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Made it to Panama
Old 12-21-2005, 02:25 PM   #1
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Made it to Panama

What a journey it has been. We arrived in Panama over a week ago and it has been more fun than tiring. It has defintely been an adjustment from the unknown to now the known. My estimates have been pretty accurate and we should be alright on the financial front. As for the language, it has been relatively easy getting around and asking for what I need. Although I did ask the grocery clerk in spanish for green chicken instead of green bananas Other than that we've been running around getting my son in school, turning on the utilities and getting my wife "legal." We made the mistake of leaving our dog outside and it rained three times while we were gone that day. Needless to say she didn't smell all that great. We called the vet and they came and picked her up, gave her a bath, cut her nails, and cleaned her ears, and returned her home for $15. The minimum wage here is 1.22 per hour and a fulltime maid costs $150 per month. I think I am going to enjoy it here
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-21-2005, 02:33 PM   #2
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Re: Made it to Panama

It's good to hear from you. Please continue to keep us up to date on life there, and post any interesting pictures or stories.
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-21-2005, 02:35 PM   #3
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Re: Made it to Panama

Arif,

Did you retire down there, or are you doing something else?
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-21-2005, 02:54 PM   #4
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Re: Made it to Panama

Technically we are living off of our real estate income. We saved a years worth of living expenses based on what it costs to live comfortable down here and payed off all our cc debts and car note. I plan to return to the states every few months to rehab homes and sell them where I used to live.

I'll post some pictures when the movers deliver our computer (it has the camera software on it).
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-21-2005, 03:00 PM   #5
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Re: Made it to Panama

platano, pollo - what's the difference!

Let us know about costs - typical day to day things, moving expenses, unexpected costs, what is cheaper than stateside, what is more expensive. How are you planning on spending your time day to day? Etc. This sounds really cool.
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-21-2005, 03:17 PM   #6
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Re: Made it to Panama

Congratulations on the big step. I hope that every day's a bit easier. I used to think it takes about 18 months to get comfortable in a new environment, so that it seems like "home." I am sure that all depends on an individual's experiences and expectations. Hope you'll have time to post how it's going for the edification of those of us still in the U.S. Phil
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-21-2005, 11:24 PM   #7
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Re: Made it to Panama

Hi Arif--

I am very interested in retiring to Panama. I will have a very modest pension and it sounds like this country is ideal for me.

I guess what I am saying is that I'm hungry for details. How you prepared for the move, bureaucratic red tape, costs going and when you arrived, average cost of living, where you are located, etc.

Looking forward to many more posts.

Professor
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-22-2005, 08:55 AM   #8
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Re: Made it to Panama

Hey Arif,

I am enjoying your Panama posts! I am always looking for another "home base"

Merry Christmas!

Lance
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-22-2005, 08:59 AM   #9
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Re: Made it to Panama

Quote:
Let us know about costs - typical day to day things, moving expenses, unexpected costs, what is cheaper than stateside, what is more expensive.
Gas is about the same as say California but more than Georgia at $2.40 for 91 octane (they don't have 89). The cable and internet (high speed broadband) is about $100 together although we opted for way more channels than back in GA. It costs us about $3300 to have our goods and car shipped and I will pay about $700-1000 in taxes on my car. A taxi costs $2-3 depending on where you are going in the city. We pay $1100 per month to rent a 3 bedroom home in a gated community right outside the city. You can build an American style for about $50-60 per sq ft which we'll be doing in the next few months. Overall our expenses run about $2800 per month vs. $5000 although it is not completely an apples to apples comparison because some costs are shared with my mother who moved with us but it's close. Keep in mind these figures also include private school for my son of about $200 per month and health insurance of $150 per month for a family of 3 and a maid for $150. Our standard of living has defintely increased and for half the costs. You could definately get by on less if you wanted your lifestyle to remain the same as the US.
Panama also offers what is called a "pensianado visa" which entitled anyone with a pension to live her on a visa with discounts on everything from prescriptions to hotels. Since I don't have a pension I didn't go that route.

BTW-One of the biggest adjustments is how long it takes to get things done. For instance it took me a whole day to get my Panamanian ID going from office to office. Not a big deal if you don't have anything to do, but type As might be aggravated by this.

Well, if anyone has any specific questions let me know. *

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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-25-2005, 04:48 PM   #10
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Re: Made it to Panama

Hi,
You say you are located right outside the city. Is that Panama City? What is the weather like there? How hot does it get?

I'd like to see what your $2,800 budget looks like, as I know others would also. if you wouldn't mind giving us a break down. How proficient in Spanish are you? Are there many ex-pates where you are living? Did you spend much time there before deciding to locate there?

Many on this board would love to hear more about it.
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-25-2005, 07:15 PM   #11
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Re: Made it to Panama

Happy Holidays to Everyone from the Professor!!!!!!!!!!!

Modhatter: Those are some really great questions.

