Hola from Panama
As much as I miss STT, things are wonderful here. Planning a trip back for later in year to catch up with friends. If I were a retiree I'd definitely look at Panama. The government here gives you all kinds of perks for bringing your SS or pension with you and its about 1/3 the cost of the USVI. Looks like i made good decision to get out when I did instead of waiting on MR to reopen. That is now looking like it may not happen
I looked at Panama before buying on St Croix. The cost for living is much lower. The big deal for me, being retirement age, was Medicare being accepted being a US territory. I also qualify for free health care, as a veteran, and there is a local VA clinic.
If you enjoy snorkeling and diving, not much of that in Panama. The cooler climate in the mountains was appealing. If I was trying to get by on limited income then Panama would have been on my short list along with Costa Rica and Equidor.
I too looked at Panama, col is much cheaper, but my problem was moving down before 60. Once I got to 59.5 you can get a Pensionado Visa which makes it easy to live there and it comes with benefits as I could use my 401k to be eligible for it. Some info here http://www.panama-offshore-services.com/retired_pensioned_program.htm
Prior to that, you have to leave every 3 months and Costa Rica is making it diffiicult to do from what I read, as you need to have $500 cash on you, not sure if you come back with it. lol
My other issue was not being protected by US law, one never knows.
But as for medical and dental, you could actually just pay cash for services, doctors are trained in the states, as it's cheaper than paying for an insurance plan.
Plus no Hurricanes.
In Boquete, there are a few clinics. Hospital is in David, 30 minutes away. For a standard office call it is $10-12. Prescription drugs are half of what I paid in STT. We aren't close to ocean here, which is my biggest issue, but I can see it, even though it's 1.5 hours to closest beach. We are surrounded by farms here. Produce is insanely cheap. 7 bananas, 3 plantains, 6 tomatoes,,a pineapple and a watermelon from produce stand for $8. I will always have a place in my heart for STT and I may end up back there one day, but this suits us now.
While medicare won't cover you for more than 60 days outside the USA medical care is much less expensive in Panama. We found we could purchase medical insurance for approximately the same cost as we are paying for our medicare supplemental plans in the USA.
John Hopkins runs a hospital in Panama, many of the doctors are US educated so the quality of care is good.
Very interesting, I recently left St. Croix, I miss the sunsets but I have to admit the convenience of living in the NYC metro area (Manhattan during the week and Connecticut on the weekends) is very appealing. I am looking for a place to spend several months a year. What is the crime rate like in Panama? Do you need to speak fluent spanish? Any particular areas of the country that you could recommend. I would prefer urban areas.
Stcmike If you miss the island life, I always liked Bocas Del Toro, tiny island with a funky little vibe to it and lots of nice little hotels and B and B's, good restaurants too. You can do day trips to other islands as well.
It is definitely a Caribbean feel there in Bocas. Urban areas tend to be more expensive (still much cheaper than STT or STX). I spent two days in Panama City for my immigration process and there is a lot to do there and many people speak English. I am not fluent in Spanish but enough to get by. I am lucky with my job, I get house, car, insurance, phone, light paid for, downside is I live where I work. Crime happens everywhere. There are robberies, murders in big cities. Personally, I have never felt unsafe anywhere I've been here. David, the closest big city to me, has a mall, and a new huge one being built, Pricesmart, dozens of hardware stores, a 3 level department store Conway and just about every creature comfort you could want. Cell service is cheap $22/month for 7 Gigs of data plus 250 minutes and 250 SMS. We are spending 1/2 what we did on groceries. Gas is about $3 gallon. Booze is even cheaper here than VI. Ron Abuelo rum is $9 liter and you can get a case of Panama beer at Pricesmart for like $11
Well, after living in the Grenadines for 3 years and then on STX for 7 years, we moved to Uruguay. We have travelled all over S.A and C.A. and this had the best standard of living and great year round climate.
We live one block from the beach in the middle of park and have an historic home here at a FRACTION of the cost of the Caribbean. Taxes are nearly nothing and the beef, vegetables and wine are second to none. Grocery stores are more modern than the U.S.
There is a 25 mile walkway along the Rio Plata where people jog, skateboard, and ride bikes. The country is also very pet friendly, not something that the Caribbean is known for.
We have fiber optic internet and stream programming from the U.S. The cost of the internet is about $29US per month. Electric works out to be about $33 per month. All of Uruguay electric is hydro or wind generated.
Uruguay is not what most North Americans would call cheap but you do get what you pay for.
Boquete is the area where you find one of the highest concentration of expats in Panama. Some say as many as 30,000 - 40,000 in the area primarily from N America and Europe. Boquete has been rated as one of the best places in the world to retire. The climate is more temperate as the elevation is 3,000 - 4,000 feet above sea level. They grow excellent coffee in the area.
Boca has an interesting vibe but is more of young people's town for adventure touring, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking etc. Lots of very inexpensive lodges, restraunts catering to the back packing crowd.
Panama is very tropical being 9 degrees N of the equator and with many parts of the country getting 200" of rain the vegetation is lush.
We would have moved to Boquette but my wife is a beach person and Boquette was to far to drive to the beach except maybe once or twice a week and seeing the Pacific from your living room on a clear day would have driven her crazy.
Sure. But do you have a "What's Going on Panama" so you can hear about every lost dog, every dolphin prison, every overturned truck, every grievance? 😉
Miss your entertaining posts...
There is a local group here but I promised my wife to refrain from getting involved. Of course since they are mostly expats in group it is nearly identical in content to WGOST. Happy Easter
Keep us posted on Panama. I don't want to move anywhere that doesn't offer direct flights to States or where I have to drive miles to an international airport. I don't want to have to drive miles to get to anywhere, really. Waste of time for me, which is one of the things I like about VI.
Do you mingle and socialize with locals? I wouldn't want to live in an expat bubble.
Glad to hear you're happy! When you get that itch to post, post here and tell wifey we need your unique perspective because you have lived here so you are our best source for information on VI alternatives. You're performing a public service so we need you to keep posting!
We are 30 minutes from David Airport. They only fly to Panama City and Costa Rica. Panama City has flights to many cities direct in states internationally. I know for sure they have nonstop to Toronto, Madrid, Paris, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston.. If you are a pensioner they offer big discounts on airfare Copa or Air Panama. Copa may be best airline I've flown on. I have only exclusively hung out with Panamanians thus far because of work and school for Sam. You can hang with whoever you like here. The local Panamanians love to invite you to their homes for a big weekend lunch complete with Balboa Negra. I can't lie. I miss STT. I miss proximity to beach, but the clean cool mountain air is nice. They have a pretty extensive public bussing system here as well. Only a few bucks to go from Boquete to David where they have malls and a 3 story department store. Bajo Boquete is very reminiscent of a Midwestern US small town downtown. Very vibrant. Lots of little shops and restaurants, but the sidewalks and uneven tiles remind you that you aren't in States. The roads are actually really good except in Boquete itself. The main road to David and the Pan American highway to Panama City or Costa Rica is smooth as you can imagine. You can go to a local restaurant for lunch for Comida del dio for $3.50 and get like chicken rice and beans and a drink. They also have higher end restaurants as well. The choices are more here. The weather and beaches better in STT. Costs are cheaper here, but you trade your protection as American. The coffee though. So many coffee farms here for tours and tasting. So much fresh produce. No mosquitos. Lots of venomous snakes, giant scorpions, grocery bills under $100 a week.