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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Panama: The Best Country for Expats in 2024

Looking for a place where it’s easy to get started, find new friends, and enjoy a good work–life balance all without breaking the bank? Look no further!

Following an already amazing 3rd place in 2023, expats crown Panama the best country overall in 2024. The majority of respondents originally moved there for financial reasons (15% vs. 2% globally), to retire in Panama (14% vs. 3%), or simply for a better quality of life (14% vs. 9%). Once arrived, over four in five expats (82%) find themselves happy with their life in Panama (vs. 68% globally), ranking the country in the top 10 for three of the five indices. Results for Working Abroad (12th) and Quality of Life (16th) are not too shabby, either.

How Expats Rate Life in Panama

Where Your Money Goes a Long Way

Close to three-quarters of expats in Panama (74%) are satisfied with their financial situation. This is not only 20 percentage points more than the global average (54%), but it also means the country ranks 1st for this factor and 4th in the Personal Finance Index as a whole!

Playing a role in these rankings is both comparatively low living costs — only a quarter (25%) rate them negatively, compared to 39% of expats worldwide — and fair pay: around seven in ten working expats (71%) agree they’re remunerated fairly for their work (vs. 58% globally). Overall, 88% find that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 70% globally).  

“Panama offers me a relaxed lifestyle, good climate, lower costs than in the USA, and friendly locals and expats.” – US American expat

House Hunting in Easy Mode

Speaking of finances: expats praise the affordability of housing in Panama, which over three in five (62%) rate favorably (vs. 34% globally). Plus, it’s the country where it’s the easiest for expats to find accommodation (1st). Panama’s overall 3rd place in the Housing Subcategory is not the only reason for its great performance in the Expat Essentials Index (4th), though.

Expats have few issues with the Language (11th), and nearly everyone (98%) praises the unrestricted access to online services such as social media (vs. 82% globally). Plus, respondents found it easy to get a visa to move to Panama in the first place (4th).

Some of the paperwork could be easier to handle. Panama only ranks 36th when it comes to opening a local bank account, and 39th regarding the option to take care of administrative and governmental services on the web.

Living to Work or Working to Live?

Close to a third of respondents (32%) are already retired (vs. 11% globally). But even if you have to work, there are worst places to be than Panama: the country ranks 12th in the Working Abroad Index.

Expats highlight both their work–life balance (3rd) and general working hours (7th). Indeed, the weekly average for full-time positions is 41.0 hours, which is slightly lower than the global average (42.5 hours) — and close to half (47%) work remotely all the time, too (vs. 20% globally).

Respondents are less enthusiastic about the local job market (27% positive ratings vs. 41% globally), but close to two-thirds (65%) are happy with their personal career opportunities (vs. 53% globally). Interestingly, the country sees a large share of working expats who are self-employed or freelancers (24% vs. 10% globally).

Great Leisure Activities & Climate

Its 16th place in the Quality of Life Index may be Panama’s worst result in an index, but it’s nothing to worry about. The affordable public transportation system (8th) may be held back by average availability (27th) and the infrastructure for cars cannot delight at all (45th out of 53). But according to around nine in ten expats (89%), there’s plenty of opportunity to travel (vs. 83% globally).

And you don’t have to go far for good Leisure Options (9th). Just 3% of respondents are dissatisfied with the culinary variety & dining options in Panama (vs. 13% globally), and around four in five (79%) praise the recreational sporting opportunities (vs. 72%). All of this is combined with a pleasant climate: 78% rate the weather favorably, 20 percentage points above the global average of 58%.

“In Panama, I can live a very active lifestyle, and I love the climate and the culture.” – British expat

Still, there are some drawbacks to this idyllic setting. The urban environment (35th) doesn’t delight anywhere near as much as the natural setting (13th), and expats are less likely to agree that green goods and services are readily available (37th). Plus, a third of respondents (33%) disagree that the government supports policies to protect the environment, close to double the global average of 17%.

Keeping Hale & Healthy

Panama receives good results regarding expats’ personal safety: nine in ten (90%) rate this factor positively, compared to 80% globally. They are less enthusiastic about political stability (58% positive ratings vs. 59% globally), but at least expats don’t have to worry about openly expressing themselves and their opinions (71% vs. 62%).

“Panama is easy-going and safe, with an affordable, good medical environment.” – Swiss expat

Indeed, the country ranks 15th for Healthcare. Around seven in ten expats agree medical care is affordable (69% vs. 58% globally), easily available (71% vs. 68%), and of good quality (71% vs. 66%).

No Struggle to Settle In

The Ease of Settling In Index is another highlight of life in Panama. The country ranks 7th in the index, with top-10 placements for two of the three subcategories.

Expats feel both at home (73% vs. 58% globally) and welcome (81% vs. 63%), with around three-quarters (74%) agreeing it’s easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 59%). They’re also happy with their social life there (73% vs. 52% globally) and find it easy to make local friends (58% vs. 38%). However, 43% still say they’re mostly friends with other expats (vs. 37% globally).

The reason for this is surely not a lack of friendly locals: over two in five respondents (41%) agree completely that the population is friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 25% globally).

“I really like the Panamanians’ friendliness and willingness to help, and their appreciativeness of the small things in life and the way they celebrate life in general.” – US American expat

The Typical Expat in Panama

Further Reading