Close

Why do some expats leave Panama?

As I reach the conclusion of my second exploratory trip to Panama, I felt compelled to discuss this new phase.  I want to reaffirm how important it is to spend time in Panama before selling the house, the car, and all the belongings.  One month in Panama City for the first exploratory trip was enough for us to decide that PC was the right town for us in Panama.  We went back home to sell the furniture and put the smaller items in storage.  The car went into storage.  We returned to Panama and moved into a nice condo in a nice skyscraper in PC with great amenities.  We got the Pensionado Visas right away.  Our intent was to make the move permanent.

For 6 months we explored the city and learned how to do things the Panamanian way.  We grocery hunted at various stores and markets searching for better prices.  Food and supplies are ridiculously expensive in Panama, not just US and European brands.  At first, it was fun to grocery "hunt'' to find lower prices.  We made a game out of finding alternative products.  I had not used laundry powder in 20 years but, now, I was using laundry powder for 99 cents.  Liquid laundry detergent, even local brands, are excessively high.  I dug through bins of price-controlled veggies to lower the monthly food costs.  Our food budget continued to grow from the time of arrival.  No matter what anyone says, food and supplies are very expensive in Panama.  Add the poor quality control on perishables and the produce wasted due to being harvested far too soon, and the price of eating increases further.

Panamanians are lovely people.  Expats, on the other hand, are a mixed bag.  It will depend on what you are looking for in making friends.  I was surprised at the level of bossy, know-it-all expats who act like they are in high school.  Of course, there are nice down to earth expats, but you will need to participate in activities that you enjoy to meet them.  Skip meeting people through forums.  Meet people after you are in Panama. 

Living expenses are higher in Panama than Florida.  Panama City is very expensive but the buildings are safe and modern and you can walk or take a low cost taxi ride.  The interior of Panama is less expensive but you will need a car to get to the stores, doctors, or meet all those expats at the expat social spots. 

The first 6-7 months were an adventure.  We explored every neighborhood in PC and did everything on the to-do list.  At month #7, we finally wanted to ship our small crate of items.  The estimate was $2850 for warehouse to door.  We could never get a solid answer on the customs cost at arrival.  The best estimate was between $600 and $1000.  It was not worth the shipment costs.  That was when the realization began that this was not going to be a permanent move.   

Panama is a nice country.  But it is NOT a cheap retirement location.  Go because you want the adventure.  Rent a furnished place for 6-12 months.  Store everything until you are absolutely certain the move is for the rest of your life.

I am now in Florida, doing a reverse exploratory trip.  After almost 10 months living in Panama, I am shocked at how cheap Florida is.  We were thinking of trying a 6/6 expat life but after this visit to Florida......no way!

A few price comparisons:

Panama City rent:  $2,600 for a 1 bedroom furnished apartment
Orlando, FL:   $1,655 for a 3 bedroom, unfurnished, brand new, w/attached garage, lake view

PC apartment deposit:  one month security deposit, plus last month's rent, total $5,222
Orlando apartment deposit:  $200

PC NR pet fee:  $450
Orlando pet NR pet fee: $150 plus refundable deposit of $150

PC electric deposit:  $300
Orlando Power deposit:  $0

Administrative fees PC:  $0
Administrative fees Orlando:  $225

Total startup costs to rent in PC:  $5972
Total startup costs in FL:  $725

A few price comparisons on items:

2 L bottles of Coke/Pepsi PC $1.99 --------FL $1
12 oz. bottle of brand water PC 55 cents.........Fl 15 cents, in 24 packs
12 oz. can of soda PC 65 cents (12 pks are 12 X 65 cents)  FL 12 packs are $2.50
Pedigree can dog food PC $1.89, FL .89 cents


You can do your own price comparisons by going to www.ribasmith.com and you can signup for Publix grocery ads with their famous "buy-one-get-one-free'' sales at www.publix.com

The Dollar Tree, Big Lots, Save-a-Lot, and Aldi add more savings on store brands.

This reverse exploratory trip back home has been just as important as the original exploratory trip to Panama.  I am glad we moved to Panama City and I am glad we will return to FL full-time.  Someone on this Forum has said it is difficult to make friends in FL.  So untrue.  People have been super nice everywhere we go.  Young Hispanics come up and talk with us.  I think they sense that we like them.  I can use my Spanish here but most people speak English.  Another person once posted that FL is nothing but old people.  Again, untrue.  Orlando is booming with young people.  People who want to live with many oldsters move to the Villages.  The Villages may be the Boquete of FL.

Lastly, I just want to repeat:  VISIT Panama for an extended period.  RENT for a while in Panama before declaring the move to be permanent.  Be very cautious if you bring pets.  The rules in Panama keep changing. Once you live in Panama for a while, and decide it is time to go home, DO NOT let other expats pressure you, or guilt you into staying.
Before moving to Panama, be sure that what you are looking for cannot be found at home.  Maybe all you need is a new apartment or a new neighborhood.

Excellent report right to the point and no BS. As a 10 year resident here and getting screwed around by immigration for 6 years and having to put up with this backwards country and mentality. It's been a nightmare trying to build a totally organic non GMO Finca. The government here is nothing but a "Make work project" for the locals. Talk about redundancies and mountains of forms that mostly all need to be notarized. When you deal with the gov't agencies you need to realize that for the most part the workers can't be fired and are basically incompetent.

Sorry I have to finish this later...my dinner is on the table.....

Agree with you on your paperwork comments.  Panama kept adding more steps to getting a driver's license.  We finally gave up.  When we flew to Orlando, it was supposed to be easy to bring our dog in the cabin.  Bringing a pet to Panama has always been complicated but flying to the US was supposed to be simple; Get a health certificate less than 10 days old and bring the proof of rabies vaccination.  We confirmed with Copa that we had all documents but when we got to the gate, the agent said the docs needed to be signed by the ministry.  The agent insisted that the dog could not fly but I insisted that Orlando only required the proof of the rabies shot and the health certificate.  Finally, the agent called Orlando International Airport to confirm what FL required.  We almost missed the flight.  Panama constantly changes the rules on everything.  Feistiness is a good quality to have if you live in Panama.

