A Nomad on the loose in Panama

American expat Lisa has lived overseas before; now she and her husband are located in David, Panama, where they specialize in the real estate business. Here she shares information and tips that expats and those considering a move to Panama might find helpful, as well as what she likes the most and the least about living in Panama.

Lisa Leuthesser

-Where were you born?

Chicago, Ilinois, USA

-In which country and city are you living now?

David, Republic of Panama

-Are you living alone or with your family?

With my husband and sometimes my children

-How long have you been living in Panama?

Off and on for five years.

-What is your age?


-When did you come up with the idea of living in Panama?

I've lived overseas most of my adult life so it was natural to go ahead with a country I'd never been to before. Panama is kind of Wild West with lots of opportunity and chances to do things I couldn't do in my home country.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?


-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?


-How do you make your living in Panama? Do you have any type of income generated?

I am the marketing consultant for http://www.buyingrealestateinpanama.com . We broker real estate in the interior provinces of Panama. I didn't find a job, I created one.

-Do you speak Spanish and do you think it's important to speak the local language? Please add your thoughts on local customs and whether it's important for expats to respect/observe local customs.

I speak broken Spanish. It would sure help if I was as fluent as I was when I got out of college--passed the test for advanced language. Ha! Of course, you have to observe local customs, but you can vent privately if you don't respect them.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes? Describe your favorite recreational activities there or those that are available.

I always miss my children. For recreation, I am a fishing addict.

-Do you have other plans for the future?

Right now, to grow our business and survive these difficult times. It isn't the greatest atmosphere for real estate right now, but Panama may fare better than other countries.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?

There is a lot of variance...depends on where you live and  how you live.  A home in David, Chiriqui Panama can be really cheap to rent (like $350 a month) if you go local or up to $1500 if you go posh.  

-What is the cost of living in Panama?

Pretty low in general. Maybe two thirds of what you would spend in the US and that's living fairly high on the hog.

-What do you think about the locals? 

Locals are very sweet and friendly, but gossip and stretching the truth is a way of life. Gringos are targeted and that's just a fact. If you don't nail it down, it is likely to be stolen. But violent crime is very unusual.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Panama?

Positive: cost of living, unbelievable natural wonder, laid back lifestyle, cheap food and drink. 

Negative: lack of culture (arts in particular), a culture that embraces deceit, damn hot.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Panama?

Visit many times. Do your research. Don't fall for hype or slick-willy cowboys.  Find people like you and who think about the things you think about. If you're retiring, find an older person to talk to. If you're 30 something forget what the old folks say.

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Panama?

My real estate website is http://www.buyingrealestateinpanama.com

My blog is http://buyingrealestateinpanama.blogspot.com

I also read Sam Taliaferro's Panama Investor Blog every day.


travellingnurse's picture

i am a 61 yr old nurse in uk. i have no children and divorced 25 yrs. i speak no spanish and too stupid to learn. i have backpacked across the globe for 35 yrs. i want to retire to somewhere i can afford. have considered many many places. the plan is ( you may laugh) . sell my little house in uk worth about 100k pounds , and buy an apartment in panama city. i have an nhs pension 400 a month and will get about the same again from uk pension at 65. here is the one that will amuse you, like the idea of a latino wife. be brutally honest , in your replies please thank you. jim

On cost of living and Latino wives

lleuth's picture

I'm not laughing...I know quite a few people here who are doing just that. We don't really specialize in Panama City, although we have a few properties there. In our area, Chiriqui, you could definitely find a place to live for what you expect to get for your house. And you could live on 800 pounds a month here in the provinces. If you have your heart set on the city, you can still probably do it--you just won't live quite as well as you would in a provincial location. Of course, the trade-off is that you won't have all that much to spend your money on in the provinces! Right now, to get a retiree's visa, you need to be able to prove a pension income of $1000 per month. Obviously, with 800 pounds you can do that, but until you reach 65, you are short a bit.

As for the Latino wife...that won't be a problem at all. Again, I know a number of older men here with beautiful young local wives. The girls like the security. In a place where the average wage is around $400 dollars a month...well you can do the math. Plus, expats tend to be thought of as very kind and generous as husbands. Age does not seem to be an issue with these girls. If you can live with the knowledge that money can buy you love and with the reality that you will probably never be able to communicate on a truly equal footing then you won't have a problem attracting women. Personally, when I hear a 60 something man tell me that he speaks no Spanish and his wife speaks no English I have to wonder if he gets lonely. I mean after all, there's only so much nocturnal activity a man of that age is interested in and beyond that some real companionship from a genuinely caring mate would seem to be important. But that's from a middle-aged woman's perspective. Your mileage may vary.

