bad experiences in Panama

Hi everybody, I post this topic because I would like understand better the cons of this country.

Surplus of homeless dogs abound. In Bocas del Toro, most seem to be pit bulls.

Since you also posted this exact question on the Philippine's Forum, please explain the question further.

What one person may see as a "con" of Panama, someone else may see as a "pro" for Panama.

to solve the problem adopt all these cats and dogs
the planet belongs to the animals
when they are gone we are next

I hae no need for a dozen pit bulls. )

Sometimes they toss their trash wherever.
Getting things done can involve copies, sometimes many copies! In general processes can be different from what we are used to.
Running a business here, buying property, etc can be especially challenging for expats who aren't familiar with the laws and customs (but even the locals have their challenges with this at times)
Employees can need a lot of supervision, and there are a lot of complicated rules and requirements for how you treat an employee.
Dogs bark, roosters crow, and sometimes the neighbors play music and/or make noise, especially on Sundays.
They love fireworks and can use them from any holiday or celebration.
If you aren't careful sometimes your laundry gets rained on.
It is hard for some gringo size people to find clothes and shoes that are big enough.
There is no mail service. (wait, can we classify that as bad, or is it actually good?)
They are crazy drivers until you get used to the driving style here. At least they are all the same sort of crazy so you usually know what to expect.
There are very few street signs so you get lost a lot until you learn your way around.
There aren't as many rules, and you can pretty much do what you want on your own property - take your car apart in the yard, run a business, paint the house purple, cook the food in the front yard over an open fire... you get the idea.
They all speak in a different language. Outside Panama City and areas known for expats and tourists, it may be hard to find someone who speaks English so you need to learn Spanish.

I'm sure I could think of more, but this will give you something to mull over. Of course what is a problem for one person is not for another, or may even be a positive. I have found a few things puzzling, but nothing to be a problem of any consequence. It helps to come with a sense of humor and laid back attitude.

Hello , can I help you, what happend. call me if  you like.
Kind regards,

Not really a bad experience but garbage is treated as though a leaf has fallen off a tree and is lying on the ground. The urban areas have years of garbage thrown all around the sides of the road, alley ways, next to trash bins, just everywhere. I'm guessing that it will eventually be assimilated into the sub-soil and someday be a treasure trove for alien archeologist.   We were quite shocked with the discarded garbage.
      They also love their car horns in Panama City. There is almost an incessant blaring of car horns 24/7 I kid you not. It builds to a crescendo around rush hours and slows to a muted symphony during the wee hours. But it never stops totally.

My impressions on the preceding after one short month: Boquete and the surrounding highways were free of trash, more so than most North American byways. The same cannot be said for Bocas de Toro, as garbage washes ashore and stays there for quite a while.
The horn honking seemed to be a courtesy rather than an aggression. A light 2-tap to alert pedestrians or merging traffic of your presence. This honking is accepted graciously by the honkees. It is not the type of honking you hear from taxis in NYC.

You are correct on both, the honking is  courteous  and the trash was mainly limited to Coronado and Panama City. The rest of the country side was relatively clean. In remote areas it was almost spotless.

salimig :

You are correct on both, the honking is  courteous  and the trash was mainly limited to Coronado and Panama City. The rest of the country side was relatively clean. In remote areas it was almost spotless.

I've made quite a few trips from Sabanitas along the Caribbean to Portobelo and beyond - unfortunately, trash strewn all along the roadway. 

Another "bad" experience:  got stopped in daylight by would-be robbers who saw fit to lay a log across the road to stop us.  We out-sized and out-numbered them (to their surprise) and even with their limited math skills they figured that their chances were not so great and their plan was aborted.  Definitely not a good idea to travel at night along so many of Panama's roads, especially if elderly or alone.  I think the areas of El Cangrejo, Obarrio, Bella Vista, Punta Pacifica, Punta Paitilla, Balboa Ave., etc. of Panama City are all safer than many remote areas of Panama.

Thanks a lot to evrybody. Really appreciated to help me undestand and discover Panama.

Well put!

Our first trip to Panama was enjoyable and exciting except for two issues. The first one was there are no marked roads or highways. We rented a car at the Panama airport and had a good map, but we could not find our way. It took us 3.5 hours to get to our resort which was 45 minutes away. It was done by trial and error. My advise is to take a taxi or arranged transportation or a GPS.
The second frustrating experience was that no one spoke English. We couldn't get help with directions. I had an English/Spanish book with me and tried to ask questions using that but that was very difficult. My advise is to learn some basic Spanish.
We were also disappointed by the clarity of the water on the ocean. We went to Coronado which we thought would be a great place to visit, but it turned out otherwise.
The people are very friendly and the country is beautiful. We will try to return one day but will be better prepared.

Yes I sympathize with you. The road signs are few  and they are far between. GPS is the only way to travel anywhere world wide. You should always learn some travel words and phrases. Particularly Spanish.  Road maps are necessary for when you are totally lost and no GPS signal. Inside a downtown city, road maps are useless.  Traffic in Panama City can be best described as chaotic to the initiated but can be understood after a few trips, What I found fascinating was that as you drive away from the city, speed limits drops. As you get closer to the airport, the speed limit zooms to 110 KPM. One thing I did like was the absence of traffic lights on the Pan American Hwy between major cities. beware of traffic police on the highway. They always hide under shade trees next to the highway but their motorcycle is visible next to the road.

It took a while for me to finally see something in Panama that I find irritating.  My first con of Panama.  I knew prostitution was legal in Panama before moving here.  I have seen the "ladies" from time to time and just felt like they were earning a living and did not think much about it.  My problem is not with the "ladies".