Excellent report right to the point and no BS. As a 10 year resident here and getting screwed around by immigration for 6 years and having to put up with this backwards country and mentality. It's been a nightmare trying to build a totally organic non GMO Finca. The government here is nothing but a "Make work project" for the locals. Talk about redundancies and mountains of forms that mostly all need to be notarized. When you deal with the gov't agencies you need to realize that for the most part the workers can't be fired and are basically incompetent.

Sorry I have to finish this later...my dinner is on the table.....

Back again......Some of the things that irk me are.....when you go to any gov't agency NONE of the forms or laws are available in ENGLISH . This is due to the lawyers wanting to make it impossible for one to file their own docs. The drivers license test is in SPANISH with no ENGLISH version available!!!! WTF is with that...oh thats right you need an interpreter just to read the test for you. Here's the problem with that....you only get 1 minute to answer and most interpreters can't read it that fast as it is foreign words to them. So you automatically fail the test if you get 4 non answers. They REFUSE to give you a paper with the questions in ENGLISH. Now don't give that BS about you need to speak Spanish. Most countries in Central America offer the test in ENGLISH!!! I currently have a valid Costa Rica license but these neanderthals  refuse to accept it yet CR accepts the Panama license.

Now we get to my pet peeve...FENOSA/EDEMET the electric part time supplier!!!! Depending on where you live here, you either have not had ANY electricity or you have to put up with frequent blackouts that last from 5 minutes to 8 hours or more most everyday!!!! Just today we lost power 4 times for a total time of 25 minutes. The power surges are 15-20 times a day and we had to buy a power control unit to save our appliances and pumps. FENOSA has no oversight and could care less about it's customers. I think all the bigger users boycott FENOSA and blockade the highway to get attention to this problem. We need more wind power units and/or solar panels on all houses so we can tell FENOSA to F'off!!!!

Another thing is how the country has turned into a total police state as in the USSA. They now have these phony check points everywhere and it is a total waste of time and money as are the radar cops who basically stand around talking to the girlfriend on their cell fons which I pay for. Or they are in the "SPEED TRAP" setup on the highway which goes from 100kph to 40kph for no real reason....It's just a money maker for them...always keep a 5'er or ten spot with your license. If they demand more tell them you want their supervisor to come.

In closing for now...we are no longer employing local labor. WHY you ask...well bcoz no matter how much you pay them under a written and signed contract, when the quit or are fired, they go to the labor board and tell all kinds of lies and before you know it your in a battle you can't win, EVER!!! All this piece of shit accomplished was that now we will NEVER hire the locals EVER!!!! So watch out with your domestic's and handymen. They will work for you for any number of years and unless your willing to cough up many thousands of $$$'s they go to the criminal corrupt labor board and make your life a living hell, unless you have prepared well for these criminals and their gov't agents. The ggod news is you can screw them around by agreeing on a settlement and paying the as little as $10 a week. That means that every week they have to go to the board to pickup the money. F'm....

That's it from here....if anyone is interested in buying a beautiful Finca cheap...just let me know we are very motivated.

Far better blogs about the realities of living in Panama vs. the fairytale are:

www.blog.thepanamaadventure.com  (David)

www.panamaforreal.com  (Panama City)   

www.toddysplace.blogspot.com  (Pedasi)  These successful expats are leaving Panama after 5 years.

www.gringosabroad.com/gringosabroad-no-more  Ecuador bloggers that left after 6 years and returned to Canada.  It is a good story of why successful expats go home.

www.tombseekers.com (Boquete)  This blogger shares the truth about life in Panama, not just the dream.

Maryanne - 2 of your links don't work for me. However I should say that nothing I have read about moving to Panama has led me to think that the col in PC would be reasonable or an improvement over North America. Your comments are valuable in reinforcing that impression.  But the month we spent in Boquete demonstrated clearly that food costs there - in Boquete - are a fraction of what we pay in Canada.

www.tombseekers.wordpress.com
www.thepanamaadventure.com
www.gringosabroad.com/gringosabroad-no-more-why-
bryan-dena-left-ecuador

Hopefully, these will work.

Food comparisons can be tricky.  If you eat mostly the local foods like rice, chicken, potatoes, eggs, bakery breads, and the price controlled vegetables, maybe you will be ok.  These items were cheap even in Panama City.  A fresh loaf of French bread was 65 cents.  A dozen eggs for 98 cents.  Some things are cheap in PC.  Local beer was 57 cents a can.  My husband preferred it to Budweiser.   Even if a person can live off these things alone, supplies will add up.  There are few local pet foods available in Panama.  Expats keep saying, buy local.  That is great if you can find local or can do without the item.   Pet food, sodas, paper towels, TP, tissue, toothpaste and many other day to day products are double what they cost in the US.

Shopping at PriceMart helps a little.  There is one in David and one in PC.  If you skip using a dishwasher, then there will be no need to buy DW soap.  I have only found Cascade brand at $6 a bottle.  Off brands in the US are as low as a $1.  Substitute or do without is the motto for shopping.  It all depends on what each person needs or wants.  I cannot speak for Boquete, but the food prices have kept rising in PC. 

In Boquete, one will need a car.  That adds to the cost of living.  In PC, it is easy to walk everywhere.  I do not see the COL savings out in Boquete, a 7-8 hour drive from PC.  Buying a car and paying for gas and insurance is expensive also.  Location is very subjective and I am happy we chose PC over all interior locations.  To each his own on location.

