Does it rain all the time?
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 July 2011 13:49
Happy Canada day to all of you.
The weather here is absolutely gorgeous.
I was just looking at the forecast in Panama -- hot and humid and plenty of rain!
Curious, does it rain everyday?
New Tax laws passed
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 21:04
The following article is from the Panama Realtor newsletter:
Tax reforms concluded
After a quick debate and approval in the National Assembly, President Ricardo Martinelli signed Law 8 on 15 March, the tax reform package that modernizes the tax code and abolishes more than 30 taxes. The most notable change is an increase in the value-added transfer and property tax on goods and services (ITBMS or sales tax) from 5% to 7%.
The reforms also include a measure to drop taxes on corporations, dropping the corporate tax rate from 30% to 25%. This corporate cut is meant to lower tax burden on companies and thus ensure fiscal sustainability, improving Panama’s international competitiveness. The bill however does introduce higher license fees on banks in Panama, a move that was criticized by the sector.
Tax will be introduced on land-bound telephones and prepaid mobile phones. Establishments that do not serve alcohol will be granted an exemption from paying sales tax under the bill. Childcare items have been made exempt. The exemption ceiling for the agricultural sector will increase from $150,000 to $250,000
In a modernist move, the bill also contains provisions for the creation of an administrative court which will hear tax appeals. The bill will enter into force on July 1, 2010.
To read more, or see their listings, go to
Where in the world should I retire?
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:39
HERE IS AN E-MAIL I RECEIVED ASKING WHERE IN THE WORLD THEY SHOULD RETIRE. MY RESPONSE FOLLOWS.
What am I looking for? - I wish I knew
We live in Alberta and have some properties on Vancouver Island where we
will be spending our summers but as I grew up in UK - can't stand the thought
of wet winters - so looking for somewhere for about 3 months every year.
Still really can't decide to buy a place or save the capital and just rent -
the advantage is you can go somewhere new every year but on the downside -
you are not making a base and building up a new group of friends - so that
is the first thing and second where oh where...
WE have just come back from BVI where our son and daughter in live are
living for 2 years - it was fantastic but not the easiest place to get to
from Western Canada.
So it has to be by the ocean, warm, fairly safe and biggest of all access to
good health care.
Are you permanently settled in Panama or do you have itchy feet!!
Thanks for your time
I lived in North Vancouver for two years - right under the second narrows bridge - I even remember my address; it was 1234 Munster Ave! (I never met the Adams Family however)
I loved BC, but it was too hard to do business with the rest of Canada and New York, so I had to move back to Ontario.
I am never permanently settled. My father was in the Canadian Air Force, so I am accustomed to moving every few years. I never set out to settle anywhere, but needed a base to keep on exploring retirement destinations.
It started with my wife and I, like so many others, wanting to get away from Canadian winters. We had always enjoyed New Orleans, and thought we could live on our boat for the winter down south, so we put down a deposit on a dock space just three weeks before Hurricane Katrina. That disaster cemented in my mind the decision that I would never invest anywhere that could be wiped out by a hurricane, earthquake or a volcano. No-one can afford to lose a huge chunk of their retirement investment in a natural disaster - especially one that you can't buy affordable/ adequate insurance for.
If you want to live in the Western Hemisphere (Which I did, in order to stay closer to family and make it easier for friends to visit) that means the "no hurricanes" decision limits your options to the very south of Costa Rica, Panama and northern Colombia. We said "No" to Colombia for the drugs/civil unrest issues, and "No" to Costa Rica for the ridiculous squatter's rights, the lack of retiree benefits, the outrageous importation taxes and general feeling of them not wanting us moving there. Visiting? Yes. Spending tourist dollars? Absolutely! But not to buy land and retire. We personally experienced that feeling when we tried to buy property on the beach. Friends that we had made over the past month literally turned their backs on us when they found out we were planning on buying land there.
Our plan was to do five months in Canada, five months somewhere south, and two months traveling. We did that. Once. Then, after nearly freezing to death in June in Picton and then getting eaten alive by mosquitos in July, we said the heck with the lousy summers Ontario was having, and decided to go back down south. We packed up our dogs in our Honda Odyssey and headed south, stopping at twenty six retirement destinations along the way.
We took a whole month doing it, staying with friends, exploring, taking our time. After 12, 123 kilometers, and 18 border crossings with two large dogs we made to Panama on Dec 23, 2008. That journey is posted on my site under "An Incredible Journey".
After all our years of research, we finally decided to buy a house in Panama so that we could have a winter home; a southern base of operations.
The major reasons why we chose Panama include;
- Excellent medical system with English speaking, US trained doctors and nurses.
