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Panama - Expats
Panama has many attractions for expats including a good climate, beautiful countryside and a very low cost of living. Panama has managed to shake off its image as a third world country and now has modern facilities, buildings and infrastructure. The schools, particularly international schools, have an excellent reputation and there are many private schools to choose from if you do not want your children to attend a local school.
It is often the cost of living which attracts expats to Panama. Shopping is largely duty-free, although some imported items can seem to cost a lot of money. Property prices, rental costs and the cost of transportation are all very low when compared with life in the US or the UK. It is estimated that a couple can live in Panama on as little as $1200 per month. If one chooses to live outside of one of the main cities, then the cost of living can fall even further.
There are also an increasing number of benefits being offered to those who want to retire to the country, including discounts on goods, importation of items and reductions in the cost of medical treatment. Retired expats can import a car free of charge every two years if they wish as well as enjoy reduced rates in restaurants, cinemas and other places. Panama is ranked highly as a destination for retired expats and there is also a large number of foreigners who are choosing to purchase a second home there. 2010 saw something of a property boom in Panama as development was high and buying property was seen as a good investment, even for those who were not permanently living in the country.
One of the main advantages of moving to Panama is that much of the population can speak English (to varying degrees). The accessibility of the country is another plus point for many people, particularly those from the US. Panama is just a short flight from the US, so visits home to family and friends are easily managed. The financial stability of the country is another advantage and the fact that it uses the US dollar means that for American expats there is no change in currency.
Other incentives being offered to foreigners to encourage immigration include the investment programmes. These include investing in a business, starting your own business or investing in one of the forestation schemes. No matter which programme you choose, all you need to do is prove that you are in good health, have no criminal record and have the means to support yourself.
Some of the largest expat communities are in the cities and on the whole the people of Panama are very welcoming towards newcomers. Expats are often referred to as ‘Gringos’ but this is not a derogatory term and most expats do not mind hearing it!
Panama City is a good choice for expats who enjoy city life. As with all cities it has poor and affluent areas but has a very modern feel. More and more development is taking place in Panama City and expats often choose to live in apartments . An up and coming area is the old part of the city where older houses are undergoing renovation and many are being converted into apartments.
Areas such as Bocas del Toro are home to large expat communities, with US citizens in particular choosing to move there. Most are retired people although there are some families with young children in the area.
There are fewer expats in rural areas and those that are there tend to be working in the medical profession or teaching as part of an aid programme.
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