The only way to know for sure about a permanent life in Panama is to try living in Panama for a while.  It is not my intent to talk anyone out of their dream.  No one could have stopped us from moving to Panama.  My only intent is to suggest that people listen to all the past people on this forum, like sawman, and RENT first, DO NOT sell everything back home, and DO NOT buy a house or condo right away.  In the US, long-term storage is very cheap.  Vehicles can be stored in public storage facilities.  There are usually storage places near international airports. 

Most expats think the move is permanent, we did.  Why not play it safe, just in case.  We are very glad we did.  Our car was left in storage and although we sold the furniture, our personal possessions were safely stored for $28 per month. There are many wonderful things about living in Panama.  I have not driven in 10 months and have lost 16 pounds and no longer need BP pills.  Walking everywhere in PC has paid off.  But, when it comes to economics, Panama is a big bust.  We can live at 1/2 the cost in FL.

Great contributions PacificaMaryAnn.  As you point out, these are your first-hand experiences and while others may have other experiences, I think all prospective expats should heed your advise - for God's sake rent a year before buying.  It is easy to buy, hard to sell in Panama.  Whether one will find living in Panama "quirky" or downright unacceptable cannot be determined without experiencing it over an extended period.  If Panama were as cheap and idyllic as some would promote it, most expats would not leave their new country within four years as the anecdotal evidence indicates they will.  Enjoy your new home!

hello username609,

I have intentions of coming to Las Tables in the fall, to check out the possibility of a full time move. I would be interested in see your place as a possible landing zone. I will keep in touch, if that is OK w/you. Thanks for your time. Ron

Healthcare is another reason expats leave Panama.  Many expats go home for surgery paid for through their insurance.  Some expats buy medications on trips back home and bring their prescriptions on the flight back to Panama.   We had no healthcare issues so I did not experience anything other than buying cholesterol and BP meds over the counter.  Although we got the Pensionado discount, the medicines were cheaper when we used our US insurance at the pharmacy in the US.  In Panama, one must pay full price, minus the discount, and then send the receipts to the insurance company back home.  Once the deductible is met, then you will get a reimbursement. 

To read more about healthcare issues in Panama, read the thread, "Healthcare in Panama", by Julien on this forum.  There are excellent posts by WINDRIFTER and SawMan.

Thank you for an honest appraisal. This is not really Paradise. In fact, after llving almost three years in Pedasi, and spending a whack of money to get here, we are plannning to return to the west coast of Canada. The exchange rate for Canadian dollars finally finished us! I agree with all that you say, am glad I have had this experience, but we will lose a s*** load of money to return! Our house is for sale at a bargain basement price.

Beware of what you get into! I have written two books on this, and still need to say more... :dumbom:

Iris Todd-Lewis

author: "Panama? Why Panama?" and "Postcards from Panama"

Hunger in America: 1 in 7 rely on food banks
do you really want to go back

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdLvK9aS8gQ

In the next video, DEMCAD reviews a long list of retailers closing their doors. As much as I hate to say it, this should not be news to anyone. The mainstream media still wants to put Joe Biden on TV, foot in mouth and all, and have him tell us we are in yet another “Summer of Recovery.” Guess what? We’re not. Many of us have been screaming it from the rooftops, only for it to fall on deaf ears. Obama and his administration are pathological liars, and the sooner people wake up to that fact, the better off they’ll be. News Flash: The Obama “recovery” we keep hearing about is SO “robust,” over 6000 whole stores are closing from major retail chains across the country. Even worse news, we are nowhere near the worst of yet, but it’s coming.

LISTEN TO DEMCAD DISCUSS ALL THE STORES SHUTTING DOWN:

HERE ARE JUST A FEW:

Family Dollar & Dollar Tree: 340 Stores Closing Down

Office Max and Office Depot: Over 400 Stores Closing Down

U.S. Steel: Laying Off: Over 9000 Jobs Closing Down

Walgreen's: 200 Stores Closing Down

Target: 133 Stores Closing Down

Stapes: 55 Stores Closing Down

Sears: 77 Stores Closing Down

JC Penny: 40 Stores Closing Down

Abercrombie: 180 Stores Closing Down

American Eagle: 150 Stores Closing Down

Radio Shack: 1784 Stores Closing Down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmOSXoC8tgQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heOXGKmS_tw

An estimated seven million people starved to death during the Great Depression. And amazingly, these people had food preparation skills that are basically a lost art in America today (e.g. canning). With a staggering debt looming over the country, how vulnerable are Americans to starvation if and when an economic collapse takes down our economy?

BUT: Another online scandal has been gathering pace recently. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, deleted an article by a Russian researcher, who wrote about the USA’s losses in the Great Depression of 1932-1933. Indignant bloggers began to actively distribute the article on the Russian part of a popular blog service known as Livejournal. The above-mentioned article triggered a heated debate.

The researcher touched upon quite a hot topic in the article – the estimation of the number of victims of the Great Depression in the USA. The material presented in the article apparently made Wikipedia’s moderators delete the piece from the database of the online encyclopedia.

The researcher, Boris Borisov, in his article titled “The American Famine” estimated the victims of the financial crisis in the US at over seven million people. The researcher also directly compared the US events of 1932-1933 with Holodomor, or Famine, in the USSR during 1932-1933.

In the article, Borisov used the official data of the US Census Bureau. Having revised the number of the US population, birth and date rates, immigration and emigration, the researcher came to conclusion that the United States lost over seven million people during the famine of 1932-1933.

Almost beyond belief, a full 79 percent of the people that use food banks purchase typically buy cheap, unhealthy food and still just have enough to feed their children. The price of food continues to quickly out-pace the paychecks of most middle class families.
[link to www.usatoday.com]

For example, the average price of ground beef has just hit a brand new all-time record high of $3.88 per pound!
[link to cnsnews.com]


Just over one out of seven Americans rely on obtaining food from various banks at one point or another and these food banks are beginning to experience record shortages.
[link to www.usatoday.com]

America is already on the edge with regard to a starvation crisis due to economic conditions alone. An economic collapse, or no shortage of any other kind of disaster, would plunge this country into the depths of unimaginable horrors associated with extreme food shortages.

