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Global Crossroads: Living in Panama City, Panama

"The Crossroads of the Americas" has come a long way in only a hundred years. At the turn of the twentieth century it was still a part of Colombia. Secession in 1903 was rapidly followed by one of the largest and most complex construction projects ever undertaken: the Panama Canal, cited as one of the seven modern wonders of the world. Completed in 1914, the canal charged Panama's economy, but also made the country's political position even more complex. The country was beset by political crises, military coups and plots. Worsening relations with the U.S. culminated in the U.S. invading Panama City in 1989. With a shaky economy, high poverty rates, and parts of its capitol damaged or destroyed, Panama set about rebuilding, physically and economically.

The result is that twenty years later, Panama is one of the most competitive economies in Latin America. Panama City boasts modern infrastructure and gleaming high-rise buildings. Real estate in Panama, however, is still very affordable for foreign investors, and those looking to retire or buy a second home abroad would be well advised to consider Panama City, Panama real estate.

The city is home to almost a million inhabitants, and is the economic, financial, and cultural center of the country. It has been likened to Miami: fast-paced, buzzing with energy, with a vibrant Latin American culture. It feels like the international crossroads it is, and expatriates who move to Panama City will have a lot to do: lively nightlife, salsa dancing, or good dining. (Panama is an ethnically diverse city, and the food options reflect that by offering everything from sushi to kebabs.)

A short distance from the city, Panama offers opportunities to explore the lush countryside. Even in the city itself, some of the original rainforest has been preserved as the Parque Natural Metropolitano. Residents wanting a few hours of peace and quiet can walk through the forested park, inhabited by pumas, monkeys, tapirs, and birds, and feel as though they have left the city hours behind.

Expatriates find themselves blending readily into the multicultural mix of Panama City. The expatriate community here is strong, but not isolated. Moving to Panama is also made much easier by the country's many conveniences. Its infrastructure, such as roads, phone service, and internet connectivity, is reliable. This makes travel through the country relatively simple and inexpensive, and also means that Panama has a good tap water – there's no need to buy bottled water to avoid stomach trouble. Frequent flights link Panama City to many major U.S. cities. It's easy to find food brands from the U.S., and the city is a noted destination for shopping. Health care is both inexpensive and high-quality. Currency is the U.S. dollar, so there is never any need to worry about exchange rates.

Those wanting to move or retire to this colorful and convenient city will also find exceptional deals on real estate in Panama City. Many condo and apartment buildings come equipped with upscale amenities such as gyms, covered parking, and a 24/7 doorman. It's quite possible to find one of these units in the low $100,000 range. Combine this general affordability with a host of special incentives for retirees, and it's easy to see why many U.S. expatriates are drawn to the charms of this global crossroads.