Panama is rated as the best place in the world for a second home outside the USA by international living, based on safety, cost of living, climate, beauty, infrastructure and political stability. Panama was recently reported by Pikerton Intelligence Agency to be one of the safest countries anywhere in the world. There is very little violent crime. Of course, as in any city in the US or Europe, there are certain places to be avoided and you should take sensible precautions. The Panamanian people are the friendliest, most helpful, most genereous people in the world.
The citizend of most countries including the USA and Western Europe do not need a visa. Tourists from some countries including the US, need only purchase a $5 tourist card from their airlines, at the ticket counter on the day of departure for Panama. A tourist card gives you and automatic 30 day stay in Panama and is extendible for another 60 days. Citizens of most other countries need only their passport. If your children are traveling with one parent only, Panama, like many countries requires a notarized letter of permission from the other parent.
Credit cards as visa, american express and master card are widely accepted in most establishments accross the country. There are also ATMs at the airports, hotels, malls, and in most towns.
Travelers checks are not as easy to use.
The US dollar freely circulates in Panama. Which is a great convenience for most visitors, and also help Panama's inflation rate to be one of the lowest in latin america and our economy to be stable.
Spanish in Panama's official language, but English is widely spoken and understood, especially in the real estate, tourism, banks and most service-oriented industries in the country.
The high quality of Panamanian construction make the homes well built and tastefully designed.
Panama has two loosely distinguished seasons: The dry season, that spans from mid - December until May and the green season from May until mid-December. Many micro-climates are found accorss the country, from the warm beaches of the caribbean and pacific to the misty coolness of the high mountain ranges of Western Panama.
Temperatures in the lowland average 85ºF in the day, cooling off in the evenings. In the highlands, temperatures range is 60-80ºF.
Panama`s cost of living greatly depends on what you want. In Panama City you can spend $200 or more a night for a really nice upscale hotel room, or $55 for a sparkling clean but modest hotel room. You can eat well with wine or beer for under $20 or you can spend a lot more ate the various options available. Tipping is generally 10% when given. The highway system and the feeder roads off the main highways are excellent.
For $12 you can travel accross the country on a luxury bus from Panama city to Chiriqui province in west Panama.
Food is also less expensive than in North America or Europe. You can find pineapples for $1, grapes for $2 a pound, mangos are 80 cents, ripe tomatoes are 65 cents a pound. Utilities such as basic phone, cell phone, electricity, gas, and broadband internet service are similar to US in terms of cost. gasoline and diesel fuel are comparable to current prices in the US.
Panama enjoys broadband internet similar to service offered in the US or Europe (In Panama city is not uncommon to enjoy wi-fin in many public areas such as cafes and restaurants).
Cell phone and basic phone services also offer sophisticated features.
Panama's Tocumen International Airport (PTY) has connections to the main cities of North and South America as well as Europe. Taking a flight from Miami or Houston, for example, takes merely 4-5 hours.