A friend of my husband has been visiting us for the past week, who happens to be single.  Every time the 2 men travel alone for a day trip, the guides try to "connect" them with "ladies" and make a point to show them the locations where they can meet the "ladies".  When my husband says he is married, the tour guides just shift their focus to our friend.  The tour company is used by a major hotel in Punta Pacifica, so I would not expect this as part of a tour.  Be wary of private tours in Panama City.

you forgot that they are rude and not much of a custom service specialists.. these are issues that really get on my nerves! and i am Venezuelan not a huge change of culture from a general point of view.. i can only imagine your shock. i believe Panamenians are great and gentle people; some of them just need a little bit of training and some manners.

hello my friend.. oh this is just.. i have no words. i have to tell you that i have worked with expats before, them staying in a country for three years or so and that kind of men always get that "service" perhaps they are accostumed to offer it because a lot of men actually pursuit it.. Of course as a private tour the company should not get involved on this businesses.

Hello Mary, my name is Louisa. My husband Greg and I are thinking of moving to Panama City in about 3 years. Currently we live in California. We started the friendly nation visa already. I'm thinking of starting a business earlier, maybe sooner if the right opportunity come. I might just move in part time first. We have already been here once and we love it. We are planning another trip in December. I would love to make some friends.
If anyone want to contact us for friendship or business opportunities, please email lifeisgreat4us at

I found your post on bad experiences in panama to be very funny, after having lived in the obarrio section of the city.  you hit everything dead on but i also find it funny that people are posting all of these problems, especially their frustration that no one speaks english.  the country belongs to the panamanians and their culture and language.  if they want english and the american way of life they should stay home.    :/

Haahaa, very funny, I didn't read all the posts carefully before I post it here. So earlier the posts were referring business with ladies.... Okay we are NOT interested in these business opportunities, maybe they are lucrative, but no desire or skills to pursue this... Haahaa
Well, maybe also I put it in under the wrong topic. Anyway maybe any bad business experience to share?

Np lol.  If you are looking to start a business in Panama you should be aware that it is pretty difficult. I wanted to move back but needed a way to support myself so am in progress of forming a medical tourism company.  It is US based but uses providers in Panama and Costa Rica as well as will be offering an aftercare house in Costa Rica if this interests you.  Its been slow going as I have had to learn everything about it as well as do all needed networking alone and I really need another person that will be as interested as I am in making it successful.  Im to the point of an almost completed business plan, providers lined up, quality customer service dept reps found, the aftercare home located and am attending a medical tourism convention the end of the month where I hope to get my remaining questions answered before going full swing and hoped to find another person interested to help partner.
If you think this may work for you, please write back  back, we can connect and I can send further details.

Agreed! If you want everything to be Americanized, then don't go to Panama, or any other non-American country.
There is an arrogance to moving to another culture and country and then wanting them to conform to your Westernized view of how to live and be.

Am not sure what your problem was, because I drove all over Panama and
except for going from the airport at night to a hotel In the City, it was fine.
While I do speak a little Spanish, I found a lot of people who spoke enough
English for me to get whatever I needed. By the way, I was 71 years old and
totaling traveling alone.  I got to meet a lot of great Panamanian people.

Sounds just like New York City.

Surely you haven't lived off of Balboa Avenue or Via Israel in San Francisco.  Horns are constant and loud.  It's part of the city experience.

I have made two bad experiences with venezolans in panama! The first has deceived me, the second has robbed me, even though I have given him and his family a job. The curiosity was that both were very educated and professional. I do not trust any more Venezuelans!!

No one know how to get anywhere in Panama

LOL. Isn't that the truth! It's not easy to get a taxi to my house because they go to the wrong dead end street, the wrong yellow house, etc. But, a few months ago they put up......  believe it or not.....  street signs!! I didn't know any of those streets even had names. Directions are still by yard ornaments though, past the house with the fountain of the boy peeing, near the two speed bumps, or the house with yellow flowers (which describes half the houses in the area)

Trash dumped anywhere, everywhere, especially in the prettiest and remotest of Chiriquis many beautiful rivers......and of course along the road and in the bush in front of my finca......full time job picking up the garbage here....and if theres any time left over Im fixing water lines.......always water or power outages, but power outages much less now than before.......seems like the system has been refined and upgraded around here.......quality of driving is blatantly bad and rude and discourteous and reckless even....but its worse in Costa Rica and be thankful of that.....So many expats here  now and returning Panas from the U.S. or Canada that the situation in terms of driving skills and courtesy seems to be improving......But urban planning is terrible in David and of course Pty.......Seems like any high school kid could lay out a better more sensible road system.......Staying out of the city as much as possible seems to be the formula for better mental health and positive attitude........The musical tastes of most people here are definately different than my own........Im not a fan of reggaeton or tipico.....and they dont seem to take a shine to Blues or Jazz or Brazilian jazz either........The women are mostly fat and wear too much makeup.......This is NOT a happy hunting ground for a single guy, altho of course there are exceptions, and those are mostly in the big city......Maybe the singular advantage of Pty outside of some gormet restaurantes...........Lots of bad guys, and home invasions, but the police are actually working better since Varela (one of the only advantages) and are catching a lot of them.........The bureacracy has actually gotten more complicated and more costly.....When I got here it was straightforward and easy and cheap......Which is why I made the move from Costa Rica where the govt is a nightmare.............But in that regard Panama is catching up, also in regards to cost of living cuz inflation has been out of control in recent years..........Despite all these new hidro electric power plants up and down evry river in Chiriqui elect costs have just jumped again for consumers who use over 300 kw which means increased costs for every bizniss.......I would never want to open a bar or a restaurant in this country with the twisted one sided labor laws, the now extremely high overheads............the only people makin any money are the landlords........

New topic