Coronado Panama vs Atlantida Uruguay
For more than 40 years, my wife Lise and I have continuously searched for a better quality of life wherever it might take us in the world and the search goes on today. If you take the time to read my free eBook you will better understand our saga. Incidentally I will be publishing a new eBook this month focused exclusively on Coronado.
There will always be some disadvantages wherever you choose to live. It might be too expensive, too cold, too boring or unsophisticated, too threatened by “ObamaCare” or any number of related economic, political and social drawbacks. Clearly, everything is relative to your personal priorities and no place is perfect for everyone.
With this in mind we visited Uruguay 2 years ago on a fact finding mission to see how well Panama stacks up. Both countries have a population of about 3.5 million people. We prefer countries with smaller populations.
The bottom line was that we came to the conclusion that we actually could live happily in Uruguay and particularly in Atlantida, a small “ocean front” town on the Rio Plata about 25 miles from Montevideo somewhat similar to Coronado but without the security gates.
Economics, Politics, Education and Crime
Uruguay has one of the highest per capita incomes of Central and Latin America (just behind Chile and ahead of Panama). The economic growth rate in Uruguay has been extremely strong with very low unemployment levels. These trends have been increasing during the past two years with housing prices rising sharply. The government is very stable. Education levels are very high with free university tuition up to and including the doctorate level. Crime rates per 100,000 were very low in most categories. Warren Buffet has been buying Uruguayan agricultural land.
The weather in Atlantida is virtually identical to the weather in San Diego California or the Algarve in Portugal with “winter” temperatures dipping to perhaps 40 degrees at night. The “high season” is packed in Atlantida as the population swells from about 5000 to 20,000 for three months. Ocean swimming or even wading except for the brave at heart is perhaps 4 months whereas in Coronado the ocean temperature is always at about 80 degrees. But sometimes Coronado becomes too hot and humid for some people and they have to seek shelter indoors or in the pool under a shade bohio.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Uruguay was higher than Panama by perhaps 15% with certain categories of expenses being substantially higher such as purchasing a new automobile (about double) and buying gasoline (about double). Electronic stuff is readily available but about 10% higher than in Panama.
Medical care in Uruguay is rated better than Panama by the World Health Organization. The best part however, is that once you formally declare your intent to become a permanent resident of Uruguay, you are immediately eligible for their state health care and you can also sign up for a “mutualista” health care policy from a specific hospital which is better than the state care program. The monthly cost for a hospital plan is in the $75 to $150 per month range per person depending on age.
Ability to Work and Citizenship
Another major advantage for Uruguay is that the same day you declare your intent to become a permanent resident you can accept a job or start a small business. If married, your decision to reside in Uruguay can lead to full citizenship within three years. As a single person there is a 5 year wait for citizenship.
In Panama, a new program for a “professional or investor visa” was approved more than a year ago with relatively similar advantages but this is not quite as universal as the Uruguayan situation. This professional visa can result in Panamanian citizenship in 5 years but the standard “pensionado visa” for Panama does not permit employment and does not lead to citizenship. You remain a “glorified tourist”.
No Taxes on Global Income
Neither Uruguay nor Panama will tax you on money earned offshore meaning that you are NOT taxed on your global income. So your carefully planned million dollar a year internet income would be safe in both countries.
Banking secrecy in both countries is virtually identical with a strong and conservative banking sector in both countries. Panama actually has a more robust international banking sector with frequent comparisons made to Switzerland and/or Singapore.
The housing stock in Atlantida is certainly acceptable with prices of land close to the beach considerably less than in Coronado. One significant disadvantage in Atlantida is that many of the existing houses lack central heating. They were designed primarily for use during the “high season” from November until March. In contrast, Coronado houses, of course, do not require central heating and it is much easier and cheaper to retrofit/install an AC system than a central heating system. Moving to Atlantida would probably mean building a custom home from scratch with radiant floor heating and probably a solar system because the cost of electricity is very high.
The off-season selection of good restaurants in Atlantida is very limited. Don Vito’s is the best in town by far but in the off-season this establishment also suffers from a lack of central heating with inside temperatures in the 65 range (too cool for me without a heavy coat). There are perhaps five other restaurants within easy access.
In contrast, Coronado has about 35 restaurants (within 15 minutes of our house) open all year ranging from very expensive to very, very cheap. Last night for example we ordered vegetarian lasagna for two with sodas at “Leonardo’s Steak House” and paid $8.25 total. We could have eaten a huge portion of chicken and rice next door for two for about $6 or upstairs in the same commercial complex for about $50.
Coronado is also better for shopping if that happens to be your thing. There is one quite acceptable shopping center in Coronado with about 2 acres of inside shopping on three floors. There are also three major shopping centers easily available within a one hour drive. The largest has more than 400 modern stores (Albrook) selling every imaginable item. Westland is only about 40 minutes from Coronado and you could shop all day and still not visit every store. It is very new and still expanding rapidly. Then there is the Multi Plaza in downtown Panama City for people with a Platinum Credit Card ….. Rolex, Gucci, etc.
We found that Uruguay was a bit “far away” for our tastes given that we like to travel to Canada and Europe although the price differential for airplane tickets was that much more than from Panama.
We liked Atlantida for many reasons but we remain in Coronado still looking for the perfect place.