Costa Rica or Panama: Which Is A Better Choice For You?

International Living’s 2019 Annual Global Retirement Index sees Costa Rica once again pitted against Panama for the top expat destination. North American expats love these neighboring Central American nations for their affordable ocean view real estate, less stressful lifestyle, and proximity to the US. Retired expats love that both countries have pensionado programs that make it easy to gain residence as a pensioner plus receiving special benefits. And expats can receive universal healthcare in modern facilities in either country. So how do expats choose between Panama and Costa Rica?
Welcome to a land of magic trick and curiosity : a reduce strip of land that connects two massive continents. This humble stretch that is the narrowest point is home to two nations that are filled with some of the wildest ecosystems and most incredible biodiversity spanning the ball. Costa Rica, and its neighbor to the south, Panama, have an amazing variety show of landscapes between their Atlantic and Pacific coastlines .
Tucked off just beyond the hurricane belt out, these breathtaking tropical nations are edging their way to the top of exile destinations — with good reason. Both of these countries are considered bastions of dear sociable care that includes quality, low-cost healthcare for residents, plus ace, english-speaking private clinics and hospitals that are popular for aesculapian tourism. And either nation feels finale enough to the U.S. and Canada, with many newly opportunities for address flights to Europe.
then what is it that has expats saying that they like Panama but love Costa Rica ? As realtors representing the Southern Zone of Costa Rica, we did some excavation on exile message boards and came up with a few systematically repeated ideas from expats who have lived in, or visited, both Central american countries. We are excited to know what makes foreigners choose Costa Rica as their new home above anywhere else. We have compiled a number below of some of our favored things that expats are saying about life in Panama vs. Costa Rica.

Clean, Green Environmentcosta-rica-waterfall-otp

World-renown for having a delightful tropical climate all year long, a well as amazing natural beauty, Costa Rica is a popular exile destination for thoroughly reason. These qualities are not alone, though, when compared to neighboring Panama. Costa Rica ’ s neighbor to the South besides possesses many natural wonders and protected biodiversity. What makes the two nations different, though, is that Costa Rica ’ s deep biodiversity is besides lavishly represented within popular exile destinations. Compare Costa Rica ’ s democratic international community of Ojochal, and its thick, green, forested hillsides, with Pedasi, one of the more popular exile destinations in Panama. Both communities face the gorgeous azure waters of the Pacific Coast. however, Ojochal ’ sulfur homes and businesses feel integrated with nature, surrounded by lavish jungle and wildlife. much of Pedasi is clear cut, early than the narrow strips of forest that break properties .
Twelve microclimates around Costa Rica allow for a large diverseness of constituent foods to be grown and sold locally at farmer ’ s markets all over the nation. You can find many of the like microclimates in Panama, but due to less consistent environmental regulations, you won ’ metric ton find the lapp spread of biodiversity across the wholly of the nation .
Costa Rica is clean and greens, living up to its international repute as a sustainable eco-tourism destination. environmental policies are strengthening with each consecutive, democratically-elected government, and more money is being allocated to national parks and reserves every year. The government of Costa Rica recognizes that this state ’ randomness lastingness is in being recognized as a green-economy drawing card. The nation ’ second electric grid continues to report long stretches of operate on 100 % renewable energy, evening supplying neighboring nations like Panama with ability when their grids become overloaded .
Expats admit that Panama is perceptibly dirtier than Costa Rica. Garbage lines the streets in Panama, where there are more disposable goods being sold for cheaper prices due to Panama ’ s open trade policies. Panama ’ s economy features far more fast-food chains and big-name brands, which has its pluses and minus. For those who actually love to spend their money on knick-knacks and snacks, Panama may place higher on your exile checklist. But in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica, we consider ourselves lucky to live a short 2 hour drive from the molding of Panama, where we can resupply our bulk wardrobe with less expensive goods every once in a while.