- Very good, modern infrastructure (put in by the Americans): Cell phones systems, fast internet, drinkable water, decent roads, etc
- A large expat community made up of mainly US and Canadians and South Americans, and increasingly, some Europeans.
- The relative safety/low violent crime towards foreigners (not low crime for Mexican, Colombian and Panamanian drug dealers who are fighting each other over control of the drug smuggling routes)
- Relatively low real estate costs (NOT DIRT CHEAP. Oceanfront and luxury gated communities within two hours of Panama City are very expensive, but there are some reasonably priced, low-priced housing available (under $50,000 US$) in the interior (not the city). There are waterfront deals further out from Panama City in the Azuero Peninsula and in Chiriqui Province, near the city of David. Some people love the Caribbean side - I find it too wet and buggy. Construction costs are $600 - $700 per square meter, finished, with a swimming pool - MUCH cheaper than Canada.
- Inexpensive cost of living; Compared to Canada, living costs are a real bargain. A retired couple that owns their own home can live quite well on $1,500 a month. That is going out to dinner once in a while, having a maid and a gardener, etc. You can rent a house for $500 - $800 a month in an excellent area. Beer is .49 cents in the grocery store, Lindeman's Bin 222 is $5.95, and 2 liters of CLOS white (Chilean) wine is $3.83. A bottle of wine at dinner will cost you $12 - $15. Lunch at a fonda (local stand) will set you back $1.75 - $2.50.
- Panama uses the US dollar as their official currency - not some wildly fluctuating currency that I couldn't get cashed anywhere else in the world.
- Easy to get your money in and out of the country, with a stable, solid banking system. Over 80 international banks including Scotiabank, HSBC, CitiBank, Barclays, etc.
- No property tax on new construction for five, ten, fifteen years — up to twenty years depending on purpose/use.
- No tax on foreign sourced income, no tax on bank interest (3.75% on my chequing account, if I lock it up for one year 4/.25%, three years 5.75% interest.
- Probably the best retiree benefits program available anywhere; With a Pensionado Visa you get a 10 - 50% discount off internal airfares, car rentals, hotels, groceries, restaurants, medical and dental visits, prescriptions, movie and concert tickets, everything.
- Weather: hot - all year around. Temperatures vary by altitude, not by seasons. There are only two seasons here; the dry season (December - April), and what I call the green season (May - November) where everything grows. It rains an hour a day and at night in the rainy (green) season, and you don't have to water your gardens! A swimming pool is an essential item down here, unless you are in the highlands which are much, much cooler (and wetter).
- No hurricanes or volcanos, but we do have some serious earthquakes, especially in the mountains near Costa Rica, but they can happen all over Panama.
- they have TWO - count 'em, TWO OCEANS within 80 km of each other at the narrowest point (the canal)!!! Over 1,000 islands, all with warm, lightly salted water. Great beaches (NOT Cuba white, but beautiful). Great surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling and world class deep sea fishing.
So those were my reasons. You have to think hard about what YOUR priorities are. Read my article on the site: THE SEVEN "C"'s - it helps define what elements are most important for you.
There is a direct flight from Vancouver to Panama during the peak seasons (December - April) with Air Transat or Nolitours (could be West Jet where you are). They sell all-inclusive packages to The Royal Decameron Beach Resort and Playa Blanca (both close to each other, within 3 kilometers of my house - on the Pacific in the interior of Panama. Take an all-inclusive package - it is cheaper than buying a direct flight - and check it out. Contact me when you have booked and we'll try to meet up.
Many Canadians who are not planning to live here full time are buying a condo at one of the two all-inclusive resorts and letting the resort rent it out for them when they are not using it - a 'lock and leave' situation which might suit your plans. Do you golf? The Royal Decameron has an 18 hole course. Playa Blanca is building the second largest swimming pool in the world - 17 acres - right on the ocean. They are renting sailboats - to sail inside the pool!!!!
As I say on my site, I am not a real estate agent, developer or a broker. I am not "selling" Panama. I like Panama, and I do get excited when I talk about it, but I have no vested interest in whether you buy here or not. I bought here only because it suited MY lifestyle - it may not be your cup of tea (couldn't resist the Mother County reference, I'm sorry)
I always suggest that one should visit a destination repeatedly, and rent before they purchase anything. This applies to Panama as well.
Take care Carol. I hope this response helps.
If you are visiting Panama, please drop me a line. I do enjoy getting together with readers when they visit.
How to send mail/packages within Panama
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:42
I learned a valuable lesson today - don't use UPS or DHL within Panama - they cost too much. The big international couriers are essential for getting mail delivered from Canada or the USA, but not for within Panama.