Some people are shocked and refuse to consider what many feel is the unthinkable. When an economic collapse comes to America, coupled with the nation’s extreme food vulnerability, just how desperate will people become?What have you done to prepare?

"I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it"------Terry Prachett, author.

It is funny how you left out the list of thousands of NEW store openings.  For example, Dollar General will open 570 NEW stores, Dollar Tree will open 600 NEW stores, and Walmart will open 240 NEW stores.  The list goes on and on.  Anyone can quickly google "store openings and closings" for the complete truth.  Stores close all the time and new ones open in new locations. 

Check out "The Senior List 2015" to compare all the restaurants, hotels, pharmacies, movie theaters, hotels, airlines, car rentals, and even thrift stores that offer discounts to seniors in the US.  Some start at age 50.  See how Panama's jubilado discounts compare to the US senior discounts.

*NOTE*  This website would like credit given when reprinting their information.

Toddlewis :

Thank you for an honest appraisal. This is not really Paradise. In fact, after llving almost three years in Pedasi, and spending a whack of money to get here, we are plannning to return to the west coast of Canada. The exchange rate for Canadian dollars finally finished us! I agree with all that you say, am glad I have had this experience, but we will lose a s*** load of money to return! Our house is for sale at a bargain basement price.

Beware of what you get into! I have written two books on this, and still need to say more... :dumbom:

Iris Todd-Lewis

author: "Panama? Why Panama?" and "Postcards from Panama"

Toddlewis:

Thank you for your comments about Panama not being Paradise.  I have read and enjoyed your blog since you started building your beautiful house in Pedasi.  I appreciate that you are continuing to write about why you are leaving Panama.  Most future expats do not want to hear that Panama is not Paradise and will have to find out for themselves.  Expats need to speak up about the difficulties and expense of living in Panama.  Most expats just disappear without saying why they moved back home.  Thank you for writing about leaving Panama in your blog.

I hope your house in Pedasi sells soon.  Someone is going to get a bargain.  We did not buy property but our savings took a big hit.   It is amazing how fast the finances start to recover once you leave Panama!   Good luck with your pets.  You did some great work for the stray animals in Pedasi.

Hello everyone,

Please note that some posts have been removed from this thread, they were off-topic and rude. I invite you to exchange in a respectful manner.

Thank you in advance,
Bhavna :)

Panama does not give you any job. All the jobs are for the citizen of Panama. Panama wants foreigner to visit and spend all their money and leave. Panama does not want you to make money in Panama. Panama labour laws Do Not permit you work in Panama. All the jobs are reserved for Panama citizens. If you apply for a job (as a temporary resident status)...your application will be thrown in the garbage.
Business---you  have to take one Panama citizen as a Partner. Later on as you go on investing more money ..Your Panama partner get ambitious and tries to rob your business.
My advise
Visit Panama, Enjoy the beauty and beauties at a Price and one day when you get fed up---Just leave and go back to your original country.

Go ahead and try to get a job in Canada or the US without proper authorization. Visitors, students etc. are given the boot if they work at McDonald's without a permit. Why in the world would Panama welcome foreigners taking jobs from Panamanians without first putting them through the hoops? The Panamanian gov's first responsibility is to its citizens and that's the way it should be.

Sorry you had a bad experience. But you have to try pretty hard to live as expensive as you did.

2600 for a one bedroom? You must have been living in one of the most expensive buildings in the most expensive part of town. I've never heard of anyone else paying quite that much. I pay $1100 per month (unfurnished) for a 3 bedroom/2 bath with a huge balcony and a fantastic 18th floor view of the city. I have several amenities including 2 major supermarkets, a gym, several restaurants, a warehouse club, 2 drugstores, 2 home goods stores, among other places in walking distance from where I live.

I moved here from Tampa Florida, and cut nearly 50% from my expenses when living in Tampa. You only in passing mention some major cost savings of living in Panama City, like how in Orlando, you need to own a car (or two), but in Panama, you don't. Cabs are $2-3 within the city, buses are $0.25, and the metro is $0.35. My wife and I were able to save $1000 a month by ditching 2 car payments, 2 insurance payments, gas costs, and maintenance costs by getting rid of our cars. In neither Tampa or Orlando can you live without a car and expect to have a convenient lifestyle.

As far as food, those are some very random and not representative things to choose for how people live. Most don't personally subsist entirely on a soda and dog food diet.  When you look at the basics of a diet, such as meats, fruits, vegetables, etc. Meats are pretty much cheaper across the board, including deli meats and cheeses. Locally sourced produce like avocados, bananas, pineapple, plantains, roots, etc are always cheaper, and even some of the imported stuff is too (I buy oranges for cheaper at Riba Smith than I do in Florida, interestingly enough). If you rely only on packaged foods, then yes, they will be more expensive. But if you make an attempt to adapt locally, you can easily save money.

There are discount stores here as well. I can walk to a "Todo un dollar" store and to a little tienda that sells good lunches where you get a meat or seafood, rice, beans, plantains, cole slaw, and a drink for $4. Movie theaters are $4-$5 for a 2D ticket. You can get your hair cut from $10 or less.

You are right that everyone should visit for an extended time first. Panama is not for everyone. Moving here without getting a sense if it is right for you would be a mistake for anyone to make.

I'm not writing this to convince you of anything. I hope you enjoy life in Orlando more than you enjoyed life in Panama. But I am writing this as a contrast for people who are reading this post and are considering a move to Panama. I think your experience in Panama was not representative of most expats experience in Panama.