Friendly Cultures

Costa Rica is a state with a peaceable culture and a tradition of stable democracy. The costa Rican army was abolished in 1948 and the army ’ second budget was indefinitely pledged towards free department of education and universal health manage. This is a progressive state, with LGBT rights increasing steadily, whereas public displays of homosexuality are not widely accepted in Panama. These and many early reasons give Costa Ricans their pura vida attitude that has them smiling and friendly with everyone who visits or chooses to stay for longer .
Expats find that Panamanians are civilized to visitors, although not ampere polite as costa Ricans. Panamanians are said to tolerate all sorts of differences in race, religion, and socio-economic setting because of their more diverse cultural history. Panama has a long history of alien business owners bringing workers and their individual cultures from all over the world to Panama ’ sulfur shores. And these different cultures have influenced Panama with many diverse international flavors over time, which can be found now within their food, politics, and ethics .
Due to some bad history over the canal, Panamanians can be less welcoming to “ gringos. ” People do not smile and wave ampere readily as they do in Costa Rica. Panama besides has a militarized patrol force, authorized by their president of the united states. Soldiers in fatigues carry rifles to patrol the streets and guard many of the large stores and businesses in Panama. This firm military presence makes many expats and visitors feel uncomfortable. high levels of poverty ( up to 14 % live below the international poverty argumentation, compared to around 2 % in Costa Rica⁠— the lowest in Latin America ) make for more feelings of insecurity .
Ticos ( a terminus that Costa Ricans identify as ) are a gallant people with a estimable bring ethic — if you can ditch your expectations of clockwork predictability. They start their workdays early and labor diligently, no count the type of study. The panamanian shape ethic tends to have a lesser reputation on exile message boards. Both cultures, however, value their clock time off. fastening to schedules is dependant on circumstances like syndicate, weather, special occasions, and other moving pieces. Both cultures possess hard ties to family that are founded on Catholic values, which make for overall pleasant people on both sides of the margin .
Costa Rica is a country known for its condom, disinterest and a dependable bank system. nothing is perfect and there will constantly be opportunists trying to take advantage of the under-educated. But most people in Costa Rica are friendly and welcome, with many able to speak at least overtone English, and most feel truly happy with whatever attempt raw comers put advancing to learn spanish. So preferably than putting up higher fences with more barbed wire like they do in the exile communities south of the molding, expats in Costa Rica choose to take their concerns to the community. We have many cross-cultural meet spaces and on-line message boards where we work things out as a community in whatever lyric people bring to the table. Everyone living in our integrate communities is equally concerned about keeping their property and support safe so we are constantly working to create the solutions that help us move ahead together .


Considered by many expats to be the “ 51st country, ” the primary reason that Americans choose to expatriate to Panama is for facilitate of transition. Panama City is a excellent, cosmopolitan capital, and the entirely first-world city in Latin America. Huge skyscrapers and an advance metro system make it easily digestible to move near Panama City, where expats can experience stimulate food, beer, wind, film, golf, tennis, and shop. Panama besides uses the U.S. Dollar, making it easier to track spending as an american english .
Costa Rica does not have about the lapp first-world infrastructure, flush in the capital, San Jose. however, essential services and lavishness amenities are becoming more prevailing in our Southern Zone of Costa Rica, which until recently was not identical train. today, our Costa Ballena communities are thriving, with schools, doctors, pharmacies, and essential services all available locally. Delis, boutiques, restaurants, watering place, and an excellent exist music fit are some of the many highlights of our growing international exile address .
Expats acknowledge that there are better roads and signage in Panama. Costa Rica ’ s potholes and baffling roads are fabled, although the home highways have improved significantly in the last 10 years. travel in Costa Rica is much slower than visitors assume because the distance as it appears on a map can be misleading due to the quality of roads. Gravel roads are hush the norm in Costa Rica ’ s many small villages, including within popular exile destinations. But it is important to acknowledge that the quality of roads in Panama is maintained for the benefit of military and enchant vehicles, preferably than for the expats. Our higher tax brackets in Costa Rica pay for our roads in a more dear manner, and our politicians are not entirely in the pockets of big occupation, as can be seen in the late stop to the pineapple plantation that was set to be planted near the Terraba-Sierpe Wetlands in Southern Costa Rica. Our tax money means that our local anesthetic voices are heard more forte in Costa Rica.

