Pensionado Visa cont. Perks:


The World’s Best Shortcut…

….and possibly the world’s best retirement package as well. Today, as promised, I offer more details about the Pensionado Visa provided by the government of Panama. Yesterday I discussed the various requirements to obtain the Pensionado Visa, the paperwork, time frame, legal & admin necessities and the system and purpose of this enticement. In today’s post I’ll itemize just a few of those perks, the benefits provided to entice people to move to Panama, the world’s best shortcut.

Let me reiterate: the government of Panama is basically in competition with other countries in tossing out the welcome mat for retirees. Surrounding countries, indeed several countries across the globe offer similar benefit packages seeking expats. They want our money; meaning, they want people from other countries—the United States, Canada, Western Europe, other South American countries to transfer their bank accounts and incomes, (and themselves) and live in Panama. It’s a tasty deal; here’s partly why:


Coffee is a very tasty deal

(A Great perk one might say)

Only kidding a little bit. Coffee can be found anywhere, of course. It seems these days there’s a Starbucks or Cup-O-Joe on every corner and alley. But Panamanians grow some of the best Java in the world, and a lot of it comes from the western mountainous region around Chiriqui Province where we’d like to live. I’ve plugged Kotowa Coffee here, but there are more coffee farms in and around Boquete than you can shake a stir-stick at. Here’s a short list of farms/tours etc. So, speaking of ‘perks,’ coffee is definitely one, even if it has nothing to do with the Pensionado Visa.

Here are real perks that come with the Pensionado Visa.

From Don Williams’ blog Chiriqui Chatter, the Pensionado Visa can mean a substantial savings, but as with anything else, the rule of caveat emptor applies. Consider the source of the claim before relying on it. That goes for anything you read on my blog as well, BTW. Here’s what Don Williams says:  ‘Remember you can make numbers look any way you want them to look.’ His point is that ‘savings’ can mean simply that things purchased in Panama might be cheaper than in ones former country anyway, thus not true savings.

But enough with the forewarnings; here are actual benefits:

  • One time Duty tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000.
  • Duty exemption for importing a new car every two years.
  • 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports)
  • 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
  • 25% off airline tickets (See COPA Airlines)
  • 50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
  • 30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday
  • 25% off at restaurants
  • 15% off at fast-food restaurants
  • 15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)
  • 10% off prescription medicines
  • 20% off medical consultations
  • 15% off dental and eye exams
  • 20% off professional and technical services
  • 50% reduction in closing costs for home loans
  • 25% discounts on utility bills
  • 15% off loans made in your name
  • 1% less on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence

Tax Exemptions: As a qualified “Panama Pensionado Visa” holder, you will be entitled to:

  • A one-time exemption of duties (taxes) on the importation of household goods up to US$10,000 in total value.
  • 100% duty exemption on the importation or purchase of an automobile every 2 years.* (Source: Panama Offshore Legal Services.)

Next blog post will cover personal experiences with the Pensionado Visa. Stay tuned, thanks for reading and consider following our blog.

Panama’s Pensionado Visa


Dream big!

Dreaming about Panama for retirement? Here’s a dream you’ll want to catch, a perk offered by the Panamanian Government called the Pensionado Visa. I’ll cover requirements & qualifications for this ambitious & attractive Visa program, and then add details in a later blog.

Here’s what you need to know about the Pensionado: In short, it grants retirees substantial discounts throughout Panama on utility bills, public transport, travel on COPA, (the national airline) and many more enticements to move to Panama, the land of the world’s best shortcut!


Oso Perezoso: no mas problemas para mi!

Are you 18 or older? Do you have a guaranteed monthly income or annuity of at least $1,000 dollars U.S? Do you have notarized proof of that steady income from a certified financial institution? No criminal record in the previous five years? Chances are you qualify for the Pensionado Visa. If you purchase property in Panama—something allowed by law—the requirement is a bit different. Buying real estate worth at least $100,000 reduces the monthly income requirement to $750 dollars U.S. Seem simple? It is, but like all else in a bureaucracy, it takes time—and patience.


Push? Are you sure?

