Panama is hot right now. No, we’re not talking about the temperature. We’re talking about the excitement generated in recent years about Panama as a retirement destination. The AARP recently featured Panama as one of the most fun, beautiful, and affordable places to retire in the world, citing its sleek capital city, hot beach towns, and cool mountain villages– not to mention its unbeatable package of retiree benefits and discounts and a currency tied to the U.S. dollar. International Living Magazine listed Panama as a top retirement haven in 2013, giving it a score of 100/100 in the “Special Benefits” category, according to its annual Retirement Index study. So what is all the buzz about? Well, here are the top ten reasons to retire in Panama:
1. Retiree benefits – Panama offers the best retiree benefits in the world, including discounts on entertainment, restaurants, medications, doctor’s fees, transportation, and utilities, not to mention tax breaks for the importation of cars and household goods. The country offers several visa options so that foreign retirees are free to chose the legal status that best suits their needs– from permanent residency to special pensioned tourist visas.
2. Cosmopolitan scene – Panama is a global crossroads, offering the excitement of a bustling international scene as well as all the comforts of home. The excellent shopping centers and markets ensure you will never miss any of the goods you are accustomed to, including electronics and even your favorite brand of yogurt. The country’s diversity also means that cultural events are frequent, ranging from theater to music festivals to art exhibits.
3. Natural beauty and climate – To put it simply, Panama’s natural beauty is unparalleled. Every year visitors flock to Panama for its pristine beaches, majestic mountains, and tropical rain forests– just imagine living here full time! Moreover, the tropical climate is truly a blessing. An average temperature of 84º F makes for comfortably warm days and cool nights.
4. Top-notch health care – Panama is increasingly becoming a top medical tourism destination, and for good reason. The country boasts of world-class medical facilities, modern hospitals and clinics, and many English-speaking doctors trained in the United States and Europe. And with medical costs at half the price of what you would pay in the U.S., retirees can rest easy that their money will go a long way.
5. American influence – The long American presence in the Canal Zone, and the current government’s friendly relations with the United States have created distinct advantages for Panama among its Latin American neighbors. English is spoken widely, many Panamanians are familiar with U.S. culture and are friendly towards Americans, and the country is overall one of the most “Americanized” in the region.
6. Strong economy – Panama’s economy, linked to the U.S. dollar, has been growing in leaps and bounds, and shows no signs of slowing. The New York Times recently reported that Panama’s economy is booming, with an average economic growth of 9% in the past five years. No wonder Panama has been called the Dubai of the Americas!
7. Stability and safety – The U.S. Department of State describes Panama as the safest Central American country. Thanks to the efforts of the Panamanian National Police, the number of violent crimes has been decreasing steadily from 2010 to the present. In Panama City, the Tourism Police offers help and guidance specifically for tourists– they are easily identified by their khaki uniforms, and are happy to help any foreigner with their needs.
8. Cost of living – A taxi ride across town will cost less than $2.00, catching the latest blockbuster at the movie theater is only $1.75 if you are a “pensionado” (retiree), and a delicious Panamanian lunch will set you back about $3.00. Need we say more? Given the high quality of services such as entertainment, housing, and communications, the low cost of living– compared to the United States and Europe– represents a huge bargain.
9. Favorable business environment – Panama wants your business, and the government has set up many incentives to attract foreign investors. Many companies benefit from tax exemptions and breaks on import duties, and the World Bank has ranked Panama the best business environment in Central America.
10. Modern infrastructure – Panama is well connected. Roads in urban areas are maintained in good condition, while the Inter-American Highway that links western Panama to the capital city is as modern as any highway in the United States. Many reliable and internationally-recognized companies offer mobile telephone services, and the government offers free wireless internet hot spots throughout the country.
These are just a few of the reasons people have chosen Panama as their preferred retirement destination. But the country offers many more benefits and advantages than the ones listed here, just waiting for you to come and discover them.