There are a couple of International organizations and individuals who are pushing Nicaragua, Panama and Ecuador for retirement and living. They are especially big on the last two places. Well, the bottom line is that you get what you pay for and unfortunately many mistakenly confuse affordability with quality of life.
People on tight budgets or pensions will opt for countries with a lower cost of living. The three countries above are definitely more affordable than Costa Rica, but all of them have their drawbacks.
Many expats have found happiness in Nicaragua. I know a couple of gentleman who moved from Costa Rica to Nicaragua to get more for their money. Now they are saving some money every month which they could not do in Costa Rica. Both of them live in the seaside town of San Juan del Sur. However, they admitted that aside from reducing their expenses they would rather live in Costa Rica if it was more affordable because both the lifestyle and weather are better. They also failed to take into account that Nicaragua virtually has a dictator for president who controls basically everything in the country and is aligned with Cuba, Iran and Venezuela. Furthermore, many Nicaraguans are very unhappy with the new canal project since they will be displaced from their homes. There is also a small armed group of subversives in the north of the country who seeks to overthrow president Ortega’s government. To boot, the latter also wants to spend money on new combat planes in the second most impoverished country in the western hemisphere after Haiti. He should be spending the funds to improve Nicaraguan’s daily lives.
In terms of Ecuador, “all that glitters is not gold.” First, the country has a government with strong ties to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba which are all anti-US. The country is also one of the most corrupt in the region and mistreatment of its indigenous population has been widely reported. Recently, The Inter American Press Association Monday deplored the authoritarianism of the Ecuador government, linking it directly to a continuing deterioration in press freedom in the South American country, new evidence of which is the shutdown of the daily print edition of the Quito newspaper Hoy.
Panama is probably the best country to live in after Costa Rica. The country offers some good discounts for retirees like travel within the country. The only problem is that there are fewer places to consider for living. I had a woman on one of my monthly relocation/retirement tours who was actually a resident of Panama. She told me that she was checking out Costa Rica because it offered more choices. Other than sweltering Panama City, boring, cloudy and isolated Boquete in the northwest part of the country and Coronado there are virtually no other places where expats live. Furthermore, the country just does not have weather like Costa Rica’s Central Valley or as many options for living.
Do not be fooled! People and organizations pushing the counties above as the next Costa Rica or the world’s best retirement havens, all have a vested interest which is expensive seminars and real estate sales. If you get on their mailing lists they will bombarded you with seemingly convincing information extolling the countries they are hyping.
A lot of countries strive to be the next Costa Rica but all fall way short.