Category Archives: Panama Journal

Observations – Regarding Moving To Panama

I know I haven’t posted much lately, but I have several items consuming my time. However, I have had some time to observe several Yahoo groups and the Internet conversations about the frustration of the new immigration laws that Panama is enforcing.

For those considering retiring in Panama, this should have no major ill effect. I still maintain you should live here, as you would if you were a permanent resident, for a minimum of 6 months, prior to deciding to move here.

You should use that time for a test run to allow experiencing both the rainy and the dry seasons. That is not hard to do, but it does require effort. You should keep in mind that some locations have extra risks during the rainy season , such as bridge outages or land slides.

During that time you need to do a real due diligence to see if Panama is right for you.

I suggest several items for your due diligence.

  1. Observe the climate. Probably the most enticing reason to move to Panama is the weather. I consider it the only reason that would motivate me to move here after 14 years of experience.
  2. Visit the appropriate medical facilities. Check out doctors you might use. Visit the Regional Hospital emergency and watch the traffic. Determine how you would cover a serious illness or accident. Understand how you will pay for an unplanned medical event. If you have moderate to serious medical conditions, think hard before making a move here.
  3. Watch the local Panama TV news. Even if you don’t understand Spanish, you will learn a lot. This should be a daily event while you are here.
  4. Plan on learning Spanish, if you don’t speak it. It will be needed, if you are rushed to the Regional Hospital for an unplanned medical emergency.
  5. Determine how you will manage your finances. Many Panama banks no longer allow US citizens to open an account. To withdraw $500 from an ATM will typically cost you over $5+, if the account is not from a bank in Panama.
  6. Determine the cost and availability of reliable Internet. TV and Internet can be costly, if you don’t live in a good area. Most programing will be in Spanish. Service, both technical and account, can be a challenge, if you don’t speak Spanish.
  7. Verify the cost of living in Panama. It is not cheap. Granted, it is cheap compared to Costa Rica and safer than most of the other Latin American countries, but cheap, it is not.
  8. Verify your tolerance to rapid changes. What was the rule last week may not be the rule next week. Don’t like protests blocking you ability to get to medical services, well expect it in Panama and plan for it.
  9. While government officials will tell you that crime is on the down tick, locals will tell you it is higher than in the past. I have seen it change a lot in the last 14 years I have been here. Watching the local news will educate you.

Continue this list with other items that are important to you. Continue reading Observations – Regarding Moving To Panama

More Stuff

It looks like everyone is starting to realize that life in Paradise is changing if you were a border hopper.

I have seen a few say that they wouldn’t be hopping if they could get fingerprints. My advice is has never changed since I first came here.

First don’t consider moving here until you have lived here 6 months allowing experience in both the rainy and the dry season. Spend that time doing your research to see if Panama is for you. Talk to the doctors you think you would use if you were to actually live here.

Visit the hospitals and even spend a few minutes watching people enter the Regional Hospital emergency area. (That is where you will be taken if something serious happens to you unless you are lucky and can convince them to take you some where else.) Most critical accidents go there unconditionally.

Find a lawyer you trust to do your paperwork if you plan to return. Make sure you understand ALL documentation you need to get to begin the pensionado process. I know of at least 10 people who started the process and spent $1,500 to $3,000 either to have the lawyer disappear or to have Panama fingerprints not accepted by the FBI or to have the FBI lose the finger prints and then having to start the process again.

If you are here and say you can’t afford to return to the US to get the FBI report, then I will tell you that you cannot afford to live in Panama. You don’t move to Panama because it is cheap. It is not.

You move to Panama for the adventure of something different and for the weather. I don’t think there is better weather anywhere than here. However, it can be offset with cultural changes, annoyances, etc. Try it first. Panama is not for everyone.

This week, I had a Embassy case of another border runner who lived in a hotel in David. He died in Hospital Regional. The Embassy was finally able to contact family in the US and they said they could not or would not be responsible for his expenses.

The Embassy asked me to go to the hotel and get his belonging to see if there was anything of value that might help offset his debts.

Lilliam and I went and picked up 3 three suitcases. The contents contained old clothing not suitable for a tropical climate. No water, no passport no electronic good. Nothing of value. The best suitcase has a zipper that looked like it had been attempted to open ruining the suitcase.

Strange, there were no current clothing. It was if the gods had removed anything of value prior to my arriving at the hotel.

I think many would be amazed how many gringos are living in hotels or pensions or in marginal living conditions. I have run into many of their families when they have come to Panama to claim the body, or worse to identify the body via passport if the families would not come.

As I said, in the previous post, ending the perpetual tourist is a good thing for Panama. It removes an expense from Panama as opposed to losing tourist income.

As a side note, many living on boats around Panama need to take heed also.

Current Immigration Anxiety

As many have may seen in recent Panama news media carried interviews with Panama officials, Panama is tightening its borders and border hopping will end (My wording implied from the broadcasts, I have seen).

