Panama City: A great home base as a digital nomad

Panama City – a hotbed of entrepreneurialism and business startup. If you’re looking to generate income as remote worker, but want the stability of a new home base, Panama could be for you.

With its lenient tax structures, immigration and business startup options, Panama attracts investors and business people from around the world; many of whom decided to escape the cubicle and live a more flexible lifestyle as a freelance contractor.

An immigration program called the ‘Friendly Nations Visa’ or ‘Paises Amigos’ in Spanish, offers the ability to stay in Panama for an extended time and even establish Permanent Residency relatively quickly.

Minimal expenses are involved and the visa allows you flexibility to travel and not live in Panama full time. There are some legal requirements and not all countries are eligible, so check into details before making any final decisions.

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Compared to other cities you might move to, Panama can be relatively easy to navigate. Realize, though that Panama is a Spanish speaking country.

There are numerous professional and tourism services available in English throughout Panama City; however, many of the day to day interactions you will have with service providers, transportation and getting to know local areas will involve a bit of Spanish. Spanglish is always acceptable, as Panamanians appreciate you making an effort and often know some English, but are shy to use it!

Applications and driving services, such as Uber, are available in the city with options to request English drivers. Transportation is extremely affordable with the base price for a taxi being $1.50-$2.00, Uber base price $2.20, Metrobus rides for $0.25, and Metro (subway trains) for $0.35.

Throughout Panama City, the old and crumbling stands next to the newly renovated

For years Panama City has been the place to go for a hot tropical lifestyle in the middle of a city full of skyscrapers. Expect to sweat as it’s humid year round, but manageable with some air conditioned cafes to set up your new remote work headquarters.

Panama City is little Miami in a way, with plenty of North American influence. Most brands and imported products are available, a variety of restaurants, nightlife, fitness activities and cultural events are also offered for people of all ages.

New restaurants seem to pop up monthly and there are plenty of options throughout city center and in the historic district of Casco Viejo.

Restaurant and bar in Casco Viejo

The downsides to living in Panama City are ever increasing traffic, noise pollution and rising costs of living.

If you bring your patience, an open mind and desire to adapt to the local pace of business, there are many niche markets still untapped, expanding internet infrastructure, cafes for co-workers and an ever-growing network of co-working office spaces for freelancers, entrepreneurs and business incubators.  Workings is a great shared office space to check out and meet people from Panama and anywhere else in the world: http://workingslatam.com/

With its large number of multinational corporations and opportunities for business startup, Panama City attracts newcomers from all age ranges. It isn’t strictly a retirement destination. If city life isn’t 100% for you, there are opportunities to escape the city buzz with nearby jungle areas, including a nature reserve in the city called Parque Natural Metropolitano and Gamboa just minutes out of the city along the Panama Canal. Within a couple hours driving from Panama City there are also numerous beaches, mountainous hiking areas and waterfalls. 

Panama Canal

Maybe you already have a plan on how you’ll earn a living while traveling. If you do, excellent. If you don’t, Panama City could be a great starting place.

So, how do you start? Network! Get online and get to know people.

There are countless social media groups for expats and newcomers to Panama, many of whom have already gone through the process of starting a new career and who are more than happy to provide advice and guidance – some of the largest online communities can be found on Facebook. Popular Facebook Groups include: Expats in Panama and Tropical Cowboys and Cowgirls. Internations.org hosts events on a regular basis and there are numerous charity and special interest groups formed by expats throughout the country.

You can also set up profiles with online freelancing websites and strengthen your social media presence in general to get to know people in the area. The more you talk with and meet people who are freelancing to live abroad, the more opportunities you will find. Many people in Panama are involved in sales, online marketing or real estate in some way, so if those are areas of interest, Panama City could be a great place to consider. 


Featured image by Matthew Straubmuller [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

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