Panama City, luxury properties at unimaginable prices
Saturday, December 16 2006 @ 04:14 PM EST
Contributed by: Don Winner
Panama is a shopper’s paradise. Luxury goods the world over are available for at least a third the price one would pay elsewhere. Panama City has large picturesque shopping districts like the Via España and Avenida Central (Central Avenue) where one can buy everything high fashion to beautiful crafts. Local items include leather ware, necklaces made by the Guaymí Indians, needlework, paintings, handcrafted Molas made by the Kuna Indians, carved wooden handicrafts, mahogany bowls, and ceramics. Avenida Central, an open-air, pedestrian-only mall offers a deal on every corner.
About 45 minutes to Panama City by car is the Colon Free Zone, America’s largest free zone and the world’s second largest after Hong Kong. The Zone occupies over 800 acres. More than 200 companies operate or are represented there generating $11 billion annually. Companies operating in the Colon Free Zone do not require a commercial license. The Free Zone laws create a climate where businesses operate with an absolute minimum of controls. No tax is paid on income derived by export activities within the Free Zone. There are no tariffs and quotas on imports and exports. The costs are highly competitive, and executives and foreigners receive immigration benefits.
The people of Panama are fun, proud, tolerant and eager to please. They are not only friendly, they are welcoming. Though Spanish is the official language many in the service industry speak English. As well, English is taught in school.
Panama is an ethnic melting pot and cultural crossroad where civilizations and races have blended to create a charming local culture. Over the last 450 years, different ethnic groups immigrating to the country have created a culture rich in diverse customs. One can find the food and traditions of almost any country. Throughout Panama native-born Arabs, Jews, Hindus, Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Caribbean, etc live and work side by side. Additionally, seven indigenous groups still follow the same traditions they have preserved for thousands of years. Among those are the Ngoebe-Buglé villages in Bocas and the 48 Kuna Yala villages on the San Blas Island region.
Panama City, with its first-rate facilities, is an extraordinary city that offers excellent lifestyle prospects. And as a First World city, it is likely the least expensive place in the world to live. The city offers world-class restaurants, every imaginable luxury, and hundreds of multinational businesses at about half the price one would pay in the U.S.
The city skyline overlooking the Bay of Panama is spectacular with an assortment of banks, insurance companies, hotels, condominiums and apartment buildings. The large cranes dotting the skyline are the best evidence of massive growth and redevelopment. The city centre is modern and architecturally diverse.
Panama City has a wide selection of state-of-the-art, reliable medical facilities with American and European trained doctors. Because some hospitals such as the Hospital Nacional are on a par with U.S. hospitals at about 50% of the cost, Panama is carving out a niche in “health tourism”.
Buying property in Panama City is a steal. One can purchase furnished studios for less than US $60,000; beachfront condos begin at about $77,000. A two-bedroom 1,300-square-foot condo in the banking district with a pool and gym facilities costs around $150,000. A two-bedroom apartment with views of the bay and maid’s quarters costs $160,000.
For those who like to party, Panama City has a great night life and is home to one of the world’s largest Carnival celebrations. Forget Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans— Panama City has the second largest Carnival in the world! Work comes to a complete stop during Carnival days and the main streets are filled with parades, floats, masks, costumes and confetti.
The weather cannot get much better than in Panama. Panama’s beautifully pleasant tropical climate has an average temperature of about 27°C (80°F) with only a few degrees variation between seasons. And because of the varied landscape found in Panama, there are places that are spring-like all year round as well—the mountainous region of Chiriqui, for instance. The higher elevations in the interior have a mild average temperature of about 19°C (66°F). What’s more, Panama does not experience destructive hurricanes or earthquakes as do Panama’s Central American neighbors.
Besides a stable, predictable climate, Panama’s geographic location is responsible for its great diversity of life. The country offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the wonders of nature, and to find the perfect spot to kick back and relax while being soothed by a pleasant trade wind or witness to a dynamic sunset. And everything is within minutes of its metropolitan centers.
Panama is paradise for those who love wildlife and water. Panama has the highest ratio of coastline compared to land area of any Latin American country. Its gorgeous beaches, islands and waterways offer a rich variety of safe and exciting opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing and windsurfing, sea kayaking, deep-sea fishing and river rafting. Some favorite beaches are La Cabaña Beach on Colón Island and Boca del Drago Beach in Bocas del Toro Province. Other beautiful popular beaches are Cermeño, Gorgona, Coronado, Punta Barco, Las Lajas, El Palmar, Río Mar and Santa Catalina beaches in Veraguas Province.
Panama has 14 national parks, over a dozen forest reserves, 10 wildlife refuges, hundreds of islands and miles of protected coral reefs. About 29 percent of Panama’s land area is protected.
Strategically located between two oceans and two continents, Panama boasts unique ecosystems nurture unparalleled flora and fauna with natural and environmental riches found nowhere else in the world. More species of birds live in Panama than in all of North America and Canada combined, and migratory birds and turtles stop there as well. In all, Panama is host to almost 1,000 species of birds, 220 mammals and 354 reptiles and amphibians.
On the easternmost side of the Pacific coast, shrimp, other crustaceans and mollusks spend the initial stages of their development in the shelter of Gulf of Panama mangroves. The American alligator and the leatherback turtle, the largest living turtle species, which can grow up to 2 meters (6 ft) in length and weigh over 630 kilograms (1,400 lbs) swim offshore. Also on the Pacific side, thousands of sea turtles lay eggs at the Isla Caña national reserve between August and November.
Diverse marine species and corals inhabit the Atlantic coast as well. An outstanding example is the massive Bocas del Toro archipelago at the entrance to Chiriquí Lagoon on the Caribbean Sea, where many species of marine and terrestrial life, such as sea turtle and manatee, are protected in the clear blue waters, coral reefs and beaches. The archipelago has nine islands, 51 keys and over 200 islets and is a popular place for scuba diving, snorkeling, and ecotourism.
The low cost of real estate in Panama is made especially appealing by the country’s extraordinary advantages. Besides the near perfect weather, astonishing biodiversity, gorgeous beaches, wonderful multicultural mix, and friendly people, Panama has a stable government and a dollar-based economy, as well as great infrastructure and services.
Excellent healthcare, good roads, safety, and low cost of living are among the many perks of retiring in Panama. But as if all these factors weren’t enough, the Panamanian government has created a system of benefits for those who retire in Panama.
- No property taxes for 20 years;
- No income tax on incomes earned outside Panama;
- No tax on home furnishings if it is the retired person’s only property;
- Exemption of property tax if it is the retired person’s sole residence;
- Discount on the maximum interest rate on personal and commercial loans;
- Discount of percentage points on interest rates for mortgages on housing for retirees;
- Personal and commercial loans are exempt of taxes stipulated by the Special Interest Compensation Fund.