wide range of goods and services such as utilities, transportation, and healthcare. The program includes some luxury goods as well, including restaurants and movie tickets.

Modern Medical Care

Panama has one of the most advanced medical systems in Latin America. Its clinics and hospitals not only maintain a high standard of care on par with the United States, but many of its doctors were educated there as well. English is spoken widely at most hospitals in Panama City and even in some of the remote villages along the coast or up in the mountains.

Though all foreigners living in Panama are eligible for the state’s public health program, many Americans prefer to enroll in one of the country’s private health plans instead, as they offer full coverage for less than $200 a month. However, the cost of healthcare is so low that some find it easier to pay for medical costs out-of-pocket, a process known as “self insurance.”

Medication is similarly affordable. Patients generally pay only a third of what they would back home in America or Canada. What’s more, a wide range of prescription drugs are available over-the-counter, without a doctor's note, making it easier to manage serious conditions while living in-country.

Stunning Scenery

Almost two-thirds of Panama is covered by rainforest, more than any other country in Central America. There are more birds and plants here than you'll find in Canada and the United States combined. Visitors can hike beneath forest canopies, explore mangroves, swamps, and glacial lakes, and climb through cloud forests to the top of dormant volcanoes. There are over 13 national and marine parks in the country, most within an easy drive of Panama City, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  • Darién National Park. A large and untamed tract of wilderness near the Colombian border, featuring virgin forests and an exceptional variety of coastal, lowland and mountain ecosystems. Home to jaguars, tapirs, and harpy eagles, it's one of the best preserved forests in the world ‒ a magnificent sight for rugged and experienced hikers.
  • La Amistad International Park. A massive tropical rainforest that straddles the border between Costa Rica and Panama. Stretching for over 990,000 acres, this nature reserve is situated atop the Central Mountain Range that separates the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts. The mountains are intersected by miles of trails leading up to Baru Volcano, the tallest peak in the country. Besides the magnificent views, the area also offers a glimpse at some astonishing wildlife, such as the Quetzal ‒ a brilliant red and green bird sacred to the Mayans and Aztecs.
  • Coiba. A marine reserve off the Pacific Coast, home to manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and migrating whales. Intrepid divers can even swim alongside whale sharks, which appear between December and April. Snorkelers spend most of their time around Bahia Damas Reef, the largest coral reef in North America, teeming with schools of colorful fish. The park also encompasses much of the adjacent coastline, which is home to monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas, and dozens of species of birds.

Unbeatable Weather

Panama inhabits an enviable position. Located 600 miles north of the Equator, it’s warm without being hot. Temperatures rarely reach above 90°F, even along the warmest stretches of the coast. And because it sits just below the Hurricane Belt, it’s not affected by the devastating storms that regularly sweep through the Caribbean. That doesn’t mean the sun shines nonstop, however. The country still receives over 100 inches of rain a year, mostly between May and November.

Cultural Melting Pot

Though not large by international standards, Panama City is home to people, customs, and traditions from all over the world. In addition to its indigenous roots, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences can be seen in almost every aspect of daily life, including:

  • Cuisine. Panamanians have been making tortillas and tamales for thousands of years, but after the Spanish conquest, they began to incorporate a wider range of spices and flavors, including paprika, oregano, coriander, plantains, onions, olives, and wine. Dishes such as sao, sailfish, and roast breadfruit were introduced by Africans from the Caribbean and are still widely eaten today.
  • Music. Panama’s traditional Tamborito music is a mix of indigenous, Spanish, and African rhythms. It’s performed to a lively drum beat, and incorporates clapping, stomping, and chanting as well. But while Panamanians love Tamborito, they’re crazy for salsa. Ruben Blades, an icon of the salsa scene, was born in Panama. Most days, you can’t walk down the street without hearing his songs from every building you pass. Reggae also has a long tradition in the country. It was brought over by Jamaicans working on the Panama Canal and embraced by the local population, who’ve even produced their own reggae star: El General.
  • Art. Panama takes pride in its indigenous arts and crafts. Molas, colorful and intricately woven textiles made from layered fabric, are particularly popular. They have a variety of uses, but are worn mostly as shirts and skirts. The country's national costume, pollera, was inspired by Spanish immigrants. Originally worn by servants, modern polleras are made from silk and adorned with jewels. Though not fit for everyday use, the two-tiered skirt and blouse is a common sight at public events, including Carnival and the Sobresaltos Dance Festival.

Rousing Festivities

Thanks to its diverse culture, Panama has a lot to celebrate. Stand-out festivals are held throughout the year in every corner of the country. Living in Panama City keeps the action within arm’s reach, so you can experience the country's traditions to their fullest degree, including:

  • Carnival. The biggest and most anticipated event in the country, this four-day festival marks the beginning of Lent. In Panama City, the revelry begins with the crowning of the carnival queen, who leads parades along the waterfront every night, accompanied by drummers, trumpeters, and enormous floats decked out in elaborate colors. Massive water fights are held during the day, giving everyone a chance to cool off before dancing and drinking until dawn.
  • Sobresaltos Dance Festival. Held in Casco Antiguo, the oldest neighborhood in Panama City, this event celebrates urban dance styles. Teams from as far away as France and Spain come to show off their skills. People dance in the street, on stages, even hanging from buildings!
  • Festival de Diablos y Congos. Held in Portobelo, a small town on the Caribbean Coast, the Festival of Devils and Slaves (Diablos y Congos) honors Panama’s African heritage. Men and boys dress in ornate costumes made from rags and wear hideous demon masks, representing Spanish slave traders. Women wear long, bright, pleated skirts that whirl about them as they frolic through the crowds. Most singing and dancing is spontaneous. Drummers break out into traditional African rhythms in squares and streets, but the city also organizes parades and concerts to help share its unique history with curious onlookers.

Moving to Panama City

Allied works with people and families across the globe, helping them start new lives in new countries. We provide on-the-ground support from start to finish, from packing to shipping and final delivery. Our agents even help you navigate customs, ensuring your belongings arrive safely at your destination. Whether you’re moving to Panama City or points beyond, Allied has the skills, resources, and experience to get you there. Contact us today for a free quote!

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