Some countries not only welcome foreign retirees, but compete for their attention. Special benefits programs offer resident retirees discounts and money-saving perks in countries including Belize, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Malaysia. There are also often exemptions from import duties associated with bringing personal belongings, household goods, and even a vehicle into the country.
Costa Rica promoted the first packaged program of special benefits for foreign retirees in the early 1980s. Costa Rica’s pensionado program, which has since been disbanded, allowed resident retirees to avoid import duties on their belongings and offered special savings on some in-country products and services.
The world’s premier program of special benefits for foreign retirees is in Panama. Retirees in Panama are entitled to a one-time tax exemption of up to $10,000 on the importation of household goods and a tax exemption every two years for the importation or local purchase of a new car. And this valuable tax perk is only the start of the savings and benefits. Resident retirees in Panama also enjoy:
- 50 percent off entertainment anywhere in the country including movies, theaters, concerts, and sporting events
- 30 percent off bus, boat, and train fares
- 25 percent off airline tickets for in-country flights and international flights booked from within Panama
- 50 percent off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
- 30 percent off hotels stays from Friday through Sunday
- 25 percent off at restaurants
- 15 percent off at fast-food restaurants
- 15 percent off hospital bills if no insurance applies
- 10 percent off prescription medicines
- 20 percent off medical consultations
- 15 percent off dental and eye exams
- 20 percent off professional and technical services
- 50 percent off closing costs for home loans
As an added bonus, every bank in Panama has special express lines for retirees. It is required by law.
It is generally easy to take advantage of these discounts. Many stores and businesses, especially in Panama City, post the pensioner savings they offer somewhere near the cashier. Many will offer the discount without your even having to ask about it if they suspect you’re of the age to benefit. Whenever a restaurant or shop doesn’t bring it up, you simply have to mention your pensionado status. Your bill will be discounted appropriately and with a smile. “I get a discount off everything I do, everywhere I go,” explains a retired American living in Panama City. “The only things that haven’t been discounted so far are my gin and tonics at the bar on the corner and I’m taking that up with the bartender.”
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.