How did you do it? ..moving to Panama

My husband and I are thinking about moving to Panama. First question that comes to our mind : what will we do work wise.. he speaks Spanish better than I do, but I know I'll pick it up easy as my native language is latin based

I would like to hear some of your stories in short, or if you'd like the entire story :) I'm curious and would like to make this idea more real

When did you decide to move? How did you do it? where are you working? is it easy to open your own business? what business is the most popular , in your opinion (besides banks, I will not open a bank :P )

thank you all


We are retired so not much help with the work question. Expats I know either work remotely or have their own business, restaurant, hostel, tourism business, etc. Becoming an employee is difficult, or impossible in many professions, and you probably won’t like the pay. For what it’s worth, our story

congrats on the move! do you regret it? I'm guessing not since you are still there :)

No! We are really really happy in Panama.

Hi Alexandra!
I'm having to work to convince my husband to move to Panama. I have only spent a couple of nights in Panama City to get a feel for the country. It felt very comfortable except for the service part. Everywhere we went, Hotel, shops, restaurants, the service was horrible. The clerks seemed to have attitudes that they were being inconvenienced by us being there.
I've been told that I'll get used to that. Otherwise, I can't wait.
My husband also is the fluent one with us.

It's a long story and an uphill battle, but I hope to be able to say "Hi neighbor" to you soon somewhere in Panama sometime soon.


The bad service might be a Panama City thing. We have found service good to excellent in David and Chiriquí. It sometimes helps to make small talk and make a connection before getting down to business.

What business you start would depend on what you are really good at doing and what is needed or wanted in the area you choose to live.  The businesses that are most popular have flooded the country with immigrants from other latin countries plus what was already in Panama.  There are a few things gaining in popularity in Panama.  Specialty food and cookware stores, small specialized exercise places, rental services including management, cleaning, decorating, and repair, (there are lots of rental apartments in the city) and outdoor markets are also getting more popular.  I have been in the city for over 10 years now but have lived in several other areas in Panama.  I have watched new businesses come and go and many don't last a year.  For example, an Italian restaurant set up just around the corner from a popular, long time, top notch, Italian restaurant was not smart.  Gone. But in the same strip mall a small exercise studio set up with hours convenient for working people in the area is doing great. So know the area and know what people in the area want or need when deciding.

i been here 17 years moved here because of the once cheap cost of living and the pensianado program ,, and the dollar standard ,, cost more than it did before but still if you know where to shop , to live  is till reasonable ,," stay out of the city of panama " !!  i married a Panamanian   ,, women were a main reason as well i went thru a really bad divorce was burnt out on women that smoked and did nothing but bad mouth their x husbands ,, every one i dated in the states smoked here was a stigma against women smoking not as much so now .. colombia the women  were hot , willing ,etc. but would tell you anything to move to the states ,, here not so ,, you marry the family and they do not want to go to the states ,, i brought down a truck , a car , a motorcycle paid for ,, a 40 foot container ,, i have a lot of advice about that if you decide to move not going into it now to     i had a guide service my first two years here come on down , enjoy ,

I am coming to Panama from Jacksonville, Florida this fall for a 4-6 month stay.  If I find a good place to live, I will fly back to Jacksonville and pack up my stuff from a storage unit into a 40-foot cargo container.

Any advice on the shipping and transport of that container would be appreciated.  Did you keep your container?  If so, did you have to construct a "pad" to set it on?  I'll be bringing about 15-pallets of books and all of my household items; so, that is why I will need the larger cargo container.

I see that I will probably need to buy a New (one-trip) container that is certified for over-sea transport.  Jacksonville has a port with container ships that go to Panama, so all I'll need to do is to get the container hauled from my storage unit to the port.  The company from whom I buy the container, will deliver it to my storage unit site; and, they will probably offer the service of picking it up when full and hauling it to Port of Jacksonville.

The obvious port to ship to in Panama is at Colón.  Since I am hoping to find somewhere in the mountains in North Panama to settle, I will need to find out how to transport the container from Colón to Volcán or Boquete.

I'm a 72-year-old, low-income, so I cannot afford to make costly mistakes.  The move is going to be expensive; but, if I can just get there, I know that things will be okay.   I may be able to open a Used Book Store after I get settled.

The logistics of getting all of this coordinated is nearly overwhelming.  Any suggestions that you may be able to offer will be very helpful.

Best regards,
Robert Torbert
Jacksonville, Florida

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Used bookstore of books in English? Nah, don't do it. There is one in Dolega (between David and Boquete) that has been for sale forever, price reduced repeatedly but it's still there. In this age of ebooks success is probably even more fleeting.

Can't help you with shipping a container. I came with only a suitcase. You might live here a while to see what you will actually use, and what will survive this high humidity climate though before going through all that, especially if you are on a budget.

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