This last week of protests have been a surprise to some of the newcomers to Panama. Nothing has changed from my perspective. In the nine years I have lived here, there have been multiple protests. Some are protests for valid reasons. Some are politically motivated. Some are instigated from countries like Venezuela. All can be dangerous to innocent bystanders.
No matter the reason, protests are a major nuisance to everyone. When I know of a potential protest, I avoid the area at all costs. If you watched the news this week, you saw stores being looted, car windows being broken, and for all practical purposes Panama City was shut down. If you get too close, you may wind up with your car pelted by rocks, hammers or worse. By the way, your insurance is probably not going to cover the damage.
The son of the patient in the Regional Hospital had to pay $60 to get from Albrook to Tocuman, a normal $30 ride. His cab driver had to go well out of his way to avoid the blocked streets. When he got to his hotel, the man that opened the door said, “todo es loco hoy”.
No one is going to learn of these disturbances by reading International Living. That publication will tell you that life is more tranquil, prices are lower, healthcare is great, food is abundant and you are missing the opportunity of a lifetime if you don’t check it out. I don’t remember seeing anything on CNN about these protests. You had to be here to know the impact.
Tom McCormack has three containers in Colon waiting to be transported to David. While he waits to transport them he is being charged a fine each day for not moving them. The sole purpose of these containers is to benefit the needy in Chiriquí.
You may be reading this thinking, well maybe I should consider Costa Rica instead. Think again. You may not have to put up with protests, but you will have other negatives that will outweigh protests. Crime is much higher. Costs are out of sight.
Lilliam’s sister just moved back to Costa Rica from the U.S. While she was visiting Lilliam, she bought several staples to take home with her. One was a couple cans of Wizard room spray. She said the cost in the U.S. was 99 cents. It was $1.80 here and it is over $8 in Costa Rica. Many, who live in Costa Rica, come to Panama to shop at PriceSmart.
The money in Costa Rica is Colons. However, most things you buy will be in dollars. Each time you convert money, you lose.
When you consider moving, it is wise to try before you buy. I tell everyone to live in Panama six months before making any decision to move here. Some people don’t like the rainy season and some don’t like the dry season. Some wind up not liking anything about Panama.
Live where you think you are going to move and experience what it is like. Deal with the bureaucracy. Experience the culture differences. I hope you have brushed up on your Spanish or at least plan on learning Spanish. Make a thorough examination of your healthcare options. Walk the aisles of the super markets. Go through the major building supply stores and compare prices and quality.
Make a list of what you require to be happy. Don’t leave anything out and be honest with yourself. Don’t just make a decision based on what you think the cost of living will be. Experience it. Don’t move because you are looking at the negatives of where you currently live. Remember, the grass always appears greener……….
Many think they will come here and live a life of luxury and have a maid and gardener because labor is cheap. The hourly cost of a maid or gardener may be reasonable. However, you have to factor in the increased risk of being robbed. Maybe not by the maid or gardener, but they have friends, and cousins and what you have will be known by all.
If you give your maid a key to your house to clean while you are not there, plan on her making several copies.
Don’t plan on employing a maid and gardener and not paying their social security. When they become disgruntled and quit, expect to hear from a Representive of the Ministry of Work after they have filed a claim against you.
If you are using Medicare in the US, guess what? It can’t be used here. Double check your insurance to see if it covers you in Panama. If it doesn’t cover you, buying insurance in Panama may be a little tough based on your age. Living in Panama without insurance is not a wise decision.
Without insurance, you are going to wind up in the Regional Hospital, if something serious happens. To this point, I have been requested to check on 9 US citizens that were in the Regional Hospital. Out of those 9, three left on their own two feet. One was lucky enough to get to a VA hospital in the US. One was medivaced to the U.S., but by the time he got there it was to late to make a difference. The others died.
Your chances in the Regional Hospital, or any hospital for that matter, are greatly reduced if you do not have some one checking in you constantly. You will most likely see a Panamanian family member sitting beside the bed of each patient who is critical.
Planning on moving here and building your dream retirement home? Expect the land and house costs to be as high or higher than the US. You may be better off buying something already built. At least then can see something up front. I have met several people that created plans, payed builders and were not here to monitor the building. When they returned they found that nothing had been done and the builder was nowhere to be found.
Think I am exaggerating? Ask around.
Check on the availability of water and typical electrical outages. You will need to have all electrical devices plugged into a voltage regulator. TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves. PCs should be on UPS.
If you live in a remote area, you will have limited choices for Internet and TV, if any. Plan on watching a lot of TV in Spanish. If you buy in a remote area and electricity only needs to be run 300 yards to get to where you want to build, plan on it not being there in five years.
Whoa! With all of that why should I move to Panama. Well, maybe you shouldn’t. That is why you need to do a serious reality check before moving.
I moved here being mislead like others. However, I have found much that I do like. I have had a diverse set of neighbors from Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and Europe. I also have many friends that have moved here from the US.
I like the weather. I like having one type of clothes to wear year round. I like the slower pace of life. I like being able to drive an hour and being in the mountains, or the beach. I like eating fresh pineapple, mango, watermelon, papaya, and other locally produced foods. I like my electric bill being between $50 and $80 all year. I like paying $6 every two months for gas to cook with and for hot water.
I have adapted. I spoke no Spanish when I came, and while my Spanish is bad, I can now get by. I have plenty to keep me busy from my blog, to volunteering for the U.S. Embassy, to helping organizations such as Nutre Hogar, and reading books I never had time to read before.
What are you going to do here? If you don’t know, don’t move!
I did not write this post to dissuade anyone for following their dream and moving to paradise. I love it here. Those that come here with realistic expectations, should be happy. Those that don’t – won’t.