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Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Q and A - Panama's Equestrian Clubs, Spanish Schools, and much more

Good Monday evening, everyone,

I've gathered some great questions to answer here in the blog. As always, I invite anyone reading to please share your input in the comments section below. I might be too big for my britches sometimes, but I'm definitely no know-it-all. Oh man, I'm startin' to sound like my father. Pretty soon I'll be saying, "Kyle (that's my little brother's name), get me another beer!" Or my all time favorite whenever we'd do something bad, "I'll beat your ass!" Spoken with a redneck twang. 

Alright, enough of my rambling. Let's get down to the Q and A!

Trisha wrote:

"I love your blog and enjoy all the videos. My husband and I were going to return to Italy this year but we are now thinking of coming to Panama and exploring your beautiful country instead. My husband is finally thinking about retiring overseas and we like what we see and read about Panama. I have two horses and I now ride with my girlfriends on the trails along the Rio Grande River (I live in Albuquerque, NM). I've noticed some of the big developments have "equestrian facilities" but those seem very expensive. I am more of a "country girl" and my husband is more of a "city boy". So moving to a remote area would not work. We'd like to be somewhere close to shopping, movie theaters, and hospitals, but not right IN a city. Are there areas that are "horse friendly"…where groups of people get together for recreational riding?

"We are planning to tour Panama later this year and if we like it, we would come back and stay for several months.  Do people ever live 6 months in the US and 6 months in Panama?"

I replied:

"Hey Trisha, I don’t know a whole lot about the horse-friendly communities here, but from what I’ve seen, yes, the equestrian facilities are kind of pricey. Coronado, which is the most expat-friendly beach area in all of Panama (but unfortunately one of the most expensive as well) has an equestrian facility. You can pay a fee for them to take care of your horse for you, you can pay to borrow a horse just for riding the nearby trails,  plus they host events, and even teach kids to ride. I can't find a website for them, but when I visited I got their phone number. I'm not sure if the person answering the phone speaks English though, lol.

At the Equestrian Club in Coronado

"Here's the info I gathered when I visited the facility a couple of years ago, so prices may have changed since then: Complete care, which includes such things as food, bathing, and cleaning of the stable will run you $400 per month. If you’ve ever wished you could take riding classes, or would like to enroll your kids in classes, the cost for that is $50 for kids and $65 for adults. If you’d like to find out more call +507-240-1434.

A beautiful day in Coronado

"So, I'm not sure if that's too expensive. I don't know what the usual costs would be for something like that. 

"There are other horse communities, like Buenaventura (which I'm sure is a lot more expensive)  I've seen horses in El Valle de Anton, but not sure if there's a community of riders there.

At Buenaventura, in the Rio Hato area

"Here are a few websites I found when trying to research your question. Maybe they'll help. The first looks like it hasn't been updated since 2012, but maybe you can reach out to the blogger personally.

"As far as satisfying your country girl and his city boy needs, Coronado might be good for you guys because it's only about 45 minutes to an hour away from Panama City. Buenaventura, which is in the Rio Hato area, is a little farther away, I think about an hour and a half outside of the city. I've heard that Cerro Azul (the closest mountain town to the city) has some sort of equestrian center, but I couldn't find any info on it. 

"Yes, a lot of people do the 6 months in the US and 6 months in Panama. You can legally stay in Panama 6 months without becoming a resident. After six months you'd need to leave and come back in (make a border run) anyways, so doing 6 months on and 6 months off would take care of that need to leave. However, one catch is you'd only be able to drive for 3 months as you can only drive on your passport/US license for 90 days.

"Well, Trisha, I hope you and your husband find what you're looking for and I hope I was able to help a little bit." 

Jodie wrote:

"HELP!!! I am looking to move to Panama for 6 weeks this summer with my husband and 4 kids (age 12 and under) I would love to get the whole family into intensive Spanish and also do some sightseeing.

"We would need to rent a place and a car - where would you recommend? Would it be a good idea to split it up into two places, like near Panama city and then somewhere else?

"Any help whatsoever would be really appreciated - I am super excited, and I think it will be a fabulous experience, so any ideas or suggestions would be truly welcome!!!!"

I replied:

"Hi Jodie, thanks for checking out the site and for reaching out to me. Sounds like a really cool plan. If you're looking for intensive Spanish then you probably don't want to be surrounded by expats and other English-speakers.