Lisa Leuthesser

Fishing Charters in Bocas del Toro

pwall7's picture

I am a U S Citizen and would like to come to the Bocas del Toro area for a year maybe 2 to charter fishing excursions. I have a USCG approved Masters Captain's license here in the States. Does anyone know if I will need a Panama Captain's license...does Panama even license captains? How about visas for extended stays? Would a business license be required? I called the Panamanian Consulate in New Orleans and was told there that all I would need is my American Captains license and my passport. ??? Just wanted to confirm this info.
Capt. Wall

Providing American TV programming overseas

caissonrider's picture

I am starting a company that will 'host' American TV (through Dish Network) and will transmit that programming via the internet to anywhere in the world. I'd really like to hear if this sounds like something American expatriots in Panama might be interested in? You would get any programming package available in Dish and would have to pay about an additional $50 for hosting fees. Your tv can be hooked up to your computer and with a good video card on your computer you can receive HD streaming TV (provided your internet speed is sufficient.

Would just like to hear if anyone out there might be interested?

Looking to purchase house or villa in Coronado or David

donevans729's picture

Would like to purchase a reasonable 2 or 3 bed and 2 full bath house or villa for retirement, for my wife and myself. Currently living in Florida.

working in Real Estate in Panama

Barb's picture

Hi Lisa, my husband is a long time realtor and really good at what he does/did (he is also a chef and had to pick up that career again when the markent tanked). we could have made it, but we adopted 3 kids and needed something stable ....long story. Anyway, we may have a future job opp in panama in the futre, friend has some beautiful property they are developing and want Jim to help. We were thinking about coming early and getting settled. We don't have a lot of money to live on, we will receive about 1,200 a month. I would like to know what does the job market look like for american realtors in Panma? Would he be able to make a good living at it? Can you give me a rough estimate of what he could expect to make? We've done all the other research e.g. cost of living etc. but if you could give me a rough for Panama City area and David we would appreciate it. Also, if you know of anyone hiring let me know (c:

Living in Panama

Nunzio P Pagano's picture

If life unfolds as I expect, planning to be a resident in Panama with in the next 120 days. Would like to fly down in early March to find an apartment to rent and possibly line up some type of employment situation. Not looking to get rich. Would like to just make enough to cover those basic needs in life such as food and shelter.
As I understand, teaching Enlish may be the avenue to explorer. Can anyone tell me if this is a realistic possibility?
I would also like to volunteer my time in helping some people in need. I am a Chiropractic Physician and still have a good deal of energy.
Really need to find something to get involved in in order to keep the little gray cells stimulated. So I am looking for any type of employment at this point.
Where would be the best location to find a one bedroom apartment to rent for under $600 dollars per month?
Any help someone can provide me at this point would really be appreciated.
My email address is borealis202@aol.com Nunzio


Nunzio P Pagano's picture

Well I'm a 61 year old male in about the same situation your in. Planning to Move to Panama from the USA.
From the research I have done thus far, sounds like a great place to retire.
I'm heading down that way in March to find a place to rent and get a feel of the land.
At this stage in life, you need to be a little adventurous.... "nothing ventured, nothing gained"
Keep in touch and tell me how your doing.......... Nunzio

Retirement in Panama

lleuth's picture

I don't know how I missed your post! Have you found anything that interests you yet? Is there an area in particular you are looking at? What do you consider 'reasonable'? I have a two bedroom house I am just now listing (isn't on the website yet) about an hour from Panama City that looks like a good deal. If you'd like to start a conversation, let me know and you can contact me directly at my personal email: lleuth@yahoo.com

Lisa Leuthesser

Hi Barb, Sorry for the delay

lleuth's picture

Hi Barb,

Sorry for the delay in getting to this response. There really isn't a 'job market' here for American realtors. You have to make your own job and most importantly you have to find a licensed Panamanian realtor to partner with you and make you legal. Right now the market is very slow. Very, very. I would venture to say right now you can't make a living in real estate at all. We do some property management and I do some website work and that's how we keep our heads above water. Panama City versus David in terms of cost of living--there is a huge difference in what it would cost you to live in the city versus David. Much cheaper outside the city, especially when it comes to housing.

Lisa Leuthesser

Job opportunities for nurses

D. Jackson's picture

I am a 40 year old registered nurse in the U.S. for 17 years. I have tons of experience and was wondering about job opportunites. I have been looking on the internet and cannot find any info on working in Panama as a RN. I recently returned from a 2 week stay in Boca Del Toro and I know there are no hospitals there. I did hear about a hospital in David. Is that the closest one to Boca? I do not want to live in Panama City. Looking for slower pace and a little peace. I visited and fell in love with panama. If you have any info. on this I would truly appreciate it...thank you

D. Jackson

Nursing jobs in Northern Panama

D. Jackson's picture

My name is D. Jackson. I was wondering if you know anything about nursing careers in Panama. Not Panama City. I visted the Boca Del Toro region for 2 weeks and feel in love with it. I know there is not a hospital in Boca. But was wondering in proximity what hospital would be closest to Boca. I have been a Registed Nurse for 17 years with tons of experience. I visited Panama and fell in love with it. NOT PANAMA CITY. I could have done without seeing that place...Any info. you might have would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
D. Jackson
Birmingham AL

