Sending Stuff To The US And the Move

I have been meaning to post this for some time and I guess this is the time. When Lilliam and I started getting ready to move, I started looking for a way to ship items back to the US.

I should say that if you are moving to Panama, I recommend you leave furniture, cars and all large items wherever you are moving from. I moved a 40-foot container to Panama and 99% of the items are still in Panama.

Moving items from Panama is more difficult and much more costly. I checked with DHL, a shipper in Boquete and a shipper in Bocas. The shippers only sent pallets and the price was out of reason.

Someone told me to check the Panama postal service. As it turns out, that suggestion was a real winner. We wound up sending 13 suitcases and large boxes to the US. We had to take the boxes and suitcases to the post office for inspection prior to wrapping.

We then had to wrap all suitcases and boxes with butcher paper, They were weighed and the weight was planned to be a maximum of 50 pounds.

The most difficult part of this exercise was the filling out of forms for the post office to send the items. Each suitcase or box required a shipping form with a description of contents, address and contact info of party to receive the items and sender information. These forms had about 5 carbons so you had to print HARD and my hand ached after all were filled out.

When was the last time you saw carbon paper?

We sent 11 the first time and about 4 days before we left, we sent two more. The price was about $50 per box/suitcase and a small box with DHL was over $400. All things considered, this was a real bargain.

The initial 11 arrived prior to our arriving in the US and my daughter stored them. The second arrived after we were there and my son-in-law picked up that shipment.

Nothing was unpacked when we arrived as we still needed to search for a house.

House hunting was an adventure. We needed to find a house and close on the house in 2017 to qualify for homestead and senior citizen tax discounts on the house. Since we arrived in mid-November, that provided a real challenge. I had communicated with 6 Texas realtors for months before the move and that had provided me with enough confidence to chose one to do the house search with.

I contacted the realtor and we hit the search trail. The first day gave us a good idea of what was available. The second day we saw a couple of candidates. We made the decision and made an offer and it was accepted. Normal closing time was considered 30 days. We got it done in about 2 weeks and moved in around the middle of December.

We went to Cosco and bought a mattress and moved. Lilliam is not one to postpone gratification, so in a single day, we went to Rooms To Go and bought furniture for the entire house.

Whew. Now to open the Panama boxes/suitcases. We had packed some photos in frames and some of the glass had broken. No problem as the photos were fine. Several months went by and Lilliam was confident we were missing one suitcase.

She finally convinced me to go back to the post office and ask if it was there. We went, I had little hope of success, and I asked if they happened to have an item that had been sent from Panama. The lady went back to the storage and returned with a suitcase. Note to self. Never argue with Lilliam.

Every item sent from Panama was received. Color me a happy camper.

I will end with a short discussion of our initial adjustment to being in a foreign country. Yes, it was even foreign to me as where we are living, I had never lived before and to Lilliam it was a major cultural adjustment.

Any major metropolitan area is a real contrast to living in Panama. Luckily, Google Maps/Waze can find any place here. Plug in an address and you are good to go. Of course, that assumes you have a driver’s license.

I had foolishly allowed my Texas license to expire and I and Lilliam would need to take the full written and drivers exam. UGH! A foreign license is only valid for 90 days. One of the reasons for moving back was to have my eyes checked. I think I had mentioned in a previous post that my ophthalmologist in David said I needed some Lazor work done and the needed equipment didn’t exist in Panama.

So now Lilliam and I have a new item to cause stress. Lilliam more than me. I was only concerned in passing the vision part of the driver’s test and Lilliam was concerned about all the new signs and regulation that she had never been used to in Panama.

I passed the written test with no problems. The eye exam was close, but I passed. The actual driver’s test was also no problem. I now have my Texas license again. Lilliam is still putting off the task and allowing me to chauffeur her around.

I have my ophthalmologist exam next Monday and I will find out what is next. Fingers crossed.

Before I forget, I will mention that Lilliam got to see her first snow in her entire life. It was enough to cover the car, trees, and bushes and lasted part of the next day. Not what I would call a real snow, but enough for Lilliam to say that she had seen it snow.