"I have no affiliation with any of the Spanish schools here, so I honestly don't know much about them, but I heard a representative from Habla Ya speak at a conference here and it seemed to be a good program. I just looked up their website and it might be just what you're looking for. They have classes in Bocas del Toro (a beach area) and in Boquete (in the mountain/hilly area). I think you can break it up into both, so...since you're looking for two destinations anyways, maybe this would work for you guys. Could be fun.

"Bocas del Toro is probably not a realistic town to retire to with kids (it's kind of a tourist hot spot though). Boquete is a very expat-friendly town, full of foreigners in the interior of the country.

"I know Casco Viejo, the old town in Panama City, which I recently wrote a report on, has a Spanish school It's supposed to be really good too.

Study Spanish in the heart of Panama's old quarter

"David Gold at Casco Antiguo Spanish School wrote to tell me he'd like to offer our readers a free 45-minute demo class and Guide to Panamanian Slang. So, anyone interested, click on the link above and get in touch with them." 

To see the written report on Casco Viejo, click HERE. Or to see the video report click HERE."

Rick wrote:

"Thanks for the quality information and insights.  My wife Sally and I are going to come to Panama for an exploration test drive in June and July.  We prefer smaller and less expensive.

"From your videos we believe something around Penonome or Santiago would give us easier access to wandering around and get a feel for where we want to spend more time.

"We are leaning towards more time in El Valle, Las Tablas, Volcan and Puerto Armuelles as potential retirement destinations.

"Any guidance you might provide will be wonderful.

I replied:

"Hey Rick, thanks so much for checking out the site. Coming for a visit is definitely a good idea. Penonomé is a really cool area. It's probably exactly what you're looking for. I honestly don't know much about Santiago. We'll be headed there soon to do a report and video on it. I think it's a little bit like Penonomé, but farther from Panama City and a little larger. I think I'd rather be in Penonomé just because of its close proximity to Panama City and the beach areas. But you should definitely check out both. For anyone who hasn't read the Penonomé report, click HERE. Or to see the video, click HERE.

The only thing I don't like about Penonomé 
is the damn roosters all over the place

"As far as a base for exploring the rest of the country, Penonomé would probably be a good place since it's kind of right in the center of the country.

"El Valle is beautiful. I love it, but for me it's more of a place to visit. If you check it out you might see what I mean. It's full of touristy activities and it's in a valley, so it's not actually up on the mountains, but it's surrounded by mountains. Crisp, cool evenings. Great place, but I've always felt like I was driving into a resort town or something when I visit. The people living there sure love it though.

Keepin' it Real in El Valle (gaps and all)

"Las Tablas is really third-world still. It's very affordable and the people are probably the friendliest you'll find in this country, but there's not much there. It's very basic, real local living. Chitre, which is only 30 minutes from there is a little more modern, with a small mall, tiny movie theater, but several major supermarkets and even a McDonald's and KFC. Chitre is probably better for me (maybe not for you), but even if you chose to live in Las Tablas, you'd be 30 minutes from Chitre and 30 minutes the other direction to get to Pedasi, one of my favorite beach towns. I'll cover all of these places eventually. I've been to them all, just need to go back for new video and photos.

Las Tablas is one of the friendliest, 
but still kind of third-world towns in Panama

"Volcan is awesome. Hopefully you've seen my report and video, but it is kind of cut off from society. It's great for the outdoorsmen though. To see the Volcan written report click HERE. For the video, click HERE

"I don't know much about Puerto Armuelles. I've heard it's beautiful, but be careful. An acquaintance of mine visited there not too long ago and I remember him telling me the only problem there was that you can't buy land or something like that. I think it's a renters paradise, but as far as buying, it's all protected or right of possession property or something like that. Don't take my word for it though. Do your research there. Things may have changed. 

"If you like the beach and you're planning to check out Las Tablas, you should definitely make sure you check out Pedasi. That place is developing rather quickly, has a new hospital (not sure if they've finished building it) and even a new little runway for small planes. And that's my rather long two cents, Rick."  

Donna wrote:

"I have a quick question.... I was in Panama in November and noticed that most places we visited did not have window screens. This would be a very annoying situation should we decide to move there. Have you had a problem with this or is there a remedy - i.e. can they be bought and installed? Or, should we bring screening along and do it ourselves?"

