How to Retire in the Republic of Panama

Three Parts:Preparing to MoveDeciding Where to LiveAdjusting to Panama

The Republic of Panama is a country that welcomes retiring people from many countries including the USA. It offers multiple climate choices, from the tropics on the Pacific and Atlantic oceans to the temperate climates of the mountains. The U.S. dollar goes far in this country. Infrastructure is some of the best, with nearly the entire country having WiFi, cell phone reception, utilities available...and that cost a fraction of what they would elsewhere.

In 2013, the Panamanians were decided to be the happiest people on earth according to the World Health Organization. Healthcare is excellent, and at the time of this article, costs about $200.00 per person per year.

Part 1
Preparing to Move

  1. Image titled Retire in the Republic of Panama Step 1
    Show financial ability to support yourself. Prove that you have $1,000 for a single person (or $1,250.00 for a couple) of income per month.
    • This can be social security, retirement funds or other.
    • You can also demonstrate that you are a person of means. This is defined as having $100,000.00 or more in funds and will meet the financial requirement.
  2. Image titled Retire in the Republic of Panama Step 2
    Have a clean record. The Panamanian Government is not looking for individuals with a criminal history, so your record (FBI) must be clean.
    • All required documents, including the FBI report, birth certificate and others can be found in list form at the Panamanian Embassy site listed under Citations below. They all must be ORIGINAL documents, and must go through a Panamanian lawyer.
  3. Image titled Retire in the Republic of Panama Step 3
    Secure a Pensionado Visa. This is a retirement visa. It both allows you to stay in the country, as well as access the Pensionado benefits.
    • Pensionado visas provide for deep discounts on everything from entertainment to travel. Unlike the USA, the discounts are not minimal.
    • Anyone with a lifetime pension regardless of age can get a Pensionado Visa, but note, you are not allowed to work.
    • Many other visas are available for those who are not yet drawing a pension such as investment, student, immigrant, work and teaching visas.
    • This visa provides for discounts up to 25% off of any dining out and 50% off entertainment.
    • It also provides deep discounts on airfare, goods and services and many more, too many to list.

Part 2
Deciding Where to Live

  1. Image titled Retire in the Republic of Panama Step 4
    Deciding where to live. You may want to take a trip before moving, to explore the different areas and decide what you like.
    • Boquete is a high elevation plain where many English speaking people have retired. It has a thriving ex-pat community from the USA and other English speaking countries.
    • The languages in the Republic of Panama are Spanish, Mandarin and Mayan dialects (especially in the West coast rain forest, or in the more mountainous regions). Most individuals do speak some English.
  2. Image titled Retire in the Republic of Panama Step 5
    Rent a house first. Unless you already are familiar with Panama, you might find that within the first six months to a year, you find a place where you really would like to live.
    • If you have rented a house, moving is much easier.
    • There are English-Speaking gated communities. This could be good or bad depending on your point of view.
  3. Image titled Retire in the Republic of Panama Step 6
    Learn at least some Spanish. The Panamanian people are nice to begin with, but if you try to speak to them in their own language, it is says something about you. People will help you as much as they can if you attempt to speak a bit of Spanish.
    • It is helpful if you start this learning process even before you move and while you are living in Panama.
    • There is a cultural dynamic that occurs when people at least try to speak with them in their native tongue.
    • It dispels the perception of US citizens as expecting everyone to learn English, rather than both parties trying to enhance communication.

Part 3
Adjusting to Panama

  1. Image titled Retire in the Republic of Panama Step 7
    Enjoy your new life. From golf to horseback riding, gorgeous vistas and beaches never more than an hour's drive, it is a wonderful way to live.
    • For less than $10 per week you can even have a maid, or for a few more dollars per week, a gardener.
    • Given these reasonable costs, it is wonderful for people as they age, and need the additional help. One can get it without going broke in the process.


  • Spanish language courses are offered all over, but are most concentrated in the cities of .David (east cost) and Panama city (west coast).
  • If you need something quickly, such as a water pump to be installed, specify that it is an immediate need. Nearly all services will honor your need for speed if you specify it.
  • Dengue, the plague of the tropics and carried by the mosquito, had all but been eradicated from Panama.
  • If you are seeking to live an exiting new life, live wherever you want and learn from the native population.
  • Crime is very, very low. Still, don't be silly and walk in an unknown area with lots of cash sticking out of your pocket and bedecked in jewelry.
  • There are a high number of Panamanians who do speak some English as a second language.
  • Things move more slowly in Panama, but they do move. This is part of the more laid back culture of Panama that can be just lovely.
  • Water is drinkable and pure.
  • Remember that the official currency is the Balboa, which is the equivalent of the US dollar. Dollars can be readily used without any formal exchange.
  • Do not compare. It is not the USA as it simply is NOT the USA. If you are looking for fast food on every corner, you will be disappointed. Just look at what is, and assess if you could enjoy what there is to be had.
  • Respect for the earth is a general Panamanian truism. They do not look highly at all on littering.


  • The sun is very strong. Get used to wearing hats to protect your head and offer some shade for head and shoulders.
  • Do not touch any reptiles until you know about them. There are orange to red tree frogs that are poisonous to the touch.
  • Be careful of the tropical portions of Panama. Many people underestimate what the intense heat can do to you and heat related illness can occur rather quickly.
  • If you move to Panama without any idea of the culture or the potential areas to live, you may find yourself very frustrated initially.
  • It does rain regularly for short periods in Panama. Invest in a good umbrella before you move or when you arrive.
  • In the rainforest, you will likely see army ants. Just do not bother their trail, and they will leave you alone.
  • Do not go into a large rainforest alone until you are familiar with them.
    • It is easy to get lost, and if you are injured, it may take time for someone to find you.

Things You'll Need

  • Original Birth Certificate. A new one can be secured from the county in which you were born.
  • FBI report, original (not a copy)
  • If you will be working, a copy of your post-high school degrees.
  • Very recent physician's report to verify your health status.
  • Proof of financial resources.
  • Other: These items do change rather regularly, primarily to make it easier to move and/or retire to Panama. Please do check with the embassy prior to gathering the required documentation.

Sources and Citations

  • The Republic of Panama Embassy, Miami, FL. Multiple communications.
  • General background information from International Living, Inc., both the magazine and e-Bulletins.
  • One month, total immersion research.
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Categories: Retirement