PS I am the writer of that "boring" blog that sailcompania shared. I write about Panama as a service to others. Most people enjoy my blog, but not everyone does. You are not the only person who does not. But I have no personal interest whether people move to Panama or not. I am not selling real estate or anything. So people can take my experiences as they are or not. I'm personally very happy, both financially and otherwise, that I moved to Panama. If I wasn't I could always move back to the US.

If you are talking to me, blogger, I had a wonderful experience in Panama City.  My husband and I are smart enough to know when we prefer the USA.  I am sorry that you perceived moving home as a bad experience in Panama.  We did 3 tours in Germany and always returned to the US.  We still love Germany but I guess you would claim that we had 3 bad experiences.  We are allowed to love Germany, Panama, and the USA all at once!

As for your boring blog that you want to push, YAWN! 

Yes, I lived in one of the most expensive buildings in Panama City.  Trump Ocean Club.  We had perfect internet and cable.  There were never any water shortages.  The security was perfect with no break-ins.  I am so sorry that you did not plan well to earn a pension to have an affordable lifestyle.   There is such resentment towards expats who choose to live in a nice building in Panama City.  How sad for you.  It was quite an experience to live in a skyscraper and have city and water views.  Fireworks were most nights and the sunsets were spectacular!  I could walk to MultiPlaza Mall, Super99, the Cinta Costera, and even walk to El Canrejo to take the new Metro Train to Albrook Mall.  How sad for you, blogger.  You have missed an interesting experience.

Somehow, being an SS $ only retiree makes folks some kind of martyrs in Panama.  Not everyone who comes to Panama is only living on SS.  FYI, we were the "poor" in Punta Pacifica.  Most of our neighbors owned 2 condos or lived in 3 bedroom condos.  Most used the limo style services out front.  We walked everywhere.  So, get off your high horse.

I see how desperate you are for readers to your boring blog.  Gee, for beginners.  How original.  People like you want expats to think PC sucks and everyone should retire to the interior or over in older parts of PC.  Baloney.  I would not move to Boquete if it were the last place on Earth:  Home invasions, stolen dogs, stolen belongings, bars on windows, and worst of all.........some of the most obnoxious expats in all of Panama!!!

No worry, blogger, you will find readers.  Most future expats only want to hear the good stuff about Panama.  That is why IL is so successful....the good stuff mostly.  They figured it out.  I could have just left Panama without saying a word about WHY I left.  Most expats just leave and we never know why.  I am also providing a service by telling people the full story on Panama.

Panama City was a wonderful experience.  My building was a wonderful experience.  The building staff was like family.  I feel like I left a Panamanian son and a Columbiana daughter behind. Our property manager said that we will always have a second home at Trump.   But now I am ready for the good old American life.

You are nuts to claim that Florida is higher on foods.  Our food budget is 1/2 of Panama City.  I never have to throw out any under-ripened produce.  The choices are numerous.  The stores have sales, coupons, and buy one get one free.

To all the readers out there, the only way to know for sure if Panama is a fit, is to visit for a while.  Do not sell all your stuff, put it in storage.  Rent a furnished apartment.  Then, if you are not content, go home.  Do not let bloggers like this one fool you into thinking Panama is Paradise.  REMEMBER, many expats have one agenda and that is to keep other expats coming to Panama.  Even if they do not sell/rent real estate, they need other expat replacements to sustain the illusion and support their home businesses.

Hi everybody,

Can we please calm down here?

Do note that some inappropriate posts have been removed again.

Priscilla

Hi, could you expand please on the comment about pets? I am a Venezuelan lady living in Venezuela, I have 3 dogs and 1 cat, I might be looking into the possibility of going to live in Panama. thank you

Hi, Ron,
I visited Las Tablas last summer to explore as a potential place to retire  (in August, the hottest time of the year) but was only there for two weeks. I hooked up with some folks I "met" via internet. I'm not sure if this is allowed so I'll reserve for a PM but there is a blog specifically about this lively town of festivals. It is witty, articulate, creative, and extremely informative. By the way, if you are going to stay short-term initially, Don Jesus Bed & Breakfast (as recommended to me) is conveniently located at a very reasonable price with an outdoor restaurant upstairs (walk outside and up the steps), a-c in your room (some hotels lack a-c) with hot water shower, lovely swimming pool, internet upstairs in a furnished guest "living room" that opens onto a wide, covered balcony overlooking the pool. Taxis to get around are $2 flat rate but is quite easy to get around on foot.  A ten-day stay with breakfast cost $132 total! The manager and staff were very accommodating. Flight + room and board + misc. expenses there cost me less than would a short weekend at the beach in OXB (Outer Banks, NC)! Of course, I realize this would depend on your point of departure from the US to PC.  By the way, as you may already know, if you are over 60, you can get the 4-hour bus ride (take the larger a-c bus) from PC at Allbrook Mall to Las Tablas for the fantastic, reduced rate of $7! There are many senior discounts in Panama.
Regards,
PS

Hi Judith!  How great to hear from you, thank you so much. Appreciate all the info, but you really didn't say what you thought about L, so......  I am 1 year into my 2 year plan to go to Panama, and after considerable investigation,  think LT is where I want to land. I will reconnoiter from there after settling in. I am one on a minimal SS check only. Inexpensive is my mantra, so living " local " will be a necessity. I think I WANT to live in Pedasi, but am pretty sure it will be out of my reach. I am an old surfer (longboarder) and the water is calling to me. LT is close enough while I hope will allow me to exist. My family moved back to Va. from Hawaii. In Hampton, I was close enough to OXB that I spent a lot of time there. I will search for the blog you mentioned, not sure, I might already be reading it. I too looked at Ecuador, but am concerned about the stability of the Correa gov.  I would, of course want to be on the coast. Sorry for the ramble. I would like to know your impression of LT and whatever else you think about Panama in general. Thanks again, Ron
ron19cam48@ gmail.com

Hi, Ron,
Well, we are kindred spirits. I am living in Richmond, VA. I have taught overseas in various countries.