I replied:

"Hi Donna, I wouldn't worry too much about the window screens. You're right, a lot of houses don't have them, but plenty do. We have screens on the windows at our house. You definitely want screens because of the mosquito situation here. You can buy and have them installed here. I wouldn't bring them with you."

Terri wrote:

"I need to find the phone number of an English speaking pharmacy to get the cost of a medication I will need while in Panama for four months."

I replied:

"Hi Terri, I just called a place that's right around the corner from my house, in Costa del Este (one of the areas of the city I wrote a report and put together a video on). The pharmacy is called FarmaValue.

Santiago at FarmaValue speaks English

"I spoke with a very nice guy named Santiago who speaks English and works Mon-Fri, but only until 2pm. The phone number there is +507-271-0738. He should be able to answer your questions. Hope that helps."

The FarmaValue Facebook page is at the link below:

To read the written report on Costa del Este, click HERE. Or to see the video report click HERE.

Wanda wrote:

"When i first moved to Panama, 3years ago, the movie theatre (at Multiplaza Mall) played mostly English movies, now they don't. Do you know where else I can go for English movies?"

I replied:

"Hey Wanda, I've also noticed there seem to be less movies in English lately. I always just check the websites first. Sorry if you already do this. But I check the Cinépolis at Multiplaza and usually the Cinemark at Albrook. Those two seem to have the most movies in English.

"Sometimes the Cinemark in Multicentro does too. My favorite theater is the Cinemark at Los Pueblos, but you'll find even less options for English dubbed movies there. I like that one because the crowds at the other theaters can be maddening.


"Right now it looks like most of the movies at Multiplaza are Subtitulada, meaning in English with Spanish subtitles. For anyone reading this who doesn't already know, if you're looking for movies in English, go to the ones marked SUB or SUBTITULADA. Stay away from DOB or DOBLADA. It looks like the Cinépolis in Arraijan (I guess it's the one at the Westland mall) has most movies marked SUB too. Oh and on the Cinemark link I just provided, make sure you click “Ver Horarios” to see which movies are playing and at what times."

Well, that's it for this Q and A session. Thanks for reading and I hope some of this helped.   

If you haven't already, go to and enter your email address into the field below the red suitcase (in the top right corner of the page) to start receiving our bi-weekly newsletter. 

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Written Report and Video on Casco Viejo, Panama

Hey guys,

It probably seems like I'm not writing as much as I used to, but the honest truth is that I'm writing much more than ever, and putting together very detailed videos about living here in Panama. The problem is, I'm much more limited with what I can do here on this blog, compared to what I can do on our other website. 

I've mentioned before that I want to keep adding stuff to this blog because I know some people still prefer to read here rather than at the PFR website. And of course I'm publishing all of our regular blog posts here on this site. I'm just worried that those people are missing out on some of the additional info we have to offer. I recently put together a very detailed (about 4,000 words or so) written article and a video report on Casco Viejo, Panama's old town. I don't want you guys to miss that info so I'm going to post the links here. I think I'm going to do this from now on so the people who read about it here first, can click the links and check out what we're putting together over there. 

Here's the link to the Casco Viejo written report:

Here's the link to the Casco Viejo video report:

This the 10th of these Location Reports (written and video) we've published, so if you've missed the others, you can see them in the PFR Location Reports tab at the top of the page at

Everything on the Panama For Real website is 100% free. So, for anyone hesitating on checking out the site, don't. It's me, the same ol' Chris Powers, just trying to put together more than the regular blog.

Hope you find the reports helpful,


Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Q and A - Defending Panama, safe places to live, buying a used car, and much more

Hi friends!

Well, I asked (via Facebook) after my last Q and A, if people found these useful and it seems that most people do, so I'll keep doing them, but maybe just spread them out a bit, so not every Monday. Whenever I round up a decent selection of questions and answers, I'll put a new post together. 

So here's what I've gathered over the past month. The first one is a doozy and actually got me a little bit fired up:

Paul (via email) wrote: 

"I was seriously considering retiring in Panama in less than two years (from Tulsa), but after reading several pages at the following link ...

".... about the severe trash and sewage problem, high crime problem, the high number of Americans who moved there then return home after several years, etc, etc, I'm wondering why anyone in their right state of mind would ever want to live or visit Panama.

