Sunday, March 28, 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the people behind Travel Hippi?

Hi, we are Chris and Ciska. Originally from South Africa, we exchanged our anchored citizenship for a mobile and minimalist life. We retired early and moved abroad, to Hispanic America. Here we will keep searching for a base from where we can travel as and when it suits us. Right now, that base is on our boat ‘Es Tiempo’ in the Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama. Find out more.

What does the name Travel Hippi mean?

The name? Yes, we get that question a lot. And fortunately, people love it! The name Travel Hippi is a fusion of our love for travel and our rebuff of the establishment. We simply decided to live our values and to act on our courage to retire abroad. So nothing sinister, just a cool name.

What is the essence of Travel Hippi?

Our tagline, Residency in Panama, is the essence of our website. Our mission is to offer information about residency in Panama and other selected countries in a credible and professional manner. Not neglecting the personal touch, we will share our experiences of expat life and going minimalist. Of course, we will include travel stories too! Find out more.

Is the website secure?

Yes, a Transport Layer Security (TLS, formerly SSL) certificate is installed on our web server. This is evident from our URL that starts with https:// and the small padlock symbol in the address bar. (image below)


Will I receive spam if I subscribe?

Never! We will never make available, in any way, your email address to a third party. From Travel Hippi you can expect only relevant and useful information such as a notification of a new post and a newsletter. Find out more.

Do you accept guest posts?

Yes, we would love to have you as a guest author. Please read the information about our audience, the subject matter we are looking for and the submission guidelines. Find out more.

What does the website contain?

Travel Hippi is a resource site, offering information about Residency and Expat Life in Panama. The core details are contained in the Residency Guide. The Blog supports the Residency Guide with detail articles on related topics. The Resources page further supports the reader with resources, tools and connections.

Are the Resources trustworthy?

Yes, we either use or properly investigate each of the resources, tools and connections that we list. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions about any of the resources, please send us an email. Find out more.

What is a “Residency Guide?”

The Residency Guide is the core of the Travel Hippi website. The Residency Guide has three sections, namely:

  • Introduction: will give you a basic understanding and quick overview of Panama.
  • Visas & Residency: factual and concise, with all the information you need regarding the visa and residency processes.
  • Budget Calculator: allows you to do a budget in minutes. Find out more.

What is in the Blog?

The Blog is a collection of articles that support the core of the website namely the Residency Guides. We use Categories to navigate between posts, which can be summarized as follows:

  • Panama: All articles with information specific to Panama, from visas to everyday life.
  • Expat Life: It covers the multiple challenges of adjusting to everyday life in a new country.
  • Hispanic America: Information about the region at large and the countries we have selected.
  • Retire Early: Retirement needs money. We share lifestyle ideas for early retirement. Find out more.

What is Hispanic America?

Hispanic America (Spanish: Hispanoamérica or América hispana) also known as Spanish America (Spanish: América española) is the region comprising the Spanish-speaking nations in the Americas.

Hispanic America also contrasts with Latin America, which includes Hispanic America as well as Brazil and French Guiana.

Where is Hispanic America?

The region spans two continents. The northernmost country is Mexico, in North America, while the southernmost country is Argentina, in South America. The distance between the northernmost point, which is near Los Algodones in the US, and the southernmost point, Ushuaia in Argentina, is approximately 10,700km (6,650 miles).

Which countries are part of Hispanic America?

blankThere are 19 countries in Hispanic America. In a roughly north to south direction, these are: Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

Which countries do Travel Hippi feature?

Firstly, we excluded the three islands: Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Then 16 countries remained.

Secondly, we excluded countries that we deem unsafe and/or unstable: Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Then 12 countries remained.

Thirdly, we selected the six countries with the overall best residency options. The countries that Travel Hippi will feature are:

  • Panama
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Chile
  • Argentina

Do all countries require tourist visas?

This question needs a roundabout answer.

First, the difference between “visa-free entry” and “visa required” must be explained. The phrase “visa-free” does not mean you do not need or receive a visa at all, it simply means that you will receive a tourist visa upon arrival. “Visa required” means you have to apply for a tourist visa, at the target country’s embassy or consulate in your country of residence. If the visa is approved, you may then travel to that country.

This answer applies to tourist visas. All countries have numerous other visa options, and most of these options would require application and approval prior to arrival. In some cases, you may enter on a tourist visa, and then apply in country for a different visa.

To check whether you require a tourist visa, click here.

What is the difference between immigration and residency?

Immigration is moving to a country of which you are not a citizen, in order to remain there as a resident or naturalized citizen.

