Many ex-pats are choosing to live in Latin America for a more perfect climate on a lower budget. Less heating and cooling energy use is better for the environment. Two top countries being considered are Ecuador and Panama. Here are details on what the climate is like in each country based on average rainfall and days of sunshine, temperature, humidity, and other factors influencing the decision.
For five years Ecuador remained at the top of International Living’s list of best places to retire. It has a more diverse climate depending on which of the four main regions are chosen. For average 75 degree days and 60 degree nights, try the mountains in the Andean Sierra. The humidity is relatively low there and the sun shines twelve hours a day. For a hotter, more humid climate year round, go to the coastal region and the Amazon rain forest, where temperatures remain between 80 and 95 degrees and it rains all year. Temperatures in the Galapagos Islands are much milder and the rainfall is less.
Most of Panama is hot and humid with temperatures averaging 84 degrees. It has lots of rainfall especially in the rainy season of May through December. The Caribbean side has the most with the Pacific coast getting a little less. In the higher elevations away from the coast, temperatures may be in the 50’s and there is less rain.
A second factor to climate is cost of living. In either country, it will be cheaper than living in the United States. A budget of about $1,200 per month will be the cost in Ecuador near the coast and cities. This includes rent which will be less in rural areas, sometimes as low as $150 a month. Gas is $1.50 a gallon, an average four course meal is $1.90, and a domestic servant is paid $10 a day. In Panama, the standard of living at $1,200 a month would be more like that of the local people. It really requires a higher budget to be comfortable in Panama.
While Ecuador may edge out Panama in perfect climate and low cost living, safety is better in Panama. New York City has more violent crimes in one day than Panama does in a year. Ecuador’s murder rate is four times that in the United States, much of the violent crimes occuring in the tourist areas and on public transportation, especially taxis.
Panama is also better for health care, especially in Panama City and David, with many private hospitals, English-trained and speaking doctors, and cost lower than in the United States. Cost is as much as 90 percent lower in Ecuador where doctors make house calls for less than $25. Health insurance for foreigners is available in both countries.
Panama is best for retiree incentives. Pensioner visa requirements are $1,000 per month in Panama versus $800 in Ecuador, but retirees can import up to $10,000 in household goods duty-free and a personal vehicle every two years in Panama. Also, Panama offers ten to fifty percent savings on utilities, closing costs, entertainment, travel, health care and almost all goods and services. Due to a labor shortage in Panama, ex-pats from a list of 47 countries can seek employment after relocating there.
Panama has better roads than Ecuador and its infrastructure is much like that in the United States. Costs of public transportation in Ecuador on buses and taxis average one dollar per hour, but may not be that safe. Radio dispatched taxis should be used and no cabs hailed just off the street. Costs in Panama are a little higher. Direct flights from a few cities to several United States hub airports are available in both countries.
It may be better to rent a home at first to be sure a region fills your needs. Panama offers a much better rental market than Ecuador and has more property management companies. Because the rental occupancy is higher, rental costs are higher in Panama than Ecuador.
Ecuador offers the cheapest homes for sale, but it is easier to buy real estate in Panama. New cement and red clay homes in Ecuador cost less than $100/square foot, about half the price of comparable but built differently homes in Panama. International banks offer financing to foreign residents in Panama, but closing costs are about six percent in Panama compared to about three percent in Ecuador. Panama property owners may be property tax exempt for several years if the home is their sole residence. Buying land in some of the remote areas where expats’ interest is just developing is a better investment in Ecuador. Lots in Panama are more expensive with more expat communities already established there.
Panama will feel the most like home in the United States with its larger, established expat community. Internet service is much better in Panama. Both countries use United States currency. English is spoken in both but in Ecuador it is mostly in tourist and international business locations. Many U.S.-based franchises are available in both countries and modern conveniences, more of course in the larger city areas.
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