I was told by an employee of a Mailboxes Etc. franchise that the big couriers subcontract that work to a local delivery company anyway, and that I could go to directly to them and save a lot of money.
It turns out they were right. To send a set of lost keys from Coronado to David would have cost $10 using one of the big couriers, but cost only $1.00 by Uno Express.
There are a number of domestic delivery service in Panama such as Uno Express, Fletes Chavale, or Transportes Ferguson.
In Coronado, Uno Express is located on the west side of the Accel gas station, facing Cochez.
Real Estate Agents in Panama
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:44
Real Estate Agents
Buy a house, a condo, a villa, a farm, an empty lot, a shack - it doesn't matter - as long as you're here. Here are a few real estate contacts to get you started:
NOTE: The Retirement Detectives do not promote, sell, recommend or provide any real estate services. We do not endorse any of these agents or developers - they are provided simply to give you a place to start your due diligence - CHECK THEM OUT. Carefully.
Tell them Roberto Chocolate sent you!
- Jianella Torres, Partner/broker - New World Real Estate, 4 offices in Panama including Santa Clara, Province of Cocle. www.panamarealestatepros.com. E-Mail:
Tel: Office: 993- 3030. Cell: 6669- 6845
- GSL Real Estate, Times Square Plaza, Via Espana, Panama City, www. gslrealestatepanama.com, E-Mail:
Tel: 263- 2243, Cell: 6674- 6492
- Panama Sol Realty, Coronado, Panama. Jim and Donna Hawley. www.PanamaSolRealty.com Tel:240- 1249 Cell: 6676- 0869 Toll Free: 1- 612 - 605- 5823
- Lance and Brenda Van der Kolk, Re/Max, Toronto and Homes and Condos Panama. www.homesandcondospanama.com E-Mail:
Tel: (416) 994- 9199
What are the Pensionado benefits?
Last Updated on Sunday, 24 July 2011 17:41
I am considering applying for the Pensionado visa - what discounts or benefits would I get?
J.C., Calgary, AB
How much do I need for Pensionado Visa?
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:39
This is an e-mail I received recently asking what amount per month is needed for Pensionado Visa. The confusion arises when websites do not update their information. The rules changed in August 2009.
Do you know of a resource for up to date information on the requirements for retirement on a pension in Panama? I just saw a question on this site for $1000.00 and $250 for spouse per month. I thought I had recently read $2000.00 per month. I could be confused as I have been looking at several CA countries and Mexico. Also is that gross or net?
Thanks, Micki R.
The amount required is US$ $1,000 plus $250 for a spouse or each dependent. That is the amount paid into your bank account each month (you will need to show five months bank statements showing the deposit being made into your account).
There is no age restriction on who can apply for pensionado.
The benefits of obtaining a pensionado are significant;
- 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, theatres, concerts, sporting events, etc.)
- 30% off bus, boat & train fares
- 25% off airline tickets
- 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 & eye exams
- 20% off professional & technical services
- 50% off closing costs for home loans
- 25% off residential power up to 600 kw
- 25% off residential phone service charges
- 25% off residential water bills of up to US$30
Tax Exemptions: As a qualified Panama "pensionado" (retiree), you will be entitled to:
- A one-time exemption of duties 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.
I hope this helps. Roberto Chocolaté
Medical services in Panama
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:43
Life’s a Gas, medically speaking
I’m laughing about it now, but it was pretty scary at the time.
My first and so far only Panamanian medical emergency began as an upset stomach. I took an antacid, and it got worse, spreading into a sharp band of pain that encircling my middle. I took a painkiller, but in minutes I was doubled over. It was then I decided it might be a good time to see a doctor.
I drove myself to the nearby clinic in an all-inclusive resort. Suffering through the dozen speed bumps on the road, I arrived at the clinic, shaken and in need of immediate medical attention.
The resort's clinic, it turned out, was perfectly equipped for predictable tourist disorders: hangovers, sunburns, upset stomach and diarrhea brought on by garden variety overindulgences due to overexposure to all-inclusive poolside cocktails and buffets … and not much else.
Back in the car, I continued my torturous trek to a new clinic I’d heard about, 20 minutes away in Coronado. I was ushered into the emergency area, and tended to immediately. Impressed by the timely attention, I spent the entire afternoon hooked up to painkillers and saline.
A very attractive nurse appeared and took ultrasounds of my mid-section. She slides her wand along my greased-up distended girth and says, “I think it will be a girl.” Professional, attractive and a sense of humor — I am impressed. I make a mental note to shed a few pounds.
Shortly thereafter, a doctor arrived and informed me that I have pancreatitis, and need to proceed immediately to a hospital immediately, and see a specialist. There is an ambulance already en route to take me there.
