Retirement from Canada to Panama Part 2

We spent about five days in a hotel waiting for everything to go through and made two trips to the immigration office waiting for documents to be processed. It helped that we had a return ticket back to Canada and that we had a deadline so there was a sense of urgency. We were required to surrender our passports to our abogada to have paperwork completed. When we went back to the immigration office the second time it was to have our temporary cards issued and to have the pictures taken for them and our abogada returned our passports. We left Panama with our temporary cards and our abogada advised us to also pay an extra fee of $50.00 each to get a multiple entry visa in our passports. The multiple entry visas were worth the extra cost because it’s the first thing the immigration people look for when you’re leaving or entering Panama.

To Move Furniture or Not?

Our next step was to decide if we should move only personal items (consolidation in a shared shipment) or a 20 foot or 40 foot container full of “stuff”. After visiting some furniture stores on our trip to buy the house in March 2012 we decided that yes, we did want to bring some furniture with us. We had given much of our furniture to our children but we did want to bring a pullout couch and some chairs and we had stored our bed and most of our other everyday items. We also found out that the deal for bringing a vehicle to Panama every two years duty free as part of the Pesionado Visa had been rescinded. We had planned on bringing our Jeep with us but decided it was too old to bring and pay duty on.

If you go back to the beginning of our journey to settle in another country you’ll note that when we sold our house we didn’t know where we were going to live. At the time we were fairly certain that we wanted to be in the South Pacific so before we stored our furniture we gave away most of our small electrical appliances because the voltage was different. When we decided that Panama was where we were going we bought a few things and decided that we could do without a few others.

We took a look at what we had in storage and estimated that we had enough to fill a 20 foot container. Before we sold the house I contacted a couple of shipping companies and they had come out and given us a quote to move to the South Pacific. Almost any national moving company has an overseas shipping division so it’s just a matter of finding the right company. We had two companies come out to take a look. We ultimately chose the company that moved our furniture and effects because the agent that was assigned to us gave us different shipping options to help with our costs, was excellent at answering any questions promptly, had a huge amount of patience with me and was as enthusiastic about our move as we were.

We ultimately chose to pack everything ourselves and have the company load the truck at our storage unit. We ended up not having a full 20 foot container so the movers had to build a bulkhead to keep everything in place.

Our furniture was due to arrive in Panama the first week in May, but ended up arrivingtwo weeks later than it was estimated. Iguess that’s why it’s called an “estimate”. Our agent affiliate here was arranged completely by our agent in Canada. Our Canadian agent acted as the intermediary for our required destination documents and forwarded them on for us. We also didn’t have to worry about any other associated fees at the Port of Vancouver. We were required to pay some extra customs charges in Panama but we were told about them before our shipment left Canada.

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  1. Karen…
    What a great blog!
    You and your husband are a few years ahead of my wife and I who are looking at Panama and a few other location in Europe in about 5-6 years from now.

    I think my question may be more directed at your husband than at you as it is pension based and our careers have similar pension plans.

    I will be ending my career with the RCMP in about 5 years which will give me 32 + and am interested in taxation on our pension plans for non residents.

    Are your pension payments direct deposited into an account at destination and if so, in what currency and how significant is the exchange on the bottom line.

    The current global financial environment is a little difficult to navigate… if the pension is exchanged at the US exchange rate, 5% is manageable…I don’t expect to see things go back to what they were in the 70’s and 80’s at 25% … but who knows.
    We are also looking at Spain and Portugal but the Euro exchange is currently in the 30% ballpark … not great.

    I know its all relative if the cost of living is such that the exchange rate can be absorbed… but I am looking for input from someone who is living it!

    I hope I’m not asking to much.
    Thanks in advance

  2. Hi there I’m 33 years old and work for peel. I have two small kids and a husband.

    Were really tired of the winter weather here in Canada and always dreamed of living a different lifestyle than we are now. We have just started looking into panama and are very interested. My questions are work wise and kids. Since I work for peel police, do I have any benefit regards to finding a job with police? And is it a safe a good place for kids? Are there a lot of Canadians living there and is the process for moving to panama difficult??

