Retirement from Canada to Panama Part 2

When our furniture finally arrived in Panama it took five business days to clear customs. Our agent in Panama looked after the customs clearance but my passport (as the shipper) was required. I could have provided a notarized copy but chose to leave my original with the agent. It was returned to me when the furniture arrived at our house via the movers. Our furniture was delivered right to our door and unpacked by the moving company. The workers were wonderful. There was minor breakage and damage but we were very impressed at how little. We’d had more of our things broken and go missing on cross country moves than we did for this move.

I have friends who moved here with nothing more than a few suitcases and who bought everything here. I know others that have moved with two or three 40 foot shipping containers. To each his own, move more or less what your budget allows. If we had it to do over would we ship furniture again? Probably, we had a good experience and it’s nice to have our personal items around us, they make us feel like this is our home. And it is.

Saying Goodbye and Hello

Not everybody was jumping for joy when we announced that we had decided to move somewhere warm and started looking for that “place in the world” where we could be comfortable and live on a fixed income. There were some people who were positively thrilled that we were able to realize a dream and other who were gloom and doomers. No matter what the destination is and no matter what the reason, taking the big step of moving to a foreign country should be carefully considered before jumping in with both feet. We took into consideration our aging parents and our children which is one of the reasons we ended up in Panama rather than the South Pacific. I remember my mother telling me that it was my life to live and it would be selfish of her to ask me not to go. That made it a little easier to say goodbye.

There are probably some people who think that we are loco and I’m sure some still don’t get it. I think that once the naysayers realized that we had done our homework and that we were going ahead with our move, the objections, for the most part, fell away. When the planning eventually reached the stage where the movers were booked and it was happening we still didn’t believe it ourselves. Even to this day we look at each other and can’t believe we are actually living in Panama.

We have been extremely fortunate to have met some great people who were and still are very helpful to us as we meandered our way through our first year of living as transplants to Panama. One of the things that helped us was to make friends with people “on the ground” that have blazed the trail before us. In fact we’ve had several people who have been wonderful at sharing their experiences with us. We learned not to be timid about asking others for help. Muddling through the intricacies of buying a vehicle, getting our driver’s licenses and getting our utilities set up were all done with help. Hopefully we’ll be able to “pay it forward”.

And how is life in Panama? We love the easy pace, the people and the weather. Is it frustrating some days? Yes, no place is 100% perfect. Do we miss our friends and family in Canada? Yes, pretty much every day. But, we’re thankful that we are able to
realize this adventure.

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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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