Please PM me for details about Las Tablas. Again, as I may have mentioned, it is tropical so it is extremely humid with a rainy season. I really can't tolerate the heat and humidity. However, I heard from the American blogger that iit has been relatively dry this summer, so unusual. It definitely is cheaper than the other places mentioned in Panama but you're talking 3rd world living as well. I know many ex-pats live there on under $1000/month but again, that could always change and it depends on so many factors, e.g., a-c, hot water for showers, etc.  Still, it's so easy to get around in this nice little town on foot, via taxi, or scooter.  I enjoyed the locals there very much.  The cook and office staff in Don Jesus don't speak English so I learned a lot of Spanish very quickly (I'm what you'd call a level 1 beginner).  It's a very friendly little area not overcrowded with ex-pats and the two ladies I met for lunch while there are fabulous and welcoming.
Regards,
PS
Go to www.panamadaze.com for more on Las Tablas (if this is permitted).
.

My wife and I did the PC and Coronado stay for a few weeks in December  6 years in advance of an early retirement and came to many of the same conclusion on cost of living, property purchases and ex-pat communities. We will return to Panama as a winter seasonal experience retaining a small home in a mild climate tax friendly state (AZ: Prescott-Sedona or NM: Santa Fe-ALB-Taos) We really do like Panama as well as other Central American countries.

OK - first I apologize because I haven't had a chance to read the entire thread. So I will give as I have said before, only my experience as a newbie on this group.

I started to write a long post but it has been a long but great day here in Chiriqui. If your major reason for moving here is because it is cheaper then you are making a HUGE mistake.

We had a list of criteria and that was not #1 and also had nothing to do in our case (from the US) with political "stuff" there. When we started coming here, there were many that wanted out due to Bush. Now everyone wants out due to Obama.

That is as far as I will discuss politics because it is just ironic to me! Bottom line and I watched it happen - like it or not, if the US tanks so does Panama - saw it happen since we bought our property right before the 2008 crash.

More to come and Steve I owe more info in a personal email,

Good night all and Regards

HereForLife :

I started to write a long post but it has been a long but great day here in Chiriqui. If your major reason for moving here is because it is cheaper then you are making a HUGE mistake.

We had a list of criteria and that was not #1 and also had nothing to do in our case (from the US) with political "stuff" there. When we started coming here, there were many that wanted out due to Bush. Now everyone wants out due to Obama.

That is as far as I will discuss politics because it is just ironic to me! Bottom line and I watched it happen - like it or not, if the US tanks so does Panama - saw it happen since we bought our property right before the 2008 crash.

I would like to echo several points because so many people rely on the political party of the day and economic reasons for justification for moving.  Neither is a good ground, IMO. 

Career politicians from either party are interested in only their careers.  The common theme is dissatisfaction with the career politician and the direction both major parties seem destined to lead us.  End of soap box. 

For the economic refugee, I also agree that moving to Panama or Ecuador to live like a king is IL propaganda.  Sometimes it does take moving to rural Panama to realize how much one's lifestyle is beyond their means, but a similar lifestyle with more amenities (that is, government supported healthcare such as Medicare and similar social programs designed to provide an economic safety net) could outweigh the reduced costs of living elsewhere.  You can live just as inexpensively in rural America and not have to put up with roaming, barking dogs and loud roosters. It's the lifestyle change more than the geographic change, IMO.  What I think leads to the cheaper cost of living is going from two cars to one good used car, going from 3,000 square feet to 1,000 square feet house, and simply buying what you need instead of what you see others have or what is hawked in the stores and on TV.  For the urban dweller, certainly even a Panama City condo is less expensive than a comparable condo in most major U.S. cities, but still not something a pure economic refugee could afford.  Again, just my opinion.

Dear Sawman,
Your posts are so entertaining. The political stuff also  rings true in Canada. That's reason enough to live elsewhere!!

robertakim :

Dear Sawman,
Your posts are so entertaining. The political stuff also  rings true in Canada. That's reason enough to live elsewhere!!

I was hoping for "enlightening" but I guess "entertaining" is all I can get!  I'm here all week and take care of your hostess." :D

Hi, this is my first time ever posting on one of these boards.  Let me first start of by saying I am not a typical Expat.  I grew up in the Canal Zone, and after college and 25 years in the US, I decided to return, wife and kids in tow.

It has been 2 1/2 years now and sadly, I cannot wait to leave.  The first post is fully accurate, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Before anyone goes off and says that I was expecting to live like we used to, let me clarify that I return for visits here yearly and the wife is panamanian.  The first couple of months were surreal, happy to be were I grew up.

So where to start?  Let's start of with "progress" and population.  Panama is overrun now, with immigration from everywhere to anything. This has caused a massive issue especially in the city, where you are, literally, unable to get from one point to another sometimes for entire day.  The traffic has become intolerable, unbelievable, and unacceptable.  It is, without a doubt, something that scares me. As if this wasn't enough during the day, now we have police roadblocks constantly at night, asking for ID's.  If you're not a panamanian citizen, expect to have to show a residency card or even your passport.  The police plays immigration officer here.

Costs of living.  Sure, you can argue about vegetables, and the movies, and a haircut being cheaper. But lets talk about the big basics and how much they are in comparison:  Housing- outrageous.  Food - High.  Gasoline- outrageous. Education for kids - outrageous.

Just last week I saw some real estate ads for houses and apartments, common to see as high $1.5 million on some of them.  $200K will buy you a small 3 bedroom - in Chorrera, 25 miles out.  The private school costs an arm and a leg and half the time they have to cancel after-school activities (see traffic.)

