With the crazy U.S. elections, many Americans are considering options for leaving the country. There have been a number of articles popping up about countries to which you can “easily” immigrate. As a person who has lived abroad in multiple countries, I can tell you… it’s not so easy! Most countries have significant restrictions. If you’re one of the lucky ones to qualify, congratulations, but most of of us don’t.
For example, if you want to move to Ireland, you need to prove your grandparents are from there. If you want to move to Canada or most anywhere in the EU, you need to be a highly educated and skilled worker who finds an employer to sponsor you. If you want to move to New Zealand or Australia, you also need sponsorship, and it’s very helpful to be under the age of 30. If you want to move to Israel, you need to be a Jew and have lots of money to be able to handle the cost of living. You can also immigrate to certain countries, such as Korea and Japan, as an English teacher, but it’s very difficult to live there on an English teacher’s salary. Other countries may have have fewer restrictions, but crime and general safety are issues.
I would like to present my #1 recommendation: Panamá! Following are my top 10 reasons for your consideration.
1. Tropical Climate.
It’s hot. It’s rainy. It’s humid. It’s consistent. Temperatures are consistently in the 80’s, and it’s generally safe from hurricanes. It rains every day during most of the year, but it’s just for a short period of time each day, and the rest of the day is lovely. The humidity is great for your skin and lungs. Also, the rain can be enjoyable because the thunder rolls loud and strong, and the lightning often lights up the entire sky. The other nice thing about the climate is the consistency. You can save a lot of money and/or live well as a minimalist, since your wardrobe doesn’t need to change throughout the year. (You just need a sweater or light jacket for the stores & restaurants that crank up their A/C.)
Panama has one of the largest rainforests in the world, and it’s home to lots of amazing creatures, including sloths, a variety of monkeys, and one of the largest varieties of birds in the world. Even just walking around Panamá City, you’re bound to run into some cool butterflies, fireflies, lizards, or frogs. Of course, Panamá is also surrounded by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. There are plenty of lovely beaches all around the coasts, and there are lovely islands that are just a short ferry ride away.
3. Cost of Living.
Rent is a fraction of the cost of most cities in the United States. You can rent a 2-bedroom apartment in the city for less than $1000/month, and many people have full-time housekeepers for a very low cost also. You can eat a nice meal for under $3. Services and basic supplies are also less expensive. As a person who lives in hotels, I can pay $65 to live in a decent hotel, or $130 to live in luxury at the high-end hotels in Panamá City. Those rates often include free breakfast, and at the high-end hotels, free hor d’oeurves, beer, and wine in the evenings.
Public transportation is okay in Panamá, but I am a big fan of Uber. The average cost of an Uber ride to get around Panamá City is around $3. If you go somewhere every single day of the month, your total transportation cost is ($3 x 2 rides per day x 30 days = ) $180. That’s for door-to-door pick-up and delivery service in a nice, clean vehicle with a safe driver who knows the streets and has GPS to get you where you need. That’s much less expensive than owning your own vehicle (no license fees, maintenance charges, insurance, gasoline, etc.), and it can save you a significant amount of time parking, maintaining your vehicle, etc.
4. Health Care.
Health care is generally a fraction of the cost that it is in the United States. An average doctor visit, including blood work and antibiotics, generally costs less than $20. That’s not a co-pay, that’s the total cost without insurance. Surgery that costs thousands of dollars in the United States may only cost hundreds in Panama. The health care is top-notch; doctors are well-educated, and they genuinely care about your well-being. Doctors in Panamá are much more likely to work with you to prevent getting sick (such as prescribing a healthy diet) rather than simply pushing surgery or pills.
Panamá uses the U.S. dollar for its primary currency. Bills are U.S. dollars, and coins are a mix of both U.S. coins and “balboas,” which are set at a 1:1 exchange rate with U.S. coins. Panamá also uses the same electrical outlets. Although Spanish is the primary language, most people also speak English. The people are generally friendly to Americans, and there is a large ex-pat community there as well.
6. Easy to Get a Visa.
A Visa allows you to live and work in a foreign country. Thanks to the recently introduced “Friendly Nations Visa,” citizens of certain countries, including the United States, can obtain one fairly easily. Basically, you need to register a company in Panamá and have $5,000 + $2,000 per dependent in a Panamánian bank account. Alternatively, you can stay in Panamá for up to 6 months at a time with no visa; you would simply need to travel outside the country, such as to the neighboring Costa Rica, twice a year.
7. The Food.
If you enjoy eating a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables, Panamá is a great location. If you enjoy eating a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables, Panamá is a great location. As an example, I hated pineapple my entire life, but I absolutely LOVE it in Panamá .
Panamá ranks among the safest of all Latin American countries. Drug smuggling and general crime is minimal. Of course, there is some “white-collar” crimes, as the Panama Papers has shown us.
9. The Landscape.
Panamá has a variety of landscapes and environments. It has beautiful rolling hills, pretty rivers, jungles, and white-sand beaches on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea sides of the country.
10. The Culture.
It’s fun and enriching to live in a foreign country. Panamanians are generally happy, positive, laid back people. The culture can remind us to relax and enjoy life to the fullest.