    Thank you
    Silva and David.

  3. I too am looking at Panama for when i retire in 6 years…I’ll have a 35 year gov’t pension. I am more curious as to the actual cost of living, for a foreigner, in Panama. I realize it can vary depending on situations and life styles but was more looking for a ball park of monthly expenses and how you handle health care…thank you.

  4. Suzanne Dodge

    May 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks soo much for sharing this info. We’re making the plunge next time is ticking very fast. Bet you’re glad you followed your heart now? I’m so excited can hardly wait…

    Thanks again…

  5. Thank you all for your comments.

    I’ve added some new information on my blog regarding “how to’s” and documentation for the Pensionado Visa.

  6. Hi Karen,

    Love your blog. We’re heading to Panama Aug.29 to do the exact same thing. We have plans to check out all the same areas as you did along with the David area and Boca Chica. We’re there for 2wks so will probably only spend a day in Panama City. I want to see the Canal.

    I know everyone says to rent first but I doubt we’ll do that as I don’t want to use funds for rent. Will just have to make sure of the area and the climate.

    So where did you finally end up and are you still happy with your choice?
    Thanks for all the info. It’s been great hearing your story.

    We’re also from Vancouver.

  7. Any info at all about processes involved to move to panama from Canada thank you

  8. I’m aCanadian but a permanent alien resident in US am retired and would like to know could one live on 4000.00 a mo.?how much approx would the move take in money?

  9. Dear ann.chalmers:

    My spouse and I live quite comfortably on less and I know others who live on even less than we do. But of course it all depends on what kind of lifestyle you choose to live and/or maintain.

  10. Is 3300 per month enough ?

  11. What is the final total, fees, etc. To get your residents papers for living
    in Panama. Also on average, what would all the living costs be, rent (we do not want to buy) groceries, entertainment, etc.
    Thanks so much for your time and response
    Michelle Loyer
    Wellington Ontario Canada

  12. Hi Karen,
    Appreciate very much your website. Thanks for sharing your information.
    I will move as a ‘pensionado’ to Panama soon. I will get my ‘carné’ 8th january 2015 then I will decide when and where to move, but:
    “…The rules and laws change so often in Panama and I don’t want to mislead anyone. One thing we did find out was that we were not permitted to bring a vehicle into the country duty-free anymore. Some of the information that we had was out of date…”
    Karen, who gave you this information?
    If I have to pay 18% duty on my 30’000$ car I will change my mind and sell it here in Europe.Could you tell me the office or person who decides this? Kind regards

  13. Great story. i am looking to do the same. I have friends from my airforce years in chile that live in Panama. wouldL;ike to be able to chat with you guys on skype if posible.
    email me if posible

  14. Daniel Larocque

    July 16, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Hi, my wife and I are seriously planning on retiring in Panama. We are looking to rent instead of buying. Could anyone give me some prices on renting a condo unit. Also the Canadian dollar is low compare to the Panama currency.

  15. Hello Daniel:

    Your question is a little too broad, prices will vary depending on where you want to live. I suggest you begin with this Facebook page. You can peruse costs around the country and ask your question from people who will be only too happy to assist you.

  16. Charmane Brunelle

    August 26, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Hey Karen,

    Great to see you and Eric are doing well. Marc and I are planning a trip to Panama next year. Our five year plan is to move to South America with the two youngest, Panama being our first choice. We will let you know when we plan our trip so we can meet up if you guys are available. Say hi to Eric for us.

  17. Hi, very interesting and info worthy blog, thank you.
    I am a single pensioner, living in Ontario, who is wishing to move to the Panama soon.
    Do you have any suggestions of places to live?
    And any other advice…

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