Residency is your legal resident status in a country of which you are not a citizen, and could be temporary or permanent.

Looking at the two definitions, the relationship becomes clear. The process of immigration would necessarily require the application for residency. Thereafter, further processes may lead to naturalization.

Not every country allows permanent residency and/or naturalization.

What is a cedula?

Very generally, it means a permit or order issued by the government.

However, when we discuss residency, the phrase “cedula” has a more specific meaning. A cedula is the primary form of identification, issued by the Electoral Tribunal, the Department of Home Affairs or another, similar institution.

Allow me to use Panama as an example: the residency cards, both temporary and permanent, are called “carnets”, issued by immigration. After you have received your permanent residency, you can voluntarily apply for your “cedula”, issued by the Electoral Tribunal.

Can I apply for citizenship?

Not all countries allow naturalization. Those that do, generally link the road to citizenship to one or more specific visas, each with their own rules and regulations.

Very generally, the process would look something like this:

  • Choose the most appropriate visa option;
  • Complete the application and receive temporary residency;
  • Depending on the country’s regulations, permanent residency would follow;
  • After the prescribed time period, and provided all requirements are met, apply for naturalization;
  • If citizenship is granted, apply for a passport.

What are the different options to obtain residency?

The two most popular visas used to obtain residency, are the Pensionado Visa and the Friendly Nations Visa. The former is very popular amongst American and Canadian expats.

Panama has a number of other options, the most noteworthy including the following:

  • Reforestation Investor Visa
  • Self Economic Solvency Visa
  • Married to a Panama Citizen Visa
  • Business Investor Visa
  • Parents of a Child Born in Panama Visa
  • Professional Employment Visa

Is Panama safe?

There are two main sources to use when trying to find an answer to this question, namely statistics and residents.

Firstly, statistics. I have written an extensive post about safety in Panama, and from the statistics you will be able to form an opinion.

Secondly, the opinion of residents. Each answer reflects the opinion of the person offering the answer, which in turn, is influenced by their frame of reference. Asking a Canadian and a South African whether Panama is safe, will solicit two very different answers!

If you ask me if I feel safe in Panama, I will answer as follows:

“We are aware of the crimes that occur around us, we read the local and expat forums, as well as the online newspaper(s). Nevertheless, we feel safe in Panama, including Panama City. We have used the Metro extensively, and love walking from 5 de Mayo to Casco Viejo. We enjoy the photo opportunities in San Felipe and feel safe to walk to the top of Ancon Hill. There are areas in the city that we avoid altogether. In Bocas, we never hesitate to walk or cycle wherever we want to go. We do our level best to take whatever precautions we can. Knock on wood; to date we have not been the victim of a crime in Panama.”

What does it cost to live in Panama?

Until recently, Panama was considered a cheap retirement haven. Regrettably, that is no longer true.

Many places in Panama offer favourable cost of living conditions, but prospective expats should do their research before making a final decision about where to live.

The article What Does It Cost To Live In Panama?, covers the detail about cost of living in Panama, including a budget calculator, which will give you a budget estimate in minutes.

What food is common in Panama?

The foodies and health fanatics will find the food in Panama somewhere between bland and unhealthy. A typical meal contains a lot of starch, almost everything is fried and it lacks a spicy bite. In addition, unlike a typical Mediterranean diet, the food in Panama does not include significant amounts of vegetables or greens.

However, that is a generalization. The food in Panama includes a number of dishes that are remarkable and over-the-top delicious. You can read this article for detail, including a few recipes.

What are the climate choices in Panama?

Panama is exactly 1,000km from the equator, that peculiar region that does not have four distinct seasons. Panama is tropical hot, year round, except for the towns and settlements in the highlands where the temperature is a bit lower.

Although Panama is a country with high rainfall, the so-called dry Dry Arc and eastern shores of the Azuero Peninsula, are much drier.

This article contains a lot of detail about the most popular expat locations: What Are The Climate Choices In Panama?

What are the diseases to avoid in Panama?

The construction of the Panama Canal is associated with thousands of deaths caused by malaria and yellow fever. Fortunately, malaria is very well under control and yellow fever wiped out completely.

However, Panama is a tropical country with a warm climate, so you can expect a mosquito or two to be hiding somewhere. The Darien Gap and aptly named Mosquito Coast are undeveloped jungle areas, where you should be extra careful.

Your chance of attracting one of the tropical diseases is relatively small, provided you apply preventative measures. Your chances to succumb to one is in fact very small.