"I am very disheartened and do not know where the best place to retire would be.

"If you would read the first two pages at the above link and give me your opinion, I would greatly appreciate it very much!!!"

I replied: 

"Hi Paul, a fellow Okie! That's awesome. Hey, I can definitely see why you'd be concerned after reading the post at that link. So, I'll do my best to address the issues in that article. Remember, this is Panama For Real, so I have to keep it real. 

"First, it's important to realize that post, which basically bashes the hell out of this country, was written in 2009. That's 5 years ago, and things are constantly changing seriously, constantly, lol. 

Panama looks pretty to me

"Okay, so let me address what's in the article, by number, the way the original poster did.

"1. The poster wrote that you'll find a lot of Americans in Panama, but not the kind you'd want to associate with.

"Is it just me or is that a pretty shitty attitude to have? I don't want to bash anyone, but come on, that's really negative. I've met quite a few Americans here and only a few I'd really try to avoid. Ouch, 'They couldn't afford to retire in a real place, so they came here.' 

"What would be considered a real place? Rome? And what does he mean can't afford a real place (as I blow the dust out of my empty wallet, maybe he has a point). 

"Will you find unpleasant Americans in Panama? Sure. But will you find much much more in America? Ha, damn right you will. So, to that, I say you'd need to visit Panama, scope out an area you're truly considering, and see if you like the in-crowd.

"2. Again, wow. Okay, yes, this is a dollar-based economy (the poster wrote about Panama falling apart if the U.S. dollar tanks). But that's kind of what makes it cool (at least in my book). I don't have to worry about an exchange rate or try to figure out how much 300,000 pesos is when all I want to buy is a loaf of bread. 

Use U.S. and Panamanian money interchangeably

"And as far as this country not being able to feed itself? I constantly write about the farmer markets. I was in Penonomé, a small town in the interior, a few months ago, and I went to their Saturday market. It was full of people and had so much affordable produce on offer that I was like a giddy little child. I bought a bunch of stuff for only $6.

The only problem I've had getting food is 
trying to get this damned mango out of the tree

"A few weeks ago I was in Cerro Punta, an awesome, cool-weather mountain town and bought a gigantic bag of vegetables for $6. This thing could have fed a retired couple for at least a week. And at most of these markets, huge bags of rice are sold for very cheap. 

Here's that big $6 bag of veggies from Cerro Punta

"Panama City has an awesome seafood market, plus a big drive-through fruit and vegetable market...I could go on and on with this one. Panama can easily feed itself. 

"3. Yes, Immigration is a pain in the ass. It is almost everywhere. But, you can definitely get a visa here in Panama, and nowadays it's easier than ever. However, you need to be able to afford it. You're best off getting a good lawyer who knows the system. Will this cost you? Of course. But I paid A LOT of money trying to put my wife through the U.S. Immigration system in Alaska, then in Chicago, then in South Florida. Immigration issues are not unique to Panama. 

"4. Violent crime. Does it exist in Panama? Yes. Are we targets? Yes, we can be. But the one sentence that bothers me is when he wrote, 'No matter how bad you think it is where you live in the USA, I assure you it's worse here.' Come on. Seriously? Ok, if you live in small town Kentucky, sure, you probably know everyone and things are good. But again, I've lived in Chicago and I've lived near Miami. I've lived in some seriously shady areas of South Florida. These were areas where I was afraid to go out at night. I'm not afraid in Panama. 

A gated community in Condado del Rey (part of Panama City)

"I've said it many times before. If you don't go into the areas known as red zones. And if you don't flash around your diamond encrusted Rolex while playing Candy Crush on your brand new iPhone while strutting down the Panama City streets while you occasionally make it very obvious you're checking out someone else's wife or girlfriend, you should be fine. 

"There is crime here and gringos can fall victim to it. But like anyplace else, it happens, but it's less likely to happen if you use common sense and don't go wandering into unknown places. Just ask around and people will tell you where to go and where to stay away from.

"5. The poster started this one off with, 'This is a filthy country.' Again, this was written in 2009. I've addressed the garbage issue in Panama several times. It does bug the hell out of me that people litter here. I saw, maybe two days ago, a taxi stopped at a red light. The passenger opened the door and set a whole styrofoam food container (you know the big ones with the separate compartments) on the ground, right there on the street, and closed the door. I wanted to scream! That's just ignorance.

