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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) http://www.buenaventura.com.pa/.  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 http://cascospanish.com/. 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: https://www.facebook.com/FarmaValuePanama

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.

and

"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.   

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Thanks for reading,

Chris