Arif: What about the costs of going to Panama? Would it be cheaper to sell out everything in the states and start fresh? What kind of documentation to you need to get started in Panama, e.g., birth certificate, passport, copy of pension check?

Let us know. Also--helpful websites.

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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-26-2005, 09:12 AM   #12
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Re: Made it to Panama

Quote:
You say you are located right outside the city. Is that Panama City? What is the weather like there? How hot does it get?

I'd like to see what your $2,800 budget looks like, as I know others would also. if you wouldn't mind giving us a break down. How proficient in Spanish are you? Are there many ex-pates where you are living? Did you spend much time there before deciding to locate there?

Many on this board would love to hear more about it.
Yeah, we are located 5 minutes outside of Panama city called Condado del Rey. There are many different subdivisions in the area with houses for rent. Most folks that have moved here suggest renting for awhile before you decide to buy. Never know if you will hate it and then want to move back home. One realtor said she sold a house to an American online and the lady had never seen the house in person. She decided she didn't like the area because it was too far away from the amenities of Panama city.
The house that we are renting costs $140k brand new and they are still building.
Here is the budget although it is not complete due to being here only 3 weeks and not all the bills are in yet:

Rent $1100
Water $0 (landlord pays but I think it is $5-10)
Gas $20 (hot water and stove)
Cable $50 (130 channels...some in english)
Internet $50 (we chose a higher speed to use our internet phone)
Telephone $10 (basic)
Telephone $25 (internet phone to call the states...unlimited)
Health Ins. $150 (still researching which coverage we want to go with)
Car Ins. $75
Mailbox etc. $15 (uses a Florida address for mail)
Food $300 (another estimate but should be on the high end)
Maid $120 (about 4 hours per day)

Total $1915 (The other $900 is for allowance, tuition, and one cc pmt)

I did not include auto fuel costs as they are not existant until we get our car delivered from the US. For some these figures could be reduced further if TV isn't important, a lower speed int. connection, building or just buying a house would be cheaper as a profit is built into our rent.

It's not as humid as I thought but we are nearing the beginning of summer and it should heat up. It's averaged 85 degrees the last 2.5 weeks with rain every other day. Panama has two seasons rainy and summer. The rain lasts for maybe 5-10 minutes then it is gone and it looks like it never rained. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day and you get the idea. They say April is the hottest month of the year so we will see. The beach areas which are about an hour a way gets less rain and are a lot cooler as are the mountains where most expats live.

If you have kids then that kinds of limits you on how far away from the city you'll live (if you aren't homeschooling).

Although I was born in Panama I speak little Spanish. You can get around without speaking it but it is a good idea to learn. People here appreciate the effort of trying and will try to understand and help you. For practice my wife orders the cab in Spanish, I just got my video card and did the entire transaction in Spanish. For me it is easier to learn a language when I am immersed in it. Just don't take yourself too seriously because you will make a fool of yourself once in awhile. For proof read the above message where I asked the produce lady for gallina de verde instead of ginero de verde. Three years of Spanish in school didn't do it for me either.

There are other expats in our neighborhood but mostly rich Panamanians live here. BTW an income of over $1500 per month is considered rich here.

We visited twice in the last two years for about 2-3 weeks each visit. Actually it was my wife who is from Detroit that brought up the idea of moving here to live because she loved it so much. The country is truly beautiful and it allowed us to do something we both really wanted to do...semi retire.

Quote:
What about the costs of going to Panama? Would it be cheaper to sell out everything in the states and start fresh? What kind of documentation to you need to get started in Panama, e.g., birth certificate, passport, copy of pension check?

Let us know. Also--helpful websites.
The costs are relatively minor. The airfare was $400 per person, the legal work (visa) for my wife and to register my son is $1200. There is no way I would do the legal part on my own. The money for a lawyer is well spent. There is a crap load of documents that is required and you must know someone to get your paperwork moving at a decent clip. My wife is in the process of getting her visa and need an "appostillo" (stamp certifying they are real) on our marriage license, birth certificate, and police background check from the secretary of state in Michigan. This is easier if you do it BEFORE you leave the states. My wife is sending the documents to her family to get it done for her. The Embassy here will not do it for you. From there the lawyer will take care of processing the paperwork in Panama. For those with pensions I think the process is similar other than showing proof that you have a pension of atleast $600 per month. BTW- unitl my wife gets her visa she will have to carry her Passport around with her as proof of ID and to show she is not in the country illegally.

As far as selling everything and starting over it depends on what you have. Obviously it would be easier to get rid of everything and just buy a plane ticket. This might help....if your household goods and whatever you can put in a 20 or 40ft container is worth more than $2500 to $3300 then you might want to consider bringing it. It costs us $3300 to rent a 40ft container and have it shipped to Panama. That does not include the cost to pack (hard labor) or load ($400). The Army paid for part of the move so it was an easier decision for us.

