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Expat guide to Panama, where to live, how to get a visa & meet other expats

Expat guide to Panama, where to live, how to get a visa & meet other expats

Living in Panama

Panama’s steady economy, coupled with contrasting infrastructure, from colonial to ultra modern, has met the expatriates’ attention. The country’s prominence is brought about by the Panama Canal, the shortest route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This little body of water, fuels much of the country’s economy. Although cost of living can be expensive, there are ways for expats to live life to the fullest at minimal cost. If you’re daring to go to Panama, have a look at our compiled information.

Panama city

Expat Clubs

The American Society of Panama
A group in Panama that holds monthly social events where the proceeds go towards charities and scholarships.
Address: Apartado Postal 0843-00166, Panama, Rep. de Panama
Tel: +1.507.6747-6762
Website: www.amsoc.org

International Schools 

International School of Panama
ISP is home to nearly 1200 students from over 50 nations from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. The majority of the class successfully pursued an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. ISP proudly sends its graduates on their collegiate journey to prestigious universities across USA, Canada, Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Address: Golf Club Road, Cerro Viento Rural, San Miguelito, Panama City, Panama
TeL +507 293-3000
Fax +507 266-7808
Email: isp@isp.edu.pa
Website: www.isp.edu.pa
Oxford International School
Both the Panamanian Ministry of Education and the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools (NAAS) www.northwestaccreditation.org accredit Oxford International School, furthermore guaranteeing the local and international community our commitment to quality education.
Curriculum: British
Address: Ave. Federico Boyd and Vía España, Panama, Rep. of Panama
Tel: +507 265 6422
Fax: +507 265 7446
Email: oxford@ois.edu.pa
Website: www.ois.edu.pa
Panama Coast International School
Panama Coast International School (PCIS) has offered a full-English education since 2008 to students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 living in Panama's Pacific beach communities.  Faculty members are native-English speakers with North-American teaching certification and provide individualized instruction following a US-based curriculum in a small-group setting.
Curriculum: American
Website: www.panamacoastinternationalschool.com
Coronado International School
Coronado International School, is a private, bilingual school, founded by initiative of Grupo Coronado to offer quality education to the Coronado community and neighboring areas.
Address: Colinas del Mar, Coronado Beach, Panama
Tel: (507) 240-4469
Email: giraliz.deleon@corointschool.edu.pa
Website: www.corointschool.com
King’s College, The British School of Panama
Since 1969 King's College has provided children with a rigorous and broad British education. Pupils from our schools go on to study at the best universities in the UK, Spain and North America.
Curriculum: British
Address: Edificio 518, Avenida Hospital, Clayton, Panama, Republic of Panama
Tel: +507 282 3300
Email: kcp.admissions@kingsgroup.org
Website: www.kingscollege.com.pa
Boston School International
Boston School International is a private English language international school committed to provide the best educational opportunities to all students, regardless of their race, color, creed or learning style. The School’s teachers are committed to excellence by encouraging and supporting students to develop critical thinking skills, ethical values and their own individual talents. Leading edge technology will be utilized to enhance and broaden education programs to prepare students to meet challenges in the future.
Tel: (+507) 396.6966
Email: info@bostonschool.com
Website: www.bostonschool.edu.pa
Metropolitan School of Panama
The Metropolitan School of Panama is a private school that opened its doors in August 2011 and, despite its very young age, has become one of Panama’s leading international schools. Located within City of Knowledge, Clayton, Panama City, the MET currently offers classes to students from Pre-Kinder 3 to 11th grade, and will open 12th grade in August 2015.
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Address: City of Knowledge, Building #104, Clayton, Panama, Rep. of Panama
Tel: +507 317-1130
Email: admissions@themetropolitanschool.com
Website: www.themetropolitanschool.com

Local News in English

The Bocass Breeze
This is an English-language news site that brings local news.
Website: thebocasbreeze.com/wp
The Living Room by DJ Nikki
Dynamic and interactive lifestyle guide where you will find interesting information on relevant topics along with the hottest music to start your day. Targeted at English-speaking foreigners in Panama, as well as bilingual Panamanians. Launched in early 2008 through the Power 92 signal (92.1FM) that covers Panama, Colon and beaches. At the time of writing, the show was running Monday through Friday, 8am-9am.
Website: www.921power.com

Country Information 

Location: Central America
Capital City: Panama City
Other Important Cities: Bocas del Toro
Currency: Balboa and US Dollar
Language: Spanish
Calling Code: +507
Internet TLD: .pa

Electricity: Panama runs on 120V 60Hz. Electricity is provided by the government-regulated Union Fenosa.
Address: Av. Diógenes de la Rosa Edif. 812. Albrook, Panamá.
Tel: (+507) 315-7222
Website: www.pedregalpower.com
Emergency Numbers:   
Ambulance: 103
Fire: 103
Police: 104
Country Information

Embassy Information


Residents Visa and Work Permit information

Nationals from countries including North, Central and South Americas, EU, Australia, a few African and Asian countries, may enter and stay for up to 180 days. The Panama embassy Canada site has a list of countries and their corresponding visa exemptions and regulations: www.embassyofpanama.ca/index.php/component/content/article?id=137
Others will have to obtain a visa through a Panama embassy or consulate in their home or host country.
Long-term stays or tourist visa extensions requires registration at the Registro de Extranjeria del Servicio Nacional de Migracion or the Immigration Department.

