Being an expat is different from one community to the next. For those expats living in the mountains of Boquete, Panama, it means many big differences from the comforts of their homes in North America and Europe. Things like water inconsistencies, power outages, scorpions & other native bugs, and lack of a “call to fix everything” network, among other things, make for some drastic changes in one’s way of living. Despite all these differences, expats in Panama have been pouring into the foothills of the Volcan Baru community for years now and it does not appear to be slowing down.
Panama has a sweet offering for enticing foreigners to retire in their country with their pension ado visa program. The perks of this program range from deeply discounted hotels, meals, and flights to a percentage off doctors, utilities bills, and medications. Combine these discounts and services with the lower cost of living and climate, and you have the reason expats love Boquete.
I asked 5 expats in Panama to answer 5 of the questions I had about retiring in this county. Here is what they said: (responses in different colors for each person interviewed)
Questions for Expats in Boquete
1. What was the biggest adjustment having moved from the states to the country of Panama?
None for me. Maybe the lack of addresses when going places, and the inability to get certain items… that need to be ordered from the states. Nothing major though.
Being TV addicts, we had to do some research into how to get all of our shows down here.
The biggest adjustment for us was to try to understand the culture and expectations (workers, services and consistency of anything)
Communication, learning the language.
Trying to get things done; need lots of patience. A great deal of incompetence, wasted time, poor business practices.
2. Do you feel the cost of living is truly cheaper in Panama?
Absolutely. Car insurance 150, water 30 per year, propane $5 a tank, no real estate tax, dinner at Big Daddy with wine $20 per person etc. Maid $20 per day. Gardner 110 per week… Vegetables and fruits at market much cheaper.
Overall, the living in Panama (Boquete) is cheaper. Groceries might be higher if you insist on brands that have to be imported from the US, but buying your fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken, etc. from the local vendors, it is not only healthier but much cheaper.
No there is a false idea that you can live cheaper, if you want to eat real bread you have to pay more, if you want to get anything decent you have to pay.
Prices are high without quality control or demand from customers.
Services are high priced without responsibility, or reaction from Panamanian consumers.
“Gringos” are seen as endless pockets of money, get them if you can!
It depends if you are willing to go to the local market (not a store) and eat like the locals. I eat as much organic as possible, and it is much cheaper here. We also had outrageous insurance payments in the States. They are much lower here. Housing is not as much of a bargain as some promote. But comparing to what we spent in the States, yes, it is cheaper.
Yes, it is cheaper here but that depends on where you lived before. I came from the east coast: think heating, oil, snow removal, high taxes.
3. What weekly or daily thing do you have to do that you didn’t in the states, say for your water, cable, utilities, or other?
Weekly and daily we have to verify, reset all settings or installations in order to have them working.( i.e. water filters, Wi Fi, electricity)
Not much different.
Have ongoing water issues, so must monitor tank daily. US TV Now is our TV provider and is often on the fritz. Electric bill often not delivered so you have to take the responsibility of checking with the payment center to pay what you owe or you will lose service.
4. Do you have healthcare coverage and if so are you happy with that?
No, we don’t. Each time we used the medical system, the cost was less than $50. I used to pay $1500 per month in the US with a large deductible. We saved $18,000 in 14 months and it would go a long way here. If there was a big emergency, we can get socialized care in France. Otherwise, we can get local coverage for $3K a year for the two of us.
We have Worldwide Medical. We are 71 and 70 and we pay $683 per month for both of us. This covers us anywhere in the world. We are very pleased with coverage. We are also extremely pleased with the various doctors we have been in contact with in Boquete and David.
We don’t have health care because it is very expensive about $ 800 a month for both of us with astronomic deductibles and other details. However, it is pretty decent to just go and see a doctor and pay right there.
Yes, we have it. Very happy.
I have Bupa Critical care and fortunately have not had to use it. Hospital Chiriqui insurance is very limited and just a discount plan, not true insurance, and Worldwide is very costly. As well, anyone over 65, even with minimal health issues will have trouble getting any kind of insurance.
5. What is the best thing and the worst thing about living in Panama?
(Did not answer)
The best thing about Boquete is the awesome expat community and the tranquillo way of life here.
The worst thing is the crazy taxi cab drivers.
The best in Panama is to have a beautiful big house with a great view, nature microclimate, great weather and lots of good friends.
The worst: luck of accountability, for any kind of issues: burglaries, cheating, thievery, services enforcing laws, that are to say the least Napoleonic or vague.
Best thing, time with my husband. Worst thing, the time it takes to get things done.
What I like about living here is the climate and natural beauty, clean food, respect for the elderly in the form of the Pensionado plan, and interesting places to visit that are close by ie—Panama City, Bocas del Toro,Boca Chica, and the other Central American countries. As to the worst —-see first answer.
Read more about Boquete here: