“Such a small country, spread on an isthmus, where the sky is clearer, the sun brighter; all your music echoes within me, like the sea in the small cell of the conch,” wrote Ricardo Miró, the most notorious of Panamanian poets, of his birthplace. A century after Miró penned those words, they continue to ring true: Panama is a country cradled by the ocean and the warmth of the tropics, where you’ll find a mix of history and culture, adventure and city life that makes for a uniquely fulfilling experience.
It’s no wonder Panama City, the country’s capital, stands as number one in Central America in Mercer's ‘Quality of Living’ city ranking. On International Living’s ‘The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2020’ list, Panama comes second only to Portugal. With a vibrant and growing community of expats, a US Dollar currency, world class infrastructures and low crime rate, Panama City is the top destination if you’re looking for a comfortable lifestyle with a touch of Latin flavor.
Living in Panama
A Fuss-free Transition
In fact, Panama has consistently outranked more common choices for expats, like Costa Rica, in recent lists. This has largely to do with how easy it is to move and obtain your residency in Panama and start a new life there. And not just because of the dollarized economy and virtually nonexistent language barrier, but because the process of becoming a resident is pretty straightforward. If you plan to retire there, for example, you could avail of the Tourist Pensioner Visa, which offers permanent residency to anyone who receives a pension of over 1,000 USD —and it also grants local benefits, like discounts in utilities and restaurants.
If, on the other hand, your plans include starting your own business or working remotely, your best choice could be the Friendly Nations Visa, designed to attract entrepreneurs, investors and creative professionals. This particular policy goes hand in hand with Panama’s goal of becoming a major hub for tech startups, which the country is achieving thanks to initiatives like the City of Knowledge, a cluster of tech companies, academic organizations and NGOs.
Panama is one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas and is also politically and socially stable. If you’re looking to design a life for yourself in a place with warm weather all year round, stunning landscapes and charming colonial architecture, while still being able to work remotely with unwavering Wi-Fi, Panama City is sure to meet your expectations.
The great weather also makes it an ideal place to practice outdoor sports, with plenty of natural parks where you can hike or go for a run, as well as your choice of beaches, from the virginal Pearl Islands to the centric Playa Santo Domingo, in the Casco Viejo, where you’ll likely see residents paddle boarding, playing softball or having an afternoon picnic. For a taste of riskier activities, don’t miss the traditional Ocean to Ocean cayuco race, where competitors cross the Canal in canoe-like boats made from hollowed tree trunks.
The Casco Life
And if your ideal day-to-day involves great food, a bustling nightlife and being part of a community of friendly, like-minded individuals with a penchant for culture, Casco Viejo is your obvious choice. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this walled city of narrow bricked streets holds charming 17th century Spanish colonial buildings, several plazas, boutiques, cafes and restaurants —all within walking distance. A small neighbourhood with a large personality, the Casco thrives on its sense of community.
Founded in 1673 after the original Old City was sacked by pirate Henry Morgan, the now lively Casco Viejo has gone through a long and thoughtful process of renovation. You’ll be able to learn all about Panama’s rich history just walking the neighbourhood. You can visit the moorish-inspired Presidential Palace, the church of Santo Domingo with its famous Flat Arch, an architectural marvel dating back to the founding of the city, or the enchanting Plaza Bolivar, named after the Venezuelan general who led the war for independence, and who spoke in that very place about the importance of a united Latin America.
Most of Panama City’s best restaurants are also located in the Casco Viejo, as well as an impressive array of bars and clubs, like the Teatro Amador, a historic theater converted into a nightclub. So whether you’re in the mood for a quiet drink on a rooftop bar with ocean views, or feel like salsa dancing in an authentic Cuban spot, the Casco Viejo is bound to have what you’re looking for.
The revitalization of the neighbourhood has meant the arrival of interesting projects like the Santa Familia development. Perched on the historic muralla of the Casco Viejo, Santa Familia fronts the Playa Santo Domingo and has views to the Pacific Ocean and the entrance of the Panama Canal. In its neoclassical buildings, which blend into Casco Viejo’s parade of charming shops and houses, Santa Familia will accommodate studios and apartments of 1 to 4 bedrooms. Designed with the intention of boosting a community-oriented lifestyle, the project is built on the belief that cultural richness should not come at the expense of everyday convenience.