I asked, in part, to fill an awkward silence, how much that ambulance ride would set me back. His answer left me stunned: “Four hundred dollars.”
I opt out of the ambulance option, and arrange for my friend Juan to pick up my wife, who I left fretting at home, and take us to the hospital in Panama City, where a specialist awaits me.
I arrive at the hospital in Panama City in good time. I sit as patiently as possible through another mind-numbing round of admitting paperwork.
Soon I am in triage, being informed by a GP that I will require gallstone surgery. “I thought I had pancreatitis”?
“No, it is definitely gallstones, I can see on your ultrasound, you have a blockage” the doctor replied. “You’ll see when the specialist arrives.” He did an about-face and disappeared down a corridor.
I sat for five long hours, waiting, without food, water or attention of any kind, before I lose my patience.
I pulled my I.V. needles from my arm and sign myself out, and left with my protesting wife and friend to the car.
We head back to the clinic and request a referral to another hospital.
A new attending physician examines my ultrasound and tells me I have gas.
I spend the next four days in bed with my wife’s chicken soup. I decde to get myself set up with a good doctor should this ever happen again.
Today, I am fully recovered, thanks to the expert care of Dr. Eric Ulloa, a specialist in internal medicine who is an advisor to the Minister of Health and writes the medical column for Newsroom Panama. He ordered a full set of blood tests and changed my medication.
It turned out that the medication prescribed by my doctor in Canada was in fact the true cause of my severe stomach pain. It was reacting to another medicine I was taking.
The moral of my story … get your ducks, and your doctors in a row. Line ‘em lined up before you need ‘em, or risk losing your imaginary gallstones, and your cool, when you need it most.
Stay healthy my friends,
Roberto Chocolate Interviewed On TV
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 19:12
Vladimir Reznick, Executive Director of PanaExpo - (a trade show promoting Panama in Toronto April 24 - 26 www.panaexpo.com) - announced today that Roberto Chocolate (aka Rob Brown) will be interviewed for an upcoming television special about Panama. The documentary will be broadcast on Canadian and Panamanian television networks in April.
When asked about the dual name, Mr. Brown/Chocolate explained. "When I first arrived in Panama and introduced myself to the local people, they were confused. I would say "My name is Rob Brown. They would reply "No entiendo" (they did not understand) I would say Rob? Bob? Robert? They responded "Si, Si - Roberto". Brown was a non-starter. It meant nothing to them. I tried Brun, Maroon, Brune, nothing but blank stares. When I asked what brown was in Spanish they said "Chocolate" and they all howled with laughter and it stuck. I became Roberto Chocolate. If you ask for Rob Brown in Santa Clara, they will not know who you are referring to. Ask for the Chocolates and they will smile and point to the sign over our gate... Casa Chocolates.
"Roberto Chocolate is in a unique position to impartially discuss Panama. He is not involved in real estate or tourism promotion in any way. He prides himself on his impartiality and being able to give people the good, the bad and the bizarre. Not only is he a Canadian living in both countries, he is researching retirement destinations for a television series to be called "The Retirement Detectives". Remarkably, he and his wife drove their Honda Mini-van with two large dogs all the way from Ontario to Panama this past December in order to investigate over twenty retirement destinations from Mexico to Costa Rica. His insights will be invaluable to anyone considering moving south of the border" said Reznick.
The questions I get asked most often are "how dangerous was the trip?" and about the retirement benefits in Panama. As the headline on "The Epic Journey" article says: "Nine countries, 12,120 kilometers, a directionally challenged (but otherwise brilliant) wife and two large dogs. What was I thinking???"
In terms of retirement benefits, Panama sets the standard for excellence in retiree incentives. They offer more benefits than any other country in the world. Period. No property tax for twenty years on new construction. No income tax on foreign income or on bank interest earned in Panama. If you start a business that qualifies as a tourism business, there is no tax on the profits for twenty years in some cases - ten years in others. There are no import duties on the first $10,000 in personal effects and you can buy a new vehicle duty free every two years - and remember - vehicles include boats, motorcycles, jet ski's, scooters... and cars/trucks/vans. That can add up to a lot of tax in other destinations. In addition there are discounts on almost everything including car rentals, groceries, hotels, domestic air fares, restaurants, bus fares, medical bills and prescriptions - everything except all-inclusive resorts and international air fares. The entire list of discounts is covered on my website said Roberto Chocolate.
The entire trip can be followed on their website www.retirementdestinations.com. Click on The Epic Journey article.
Chocolate Covers Panama for Great Retirement Spots
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 19:11
Roberto Chocolate has been asked to write review on retiring in Panama for a leading retirement destinations website. Check it out at www.greatretirementspots.com/panama-retire.htm