Speaking Spanish well isn’t a qualification requirement, of course. The Pensionado program is purely a financial transaction. But being conversant in the local language certainly helps, as noted above. Yes, unlike the featured door jamb, it does work both ways; learn Spanish, or acquire a good attorney to shepherd you through the process and push (or pull) open doors. You’ll need an attorney anyway if you intend to buy real estate, and it can’t hurt to establish contact with someone who specializes in local laws & customs. That said, no attorney is strictly necessary to get a Pensionado Visa, but…

Continue reading “Panama’s Pensionado Visa”

Ciudad Panama


Public Park, Ciudad Panama

So we’re off to Panama City to check it as a possible retirement site. The first picture is a shot of the public promenade in PC, the waterfront park that seems to be the favorite gathering spot for Panamanian families, teens, retirees and anyone wishing to escape the heat & cacophony of the big city. In many ways, Panama City is a typical large town with the usual noise, traffic, chaos and confusing navigation. In other ways it seems almost quaint, a throwback to an older, more settled and laid back existence, especially in Casco Viejo, the old part of town as Kris and Joel explain at The Panama Adventure.

We walked one end of this park to the other, soaking in the sights, smelling the exotic aromas from the Mercado de Marisco, the local food vending area. We saw the local people basking in the late afternoon sun, lovers hand in hand along the promenade, photographers busy with their compositions and f-stops and the standard crowd of chillaxing relaxers. This picture was taken at 5 pm. It’s obvious that much daylight remains to be enjoyed, so part Panama’s appeal to us, especially after living in Hawaii, is that the days (and the nights) are twelve hours long. Like in Hawaii, there’s no daylight saving’s time in Panama. At 9 degrees north of the equator, every day is equally long.


Waterfront, Panama City

It’s likely this shot could have been taken on July 15th instead of November 15th, (which it was). The obvious point is that shirtsleeves and suntans are worn year round here. Yes, that is what we’re seeking. We looked around for a snow shovel, but stores seem to be sold out of them.


Miraflores Locks, PC

No one should travel to Panama without seeing the Canal, ‘the world’s best shortcut.’ I could go into the history, engineering, politics and operation of the Panama Canal, but that requires at least one book. And there are several good ones out there. Go to Amazon for that. Suffice to say the Canal is an awesome accomplishment, one that Americans (U.S. types) should be quite proud of, for two reasons: One, the astonishing engineering feat; Two, the fact that this country recognized Panama’s sovereignty and gave the Canal back to the people it should belong to, and should benefit from it. And they do. Much of Panama’s prosperity comes from Canal revenue, and it’s distributed fairly, with little or no corruption and to worthwhile projects throughout Panama. Below…one of those projects, a world class public transport system in operation in Panama City, with ambitious plans to expand.


Light Rail System, PC

Another benefit provided courtesy of the Panama Canal: This clean, safe, efficient and well run rapid transit system is muy barato. Mariah and I hopped aboard the train at Albrook Mall, traveled five stops and jumped off. Total price for both of us? $2.25. For those who’ll miss the old Diablo Rojo system, those flamboyantly colored converted school buses that jigger and chug and smoke along PC’s congested streets, lo siento, sorry, they’re quickly being replaced and will soon be gone.


Here’s the system of Diablos Rojos that’s giving way to light rail. Anyone who breathes, and values their hearing will breathe a sigh of silent relief. Colorful, oh my yes. Dirty, noisy and obnoxious? Si, si, si!!! Adios Diablos Rojos.One other note concerning public transit: taxis. They, too, are muy barato, very cheap. And here’s an interesting side note. Unless you intend to become a taxi driver in Panama, forget about buying a carro amarillo. Yellow is reserved for taxis, and all taxis MUST be yellow. Our friends at Loving Retirement in Panama Blog supplied this valuable insight.

More later on Panama City and our research there. Stay tuned.

On the road to Boquete

The View From Alto Boquete

This is our first view of the little town of Boquete. We took it from the coffee shop, (where else?) at the top of the hill, on route 41 just before the descent into the valley of the Rio Caldera. That’s the river on the right of the picture. Folks tell us that Boquete and its micro-climates look much like this year round. Here’s another shot.


The name means ‘Gap’ in Spanish. And it’s easy to see why this particular ‘gap’ acquired the name. Boquete is nestled in a valley below an ancient (though only dormant) volcano called Vulcan Baru’. Volcanologists claim that Baru’ is long overdue for an eruption. Like 250 years overdue, near as they can tell. Does this tend to depress real estate valuations? Nope. People are moving into Boquete and the surrounding area faster than bees to bug juice. At last count the population of 20,000 included 3,000 expats from all over: The U.S, Canada, Asia, other Latin American countries & Western Europe.


