This is all just my opinion, but here is a basic run down on what I consider the good and the bad about living in Panama. Please note that my home is in Panama City and so my opinions are based around living in the city.
PRO: Affordable and quality medical care.
CON: The heat and humidity. For me, it is uncomfortably hot and humid.
PRO: Friendly people. I have found it fairly easy to make friends in both the Panamanian and the expat community.
CON: Traffic. In the city, traffic is a nightmare.
PRO: Plenty to do. I rarely get bored in Panama. There is always something to do. Festivals, lectures, classes, parties, good restaurants, beautiful things to see. Since costs are relatively low, I can afford to actually go out and do things.
CON: Hot garbage. Seriously. The trash pick-up service in the city is severely lacking and dumpsters get overflowing with trash that sits in the heat and makes a stench. If you are considering living in Panama City, this is likely something you will see in most neighborhoods.
PRO: Affordable living costs. Panama is no longer “cheap” but housing and living costs are quite lower than most places I have lived in the US, UK and Western Europe.
CON: The many predatory real estate scams that are present in the Panama real estate market. Panama is moving away from it’s old west anything goes reputation of ten years ago, but you still have to navigate a pretty risky landscape of fraud and con-artists. If you are savvy, you can do it, but you must be very careful.
PRO: Panama, despite it’s flaws (the US certainly has it’s fair share of problems too) always feels like home. It is a fairly easy jump for a new expat. The currency is the US dollar, the expat community is large and friendly, the US is a short flight away and as an American you’re never really that far from something familiar. It is easy expatriation.
CON: Same as above. The Americanization can be seen as both pro and con.
PRO: The beauty. Panama is a genuinely beautiful country with a rich history and culture. It is difficult to not be charmed by it.