The yahoo board at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/viviendo_en_panama/ has a lot of good information. We used the "files" and "links" sections to get an idea of what was needed then called around other agencies to fill in the gaps of information.





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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-27-2005, 10:41 AM   #13
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Re: Made it to Panama

Arif,

I'm curious about your Mailboxes Etc.'s $15 cost. Is that the total cost or the cost for the monthly bundled delivery of yoru mail from Florida to your Panama address? I inquired about MBE's cost, and it something like $180 a year to rent a mail box plus about $15-$20 a month to bundle my mail by UPS or FedEx. Am I getting gipped?

Buns
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-27-2005, 01:43 PM   #14
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Re: Made it to Panama

Buns (funny name),
Down here they charge by the kilo. We went with the lightest/lowest cost option. If you opted for more weight then it would be higher. Just to clarify, for $15 per month we can have 2.2 pounds of mail deliverd to us. If we go over that then we pay an additional fee per gram over. I can't remember what the overage cost was but they said we can always get a more expensive/ higher weight plan later. They deliver the mail as it comes in so it is not a once or twice a month bundled drop.
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-28-2005, 09:59 AM   #15
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Re: Made it to Panama

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arif
Buns (funny name),
Down here they charge by the kilo. We went with the lightest/lowest cost option. If you opted for more weight then it would be higher. Just to clarify, for $15 per month we can have 2.2 pounds of mail deliverd to us. If we go over that then we pay an additional fee per gram over. I can't remember what the overage cost was but they said we can always get a more expensive/ higher weight plan later. They deliver the mail as it comes in so it is not a once or twice a month bundled drop.
Is it Fedexed/UPS'd/DHL'd? Or sent through the Panamanian postal Service? I've always heard be wary of receiving important mail through the local postal service in most parts of latin america (gets lost, takes forever, theft, etc). How long does it take to get there? How often is it sent?
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-28-2005, 11:59 AM   #16
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Re: Made it to Panama

For those who are interested in Panama, please also consider visiting the Yahoo group Panamaforum.

Also read www.thepanamanews.com for coverage critical of crime and injustice in Panama. Eric Jackson is a crusader. I hope it doesn't get him killed. I like him.

I was one of the first members of Viviendo_en_Panama. It became a little wild and wooly and the founder and many other original members left to join Panamaforum. Check them both out, by all means. Personally, I moved to Panamaforum, too.

One of the problems has been--and always will be--that real estate promoters try to hijack these boards. There are some real crooks in real estate in Panama and they are really smooth. [Insert my standard do-not-buy anything you can't put in your luggage speech here.] Also beware of medical scams and teak and noni plantations.

Somebody mined my e-mail address from Viviendo_en_Panama and I continue to get a lot of spam from that connection. When I was more active on the Costa Rica boards, I got a lot of spam for pornography, but I think the ISP got that under control.

There is an old joke about Belize that should apply to Panama (and Mexico and, and, and...), too. How do you leave Belize with $1 million? Come in with $2 million. They are waiting for you, amigo, and they are very good at separating a gringo from his money. Read International Living and Escape Artist by all means, but if you reach for your wallet, you instantly become a sucker. Do your own homework and don't trust anybody. (BTW, paranoia is my hobby.)

Cheers,

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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-28-2005, 12:58 PM   #17
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Re: Made it to Panama

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BTW, paranoia is my hobby.
That doesn't mean that they're not out to get you...
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-28-2005, 02:24 PM   #18
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Re: Made it to Panama

You definately have to do your homework and that is why most people who move here (or anywhere they aren't familiar with) suggest renting for 6 to 12 months before making any permanent moves. You can get ripped off from getting a cab to buying real estate. Yesterday was our anniversary and I took my wife to a nice restaurant at the Causeway. It is about 20 minutes from our house and costs us $6 in taxi fare to get there. After dinner and walking off a great meal we stopped a cab and asked how much to where we live. He wanted $8 and we said "no thanks" but later came down to $6. As long as you don't speak the language or others think your rich you will be a target of scammers. Do your homework and know what everything is worth to you.
We've looked at several beachfront properties and thought the price was too dear. Before we got here we knew what we wanted to spend and was in no rush to get it.
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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-28-2005, 02:43 PM   #19
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Re: Made it to Panama

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taxi cab was more expensive
sometimes these guys charge more at night because demand is higher. If you know the regular price, they might take it instead of driving around the block a few more times. But I've been on the receiving end of a "gringo discount" many times.


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Re: Made it to Panama
Old 12-29-2005, 02:32 PM   #20
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Re: Made it to Panama

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Originally Posted by Ed_The_Gypsy
There is an old joke about Belize that should apply to Panama (and Mexico and, and, and...), too.* How do you leave Belize with $1 million?* Come in with $2 million.*
That sounds like the joke* * about being an architect.* How do you make a small fortune being an architect?* Start with a large one.
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