Documents required:
  • Passport copy
  • Completed immigration form
  • 2 Passport sixe photos
Residence permits have to be applied for separately. These enable expats to remain in the country for a specific period, or even permanently, depending on their stated purpose. There are different types:
  • Temporary residence permit for employment
  • Temporary residence permit for family regrouping
  • Pensionado program for retirees
  • Self-Economic solvency visa
  • Temporary visa with City of Knowledge (academic area in Panama City)
Documents required:
  • Passport copy
  • 2 Passport size photos
  • Medical certificate
  • Police clearance from last place of residence
Documents will have to be translated in Spanish and authenticated in the country of origin.
For further information, please refer to the Gobierno Nacional Panama site (Spanish): www.migracion.gob.pa


There are several options available for expats, depending on their budget and family size, from apartments, villas, beach houses and mountain cottages. Expats in Panama prefer renting apartments within gated communities which offer more security amenities. It is generally expensive to live in Panama, with rental prices going for a minimum of $400 per month for a single bedroom apartment.

The most straightforward way of finding accommodations is through real estate agencies. These institutions have English-speaking staff, and will cut short the search tremendously, for a fee. Legal matters will also be handled by these agencies. Other methods include looking through classified ads and looking around the neighborhood, but these methods are more time consuming and would definitely require more assistance especially if the contact persons do not speak English.

Lease contracts are simple and straightforward; agreement with landlords are easy. Once a lease has been finalized, it has to be registered at the Ministry of Housing. Contract duration is flexible; termination requires 30 days notice. One months rent is expected as deposit.

More upscale residential neighborhoods are located in Punta Paitilla and Punta Pacifica. Expat residents are mostly diplomats. These areas are made up of a number of gated communities which foreigners in Panama seek out.

Albrook, Clayton and Costa del Este are good for expat families with kids. These areas are quiet, lots of green areas. Far from the city center, these places will feel removed from the bustle of the city. Commercial establishments and amenities are available, some even in walking distance.

Driving License

Expats may use their domestic license, provided it is valid, to drive legally in Panama for up to 90 days. Beyond that, expats must apply for a Panamanian license, or alternatively exchange their domestic license. This can be done through the government authority, Sertracen: www.sertracen.com.pa/licencias-de-conducir/requisitos/paname%C3%83%C2%B1os-con-licencia-extranjera

Documents required:
  • Residency card and copy
  • Domestic/foreign license, authenticated and certified by the Panama Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Blood-type test.
For more information refer to Sertracen site (Spanish)


Public and private healthcare is available in the country. Private healthcare has more advanced facilities and services compared to public healthcare, and are more expensive. The Ministry of Health and Social Security System ensures that residents have access to medical services, however these are limited. Medication supply is adequate. Cash payments are to be expected even in emergency cases, so a comprehensive health insurance that can cover or reimburse costs is highly advised.

Insurance Companies
Axa in Panama
Address: Ave. Via España, Plaza Comercial San Fernando, Local # 1 y 2, Panama
Tel: +507 204 9200
Website: www.axa.com/en/group/axaworld/central-south-america/panama
Hospital Nacional
At present the hospital has 107 beds in suites, private rooms, semi - private and multiple department semi-intensive care and neonatal intensive adult, clinical laboratory and blood bank, five operating rooms to highly complex surgery , urology, lithotripsy room, endoscopy and two delivery rooms with necessary facilities for a family members.
Address: Avenida Cuba, entre Calle 38 y 39, Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá
Tel: +507 207-8100, +507 306-3300
Fax: +507 207-3334
Email: info@hospitalnacional.com
Website: www.hospitalnacional.com
Hospital Punta Pacifica
Punta Pacifica Hospital is the first in Latin America and the Caribbean in affiliation with Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Doctors, surgeons and other partners are leaders in their respective areas, the facilities are world class and affordable medical solutions offered, just compared to what a patient would receive in the United States or Europe.
Address: Pacific Boulevard and Via Punta Darién, Panama City, Panama
Tel: +507 204.8000
Fax: +507 204.8010
Email: info@hpp.com.pa
Website; www.hospitalpuntapacifica.com
Hospital San Fernando
The San Fernando Hospital Clinic was founded in 1949 to offer the community top quality hospital services, as well as offer the Panamanian doctors the opportunity to exercise their practice in a modern and safe environment.
Address: Via Espana, Las Sabanas, Panama
Tel: +507-229-3800, 229-0300
Website: www.hospitalsanfernando.com
Hospital Santa Fe
Since its inauguration in 1984, Hospital Santa Fe has remained one of the leading health care organizations in the Republic of Panamá and Central America. Located in the heart of beautiful Panamá City and just minutes away from The Panamá Canal.
Email: info@hospitalsantafepanama.com
Website: hospitalsantafepanama.com

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