Panama : Expats ‘ 4th favorite city in the world , but …

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… 3rd most affected economy of Latin America in 2020, due to COVID-19 pandemic.

2020 will have been a very different and complicated year for many countries. For Panamá, it will have been a year of rankings, both for better and for worse. On the bright side, it was designated 4th favorite city to live in for and by expats, in a survey of over 15 000 expats of 173 nationalities living in 181 countries and territories over the world, and carried out by InterNations. It’s important to keep in mind that the survey was published in November, but it was carried out in Spring, before the pandemic.

What are Panamá’s assets?

First of all: the financial aspect

More than 2 out of 3 participants declare they are happy with their financial situation. They point out it is very easy to find housing, and it is generally affordable. About 3 out of 4 expats also say they feel « at home » in Panamá. I can totally relate to that. We once moved from one apartment to another, and had no difficulties in finding a new, affordable place, very well located. And it is our experience in Panamá that made us discover and fall in love with Latin America!

Work environment

Participants agree that it is difficult to enter the work market, but once they have a job, more than 2 out of 3 expats are satisfied or more than satisfied with it. Panamá being a small country, it has a small job market and most positions are still filled thanks to networking and word-to-mouth. It is more efficient to go and knock directly at companies’ doors than to look for official jobs ads.

Quality of life

The weakest point for Panamá comes from the day-to-day life in the city, with poor public transportation and an unfriendly urban environment. The construction of the subway, a few years ago, was supposed to gradually replace the old buses but it is not a miracle solution and traffic is still very heavy. Also, Panamá is a very noisy city, day and night, and after a while it is tiresome.


Overall, expats living in Panamá describe it as an enjoyable place to live in, with friendly people, and an affordable cost of life, which once again I can confirm : I made very good friends over there, not just acquaintances, and the free zone makes a lot of goods pretty cheap !

What difficulties does Panamá face?

But since the pandemic arrived, many things have changed in the country and the results of such a survey might be very different nowadays. According to the CEPAL (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Panamá has faced in 2020 the 3rd biggest contraction of GDP in Latin America, close to -11 %. This fall is mainly due to the country’s decisions and actions to face the COVID pandemic. Closing the boarders has badly affected the usually blooming tourism industry, but also the financial sector, and exportations have also heavily decreased.

However, the CEPAL also anticipates a recovery in 2021, with estimated 5.5 % growth in GDP, with the gradual resumption of economic activities.

Is now a good time to move to Panamá ?

Let’s be honest, there will never be a ‘perfect moment’ to move, but obviously some moments are more favorable than others. If you are looking to set up a business in Panamá or to find a job once arrived there, be cautious and inquire about the specific situation in your field. The job market is not favorable, since many people have lost their jobs over the last year and many companies have sut down. If you want to start your own business, inquire about the current situation in your field : tourism, for instance, is not doing well at all.

In case you are financially independent (digital nomad or retired for example), now can be a very interesting time to move to Panamá. Its use of the dollar makes it monetary stable, and at the same time the real estate prices are going down, making it the perfect moment to invest. And as the above survey mentionned, low costs of living are already one of Panamá’s assets…

If you have further questions about living in Panama, hit the contact button !

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