Jubilating in Panama with the Jubilados!

Happy hour with friends at Bahia on the beach

Getting older isn’t all bad!

When we came to Panama for the first time in the spring of 2013, we were impressed with the wonderful warm temperatures. We have joked that, in spite of the fact that we spent nearly 20 years in Colorado ski country and loved it, the older we got, the colder it got! I can still remember when we first arrived at the Panama City airport at 7:30 in the evening, wearing our Summit County clothes, and stepped out into the 75 degree evening. We were shedding layers like crazy! We asked the driver who took us into Panama City to please turn off the air conditioning and open all the windows! It was so amazing that, even though we got to our condo around 9PM and I usually am not at all a “night owl,” we just had to go out exploring the area of Casco Viejo–after changing into more appropriate clothes, of course! We were staying basically next to the Presidential Palace and were right off of a beautiful area called the Plaza Bolivar with restaurants and tables outside to sit and enjoy a glass of wine. At that hour, there were lots of other people walking around. I don’t know about you, but just doing these things helps me feel younger!

We, of course, just fell in love with Panama. It is a vibrant country with lots of things going on: people going to their jobs; people meeting for a jog in the neighborhood; people taking it easy on a bench in the park; people involved in lively discussions; people playing boule or checkers; people meeting for lunch or dinner or drinks; people going to the theater. People are busy! But, don’t get me wrong, Panama is a great place to relax as well.

Frank discussing weighty matters with Bob

Frank discussing weighty matters with Bob

I was so excited by this first impression and wanted to find a new place to move my business and possibly start a new one–this was the place! I almost forgot that I also needed to be thinking about my retirement sooner or later. Panama is a place that begs you to get involved. It feels like the US in the 60s when I first came to the US to get my feet wet. Panama has a booming economy and a great business environment.
But what I didn’t know when I first visited and what I learned after being here for many months is an amazing discovery that I need to share with you.

Panama Loves Retirees!

Panama is not just a booming country. Panama is one of the best places in the world to retire! This may not be news to you. There are many news services who have been praising Panama as the country #1 to retire. If I hadn’t experienced living in Panama, I would be reluctant to agree to an accolade like that–but I have experienced living in Panama! And I do agree!

Jubilado discount meant these 2 meals cost less than $5

Jubilado discount meant these 2 meals cost less than $5

In Panama, they have a special name for retired folks (or at least people of retirement age): Jubilados.

I really like this word because it makes me think of celebrations! Jubilados are a very visible and active part of Panama’s overall population. There are many Jubilados from all over the world. You can practice not only your Spanish language in Panama, but also German, French, Chinese–you name it. They really do come from all over the world. The great majority of the Jubilados here, however, come from Canada and the US, creating quite the English-speaking community in Panama. Some of these Jubilados used to live in the Canal Zone but had to leave in 1999 when Panama took over the canal. 40,000 left and many have now returned.

The Panamanian government loves retirees–even the ones who come here from other countries–and offers a fantastic discount program for Jubilados. This program reduces the already low cost of living and increases the quality of life. And it’s not just a program on paper. It’s not just something that the government talked and talked about but never did anything. No. This program has actually been in existence since 1987. And it is alive and well and available.

How It Works

It has taken us a while to find out all of the ways that we can benefit from the Jubilado discount–and we are still discovering new ways.

Just a few weeks ago on a late trip home from Panama City, we stopped at a grocery to pick up some dinner–the groceries here in Panama can compete with the most upscale places anywhere in the world, by the way. So, we stopped and picked up some prepared meat to have at home. When we took it to the register, Norma was paying with a large bill and had to produce her Passport. If you have ever been shopping with Norma, you will know that she has the amount due already in her head before the cashier tells her. This time, she was about 25% too high! The answer was the Jubilado discount for prepared food.

The Jubilado discount is one of those things that we thought about only occasionally, like when we stopped by a restaurant that we felt was pretty expensive: aha! Time to see if they do the Jubilado discount!

Now we know that there are many ways we can use the Jubilado discount, not just for eating out but also on Norma’s recent airfare to Denver.

Wherever you go and whatever you do, there is probably a Jubilado discount available for something. Sadly, of course, there are always those folks who want to ruin it for everyone else and will abuse a great thing. There will need to be some further clarifications and regulations to prevent abuse and it is important to know that merchants are well within their rights to refuse to give a discount without proper documentation.

Panama Retirement Visa (Pensionado Visa)

The Pensionado Visa allows foreigners to obtain residency in Panama. There is no age limit to qualify as long as all requirements and documents are presented to immigration.