I don't know who posted about food, but there is no food at the Supermarket here that will be less costly than WalMart Supercenter.  The costs here make Publix look like Save-More grocery store.  You'll switch to a daily diet of sancocho soup and sautéed chicken in no time.

Customer Service.  Never heard of it.  Please, if you ever go somewhere and happen to have a cashier say "Muchas Gracias Por su Compra, regrese pronto", try not to act astonished because in time, you will be.

Let me wrap up by saying this:  It wasn't always like this here. These people are good people, they still are. They are happy people who love to party and enjoy life. But even good people get pushed into bad situations and makes the worse of them come out:  insufferable traffic leading to very rude driving. Poor salaries and disproportionate pay that leads to indifference on the job.  Soaring prices and foreign investment that leads to resentment.  Government that looks out for itself and turns its back on the people.

We were fortunate to not have sold our home in Florida when moving here. Twice the deal fell through and now I have a place to come back to. Six more months to go. While this country will always hold a special place in my heart, its unfortunately become a disaster.  Come visit.  Stay for 6 months if you must. Don't do anything until you've been here at least a year.

Thanks for the information it's much appreciated

I'm going.  In a few days.  I leave behind the following, these are some of the MANY reasons:

1.  images and smells of dead dogs left rotting along the highway, being eaten by vultures; other animals abused to within an inch of their lives
2.  the divider of the main highway which runs through the country looking like a garbage dump, and the sides of the roads looking the same;
3.  the many electric power outages; and oh, did I forgot the frequent water shortages when there simply is NO WATER;
4.  the abject poverty and misery in which half the country lives;
5.  the dumb blank faces that stare at you when you ask a question (YES, in Spanish, however, proper Castillian Spanish is not spoken here),  to answer a question is too much like work;
6.  the arrogance of the "elite";
7.  the lawyers compare EXTREMELY UNFAVORABLY to even those in the U.S., hard to believe but true.  Never, never, never have I seen such a lack of ethics and arrogance and thievery.
8.  the lies, people stay down here sometimes because they got screwed so bad financially that they have no money with which to return to the U.S.
9.  medical care might be cheaper, but getting to the hospital can be deadly, always carry $600 with you or they won't take you, or you will have to stop at a cash machine en route;
10.  the injustice:  the president of the country ran off with $1 billion dollars, and
they are still not going after him.  His secretary, who is guilty of no more than sending his faxes spends months and months in prison.
11.  did I mention the heat?  92 degrees and humid EVERY day.
12.  the bugs, the geckos, even on the 20th floor of highrise buildings; the frogs and jelly fish in the new, beautiful sparking swimming pool;
13.  when you call the police the phone rings 9 times before they pick up the phone.  there is no
sense of urgency.  They tell you to call another number and hang up.
14.  getting pulled over by the police for no reason, and having to bribe them so your car does not get towed;
15.   your "first friend" is always a realtor looking to make a buck;
16.  banking -- OMG, you have to pay a lawyer to write a letter to get the bank to allow you the privilege of opening an account.  You can sit at the bank's desk for 3 hours to get one simple account opened.
Two months to get a credit card -- the bank has run out of green and yellow plastic.  Are you F***NG kidding me?
17.  having a dog is NOT an option, it is a NECESSITY.  Crime is rampant, mostly unreported, people often live in compound-like houses or casitas surrounded by fences and gates, with heavy duty locks,
and several guard dogs.
18.  the many building projects that either never get started or never get finished.  About 30% of projects wind up like this, and guess who are usually the buyers?  The gringos of course.  And even if you get an apartment, sometimes, you do not get your deed.  You would think that you would have the right to warn your fellow countrymen and other English speakers about a crooked developer, who has withheld deeds from all of the foreign cash purchasers in his development, but you don't.  YOU WILL BE CHARGED AND CONVICTED OF SLANDER, YOU WILL GO TO JAIL.   He will continue along happily with his life.    His name is on the list of the association of builders in Panama, as though he is a reputable business man.   Other big names on the list routinely pre-sell new construction and then refuse to deliver deeds. 

Cases are piling up in the International Court of Justice in Washington, D.C. against the Panamanian government for rampant injustice and corruption.  Out of 170 countries, Panama is in the top 5 for corruption.   Hopefully Trump will play some role in delivering justice to U.S. citizens who have been victimized and ravages by the Panamanian courts. 

Panama is a horrible place to live for either those who have no money (very few, if any social benefits), or those who have it (crime).  It is a place of great injustice, inefficiency to an extent I never thought possible.   It is bureaucracy without a brain on steroids.  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention you have to bribe everyone to get anything done. 

Misery loves company, so those around you will beg you to stay. 

I will add more to this response, and NAME NAMES in about two weeks, when I can no longer be throw in prison for telling the truth.

:lol:  :lol:  :lol:

I eagerly await your next post  )))))))))))))))))))))))))



Tough1sweet1 :

I'm going.  In a few days.  I leave behind the following, these are some of the MANY reasons:

