Panama City City Spotlight

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Panama City is a favored city in Central America for expats. There are about 420,000 people who live there and another 400,000 or so in the surrounding areas. Many retirees come to Panama City from the United States and Europe. Because the territory was under U.S. control for so long, Panama City caters to English-speaking visitors and residents. It is very easy to establish residency in Panama. There are wonderful high-rise condominium buildings that offer spectacular views. For those who prefer a taste of antiquity, there are colonial homes available for rent or purchase. Water lovers appreciate the beachfront bungalows or living on a houseboat.

Panama City is a major banking center and an offshore tax haven for many international companies. Because so many ships pass through the Panama Canal, goods from all over the world are cheap and readily available.

Cost of Living

Income tax in Panama depends on a sliding scale that ranges from 7 to 27 percent. The tax is only valid on income you earn while living in Panama. It's unlikely you'll worry about property taxes, as they do not kick in until as long as 20 years after you build or purchase a house.  The cost of living in Panama City, while higher than other places in Central America, is still reasonable. When compared to living in New York City, the cost of living is about 40% lower. A nice one bedroom to rent in an inexpensive area is around $700 (USD) per month. The luxury condominiums rent for $1,300 to $2,500 per month. It is very easy to live well as a retiree on a fixed income if the monthly retirement income is around $2,000 for a couple.


Panama’s currency is the Balboa. This is not something to worry about, however, as the U.S. dollar is accepted throughout the country.


Do not buy housing without contacting a lawyer or real estate agent who knows Panama’s market. Much of the land in Panama is untitled, which leads to misunderstandings during and after the purchase. Bring up to $10,000 in household goods with you when you move, as amounts over that require you to pay taxes. Many find it easier to sell furnishings before they move and buy in Panama.


The beaches in Panama City are beautiful. For those who like fishing, this area is spectacular. The “flying fish” that jump out of the water are enjoyable to watch for both residents and visitors. As such, Panama City is a terrific place to have a yacht or fishing boat. A dish made from these locally caught fish and shrimp called “ceviche” is a popular local dish. Medical care is excellent in Panama City. Many medical tourists come to Panama City for elective procedures and for procedures that are not available or that are much costlier in their home countries.


Relocation to Panama City, Panama, appeals to retirees looking for a lower cost of living. To retire in Panama City a retiree visa (Pensionado) is necessary. You must prove monthly income is at least $1,000 that’s valid for the rest of your life. If you’ve bought a property worth a minimum of $100,000, the monthly income limit drops to $750. The visa comes with discounts for transportation, restaurants, prescriptions, medical care, hotels and entertainment.

Deposit at least $5,000 into a bank and register a business name in Panama and qualify for a Friendly Nations visa. A Person of Means visa is good for anyone who purchases $300,000 in property or deposits $300,000 into a local bank. No matter which visa you want, Panama requires an FBI background check before you relocate. This in-depth background check requires fingerprints from all 10 fingers.


Living in Panama City is perfect for those who enjoy living in hot places. The temperature is very hot all year long because it is so close to the equator. It is always about 90ºF (33ºC) and never gets below 65ºF (18ºC). Residents admit that it rains all the time; the rain frequently comes as a heavy tropical downpour, which stops after a short time. The humidity is always very high - above 95% almost year round. As you can imagine, it takes a long time for anything to dry out when left outside. Air-conditioning and de-humidifiers are essential items for living in Panama City.

Panama is part of the narrow land tract connecting North and South America. It’s near the equator so expect tropical weather throughout the year. Monthly averages range from highs in the low-80s in the winter months to the upper-80s in summer. Lows generally stay in the low-70s throughout the year. Humidity is always an issue, though it’s a little better in winter months.

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