Among other documentation, the applicant must deliver proof of a lifetime income of minimum $1,000 per month plus $250 for each additional dependent (can be your spouse). This income can come from Social Security, Pension, Annuity or Trust.

Panama Pensiondo Benefits

Discounts and Benefits are granted by law to all residents of Panama due to Pensionado and Jubilado status, no matter what age. All female residents over age 55 and all male residents over age 60 have access to all discounts and benefits, according to Law #6 of June 16, 1987.

– 50% off entertainment (movies, concerts, sports)
– 30% off bus, boat and train fares
– 25% off airline tickets
– 50% off hotel stay, Monday through Thursday nights
– 30% off hotel stay Friday through Sunday
– 25% off meals in restaurants (not fondas–small in-house restaurants)
– 15% off fast food restaurants
– 15% off hospital bills if no insurance applies
– 10% off prescription medicines
– 20% off medical consultation
– 15% off dental and eye exams
– 20% off professional and technical services
– 50% off closing costs for home loans
– 20% off utility bills
– 15% off loans made in your name
– 50% off passport costs
– 25% off basic phone service
Tax exemptions:
– One time tax exemption on the import of household goods up to $10,000
– 100% import tax exemption every 2 years of import of an automobile


Banks have special lines and counters for Jubilados. Norma has gotten 15% of all dental services, not just exams. We have received Jubilado discounts offered by places such as zoos, the Miraflores and Gatun locks on the Panama Canal, our Panama Canal adventure from our January newsletter–just ask and you could receive!

The great thing is that the government of Panama does not need to schmooze foreign retirees to come to their country. Remember, Panama ranks #1 internationally as a retirement destination. For most Americans, enjoying a first-class beach lifestyle has become totally unaffordable–but not in Panama. The great news is that Panama has the best beach properties at bargain prices! And if mountain or city living is more your style, Panama has that to offer as well. Check it out!
Ask us!



The Gang at the Beach

The Gang at the Beach

The beach is getting a bit empty, now that Easter is over and the so-called “high season” is winding down.

Even though we are usually out before sunup (oh, and aren’t those sunrises over the Pacific beautiful!), there have been a good number of folks on the beach while we are walking. They are usually walking, running, walking their dogs, sitting and staring at the sun, lolling in the waves–you name it. We like the quiet beach. The dogs don’t have to be on the leash as much since there aren’t so many folks around to be “intimidated” by a 30 pound beagle! The beach is one of those wonderful worlds for Duke. We walk early so that he has the freedom to be off-leash. He can run to hisheart’s content–or at least to his 14-year- old ability. Yes, we wished Duke a Happy 14th Birthday on April 8! And, as long as we can keep him clear of mean men with canes, we hope he will enjoy many more years on the beach here in Panama.

Sampling of some sea glass we have found

Sampling of some sea glass we have found

Along with meeting up with friends and their dogs on the beach, we also engage in an enjoyable activity: finding sea glass. You can see below just a small sampling of what we have found over the past year–all different sizes, shapes and colors. Norma’s quest is to find some pink sea glass. Don’t think that will happen any time soon. We find sea glass just anywhere on the beach, but not every day. It is such a delight to come across one of these beautiful little pieces of glass smoothed and shaped by the sea water, sand and rocks they have come into contact with. If you would like to see our whole collection, you are going to need to pay us a visit here–and maybe find some of your own!



Way too much for a country the size of Panama!

The OAS (Organization of American States) Seventh Summit is taking place in Panama City this week. 35 Heads of State from countries through the Americas will frolic in Panama City April 10 and 11. Such luminaries as Raul Castro and Christina Kircher will be in attendance. Even with all of these dignitaries in Panama City, we could comfortably move around the city if visitors like Mr. Obama would learn to travel in the same way as any other head of a nation instead of like 19th century royalty! No. Bridges and highways have to be closed for this honorable visitor who could, after all, use one of his many choppers to get to the meetings, but it is certainly more impressive and maybe intimidating to travel with a huge entourage!

Can’t wait until it’s over!



If you have a question of general interest, please send it to us at fpb@anamericaninpanama.org and we will answer it in one of our future editions.

What is a good time to travel to Panama?

Definitely not while more than 30 heads of state are around!

Because the temperatures don’t really change throughout the year, anytime is a good time to come. December through March is the high season and the time when you will pay more for accommodations.

April, May and June are also beautiful months when you can enjoy lower prices during the so-called “low season.”

If whale-watching is your thing, you would love to come between late July and October.

The great thing is that more airlines are providing non-stop service to Panama from the US and that service does not appear to be seasonal.

Just come!
For specific questions, please email me at fpb@anamericaninpanama.org

From Panama with love. Frank and Norma

From Panama with love. Frank and Norma

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