Beautiful Downtown Boquete

We always seem to return to coffee. Indeed, when traveling in/through/beside/over/past Boquete it’s impossible to avoid the aroma of its world-class coffee. Many expats and others find themselves closely aligned with the local crop. As Lee Zeltzer says on Boquete Ning, ‘When you move to a place that grows some of the best coffee in the world and you buy property with coffee, you are in the coffee business.’ So relax and enjoy it. You’d think folks in such a laid-back, almost lethargic little spot would avoid stimulants, but apparently not. One of the most popular activities here for tourists and others is a tour of the coffee fields. Here’s a good one, if you’re looking for knowledgeable, efficient and friendly.


The folks at Kotowa Coffee brag about having the oldest still standing coffee mill of Panama, and it’s worth the price of admission.

Once the coffee tour is done, relax and let the caffeine wear off while walking around  Mi jardin es Tu Jardin. Here’s a picture of these lush, tropical gardens, a place as serene and friendly as you can hope to find.

Mi jardin

And another…


More later. Stay tuned for a bit of Boquete history, amusing anecdotes, great dining tips and more. And before I forget, congrats to Kris and Joel on the birth of their granddaughter in Seattle! Woot!1115seattle5

Oso perezoso: More Panama pix


Grumpy? Go back to Toledo

As all trips do, ours involved the usual traveling insanity: the frantic airport to airport race, feverish rush to satisfy the TSA folks, removing shoes, surrendering wits, wallet and watch, posing for the X-ray machine like DaVinci’s Vitruvian man and then reassembling, redressing, then schlepping to the departure gate exhausted. We then transferred to the ultimate flight, shuffled off the COPA plane in David like sheep to the shearer, endured passport control and customs and finally fell into our taxi and met Orlando, who graciously drove us to Bocas del Mar.

Our week of research in Panama then took on a leisurely pace. We’d heard of sloths, of course, those furry enigmas of the treetops that make turtles look like rapid transit in comparison. And we’d heard that Panama has a surplus of these slo-mo creatures. Well, since we’d reached Bocas del Mar pretty well spent, feeling a bit slo-mo ourselves, we began to identify with Mr. Sloth, and resolved to seek one out.

But what were they called here in Panama? We asked at the desk. It turns out that those furry, lethargic creatures are called ‘oso perezoso,’ lazy bears. Here’s a picture of Mr. Oso Perezoso with young.


Every trip demands some kind of talisman, a touchstone feature that travelers can refer to at a later date to recall that happy/eventful/sad/disappointing/memorable vacation. Ours was/is Mr. Oso Perezoso, the lazy bear. (Picture courtesy of Mr. Walter Steiner on the Boquete Panama blog, thank you Walter) Now, when Mariah and I think of our short stay in Panama, we automatically think, ‘oso perezoso.’

The connection seems to be appropriate; one of the most important findings of our trip was really an affirmation. We’d heard, as all gringos do, that life in Panama tends to be lived moment to moment, that folks here enjoy each day, each hour, avoiding the kind of frantic rush one encounters in a TSA line, for example. So we made a conscious decision to slow down, take each moment as it came and try to avoid the usual gringo-izing characterized by an impulse to push, rush, crush and crash. I’d like to say we succeeded, but the hectic pace of U.S. life is a well-learned attribute, and one not easily shed. We’ll work on it.

Meanwhile, we saw not one oso perezoso lolling through the treetops, or taking ten minutes to scratch its ass, or do its glacial imitation of a weathering statue. We’ll continue to look for one. Maybe we looked right at one and didn’t see it? That could be; maybe the demand to slow down includes watching for life as well as moving through it? Could be.

Meanwhile, here are more pictures of us trying to imitate Mr. Oso Perezoso. Enjoy:


With friends Dianne & Elizabeth @ Finca Luz


The Panamonte has an incredible bar/lounge/fireplace meeting spot


Street fair in Boquete: Now that’s a dreamcatcher!


At Morton’s Bakehouse, Alto Boquete.


Even birds have private bungalows at Bocas del Mar


Gringo versions of Oso Perezoso

More later; stay tuned. Adios.