Anxiously looking abroad!

corbintuma's picture

Hi Lisa, my name is Corbin (age 37). Upon doing hours and hours of research it looks like Panama may be the best deal right now. What does the job market look like for expats? Do you have any contacts in the financial/banking field? How's crime in the area? What are your thoughts for home ownership vs renting there for the next 3 to 5 years? I've really enjoyed reading your posts........thanks for your time and I look forward to your response.
Austin, TX

Nursing in Panama

Erin's picture

Hi there...I am a Canadian nursing student (BScN) interested in the job perspectives for RNs around the David, Boquete areas. My daughter and her boyfriend visited Boquete, as his father lives there, and they fell in love with the place. I have done a bit of research and it does look quite interesting. Any info you can provide on nursing or any ideas where I might look to find helpful info? I've tried searching online but not able to find any info.

Nursing/healthcare in Panama?

brian3222's picture

I am a RN from USA interested in nursing jobs in Panama, does any one have any information or know of a place to start looking for such jobs? Any input you may have would be helpful !!!!


JLD's picture

Lisa, my wife and I are traveling to Panama in late Sep for 8 or 9 days. We will be traveling by car. Looking for suggestions on how to best spend that time. What should we definitely see? Avoid? Your idea of an itinerary if you will. Add to that our interest in seeing potential retirement locations. Looking for modern, probably gated gringo enclave, houses near other expats. So we might say go take a look at David, stopping at one ot two developments, then move on.

Ideally we'd find somewhere we could purchase now and rent long or short term until we're ready for the move...probably 10 years.

I'm hoping you can provide much insight and are willing to do so. Thanks much.


Nursing in Panama

lleuth's picture

I don't know much about nursing jobs in Panama. I do know that you can only practice medicine here if you are a Panamanian citizen. That may be the case with nurses also. Why don't you inquire at one of the bigger hospitals here about the rules...Punta Pacifica is the hospital aligned with Johns Hopkins, that would be a good place to start.

Lisa Leuthesser

wondering about Panama

angucast's picture

Hi Liza, I'm planning to live in Panama, I'm not a US born expat but I lived in The USA for about 43 years of my 63,and are more american in many ways than peruvian, I'd like you to tell me how is the weather down in David, or Chiriqui, I read about Boquete is the paradise weather wise, what do you think, my plan is go to Panama in December with my Colombian wife and take a look at the places I think are better for us, like David, El valle, Boquete, Penonome, because I read the coast is too hot and rainy truth? and from there go and rent a small home( 2 or 3 bed) may be you can help me in that department, let me know if I can come to see some of the properties you have for rent, I lived in California and Florida, at this time I'm in Peru which is where I was born but don't feel is what I want, also I'm fluent in Spanish and English, what are the chances to work as a teacher, also do you think if a peruvian food restaurant would be a good idea in that area, I'm knew on this site but I enjoy a lot what I've seen so far, thanks a lot


lleuth's picture

Lisa Leuthesser

Hi Jeffrey,

Well, I really am tardy about checking this web site! The best thing for you to do is to talk with me directly. I could literally write a book to answer your questions--and I am actually thinking about doing just that. However, for now, why don't you just give me a call. We have a USA number (SKYPE) and I would be happy to talk with you and give you some pointers on your upcoming trip. 772-905-2652 Today is Sunday and I will probably be chained to the computer all day. There's also a voice mail option if I miss your call, so please do leave a message. Look forward to hearing from you...Lisa

Help ! Need Advice

JLD's picture

Wife and I will be in Panama last week of Sep, first week of Oct. Looking for suggestions on how best to spend that time. Will have rental car.
What are the must sees, must dos?

Along the way, wish to visit retirement communities..probably gringo enclaves.

Please help us with your local knowledge.


Hi, Did you ever find

Bishop's picture

Hi, Did you ever find anything? We are going to do the same but wondering how things went with you?

I am about 4 yrs out from

Wade W's picture

I am about 4 yrs out from retiring. My wife and I like what we have read about Boquete. Is Boquete a good place for us to start looking? We are planning on our first trip to Panama next year. I have also been warned that realestate is a twisting turning mess. Is it possible to get quality health insur. for a nice price? Lots of questions I know, but I have to be very sure of everything BEFORE we make a move.


Hi, I am currently working

Marie-Claire's picture


I am currently working with a trading company planning a relocation to Panama. There will be four of us moving from the UK with the company and I am trying to find a property suitable for us to live and work from. This move it going to happen very quickly with one of our directors flying out next week to sort the move out from over there while I look into it from the UK. I am trying to find out some information on the best area to focus our search in. Our requirements are;

- A Large detached property that we can comfortably work and live
- Budget of roughly 2000-2500 USD Monthly although this is flexible
- Safe area maybe near other expats
- Somewhere suitable as are all quiet young and like a lively active lifestyle.
- Preferably near to a beach
- Must have fast broadband internet as all work is done online

I hope to hear from you, Thank you!