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Best Place for Expats in Central America


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Joined: December 7th, 2007

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  • Added on: May 30th, 2008
Hi Folks:

Where do you think is the best place in Central America for expats to live?

Thanks in advance,


Roque Mocan

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Posts: 26
Joined: March 15th, 2008

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  • Added on: May 30th, 2008
It might depend on what you like most: living by the sea, or nice climate, etc. There are ex-pats in all the countries of Central America. Costa Rica might be the most "institunalized" in the sense that they activelly encourage ex-pats and pensioners to go to their country.
Roque Mocan


Lost in Place
Posts: 53
Joined: December 3rd, 2007

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  • Added on: May 30th, 2008
It would be difficult to name a best place for expats. I agree with Roque in that it would depend on the person's preferences. Panama's Boquete, with its mountain climate giving it eternal springtime weather, has attracted so many expats that some call it the 51st state. I have read that Panama has tax breaks for expats who buy or build houses in there. (I don't remember the specifics on the tax breaks, but you can google them up). When I was in Nicaragua, I encountered several Americans checking out real estate around Granada; they were attracted by the bargain prices. On Roatan Island (Honduras), the town of West End boasts an expat scene involved in snorkeling/scuba diving. To each his/her own, I suppose.

How sharp is your machete?


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Joined: April 6th, 2008

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  • Added on: May 30th, 2008
Lan Sluder has written a book about living in Belize and researched Panama, too. Check out www.belizefirst.com/
Happy trails! hopefulist
My CA Photos and Travelogues


Holds PhD in Packing
Posts: 202
Joined: November 29th, 2007
Location: Guatemala

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  • Added on: May 30th, 2008
I agree. The best place for ex-pats to live in Central America is highly personal.

My wife and I spent years traveling and researching Mexico and Central America for the perfect area to retire. When my wife saw the Antigua area of Guatemala she said "This is it". Although I still want to explore what is over the next hill, we have settled in what to us is as close to paradise as man can get. However, many gringos who move here leave within a year or two. Our tastes change with experience, and what was once quaint becomes a hardship.

My advice would be to go to all the areas that interest you and spend at least a month there. When you find one that seems to fill your needs, rent for at least a year, before making any large financial commitment.
----------------------------------------- I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.-Mark Twain


Holds PhD in Packing
Posts: 173
Joined: July 18th, 2005

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  • Added on: May 30th, 2008
they activelly encourage ex-pats

I must disagree with Roque Mocan - CR immigration is so totally messed up that I could hardly call it "encouragement". I know more than one gringo leaving here for Panama or even South America. Chile comes to mind.

We chose CR because it most closely fit our list of requirements at the time. Good healthcare, stable government, crime rate etc.

I'm not at all sure that we would make the same choice now or indeed that out "list" would even be the same. So there - a non-answer!
"Ain't Life Grand?"


Thorn Tree Refugee
Posts: 5
Joined: March 17th, 2008

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  • Added on: June 24th, 2008
Personally,I prefer Panama to Costa Rica.
It`s true that there are tax breaks available to encourage U.S. citizens to settle in Panama.
To get a retirement visa you only need to show an income of $500 a month plus another $100 for your spouse.
You have political stability and first rate hospitals.Although it has to be said that if you happen tp be in Bocas or Boquete you gonna have to go to Panama City for anything serious.But the hospital in David is good and only a half hour from Boquete.
Heath care ,of course,is a fraction of the U.S. cost.But until you get a visa you`ll have to leave the country after 30 days.Same in CR.

Lisa Britt

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Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: March 23rd, 2005

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  • Added on: June 26th, 2008
Im such a Costa Rica fan, Apply for "pensionado" its for retirees. As long as you can prove you have a monthly income from the gov. or other, they give you a visa. My family has lived here for 40 years with Pensionado, and Rentista status.


Armchair Traveler
Posts: 40
Joined: December 7th, 2007

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  • Added on: June 29th, 2008
Thanks for the comments so far.

I plan to visit Central America next month and will start with Panama.

I found an online magazine, International Living, that provides fast facts on living abroad.


Nomadic Matt

Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: May 9th, 2008

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  • Added on: July 3rd, 2008
for cheap cheap living and a still semi under the radar place: PANAMA.


Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: December 7th, 2007

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  • Added on: July 27th, 2008
well for many reasons panama could be a good choice, there are many tax incentives and other benefits to moving there, i just opened a backpackers hostel there and the real estate transaction was easy and the tourist board very helpful during the application process, crime is relatively low and prices are good but rising like everywhere. Many retirees go to boquete but i feel that it is over run with gringos in giant SUV's that cant speak the local language..Spanish! I am in David which is a typical Central American town, real estate prices are low, but it is hot, a good place to do business and very close to the pacific beaches, boquete mountains and rain forrest in fortuna..and about 4 hours to the caribbean, bocas town and province. I did just watch however "The Panama Deception" about the american invasion in 1989 quite shocking and changed my view somewhat of what i see there..

David, Panama


Thorn Tree Refugee
Posts: 14
Joined: May 26th, 2007

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  • Added on: August 7th, 2008
Depends very much what you are looking for and what you can afford!

Costa Rica has many advantages, but it is not so cheap. Panama is cheaper but more humid. In Nicaragua you can get a bargain house, but hospitals etc. are better in Costa Rica.

Make a list of what is important for you and what you can spend. There are several informative sites on the web about retiring abroad.

This site has some valuable information about Costa Rica:
Retirement Costa Rica

Terry Leary

Thorn Tree Refugee
Posts: 3
Joined: August 10th, 2008

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  • Added on: August 10th, 2008
I am in Granada, Nicaragua and it is wonderful, been here for almost 7 years and it has a great community and nice people, good culture. Terry
Terry Leary
Casa San Francisco
Granada, Nicaragua


Guidebook Dependent
Posts: 19
Joined: June 17th, 2007
Location: Suchitoto, El Salvador

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  • Added on: August 14th, 2008
I picked El Salvador and now live in colonial Suchitoto. Although I did not have immigration problems becuase my mother is from El Salvador I do know many expats that have made the same choice.
Where ever you decide do your research first...happy to help in regards to El Salvador.
Life is short, enjoy it while you can.


Armchair Traveler
Posts: 40
Joined: December 7th, 2007

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  • Added on: August 30th, 2008
I am in Panama City now.

Are there recommended cities nearby within possibly an hour commute where the weather is a bit milder (I was prepared for the hot, humid weather but had heard there were nearby communities with more moderate weather).

I was also a bit surprised by the high cost of rentals and houses in the city.

I´m torn between residing in a sea coast town or living near the mountains,and also want to live in a community where I can feel connected...volunteer work, etc.


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