"It bothers Panamanians as much as it bothers foreigners, maybe even more since this is their country. 

"I've written before about the areas that have become trash dumps for entire neighborhoods, mostly because the city doesn't have enough trucks or just doesn't provide service like it should to certain areas. But I promise you, the government seems to be trying to fix this. I posted a photo of an area close to my house (the photo below) that's just a filthy area because residents just toss their garbage on the ground beneath this tree. 

This is what it used to look like, but there's a dumpster there now

"Yesterday, I drove past that area, and there was a sign posted saying they were working on cleaning it up, and I noticed a new dumpster was in place. 

"I used to complain that people didn't clean up after their dogs. And for the most part, that's still true. But the good news is I've noticed signs up telling people to clean up after them. 

"I've also noticed recycling containers in a lot of the parks and in the tourist-heavy areas. 

"Just like crime, there are pockets that are just nasty, but it seems that Panama is working hard to fix this issue. Michigan Avenue, The Magnificent Mile, in Chicago is beautiful. You always see city employees outside sweeping up the garbage. But if you venture into some of the not-so-tourist-friendly areas, you'll find plenty of spray painted walls and litter on the ground. 

"6. Haha, Panamanian women USE AMERICANS is what the poster wrote here. This, unfortunately, can be true. I've seen it and have definitely heard about it. And it's not just Panamanian women, but many women from other countries residing here. 

"But again, this frustrates me because it's true everywhere. How many young, hot blondes are with old, luxury-car-driving men in LA? It kind of goes both ways too when you think about it. 

"How many American men come here, wanting a young, sexy Latina, because they're pretty sure the girl is going to be great in bed and could probably cook amazing meals? Right? 

"You just have to be careful, like anyplace else. Are there women here who will use you to get out of their situation, whatever that may be? Sure. But are there also loving, beautiful women, who just want to be with a man who will treat them with respect? Of course. I'm married to a Panamanian (and as I again blow the dust out of my wallet, I'm pretty sure I have a keeper).

"7. I'm not going to spend too much time on this one. He wrote that people hate Obama and run here to escape corrupt politicians and how Panama is no better. Politics are politics. 

The Transistmica Metro train going through a practice run

"The one thing I can say about Panama's current administration (which is almost over) is they seem to love having Americans around (they've made it easier for us to get visas and the pensionado program is awesome) and this place has been upgrading like you wouldn't believe. You should see the metro train and its elevated tracks and stations. Things are getting better here. 

"8. He mentions here how people think Panama City looks beautiful at night, but that it's basically rundown and ugly. Lol. Panama City is a major city. 

"The Cinta Costera looks amazing at night and you'll see swarms of people out there rollerblading, jogging, riding bikes, playing's really cool. Chorrillo doesn't look so great at night (that's one of the areas most people try to stay away from). 

I think the Cinta Costera looks pretty darned cool at night

"South Beach in Miami looks great at night. Liberty City? Not so much. 

"Paul, I hope I was able to clear this up a little bit. Sorry I got so heated, but it just frustrates me that people move here, live here (in Bella Vista, according to the poster's profile, which is one of the nicer areas of the city) and then bash the hell out of Panama. I'm sure I could live in Paris and pick the place apart if I put that much time and effort into it. 

"Everyone is free to have an opinion. Is Panama perfect? No, it's definitely not. But it's working hard to live up to its hype. The people are lovely and if you live within your means, you'll find that this place is surprisingly affordable. 

"Everything this poster mentioned is true in most places in the U.S. and in most countries. Panama, unfortunately, is the place up for question so naturally you'll have people who love it here and people who hate it. You honestly need to make a trip here, now that you've heard both sides of the story, check out the city, check out the interior, and just like any place you consider moving to, spend time in that area during the day, see it at night, talk to people living there, and decide if it's right for you. 

"I hope this helps a little bit. Oh and I just scrolled down to see everyone else's comments on that post, and the most recent was written in January of 2010. So, again, these are old posts, some still hold true (kind of), but overall this sounds like someone who has had a very bad experience here, is very bitter, and needed to let his feelings fly from his fingertips. Keep an open mind and visit Panama." 