I have received specific questions related to U.S. citizens no longer being able to cross over into Costa Rica and return to Panama in 3 days. I sent the questions to the Embassy for comment and am posting the Embassy’s current response, until they have more information.

We here at the Embassy have reached out to immigration to obtain details about the news pasted below regarding the implementation of immigration regulations. According to the Duty Chief at Migracion-Paso Canoas, the PNM Immigration Director is enforcing these migratory requirements across Panama. This means that if an Immigration Official determines that a foreigner is using tourism status to reside in Panama, the entry will not be allowed. The Duty Chief gave examples of this situation, indicating that persons who exit Panama before the 6th month approaches and re-enter after three days, which is a clear sign that the individual is residing in Panama under a tourist status, will not be allowed re-entry.

In summary, these regulations were already in the books but now it seems the immigration authorities throughout Panama are going to be stricter about enforcement. That said, we have yet to receive a complaint from a U.S. citizen actually denied entry at the border for the reason outlined above.

Personally I think Panama is doing the right thing. Perpetual visa renewing residents need to end in my opinion. If you have made the decision that you want to retire and live in Panama, then work on getting a pensiondo card.

Panama cannot handle the huge number of people that want to live here and work here and leave every 6 months to renew their visa. A large number of Venezuelans learned this the hard way when they visited Costa Rica and were not allowed to return.

Message for U.S. Citizens: Town Hall Meeting with Ambassador Feeley on March 12 in Bocas del Toro

Following is the latest ACS message.

U.S. Embassy Panama

Consular Section

American Citizen Services Unit


The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit would like to invite you to meet Ambassador John D. Feeley on Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 4p.m. in the Autoridad de Turismo de Panama (ATP) Building on Calle 1a  in Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro.  Ambassador Feeley will travel there to meet U.S. Citizens in the area and discuss any issues of your concern.


The town hall-style meeting will take place at 4p.m. at the ATP Building in Isla Colon.  To confirm your attendance, please respond to this e-mail.


We look forward to seeing you there.




American Citizen Services Unit

U.S. Embassy Panama

Panama U.S. Embassy Job Openings

Posted job openings at the U.S. Embassy in Panama City.

¿Conoces alguien que quiera trabajar en la Embajada de los EEUU en Panamá? ¡Tenemos oportunidades de empleo!

Si tienes experiencia en administración financiera y manejo de presupuesto, únete al equipo de trabajo de la embajada aplicando al cargo de Asistente Administrativo. Si tienes experiencia en blogs, filmando, y/o editando videos únete al cargo de técnico audio visual. Para obtener detalles y aplicar ingresa a:

Fecha de cierre para asistente administrativo: 13 de marzo
Salario: 20,855 p.a (*OR)

Fecha de cierre para técnico audiovisual: 12 de marzo
salario: 18,184 p.a. (*OR)

(Blood: type O pos) needed in Hospital Regional

I received a request to post the following

My wife Erika has a friend in Hospital Regional who needs type O pos blood. She has had several operations and recently they went in surgically to see what was wrong again and decided to leave her intestines outside of her body for observation. That’s my understanding of what Erika told me.
She has no children and her family lives in Puerto Armuelles. She basically is alone there in the hospital. We asked her if she wanted us to bring her anything and she said she needed type O pos. We asked her if she wanted us to visit and are awaiting her answer.
Her name is Deika Zulema Pimentel. She is 45 years old and single.
She said yes we could visit. She is very much alone in this world, so, If anyone out there feels like cheering someone up who needs it. I think it would do her worlds of good.
We have been talking with her by Facebook. When we visit her this afternoon we will get her cell number.
Thanks in advance Don,
Chris Smoot

Security Message for U.S. Citizens:

U.S. Embassy in Panama

Security Message for U.S. Citizens

February 10, 2017

Today, February 10, 2017, the SUNTRACS (Sindicato Unico Nacional de Trabajadores de la Construccion y Similares)  union (and others) have threatened protests and road closures “across the country”.  It is the Embassy’s understanding that the protest leaders are meeting this morning to determine what they are going to do and where.  Subsequently, the Embassy does not have a good read-out of the scope or location of possible protests and road closures.  We have seen unconfirmed media reports of protests planned on Calle 50 at McDonalds, line 2 of the metro, in Costa del Este, near Ciudad Hospitalaria, and on Avenida Peru.

Some schools are closed for the day, while others remain open.  The main concern seems to be the unpredictability of the impact of possible road closures on bus routes this afternoon.

All U.S. citizens are reminded to remain diligent in your personal security.  U.S. Citizens should plan their travel accordingly and avoid all confrontations.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.  Review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates.  Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.

For further information about security in Panama:

  • See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Panama Country Specific Information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler-Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in Panama, located at Building 783, Demetrio Basilio Lakas Avenue Clayton, Panama, at+507-317-5030, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Friday. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +507-317-5000.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).