This is probably enough to cover the first part of moving here and a little to remind others moving from Panama to consider the post office for shipping small items.

More to come.

13 thoughts on “Sending Stuff To The US And the Move

  1. What part of Texas are you guys in? We used to live just north of Houston in Spring, TX. Never did get any snow so I’d imagine you’re further north.

    You are spot on about not bringing anything with you to Panama. To me moving there felt like we were moving to an island (or at least what I hear when people move to Hawaii) but like you we did it anyway. Fortunately on the move back the company I worked for provided packing and shipping services but I tell ya given my experiences living there I certainly would NOT have trusted the Panamanian Postal Office to get my things out of the country let alone to the US (you have more faith than I do!) so very happy that you got all your packages.

    So my big question is if 99% of your items are still in Panama are you guys thinking of going back for Summers (aka their “Dry Season”)? It’s been a few years and we haven’t made it back yet but hoping to this Christmas.

    Great update Don! Good to hear that you are settling in.

  2. Dear Don & Lilliam,
    First , I speak for all of us here who read your column here and as well appreciate all the time and personal sacrifice involved with being a Warden for us. Thank you for that Don

    Your post was an enormous help. We are not thinking of a move back but when and if we do we will research your mode of cargo transport. More and more folks seem to be taking the road out of here and I know what you have posted will be of enormous help.

    Meanwhile…..keep us posted on your relocation adventures. We wish you both the very best and especially you Don with your eye situation

    We send our love,
    Alison and Bill in Brisas.

  3. Don:
    We’ve been trying to find a way to ship multiple boxes to Boquete. Reputable movers here in the US declined to accept what would have been a container load, telling us the likelihood of all of it arriving in Boquete were nil. We next tried shipping individual boxes by US Postal Service to a company in Florida which then transported them to Boquete. First box arrived with no problems. The second box we shipped weighed 61 pounds but arrived, opened and weighing only 49 pounds. Whoever riffled through it knew what they were doing. Only took small tools and supplies that are difficult to find in Panama. We are “at a loss” what to try next. Even debating purchasing a trailer and hauling the load down through Mexico and Central America to Panama. That gives us “the shivers” thinking about all the customs officials who will be “inspecting” for contraband or whatever they’d like to keep.

  4. When I lived in David, my preferred mail forward company was EShop in Boquete. I ordered a lot of small items and never lost anything.

  5. Hi Daniel, No all of the positions I had are still in Panama, but with other owners.

    We moved to the Austin suburbs.Lilliam loves it here and I don’t think she would consider moving back.

  6. I’m sorry. As a long-time voyeur 2 Ur’s, I am remiss as 2 Ur reason as 2 returning to Ur country. Care 2 expound on its specifics?

  7. We have mailed boxes to Boquete for decades and the forms never get easier. But, we have had no problems with getting items there intact. Even sent an engine cylinder head to my brother-in-law for half of what it would have cost him to buy a replacement in Panama. One trick we learned was to print a telephone number on the box and the post office in Panama would call to say a package had arrived.

    And Lilliam got off easy, Nena flew into St. Louis in February on her first arrival in the US. A foot of snow on the ground and still snowing. Luckily for her, my sister brought an extra winter coat with her as Nena only had sweaters to wear for warmth. And she was wearing 5 of those!

  8. I’m glad Lillian is enjoying Texas! Snowfall is magical, how fun for her to see it. Thank you, Don, for all the good advice over the years. I started reading your blog before we moved to Panama, and thus, we came two years ago with only 6 suitcases and have tried not to accumulate any large items. We will likely one day move back to US (also for family reasons), but for now we are enjoying our time in Boquete. I hope you are enjoying your family and becoming comfortable and happy in Texas.

  9. Thanks for all your help over the years Don……Its funny I actually own one of your cars you purchased year ago….a 2004 Terios….and still have it in Panama….Your name was in the car manual…..I moved back to the States also…..So if anyone is looking for a great car in Boquete I still have it stored down there with a friend……my email is

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