Kevin (via email) wrote:

"I'm planning to visit Panama with my wife and have a quick question. Will we need to book our hotel stays ahead of time or can we pick a spot when we get there? (not sure if they gouge you if your a last minute arrival) I can always send my fiancé in, she is Peruvian, vs the American Gringo, like myself."

I replied:

"Most hotels here you can book just by walking in. If you're able to, it's always a good idea to book in advance though. You never know. In El Valle, the last time I was there, I booked in advance at Rincon Tableno, which was an okay place to stay (not great, kind of pricey), but they did have the best steak I've had in a long long time (try the bistec encebollado). 

Our Las Tablas hotel came with condom instructions on our nightstand
(but hey, it is a carnaval town)

"In Las Tablas, I think we just walked into the hotel, Hotel Piamonte. It too was just okay. I'm usually on a pretty tight budget on my trips so you might be able to find something better. Our place had only a bed, TV, and warm water. It was a place to rest your head. 

"So you can do either really, book in advance or walk in...unless it's carnaval time, then you need to book like a year in advance, lol."

Keith (via email after reading the Shipping vs. buying new article) wrote:

"I noticed when we came down in 2011 the Samsung washer/dryer that we have has a cricket board and the same item that was in Panama was a dial.  Is it better to have dial verses a computer touch control?

"At least here in the states you have American Home Shield which is a company that you pay monthly in case something goes wrong in your home. For example when our refrigerator went out and it couldn't be fixed AHS paid us the retail value for it.

"Is there something like that in Panama?"

I replied:

"Hey Keith that's a great question. To be honest, most of what I've seen is the board with the dial. I'm not sure if I've ever even seen the computer control here. I've never looked specifically for that though so I could be full of it. I'll try to keep my eyes open the next time I'm in the store, but I'm sure the dial is a lot more common here, which means it'd be a heck of a lot cheaper to fix. You know how that computer stuff is. One bad board and you're talking some major change to get it fixed.

Standard dial controls in Panama

"I haven't seen anything like American Home Shield, at least not an organization that covers you like that. I'm pretty sure some of the stores offer their own similar deal (if any readers know of anything like this, please let us know in the comments below), in addition to the regular warranty. However, even without coverage, you can usually find repairmen willing to work for a lot less than what you're used to paying in the U.S

"I was buying a bunch of ceiling fans one time and the service charge for having someone come out and hook them up was like $50 each or something like that. The guy selling the fans pulled me aside and told me he'd come over after work and take care of it for like $20. Find one of the workers in a hardware/Do it Yourself kind of store, and they'll probably help you with the repair or  know someone else they can refer you to. Everyone has an Uncle Peto, lol (that's my wife's uncle who can fix just about anything). In that case, you'd probably just have to supply the parts and pay the repairman's fee."

Cindy (via email) wrote: 

"Hi, Chris. I just discovered your website today and am very impressed by the wealth of information and great thoroughness of your posts! With our Connecticut streets piled high with snow, I am starting to get serious about my plan to move to a warmer climate in about five years. I'm a writer and so don't intend to retire then and will hopefully still be doing freelance gigs. But I've had it with the cold.

"I'd like your advice on the best places for a single 50-something woman to move to in Panama, from a safety and community perspective. I have a second cousin who retired in the ex-pat community of Volcan, so I'm picking his brain as well. But I thought you'd have some valuable thoughts here.

"Thank you for any direction. Keep up the great work!"

I replied: 

"Hi Cindy, thanks so much for checking out the site and for writing. I can't imagine what it's like in Connecticut right now. In some ways I'm kind of envious. I'd gladly take the cold and snow...but can we trade for like 4-5 hours only?

"Hmm, the best places for a single, 50-something, female writer. Off the top of my head, I'd probably say Coronado. Just because I know there's a great community of expats there and it's on the beach. It's not super affordable though. It's definitely not somewhere you'd retire on a shoestring budget.

Expats hanging out at a rooftop pool in Coronado

"Volcan might be a bit cut off for you. I don't know exactly what you have in mind, but Volcan is kind of spread out, very quiet, not a big social scene. At least in Coronado the expats gather for karaoke nights and things like that in some of the restaurants in the area. It seems like there's always something going on there.

"I've heard there's a decent sized expat community in El Valle, which is another beautiful place, but in the mountains. And of course, Boquete, is probably the most expat-friendly mountain/hilltop community.

"If you're considering moving to Panama City, you'd probably want to stick with El Cangrejo or maybe San Francisco.

