On a recent list of the best Central American cities for digital nomads, Panama was included not once but twice, with both the well-known Panama City and the lesser-known Playa Venao snagging a spot.
While the popularity among ex-pats of this Central American country is nothing new, factors such as digital nomad visas, the high cost of living in the US, and growth in technology, have all led to digital nomads taking notice of this county that connects North and South America.
It doesn’t hurt that the country’s currency is the USD, and it shares the Eastern Standard time zone with major cities in North America as well. The reasons for Panama’s popularity are numerous.
Here are the top 6 that prompt digital nomads to come to call this beautiful country home:
Looking for a booming metropolis rising out of the Pacific Ocean, a chill beach town with a Caribbean vibe, a tropical island paradise, a stilted house above a water town, or a coffee-loving mountain hideout?
Panama has you covered for all these options and then some. Starting with Panama City, Central America’s most cosmopolitan metropolis, and the most popular with digital nomads.
While it might not be the largest city in Central America (Guatemala City takes that title), it is by far the most modern. Enjoy a skyline that rivals Hong Kong and the historic old town of Casco Viejo as you wander among the revitalized traditional buildings.
Second in popularity with ex-pats in the lush and tropical mountainside town of Boquete. A longtime favorite for retirees from US and Canada, Boquete is starting to make a name for itself among the digital nomad workforce as well.
Don’t come here looking for a party town, but more a laid-back riverside paradise tucked into the rolling hills. If coffee culture and hiking are your things, then Boquete might be what you are looking for.
And if you find the smaller town too boring at times, you are only a short bus ride from the larger city of David, another popular place for ex-pats of all ages looking for a more city lifestyle.
If you are a more adventurous digital nomad who is not looking for the everyday modern conveniences of a bigger town, you could always head to the islands of Bocas Del Toro.
Imagine working from your computer in a hammock, from your house stilted above the water, staring out at the other islands. While the connection might be a bit lacking in this area, you are still likely to have some degree of wi-fi here.
Want to get away completely?
Head down south to the islands of Guna Yala, now commonly referred to by foreigners as The San Blas Islands. While this isn’t the place to expect an internet connection, the natural beauty and friendliness of the traditional Guna people might be a welcome break from big-city living.
Panama has the strongest and most stable economy in all of Central America, which results in many modern conveniences that digital nomads come to expect in daily life. One of these factors is the Internet.
With such a solid infrastructure, it should come as no suppose that Panama has Central America’s fastest internet speed.
The average download falls around 95Mbps, with an upload speed of 14Mbps.
In addition, local sim cards are cheap and easy to come by, and data packages are a convenient way to make sure you always have a backup plan to stay connected in case of any unforeseen events.
Panama City itself has a large number of co-working spaces, and many public places offer free wifi as well.
It’s not just the capital that enjoys high-speed wifi, as many other popular towns, such as Boquete and Playa Venao, also feature a generally reliable network as well.
Digital Nomad Visa
Most tourists coming to Panama from countries such as the U.S., UK, or Canada are permitted to stay up to 180 days with no visa. However, if it’s longer you seek, there is a digital nomad visa available.
Known as the Short Term Remote Worker visa, this permit allows a digital nomad to live and work in the country for up to 9 months, with the option to renew for a second 9 months with no need to leave.
The visa itself costs around $300 for the application, and the first step is setting up an appointment with the Panama embassy or consulate.
In order to qualify, you must meet a minimum annual income of around $36,000, among other requirements.
Location, Location, Location
Panama is the hub of the Americas, and its strategic location has proved to be very beneficial for it in many ways. Being the most narrow piece of land between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the highly coveted spot has always been important in trade, and the development of the Panama Canal has only multiplied that.
In terms of being a digital nomad in Panama, the country’s location is beneficial in many ways. Not only is it well connected with flights to all over the world, but trips to both Central and South America are options are easy options for travel.
Fancy a change of pace?
Head up to Costa Rica for a week or so and explore this popular destination. Panama is becoming increasingly connected to other digital nomad hot spots as well, with more flight routes in operation each season.
Health & Safety
Panama’s population is small compared to other Latin American countries, and the country enjoys a stable government.
Having the lowest crime rate in Central America, Panama is a very safe country.
The fact that it houses the Panama Canal, and the vital trade importance that this brings, makes it in the best interest of the international community to keep Panama safe as well. While the overall crime rate in Panama City is not high, petty thefts do occur.
Violent crime is rare but happens mostly only in certain areas. The main important factor here is to exercise caution at night and stay away from areas notorious for crime. In addition to safety, those who move from the U.S. often do so with healthcare costs on their mind as well.
The reality is that Panama offers a first-class healthcare system with a large number of English-speaking doctors. The access to high-quality healthcare here, at a fraction of the price it would cost in the states, is a huge draw with digital nomads, ex-pats, and retirees.
Also — it’s worth noting that technical speaking, Panama has a very low proficiency of English, with recent estimates noting that only about 15% of the population speaks English fluently. There are 2 points to mention here in terms of language.
The first is that while they might not be an English-proficient county on paper, Panama can be considered a very English-friendly country for many reasons. Not only have they been living among English speakers since the building of the Panama Canal, but also because the county it’s trying to reinforce its status as an international business hub.
Because of this, English has become more widespread in schools, and more and more people are able to converse in it. Now, of course, moving to another county one does not and should not expect the locals to speak in anything other than their native language, leading to point number 2.
A little goes a long way in terms of trying to communicate in Spanish with the locals.
Panamanians greatly appreciate even the most feeble attempt to converse with them in Spanish, and most are generally patient and understanding as you work through the mistakes. After all, there’s no better way to learn a language than to speak with the people in the community.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com