Bocas del Mar: Can you say Bucket List?


Buenas Dias!

Continuing with our recent Panama adventure, we’ll share a few pictures from a fabulous resort near Boca Chica, a little slice of paradise called Bocas del Mar (Mouths of the sea). Bocas is an hour and a half (give or take) by car south and east of David. On the rugged south coast of Chiriqui Province, this place is about as far from civilization as a traveler can ever get, and as civilized as life ever gets. Make sense? You’ll have to see Bocas del Mar to appreciate that seeming contradiction. The above shot is what we saw when we opened our sleepy peepers every morning, but the picture doesn’t quite demonstrate the whole experience: imagine those palms, banana trees, mangos and breadfruit wafting in a gentle tropical breeze, as hummingbirds flit past, then you see one of these fellows:


…then a pelican swoops down for his/her desayuno (breakfast), dipping into the water here:


Here’s what our own desayuno looked like that morning:


…you get the idea. If you’re grumpy at Bocas, there’s no hope for you. Go back to Toledo.

Note the hot tub off to the right of the first picture? Each bungalow is a separate, very private little niche of its own, with no access and no exposure to other guests. So, married people that we are, we took advantage of that. Let your imagination roam a bit, and give in to the possibilities.  C’mon, you’d do the same thing we did, admit it. There. feel better? Ain’t life grand?

Bocas del Mar encourages that exploration. We felt like kids again, took a long boat cruise with our new pal Captain Gustavo, snorkeled off one of the many islands, explored a crocodile-infested backwater on another one and went birding where we saw roseate spoonbills, parrots, pelicans…on and on. Here’s what the room looked like when we first saw it. Romantic? Can you say bucket list?


A long, short trip to Panama


From Alto Boquete

Back in the U.S. after a trip to Panama cut short by a minor, albeit potentially serious medical issue. But the trip was (mostly) as we’d planned, and in some ways much more than we’d expected. One thing we can report is that, despite what our research and the guidebooks told us, as Kris Cunningham said in The Panama Adventure, and she’s right, the simple truth is that everyone’s experience of Panama is likely to be different. The highs were higher; the lows much lower; temps are worse, temps are better; people are languid, diffident, rude, dismissive; people are happy, supportive, helpful and engaging. The bottom line is this: to get a good, definitive view of Panama, go there and see for yourself. Before you go, get comfortable with conversational Spanish. Our experience was that, showing a willingness to try, Spanish speakers without fail jumped in to assist us. It wasn’t pretty; but we made ourselves understood, and the exercise gave the local folks a good chuckle, which always helps.

Here are a few of the things we heard that are simply not true, at least from our perspective: we were told not to bring or wear shorts & casual shoes, lest we appear to be gringos. Well, guess what? We’re sure as heck a couple of gringos, and no hiding that fact. Many times we wished we’d brought shorts along, and worn our open-toe Tevas. Next, the ‘zero-space’ phenomenon. We’d heard that Panamanians ignore personal space, crowding in far beyond what we’re used to. Not true, for us at least. We never felt crowded, hemmed in, space-compromised, so…  Also, that without Spanish we’d be shunned, ignored or worse. See the above; we tried our extremely limited Espanol, and everyone we met leapt at the chance to help us. Here’s the short version of our abbreviated trip:


This is the view from our room at Bocas del Mar. Not a bad way to greet a new day, and awfully hard to stay grumpy if this is what you see waking up. Located in southernmost Chiriqui Province, Bocas del Mar may not be the end of the earth, but you can see it from there. Kudos to Peter, Lara, Alfredo and the whole happy crew at Bocas del Mar for the phenomenal greeting and all they did for us. If you’re looking for a truly world class resort in Panama, look no further. Bocas del Mar has it all: friendly, helpful staff, great activities, a view that is… well, take a look, and the food and atmosphere is beyond luxurious. BdM is truly a bucket list item. It wasn’t reality, but that’s fine. We needed a vacation, and who said the hard work has to come first? Here’s another view:


Sunset: Bocas del Mar


Cap’n Gustavo & Mariah


Monkeys swim? Who knew?

More next time when we move on to David, Boquete, Ciudad Panama etc. Stay tuned for Casa Los Naranjos, The Boquete Art Cafe, Sugar and Spice, Morton’s Bakehouse and much more.