Investing in Costa Rica

The World Bank considers Costa Rica to be a success history in terms of development. It is considered an upper-middle-income nation, which has shown steady economic growth over the past 25 years. This emergence comes as a result of an “ outward-oriented scheme ” that is based on openness to alien investment and gradual deal liberalization. The growth of these policies over the years has led to an increase in the number of expats who feel safe and welcome to open corporations, and to own assets in Costa Rica. This area ’ s economy is well-diversified and has proven to have stable growth in the last 10 years. rental income has become a fantastic asset to owning Costa Rica very estate of the realm, particularly in our Costa Ballena region. We have seen a spectacular originate in lease incomes and it has become a big draw for investors in our area .
Panama is besides presently a hot investment finish for expats. Over the past ten, Panama has been one of the fastest growing economies in the earth, with an average annual growth rate of 5.6 percentage over the last five years. however, because much of Panama ’ south growth is subject on rid deal coming through the Panama Canal, their economy is heavily affected by international craft disputes or by global economic downturns. And although Panama is a great location for purchasing cheap commodities, the local panamanian population hardly benefits, with very few tax dollars being earned from all of the deal that crosses its borders .


low taxes are the casing in both Costa Rica and Panama, but Panama has zero income tax. Costa Rica ’ s income tax is between 10-15 %, depending on the actor ’ s residency dodge. daily life expenses are besides said to be cheaper in Panama than in Costa Rica, largely ascribable to global tariff-free importing via the Panama canal. Panama does not have a duty tax on expats importing family goods up to $ 10,000, while Costa Rica does not have this exemption ( unless you can prove that they are for personal use ). Costa Rica does have tax-exempt zones in which expats travel to do bigger shopping excursions for things like appliances, electronics, wine, and bulge groceries. Vehicles are the main detail that expats notice to be less expensive in Panama than in Costa Rica.

property taxes in Costa Rica are specially low. Owners of Costa Rica real estate give merely 0.25 % of the value of any property in taxes every class. In Panama, they pay 2.1 % annually for any property valued above $ 75,000 USD .


Panama ’ second pensionado program is a democratic attraction for adjourn expats from around the world. To obtain residency in Panama, single retirees need to show that they receive a stead income of $ 1000 per calendar month from an official retirement scheme, and couples must show a blend income of $ 1250. Costa Rica has similar figures, but Panama ’ randomness pensionado platform besides offers 25 % off airline tickets, 25 % off monthly energy bills, and 50 % off hotel stays. These benefits are given to all who qualify by age, including expats ( 55 for women, 60 for men ). Costa Rica ’ s senior citizen deduction platform, Ciudadano de Oro, is an opt-in outline that any house physician aged 65+ can apply to receive discounts in a diverseness of businesses, including free bus topology rides, and to never stand in line again .
For those who want to apply for residency before retirement, both countries offer investor paths to residency. In Costa Rica, this involves making a $ 200,000USD investment into assets ( farming, house car rather than mortgage and loans ) in this country. Panama has an extra friendly nations policy for fifty countries ( including most exile beginning countries ) that boasts very low requirements for gaining residency .

So which expat destination is right for you?

For those expats who require a bombastic survival of goods at big prices, Panama will probable be a better fit. But if you value living a high-quality life style in dependable, passive, and ecologically beautiful communities, we highly recommend you choose Costa Rica. Cheaper and more abundant shop in Panama is equitable a short drive or flight away from the Southern Zone of Costa Rica⁠—our favorite exile finish in the populace ! We chose South Pacific Costa Rica to be our home and we invite you to try it out, excessively. Our fresh climate, friendly people, diverse wildlife, all exist on this outstanding landscape, where green mountains stretch down to our pristine Pacific beaches. This charming environment draw in anyone who rightfully cares about achieving a slack, enjoyable, pura vida quality of life .
Contact us to learn the more intricate details of what makes animation and purchasing place different in Costa Rica. Our goal is to make this an slowly and enjoyable conversion for anyone who wants to take the jump towards living a better life style. Contact us at sales @ and we will be felicitous to answer any questions you may have .

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