1.  images and smells of dead dogs left rotting along the highway, being eaten by vultures; other animals abused to within an inch of their lives
2.  the divider of the main highway which runs through the country looking like a garbage dump, and the sides of the roads looking the same;
3.  the many electric power outages; and oh, did I forgot the frequent water shortages when there simply is NO WATER;
4.  the abject poverty and misery in which half the country lives;
5.  the dumb blank faces that stare at you when you ask a question (YES, in Spanish, however, proper Castillian Spanish is not spoken here),  to answer a question is too much like work;
6.  the arrogance of the "elite";
7.  the lawyers compare EXTREMELY UNFAVORABLY to even those in the U.S., hard to believe but true.  Never, never, never have I seen such a lack of ethics and arrogance and thievery.
8.  the lies, people stay down here sometimes because they got screwed so bad financially that they have no money with which to return to the U.S.
9.  medical care might be cheaper, but getting to the hospital can be deadly, always carry $600 with you or they won't take you, or you will have to stop at a cash machine en route;
10.  the injustice:  the president of the country ran off with $1 billion dollars, and
they are still not going after him.  His secretary, who is guilty of no more than sending his faxes spends months and months in prison.
11.  did I mention the heat?  92 degrees and humid EVERY day.
12.  the bugs, the geckos, even on the 20th floor of highrise buildings; the frogs and jelly fish in the new, beautiful sparking swimming pool;
13.  when you call the police the phone rings 9 times before they pick up the phone.  there is no
sense of urgency.  They tell you to call another number and hang up.
14.  getting pulled over by the police for no reason, and having to bribe them so your car does not get towed;
15.   your "first friend" is always a realtor looking to make a buck;
16.  banking -- OMG, you have to pay a lawyer to write a letter to get the bank to allow you the privilege of opening an account.  You can sit at the bank's desk for 3 hours to get one simple account opened.
Two months to get a credit card -- the bank has run out of green and yellow plastic.  Are you F***NG kidding me?
17.  having a dog is NOT an option, it is a NECESSITY.  Crime is rampant, mostly unreported, people often live in compound-like houses or casitas surrounded by fences and gates, with heavy duty locks,
and several guard dogs.
18.  the many building projects that either never get started or never get finished.  About 30% of projects wind up like this, and guess who are usually the buyers?  The gringos of course.  And even if you get an apartment, sometimes, you do not get your deed.  You would think that you would have the right to warn your fellow countrymen and other English speakers about a crooked developer, who has withheld deeds from all of the foreign cash purchasers in his development, but you don't.  YOU WILL BE CHARGED AND CONVICTED OF SLANDER, YOU WILL GO TO JAIL.   He will continue along happily with his life.    His name is on the list of the association of builders in Panama, as though he is a reputable business man.   Other big names on the list routinely pre-sell new construction and then refuse to deliver deeds. 

Cases are piling up in the International Court of Justice in Washington, D.C. against the Panamanian government for rampant injustice and corruption.  Out of 170 countries, Panama is in the top 5 for corruption.   Hopefully Trump will play some role in delivering justice to U.S. citizens who have been victimized and ravages by the Panamanian courts. 

Panama is a horrible place to live for either those who have no money (very few, if any social benefits), or those who have it (crime).  It is a place of great injustice, inefficiency to an extent I never thought possible.   It is bureaucracy without a brain on steroids.  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention you have to bribe everyone to get anything done. 

Misery loves company, so those around you will beg you to stay. 

I will add more to this response, and NAME NAMES in about two weeks, when I can no longer be throw in prison for telling the truth.

I am scheduled to visit next month for 15 days to see if it resonates with me. Now I'm having second thoughts. If this is all true why do expats stay and say such wonderful things about living there

Carneal :

I am scheduled to visit next month for 15 days to see if it resonates with me. Now I'm having second thoughts. If this is all true why do expats stay and say such wonderful things about living there

The reasons vary:

(a) Not all expats are unhappy or dissatisfied with Panama. A few (myself included) are content here. The reasons why anyone may be happy or unhappy in Panama have been discussed on another very interesting post, titled : "Are you happy in Panama?"

(b) As the OP rightly said: many stay here because they don't have a choice. They are simply financially unable to pack up and leave. As sad as this may sound, it's true. I personally know 3 such people --- 2 Americans, and 1 Australian. They lost their savings (due to one unfortunate incident, or another); they would love to leave Panama; but, alas, they simply cannot afford to.

(c) Another very important reason why they stay here, despite hating the place, is because: they have nothing to go back to................and/or: the reason they came to Panama in the first place is because they were running away from something back home. Hence, as much as they dislike Panama, they've obviously decided that it's the lesser of two evils.


These are just 3 reasons. There are many, many more.

I am from Panama, living in the USA for over 35 years.  Each person has his or her reason for staying.  Some make do with what they have and where they live.   Some live on social security only and it would not be enough in the USA. 

You need lots of patience to reside in Panama these days.  Some people are very patient and let nothing bother them. I am type A personality.  Little patience.  Good luck if u decide to move there.  I live in expensive, and cold New York looking to retire soon this year.   Hopefully, I can remain here.  I would visit Panama only and perhaps spend winters there.

ToughSweet is a bit harsh, but I could not argue with any of what is said. I think many locals would strongly agree.  For me it has simply become a matter of 'knowing better'.  The supermarket is the best example. I walk in there and just get depressed with the apathy of what they do, never mind the non-customer-service itself.  The shelfs are hopelessly disorganized, things don't have a price, and quality and variety is horrible.  The thought that runs through my mind is "they aren't even trying", or "do they not realize who pays their bills?". If I had two weeks as manager there, the employees would hate me forever.

Anywho I forgot to mention the subject of trash. Yes there is often some or small amounts of trash here or there, what really hurts is when you come across huge piles of trash strewn about on a certain stretch of road, or in the case of the road to Portobello, all along the road. Its very sad, makes you question humanity.

Sad.  Very sad.

Thank you. I have three weeks to decide to come or not. I'm coming because I like warm weather I currently live in the greater Phoenix Arizona area I moved there for its warm winters however the last two were/ are cold for me the last few days high was in the low 60's I need it to be at lest 75 degrees

Fully agree with your article about how expensive is Panama, almost like London but in most of the towns at the province there are not sidewalks!. Another recent bad news; local people is becoming xenófobos, they think immigrants are responsible for everything that is not going well... don't recommend to retire in panama...

New topic

Expatriate health insurance in Panama

Free advice and quotation service to choose an expat health insurance in Panama

Moving to Panama

Find tips from professionals about moving to Panama

Travel insurance in Panama

Enjoy stress-free travel to Panama

Flights to Panama

Find the best prices for your flight tickets to Panama