12 Reasons NOT to Live In Panama City, Panama

A picture of Panama City, Panama in the background. A busy street filled with cars closer in the picture.

A lot has been written about the benefits of retiring in Panama over the years. The low cost of living, warm weather, exciting tourist attractions, and affordable medical care are just a few of the reasons why it has become known as a great place to retire.

However, like any other country, it is not perfect. There are quite a few reasons why Panama may not be the best place to retire. In this guide, I’ll be sharing some of those reasons to help you understand if Panama is the country for you.

Why You Shouldn’t Live In Panama

1. It Can Be Difficult To Access Specialised Health Care

If you intend to live in Panama City, you will enjoy access to a high standard of medical care and modern healthcare facilities. However, if you decide to settle in another part of the country, the quality of healthcare you receive may vary significantly. You may find it difficult to access specialist care if you need it and a decent hospital may be several hours away.

2. The Language Barrier

If you don’t speak Spanish, you may find life in Panama a little frustrating at times. You may bump into a few expats who are bilingual, but most restaurant staff and shop keepers will only know a few words of English.

3. Certain Items Are Expensive 

In general terms, the cost of living in Panama is much lower than the United States. The cost of locally grown or locally manufactured items is particularly low. You can also hire housekeepers and gardeners for as little as USD $20 a day.  

However, any goods which are imported into Panama can be more expensive, particularly if they are brand name items being imported from a developed nation. It you like to wear American made clothes, drive an Italian made car, or drink Japanese whisky, expect to pay a lot for it.

4. Life Moves Slowly In Panama

One of the main benefits of living in Panama is that you can enjoy a relaxed lifestyle. However, there is a flip side to this. Panamanians tend to move slowly in both their personal and professional lives. 

If you have to lodge a form with a government department, expect them to take their time processing it. If you are working with a building contractor, expect them to be slow to return your calls. This can be frustrating if you are used to living in a major city in United States, where people tend to move at a much faster pace.

5. Some Laws Are Very Different To Other Countries

Many expats find Panama’s laws to be confusing and often illogical. Some laws are quite lax while others are surprisingly strict. 

Take seat belts for example. In Panama, only the people in the front seats are required to wear a seat belt. Passengers in the back don’t need one. As a result, you will find that many taxis don’t even have seat belts in the back, which is quite shocking at first.

Other road rules are much stricter. For example, the legal blood alcohol level for drivers is 0.0%. This means you can’t even enjoy a sip of Seco before getting behind the wheel. If you do get caught with alcohol in your system, expect to receive a very large fine.

6. Panama’s Climate Can Be Difficult

Panama has a tropical climate, with relatively high temperatures and high humidity. It also rains a lot. Expect up to 118 inches (3,000 millimeters) rain annually during an extended nine-month wet season that runs between April and December. The humidity is also off-putting to many people. You may find yourself sweating a lot, even on days when the temperature is relatively mild. 

Another issue that some residents have with the climate is that there aren’t four seasons. The nation’s close proximity to the equator means that there is only a cool (wet) season and a warmer (dry) season. This may be disappointing if you are the kind of person who enjoys significant variations in temperature throughout the year. 

7. Parties Galore

Panamanians enjoy letting their hair down. Parties often start late in the evening and continue on until the early hours of the morning. If you are a party animal, this is fantastic. 

However, if you are a retiree looking for a quiet location to enjoy your twilight years, you may discover that your neighbor’s partying interferes with your preferred lifestyle. You may need to move a couple of times to find a neighborhood that offers some peace and quiet.

8. There Are Creepy Crawlies Everywhere

Panama contains over 3 million hectares of forests which contain an incredible level of biodiversity. One of the joys of living in Panama is being able to explore these spectacular locations.

However, a huge part of this biodiversity is made up of insects. Crawling, jumping, flying, slithering, biting, and itch-inducing insects! If you are phobic about insects, then you will probably need to invest in some high-quality fly screens and mosquito repellant. 

9. Driving Can Be Difficult 

Driving can be quite intense in Panama. Locals are aggressive drivers and move quickly. Taxis are notoriously bad and they will roll onto the sidewalk or cut you off if you get in the way. If you aren’t a confident driver, this can take some getting used to. 

10. Crimes Of Opportunity Are Common In The Cities

Although the crime rate isn’t shockingly high in Panama, crimes of opportunity are common. If you leave your phone sitting in your car while you eat at a restaurant, it is very likely that it will go missing before you return. It’s also a bad idea to leave any items around the front of your house, as someone walking past will probably take them home. 

11. Internet Access Is Sometimes Unreliable and Expensive

If you a keen Internet user, then you may be disappointed in the quality of the connection you receive while living in Panama. The nation’s average Internet speed is a paltry 5.9 Mbps. Although residences in the city can obtain must faster connections, many towns only have satellite connections available, which are expensive and slow. Expect to pay as much as $250 per month for a 10 Mbps connection in areas that only have satellite connections. 

13. Power Outages

Some parts of Panama suffer from regular power outages. These outages can range from a few minutes to a couple of days and are very inconvenient if you only have electrical lights and cooking equipment. 

Related: Risks of Buying Property in Panama

Wrapping Up

As you can see, there are several reasons not to live in Panama. Retirees need to consider these issues and compare them against the many benefits associated with living in this beautiful country.

Related: Panama Cost of Living