"Just reading through your email again, if your cousin is in Volcan and is happy there, maybe you should consider giving Boquete a try. At least that's very close to Volcan and has one of the largest expat communities in the country.

"I hope some of this helps. I might've just confused you even more, haha. You basically need to first decide what kind of lifestyle you're looking for (city, beach, mountain, farm?), then find the safest and most expat-friendly area based on that decision.


"Panama City: El Cangrejo or San Francisco.

"Beach: Coronado or maybe Pedasi (I love Pedasi, but it's a mix of expats from all over the world. A cool place, but the expat community doesn't seem quite as organized as it is in Coronado).

"Mountain: Boquete or maybe El Valle.

"If you haven't already, check out the other Panama blogs on the following page, these people live in some of these areas, so reading their posts might help you with your decision. I've visited all of these areas, but I live in Panama City, so I don't have my finger on the daily pulse if you know what I mean. Click here to go to those other blogs:  

Jerry wrote:

"Love, Love, Love the blog. It has answered many of our questions about moving to Panama -- which we plan to do in June, 2014. We will be locating in David or Boquete. Our dilemma concerns buying a used car. We had planned on arriving in David and finding a car -- but the more we think about it we are thinking about staying in PC for awhile and buying a used car there --- then driving on to David/Boquete. 

"Would you please offer an opinion? Perhaps it may be better choices and prices for a car in PC.??   Thanks again for all the help available to Expats on your site.  Jerry"

I replied:

"Hi Jerry, thanks so much for checking out my site and for writing.

"Hmm, used cars. David is the 2nd largest city in Panama, so you could definitely find a used car there. However, you will have a lot more options in Panama City. 

"Check out the following website. You can look for used cars here ahead of time. And you should be able to even switch the area of your search from Panama City to David or wherever else you're looking. This is a great site for finding real estate, cars, electronics...whatever you want. I've found jobs on it and recently bought the kids a used Playstation 3 off this site. You can also check Panama's craigslist and the Panama related facebook pages. Oftentimes, when someone is leaving Panama, they sell their car for a reasonable price."

Zach (via email) wrote: 

"We visited the city,  Boquete,  Bocas, and San Blas. All of those places were great but living wise we were drawn to the Boquete area. We love the mountains and the easy access to the coast.  

"One question: The only thing that we really have of value or I'd want to take down, other than our clothes, is my Jeep. It's brand new and seems like a great ride for that area. I have gotten mixed reviews on taking a vehicle down. Ship, drive, sell.....any advice?  You may have covered it already. Thanks Chris."

I replied: 

"Hi Zach, Yes, Boquete is great. To answer your question, I've never shipped a vehicle. I couldn't bring mine because I was still making payments on it. So, readers who've shipped a vehicle may feel differently about what I'm going to say. If so, please write in and let us know in the comments.  

"I'd say bring your Jeep if you can, just so you don't have to deal with the hassle of buying one here. People drive down all the time, but I've heard it's a rough ride. Make sure you do some research though and see if you'll be able to get parts for your Jeep here. 

"I don't know anything about Jeeps, but when I went to buy a Dodge Caravan (like we had in the U.S.), a couple of years ago, the dealer pulled me aside and kind of whispered that I should think twice about buying it because getting parts for it could be a real pain. 

"I ran into the same issue with our used Mazda 323. When the ac compressor went out, the mechanic took one look at it and basically said, 'Good luck. You won't find that compressor in Panama.' I eventually found one, but it was no easy task." 

Sheila (via Facebook) wrote: 

"We are a family of 5 moving to Panama City in July. We have three kids -- all girls ages 10, 12, and 14. Where is the best place to live with teen girls? Many thanks."

I replied:

"Hi Sheila! If you're moving to Panama City, I think the best places to live with a family are Costa del Este or Condado del Rey (if you want to live on the outskirts, kind of the suburbs of the city). If you want to live downtown or close to downtown, I'd say probably San Francisco. El Cangrejo (and nearby El Carmen), Punta Pacifica, and Punta Paitilla are great areas too. 

"I did reports and videos on Costa del Este and Condado del Rey. If you haven't already seen them, check out our website at or to go straight to the videos, check out our Youtube channel at:"

Well, that's it for this Q and A session. Thanks for reading and I hope some of this helped.   

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